Post-26 Report (Oct 2008)

Okay, here it is, after much delay, my “Post-26 Report” for the month of October.

Seventh Installment of “Savoring the Realm of the Mikagura-uta” Lecture Series

The seventh installment of “Savoring the Realm of the Mikagura-uta” lecture series, sponsored by the Oyasato Institute for the Study of Religion, was held at 13:00 on October 25. The lecturer in October was Yomei Mori sensei and he was assigned to discuss Song Two (Ni Kudari-me) of the Mikagura-uta. The title of the lecture was “Muhon no nē o kirō” (“I will cut off the root of rebellion”). One major reason I did not write up and post October’s “Post-26 Report” for the longest time was due to the fact I did not attend this lecture. There so many other things going that day that I felt it wasn’t a good idea to attend and risk becoming drained as a result.

News of the lecture did not appear in Tenri jiho (Tenrikyo’s Japanese weekly newspaper) until the November 16 issue. When issue after issue came and went without any mention of the lecture, I wondered to myself: “If the lecture fails to appear in Tenri jiho, did it really happen?” So it was relief to see it being covered, despite the delay. So what I have below is essentially a hasty translation of the November 11 article. But before I dive into that, here’s the present official translation of Song Two goes:

Tong! Tong! Tong! The beginning of the dancing at New Year: How delightful it is!

Second, This marvelous construction once it is started: How lively it is!

Third, Nourishment will be put on you.

Fourth, The world will change to prosperity.

Fifth, If all come and follow Me,

Sixth, I will cut off the root of rebellion.

Seventh, If you help others who are suffering,

Eighth, I will cut off the root of illness.

Ninth, If you keep your mind determined,

Tenth, Peace shall reign everywhere.

So remember, this is just a hasty translation/summary of an article of a lecture that I did not attend. [*My comments in brackets]

Lecture Seven: “Muhon no nē o kirō” (Song Two) by Yomei Mori (translation of Tenri jiho article, November 16, 2008, p. 4)

Song Two is deeply significant in that it allows us to think over the orientation or direction of the construction of the Joyous Life, especially considering the intensifying turmoil of society in the modern age.

Song Two has been said to describe the “rebuilding of the world” (Koshiro Masui) and a “chapter with the themes of the joy of faith, of good health and peace” (Yoshinaru Ueda); indicating the course which salvation is to be achieved on the social and spiritual dimensions.

Song Two expresses a spirited faith with the words “delightful” and “lively,” which result from “dancing” and “construction.” Since we are taught that God becomes spirited upon seeing human beings become spirited, the Song then goes on to describe God providing us with blessings/protection — “Nourishment (as in good health, happiness) will be put on you” “The world will change to prosperity” [or literally, yonaori, the world will be renewed or remade].

A linguistic analysis of Song Two reveals that it progresses along with conditional clauses and consecutive clauses. Conditional clauses are expressed by the “if”s and one “once” (“wa” “ba” or “nara” (“suru nara”) in Japanese) found in the Song.

The consecutive clauses then point out God the Parent’s workings and blessings that result when each of these conditions are met.

To give a clear example, in verse two, once the “marvelous construction” is started, it leads to people gathering and results in a “lively” setting.

Further, I’d like to point out that these conditional clauses are not “fixed” conditions that would be expressed with “shita nara” (“if you did”), but are “assumptive” or “hypothetical” conditions as expressed with “suru nara” (“if you do”).

In the Osashizu, we read: “To resolve or not to resolve? Everything will settle after you resolve. Settling does not precede resolving. Settling follows resolving.” (November 3, 1891; Anthology p. 199). As it is expressed here, once we make a resolution, God the Parent will begin work even before we set out to carry it out.

We especially understand the importance of resolving the mind (“kokoro sadame“) when we are taught in verses nine and ten that the condition “If you keep your mind determined”* is met, “Peace shall reign everywhere.” [*maybe a better translation of verse nine — kokoro o sadame iyō nara — would be “If you resolve your mind”]

Now, to theme of today’s lecture, “I will cut off the root of rebellion.” “Rebellion” (muhon) generally refers to an act of opposition against one’s national government. According to the teachings, muhon points to the usage of mind that violates God’s intention. This is a “[human] component that opposes the Joyous Life” and it is possible to substitute it with social conditions such as ecological destruction. Then, what must be done in order to “cut the root” of rebellion?

In the Ofudesaki, we read: “If only this is clearly understood, the root of rebellion will be cut off” (13:49). The “this” in “If only this is clearly understood” refers to the truth of the existence of God the Parent, God of Origin, God in Truth. In other words, the Ofudesaki suggests that to cut the root, it is important to convey that God the Parent exists and the teachings of the Path to those who do not know of God the Parent’s existence or of the Joyous Life that happens to be the ultimate purpose of living.

In the world at present, there are many people who are suffering due to various forms of “rebellion.” It in such circumstances that we are required to work to make God the Parent ever more spirited by performing the Service joyously and spiritedly and reflect its joyous and spirited performance in our social community. (end of translation)

Rev. Adachi gives a talk at Tenrikyo Language Institute

While I did not attend the Mikagura-uta lecture in October, I did attend a semi-formal lecture by Rev. Masafumi Adachi, the head of Tenrikyo Oceania Centre (TOC) in Brisbane, Australia (that has a new, sweet-looking website, by the way) he gave to English language students at the Tenrikyo Language Institute that was held on the morning of October 25.

I was surprised to find myself to be the only non-student there (Rev. Adachi looked at me and said “What are you doing here?” I offered to leave but he relented. No one else made a move to kick me out, so I remained in my seat.)

Rev. Adachi began by talking about his background before becoming the head at TOC. He was originally sent to Egypt to study Arabic in Cairo. He spoke of his experiences living in an unfamiliar and unsympathetic land. Apparently, he was sent to study Arabic because the powers-that-be at the time felt that in the next upcoming centuries Tenrikyo was bound to enter an interreligious dialogue (if not outright clash) with Islam. Rev. Adachi also went to the University of Washington (go Huskies!) to continue Arabic studies in a post-graduate program (his only option given that the top Arabic universities in the Middle East required applying students be Muslims).

However, when the leadership changed at the Tenrikyo Overseas Department, he found himself thrust into the English-speaking camp as the focus of the department shifted from a long-term vision to one more attentive to immediate demands and needs. Rev. Adachi was an indispensable staff member of the Oyasato Seminar when it first launched before he ultimately was appointed to his current position. He said that he had one condition upon becoming the head of TOC: that he would be going to Australia for life and not on a temporary basis. He wished to bury his bones Down Under.

Wow! I felt that they way Rev. Adachi gave his talk was very effective. He used his personal background to lead up to his overall message to students: That language is eventually merely a means to get Oyasama’s message across to others and that language proficiency itself was not the goal.

Shinbashira’s Autumn Grand Service Sermon

I must confess: I may have attended the Autumn Grand Service on October 26, I wasn’t really paying much attention to the Shinbashira’s sermon. I have a good excuse, however. I was with my son (approaching one year and eight months) and was too busy watching and chasing him as he scrambled left and right to listen.

Until October 2008, I usually attended the Monthly and Grand Services of Church HQ by myself while my wife and son stayed back at the followers dormitory that we lived at, but now that we have a place of our own, I will most likely attend future Services with my family.

That means I won’t really be able to give my summaries of sermons as I have done with my earlier “Post-26 Reports.” Here is a link, though, to the Shinbashira’s sermon at the 2008 Autumn Grand Service.

I find the first half to be quite typical of sermons on the so-called founding of Tenrikyo or the first revelation of God the Parent. It does offer an interesting take by taking into account the thoughts of Shuji and Kokan about Oyasama’s actions after their mother became the “Shrine of Tsukihi.”

I found the first half to be a solid explanation of the historical circumstances behind Tenrikyo’s founding and immediate consequences (and a nice summary for those who have never read a Tenrikyo account of its own founding).

Yet going into the second half of the sermon, the Shinbashira mentioned it was the 100th year since Tenrikyo achieved “sectarian independence” from the Shinto Honkyoku. What piqued my interest most was the following paragraph: “The way our religious group is organized and its rules and regulations are formulated is not something that was taught directly by Oyasama. Some of its aspects resulted from social demands, and some came from efforts to make it easier for Tenrikyo to conduct its activities under the particular circumstances of the day. Therefore, if there is anything in our religious group’s framework or organization that prevents Tenrikyo from conducting its essential activities or that is not appropriate for our time, we will need to take a fresh look at it and consider the possibility of correcting it. Yet we must remember that the most vital thing here is the inner substance of those of us who practice faith, which is to say, our inner conviction of faith.” (italics mine)

Reading this made me pause and wonder: Is there is anything specific that the present Shinbashira is considering to “correct” or change? I can only speculate what the Shinbashira may be thinking of, but it does offer a glimmer of hope that while it may not come any time soon, positive change to infuse some health back into Tenrikyo may be on the horizon, which would be a welcome development indeed.