Rev. Suenaga’s 2011 IKDGC Speech
Good Morning, I am Tateo Suenaga. I serve Kami & people in Birigui, Brazil. I am delighted to be able to give a sermon for your church’s Grand Ceremony as I did last year. In greeting you, I would like to offer my deep appreciation at the opportunity to join the Konko Church of Chicago’s 2011 Ikigami Konko Daijin Grand Ceremony.
Our founder sat at the Mediation Place with the spirit of, “As long as people are fulfilled,” in his heart; He earnestly prayed for people’s lives to be fulfilled. As a result his life became an invaluable example of what life human life can be. Through this process Konko Daijin also brought Divine Mediation to this new faith.
Thus Divine Mediation, in this spirit, has been passed down unbroken through five generations to this very day. During this ceremony I have felt that this Sacred Mediation is wonderfully manifest deeply here in Chicago too.
Today, I would like to talk about our mentor, the late Rev. Soichiro Otsubo’s faith through some happenings that I experienced while I was one of the trainees under the guidance of him at the Airaku church.
Rev. Soichiro Otsubo, the founder of Airaku Church was born just one hundred years later after our Founder. He faithfully pursued our founder’s faith throughout his life & he too exemplified our founder’s teachings. Through the years he perfected the fruits of faith by example & delivered them to his followers as the Airaku Ideology. He became the silver lining for posterity in living out his invaluable life. (One hundred years after the birth of our founder, Rev. Soichiro Otsubo was born in Airaku and went on to live a truly venerable existence. Through the tumultuous (war and postwar) years, he remained committed to the pursuit of the founder’s faith, clarifying his teachings to the point of perfection, bringing these concepts together in what he denominated (called) the Airaku Ideology. He has become a guiding light for future generations.)
I had the privilege of becoming Rev. Otsubo’s trainee 44 years ago when the Konko Church of Airaku was established in Kurume, Japan. Looking back on my training at the Airaku church, it was continuation of failures, ship-ups, mistakes & misunderstandings. To be honest, there was nothing in the slightest to be praiseworthy at all!
One day my father came to visit me at the Airaku church to see how I was doing. Rev. Soichiro Otsubo told my father, “If my receptacle is shaped like this,” he said, making a round, circular shape with his hands, the hand & foot of a person of your son frequently juts outside of this circle. But when I have seen that happening I never said to him, ‘It is not good to do so. You should do like this,’ & never tried to force him to pull in this circle.” As my father watched, Rev. Otsubo enlarged his circle and continued, “Instead I have tried to make my receptacle wider & wider until it includes him.”
I wonder now, “Just what kind of faith made it possible to transfer the spirit of faith in his heart to broaden the lives of others?”
When I became a trainee, Airaku church had a very nice pond full of carp in the garden. The pond didn't have just plain, ordinary carp. There were rare & unusual ones as well. There were red carp, multi-colored carp & even some very expensive platinum carp. When Rev. Otsubo left the mediation place at noon each day he usually ate lunch with his wife near the pond. Then he’d enjoy himself by meditating beside the pond after lunch.
One day a few years after I arrived, I heard the carp in the pond had come down with parasitic worms. I rushed to the drugstore to buy some medicine for them as soon as I heard the bad news. Without hesitation I put that medicine into the pond. Soon Rev. Katsuhiko Otsubo, Soichiro Otsubo’s son who is now head-minister of the Airaku church, called me in the church office & said, “The carp seem to be acting very strangely.”
I rushed to the pond in alarm & found the carp swimming convulsively in the circles obviously in great distress. Flustered, I looked carefully at the label on the bag of medicine. It said, “CAUTION! This drug is very powerful.”
All the family members rushed out of the house carrying the biggest washtubs the church had. They filled them with fresh water & put the suffering fish in them. But it was too late. All of the platinum, red & colored carp died. The only fish to survive were the ordinary black ones.
After everything was cleaned up I had to go & see Rev. Otsubo & offer an apology. But even as I thought about apologizing I realized I was in a sulky, defiant mood. Thinking I would leave Airaku the next day I neared the mediation place to see Rev. Otsubo. I bowed my head & made my apology to him superficially. The way I bowed was impudent. However Rev. Otsubo prayed for a while after listening to my apology. A few seconds later he answered me with a single word, “Yes!” That simple reply brought me forward in a deep & humble bow & I rubbed my head on the Tatami mat, offering a sincere apology to him for what I had done.
From what faith could Rev. Otsubo say, “Yes!” at that time? This happened around one year later after I became a trainee. Rev. Otsubo went to a believer’s home to conduct a family service. In that case Rev. Katsuhiko his oldest son usually led the evening prayers. But he also went outside. His substitute, Rev. Hisadomi also went to help Rev. Otsubo for the family service. Finally I led the evening prayers. It was the first time I’d led them.
I led the prayers in front of the Kami altar with great seriousness & then Mitama altar. When I clapped my hands at the end of the prayers the tension I was under all day vanished & fell sound asleep in front of the Mitama altar without noticing. All those who were in the worship hall at the prayer service with me tried to wake me up. But I was asleep so soundly that I couldn’t be waked up.
Soon all the fire alarms all over the church went off. Even then I didn’t wake up. At last Rev. Otsubo returned to the worship hall. Almost simultaneously (instantly) I woke up. I didn’t remember being asleep in front of the Mitama altar. Rev. Otsubo usually prayed to Kami in the worship hall when he returned & went directly back to his room. This time however he sat at the mediation place instead. I felt awkward & secretly went to the church office. But my conscience told me that I really should apologize to him.
So I went to the mediation place to make my apology. It seemed as though it was not from the bottom of my heart but was limited to defending myself by saying I felt like falling asleep. Without saying anything Rev. Otsubo wrote, “Nature of the Universe,” on the front of the covering paper of Goshinmai, a Sacred Rice packet & on the back of it he wrote: “The Nature of Heaven is inexhaustible generosity. The Nature of Earth is total acceptance. Therefore Heaven is to trust & Earth is to depend. From these we are blessed fully with heavenly blessings & earthly profit.” Handing me the packet he silently went back to his room.
I now realize that Rev. Otsubo’s great gift was his ability to accept each & every happening as Kami’s doing no matter what happened. Throughout the history of Kabame & Airaku various problems occurred, including those ocaisioned by trainees like me, but also with family and with believers. Rev. Otsubo learned to accept those problems as the process of life. He accepted everything, reflecting the heavenly, earthly & orderly nature of the universe through his earthly life — day-by-day.
Above all he did his best to pursue the heavenly nature as limitless giving, the earthly nature as total acceptance & the orderly nature as sincere, conscientious faith in Kami.
Comparing this process to mountain climbing, he often taught us: “You should learn all about faith by emulating the earthly nature until the eighth stage of it & the rest by having the heavenly nature. During its journey let us carry out by sincere & conscientious faith in Kami.” It was his most cherished conviction. He particularly expressed the earthly nature as settling everything without saying anything & he himself did his best to acquire the earthly nature of the universe.
I failed many times during my training at the Airaku church. I did too many wrong things to which deviated from the things the church had to offer. Those mistakes are too frequent to mention. But the wonder is that each time Rev. Otsubo wholeheartedly accepted my failures calmly. Thanks to his lesson-by-example of Earthly Nature I am what I am today & serving Kami & people in the South America.
In order to repay Rev. Ostubo’s miraculous benevolence, the only thing I can do is to do my best to respect each & every happening at this moment in my life with the divine nature of the universe that Rev. Otsubo made so abundantly clear. By the way — it is no accident that they are the core contents of our founder’s faith as well.
Please join me in doing our best to emulate the nature of the universe in our daily lives. Thank you very much!
2011 IKDGC Greeting
Thank you very much for attending our Chicago, Ikigami Konko Daijin Grand Ceremony. It’s a great pleasure to see so many friendly faces. I trust that you are all enjoying the best of health and good spirits on this beautiful autumn day.
How wonderful Kami’s workings are! My heart is filled with gratitude in welcoming all of you to today’s ceremony. I would like to offer Kami special thanks for bringing Rev. Tateo Suenaga as our guest speaker all the way from Brazil, just like last year. As I told you then, I’ve known him for many years & in hearing him many, many times, know you enjoyed listening to the sermon he’d brought us because he’s an inspiring speaker.
Rev. Tateo Suenaga went to Brazil to do missionary in 1977. He has succeeded the Konko Church of Birigui into a great ministry from almost nothing. He’s done wonders in being of great service to Kami and people in Brazil. Through his enormous efforts the Konko Faith has spread all over Brazil. He was instrumental in establishing the Konko Churches of Ron-Donia, Mogi Das Cruzes, Butanta, Curitiba, the Konko Propagation Halls of Rio De Janeiro & Juquitiba. He also helped to rebuild the Konko Church of Sao Paulo.
In 2008 the Japanese-Brazilian community celebrated the centennial Anniversary of their immigration. Rev. Suenaga was awarded the 100th anniversary Kasado Prize. I’m told the prize is named for the Kasado-maru which was the ship that brought the first Japanese immigrants to Brazil. This prize is the highest honor given to those who have made the greatest contribution to the Japanese-Brazilian communities during these 100 years.
As you heard in Rev. Suenaga's sermon today, Rev. Soichiro Otusbo taught that Kami’s heart is synonomous with the nature of the universe. By that he meant, as we said in a sermon series earlier this year, “there is a heavenly, earthly, orderly foundation of the universe. He explained it this way, “The heavenly nature of the universe is characterized by inexhaustible generosity. It is a natural, limitless giving.
Second, the earthly nature of the universe accepts everything calmly, like keeping surface of the earth silent & placid.” Through Kami’s revelation Rev. Otsubo explained this earthly nature as ‘Settling everything with calmness （黙って治める）’ by showing one Chinese character “治”. The left part is said ‘sanzui’ and means ‘the flow of the river’ like each and every happening. ‘ム’ ‘口’ means ‘without saying anything’ or ‘with calmness’. “治” means ‘Settlement.’ When we accept everything with calmness, without saying anything to deepen our hearts, Kami will settle everything more than we expect. That is the real settlement.
“Orderliness is the third nature of the universe. There is nothing more faithful and trustworthy than the way Heaven & Earth work together. For example, we’d be in real trouble if the sun had an attitude, ‘I’m too tired… I’m going to take the day off.’ The sun works constantly day & night!”
Konko Daijin said, “Everything that happens is Kami’s doing.”
And because it’s easy to see that this is true; we need to learn to cooperate with the nature of the universe we live in, otherwise we will face constant frustration by living in conflict. We must learn to accept things that happen as opportunities to perfect our understanding of the heavenly, earthly, orderly nature of the universe. Practicing faith this way we grow to respect everything that happens as Kami’s doing. This is the way to gain divine virtue… and when we succeed, Kami’s glory appears in our lives beyond all measure!
Rev. Suenaga’s success in propagating the Konko Faith in Brazil proves this fact. Like him, I would like to become of great service to Kami and people here in Chicago by emulating the nature of the universe to develop peace and joy in my heart.
Now we, human beings are facing many difficult problems such as huge natural disasters, economic turmoil and wars etc. Please join us as we strive toward this precious world, filled with the spirit of peace and joy in every human heart. Thank you!
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