Good morning everyone. I sincerely hope you are in great health and excellent spirits on this wonderful spring morning. It is always my great honor and pleasure to be in Portland to see all of you who I got to know very well. It is even a greater pleasure to be asked to speak in this most important celebration.
As you know, when Rev. Nobuharu Uzunoe, our families' American parent minister learned of my great desire to be a missionary in America, he & his wife Rev. Michie Uzunoe invited both my wife Kanako & me to be associate ministers here at the Konko Church of Portland. My family then moved from Japan to Portland in September, 1994.
We trained ourselves under the guidance of Revs. Uzunoe for two and a half years to become accustomed to life here in the USA. We spent one of the most enjoyable times in our ministerial lives with the Uzunoe's & the believers of this wonderful church. In July of 1997 we moved to Chicago to establish the Konko Propagation Hall of Chicago to serve Kami and people in the heartland of America. I always feel so grateful to all of you and this church, every moment of each day that our ministry has allowed us to proclaim this faith as far & wide possible in Chicago.
This thought has occurred to me almost every day since '97 and I have feelings of awe & gratitude in my heart. It has occurred to me in preparing today's sermon that every message I send to you could always be considered an attempt to say, "Thank you," so perfectly that you too could feel the great bond of connection that joins across the 2000 miles between our two churches.
I'm sure you know I have diligently focused my faith on deepening peaceful, joyful heart to the point it might become unbreakable since I began the missionary work in Chicago 15 years ago. I chose to do this faith practice to demonstrate through personal practice to witness the truth of the Divine Reminder when it says, "Divine blessings, that is, opening this way are within our grateful and caring heart in harmony and joy, or our peaceful and joyful heart."
Of course every nation has a unique culture, customs & way of thinking from one another. BUT, Heaven and Earth themselves are constant. They are the same everywhere. I believe we most affectively show this fundamentally important way of the Konko Faith everywhere when we develop a peace and joy that harmonizes with Heaven and Earth any place in the world, - without exception. That is why I have sought the peace and joy in my heart unbreakable ever since we moved to Chicago. Now that can be very easy to say... but oh how HARD it is to achieve!
It's hard to admit how often I've failed to live up to my intentions in this past decade &1/2. Many many times, I've been forced to face the reality of just how fragile my heart really was. Yet through it all Kami has brought me tremendous divine blessings by my just TRYING to have peace and joy in my heart... Kami has given me abundance of unrequested blessings in my heart.
As a result, I have come to see I could not stand in the same place with this gift of overwhelming of Divine Blessing. I have to move on, because the time will soon come for me to seek to become the great foundation root nourishing Konko Propagation in the entire USA.
This last November when I visited Japan I made a promise to Kami, our Founder & my late parent minister Rev. Soichiro Otsubo, founding minister of the Konko Church of Airaku, Japan. I vowed, "If I fail to accept any happening in my life with peace and joy from this day forward, for any reason: frustration, weakness or simple cowardice; I want Kami to take the gift of life that's been given me for the past 60+ years.
"With this determination I will do my absolute best to perfect & deepen my heart with Peace, Love & Joy!"
When we moved from Airaku to the USA in 1994, Rev. Otsubo came to the entrance of the church in a wheelchair to see us off. It was a great honor that I felt, I didn't deserve. The effort, was so great for him in fact, that he appeared to loose consciousness. I rushed to his side, but he recovered quickly & said, "I just received Kami's revelation of a 'dried, round radish.' Because it is dried, therefore it never becomes rotten."
These were the last words I ever heard from his lips. He died a few months later, so these words are very, VERY precious to me.
Even more the revelation itself has come to have an equally great meaning. "Dried round" means unbreakable peace and joy. In Japanese the word "Radish" is written in the two characters meaning "great" & "root."
I have now been focusing on one of our founder's teachings for my faith practice in order to achieve unbreakable peace and joy in my heart. It says, "The Divine Parent of the universe is a kami that has existed since the beginning of time, not anytime in between. The universe is not a passing fad. Something that is not a fad will not end. It is essential to have a heart like that of the universe. Even those without faith receive The Divine Parent's blessings."
Here our founder says 'essential,' so it is essential for us humans to have a heart which is like that of the universe in order to live a fulfilled life with Kami. So we need to understand what is the nature of heart-of-the-universe. Konko Daijin taught the vital importance of our lives being a reflection of the heart of the universe by example.
We can say that the heart of the universe consists of three characters. They are the:
- ...earthly and
- ...orderly nature
- of the universe.
The heavenly nature of the universe is characterized by inexhaustible generosity. It is a natural, limitless giving like the uninterrupted sun which shines somewhere night and day.
The earthly nature of the universe is also calmly accepting of everything. This means for us to stay silent like the earth on which we stand. No matter how filthy something seems to us the earth doesn't say, "I hate foul smelling things like this" or "Such dirty things are out." In fact it does much more than just being silently receptive. The earth receives all these things as nourishment, transforming them into the oxygen we breathe and the food we require to survive.
The final nature of the universe is orderliness. There is nothing more faithful and exact than this. We'd be in terrible trouble if the sun said, "I'm so tired today. I think I'll take a break." Instead it works without stopping for a minute or even a second. This faithfulness and exactness characterizes our solar system and all the wonder of the stars and heavenly bodies we can see today, as no humans have ever been able to before.
These three great characters of the universe together are the heart of the universe and show us the importance of emulating the nature of the universe. We can shortly say that the heart of the universe is giving silently, just accepting silently, and living each day with sincerity.
As I said before, I have been focusing on emulating the heavenly, earthly and orderly nature of the universe. It means I am doing my best to practice this faith through each and every happening in my daily life with the spirit, "This is to respect with the heavenly nature, that is to accept with the earthly nature and here is the orderly nature." Like this I am now focusing on emulating the nature of the universe, whatever happens, even though someone blames me or goes against me.
By the way do you sometimes think about your spouse, children, friends, co-workers etc. like this, "I'd rather you were like this," or, "I wish she would be more like that?" Or when you see someone always complaining about something you think to yourself, "Why do they complain about that so often?" or, "Why do they sabotage their peaceful, joyful heart by always obsessing about problems?" AlI too often I DO think that way. When I do so, it means that I have NOT emulated the nature of the universe. And then I come back to the message of the famous priest who said,
"For the radish wishes not the redness of the carrot.
For the carrot demands not the whiteness of the radish.
For the burdock is praised for its blackness.
For the turnip leaf is honored for its greenness.
The heart of nature! How big and broad!"
When I think about someone as though 'it would good for them to be 'like this,' or 'like that,' it's the same as 'the radish wishing the redness of the carrot or for the carrot demanding the whiteness of the radish.' It's really "blaming," isn't it?
What we need to do is just to accept another persons' characters and pray for them to renew, transform & change themselves for the better. I confess, I haven't reached that stage yet. I still find it difficult to praise or honor other people's characters as they are.
Many people came to be trainees under the guide of the late Rev. Soichiro Otusbo after he founded ministry of the Konko Church of Airaku. I was fortunate to be one of them. They did often come not because they were good-natured people who wished to serve the world. Very often they came because they were attracted by the dignity & character of Rev. Otsubo. Like me almost all of them were so selfish that it was the matter of course to be drifted into the corner of the world. Those people found the guiding of their lives in Rev. Otsubo and became the trainees.
Therefore some of them displayed rather disgusting characters. I found I couldn't help blaming them in my mind that their characters might be the cause of some dissension among trainees or believers. But, in front of Rev. Otsubo even these people displayed distinguished characters that I felt far exceed mine. And I discovered that was because Rev. Otsubo had so perfectly acquired the heart of the universe.
Without thinking we often have the judgmental attitude to think to ourselves, "He did such a stupid thing," or, "She said such a silly thing!" It's actually a heart overflowing with blame. Frequently self-directed. So let's face these imperfect hearts by renewing these hearts of ours & together, become persons who can praise any person and seek to honor any potential blessing that's possible through any thing that happens in our lives. This is the true way to acquire & prefect our peace & joy in our hearts.
A year & almost a month, has passed since the biggest earthquake in the Japanese history hit near the seashore of the Tohoku region on March 11, 2011. It caused devastating tsunamis sweeping away houses, cars & livelihoods in several areas of NE Japan's coastline. The size of the devastated area is beyond belief. Worse; the threat of nuclear disaster at three Fukushima nuclear power plants not only magnifies the pain of those who survive & extends the danger of atomic radiation years & decades into the future.
More than fifteen thousands people died and more than three thousands people have still been missing. How painful it still is!
Japan has received enormous heartfelt support from many countries. People around the world have risen to support the recovery effort of displaced survivors. Many volunteers have gone to the devastated areas to help the survivors restore their normal lives as much as possible. The survivors too have also shown a strong determination to recover their lives.
I prayed, have prayed almost continuously for the victims from this Great East Japan Earthquake. I have also prayed for the victims of other disasters throughout the world such as the devastating flood in Thailand last year and the recent tornados in the Midwest in the USA.
At the same time I have sought to understand Kami's blessing through these catastrophes. Konko Daijin taught us, "Everyone around the world is a child of Tenchi Kane No Kami. Everything that happens is Kami's doing. It includes major upheavals."
The disaster victims then, were all children of Kami. Therefore I can hardly believe how much greater the depth of Kami's pain must be. We must hear Kami's sorrowful cry in their calls for help. Our earthly way of living must change sooner-or-later from human-centered living into building Kami-centered lives. A bright future for the human race cannot open until we do.
We humans must come to live in a mutual reliance between Kami and people instead of merely pursuing convenient, comfortable, disposable lives. Only then, by having a heart like that of the universe; emulating the heavenly, earthly, orderly nature of the universe, will the human condition change. Each human being must come to live a life full of gratitude, in harmony with the universe.
I would like to invite you all to join me in seeking to become the great root structure of Konko Faith's brilliant light shining forth to the entire world. Let us deepen our peaceful and joyful hearts together to serve Kami and people in the world.
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