Monthly Service : November 11, 2012

Good Morning, everyone! Happy New Day & Week. Thank you especially for attending our first service for November 2012. I hope you are all in good health & excellent spirits.

Our dear friend, Mrs. Akiko Sugano passed away on Oct. 4 at age 85. Her memorial Service was held on Saturday, Nov. 3 at the Buddhist Temple of Chicago. Rev. Yukei Ashikaga was the officiating minister. I was honored to have been asked by the Sugano family to serve as the chairperson for it. Around three hundreds people gathered to extend their appreciation to Sugano-san's Mitama spirit and pray for her eternal peace and happiness. Her memorial service was so solemn and beautiful. Sugano-san's Mitama spirit was so blessed that I could not help but talk about it in today's sermon because Kami is very fond of her. Let me tell you why.

I met Mrs. Akiko Sugano after joining the New Chicago Japanese American Association (NCJAA) in 1999. As I said in my introduction, we had her Memorial Service on November 3rd. In Japan this is a very special date. It is called the "Day of Culture". On this day, the Japanese Emperor gives his high honor each year to those individuals who have contributed to the betterment of the society & culture in many different disciplines. Many Chicagoans have received these honors including Sugano-san. I was told it was because of Sugano-san's desire to bring continuous praise & recognition each year to the achievements of those with Japanese ancestry & Americans of all ethnic backgrounds who support Japanese culture, that she was so instrumental in the founding of NCJAA here in Chicago.

That's why I believe it was no coincidence; rather, it was Kami's arrangement that her memorial was held on this date. Sugano-san's Mitama spirit must be pleased & well receive it in the next world.

What I found most impressive about her was her willing thoughtfulness of putting others first. She took great pains to serve the betterment of the Japanese/American society. We can best describe her as, "… one who devoted herself to being of service to people and the world day and night. And then, completing a noble journey through her natural span of life on earth, her spirit was released, having fulfilled Heaven's will for her."

As I mentioned above, her memorial service was conducted with great solemnity. Then after the service we took photos with smile with a life-sized statue of Sugano-san. That was a sign how blessed Sugano-san's Mitama spirit was in the next world, I believe. It also reminded me of my parent minister, Rev. Soichiro Otsubo's funeral service.

He passed away on Nov. 29, 1994 less than two months after we moved to the USA to serve Kami and people there. When I received this notice, I rushed to Airaku to extend my overwhelmed appreciation to him. I took the flight from Portland to Kansai Airport. I asked the flight attendance to sit the front seat. At the Kansai airport I rushed to catch the next flight from there to the Fukuoka airport. Strangely enough I caught one earlier flight. When I arrived at Fukuoka, I rushed to the bus stop and caught the express bus to Kurume in five minutes. I reached the Airaku church ten minutes earlier than the time when the last ceremony for Rev. Otsubo's remains would begin. After it his remains was rested in front of the altar of the Enseiden. This was the separation from my master whose life of faith had greatly influenced me beyond measure and everything for me. First I thought I would be filled with tears of sorrow when I saw his remains in person. However I was awestruck by his face. It was dignified and shined with peace and joy. It blew off my sorrow. Even after his death he taught me the utmost importance to deepen our peaceful and joyful heart in this world.

His funeral service was filled with the ultimate solemnity. It was surrounded with awesome atmosphere. When we took photos in front of his face-shot after it, joy and laugh naturally welled up in each person's mind. I realized the memorial service for Sugano-san was a miniature of the funereal service of my parent minister, Rev. Otsubo.

I received Kami's message about Sugano-san during the morning service prayer on Nov. 3. Kami said, "She was the person who had a pleasure to help people. It was something quite marvelous." Kami pleased such a way of Sugano-san's life so that her Mitama spirit would be blessed fully in the next world.

By practicing the Konko faith daily let us deepen our peaceful and joyful hearts, receiving Kami's blessings & reflect the Golden Light of Kami in this world and the next.  Thank You!

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