Hello everyone. Happy Sunday & Happy New Week! Thank you very much for taking time to attend KC Chicago's extraordinarily important 130th Anniversary Ikigami Konko Daijin Grand Ceremony. As always I wish that each & every one of you enjoy great health & the most excellent of spirits on this wonderful autumn morning.
It has been 130 years since the day Ikigami Konko Daijin, entered the next world. Actually today, as we gather, it's been 130 years, 17 days since that Oct. 10th in 1883, when Kami released our Founder's Mitama-spirit to minister to the entire world.
This 130th Anniversary Ikigami Konko Daijin Grand Ceremony was celebrated four times at Konko Headquarters & at my home church KC Airaku. I had trained myself to become a minister at both of these places. In Airaku I also met my wife, Kanako & together we learned under the guidance of the late Rev. Soichiro Otsubo for nearly 20 years.
I was most profoundly grateful we had six members from Chicago traveling to Japan. A year ago when we began planning the trip our group was to include two couples, another man who was a regular attendee and myself. But with after all the reservations in place, the other gentleman discovered he could not attend.
At first I wonder what to do, because all the arrangements had been made. So of course, I turned to Kami for guidance, & the answer came in a clear inspiration. Kami wanted Kanako to be an active member of this great occasion. So three couples from KC-Chicago actually made up our group to attend this most important anniversary celebration in Konko Headquarters & Airaku. Our believers' association president, Mr. Tim Ogawa & his wife May-san with his cousin, Mr. Kurt Nakaoka & wife Nancy-san joined my wife Kanako & I to fill out the traveling party.
As Tim-san said and showed some pictures earlier, our pilgrimage was filled with Kami's superb workings… many more than I had expected. Tim-san & Kurt-san are the third generation of Japanese Americans & yet this was the first time for them & their wives to visit country of their biologic heritage. So there were a number tourist sights which I really wanted them to see. For personal reasons I wanted to show them around Imari, which is world famous for its pottery & was where my father had been mayor for 24 years. Then there are the "must see"destinations for 1st time Japan travelers: the ancient city of Kyoto & Japan's most famous photographed attraction, the newly designated world heritage site; Mt. Fuji.
When we arrived at the inn by Kawaguchi Lake at the foot of Mt. Fuji on Oct. 7th, it was so cloudy we couldn't see Mt. Fuji throughout all that day. We were scheduled to leave around noon the next day. I couldn't imagine how Mt. Fuji could stand so near & be invisible. In my mind I shouted, " Where are you?"
I thought I'd wear out my eyes trying to see the wonderful image I'd brought two couples here specially to see. I prayed & prayed throughout the night. The next morning I woke up at 3:30 a.m. & offered a special silent petition for a view of the great mountain at 4:00 a.m. Then my wife & I recited our customary morning prayers to Kami at 4:30 a.m. & I went to the hot spring (Onsen) on the fourth floor.
I prayed while soaking in the bath & sincerely promised Kami that I would renew myself completely. I wiped the steam from the window in the bath-house. And there; dimly illuminated in the pre-dawn light, I clearly saw the dark silhouette of Mt. Fuji towering in the distance. I shouted out in the bath: "Kami-sama, Thank you!"
We took a walk together before breakfast. We saw what the Japanese call "Akafuji,"which is the great, beautiful mountain shining red in the dawn. As we walked along the shore of the lake we saw "Sakasafuji,"which is the wonder of Mt. Fuji reflected on the mirror surface of the water. Even when we stood still to admire Mt. Fuji was always changing with imaginary images in the passing clouds. So we enjoyed ourselves to the fullest in all of its views. Our joy at seeing Mt. Fuji was doubled, because the day before we fully believed we wouldn't see it at all.
Our Chicago group attended the 130th Anniversary Ikigami Konko Daijin Grand Ceremony at our Konko Headquarters on Sunday, Oct 13. More than 15,000 people gathered in the festival hall. We sat on the second floor near where the Kibigaku musicians played. The ceremony was beautiful & most solemn.
The day before we'd had dinner together at the inn across from the Headquarters 'proper' with Rev. Kiyoji Konko, the second son of our Principal Mediator, Kyoshu Konko-sama. Kiyoji Sensei studied English for a year & a half in Chicago. He'd met the Ogawa's during the time he was a student & brought his photos during his stay in Chicago. Everyone enjoyed remembering the 'old good days', which triggered an atmosphere of great joy for the whole evening.
The highlight of this trip for me came the next morning. All members of our group left the inn at 3:30 am to welcome Konko-sama as he proceeded in the fresh air from his house to the worship hall at 3:45 am. After the morning service prayer each couple sought Mediation with Konko-sama individually.
Konko-sama is a brilliant speaker in English as well as Japanese. So each couple was pleased to mediate with him in their native language. I heard his voice say, "You are welcome,"to the couple. May-san sought Mediation with him about her friend Sharon-san. Sharon was scheduled to have pancreatic cancer surgery the next day on Oct. 14th, which the doctor had said was going to be very difficult & dangerous procedure. Konko-sama offered his deep prayer for her.
Later I heard the surgery had been a great success & Sharon was back home. I will continue to pray for her complete recovery.
For me, this faith trip to Japan was the best of the many I made over the years. It was dignified with many of Kami's awesome workings. Through them I realized that Kami's wish for this anniversary celebration was for me, & all of us in our group, to become more genuine & live more fulfilled lives with Kami. And in so doing to visualize from this present reality a path of advancement to the next level of truth in Kami's Divine Love.
Early on, I decided to have a theme for this faith trip. I decided it would be: "We are humble & honored to give our thanks & appreciation for every single thing."In Japanese "世話になるすべてに礼を言う心"
I thought by sharing it we might find a simpler, more appropriate way to translate this teaching into English. So I shared with the members of our group & we recited it at any occasion we felt appropriate during our trip. This of the teaching is a poem written by the fourth Konko-sama, the late, most Reverend Kagamitaro Konko.
When Rev. Katsuhiko Otsubo, head-minister of KC Airaku greeted us, he said that the essence of all the teachings of our Founder & his father Rev. Soichiro Otsubo's 8813 speeches was described in this teaching when we clearly understood what our fourth Konko-sama had wished to teach through it. He added, "I am aspiring for a blessing which will embrace the world with this teaching. However I could not find the appropriate English translation of it until now."Then he showed three different translations of it. Here's the translation of our headquarters: "Have a grateful heart for all that benefits you."
We thought it not enough. Rev. Otsubo explained that we should respect every happening, good or bad, with gratitude to deepen our hearts, whatever happened & no matter how difficult it might be, because everything that happened is Kami's doing & all is divine love. Then he asked to our group. After a while Mr. Kurt Nakaoka suggested this translation: "Have a grateful heart for all that happens to you."
I thought this is IT! To me, the translation became perfect at this point.
Through our entire trip I came to the realization that: "I have no power, no ability & no talent. Unless I depend on Kami completely, there's no way for me to receive blessings. And without receiving divine blessings, I cannot move forward a single inch. There's no other way than for me, but to entrust everything to Kami."When I stand faithfully on this point & I burn with the desire to fulfill my role for Kami, my heart pounds violently with expectation. I would like to talk more & more about our faith trip, because each & every moment I experienced the essence of our founder's faith---the active world of Konko Daijin filled with Kami's awesome workings as if by touching we would feel its warmth & by poking we would draw spurting blood.
The list seemed like never end. However the time is limited, so I should finish my speech now. Let us put the teaching of our fourth Konko-sama, that is, "Have a grateful heart for all that happens to us in our daily life"into practice. Then we will feel Kami near us & hear the Divine voice. Thank you!
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