Good afternoon, welcome & thank you very much for attending our 2015 Autumn Memorial Service of the Konko Church of Chicago.
Our Founder taught us, "Practice faith. Receive divine blessings by practicing faith. Then, not only you, but also your grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and even further generations can receive divine blessings. Even the spirits of your ancestors will be able to rest in peace because you receive divine blessings through your practice of faith. The blessings you have received stay with you forever. Therefore, you should build as large a foundation of blessings as possible during your life."
Today as we honor our forebears & other departed souls let us invite them to draw close to us; their family members, living today. May they unite with us & help join the peace & joy of our hearts with theirs. May we; in this way, receive Kami's blessings which enrich us all; present & departed, in this present moment & into the future.
Ancestors are the foundation of our lives' inheritance. If we separate ourselves from these roots through neglect, the branches of our personal tree-of-life suffer & wither. Our Founder taught us, "Place fertilizer at the roots of a tree, then its branches will grow lush. Respect your ancestors & parents, then you will prosper." Therefore it is very important to respect & honor our ancestors, & extend our appreciations to them with this Memorial Service.
Just after midnight this morning I offered special prayers honoring the Mitama spirits of ancestors & departed souls who are closely associated to this Church. I invited them to come near to us in today's service. I truly believe they heard & are with us, listening now. They must be pleased with being in your company.
Our Founder says in his teachings, "When people die, they are reunited with Kami. The physical body dies, but the Mitama spirit keeps on living. The body, which came from Earth, will return to Earth. & the Spirit, which was the energy givin by Kami that sustained our life on Earth; returns to Kami. Dying is the separation of your body & spirit back to its' eternal condition."
If, after death our body returns to Earth with our spirit returned to Kami we still keep on living. It is, of course important to work hard just for food & clothing in this world, but it is not the most important. We no longer have to work for food & clothing in this world. Therefore the most important in both worlds is to deepen our peace & joy in the heart of Kami. It is to fill our entire life with gratitude. Gratitude is the only gift from our earthly lives that we can bring into the next world.
Our parent minister, late Rev. Soichiro Otsubo, pursued the very essence of our Founder's faith throughout his life. He proved by the example that his life was a daily demonstration of the belief that there is a "process of life" which is the active working of the Divine Parent in each & everything that happens in our daily life. Through constant communication & cooperation with Kami he developed his faith step by step - respecting everything that happened in his life to the fullest. Living that reality in this world sincerely & faithfully, he came to understand clearly the Mitama spirits in the invisible world beyond.
He taught, "The next world is pitch dark. Therefore we should polish the gem of our heart & receive divine light while we are here in this world. Then we can live a happy life in this world & in the bright world in the next." He also said, "Mitama spirits do not do direct actions to this world. Up to now there have been a lot of phenomena that people think of as the workings of the Mitama sprits. In fact all of them are Kami's doing, illusions of Heaven & Earth by using the appearance of the Mitama spirits in order to guide humans to real happiness." He also taught, "When descendants revere their ancestors, those hearts are pleased by Kami. As Kami can accept those hearts, both descendants & ancestors will be protected by Kami & can receive blessings from Kami."
Compared with many other religions this is the epoch-making discovery about the life of spirits beyond which we call in Japanese, Mitama. The Konko Faith makes very clear; the relationships between Kami, Mitama spirits & living humans. Our founder taught us, "Divine Virtue will be with you even after death & passed down to future generations. It can be received by anyone who practices faith. Divine virtue is never exhausted."
Divine Virtue is surely to be brought with us into the next world. In this world we can supposedly buy anything we want to live a happy life when we have enough money. In the same way we can live free, active lives in the next world as relieved & delightful Mitama spirits in the world of mutual reliance with Kami when we bring Divine Virtue in the next world. But we cannot send our Divine Virtue to the human world. Therefore we have to acquire Divine Virtue & bring it into the next world for our own.
On the other hand descendants should accumulate Divine Virtue through practicing true faith & take good care of their ancestors' spirits. Then their ancestor's will be blessed & more delighted in the next world as they are remembered & appreciated in this world.
Through Konko Daijin's Mediation we should offer our sincere prayers as faithfully as possible in order for our Mitama spirits to deepen their peaceful & joyful hearts & live happy & prosperous lives in the next blessed world.
I'm sure that by now they know the vital importance of holding peace & joy in their hearts. I feel encouraged by them because I sense they do their best to develop their hearts in the next world. I have grown to feel a profound oneness with our ancestral spirits & all departed souls. As I pray for them, I ask them to strengthen & deepen the peace & joy in my heart too.
I've found an especially powerful connection with each of our Mitama spirits during this September. This is particularly true with my parent minister, Rev. Soichiro Otsubo. His life was a wonderful example of faith. He died in 1994, the same year my family came as missionaries to the US. Rev. Otsubo told about a dream he'd had a few days before he died.
He told us he'd dreamed Kami seemed to ask him what words he wanted to leave in this world. He replied, "There are no other words for me to leave to this world than Peaceful & Joyful heart (Wa-Ga Kokoro). I have been seeking Peace & Joy in myself throughout my whole life. I still seek Peace & Joy within, every day, at each & every moment, & wish to continuously seek Peace & Joy in the next world."
He added, "It is due to Kami's blessings & this Faith that I will be able to enter the next world with this kind of gratitude & delight."
What a blessed heart he achieved in his lifetime! He did everything he could to accept whatever happened as Kami's doing. He used every event to deepen his heart! It was through his absolute faith that he completely changed my life. Honestly, he's the reason I'm here speaking to you today. Like him, I want to give myself to serving Kami & people in Chicago. For 18 years I have felt his presence beside me, supporting this ministry. Through deepening peace & joy in my heart each & every moment in my daily life, I would like to become such a minister as Rev. Otsubo who said that he would wish to continuously seek Peace & Joy in the next world when the time comes for me to leave this world.
During the last half of this year six Mitama spirits have their anniversary Memorial day. Especially the Mitama spirit of Mrs. Suey Quan who was the mother of Mrs. May Ogawa! She will have her 20th Memorial day on Oct. 2. I haven't seen her during her life time in this world. I have extended my appreciation to her Mitama spirit that she raised such a sincere & warm-hearted lady as May-san during my special prayers this month.
Another Mitama spirit is Buck Kevin no Mitama. His fifth year Memorial day will be November 26th. He entered the next world at his teens in a deadly traffic accident. His friend Jennifer Kish has overcome the precious loss of his through Kami's workings & has developed her stronger faith to be of great service to Kami.
Another Mitama spirit is that of Mrs. Shizue Bertha Noji. She was the mother of Mr. Harold Noji. She will have her 45th year Memorial day on Dec. 26.
Another special Mitama spirit is that of Mrs. Akiko Sugano. Her third year Memorial day will be on Oct. 4. I got acquainted with her when I joined NCJAA. I extended my appreciation to her Mitama spirit how greatly she contributed to the Japanese American community in Chicago.
When we continue to develop peace & joy both in this world & in the next, we come to realize we will be blessed & protected by Kami. So, from this moment on, I sincerely hope that all of you too will understand the importance of Kami's greatest wish for us humans to do our best to deepen peace & joy in all our hearts. & then with all our Mitama spirits in the next world let us have hearts ultimately joined to our Divine Parent of the Universe's eternal peace & happiness!
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