Good Morning, everyone! Happy New Day, Week & special, "Thanks," for attending today's service. This is our monthly service for February, 2017. I hope you are all in good health & excellent spirits.
2017 is the Year of the Rooster in the 12 year cycle of the historic Asian Lunar Calendar...which you probably know. But do you know what happened to our Founder on the Year of the Rooster 144 years ago? It was 1873, & coincided with the 6th year of the Meiji Era. In the Konko Faith it is remembered as, perhaps, our Founder's greatest ordeal in his life. Here is what he wrote about the first parts of 1873 in the book we know as the 'Record of Revelations' which he wrote by his own hand.
"Having heard an Oda Prefectural government bulletin, a family member told me, 'Shinto priests will not be allowed to continue their activities.' This worried my entire family. Early morning on January 20 of the lunar calendar, Kami-Sama gave me a revelation. 'I, Tenchi Kane No Kami, am Nittenshi, Gattenchi, and Ushitora Hitsujisaru Kimon Kane No Kami. Your family is not to forget about Me. Whatever happens, don't depend on others. Rely on Me for the good times as well as the bad. Do not worry. The world keeps changing (written under this was, 'Yamato Japan shall end'.) So wait patiently for five years."
"At any rate, have the family get along well. Speak to one another politely. Don't say things that lack sincerity."
"At about four o'clock in the afternoon on January 21, Kawate Iseki, (village head), ordered us to put away the altar fixtures. I started to clear them away. This made the Hiromae, Worship Place, look dreary.
"On January 22 I, Konko Daijin, stopped serving at the Hiromae. Tenchi Kane No Kami told me, 'Take a rest without feeling disappointed. On that evening I took down the Torii at the front gate."
Early in the morning on February 15, (more than three weeks later after he stopped serving), Kami-Sama instructed, 'Konko, be reborn. Take your first bath in ten years.' Kami-Sama set this day as my new birthday.
"Early in the morning on February 17, Kami-Sama said, 'Write a kakitsuke (reminder) with the words, 'Tenchi Kane No Kami Ikigami Konko Daijin Pray with a single heart. The divine favor depends upon one's own heart.'"
"From February 22 the problems began to be resolved."
"The next day I put back the altar fixtures and gave thanks to Kami-Sama. I also mediated people's requests to Kami-Sama. I had taken a thirty-day rest."
"From February 24 I wore my hakama like I did before and served in the Hiromae. Kami-Sama said, 'You have shown sincerity even to the government.'"
"On March 15, Kami-Sama said, "Write this reminder as follows: Ikigami Konko Daijin Tenchi Kane No Kami Pray with a single heart The divine favors depend upon one's own peaceful & joyful heart. On this very day pray."
The Meiji government ordered Konko Daijin to remove all of the altar fixtures. He did so & sat behind the Worship Place. It means by the government he was totally denied our Founder's way of connecting believers with Kami as he had been doing before. It was as though his life & Japan would come to an end. He stood at the crossroads of his life of faith. At first he fell in the depths of despair. That was why Kami told him, "Take a rest without feeling disappointed."
But after being denied all the appearances of his faith, he quickly accepted this as Kami's working and devoted himself single-heartedly to looking into his own heart, to seek & understand Kami's heart through this event. He said to himself, "What are Kami's intentions in this? Even if there is no Worship Place & no mediator, no matter what happens, will we still be able to receive Kami's Divine blessings at any time or place?"
Kami didn't respond to these inner prayers of our Founder's for more than three weeks. But due to this silence of Kami's in this time our Founder couldn't help but look into his feelings more deeply & trusted Kami more completely, believing this was Kami's work. At the same time Kami carefully watched over him without saying anything during this time. Then the time was ripe. Kami finally found the person who Kami could express Kami's true feelings or reveal the unprecedented truth of Kami's. The Divine Reminder was revealed to our Founder for the first time in human history. How delighted both Kami and our Founder were!
From then on our Founder put the Divine Reminder into practice in his daily life for 10 years. Then at the year of his passing he gave this farewell poem to his older son, Hagio Konko:
"The true way of Konko
Has been made clear,
Shines through Heaven,
And will last forever."
What a marvelous conviction our Founder had about the true way of Konko. It is the way based totally on this declaration which has come to be known as "the Divine Reminder." It leads us surely to mutual fulfillment between Kami and humanity. It is the way to manifest true world peace. WaGa Kokoro or the peaceful & joyful heart in the Divine Reminder is the essential foundation for human happiness. This true way of Konko will shine through Heaven and last forever.
Every morning I step out of the entrance of KC Chicago just before 4:00 am to pray between Heaven and Earth. Then in front of our Founder's photo I offer my prayer, saying, "Kyouso Ikigami Konko Daijin-Sama, thank you very much for opening this Way, the way of peaceful & joyful heart, the way of mutual fulfillment of Kami and humanity." Next in front of our Principal Mediator's photo I express my appreciation, saying, "Our current and successive Principal Mediator, thank you very much for mediating & revealing this Way, the way of peaceful & joyful heart, the way of mutual fulfillment of Kami and humanity." Then in front of both my parent minister, Rev. Soichiro Otsubo's and my parents' photos I offer my prayer, saying, "Otsubo Soichiro Oyasennsei, thank you very much for paving this Way, the way of peaceful & joyful heart, the way of mutual fulfillment of Kami and humanity for everyone to be able to walk. My father and my mother, thank you very much for having walked this Way, the way of peaceful & joyful heart, the way of mutual fulfillment of Kami and humanity." Then I have my silent prayer in front of Kami's altar at 4:00 am.
It took 144 years, but with everything coming to be arranged, this year, I believe, is the right time to manifest the greatness of the Divine Reminder to the world. In order to do so we should be reborn like our Founder. We should put the Divine Reminder into practice with a fresh spirit each & every moment everyday more precisely than ever.
For that, after our New Year's Day Ceremony I asked each attendee to randomly pick a teaching of our Founder; or one from the teachings of Rev. Soichiro Otsubo. I prayed asking Kami to give each of us the teaching that Kami most wanted us to think about & put into practice for Kami's wish for each of us to be fulfilled for this year. When I found the teaching each person picked, I was amazed with the fact each picked the most suitable one for each one of us.
The teaching I picked up was as such, "Faith is to polish the gem in your heart." I realized Kami wished me to make much of this most basic faith training this year. The teaching that my wife Kanako picked up was as follows: "The foundation of faith is to be in harmony with one's family." The harmony in one's family is the foundation of all.
KC Airaku holds its New Year's party on the 8th of January every year. More than 500 worshipers gather together and pick a teaching for each of them. As KC Airaku has the 50th Anniversary Celebration on Oct. 16 this year, my wife asked Mrs. Noriko Takeuchi, my brother's wife to pick the teaching for her & me. Early on that day Rev. Katsuhiko Otsubo, current head-minister of KC Airaku sent the following message: "Rev. Soichiro Otsubo wrote, 'In pursuing peace & joy in our heart, we should realize, in the end, there is no other way than to renew ourselves and to polish the gem in our heart. I have been explaining and made clear the way of renewing & polishing our heart again and again.'" The teaching Noriko-san picked for me was as such, "We should make our ceaseless efforts to renew ourselves instead of blaming others." This is the teaching of the fourth successor of our Founder, the most Reverend Kagamitaro Konko.
The following was the teaching Noriko-san picked for my wife: "Fight as your rival each day and each night against your feelings that you are good." This is the teaching of Rev. Matsutaro Yasutake, founding minister of KC Amagi, Japan. There are many views to do anything, but my wife is apt to think her way is right and to try to control everything. That attitude sometimes bothers me and lets me sometimes fail to accept it.
However Kami requested me to renew myself and polish the gem of my heart through any such attitude more than ever this year.
We rang in the New Year with such marvelous workings of Kami. I now have great expectations of this year when KC Airaku celebrates the 50th Anniversary in October. In order for Kami's wish to be fulfilled for this year I will do my best to put both of my teachings into practice each & every moment & develop unbreakable peace & joy in my heart, no matter what happens & no matter how difficult it might be. I hope the Divine Reminder starts to be revealed to the world for the first time in 144 years & this year shows the beginning of the Wagakokoro era, an era of peace & joy filling hearts of all people in the world. Thank you!
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