Hello everyone. Happy Sunday; in a New Week of Kami's blessings! Thank you very much for taking time to attend the 2017 Ikigami Konko Daijin Grand Ceremony of KC Chicago. As always, I hope each & every one of you are enjoying good health & excellent spirits on this beautiful autumn morning.
The animal for this Year of the Asian Lunar Calendar is the Rooster. But do you know what happened to our Founder on the Year of the Rooster 144 years ago, in 1873? It was the 6th year of the Meiji Era. And in the Konko Faith, it is remembered as the year of the greatest ordeal in our Founder's life.
The Meiji government ordered Konko Daijin to remove all of the altar fixtures. He did so & sat behind the Worship Place. The government totally denied our Founder's way of connecting believers with Kami as he had been doing.
It was as if his life & Japan would come to an end. He stood at the crossroads of his life of faith. At first, he felt he'd fallen in the depths of despair. But Kami told him, "Take a rest & don't feel disappointed."
But after being denied by the government, he quickly accepted this as Kami's will & devoted himself single-heartedly to looking within his own heart, to seek & understand Kami's heart from this event. He said to himself, "What are Kami's intentions in this? Even if there is no Worship Place here & 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 reply to these inner conversations of Konko Daijin's for more than three weeks. But because of this silence of Kami, he found himself feeling more deeply & trusting Kami's wisdom of silence more completely. He came to believe this was Kami's work. At the same time Kami carefully watched over him without saying anything. Then the time was ripe. Kami finally found in him the person to whom Kami would express Kami's true feelings and reveal the unprecedented truth of Kami's. The Divine Reminder was revealed to our Founder for the first time in human history.
From then on, our Founder put the Divine Reminder into practice in his daily life for 10 years. The year Konko Daijin died, he wrote this impressive 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 this ‘true way' of Konko. It is a way based totally on "the Divine Reminder." It leads us on a sure path of mutual fulfillment between Kami & humanity. It is the way to live life in a true way of world peace. In Japanese it is expressed as "WaGa Kokoro" which in English is: 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.
Such an absolute way for human fulfillment was revealed when our Founder had the most difficult time in his life and respected it fully with sincerity. Our founder revealed the most benevolent Deity, Tenchi Kane No Kami for the first time in this world, through respecting the most fearful deity, Konji to the fullest.
Our Founder said to one of his disciples, Mitsugoro Ichimura, "If people lose their belief in, ‘On this very day pray with a single heart, Divine blessings are within your own peaceful & joyful heart,' (This is the core essence of the Divine Reminder) the world will be in turmoil. The glory of Kami and the glory of parents will be gone."
This teaching determines my way of life to serve Kami and people as a Konko minister with all my heart. Soon after I became a trainee under the guide of Rev. Soichiro Otsubo, founding minister of KC Airaku, Japan, I came across this teaching of our founder. I immediately realized this teaching would describe the ultimate way to lead us humans to true world peace.
I was in college during the Vietnam era & I was soon caught up in the anti-war movement on campus. I joined radical student movements. I devoted myself to these movements for five years with the understanding that; as a Konko believer, I had to fight for people who were suppressed & discriminated against. I sincerely wanted to reform the world for the betterment of people.
But, these radical movements were sometimes next door to danger, & even death. Gradually, as I became more actively involved in the movement, I felt more and more that I couldn't leave this world without seeking the kind of faith that Rev. Otsubo taught us. He called it, "A ‘Wa-Ga Kokoro World.'" It would be a world in which everyone had hearts filled with peace & joy which is overflowing. Needless to say, I was deeply troubled by these conflicting loyalties in deciding just what I should do with my life.
Then there came a turning point in my life. I had a divine dream. In my dream our family sought the sacred mediation of Rev. Otsubo. My father introduced me to him. Rev. Otsubo said to me, "Masanori-san, the feelings which inspire you to fight for suppressed and discriminated people are the same as those through which Konkokyo tries to help and support people in difficulties."
I thought long & hard about this highly suggestive dream. I ultimately decided to return to the Airaku church.
I eagerly wanted to know the proper way to achieve ideal fulfillment. However, I felt like a sleepwalker for almost the entire year because I had to completely reorient my life from a path of one in which people were trying to reform the world, fighting by conflict, to a path toward peace and satisfaction by means of total acceptance.
I had to learn to accept that even the severest suppression or isolating condition of people is Kami's doing & that it's necessary for the deepening & polishing of our human heart. My heart was torn in a continuous struggle between these two ways of thinking & living.
Then setting aside all my questioning, I made up my mind to try to find Rev. Otsubo's kind of faith practice; to believe that everything is divine love & to accept whatever occurred as evidence of the infinite workings of Kami.
In the end I was a trainee under his guidance for nearly twenty years.
Then, as I mentioned before, I came across this teaching of our founder's. In other words, if people faithfully follow & deepen this insight in their hearts, Kami's glory will appear & true world peace will be attained.
Kami's arrangements or workings definitely need to be the foundation in order to accomplish peace and justice throughout the world. The world is presently the reflection of the collective hearts of self-centered human beings. The more we choose to turn and develop our hearts toward peace & joy, the more the hearts of the entire human family will be deepened toward peace & joy of the whole world & the more our world will be blessed. Then, finally, through Kami's great plan, human happiness & true world peace will be manifested.
I would like to mention one example of the truth of this teaching that we all have recently experienced. Through Kami's arrangement we were scheduled to have a church picnic on Labor Day, Sept. 4 this year for the first time since KC Chicago was established. We went to Crystal Lake. Nine adults and three children participated in the picnic.
I told them, "This seems to be the first event of faith training outside our church. Let us try to vividly feel Kami's workings through this picnic, by keeping it in mind that Divine blessings are within our own peaceful & joyful heart." I prayed to Kami that we would be blessed to have a happy, grateful & joyous time together, filled with peace & joy in the hearts of all participants.
We received Kami's awesome workings throughout the entire day. We felt Kami's workings so vividly that we couldn't help but extend our sincere appreciations to Kami.
First of all we were blessed with cloudy weather. That's why we could spread the seats on the lawn besides a picnic table. The temperature was very comfortable and we had a beautiful view of the lake. There was wonderful picnic food! From appetizers, salads & main dishes to desserts. Everybody ate all together with great gusto. Just after we finished eating, it started to rain very lightly... but it didn't last a long time.
The rain was another surprise blessing. There were several canceled boat reservations. So we rented two of them. There was an eight-passenger boat & a four-passenger boat. The bigger boat had an engine & our grandchildren enjoyed steering the boat.
The smaller boat was labeled "Boat 13." The #13 is spread in the world to be a bad number, because Christ was killed on Friday the 13th. There is not a belief in good & bad numbers at all in the Konko faith. Rather I think a great deal of 13 as the number of Kami's wish to be fulfilled in order to lead people in the world to recognize there are no such superstitions.
Additionally, the four cars arrived there at almost the same time 30 minutes after our appointed time & we parked next to each other. At first it seemed a little cold to swim, but around 3:00 pm it was a little warmer & our grandchildren could play at the beach.
This picnic was one of the best we could possibly have had. We received Kami's blessing & I was grateful to the bottom of my heart. I still felt sincere thanks when I offered my four o'clock silent morning prayer the next day.
I felt so happy I sent this message in an e-mail to everyone who had attended & many replied that they too agreed that we had received Kami's wonderful arrangements.
I am now practicing faith to deepen peace & joy in my heart at any time, awake or asleep, to embody the Divine Reminder. I now realize everything that happens in my life, small or big, is the very workings of Kami, full of Kami's wish to develop peace & joy in my heart to the fullest.
When I know for certain that I am born into this world for making clear this very point, a feeling of leaping-for-joy sometimes wells up in me. With that joy I cannot help but pray for true world peace and have an earnest desire to serve Kami & people with all my heart.
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