Good afternoon, welcome & thank you very much for attending our 2019 Spring Memorial Service of the Konko Church of Chicago.
Konko Daijin taught us:
"Because humans are born through the blessings of Kami, they must also die with the blessings of Kami. Therefore, if a child's birth is a happy event, then death is a much happier event since one becomes a kami. The reason death is so abhorred is because people have not yet developed enough peace in their mind to accept death. Practice faith, so that you will be blessed with peace of mind. No one knows when they will die. It is determined by Kami. Then it is too late to practice faith after a crisis has already arisen. People must always have faith which will be strong enough for crucial times.
For the Autumn Memorial Service last year I talked about the most important people for me who passed away last year. Their deaths changed dramatically my philosophy of 'Life & Death'. Death is not abhorred at all. Death is a divine blessing of relief. Today I would like to tell you again about four people whose life & death had such an impact on me. I had already talked about the lives & deaths of three people in my sermon for the Autumn Memorial Service, so today I would like to add one update to them.
Rev. Mitsuaki Otsubo, my brother-in-law, passed peacefully away on Friday, June 8 at age 68. He was a man of the heart of the earth. He was the second son of my parent minister, Rev. Soichiro Otsubo and Mrs. Isoe Otsubo. The more Mitsuaki Sensei listened to his father's teachings, the more he realized the importance of the heart like the earth. He had a soft & gentle character by nature. The nature of the earth completely suited his nature.
Therefore he has done his best to respect each & every happening in his life as Kami's sacred doing with gratitude like the nature of the earth to polish his heart & renew himself throughout his life. He has always prayed & accepted everything with calmness whatever happened & no matter how it happened. He has shown the wonder of total acceptance.
Two years before his death, he was diagnosed with stage four stomach cancer.
Without a bit of fear, he respected his stomach cancer as "Gan-sama, honorable cancer" & did his best to change cancer cells into Wagakokoro cells, peaceful joyful cells. Through having done so, he could greatly change his lifestyle, his character & his destiny. He could develop his heart so deeply that we all admired this faith training of his & he led our faith closer & closer to Kami.
I believed he would have completely recovered from it through this faith practice of his. However, he passed away. First, I was shocked to hear it. Then I believed there would be more important reasons Kami had for his death. His final word was 'Konko-sama.' He left everything up to Kami. He entered into the next world with divine virtue.
He is now working vividly in the next world as our Founder said, "After Konko Daijin's physical form is gone, Konko Daijin will go wherever asked." These are words that cannot be declared without conviction beyond our human founder, who was a divine person. Mitsuaki Sensei shows this conviction is not only for our Founder. Like Konko Daijin, Mituaki Sensei now goes wherever asked, anywhere in the world.
Mrs. Emiko Otsubo, my sister, was Mitsuaki Sensei's wife. She has realized his presence through daily happening so precisely that she has never felt lonely since his death, even though she has not been able to physically see him. The workings of his Mitama spirit are beyond the barrier of this world & the next world.
I visited KC Airaku last October. I first thought I should have encouraged Emiko-Okusama as her older brother. When I saw her, I was impressed with how lively she was & how vividly she felt Mitsuaki Sensei's presence all the time. She practiced faith to deepen peace & joy in her heart to communicate with him all the more. When she was asked what the process of life meant for her, she answered that it was the connection with Mitsuaki Sensei & his parental heart." How impressive is that!
Rev. Kayoko Otsubo passed away peacefully on Monday, July 16 at age 71. She was the wife of Rev. Mikisaburo Otsubo, the third son of Rev. & Mrs. Soichiro Otsubo. She was diagnosed with interstitial pneumonia a few years ago. She threw up blood last July & was hospitalized. She told her oldest daughter, Mrs. Haruko Suenaga, who came from Brazil to take care of her, that she was the happiest wife ever. She thundered out to her children who were crying beside her bed, "You don't need to cry." With all her children gathering beside her, she started to recite the Divine Reminder in a low voice. Everyone joined in reciting. Then she peacefully entered into the next world.
Within three months before her passing, her brother, Mr. Norikazu Tanaka, called her & said, "My life will be over soon." Then she said to him, "Do you know where you are going? You are going to the world of Airaku, the world of peaceful joyful hearts." He nodded. Her words impressed me a lot. That was why at her final moment she recited the Divine Reminder. What a great example her final moment was for all of us Konko believers!
Mrs. Haruko Nakaoka passed away on Feb. 1, 2014. We had the 5th year Memorial service of her Mitama spirit at her husband, Harold's house on Friday, Feb. 8. Their son Kurt & his wife, Nancy joined us in it. Harold is now 98 years old.
Harold-san & Haruko-san had lived their married lives together for 66 years. They loved each other so much & never quarreled at all, which amazed me a lot. Of course Harold-san felt lonely, but talked with her Mitama spirit, communicated with her and realized her prayers for him came from the next world. Harold-san once saw a ball of light flying through him and felt it was the light of Haruko-san's Mitama spirit.
Later I received a card from Harold-san, saying, "I have been a Buddhist with my family. I like Takeuchi Sensei & your wife very much. But I can't get used to Konko religion. So no more services here." I was greatly shocked with it.
Through Haruko-san's relatives, they got acquainted with us and started to willingly come join us in some occasions such as grand ceremonies & memorial services. However, my efforts were too poor to change his heart. It was because of my lack of divine virtue. I have not had a sizable influence as is stated in the following teaching, "The depth of religious experience, the level of moral character, the size of influence on those around you."
I earnestly sought & sought for the heart of the universe through this shock. Then I heard Kami's voice saying that Kami wishes me to acquire more and more divine virtue. Now I will do my best to respect each & every happening as Kami's sacred doing thankfully, brightly & gracefully to develop an unbreakable peace & joy in my heart.
Mrs. Haruko Ohba passed away peacefully on Sunday, March 4, 2018 at 83 years old. She was a prominent singer for the Lyric Opera in Chicago. She was one of the sopranos, in the Chicago Opera chorus & was the only Asian soprano in her younger days.
At one point she was encouraged to try to go to Italy & study to be in the famous aria 'On a sunny day,' which is in Madame Butterfly. But she chose to stay in Chicago with her husband, Mr. Shunjiro Ohba.
She had often joined us for special events of KC Chicago such as New Year's Day ceremonies, the grand ceremonies & the memorial services like this one. We had a lot of enjoyable & memorable times with her. No matter how deeply we extend our appreciation to her, it is still not enough.
When I heard this song 'On a sunny day' with Koto at the Japan Festival last June, it was then that I wished to have her memorial concert. We had it on Sunday, March 3 two weeks ago at the Morton Grove Public Library.
Kami arranged everything so smoothly that we had a gorgeous concert better than we had expected. More than 80 guests came all the way to pay respects to Ohba-san for the concert and everyone enjoyed the fruitful program. We started this concert with a song 'On A Sunny Day' with Koto and ended with the song 'I Am A Thousand Winds That Blow.' I believe great joy wells up in Ohba-san's heart in the next world like ours in this world.
Konko Daijin taught us, "Practicing faith and gaining divine virtue will let you live a long life." "Immortality is important for humans. Immortality is when others keep praying for you after you die."
In commemorating the 160th Anniversary year of the Divine Call I will do my best this year to develop my unbreakable peaceful & joyful heart to acquire divine virtue and definitely be of great service to open this true way of Konko in Chicago and beyond.
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