Good Morning Everyone! Thank you for attending today's monthly service for November. I hope you are all in good health & good spirits.
My wife, Kanako & I were blessed this fall, to attend the 50th Anniversary Celebration & Ikigami Konko Daijin Grand Ceremony of KC Airaku on Monday, Oct. 16th. About 900 people attended this historic event from throughout Japan & even from overseas. Seven ministers & 19 believers attended from Brazil. Five ministers came from the USA & one minister from Korea.
Their joy in gathering together for the ceremony was exciting for all who attended. And though it rained all that day, everyone there felt that the rain was like tears of joyful emotion bringing Heaven to Earth.
The guest speaker was Rev. Kiyoji Konko. As the second son of our Principal Mediator, his presence gave living proof of the virtue of the Konko family, grown deeper since Kami's revelation to our Founder. His speech was, 'Receiving the Divine Reminder.'
Rev. Kiyoji Konko began his speech by sharing a story of coming to Airaku Church. He took the bullet train. In Fukuoka station, where they changed conductors, one of the conductors was named, Otsubo. Kiyoji Sensei felt that through the similarity of the name 'Otsubo', he was being drawn to KC Airaku by Rev. Soichiro Otsubo.
He then talked about the limitless depth & expanse of the Divine Reminder. He also talked about the importance of keeping the Divine Reminder in our mind each & every moment, putting it into practice in our daily life & having deep insights of it.
We were fortunate enough to have him in our banquet after the ceremony, where joy & emotion was enjoyed to the maximum. Two hours passed like a dream. At the last moment, I was greatly honored to be asked to lead in shouting three cheers. We all shouted "Konkokyo, Banzai" three times from the bottom of our hearts.
My Airaku history, for the 50 years we were celebrating was filled with Kami's awesome workings. However it started with unaccomplished wish of mine. From there it has expanded into Kami's great wish to me through Rev. Otsubo's prayers and Kami's elaborate workings for 50 years. Kami has arranged everything for me for 50 years & lead me to develop my faith to serve Kami & people in Chicago.
In 1967, KC Airaku was established. In 1966, I failed to pass the entrance examination to attend Tokyo University. I had spent my whole time in my high school days in studying for that examination. So I was very disappointed when I could not attend the university of my dream. However soon I came to have a strong desire to always be by the side of Rev. Otsubo. I wanted to know as much as possible about Kami & Kami's workings through him. So I became a temporary trainee under his guidance on April 16, until August of 1966.
At that time, KC Airaku was just being constructed. Rev. Otsubo had served Kami & people at Kabame, at his house for 16 years. His morning service prayer started at 5:00 am. I was young & had an earnest desire to know all I could about Kami. So I woke up at 4:00 am & ran to the construction site, two kilometers away from Kabame. There I offered my prayers, returned back to Kabame & attended the morning service prayer. When I woke up at 4:00 am on May 15, it was raining. I did my morning routine to offer my prayers at the construction site, but I was quite tired. During the morning service prayer I decided I would take a nap after it was finished.
When I went to bed, it was still raining. Some time later I woke up with tears of deep emotion in an awe-inspiring scene. The morning sun shone brightly into my bedroom. I remembered the miraculous dream I'd had. I was moved to tears & woke up with real tears. In my dream, Rev. Otsubo prostrated himself toward the Mino Mountain. I sat behind him doing the same. Then Rev. Otsubo appeared to rise out of a puddle like the genie in Aladdin's Magical Lamp. He said to me, "You receive divine blessings when you offer apologies with deep emotion." And then he disappeared into the puddle. Prostrating myself deeply besides the puddle I was moved to tears in great awe.
I immediately sought Mediation with Rev. Otsubo about this dream, & he said, "That deep emotion is like one when our founder wrote a circle as a symbol of his great awe and gratitude at age 42 in his Memoirs."
From this dream I understood more clearly that Kami is always working vividly each & every moment. This insight greatly supported me throughout my tumultuous university days. The following year I attended a different university, & was soon caught up into the anti-war movement.
This was the peak of the Vietnam War. Students all over the world supported the Vietnamese people's right to self-determination. Many saw this as a fight against American's presence in Vietnam. When I saw them with my eyes, I couldn't be passive. I joined the radical student movement. I devoted myself to such movements for five years with the understanding that I, as a Konko believer, would have to fight vanguard for people who were suppressed and discriminated against. I really wanted to reform the world for the people. My mother, weeping, always said to me, "I understand your feelings, but it is so dangerous that you yourself shouldn't do that." I always replied, "As a Konko believer who wants to help people in difficulties, I should fight more than anyone else."
My father was the mayor of Imari at that time. If I had committed a grave crime as a leader of the radical student movement, he might have stepped down from his position as mayor. Whenever he sought Mediation of Rev. Otsubo about this matter, Rev. Otsubo said, "Masanori-san is going through what he has to. So it is better for you to just respect it with calmness."
These radical movements were sometimes next door to danger & even death. Gradually, however, the more actively I became involved in student movements, the more I was driven to feel I couldn't leave this world without seeking the kind of faith that Rev. Otsubo taught us, something he called, "A 'Wa-Ga Kokoro World.'" Wa-Ga Kokoro literally means, "a peaceful & joyful heart." A Wa-Ga Kokoro World, then, means a world in which everyone has peace and joy filling their hearts to overflowing. Needless to say, I was deeply troubled as to what I should do.
Then I had a divine dream which determined the rest of my life. In that dream, our family sought the sacred mediation of Rev. Otsubo. My father introduced me to Rev. Otsubo. He 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 didn't want to accept this. I thought it was cowardly to only pray and not act. Therefore, in my dream, I didn't reply. Then Rev. Otsubo said to me, "If you continue to join radical movements, your life will be over in four or five years." Then my father introduced my sister, Emiko, to him. He said to her, "Emiko-san is good. She is so sincere. The sincere heart will please Kami most." You know I was not sincere at that time.
I thought long and hard about this impressive dream. Ultimately, I decided to return once more to the Airaku church. I eagerly wanted to know the proper way to human fulfillment. Nevertheless I felt like a sleepwalker for almost a year. That was because I had to completely reorient my life from a path on which people were fighting together against suppression and discrimination, trying to reform the world, to a path of total acceptance. I had to learn that acceptance of even the suppressed or isolated situation of people was also necessary for the nourishment of the heart. My heart was torn as I continued to struggle between these two ways of living.
At youth meetings of the Airaku church in those days, I always asked many questions of Rev. Otsubo, such as: "Are the problems of pollution or racial discrimination the workings of Kami? Is people's suffering from natural and man-made calamities the will of Kami?" Rev. Otsubo always answered my questions politely, and ultimately told me that at some point in time, his faith would come to the point where he could believe that 'All is Divine Love.' By virtue of having such a strong faith before me, particularly his absolute belief that everything that happened was Kami's doing, I always saw with my own eyes how Kami worked to help people and deepen their hearts. Finally, setting aside all my questioning, I made up my mind to seek the kind of belief his faith brought him. In the end, I became a trainee under his guidance for nearly twenty years.
Rev. Soichiro Otsubo gave his speech after the morning service prayer to express the deep insights of our founder's teaching every day. So it was all we trainees could do to try to understand what he wanted to say. Therefore I feel now I did not have enough scope to put it into practice to deepen my heart while I was a trainee.
Then some time after I became a trainee, I came across the following teaching of our founder: "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." He gave this teaching to one of his disciples, Mitsugoro Ichimura. I immediately realized this teaching would describe the ultimate way to lead us humans to true world peace.
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. This teaching determines my way of life to serve Kami and people as a Konko minister with all my heart.
It was my great treasure to spend my life for 20 years under the guide of Rev. Otsubo, touching & feeling his presence with Kami. Nothing was more precious than it.
My family moved to Chicago in 1997 to serve Kami & people there to establish KC Chicago. I realized for the first time I started to put what I had learned into practice to develop peace & joy in my heart. I really wanted to prove with all my heart that opening this Way would be within my own peaceful & joyful heart. Heaven & Earth is the same everywhere. It doesn't have any difference between any countries. If I could deepen peace & joy in my heart to shine through Heaven & Earth, Kami would bless me to open this Way even in Chicago.
Three major difficulties in one's life are said to be poverty, conflict, and illness. We have received few donations, but we have never had a sense of poverty because of the virtue that Rev. Otsubo had gone through extreme poverty with gratitude.
Rev. Otsubo once said to Rev. Hideki Sada, one of his trainees as follows: "Masanori-san will have faith training of his body once he starts to do missionary work," which I hadn't heard of directly from Rev. Ostbo. I was afflicted with a duodenal ulcer soon after I established the Konko Propagation Hall of Chicago in 1997. Blood spread in the toilet every time for four days. Then when I sat on the bed, I threw up blood and lost consciousness. However my heart was at ease when I came to myself, thinking that Kami would give me new life if Kami wished me to serve Kami and that it would be O.K. to lose my life if not.
I was afflicted with the same ulcer around the same time the next year. I was taken ill with colon cancer in 2005. I got surgery for a hernia in 2008. I got prostate cancer in 2013. And I even broke my left ankle in 2014. Every time I never asked Kami to cure those illnesses. Instead I sincerely requested Kami to deepen peace & joy in my heart through them. I was always grateful for them, thinking Kami was working for me to become a genuine mediator through them. Thanks to Kami's arrangement, I am now cancer-free.
Our founder taught us, "The foundation of faith is to be in harmony with one's family." My wife Kanako has done her best to develop her faith. From that point I have often been blamed by her, because she has wanted me to be the best mediator. I first tried to accept her blame to deepen my heart, but soon it turned out to quarrel with each other instead of deepening unbreakable peace & joy in my heart through them.
In order to welcome the 50th Anniversary Celebration of KC Airaku, I had a strong determination never to fail any more. I have kept in mind to deepen peace & joy in my heart at any time, awake or asleep, to embody the Divine Reminder, whatever happens. Then I have realized everything that happens in my life, small or big, was the very workings of Kami, full of Kami's wish to develop peace & joy in my heart to the fullest.
Thanks to Kami's guide, my heart is becoming unbreakable. I now really wish to deepen peace & joy in my heart more and more to echo Heaven and Earth. I am aspiring for a blessing that will completely embrace the world with such a light of my peaceful & joyful heart.
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