Congratulations on commemorating the 10th year anniversary of the Konko Church of Chicago. My name is Emiko Otsubo from the Airaku Church in Fukuoka, Japan. I am the sister of Reverend Masanori Takeuchi, the head minister of the Chicago Church.
Originally, my late husband, Reverend Mitsuaki Otsubo planned to be here today, however, he passed away last June at the age of 68. Despite his diagnosis of stomach cancer, Mitsuaki sensei accepted it as a condition that was bestowed by Kami not as cancer or a disease.
Mitsuaki sensei and I were married for forty-three years. He was a person with a big heart who enjoyed entertaining people. Since we had a good marriage, I thought I would be heart broken and filled with sorrow after his passing, however I am in good health and at peace. I believe the blessings of this faith has brought such peace to my heart.
Together, we practiced to keep a peaceful and joyful heart or waga kokoro depicted in "The divine favor depends upon one's own peaceful & joyful heart" of the Tenchi Kakitsuke, the Divine Reminder. Today, I would like to share the blessings we received as we practiced developing our heart (waga kokoro) as well as my own faith experience.
My connection to Konkokyo
I am third generation Konkokyo. My grandparents were both introduced to Konkokyo around the same time. My grandfather was in China and my grandmother was in Japan. My father, who was second generation, was saved by Konkosama when he became seriously ill as a student. He studied this faith and tirelessly searched for a minister throughout Japan who would teach him the true way of the faith.
My father had three beliefs that described true faith. First, Kami's workings were energetic and dynamic. Second, the teachings are explained and made understandable by the ministers and third, the teachings show progression and growth every day.
When my father first met the founder of the Airaku church, Reverend Soichiro Otsubo, he felt Reverend Otsubo would be the one to fulfill these beliefs which motivated my father to deepen his faith under his guidance. I began assisting with the Boys and Girls Association when I started attending the church. This is where I met Rev. Soichiro Otsubo's second son and leader of the association, Rev. Mitsuaki Otsubo, who I later married and had four children together.
The members of the church were training to obtain the heart of the earth and the heart of silent acceptance like that of the earth. The 50th teaching of our founder's Gorikai states "Practicing faith in everyday life is important. Rich soil will be productive without fertilization and so it is with faith." No matter how unclean things are, the earth will calmly preserve their nutrients and create rich soil to produce crops.
If there was something inconvenient, I tried to accept the situation as Kami's workings by keeping an open heart instead of showing negativity. This mindset would have helped develop my heart, however, there were times when I just endured a situation because I was too occupied with raising my children.
As the 30th year anniversary of Airaku church approached, approximately one hundred people helped with its renovation every day and ate meals together. Some of them stayed there overnight. In the morning when I was the first person in the kitchen, I saw two large buckets filled with unwashed dishes from the previous night. The slippers were scattered and faced different directions. I washed the dishes everyday complaining internally "If everyone washed their own dishes after they eat and drink, they would not accumulate like this."
One morning I suddenly thought "If my heart is cleansed by washing each cup and plate, I will happily wash the dishes instead of complaining." I have also happily arranged the slippers.
Since then, I have enjoyed washing dishes thinking it was all right to have three or even four buckets of unwashed dishes. As time passed, the dishes were reduced in one bucket, then ten days later there were only four or five unwashed dishes. The slippers were also arranged nicely.
Kami is amazing. When I accepted the need to change my heart, Kami showed me these positive changes resulting in divine blessings. I realized that even the function of a dirty cup is part of Kami's workings.
We can nurture our hearts every day through daily activities. Rather than complaining about the things that I do not like, I try to understand that Kami is working to nurture my heart. As I happily accept a situation, it brings a peace of mind and my heart is filled with joy. These situations bring opportunities toward developing a waga kokoro heart.
Business card incident
Reverend Takeuchi began propagating the Konko faith in Chicago twenty-two years ago. Twelve years ago, I came to Chicago for the first time to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the Konko Propagation Hall of Chicago. When my trip was decided, someone told me that I will need a business card. I was advised to add my first name to the business card that my husband used in Brazil. Mitsuaki sensei called the following story the "business card incident."
Three days before our trip to Chicago in 2007, Mitsuaki sensei said "Emiko, I think I gave you the business cards." After I replied "Hmm, I did not receive them", he removed his neatly packed items from his suitcase to search for them, however he did not see them. "Emiko, can you check your suitcase?" he asked. I also took everything out with no sign of the business cards. "That is strange" he said, "Oh, but it might be in the smaller bag that you are taking, would you mind checking it?" As I checked the bag, I asserted "I do not think it will be there. I did not receive them." Eventually, I found them in the inner pocket. Although I said I found them, I felt so guilty towards him. When he saw the embarrassed expression on my face, he gave me a hug.
At that moment, I was wrapped in waga kokoro, embraced in a heart of warmth and compassion. I did not receive any criticism, but was just accepted with a big heart. Waga kokoro was an amazing quality. I wanted to have a heart like this. As he hugged me, he said "When we go to Chicago, things like this will happen often. Since they are Kami's workings, let's be grateful and happily accept them." Therefore, we were both very grateful during the trip.
Incident of Shinpei
Our founder, Konko Daijin, received the following revelation, "Everything that happens is Kami's sacred doing." Rev. Otsubo taught us, "The process of life is Kami's workings and all is Divine Love," which is similar in meaning to the founder's revelation. Now, I would like to share a story in which my husband and I believed everything that occurred was the result of Kami's doings
My daughter who was about to give birth to her second child, came home to the church with Shinpei, her first born child. He was four years-old. We only raised four daughters, so for the first time, we learned that boys can be mischievous. He was quite disobedient. He would run around the sofa and would even run around the worship hall without sitting still for a second. I wondered about the things that could happen, however I decided to accept it as Kami's sacred doing. I quickly took him to the hallway and said "Let's play here." He must have been frustrated because he said "stupid Ba- ba-." I immediately said "Thank you. Ba-ba likes stupid." After repeating that a few times, Shinpei stopped calling me stupid. Perhaps he thought it was boring that ba-ba- did not get angry.
Mitsuaki sensei gave Shinpei a bath in the evening where he was also causing trouble. Shinpei threw the soap in the bathtub, removed the water stopper, and each time Mitsuaki sensei said "thank you, thank you" while playing with him.
After one month, he was still running around as usual. He never sat quietly in front of the altar, until the day he was going home. He sat in the front row to offer the Tenchi Kakitsuke, the divine reminder. I was so thankful, I thought Kami gave us a reward.
Since then Shinpei became a 4th grader. While visiting the church, Mitsuaki sensei took a bath with him. During this time, he told Mitsuaki sensei that he was happy he did not get scolded when he was little, despite causing trouble in the bathtub. Mitsuaki sensei was very glad to hear this.
Now, Shinpei is a first year high school student. He has become a calm older brother who takes care of his younger siblings as well as other small children and helps with church duties.
Just like in this situation, we have been training to accept daily occurrences with a grateful heart.
Three years ago, Mitsuaki sensei was diagnosed with stage 4 stomach cancer. Although we were presented with this information, we did not think of cancer as an illness, but were able to accept it as cancer that Kami bestowed upon us, therefore we had no worries. Mitsuaki sensei showed respect for his bestowed condition.
When he was hospitalized, he changed his clothes and prayed in his bed every morning, afternoon, and evening. He prayed especially hard in the morning for all of the doctors, nurses, and for successful treatments. Furthermore, he prayed for the recovery of over one thousand patients in the hospital.
There was a nurse whose strength was not giving injections. She had difficulty putting the needle in causing many pokes to the skin. "I'm sorry Mr. Otsubo" she said. "It's all right. You can practice on me so you can get better at it" said Mitsuaki sensei. The truth is, he was actually terrified of needles and would nearly faint just by hearing that word.
He could not have surgery and every time he felt pain, a chill, or his feet got swollen, he would not reveal his tough condition, but instead would say "I am ok, I am ok." He did not get angry, complain, or blame others or situations relating to his illness. He continuously worked towards developing an accepting heart with gratitude.
The assets left by Mitsuaki sensei
After Mitsuaki sensei passed away, his four daughters and grandchildren were filled with sadness. However, after a year and a half since his passing, we all knew he was by our side and we felt his protection.
For example, he has a granddaughter in Okayama named Hiyori who is in second grade. Around the time he passed away, Hiyori's teacher went on maternity leave and her substitute teacher's name was Mitsuaki. "Ji-ji- is always watching over me" she said happily.
Furthermore, I felt he was watching over me when I was asked to speak at the Kameari Church in Tokyo. While feeling nervous and worried, I arrived at Kameari station where I saw a poster. On the poster, I saw the number 68 with the message "Will support you on a normal day" written underneath. Mitsuaki sensei passed away at age 68 on June 8th last year, so I felt he was with me that day. Just like in this situation, we feel connected to him all the time.
The assets Mitsuaki sensei left for our family is waga kokoro, the love and joy in our hearts. Because of these assets, I am well and have received a peace of mind. Because of these assets, if sadness is rated at 100, my gratefulness is at 200 or 300. He not only left the waga kokoro assets for me, but for our four daughters, who have started to change their way of faith as they aspire to develop their waga kokoro like their father. I wish to continue to seek peace and joy in my heart as I embrace the course of daily life.
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