Tuesday, December 6, 2016

December Message

Aloha everyone.

Today I will be making a short message, may I please have your kind attention.

This Monthly service marks the last one of this month, and the last one of the 130th Anniversary of Oyasama. As the Shinbashira has told us, we should not make this year be the goal line, but rather the starting point, or the time we use to pick up our momentum for the years to come.

As I say in many of my messages, I often reflect on my own actions, so for the new year, I don't really create a resolution, as I try to better myself daily. But what I tend to do is reflect on what has occurred in the past year and express my gratitude. Now, this is also done daily, but usually, on a daily basis, I am thankful for the bright spots in a given situation, rather than the whole situation. At the end of the year, I can see where most of the events that have happened have led to. This lessens the anger and frustration of negative events, and heightens the happiness of positive events. This doesn't take away the sadness of sad events but it does put it into perspective, and I can honestly say that I am thankful, and know that because it happened, some things have become better.

Within these sad events, come events where we experience loss. Sometimes it takes loss to make us appreciate what we have more. One of the importance of reflecting, is to revisit the loss. It makes an important reminder to me to appreciate the things that are in my life now, before they are gone.

These things help me to appreciate my family, which includes you all, but especially my son, mother, and my wife, who I am missing dearly this month as she is in Japan attending Koshu, or the Lay-Minister's Course.

As this month and year comes to a close, a new month and year will open. Let us all find the things we are thankful for, and continue to cherish them.


Sunday, November 6, 2016

November Message

Thank you for your participation in the November Monthly service.

Well, the election is coming up soon, and I am not here to tell you who to vote for. That is totally for you to decide, and please be assured that whichever way you vote, we will always be accepting towards you without change.

I will just like to mention some of my observations, and as much as possible, not to put one candidate above another. Though in the history of elections there have always been political cartoons, opinions and such, smear campaign in the media is actually rather recent. It really began with the Bush-Dukakis elections in which accusations of Dukakis' involvement in an terrible event were exaggerated appears. This was the first time even to use the terms liberal and conservative in the way we use them today. This type of campaign continued through the following elections, even in the Bush-Clinton election, when the smear came from Bush's own party. Before this message becomes political, let me get to the actual point. 

This year, there has been many negative campaign ads. Looking at all of this neutrally, all candidates have their good points. All the candidates have their bad. The same bad points have been in the campaign for a long time. What I wish to hear is actually what each candidate will do themselves. Which they actually do say outside of their ads, but their ads are too busy criticizing the other.

I compare this to my students in school once again. Sometimes students bring contraband to school. I am obligated to take it away, and return it to the students at the end of the day. When I do return them, the item is usually not a life-threatening item, but I do ask them if they should be bringing it to school. Usually, they'll say no, but I'll tell them that I am not trying to punish them, but sometimes, we may leave it out, and someone takes it without their knowledge, so it is really for their protection. If they bring it, I'm okay with it, just don't take it out of their bags, it is a distraction for their own learning.

Once in a while I have a student that will answer, "but so-and-so also took it out in class..." So to them I say, thank you for telling me, now I will be more aware and take theirs away too. And they look at me surprised, like I was supposed to tell them, "oh if so-and-so does it, then you're okay."

I try to teach the students that if they need to get a job, they need to present their assets, their good points, so that the employers would want to hire them. It wouldn't be to their benefit to go to a job interview, and upon being asked, "why should we hire you?" and the only thing you have practiced is to bring up bad points of others to make yourself look good.

I guess in this world, it is one way to be successful, but as a person, I still would rather see your good points. Everyone does have their bad points, everyone.

The Second-Shinbashira often credited for saying to know what Tenrikyo is, just look at me.
Many people often state that they are unable to say this phrase themselves, because they are not the Shinbashira. Essentially, because we are not perfect in following the teachings, they do not have the confidence of representing Tenrikyo. 

For myself, I look at this phrase as, if people know I am Tenrikyo, they will use me as a measure of what that means. People will judge you, whether you want to or not. We cannot pretend to be who we are not. If we use other peoples bad points to make ourselves look better, that may work, but I believe, if you have just as many noticeable bad points, people will call you a hypocrite. 

Because I know people will look at me to see what kind of people are Tenrikyo or what Tenrikyo is, I do my best. I am human and I make mistakes. But I honestly try to correct myself. I do not put up a false front, as much as possible. God the Parent states that in addition to the Dusts of the Mind, Falsehood and flattery are unwanted. Be honest in who you are. Accept who you are. 

Let us practice our good habits that we naturally have, and create a better place, and take a step closer to the Joyous Life a world of peace and harmony.

Thank you for your time, be sure to vote this week. Oh, incidentally, our oven is still not repaired, so we have a few new items to our menu today.


Monday, October 3, 2016

October Message

Aloha, thank you for your participation in our monthly service today. I'm sure God the Parent and Oyasama have appreciated our efforts today.

October marks the time in which the teaching of Tenrikyo has been revealed through Oyasama, Miki Nakayama. Everyday, I try to reflect on my actions as a follower of Tenrikyo and see if it coincides with the Divine Model that Oyasama has demonstrated. Through her life, Oyasama has demonstrated extreme kindness and understanding even at a young age. But this is not where her Divine Model begins. It is actually the time after being received as shrine that marks her years of being a Divine Model.

Again, my messages are often reflections of my personal life, so please bear with me.

In my life roles as husband, father, teacher, and minister, I often reflect if what I am doing is what I should be doing. When I began teaching, I was 20 and I was very idealistic and wanted to be the students' friend. I wanted them to be comfortable with me so that we could all move forward and create the best band/orchestra/chorus, or whatever else I was teaching. This was all destroyed in one day of teaching as the students were unruly, noisy, and inattentive. This caused me to become an overly-strict teacher. This is not necessarily bad, but it is not a normal trait that I have. I really am uncomfortable with confrontations, so being this strict caused me some health issues. Not to mention that I became the "scary teacher." To be honest, I still am the "scary teacher" but now it's not so much that I yell or discipline, but more because the students do not know what to expect from me.

In any case, the transition from overly-strict teacher to the strict-because-it-makes-sense teacher... well at least to me... happened, and is still happening due to reading the life of Oyasama.

In the many anecdotes of Oyasama and events depicted in the Life Of Oyasama, she often demonstrates patience through her guidance. One example that sticks in my head was to thank one of the lazy workers for his hard work. In Japanese, she is saying, "gokurosama." Eventually, the lazy worker has a change of heart and begins to work hard. Now, I know this is rather difficult for us to follow. We understand the message, but we can't seem to bring ourselves to do this, as we can't be sure that human beings would really change for the better. But I actually have brought myself to do this. My reasoning is that I care for the students to gain better skills and get a "good grade" from my class, but I can't force them, and perhaps it is better that they learn the hard way if they insist on being lazy. So in other words, I thank them for their "hard work" even if they don't work hard. I give them the same opportunities, and compliment on what they are doing well, if anything, but not lie. I also tell the class in general the reasons why things are done a certain way. Then I give them the grade they deserve. Most of the time, the lazy students become concerned and try to better themselves. Others take longer. Very few continue in their own ways, or they drop out of the subject area. Through this way, I have discovered that the students are more self-motivated, and the numbers of students applying for my classes have grown.

Now, just as I was very uncomfortable as the overly-strict teacher, I would not expect everyone to do it this way if they were a work supervisor or a teacher, but perhaps in our daily lives with our family and friends we could use more patience, perhaps. Having more patience does not necessarily mean we become "nicer." We can still discipline, but perhaps discipline while trying to understand, or to discipline and being okay with the idea that they are learning. We are also taught that everything we see is a reflection of ourselves.

In this month of October, and any other month as well, let us see how we can become closer to Oyasama, and reflect upon what we do.


Sunday, September 4, 2016


The Autumn Memorial Service followed the September Monthly Service, so there was no monthly message today.

Monday, August 8, 2016

August Message

Thank you for your participation in today's Monthly Service.

It is August, and the school year has begun. I, of course, work as a teacher at a high school, and at this time of year, I often relay my expectations for the students.

Each year, I tell my students that I will do my best to teach them different techniques and guide them in their development. I will do my best and see what things are working for them and what are not, and then help them to change anything that isn't, and keep anything that is. But there are two types of students that I cannot teach. I do still try to teach them, I do still try to guide them, but often, if their personality types do not change, all that I do, will not be effective for them.

One is the way of thinking of "I am great." Once you think that you are great, there is no more learning. This would be called arrogance. Though this type of student may be far advanced compared to other students, they are not at the professional level, and often, the difference in their level compared to other students begin to narrow, as they begin their journey in high school. I have seen many "gifted" students fall due to their own arrogance.

The second way of thinking is "I am terrible." or "I suck." This in its strange way has the same effect as those who think they are great. Most of the time, these students are comparing themselves to others, which in itself is not a bad thing, but they then decide that they are terrible at what they do. They may not be wrong, however, it isn't because of "who" they are that makes them terrible, but "how" they do things, in other words, they lack practice, or give up at practicing. I tell them that the only reason really why the talented students are better, is that they practice more. They practice, they get better, they get better, they have more fun, they have more fun, they practice more. We all need to work at our skill, it never comes in a day. In this digital world, we often forget this. We often forget that real life requires hard work. How it becomes similar to arrogance, is that when I try to tell them to try a certain method or technique that would help them improve, the response to me is often, "You don't understand, I just can't." It may be true I do not understand, which is why we should try to uncover the reason together... but this phrase is basically saying, "You don't know what you are talking about. You can't help," or simply, "I know (me) better than you." These are the same words arrogant people relay.

In Tenrikyo, we call arrogance a Dust of the Mind. But what is arrogance? One of my favorite authors is Amy Tan. In the movie, "Joy Luck Club," which is based on her book, it makes an observation of Asian culture. In Asian culture, people often put ourselves down to appear humble. If I took a sip of milk then find that it is spoiled, and if I tell that it is spoiled, then ask you to drink it, would you? It is a funny joke sometimes that we're willing to smell that spoiled milk container even after being told it smells bad. But would you be okay if I said, it was spoiled, and then serve it to you anyway? Yet in this culture, we often offer a dish that we may have cooked to others by saying, "it's not that good, but try it anyway."

Pride is not arrogance. There is a fine line, but it is okay to be proud. "I cooked this dish. I think it's pretty good, your tastes may be different, but please give it a try." "I have accomplished this," "I got a first place trophy," but when does it turn to arrogance. In my observation of school students, pride turns to arrogance when we add a qualifier--a ranking of sort, or a sense of entitlement to it. "I am the best," which indicates others are not as good as you, "I got a first place trophy, and I deserved it." "I'm number 1!"

It is good practice to be humble. Humility is what allows us to improve ourselves, but there is also a fine line between being humble, and putting yourself down. "No, I'm not that good, I do try hard though," would be a humble statement. Similar to arrogance, it seems that crossing the fine line would mean to add some kind of ranking or sense of entitlement. "No, I'm not that good. I suck at it, really." "No, I'm not that good, I don't deserve to be complimented like that." Not only does this prevent you from becoming better, whether you are at a high level or entry level of skill, but the person complimenting you was just insulted. If that person was at a lower level than you, you're saying that they are worse than you, which is a level of 'terrible'. If they are at a higher level than you, you're telling them, they don't know how to judge what level you're at.

It is okay to be proud, it is okay to be humble, and to be fairly honest, both are usually combine, just as being arrogant and putting yourself down, actually go hand-in-hand.

I too, reflect on my actions often. I reflect if it is arrogant or not, and I often find that all I really need to be is honest, "I thought that I did pretty good, but I really want to get better."

I'm not perfect, and I'm always learning. Let us all continue to learn as well. Mahalo

Monday, July 4, 2016

July Message

How important is sharing? This summer, I have been teaching U.S. History at Summer School. Now, though the students are learning, I too, am learning and gaining insight as to how I may live my life. Focusing strictly on wealth; I have heard arguments from those who are wealthy of "why they should share something they worked hard for?" It is a very good argument, but let us look at the Great Depression.

There are many causes of the Great Depression, but one was a uneven distribution of wealth. In a capitalist economy, there will be some uneven distribution of wealth, however if it is too great, then there will be less money in circulation. If a small percentage of people hold the majority of the wealth there are less people buying basic things. Now, again, this wasn't the sole cause of the Great Depression, other factors did play in. In any case, once we hit the Great Depression, we raised tariffs, taxes on imported goods. This was thought to help protect domestic businesses from competition from foreign products. This actually caused the other countries to raise theirs as well. This hurt the US economy more, because we couldn't get foreign countries to buy our products as well. We needed the foreign market to buy our stuff. This tariff war eventually spread the Great Depression in the US worldwide, and it causes conflict and revolutions, and eventually WWII.

This is the worst case scenario, of course, but there are many cases of people not helping each other during this time, that may have help. For example, President Hoover gave federal money to banks, in hopes that they will voluntarily give loans to businesses; businesses will voluntarily use these loans to keep employees, and keep their wages and keep production up. But very little of this was happening. At each level, people used the funds to "save themselves" and nothing was given to the laborers.

As much as the wealthy people feel they work hard for their wealth, unless they are running a one-man store, and they are the one-man, there are many others under them that work hard making their wealth. This is something we shouldn't forget.

But let's not focus on money alone. In whatever position we're in, there are others that are supporting us. We should remember that.

My friend teaches a 90 year old gentleman how to play the `ukulele. A little history of this man: he was poor as a child, but his parents instilled in him to work hard, even when no one is looking. It is the mantra he lives by. When he got a job as a laborer at a distribution company, he worked a 110% each day. His boss calls him in one day, and he thought he was in trouble. But, instead, the boss mentioned that he kept watching his hard work each day, and wanted to give the company to someone trustworthy before retiring. Long story short, he became successful and expanded this company based in Seattle. He is now retired himself and is able to live some months in Hawai`i, some in Seattle. He lives simply, gives greatly to charity, but does have rich neighbors. Each week, he dines with one couple and the wife, with no expression, when finished drinking her wine, raises her glass, and her husband immediately runs to fill it up. This gentlemen told my friend, "how sad that must be. To be unhappy. If you have that much wealth, and are unhappy, where do you go from there?"

So my friend asks him, what is the secret to his happiness. The gentleman points out 1) work 110% whether or not someone is watching. I think this puts pride in your work, and helps your company to succeed, thus, hopefully, giving you success as well. 2) If you find something that gives you passion, go get it and go do it, life is too short. This can be your job, or something outside your job, but by finding this, it gives that spark in your life. 3) Smile at others. We never know what situation others are in, smile at them, be kind and help others.

In Tenrikyo, we have a word called Hinokishin. This is an act that we physically do to show our gratitude to God. In every sense, it is something we do for ourselves, but the action should be helpful to others. A kind word, even a smile can be hinokishin. By saving others we, in turn, will be saved.

I will do my best to practice this too; let's smile at others. Let's share our wealth.

Let us also lend our prayers that the members of HBH have a safe trip to Jiba this month.