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Q: How did life really begin?
A: God created models of the first couple, then taught them how to procreate. Over a billion years, our souls were re-born thousands of times and we evolved into the human beings we are today.
In the beginning, the world was a chaotic muddy ocean. God, finding this condition tasteless, thought of creating human beings to live joyous lives and to share in that joy. From within the “primordial soup,” God gathered instruments of masculinity and femininity, and used them as building blocks for the models of the first couple. Characteristics of consumption, respiration, growth, and severance were added to the models, and then God entered their bodies providing moisture and warmth (heat), and taught them the providence of creating human beings.
The first children born were very small and grew taller gradually. After passing away, their souls were reborn over and over again, and grew taller with each cycle. In the history of this evolution, our souls were first reborn as sea-dwelling creatures, then eventually as worms, birds, land animals, then as primates, and finally as human beings.
The development of a baby in the mother’s womb is symbolic of our evolution from the time of creation to becoming the human beings we are today. The embryo is conceived in a liquid environment and passes through stages of growth resembling fish, then amphibians and reptiles, then birds and other animals, until finally we emerge and take our first breath when we are born.
Despite the fact that people have migrated and spread across all corners of the earth, we all originated from the same Parent; therefore, we are all truly brothers and sisters. One world, one family!
Q: What can you do as an individual to help stop the evil and suffering in the world?
A: To answer this question, we must first understand that our bodies are not our own; rather, that we borrow our bodies from God to live joyously with one another. Although we borrow our bodies, God has granted us free use of our minds.
However, over the course of thousands of rebirths, humankind has misused the gift of free will by indulging in self-centered thinking – the belief that all is well if the present is well for the self alone. This self-centeredness, characterized by greed, hatred, and arrogance, is contrary to God’s intention and clouds the mind like dust. If left unchecked, the accumulation of our “mental dusts” limits our ability to receive God’s blessings and eventually we may experience illnesses or other troubles in life.
When the minds of entire communities and countries become clouded, it manifests as wars, famine, recessions, or even natural disasters. These undesirable events (whether disease, accidents, conflicts, strained relationships) are not punishments, but are instead the care and guidance by our Parent, letting us know that our minds are traveling down a mistaken path and straying from the original intention, which is to live joyously by helping one another. Every person is equally God’s child and there is no one who is essentially evil; it is only a bit of “dust” stuck on.
If we desire to rid the world of pain and suffering, we must first start by purifying our own minds: Cast away our miserliness, covetousness, anger, hatred, selfishness, grudge-bearing, greed, and arrogance. Treat others with respect, dignity, compassion, and love.
By becoming a model of joyous-life living and praying for world peace, we can bring happiness to others. And by sharing this teaching with as many others who do not yet know this simple truth, we can make real progress toward the world of the joyous life. When the minds of the world become spirited, God, too, will become spirited and blessings will overflow in the form of long, healthy lives and abundance in all things. The world will settle in peace, firmly and forever.
Q: What is the meaning and purpose of life?
A: As was explained in the origin of human beings, the reason for our creation – which again, was an extraordinary effort by God spanning hundreds of millions of years – is for us to live joyously and spiritedly, in harmony by mutually helping one another. By watching over God’s children all over the world living joyous lives, God will share in that joy the same way that any parent would, watching their own children getting along well with each other.
The minds of the world are reflected back to God like a mirror. When the minds of the world are depressed, God, too, will be depressed. But when the minds of the world are cheerful and joyous, God, too, will be spirited and joyous. The joyous life is a happy and fulfilled life where we connect positively not only with our brothers and sisters throughout the world, but also one where we feel the love and care of our true Parent.
It is important to remember that when our happiness comes at the expense of someone else’s happiness, this is not true joy. Only when our joy brings happiness to others can it be called true joy.
Q: How can we cast away our fear and anxieties, and start living the joyous life?
A: In order to relieve us of our fears and anxieties, God taught us that curses, demons, and evil spirits do not exist in this world. Any evil that may exist originates from our own self-centered thinking.
Throughout the world, there are many people who are consumed by worry, depression, and a generally negative outlook on life. They fear for what the future holds and believe that the world may be coming to an end. Nothing could be further from the truth: Humankind has come a long way in the past 4,000 years since civilization began, but compared to the billion years it took to get to this point in our evolutionary development, our history as “modern” human beings is extremely short. God has given us the goal and the mission to have the joyous life spread across the globe, and we are making great progress. Through the advances in modern science, medicine, and technology, we are living longer, healthier, and happier. Although wars still exists throughout the world, such conflicts have decreased dramatically over the past few centuries.
God is working for us, day by day, keeping us alive and our bodies functioning properly – how thankful we should be! By maintaining the mind of gratitude for the blessings of life, our fears and worries melt away. Also, by putting others ahead of ourselves and focusing the attention on making others happy, we quickly forget about our problems and find that bringing joy to others leads us to our own joyous life.
We can even go a step further: By becoming one of God’s “useful timber” in the construction of the world into the world of the joyous life, we can then administer the healing prayer (Sazuke) for the sick and troubled people of our communities. If you know of anyone suffering from illness or other problems, please refer them to the nearest Tenrikyo church to have the Sazuke prayer administered. Countless miracles of salvation have been experienced throughout the world through the power of the Sazuke.
Q: What happens when we pass away?
A: Death is usually perceived as sad or frightening, and birth auspicious. In Tenrikyo, however, death and birth are taught as "passing away for rebirth" and "being reborn into this world," respectively. Death is not the end. It is a beginning or turning point leading to rebirth.
If we think about it, we will realize that there can be no birth without death. Death and birth are of one truth and cannot be separated. Expresions like "passing away for rebirth" and "being reborn into this world" refer to turning points in an endless cycle of life. These expressions imply that death is not an end but a new beginning and that birth is not simply a beginning. They suggest that each and every one of us is part of the great continuum of life. We are walking on the path to the Joyous Life by passing on the baton of life from generation to generation.
Q: Will God answer all prayers?
A: God says that all prayers will be answered according to the sincerity in our hearts. Although we cannot tell what lies in the hearts of others, God certainly can. Mere words of flattery will not do. Only one’s true sincerity and resolve to help others will be accepted.
God says, “Never make an unreasonable prayer! Come to Me with a single mind.” To clarify this statement, an “unreasonable” prayer has little to do with how far fetched it is. For example, praying for someone with a terminal illness to be completely cured is not “unreasonable.” Praying for someone with partial paralysis to be able to walk again, or for a blind person to regain their sight is not “unreasonable.” In fact, there are many stories of people in such dire situations or afflicted by so-called incurable illnesses, who become healthy again through prayer and the sincere mind.
What God means by an unreasonable prayer is one that is based on personal gains. To pray for one’s own success or wealth, or to pray for the downfall of those you dislike, these would be considered self-centered, unreasonable prayers.
Tenrikyo followers perform two prayers each day; at sunrise and at sunset. The reason for our daily prayers is to thank God for blessing us with the use of our borrowed bodies, and to pray for world salvation and world peace. A key concept in Tenrikyo is that through saving others, you will be saved.