Taking the Shinbashira Seriously


We all make mistakes. We sometimes misread or mishear things. When we realize we have done so, we would do well to correct our mistakes. If we want to grow spiritually, self-reflection seems to be a prerequisite, as I have often suggested. The important thing is that when we realize our misunderstanding, we correct it straightforwardly. This is the point I wished to make.

SAS: April 19, 1993 - The 3rd Shinbashira

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At least in my own case there is no doubt that I often make mistakes in what I think and do. I have also found there are is no shortage of folks willing to point those mistakes out to me. The world is of course full of critics. What is in short supply however are real solutions, actual trustworthy paths to replacing misunderstanding with understanding. In the paragraph above the Shinbashira is suggesting that a prerequisite for spiritual growth, that is the path to understanding the truth of any and everything is self-reflection. This suggestion is in fact a positive plan for overcoming whatever misunderstanding we might have concerning the teachings of Tenrikyo but also concerning any and everything. Understanding the truth of any and everything is what Tenrikyo is all about after all. 

So, self-reflection is the prerequisite for spiritual growth, but, what is self-reflection? Self-reflection involves looking within one's own mind and discovering the truth of one's self. It is however a fairly tricky thing to do, as experience shows that on the one hand it often leads to a flood of thoughts and memories which go off in a whole bunch of directions, some of which are contradictory to each other. And on the other hand, may just end with rather shallow, absolutely concrete ideas of one's self that might be incapable of changing, maturing or expanding.

As I mentioned before, a real path offers a real solution and real guidance for its realization. We are guided then in our self-reflection by the instruction to think first that this universe is the body of God. The definition of God then is that God is this universe. Does anyone doubt that the universe exists?

If God is the universe and the universe is all that exists then what is there that is not of this universe? What is there that is not God? Who, for instance, am I? Upon close examination I find that I am a collection of self-images centered on a constantly changing piece of the universe, a human body, a bit of God. I am a self-centered imagination. I imagine myself as being separate from God, separate from the universe. Interestingly enough, when thought about, even the idea of separateness, my self-image is also a part of the Universe, a bit of God's body. We all then have a rather distinguished lineage. 

Thinking or saying that I am a self-centered imagination and that this universe is the body of God is of course just imagining so. I can imagine all sorts of things. How can I be sure that I am not also just imagining that this universe is a single conscious being?  It turns out that the proof is really quite simple. When the self-centered imagination is totally quiet that understanding is what remains.

One might wonder of why one should even bother to seek such an understanding. Let me list some of the reasons:

God, the universe, is real and original. God's body goes through changes according to causal rules. I imagine that a part of God's body is my body and I imagine that those changes happen to me. In this way God has created the appearance of limitations where in fact there are none. It is however boring being everything and unlimited. The creation of the appearance of limitations is intended to be marvelous and great fun.  Check it out for yourself and see.