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Reviewing the Sazuke “The Approach” by Rev. Owen Nakao

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Rev. Owen Nakao of Tenrikyo Pearl Church

Rev. Owen Nakao, the head of Tenrikyo Pearl Church, has graciously allowed us to post his lecture he presented at Tenrikyo Hawaii Convention 2011. He was one of two speakers in the elective, “Reviewing the Sazuke,” a small workshop that aimed to help attendants increase their confidence in administrating the Sazuke on others.

Developing the right frame of mind, realizing the importance of the Sazuke and developing your approach are important cornerstones in administering the Sazuke.

If you haven’t administered the Sazuke for a long time or haven’t gone to church for a long time, administering the Sazuke can be very intimidating. After all, you’re charged with the task of bringing salvation to a person with an illness. If you were suddenly asked to do the Sazuke or an opportunity arises that you could and should administer the Sazuke, what thought comes to mind?

“Oh geez, I haven’t done it for a long time.”
“I’ve forgotten how to do it!”
Or, “What will people think?”
Or, “What if the person gets worse or dies?”
Or, “I can’t, I just can’t”.

What’s wrong with this picture? If this is what we are thinking, what is lacking? Confidence, courage, faith, and sincerity.

Construction of the Mind

This is why it’s important to go to church, to do the service everyday and administer the Sazuke as often as possible. For most people, I don’t think faith comes to you suddenly. We develop our faith step by step through daily practice, whether it’s performing the service, doing hinokishin, or administering the Sazuke. But we have to take the first step and then build our faith every day.

This is called “construction of the mind” in Tenrikyo. For a long time I didn’t know what this phrase “construction of the mind” meant. I have my mind, so I felt that it was already constructed. “Construction of the mind” means to develop our faith; it means to develop our unshakable faith. It’s like laying a brick wall, one brick at a time.

Once a Tenrikyo mission station head minister told me that she has a hard time explaining to her family why we have to worship all the time. For example, when we leave the house, we clap our hands in prayer to the shrine and when we arrive at mission headquarters we pray again. When we leave the mission headquarters, we pray and when we come home we pray again at the shrine. Her son-in-law asked: “Why do we have to pray so much? Just one time is enough.”

She didn’t know how to explain this because it’s what she always did. I told her to tell him: “This is how we develop our faith by being thankful for even the smallest of blessings, we nurture a mind of gratitude through the repeated prayers. This is how we don’t take things for granted.”

She never got back to me about it, but I think she gained a lot more confidence from my explanation. Through our repeated acts of faith, whether it be our daily service, paying our respects when leaving or arriving at a place of worship, or doing hinokishin and nioigake, we are constructing our mind! We are constructing a mind of gratitude, unshakeable faith and sincerity. This is how we prepare a right frame of mind.

The Sazuke

About the Sazuke, can you administer the Sazuke on yourself? No, of course not. Why? I believe it is a key to the Joyous Life.

Most of you have probably heard the story of two groups of people in two separate rooms, they have a lot of good food to eat, but they have to eat it with these extra long chopsticks. One group is unhappy, because as they try to eat they cannot bring the food to their mouth. The chopsticks extend beyond their mouth. The group in the other room is very happy because, they use the chopsticks not to feed themselves, but to feed the other person!

This is what the Sazuke is about… praying for the other person to get well. We are taught that the Sazuke is not to be administered to ourselves. Why? Because if we were allowed to administer the Sazuke to ourselves, it would go against the teaching, “We are saved, by saving others.” As illustrated by this story of the long chopsticks, the Sazuke is the key to living the Joyous Life!

About 20 years ago I heard about a church on the mainland whose members administered the Sazuke after the monthly service to the attendees with health conditions. After hearing this, I started doing this at my church. And you know what? People with conditions said that they felt better with reduced symptoms. Not only that, it gives the members a chance to administer the Sazuke in familiar surroundings and on a regular basis. This gives them the confidence they need to administer the Sazuke to other people in other situations. I have heard that other churches here have been doing this or have begun to pick up on this practice and I encourage you to talk to your minister about starting this at your respective church as well. In this way, we are all becoming the “people in the room that is happy.”

Explaining the Teachings prior to administration

The following is my nioigake approach but it serves as my Sazuke approach as well, when I’m meeting someone for the first time. And I use this to explain the teachings before the Sazuke.

“Hi! How are you today? My name is Owen Nakao. I’m a missionary for the Tenrikyo church. In Tenrikyo, we believe that God created human beings to live a Joyous Life and to share in it. We are taught that our body is not our own, but a thing lent, a thing borrowed from God and that we are kept alive by God’s grace, only our mind belongs to us. We are taught that our problems and our illnesses are a form of guidance from God; God is trying to guide us toward the Joyous Life. We are taught to reflect on the way we use our minds on a daily basis and to rid ourselves of our self-centered thinking (0r “dust“), such our miserliness, covetousness, self-love, anger, hatred, holding grudges, greed, and arrogance. These are the dusts of our mind and we are taught to sweep them away, through daily prayers and helping others. As part our mission to bring about the Joyous Life, we have a special prayer for healing called the Sazuke.”

Dispel all doubt and human thoughts. Focus only on how we can have this person saved by total and complete reliance on God.

This is my approach and eventually I will meet someone who needs and wants the Sazuke administered. You don’t want to beat around the bush. You want to be straightforward, sincere and to the point. The rest is up to God.


Construct your mind by practicing your daily faith through the service and hinokishin, realize that administering the Sazuke is an important key to attaining a joyous and peaceful world, and then develop your approach. These three cornerstones will go a long way in being able to administer the Sazuke with faith and confidence.

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