Praying with the Religions of the World
The ceremony continued with its main program, Praying with the Religions of the World. In this unique program, participants join with prayer leaders in praying peace prayers from different religious and spiritual traditions. Over the years, many prominent religious and spiritual leaders from Japan and around the world have come together at Fuji Sanctuary to show their respect for and acceptance of all other faiths, to join in one another’s prayers, and to send out a unified message for peace on earth.
Participants welcomed prayer leaders from seven world religions as they were introduced on stage, joined by Mrs. Masami Saionji, Chairperson of Byakko Shinko Kai. Each of them offered their own message, and then led participants in a prayer from their own faith tradition.
Mr. Ichiyu Shaku (Nichiren Buddhism)
Mr. Ichiyu Shaku is Chief Priest of Nichiren Buddhism at Mino Shichimenzan Houko-ji Temple. He was born in Gifu Prefecture, and was recognized as a Hokke Shugen Onjuin Daiaragyodo Kegyoumonjin, or one who has completed a traditional and very austere training program in the Nichiren sect of Buddhism (refer to http://www.onjuin.com/english/pg67.html).
It is my great pleasure to participate with you here today, and I also feel a deep sense of joy in witnessing such a great assembly as this taking place.
Nichiren Shonin, the founder of the Nichiren Buddhist sect, was constantly advocating that the true foundation of peace is dialogue among religions, where religious people learn about each other’s teachings, and thereby deepen the wisdom of humanity. This was his earnest feeling as a Buddhist practitioner, but also because the role of the Lotus Sutra was ‘integration.’ Integration is neither unification nor fusion. Integration is a state where people respect each other’s individual uniqueness and yet maintain a deep sense of togetherness in harmony. This is what the prayer of the Lotus Sutra is all about.
To borrow Mr. Ryôtaro Shiba’s phrase, our modern society, ‘the era of enchantment,’ is based on the ideas of separation, opposition, and dualism, which are infused into everyone’s mind.
Ten thousand years ago, our ancestors patiently and continually planted trees on the bare mountainsides in sterile volcanic soil, in the hopes that their children ten thousand years later might live and work in prosperity. In sacrificing their entire lives for us, they left us this wonderful green island with clean water and fertile earth.
At some point, our ancestors began to change their way of living, thinking only of their own profit and security, exploiting nature, and denying others the ability to live as they wish. This way of living continues today.
The Nobel Prize Committee has raised its voice in testimony of the cycle of rebirth. Our ancestors will certainly be reborn in the future. Therefore, when we work to make the earth richer for our children, this act contains within it the ultimate commemoration of our ancestors. We are living in a world built by our ancestors. At the same time, we bear the responsibility for the world our ancestors will live in when they are reborn in the future.
In this day and age, we are no longer allowed to use the skills, information, faculties, and talent that we possess for our own benefit alone. At long last, human society is about to achieve its maturity. This is wonderful progress. This earth is going to emerge as a world of bodhisattvas.
Thus far in human history, people have not perished due to evil. It is foolishness that has destroyed everything. It is not our talent and ability that have kept us alive. We have survived by accepting and adapting to change.
What will you offer, and what do you expect to receive in return? Sakyamuni Buddha answered this question clearly. This is the reason why we need religion. And this is why I wish to pray together with you and to work towards creating a society that is abundant, healthy, and safe.
Rather than talking about religion or faith, please listen to the voice of Buddha. This is Buddha’s wish.
“Unless happiness prevails throughout the entire world, there is no individual happiness. The consciousness of the ego will gradually progress from the individual to the group, to society, and to the whole universe. In this new era, the world will become one consciousness and one being. To live rightly and strongly means to be aware of the entire galaxy, and to align with it.” — Kenji Miyazawa.
Lotus Sutra Prayer (spoken by all in Japanese)
There is a world within me.
There is a world outside me.
Everything in the outside world is contained within my inner world.
My inner world extends through the entire outside world.
Inside is thought. Outside is conduct from thought.
The inside and outside worlds are in accord, acting in concert with one another.
I carry out the will of Buddha—
In the mud I am not soiled; I draw mud and grime inside,
And a beautiful world is born.
Merciful Buddha, from the bottom of my heart, I shall cherish and honor this human power which you have bestowed on me.
May my love and gratitude for the light and power with which you shower me flow toward you, Merciful Buddha.
Glory be to the Lotus Sutra.
Glory be to the Lotus Sutra.
Glory be to the Lotus Sutra.
Mr. Humayun A. Mughal (Islamic Sufism)
Mr. Humayun A. Mughal, an Islamic Sufi spiritual leader, is a descendent of the Mughal imperial family. At age 11, under the guidance of his father, Mr. Mughal learned to commune with the spiritual world, and he attained an awakening through healing prayers.
In 1984, he graduated from Islamabad University with a major in Japanese language, and the following year, he was invited to study in Japan as part of an international exchange program. He studied psychology at Kyushu University. As the head of an Islamic culture study group, he gave talks and held other activities on Islamic Sufism, often appearing on live television.
Mr. Mughal has worked in Japan as a journalist, critic, interpreter, and facilitator of televised discussions on cross-cultural topics. He has presided over various groups, such as Japan and Pakistan Cross-Cultural Exchange, New Hope Fukuoka 21, Fukuoka English Speaking Society, and two NGOs: Japan Peace Service and United Peace Foundation Pakistan. He has also authored several books, including Islam and Japan (Japanese, Bungeisha Publishers) and Let Me Come to Pakistan (English, Pakistan Fiction House).
Mr. Mughal was a prayer leader in the 2008, 2009, 2011, and 2012 SOPP ceremonies at Fuji Sanctuary.
I am very thankful to all of you for this opportunity.
In our home, we sometimes forget what we have. We buy a lot of things, but we forget what we have. But, we don’t forget the important things—the things we need. We keep them in our mind. Especially our mother and father—we cannot forget them. We always remember our human relationships. Lovers are very important to each other, too. If we call someone ‘my darling,’ they are always with us. Everything depends on our mind and our memory.
It is the same with God, who we call ‘Allah.’ God is our heart, but somehow we forget about it. How do we bring God’s existence and God’s spirit into our mind? We have to pray. Prayer is calling to God, and calling to love. It is affirming our love of God.
In Christianity, God is called ‘our Father.’ God is actually our parent—mother and father both. We are God’s children, so we give God thanks, and we pray with love and songs so that God will be happy. Whatever name we call God, the spirit is the same. We pray with our loving heart, like a song.
First, I am going to pray with a song of love for God, and then we will pray in Japanese together. As you know, there was an earthquake and tsunami in Japan two years ago, and many lives were sacrificed. Many of the people affected are still waiting for our prayers, so I request that we all pray together for the people in Tohoku—that they will survive this disaster and rebuild the nation.
Call to Prayer (sung by Mr. Mughal in Arabic)
God is Greatest.
I bear witness that there is not reality, but one reality.
I bear witness that Mohammed is the messenger of God.
Come, come to prayer.
Come, come for your highest spiritual enlightenment.
God is greatest.
Nothing exists separate from God.
(spoken by all in Japanese)
I am grateful and overjoyed to have the opportunity to pray for peace today with so many esteemed people of faith.
The world continues to be a place of conflict and struggle, and poverty, hunger, and other adversities have yet to cease. I pray for peace to come even one day sooner. I pray for the souls of those who were victims of earthquakes and other disasters around the world, especially the recent Tohoku earthquake and tsunami.
Last time I came to pray at Fuji Sanctuary, we prayed to awaken all humanity, but during these past years, several natural disasters have taken place in various parts of the world. Now more than ever, all human beings need to reflect on the course of their lives, and with modesty and humility, follow their conscience in praying for peace and creating peace.
Given the honor of praying for peace here at Fuji Sanctuary today, I myself make a heartfelt pledge to create peace in the earthly world. Furthermore, I pray that the saints and wise people in the spiritual world will assist us in our efforts. I pray with all my heart that this prayer reaches heaven.
May peace prevail on Earth. Amen.
Dato J. Jegathesan (Hinduism)
Dato J. Jegathesan is a founding member of the Malaysian government’s Industrial Development Authority (MIDA) that helped Malaysia become a dynamic economy after the 1969 race riots. He retired as Deputy Director General in 1999, and has served as a senior consultant to UNCTAD, UNIDO, and others on economic development strategies for less developed countries.
From 2006 to 2012, Mr. Jegathesan served as Senior Consultant to the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) to implement their Asia Africa Economic Development Strategy
He is a founding member and was the first president of the interfaith Sathya Sai Baba Central Council of Malaysia (SSBCCM), and continues to serve as an advisor. He was also the Sai World Organization’s first World Youth Coordinator, Regional Coordinator for ASEAN, and founding member and advisor to the Malaysian Friendship Group for Interreligious Service (FGIS), bringing together the major religions and seeking unity through service and value-based programmes.
In 2008, Mr. Jegathesan was nominated for the Nobel Prize for his work in economic development and social service. As a Hindu, he has launched a world programme called Hindu TRAC (Tradition, Religion, Aspiration and Culture) to educate Hindu Youth about their religion.
In God’s great mansion, there are many rooms, and each room can represent one religion or one cultural or ethnic group. If we remain inside our own small room, we will not understand and appreciate the great awe and majesty of God’s mansion on this planet Earth.
On behalf of myself, my wife, who is here, and everyone from Malaysia, I want to thank Byakko Shinko Kai and the organizers of this great event, and especially the chairperson. She is referred to as Mrs. Masami Saionji, but I think that she is like a mother to so many, so from now I am going to call her ‘Mother Masami Saionji.’
I never dreamt this event—the ninth annual Symphony of Peace Prayers here at Fuji Sanctuary—would be like this, and I’d like to thank Mrs. Saionji and all the organizers for bringing all of us outside of our individual rooms to witness the grandeur of divinity and God’s great mansion, and to appreciate the Fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man.
I myself come from Malaysia, which is a beautiful nation of harmony. The majority religion is Islam, but full religious freedom is given, and Buddhists, Christians, Sikhs, Hindus, and people of other diverse religions practice and celebrate their respective religions without restraint.
However as in every nation, negative elements sometimes try to disturb the calm waters of this Malaysian interfaith unity, and thus, about eleven years ago, the Sathya Sai Baba Central Council of Malaysia, launched a major interfaith initiative, bringing together the major religions of Malaysia to form what we call the ‘Friendship Group for Interreligious Service,’ or FGIS. I was privileged to be a founding member of this FGIS, and we have launched many interfaith service activities to help the poor and needy, and many human value events to promote interfaith unity, and most recently, a revival of filial piety—respect and reverence for parents—in a major initiative called ‘Honour Our Parents Everyday’ or HOPE!
It is in this context and my own dedication to interfaith unity that I appreciate this initiative by Fuji Sanctuary in organizing this great event to promote unity of faiths.
The Hindu religion, which I represent today, is among the world’s oldest religions, and has from its very beginning called for unity of faiths. In the Bhagavad Gita, in the song celestial of Lord Krishna, the voice of divinity declares words to the following effect: “Whichever path man takes, I strengthen his faith and I lead him to me.”
Also, here is one interesting fact. In the whole of Hindu scriptures, called Vedas and Upanishads, there is no mention of the name ‘Hinduism.’ The true and original name of this ancient religion is ‘Sanathana Dharma,’ or Eternal Righteousness. Thus, with eternal righteousness as the guiding light of the religion called Hinduism, I wish to declare, without fear or favour, that any Hindu who condemns any other religion is not a true Hindu, though he may carry the label of ‘Hindu.’
You will thus find that most Hindus who understand the teachings of the religion will have no problem going into the hall of prayer of any other religion—be it Buddhism, Christianity, Islam, Sikhism, etc.—and to offer prayers in the same way of the people of that faith. Also, most Hindu temples around the world will happily open their doors to a person of any religion and the priest in that temple, even though he is fully aware that the person is not a Hindu, will without question offer the same respect and prayer ritual that he would offer a Hindu.
This religion of Sanathana Dharma, on the surface, appears very complicated, and the many idols and icons that you see in Hindu temples confuse many people, and even many Hindus. But the truth is that there is only one God in Hinduism, and it is called ‘Brahman’ or ‘Tat.’ It is neither male nor female, and is formless and all pervading, and is known by the sound symbol of ‘Om,’ or ‘Aum.’ However just as a pure light, when emerging through a prism, splits itself into the colours of a rainbow, this Tat, or Brahman (the One), manifests itself through the prism of human consciousness in many names and forms, and accepts whatever form or name a devotee may choose, according to their culture or temperament. Thus, the voice of divinity in Hinduism declares: “All names are mine; all forms are mine.”
With respect to the teachings of Sanathana Dharma as reflected through the Vedas (the ancient knowledge), though there are volumes of books that convey teachings, four words contain the essence of human conduct. They are: Dharma (righteousness), Artha (wealth), Kama (desire) and Moksha (liberation). These are called the ‘Purushartas,’ or the goals of life.
In short, it says: practice righteousness in all we do, earn wealth but in a righteous way, have desire, but ensure that it is righteous desire, and have such desire that will liberate one from the bonds of negativity to achieve Moksha or liberation.
I will now offer a Prayer through a mantra called the Gayathri Mantra. This mantra is honoured by many saints and sages as one that can be chanted by all people of all lands, for it does not invoke any one particular God form nor does it plead for any material things in life.
The word mantra comes from two Sanskrit words—‘Manana’ and ‘Trana.’
‘Manana’ means that which is contemplated upon in one’s mind, and ‘Trana’ means that which rescues. Rescues from what? Rescues one from this ocean of worldly life, with its lashing waves—the ups and downs of emotions and storms of life—success and failure, happiness and sorrow, victory and defeat—and helps one achieve a sense of mental equanimity and inner peace and contentment, so that one may face with calmness the “Slings and Arrows of outrageous Fortune,” to quote Shakespeare’s Hamlet.
Great sages have said, “If you forget any other mantra, do not forget the Gayathri.” Why? Let us look at this mantra and understand its simple power.
(sung by Dato J. Jegathesan in Sanskrit and spoken in English)
Om… the earth, the skies, the heavens
That Divine Effulgence we all adore
I contemplate on your Divine Glory
Please help me enlighten my intellect
Om… peace, peace, peace
Why is this mantra such a respected one, chanted by all Hindus and also many non–Hindus around the world? Because it does not invoke any particular God form. It invokes the Power of divine effulgence—the inner light that all beings have—and it does not beg for worldly rewards—not wealth, health, happiness, jobs, children, wife or husband. It does not even plead for liberation. It only asks the divine effulgence, that divine light within all beings, to help one enlighten one’s intellect, so that with an enlightened intellect, one can face the lashing waves of the ocean of life and overcome all obstacles and problems by one’s own efforts.
This also reflects a great teaching in the Bhagavad Gita where Lord Krishna urges mankind as follows: “By yourself, pull yourself up, for you are your own best friend and you are your own worst enemy.” I believe this same teaching of using one’s own mind power, one’s own intellect, is also reflected in the teachings of the great Lord Buddha.
So let us all chant this universal mantra, and as we chant let us mentally call upon the divine effulgence within us to enlighten our intellect, so we can face the waves of the ocean of life with equanimity and with peace.
(Gayathri Mantra was sung by all in Sanskrit and spoken by all in English.)
Now, dear friends, I am going to sing a song in Japanese and English. Please join me. I will sing one line, and then you follow. Please clap along as you sing.
(sung by all in Japanese and English)
Oh my Lord, sweet Lord
Oh my Lord, dear God
Oh my Lord, sweet Lord
Oh my Lord, come to me, dear God
Rev. Fumihiko Katayama (Shintoism)
Dr. Fumihiko Katayama is Chief Priest of Hanazono Shrine in Tokyo.
Born in Tokyo, he is a graduate of Kokugakuin University’s Shinto Seminary, as well as the Showa University School of Medicine, and the Tokyo Women’s Medical University Graduate School, with a specialty in public health. A Doctor of Medicine, he has been an instructor at Tokyo Women’s Medical University, as well as Rikkyo University and Kokugakuin University. He is also President of the Shinto Research Group on Current Affairs and the Heisei Shinto Research Group.
His published works include Shrine Shintoism and the Japanese Mind, The Book of Cancer, Adult Diseases and AIDS, The Spirit of the Japanese People, Shintoism Today, Looking at the Japanese Mind Today (co-authored with Dr. Wataru Kaya, Chief Priest of Tanashi Shrine), and Why the Japanese Can Live Without Religion (all in Japanese).
I am honored and deeply grateful to all of you for inviting me to take part in the ninth annual SOPP.
68 years have passed since the end of World War II. Since then, there have been no deaths in warfare among the Japanese. We have been blessed with peace, and very few among us remember the experience of war. Throughout the world, however, wars and civil disturbances continue to occur in many places. Non-combatant civilians have suffered greatly, and the number of refugees continues to grow at an alarming rate.
In the midst of this, under the leadership of Mrs. Masami Saionji, Chairperson of Byakko Shinko Kai, representatives from Shintoism, Buddhism, Christianity, and other faiths have come together from many nations throughout the world. Men and women of strong faith have gathered here today at this sacred site of Mount Fuji to pray for world peace.
The word ‘modernization’ has many good associations for us. It has led to increases in food production and advances in the sciences—particularly in medicine—which have freed many of us from plagues and famines. But as a result of this, we have come to ignore vegetable and animal life, and to look at things only from the standpoint of humanity, which seeks to use fossil fuels with complete abandon. As the world population reaches seven billion, with ever-expanding wants and demands, we have moved from creating things to creating garbage, thus endangering the very existence of our global environment.
As a result, disaster will almost certainly descend upon humanity. If what comes is from nature, then we must somehow learn to bear it. But if our problems lead us to attempt solutions through war, this will lead to lasting hatred and resentment. Resentment will breed resentment, and the cycle of revenge and reprisal will continue, unstoppable. History shows us how very hard it is to stop a war that has begun from a single gunshot.
Humankind has no future unless an age of certainty comes—unless we can shift from the modern age that believes absolutely in science and the knowledge it gives, to a new era in which we heighten our intuitive capacities and recognize that the power of faith is stronger than that of scientific knowledge. You who are gathered here today are well aware of this. Not only war but all human conflict arises from problems of the mind and heart. To avoid these calamities, it is essential to have the divine within our hearts. Let us return to the ultimate truth that we are all parts of the Divine, and work to ensure that the divine takes a central place in the hearts of each one of us and of our neighbors. And so we pray, ‘May peace prevail on Earth.’
Prayer (spoken by all in Japanese)
Bowing in reverence before the great divinities who are present in this world and who have gathered at this sacred site of Mount Fuji, with awe we declare unto you that, through the passing of the seasons for the past sixty-eight years, we have prayed for the arrival of a blessed new era when the flags of human freedom and equality may wave in the wind. The minds of people remain clouded, and there is no end in sight to the ceaseless fierce conflicts in this world. Yet we pray to you that people may let the divine into their hearts and minds, that peace may prevail not only here in Japan but in all countries, and that we may move forward in greater happiness, living in harmony with mind and matter. May peace prevail on Earth.
Ms. Neshama Carlebach and Mr. Josh Nelson (Judaism)
Ms. Neshama Carlebach is a popular Jewish singer and songwriter continuing the legacy of her father, Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach. Together with an incredible band, and often in collaboration with the Green Pastures Baptist Church Choir, she continues to deeply move and entertain audiences as she sings her father’s incomparable melodies and inspiring original compositions. Her seventh recording, Higher & Higher, was an entrant in the 2011 Grammy Awards. Her new project, Soul Journey, aims to bring hope, healing, and music to people of all faiths and backgrounds in cities through the world.
Mr. Josh Nelson is one of the most popular performers and producers in modern Jewish music. A multi-instrumentalist and songwriter, Josh’s music is celebrated and integrated into the repertoire of congregations, camps, and communities around the world. His band, the Josh Nelson Project, plays high-octane Jewish rock. Mr. Nelson has performed over one thousand shows in a variety of venues, including international conventions and conferences. He serves as Musical Director for the Union for Reform Judaism’s Biennial Convention, faculty member of the Hava Nashira Music Institute, and as an artist in residence for the Jewish Community Center Maccabi Artsfest. He was selected as a 2011 PresenTense NYC Fellow for his new venture, The Warehouse, an alternative Shabbat experience for unaffiliated young Jews in major metropolitan areas.
We learn that singing is praying twice. Please open your hearts and join us.
Return Again (sung by Ms. Carlebach and Mr. Nelson in English)
Return to the land of your soul
Return to who you are
Return to what you are
Return to where you are born and reborn again
My friends, I stand before you today humbled, honored, and overjoyed to bring you a message from my incredible faith and heritage, Judaism, and to share melodies written by my father, Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach, of blessed memory.
Music is the language of the soul. It brings a universal healing that transcends all languages and perspectives. When we sing we are praying twice—once for what is expressed in the moment and once for the emotion invoked. Music expresses our innermost longings and reaches the soul in a way that words cannot. As it is said, when Tfilla (‘prayer’) ends, Shira (‘song’) begins.
When we are born—every one of us—we are filled with light and the desire to share it. Sadly, in this world, too many of us grow confused, become filled with disappointment, and feel alone. Too many of us, from too early an age, create protective boundaries that block our soul’s light from the world and sometimes from ourselves.
To heal our world, to bring oneness, we need to connect ourselves with that light and recognize its presence in every human being. We must learn to laugh with one half of our hearts and cry with the other, to acknowledge the hardships that we have faced but then celebrate that we are surviving—that we are able to grow and transcend.
We must recognize the blessing inside this struggle. This is a gift to us, an essential gift that is sometimes difficult to unwrap. Please sing with us, please pray with us. I know this returning will happen for all of us today, right now.
(sung by all in English)
Return to the land of your soul
Return to who you are
Return to what you are
Return to where you are born and reborn again
It is my greatest privilege to offer one of my most favorite prayers from the Psalms: “Yehi Shalom B’chelech, Shalvah B’armenotayich” (“May there be peace in your borders, tranquility in your castles”). This is the prayer that our planet—that every being—needs at this moment and has always needed.
Friends, it is not enough to simply pray for peace (Shalom). I believe, with everything that I am, that humanity is ready for ‘Shalvah,’ a peace that is beyond our greatest dreams. The peace I’m speaking of is that which will endure for our children and their children to come—the peace that will unite us, that will allow us to be uniquely ourselves and shine, and at the same time celebrate all that we share, all that we can be together.
We learn that when we see someone crying, their tears are not for the entire world, but for us to dry. The Talmud teaches that one who saves a single life saves the entire world. Salvation is physical, yet also spiritual. When we make space for others, when we spiritually save someone’s life by bringing them hope, the reverberations echo through the whole world, and across the planet another human being will also love, give, and save. When we find this peace, we recognize our own power to heal—to spread joy and reassurance to every soul we encounter.
When we find this peace we also recognize our inner missions, the reason to greet each day with joy, love and patience. When we find this peace, we are able to see the good in each other, to listen, to hear, give the benefit of the doubt and to truly feel and be present in every moment.
Today, may we, collectively, ‘return again’ to this peace and from there, together, may we thrive, may we heal, may we love, may we uplift, may we unite, may we dream, may we pray, may we sing.
In Judaism, we celebrate the song without words, the ‘Niggun,’ and in place of lyrics we sing the melody with vocalizations that take us beyond the limit of the existing lyric. Please join me in this song, both with these words and with whatever sounds you are feeling inside. I know that at this moment at Fuji Sanctuary, every heavenly Gate is open to us all. From this place, this Sinai, we are changing the wind, the fabric of the universe, we are creating a new beginning. I thank you, and I bless you.
Psalm 122:7 (sung by Ms. Carlebach in Hebrew)
May there be peace in your borders,
tranquility in your castles
(Participants were invited to join in singing the tune with no words.)
Ambassador Mussie Hailu (Christianity)
Ambassador Mussie Hailu is a founding member of United Religions Initiative (URI) and serves as Regional Director of the URI for Africa, Representative of the URI at the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, and Board Chairman of the URI’s Interfaith Peace-building Initiative, as well as a representative of Mayors for Peace at the African Union. He is an international advocate and activist for peace, interfaith harmony, global cooperation, social justice, reconciliation, constructive dialogue, environmental protection, compassion for all forms of life, and the teaching of the Golden Rule, which says “Treat others the way you want to be treated.”
Ambassador Hailu has served for the last twenty years as a Peace Representative for the World Peace Prayer Society, promoting the universal prayer and message May peace prevail on Earth in his country, Ethiopia, and around the world. He works with many regional, national, and international peace organizations, as he strongly believes in the impact of these organizations to bring world peace. After the 1994 genocide in Rwanda he worked with the National and Unity Commission of Rwanda on the issue of peace and reconciliation in Rwanda. He also serves as Ambassador-at-large for the Republic of Burundi.
He has pioneered several positive initiatives in Africa, including an interfaith movement in his own country and in many other African countries, and also the Council of Former African Heads of States for Peace, Reconciliation and Development, to inspire peaceful leadership transitions in Africa. His “Declaration of Peace,” distributed worldwide during the 50th anniversary of the United Nations, was intended to encourage people to make a personal commitment to stand for global peace, human rights, environmental and animal protection, cooperation and international unity. He also introduced “Golden Rule Day,” which is celebrated now in many parts of the world including at the United Nations, and he drafted a Golden Rule Day Proclamation which is endorsed by organizations in over 120 countries.
Ambassador Hailu has received numerous awards, medals and merit certificates, including from the United Nations. He was recognized as one of 73 people around the world who are making outstanding contributions to humanity. He is a recipient of the prestigious Silver Star Award of the International Strategic Studies Association. He received the Humanitarian Award of the Year Award from His Royal Highness Prince Ermais Sahle-Selassie Haileselassie, grandson of the late Emperor of Ethiopia. He was also given the Twenty-first Century Achievement Award for his career achievements and social contribution, which was selected for permanent documentation. His biography is on permanent record at the U.S. Library of Congress in Washington, D.C.
Before I make my remarks and offer my prayer, allow me to say that this meeting is a very special meeting. This meeting is not a meeting of the mind. This meeting is a meeting of the divine heart. So, let us make it special. I would also like to kindly ask your permission to join me for a moment of silence to remember our brothers and sisters who lost their lives due to the First and Second World Wars, due to the atomic bombs in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, due to the earthquakes and tsunamis in different parts of the world, and due to the genocide that is taking place in different parts of the world, to pray that our world will never again witness such atrocities. I would like to ask you to stand for a moment of silence, to remember all those people. (Participants stood in silence as Ambassador Hailu prayed: “May the souls of our beloved fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, and children who passed away rest in peace.”)
On behalf of members of the United Religions Initiative from diverse religions, spiritual expressions, and indigenous traditions throughout the world, I present greetings of peace, blessing and best wishes to each and every one of you, and to all our brothers and sisters throughout the world. It is my great honor and privilege to be with all of you in this very spiritual place to pray for peace to prevail on earth.
First of all, I want to express my gratitude to all the organizers and supporters of the Symphony of Peace Prayers. I wish also to express my profound gratitude to Mr. Masahisa Goi—may his soul rest in peace—for his vision, action, commitment, and the legacy he left behind for us to continue.
I wish to extend my gratitude to the entire Saionji family, to Byakko Shinko Kai, the World Peace Prayer Society, the Goi Peace Foundation, the Peace Representatives of World Peace Prayer Society in different parts of the world, all the volunteers who make this happen, and all of you for your tireless efforts and the unconditional service you are giving to humanity by praying for world peace.
As we gather today to pray for world peace, may the divine open our hearts and minds to understand the uniqueness of each one of us, to pour out the spirit of unconditional love and compassion, and to understand and fully embrace the idea that, though we are many people of many faiths, traditions, and cultures, we all are part of one human family with the common principle of the Golden Rule, and we need to return to our soul, as Ms. Carlebach beautifully stated.
Coming together for prayer like this helps us to understand the interdependence of human beings, to celebrate our cultural and religious diversity, and to get to know each other and build trust and understanding. Our world needs these kinds of prayers more than ever.
Our world is coming together and as such, all nations are our close neighbors, and our well-being increasingly depends on how well we interact and live together with others based on the teaching of the Golden Rule, which says, “Treat others the way you want to be treated.” One of the most important missions for humanity at this stage must be to bring people together with the shared goal of creating a peaceful world for all to live in. I do believe that it is with this in mind that this Symphony of Peace Prayers was organized.
With the world’s population reaching seven billion and technology rapidly dissolving the distances and differences between us, we live in a world that longs for compassion, cooperation, peace, and interfaith harmony. In this interrelated and globalized world, we need to develop a conscience that transcends the trivial differences we have through constructive dialogue, trust, and the teaching of the Golden Rule, as well as through prayer that goes beyond our faith tradition, culture, and ethnicity to embrace all humanity without any partiality. World peace prayers like this one help us to reflect together and to open a new world—a world that is suitable for this generation and generations yet to come.
World peace is only possible when we start to make peace within ourselves, our families, and in our respective communities. Each and every one of us needs to practice and exert all our effort to be a peaceful person. We need to acknowledge that peace is only possible in the world when each and every one of us starts to make peace within ourselves, our families, and in our respective communities. Each of us needs to commit ourselves as best as we can to become non-violent and make a personal pledge for peace. We need to focus on what we can do in practical terms to change the things we can change in the world, rather than talking about things we cannot change. It is with this in mind that we decided to give the peace award to Byakko Shinko Kai this morning, for their work that transcends the trivial differences among us.
In the Golden Rule, we find a common ethic, or code, that transcends our differences and encourages us to consider the well-being of all humanity, Mother Earth, and all living things, including animals. The Golden Rule is the way to manifest world interfaith harmony, and it is one practical action that leads us from war to peace, from killing each other to coexistence, from disrespecting to honoring each other, from hate to love, from despair to hope, from darkness to light, from being selfish to living for the sake of others, and from revenge to forgiveness.
By promoting interfaith cooperation and engaging in inter-religious constructive dialogue, we learn to respect one another. We learn to appreciate both our differences and the common values that bind us to one another. We need to recognize pluralism and respect diversity. Pluralism is an obvious fact of life. Mutual understanding is no longer a luxury, but an absolute prerequisite for peace and coexistence in the world.
The Golden Rule will help us to build more trust, understanding, harmony, and respect among citizens of the world, and will create the opportunity for us to come together to resist the forces of division that spread misunderstanding, disrespect, and mistrust, which are the causes of conflict.
Can you imagine a world where everyone treats each other with the same respect, dignity, and kindness they would want for themselves or their loved ones? If so, let us work together to promote the Golden Rule among individuals, communities, and nations, across all cultural, religious, and ideological boundaries. Let us organize more interfaith prayer events like this, to bring a real change. But for that change to take place, as Mahatma Gandhi said, we should be the change we want to see in the world, we should be the peace we want to see in the world, we should be the compassionate person we want to see in the world.
The Golden Rule is mentioned in different religious holy books—in Judaism, Islam, Christianity, Sikhism, Taoism, Confucianism, Zoroastrianism, Native spirituality, Jainism, Hinduism, Buddhism, and the Baha’i faith.
As we are here today to pray for world peace, I would like to emphasize strongly that all weapons of mass destruction and nuclear arms need to be destroyed, and to this end we all need to join hands and work together and call upon governments to embrace the vision of a world free of nuclear weapons.
I thank you so much for your time, for your endurance, for your humility, and above all, for embracing all humanity, without regard for differences in religion, culture, or ethnicity. I thank each and every one of you for your outstanding work. May God bless each and every one of you. Thank you.
Prayer (spoken by all in English)
May our hearts open more and our minds understand the depth of our call as people who are living in the 21st century to serve humanity and Mother Earth.
Let us be with the presence of each other at deep levels of our thinking, feeling and acting.
Let us be instruments of peace and a living example of the teaching of the Golden Rule.
Prayer of Saint Francis of Assisi (spoken by all in English)
Lord, make us an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let us sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
And where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master, grant that we may not so much seek
To be consoled as to console;
To be understood as to understand;
To be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive;
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen.
May peace prevail in our mind.
May peace prevail in our heart.
May peace prevail in our family.
May peace prevail in our community.
May peace prevail in our country.
May peace prevail on Earth.
S.S. Sada Anand Singh Khalsa (Sikhism)
S.S. Sada Anand Singh Khalsa came to Japan for the first time in 1968 as an American college student for a summer exchange between Stanford and Keio Universities. It was the height of the antiwar movement in Japan, and he became involved with the peace group Beheiren, participating with Japanese people of all backgrounds and ages in the streets of Tokyo in demonstrations for peace. This experience changed his life’s direction in many ways.
He returned to the United States and studied yoga and meditation. His teacher, Yogi Bhajan, was a master of Kundalini yoga and meditation and was also the most prominent Sikh leader in the West. Mr. Khalsa became a Sikh and a Kundalini yoga teacher. He lived in a Sikh Dharma Ashram for twenty years in California, practicing yoga, meditation, and devotional chanting.
In 1989, Mr. Khalsa returned to Japan and has been teaching Kundalini yoga and meditation throughout Japan, as well as training new teachers. He established a beautiful retreat center on Ikoma Mountain in Nara which is open to all groups practicing yoga, meditation, budô, peace and environmental work, or other spiritual practices. He also runs a company importing organic foods and Yogi Tea, the Ayurvedic herbal tea brand founded by Yogi Bhajan and now owned by the Sikh Dharma group.
Today is a very special day. The weather has blessed us, the place is great, everybody is beautiful and bright, and the group energy is very powerful.
Love and peace—the same message is coming from so many religious leaders. Today, we need to realize the differences and to see beyond the differences, to see the shortcomings and to overlook the shortcomings of others, to see the beauty in all. Today, we can feel the same spirit within each of us—the essence of humanity, of the God within—and it’s by the power of that spirit that we can, little by little, get over the problems of the world.
Today, by the power of this group energy, we can open up our hearts, through all these prayers and songs, and we can change ourselves—at least begin to change ourselves—and erase the negative thinking and negative habits that we have, and begin to live more positively and more from the heart.
Today is just one day, so let’s see this as a beginning. And from tomorrow, with our families, with our friends, with all the people around us, and to the whole world, we make it our job, our effort, our love to begin spreading peace.
Today, we are going to recite a mantra that lifts the energy up, from the navel, up through the heart, to the higher consciousness. The mantra is “Wha Hay Guru,” which means ‘the ecstasy of experiencing the Guru (wisdom) within.’ When you say, “Guru,” the tongue touches the roof of the mouth, stimulating the acupuncture points on the roof of the mouth, waking up the brain and intuitive centers. We do the mantra with our arms in a circle around the head, with the hands just over the top (the crown chakra), creating a halo around the head. This halo—the light that we see behind Buddha, behind Jesus, and behind many saints—is a reality. Men put the right hand on top of the left, and women put the left hand on top of the right. The eyes are almost closed, but look down toward the tip of the nose. The chin is tucked in a little, so the spine is straight. Let your mind focus between the top of your head and your hands.
(Under Mr. Khalsa’s guidance, participants recited the mantra with arms forming a halo around the head, repeating it for about four minutes, then inhaled and exhaled deeply several times before letting their arms down slowly.)
Bring your arms down slowly, let your aura be bright and beautiful, all the way down. Feel the silence, feel the peace, feel the love. Thank you. Now, I would like to sing a closing song, with you.
Closing song (sung by all in English and Japanese)
May the Long Time Sun shine upon You
All the love surround you
And the Pure Light within You
Guide Your Way On
Lastly, Byakko Chairperson Masami Saionji offered her own message and led participants in reciting two special prayers.
These splendid prayer leaders have shared with us their wonderful ideologies and thoughts, and what I felt is the oneness of truth. Everything—all light, all wisdom, all of God’s love—exists in our hearts, deep within ourselves. This is the truth. There is suffering and strife in the world, but each and every one of us, within our hearts, discovers the light within ourselves, and when we do this we become light itself. We can heal ourselves with our own power, and we can lead ourselves along the path of truth, happiness, and peace.
That is the path of true peace, I think. On the way, many people might rely or become dependent on doctors, philosophers, politicians, and so on, but in the end, we reach a state where we ourselves draw out the power to express divinity on our own, without depending on any other source. We go within and encounter our own inner divinity. This is the path of truth, and I thank all of you for sharing in this vision together. Now, I will offer a prayer, and I welcome you to listen to the music and to pray along with me.
Creation of the Universe (spoken by all in Japanese)
When we quiet our mind and pray, we feel the prayerful life of all living things.
Our prayers become the energy of love and healing, embracing the Earth, humanity, and all living things, and bringing all back to life.
The creation of a new planet Earth begins.
Even when human beings forget to pray, the earth, the seas, the mountains, and all living things go on praying
For the time when humanity will awaken.
When we quiet our mind and pray, we feel the prayerful life of all living things.
Our prayers become light, illuminating the divinity in each and every human being.
At that time, the Earth, humanity, all life and all living things become one,
and a new symphony of life resonates with the Universe.
Thus, the rebirth of the divine consciousness of all humanity begins.
Prayer for peace (spoken by all in Japanese)
Every human being has an original divine nature—
Infinite life itself,
We are connected with,
And perfectly intermingled with,
All living things
And divinely created nature.
In God’s realm,
The world is originally at peace.
We are here to express this truth
In this present-day world.
May peace prevail on Earth. May peace prevail on Earth.
May peace prevail on Earth. May peace prevail on Earth.
May peace prevail on Earth.