Impressions from the Ceremony
Following the 2015 Symphony of Peace Prayers, many of the prayer leaders, performers, and guests were kind enough to give their impressions and comments on the SOPP ceremony and the Fuji Declaration. We are pleased to offer some of their remarks here.
Fr. Dr. James Channan OP
There are many different occasions when I feel the presence of the “divine spark.” One such occasion is when people of different religions get together with the wish to bring about positive change in the world. They want to promote respect for humanity and reconciliation among human beings. In other words, they want to promote peace.
At such times, I think we are experiencing the spirit of being brothers and sisters—sons and daughters of Adam and Eve. When we feel this spirit, we begin to speak about living in harmony with one another, and overcoming terrorism, hatred, and violence.
When I hear these kinds of peace-loving comments from various Muslim scholars, Hindu believers, Sikh leaders, and Christians of all denominations, I can see the great presence of this divine spark in each one of us.
God wants to guide and protect everyone. God wants happiness for everyone. God has a plan for bringing about goodness on earth. But, due to human weaknesses, jealousy, greed, hatred, and violence, this divine plan is being interfered with. These obstacles were not given to us from God. They are not part of the great divine plan, and they do not come from the “divine spark” that we have. Now, the right time has come for all of us to reflect upon this point, and act upon it.
It is time for us to ask ourselves: Why should we keep turning our attention to things that do not come from God? Why should we concentrate on divisions? Why should we concentrate on hatred? Why should we concentrate on violence? Instead, we should concentrate on the respect that we have for one another. We should concentrate on the betterment of humanity. We should concentrate on promoting peace at every level of life.
Now, with the Fuji Declaration, we have a great opportunity to do this. We have an opportunity to awaken to the divine spark that already exists in our hearts.
Whatever belief a person may have, whether they are Muslim, Christian, Buddhist, Shinto, or Sikh, they have goodness in their heart, and their faith teaches how to build good relations with others. Their faith teaches how to work for the benefit of others and create a good culture and civilization. When I observe this, I can see the presence of the “divine spark.”
This becomes clear when we participate in the SOPP. With the SOPP, the belief of each and every person is respected. Today, we saw Jews and Sikhs and Hindus and Muslims praying on the stage, each according to their own faith. This shows me that the divine spark is very strong in each religion. While remaining faithful to our own religion, we work in collaboration with others. In this way, we become a stronger force for creating interfaith harmony and peace. And so, I feel confident that we can overcome the crises that we now face.
I would like the Fuji Declaration, which is so rich in content and presents such good principles, to bring about a new dawning of peace and respect on earth. I would like to see the Fuji Declaration become a document of public reference, like a UN resolution. People can refer to the Fuji Declaration and use it as the basis for undertaking new efforts. And so, I think the Declaration should be promoted, advertised, and publicized. In Pakistan, I plan to distribute and publicize it at the national level. I intend to have it translated into Urdu and other languages, such as Baluchi, Pashto, Punjabi, and Sindhi, so that it will reach more and more people. This will spark everyone’s imagination and they will have wonderful ideas about how we can work together.
I would like the Fuji Declaration to be propagated. It should be published in magazines and discussed in workshops. There should be Fuji Declaration conferences organized. I have a plan for doing this in Pakistan.
Rabbi Ted Falcon
I think the divine spark opens with compassion, with love, and with connection. In my tradition, the sparks are called netzutzot, which means ‘sparks of divinity.’ Sparks of divinity reside not only in people, but in everything in the world of nature. Part of our responsibility is to nurture those sparks, not only in ourselves, but in each other, in animals, in plant life, and in the earth. It’s incumbent upon us to care, not only for each other, but for the planet Earth. And we know that we’re not doing that so well.
So, the question is: how do we become more aware of the sparks in ourselves and in others? I remind myself, for example, that the one looking at you through my eyes is the same one looking at me through your eyes. Behind the mask of our separateness and our ego is one Consciousness, one Life, one Awareness. That is the illuminating spark.
We need to accept others as they are. That kind of acceptance—that kind of love—nourishes the reality of the spark in another person. When we’re trying to change another person, to remake them in the image of how we think they should be, it is like putting up barriers between us.
One of the interesting things about holography is that you can take a little piece of an image, and in that little piece you see the whole thing. This is what that illuminating spark is like. The spark itself is not separate from the great light—the great Consciousness, the great Life—that contains us all, but it is that part that sees the world, feels the world, and experiences the world through our individuality. Our goal is to remember that spark always.
Unfortunately, we get so caught up in the dramas of our personality that we forget that that persona was created to handle the activities on this level of material reality. It was not created to bring us joy; it was not created to bring us love. It really was not created to express compassion in the world, because the ego—the personality—is always competitive. It always enters into a polarization—better or worse, right or wrong.
There is a greater Consciousness, enlivened and expressed through that spark, through that light, and through that love, that can embrace all parts of ourselves and all parts of each other. The quickest way to regain our sense of that spark is through acceptance, because at the moment when we absolutely accept ourselves as we are—or accept another exactly as they are—we awaken to our divine dignity. Of course, the ego objects to such acceptance, because the ego thinks, If I accept myself, then I will never change. But it’s exactly the opposite. When I condemn myself, when I judge myself, when I judge others, that keeps me stuck, and keeps change from happening. Acceptance is a path that leads behind the personality; it is a gateway to that spark.
The Golden Rule—do unto others as you would have them do unto you—is not actually a rule—it’s a reality. When we are aware that we share one Life, then we know that to hurt another is to hurt all life. And it becomes natural to support others—not because it’s a rule, but because that’s simply how it is.
The Fuji Declaration is essentially a declaration of what’s real. Remarkable men and women coming from different fields, different occupations, different scholarly pursuits, and different religions and spiritual traditions, have together chosen to reclaim sparks that have gone astray. The sparks go astray in unconsciousness and forgetting. The sparks go astray when we forget who we are. The Fuji Declaration is one of the tools that can help us remember.
To be part of an event at which the Fuji Declaration was unveiled, an event filled with incredible wisdom and love, was a great honor. This finely crafted document can be used in all contexts. It goes beyond the confines of any specific faith, religion, or discipline, and gives us a way of talking about this truth in a way that can help us remember and act in the world. The Fuji Declaration and the SOPP are deeply important to our planet.
The Rev. Canon Dr. Charles P. Gibbs
I think what impressed me most about the event was how much people were giving themselves to a new hope. The Symphony of Peace Prayers has been going for many years. But this time, at the heart of the ceremony was the Fuji Declaration, which, I believe, is a declaration of what the Symphony of Peace Prayers has always been about.
Through the Fuji Declaration, the heart of the SOPP is going out into the world in a new way, shining light out into the world. And I could see the light in the people here—the people who were presenting, singing, and speaking, and also the people sitting, being part of an energy field that is essential to this moment, a moment when Fuji Declaration was here and real for the world to see.
I absolutely believe that each of us has a divine spark. What I work on is to help that spark shine as brightly as possible inside us and, through us, into the world. I see that understanding—that each of us is a spark of divine light—in many of world’s great faith traditions. In Christianity, Jesus said, “You are the light of God in the world. Don’t hide your light under a basket. Let your light shine in the world, so people can see that and know that the divine is here.” I feel completely connected with that. Honestly, when I disappear as a separate “I,” and feel connected as one with all the people and the place around me, I know I’m one with people who are similarly committed to bringing divine light into the world. That experience helps my individual light to shine more brightly.
To find resonance with our divine spark, I think it helps to be still in a very busy world. What helps us to be still is to listen deeply. I think it also helps to have a wise guide to help you. There are a lot of people who want something more, something better, something deeper in their lives, but they are not intentional enough to draw forth the teacher who can help them find it. I wrote a short poem about how wedon’t need anyone’s permission to be who we truly are—our unique manifestation of that divine spark:
You don’t need anyone’s permission
to be who you truly are
but you do need wise guides.
They linger just beyond
the edge of your seeing,
awaiting only your invitation.
Today’s ceremony was extraordinary, so filled with light, intention, and hope. The privilege of being here comes with an invitation and responsibility to take what we experienced with us into our daily lives, and not just keep it with ourselves but find ways to share it with other people. Because the key to a positive future on Earth is in that sharing and helping to grow the community of people who’ve been waiting for and are captured by this vision.
Ms. Shantisree Goswami
Whenever I come here, I am deeply moved by everyone’s passion and zeal. At the rehearsal the day before the ceremony, it was raining, and the volunteers were half drenched, but they carried on with smiling faces. There was no unpleasantness on their faces at all. Wherever I go at Fuji Sanctuary, and whatever is happening, everyone responds with smiles.
During the peace prayers from different faiths, I saw the participants sitting quietly in the Prayer Field, and I felt that my place was not high up on the stage and separate from them as I prayed along with them, but together with them. The word shanti in my prayer means ‘peace.’ In every country, every household, every school, and everywhere on earth, peace is essential. When I prayed along with everyone, it was with the wish that all places will be filled with peace.
Toward the end of the ceremony, Yuka Saionji gave a very touching speech. At that moment, my heart connected with hers, and I felt the divine spark within me. It was so wonderful to take part in this ceremony and send the message to all the people of the world that we can walk together on the path to a world of oneness. It may be just one drop in a vast ocean, but even one drop of water ripples outward. In India, where I am from, there are not many facilities to care for orphaned children and elderly people. I have been involved in trying to get more of these facilities built. I do it because I want to see the smiling faces of those people. This, too, is but a small drop of water in the vast ocean.
Bibi Guru Inder Kaur and Hari Ji
In 2007, the first time we participated in the SOPP at Fuji Sanctuary, the SOPP was like a seed that had just begun to sprout. From that seed, it has grown larger and larger, and now it has become a large tree, with branches reaching all around the world. In each country where the branches reach, they continue to receive nourishment from their roots at Fuji Sanctuary, bringing peace to all parts of the world.
At today’s ceremony, we felt a great deal of power accumulated at Fuji Sanctuary, and a strong intention to bring this project to fruition. There was the enthusiastic feeling that we have no time to waste in getting our message to be adopted by the next generation. At the end, when Yuka Saionji gave her deeply moving remarks, she was expressing what all of us were feeling—she was speaking on behalf of all of our hearts.
When we look around the world, we see that wars continue to rage, and poverty still exists. Some people may ask, “What is the use of all of this?” But even if we hear ourselves asking this, it is important not to be pulled down by its weight. Today at Fuji Sanctuary, we felt the power of everyone’s prayers taking root firmly and deeply. We are truly grateful for the opportunity to join with everyone in taking part in today’s ceremony, and we are confident that it will not be long before what was expressed here today manifests in this world, and peace is realized on earth. We believe that the day is near when the SOPP’s message of peace will be shared by all humanity.
In the Fuji Declaration, Masami Saionji, Hiroo Saionji, and Dr. Laszlo have given written expression to everything that we have held in our hearts for many years. To have these thoughts and feelings put down on paper means that the time has finally come to make them manifest. Soon after the Fuji Declaration was launched, we published an Italian translation on our website, and gave copies to everyone in the Yoga Dharma Community. We also distribute it to people who come to our festivals and events. Some of them have not practiced yoga or meditation before, but even these people say they agree with the declaration, saying how wonderful it is.
While it is important to spread the Fuji Declaration widely through the internet and other media, we also need to remember the people close to us and the small groups we are involved with. We need to make direct contact with people, share the declaration with them, and create resonance with them. The first step is to get as many people as possible to read it. No matter what field people are working in, we can introduce them to the Fuji Declaration. This is a document that anyone will be able to read and understand. When they read it, they resonate with its words of truth. This is because the same truth has always resided in their heart.
To be able to pray “Wahe Guru” with everyone in the Prayer Field was an irreplaceable gift for us. When we led this prayer in 2007, it was our first experience praying with so many people at Fuji Sanctuary. This year, we focused our consciousness on uniting our hearts with the hearts of all participants. Our hearts became one, and beat as one, and everyone moved in harmony, as though we were one great being. We sang in chorus from one mouth, with our bodies and hearts joined as one. This was the marvelous sense of oneness that we felt.
Guru Inder: When I am silent and listening as closely as possible to the voice inside my heart, reaching a place of deep stillness, as though I can perceive the very source of my life—that is when I feel my own divinity. In addition, when I am with others and there is an exchange between my life and their life, I feel a great deal of divinity flowing forth. It is not only with people of a spiritual nature, or people who are walking a high-level spiritual path. With any ordinary person, when we meet and have an exchange, I feel their heart opening and resonating with mine.
If we speak even one kind word, when the other person receives it, even if they are not a deeply religious person, their heart opens up and their divinity manifests and resonates. Everyone is waiting to have their heart liberated. Everyone wishes for a heart that is open and free. For many years, we have been teaching yoga and meditation to people, as well as practicing them ourselves. People who have never done or even heard of these practices find that their hearts instantly open up when they try them. I’ve noticed that just starting a practice of yoga and meditation quickly improves people’s mood, and I can feel their divinity resonating out. Once people are given the opportunity to draw out their divinity, it naturally shines forth.
Hari Ji: In my yoga classes, I tell people that meditation guides us to discover the peace and joy of being with ourselves. When we feel happy being with ourselves, we are able to harmonize with the people around us, and we feel happy to be with everyone. Thus, by entering deeply into meditation, we are able to feel a vibration of oneness—of being one with all people and all things.
I think that singing and dancing to songs about peace together with children and young people, as we did at today’s SOPP, is a wonderful thing to do. Children can understand the message of peace when they are very young, even while they are still in the mother’s womb. I experienced this with my own children. After the ceremony today, I asked my daughter, “Do you feel tired from sitting out in the sun all day?” She replied, “Not at all. It was such a beautiful ceremony. It was wonderful!” The more children see adults earnestly working for peace, the more spiritual nourishment they get from it. Children, too, can understand the message of the Fuji Declaration. As Dr. Laszlo has said, everyone can feel what we communicate with our energy and our vibration.
It is our deepest, most heartfelt wish to see all the people of the world live in infinite peace, and we are extremely grateful to have had the marvelous opportunity to participate in the Fuji Declaration symposium and the Symphony of Peace Prayers. As we united our hearts and voices with all the participants, praying to become one in body and mind, our minds were filled with only thoughts of deep gratitude. Thank you so much.
Imam Jamal Rahman
In Islam, there is a wonderful verse that came to the prophet Mohammed in a dream, where God says: I was a secret treasure, and I longed to be known. So I created the worlds visible and invisible. Like all great traditions say, the divine spark is in everybody and everything, but it is our work on earth to recognize it, to become aware of it, to awaken to it, and to connect with it. So, a good question is: what stands in the way? Why don’t we connect to our divine presence?
In Islamic spirituality, sometimes called Sufism, they say that between me and my divine spark, there are two veils—two things which block the connection. One is health, and the other is wealth. When health is good—mine and my loved ones’—and when there is wealth—not just money, but also emotional security—all this talk about the divine spark and doing the hard work of sustained spiritual practices to connect with the divine spark feels irrelevant and very inconvenient. But, as will happen to everybody, when one of those veils breaks—somebody gets cancer or falls ill, my mother or father dies, or I lose my emotional security or financial security—then, deeper questions arise. Who am I? What is going on? That starts the search. I become a seeker.
To say “I have a divine spark” is easy, but to connect with it requires a lifetime of work. It’s about transforming the ego, opening up the heart, and cultivating compassion and awareness. Through these spiritual practices, the veils between me and the divine spark become less and less. There’s another wonderful saying that came to the prophet Mohammed in a dream, where God says: Between Me and you (the human being), there are no veils. But between you and Me, there are 70,000 veils. How do we remove those veils? Little by little, through spiritual practices: through awareness, through awakening, through remembering, through silence. It’s a lifelong process.
Very often, it is a question of remembering. I forget. I get so distracted and lost in the attractions and distractions of the world that I forget who I really am and what my purpose is. The Fuji Declaration makes us remember. And that is very important. The Fuji Declaration also invites us to go into silence. When we go into silence, we begin to connect with the essence of our self and of others. And thirdly, I would say that the Fuji Declaration encourages us to get together—people of different traditions, cultures, religions—and to get to know the other on a human level. That is the best way to overcome what is called ‘polarization.’ Here we are, people from different religions, different cultures—how beautiful!
When we read the Fuji Declaration, individually and in community, it reminds us of who we are at our core, who the other person is, what the purpose of life is, and what the possibilities are. So, remembering is very critical.
The real work is not in instructing the other to get in touch with their divine spark. The most important thing is for me to do the work of awakening to my own divine spark. When I do, I realize that you, the other, also have a divine spark. Then, if you do something I don’t like, I remember that I am angry at your behavior, but not your being—not your divine spark. Understanding that we are more than just our behavior helps us to make the discernment between behavior and being, and this knowing can create phenomenal change.
There’s a wonderful saying by a famous Islamic spiritual teacher, about relating to someone who is difficult. He says: “Do what is right. Don’t allow yourself to be abused. Protect yourself. Take the right action. But, I beg you, as you say the right words and take the right action, please don’t leave that person’s divine essence out of your heart.” Just that remembering has the power to shift heaven and earth.
Rev. Kocho Sasaki
This was my second time participating in the SOPP, and this time I was even more deeply moved by it. Yuka Saionji’s closing remarks were especially touching.
As earnestly as we continue to pray, there are still many harsh realities in this world. But despite this, I have come to feel very strongly that all we can do is to go on praying steadfastly, even for a hundred years or more. My temple is located on Mt. Hiei in Kyoto. A number of different religious sects were born on this mountain, and for this reason, I think, there is a climate of accepting one another’s differences and blending together, with no ill will toward people of different faiths. In this sense, the SOPP is closely related with our way of thinking, and I feel it is a wonderful event.
This year, I had the privilege of being a prayer leader. I was a little nervous about it, and felt somewhat relieved when my part was finished! I especially enjoyed the Finale Song at the end of the program. The lyrics and music were great, and I felt that music and sound are very important, as they appeal more to people’s hearts than simply talking about peace with words.
At my school, Enryakuji Academy, every day we face difficult problems like bullying. It is the same in the world of religion. We need to make efforts to understand each other’s differences. Just as the Fuji Declaration says, we need to build a world of mutual acceptance amidst our diversity—a world in which we are all connected as one. In Buddhism, having clear insight into human beings’ worldly desires is a basic principle, but within people’s minds exist both worldly desires and a Buddha-like mind. How closely can we manifest the mind of Buddha within ourselves?
At the SOPP, I invited everyone to pray: “Entrusting all to the great source of life, I am at peace.” In the end, religious faith is like a dialogue between each individual and the great source of life. Through the power of the divine being, our undisciplined spirit is calmed—this, I believe, is the basis of religion. I think it is vital to carry on with our efforts, entrusting our hearts to the great source of life, and continuing to pray for peace.
The whole experience of being here with so many different people, all gathering together to celebrate peace and interconnectedness, and to sign the Fuji Declaration with the willingness to bridge religious and human barriers—whatever they may be—and come together and be open to the beautiful possibilities of now and of the future—all of it touched me deeply.
There were so many different moments where I felt especially emotional. At the rehearsal, there was an amazing mist, or fog, and while we were playing, the group of people doing the wordless prayer came through the mist as the violin was singing its mysterious song, and I just started crying—it was so powerful. And today again, it really touched me when I saw the flags coming in to wish peace for all the different countries of the world. It was so deeply moving. To see all of these different people working together… I am encouraged and reminded that peace is truly possible.
I love the concept of the divine spark. It’s so visual, and you immediately get this feeling of peace and divine love—of being sparked by this love. The word ‘spark’ makes me think of the energetic flame that lives within each one of us.
When do I feel the divine spark the most? I definitely feel it with music. The minute I’m playing, I am the divine spark—I remember this part of my Being. There have been many times in my life when I’m at a concert, or listening to someone sing or play, and immediately I feel that sense of being a divine vessel, feeling the energy of oneness filling me. Suddenly, I look around and I remember that we are all connected.
So, music gives me this sense, and definitely nature as well. I’ve been a hiker and backpacker my whole life, so I’ve spent a lot of time in the wild. The minute I’m out in nature, connecting to the earth, I feel that divine spark of creative energy flowing instantaneously! Creative flow is made of love, oneness and peace, and in its presence I immediately feel reconnected to a Higher Self and have that ‘a-ha moment’ again: Oh yes, I’m a part of all of this!
Humayun A. Mughal
Every time I come here, I feel like I am getting a ‘spiritual upgrade.’ This year, I performed the azân (Islamic call to prayer) during the “Harmony of Sacred Sounds” program, but even in that short time, I could sense that my feelings reached the people in the Prayer Field. During the azân, when I conveyed my love for everyone, a loving cheer came back from the Prayer Field. All the participants became one with me—each of them made a connection. That is the power of prayer. Prayer is the shortest path to oneness.
At today’s ceremony, I felt a tremendous amount of light, and I think the divine spark became manifest. It felt like the door opened for this sacred light and the Fuji Declaration to spread out to the world. I think the Finale Song, “We Are All Divine Sparks,” with Masami Saionji’s lyrics, is the bell to start igniting the divine spark. And this place, Fuji Sanctuary, is a place where people gather to pray for peace. If the loving, caring people who gather here put the Fuji Declaration into practice and demonstrate this to the world, I think it will influence the whole world to become more peaceful.
I’ve never been to such a powerful peace event. It was on a different level and scale than anything that I’ve seen. The fact that it was so international, with so many different faiths, as well as the partnerships that the SOPP has around the world, was incredible. Just to be able to get 10,000 people here is a huge accomplishment. It’s amazing that they can bring this many people together and create such a magical, beautiful event. The performance of the wordless prayer gives me shivers every time I see it, and it was such an honor for me to play music along with them, with Masami Saionji’s choreography. It made a very powerful impression on me, and it will be with me for the rest of my life. It was so, so beautiful.
I love the idea that the divine spark is within us already, and that it’s a matter of reawakening it. I think it’s the same thing with education and all kinds of teaching—sometimes the most powerful teachers are those who simply remind you of what you already know. This is really the essence of the Fuji Declaration—reminding us of our true nature and our true spirit, and encouraging its growth. I think we need more events like this to foster a culture of ecology, creativity, and peace.
For me, as a performer and an artist, that’s the kind of context where I see the divine spark. Certainly, when I’m performing, that’s when I open up—it’s like my meditation. Through meditation, clearing your ego, clearing your mind, when your heart and your true spirit can really come out, is when the divine spark can reawaken and let itself be known, all in the context of love. I felt so much love today, with 10,000 people here. It was an amazing experience. I’m so happy to be here.
Alan Briskin, Co-founder of the Collective Wisdom Initiative (USA)
When the flags were being carried through the Prayer Field, I felt something move in me, and during the proceedings, I closed my eyes, and I could see mountain ranges—not simply Mount Fuji, but landscapes of mountains and clouds. When Yuka Saionji was talking about how this is not just for today and tomorrow, and not even for next year, tears welled up in my eyes.
All of these are reminders of how we connect to the divine spark. The Fuji Declaration doesn’t say that we have to find it—it says it’s already there. And so, when things come into resonance, it’s a way for us to connect with what is already there. When we’re around true humility, when we’re around true courage, when we’re around true brilliance about what is needed for the community, these are all ways that we begin to have resonance. But also, when we are open to the suffering of ourselves and others, these are also the times that we are connected to the divine spark.
So, we begin to realize that the resonance of the divine spark happens through so many doorways, and we stop looking and instead begin seeing—seeing that it’s already there. And then, the work is to see it in others. We need to know how it shows up in ourselves, but then other people may come and frighten us or anger us or confuse us, and we need to remember that they are also operating from some universal source. They may not see it, I may not see it, but together we might find it and see it.
I think part of the invitation of the Fuji Declaration is not “How can we be good people?”—that is a natural outcome of the divine spark—but “How can we create invitations for people to join with us in doing things that are worthwhile? How can we create more invitations for people to feel their own genius, to feel that they are compassionate beings?” To me, the Fuji Declaration is not telling anyone anything. It’s saying we can all create invitations to experience the divine spark in our own lives and with others.
Today, I think we were participating in the launch of the principles and contents of the Fuji Declaration. The language of oneness has always been part of our wisdom traditions. It’s always been part of our religious traditions. It’s been a metaphor in poetry. But part of what the Fuji Declaration is saying is that there’s now increasing evidence that what has been in poetry and metaphor and religion also has a relationship to what we’re learning in the scientific fields, such as physics—that everything, in some way, relates to everything else, and that harmony comes from a more intentional relationship among the parts. The Fuji Declaration is inviting people to think more about how to harmonize and how to recognize—whether through science or spirituality or social activism—that we’re all one in the universal source that is manifesting through us and is shaped by our ways of being with each other.
I believe Yuka Saionji said today—and I think Masahisa Goi also said—that there has to be a group that is willing to hold the possibility that the SOPP envisions, even while others may not yet be able to. The SOPP has been a fulfillment of a promise that there is a reason why here, at Mount Fuji in Japan, a group has made a commitment—a vow—to hold this possibility of peace while others may still be struggling to recognize it. So, the continuation of the SOPP and its invitation to leaders from around the world to witness this commitment is very important.
Dianna Burkhalter, Homeopathy and Life Coaching Specialist (USA)
This was my first time here. It’s amazing. It’s been moving beyond words—it’s difficult to describe. I feel a lot of energy from the people here and from everybody connected to the Fuji Declaration.
I first read the Fuji Declaration in an email from Rika Saionji, and as soon as I read it, I said, “Yes! I’m signing this. This is what we need in the world.”
I feel connected with the Fuji Declaration, because the first thing it says is the divine spark is in all people; not just people who are conscious of the divine spark, but really everyone. Even if people have yet to feel their divine spark, it is for them, too. I feel so aligned with the Fuji Declaration because I believe that the path to healing is to find a connection with our divine spark. Actually, much of our suffering is in not feeling a connection to who we truly are—our own divine spark.
In my own life, both my father and my brother committed suicide, and then after that I myself had cancer. It’s been a lot, but through my own healing, I have learned so much about the nature of suffering and how to move through it, toward divinity. And I have a passion to help people do the same for themselves.
For me, finding the divine spark didn’t happen in one perfect moment. Instead, it has been a long journey. I feel it once, and it’s so wonderful! But then I lose it, I forget. And so then, I come back into suffering. But then I remember again. So remembering becomes very important. What I am remembering is the feeling of oneness; the taste of wonder and awe that floods me with tears of gratitude and joy. When I practice remembering this every day, connecting to divinity every day, then the divine spark is easier to access in difficult times.
I can always sense this oneness in people who affirm their divine spark. It’s the thing that inspires me to say “Oh, I want to be like that!”—and that’s because I am feeling the place where we are all the same, the oneness which connects us. In this way, I can’t feel my own divine spark without also having a feeling of oneness since the oneness is the very source of the spark. When we have the light of the divine spark within us, it inspires people to want to look for something more—the divine spark within themselves.
The SOPP ceremony itself was so, so moving. The prayers and songs and meditative tea ceremony were all rememberings of the feeling of oneness. I just cried with joy and gratitude the whole time, because I was feeling how much work has gone before to get to this moment. Although I haven’t been a part of it before, I can feel the energy and dedication from all the people coming to Fuji Sanctuary for many, many years. They are the people who have started this, and I am very grateful that I can be a part of their work today.
Duane Elgin, Executive Director of Great Transition Stories (USA)
I feel that we live in a living universe. The universe is not only a spark, it’s a flame of life, burning bright, and we are catching sparks of that flame in our everyday lives—in the work that we do, the food that we eat, the people we meet, the house in which we live. It’s in the conduct of our lives where that spark shines. We’re here to learn how to live in a living universe. So, every moment is an opportunity for gratitude, for awakening, for appreciation, and for honoring the great gift that has been given to each of us, to learn to live in a living universe. Within the divine spark is the sparkle of expression of gratitude and appreciation that we are living in this living universe.
Our world is so discouraged in many ways. People are alienated and in denial and depressed. When they hear about the Fuji Declaration, it’s the love that is communicated from person to person to person, because the spark is a spark of love, a spark of gratitude, a spark of appreciation. As those touch one person to the next, it awakens our gratitude for life, and our gratitude for life awakens that in other people, and then it turns from a spark to a flame.
I was so moved by the SOPP, genuinely. It was grace, and it was love made manifest. It was so moving. I felt such celebration in my heart in seeing not only the people on stage, but the community that came together—thousands of people coming together patiently, and receiving and celebrating in love our common humanity. If we can do that, then we can find a way through this time of great transition and difficulty in the world, into a world of promise and peace.
David Krieger, Founder, Nuclear Age Peace Foundation (USA)
The message of the Fuji Declaration is to recognize the divine spark in the heart of every person. I think if you recognize that there is a divine spark in all people, then you have to join me in working to abolish nuclear weapons. Not only to join me but also, especially, the victims of atomic bombs and everybody concerned with ending the terrible threat to humanity, all life and the future posed by nuclear weapons.
I agree with the Fuji Declaration. I think it’s a very spiritual look at the world, filled with deep truth. We don’t often stop to think that everybody carries a divine spark. If we did, we would be kinder to each other, and would not threaten each other with weapons, or spend nearly $2 trillion each year on armaments while many people are hungry and homeless and without healthcare and education. So, we have a lot of work to do to build a world that is fair for all, where everybody lives with dignity and all people are recognized as possessing a divine spark. The Fuji Declaration can help with that.
The meaning of oneness is to respect the fullness and beauty of diversity. It’s obvious that we have one world, and we are all part of the same human race. So we should treat each other as brothers and sisters. Borders are all imaginary. They are all creations in our minds and on maps, because everything can go past those borders—ideas, pollution, migrations, diseases and weapons. Lots of things can go across borders. They are porous. So what we need more than borders is to recognize that we are living on one incredible Earth, filled with diversity. We are all part of the same planet, and we are all part of the same human family. We have to join together to stop the waste of resources, stop the abuse of human rights, stop the destruction of the environment, stop treating other people callously, without recognizing their dignity, and stop threatening and killing other people with military weapons.
We need to make the divine spark and human dignity a part of education. Through articles in the media and through our own actions, we need to educate people—not just students, but everybody—about the sacred gift of life. Everybody who is alive shares this sacred gift of life. All of us who are alive now have a responsibility to the future, not only for our own children and grandchildren but for all children and on into the future. We who are alive now have the responsibility to leave future generations an Earth that is alive, healthy, nourishing, peaceful and beautiful. We need to leave them a world that is not threatened by nuclear war or nuclear waste. We talk a lot about human rights, but we also need to talk about human responsibilities, to each other and to the future.
I have visited Hiroshima and Nagasaki many times. I have seen the damage and I have heard the stories of atomic bomb victims—very sad and powerful stories. These survivors (hibakusha) are growing older, but their memories and stories are still so important to all of us and to the future. We should listen to them and learn from them, so that their past does not become someone else’s future.
I was very moved by the interfaith Symphony of Peace Prayers at the base of Mount Fuji. Such ceremonies contribute to a global awakening for a more decent and peaceful world. They fan the divine sparks in our hearts, which help, along with other efforts, to weave the foundation and global framework for peace.
Nina Meyerhof, Founder and President, Children of the Earth (USA)
The Divine Spark is inside the human being—it’s the real, authentic self, the essence of who we are. We have many layers of differences, like cultures, colors, races, and religions, but underneath, that is our divine spark. When we unite as divine sparks then we become One. That is Oneness we all seek uniting on the level of higher consciousness. Even at this gathering, the SOPP, we became one divine spark all together. So, we have to always remember that that’s where the joy resides—creativity and our personal social passion for a better world. The SOPP was such a beautiful ceremony, and we as participants were invited to experience our Divine Sparks uniting as One.
I believe that the world is changing and things are getting harder. But when things get harder, people realize they have to make big choices. I think that people are learning that there is more to life than what they see—that money and materialism are not everything. And as people start to think that, they begin to look inside themselves. When you meet people that feel good about who they are, not because they are better than somebody else, but really because of who they are inside of themselves, then you feel it, they feel it, and the connection goes on. I think we are going to see this more and more. People will be seeking the good and within the good, finding their own Divinity.
The SOPP was all about feeling. I felt like we were in a bubble, where energy gathers together and then radiates outward. I think that’s important. It was so touching, and by the end we were all crying. We were feeling, too—that was wonderful. So, we went to the mind, and then we went to the heart.
I thought that the symposium in Tokyo was very wonderful. At most meetings, individuals like to express their ego—“I think this.” “No, I think that”—they counter each other. But here, there was a blending. People wanted to come together. What I saw in my discussion group [on education] was that even if somebody thought differently, they would let it go because it wasn’t as important to establish the difference as to recognize the potentials for blending ideas. What was really important was what was underneath it all. We weren’t trying to prove anything. We were collectively wishing to collaborate to build a construct and concepts for a new education.
In conclusion, I would also like to applaud the way everything was orchestrated at these two events. There was so much attention to details, and so much caring in the atmosphere, that we as foreigners felt really cared for and loved. It was like a little miracle, many moments of Joy. It was a blessing to be here—a real honor. I carry the experience with me and will share it with others.