Impressions from the Ceremony
Ms. Kiran Bali MBE JP, Global Council Chairperson of United Religions Initiative
I think first and foremost we must recognize that we are one community, one family. We are all God’s creation. There must be no discrimination around color, caste, creed, religion, expression, or position. It is this unity in diversity which is so powerful, and that must bring us together. The prayer that I was using was “peace for everyone.” It is peace not just for human beings, but peace for the animals, peace for the plants—peace for the whole of creation. Because that’s who we are. We are all one unit. Peace means different things to different beings.
We talk about the concept of an extended family, but the extended family doesn’t merely mean just our relatives—our cousins and other blood relations. The extended family is the whole of creation. We are one family and we must nurture each other with love and peace.
Being here today for the launching of the Soul of WoMen initiative is groundbreaking, because the divine feminine energy coupled with the masculine energy is what projects totality in our world. I do feel that the greatest example of the divine feminine is Mother Nature. And look at all the power that she projects. So, Mother Nature can be the true inspiration for the feminine divine energy.
The Soul of WoMen initiative challenges us to reflect on how we utilize our energy to make changes in our world, to make positive change to others in our community. It gives us an opportunity to look deeper at some of the problematic issues we see today, and to seek ways of resolving them together. That, I think, will ensure that we have a more peaceful, prosperous, and sustainable future for our world.
I think the whole ceremony was very moving and powerful—especially the flags, because people do relate to their country’s flag. They have pride in their nation, and it’s important to bring that collective pride together, so that we can have a holistic sense of pride—not just pride in our own nation, but in our world and in each other. Bringing the flags together like this is a powerful celebration. Life itself is a celebration, and life is also a journey—a spiritual journey and an opportunity. Through this journey we are continuously learning. And if we can learn to move from intolerance to acceptance, and from violence to non-violence, and move away from discrimination and injustice, we can provide healing in our world, and promote cultures of goodwill and positivity. I think this is the path for achieving real and inspiring oneness. That, I think, is what will really allow us to move forward in symphony as one community and a world family.
Thinking about the prayer that we prayed together, the Aum sound that we made is how we try to attune ourselves to the cosmic sound and cosmic light. We are not different from the divine—we are part of the divine. Making the Aum sound ensures that we experience the vibrations of the divine. That meditative sound is made in order to awaken the inner divine in everyone and lead us on the path to superconsciousness. It is to awaken our inner soul and our inner sight. It allows us to see the world very differently and be part of the synthesis of all the sounds of the universe.
Our role as human beings and creations of God is to awaken our inner self and enlighten ourselves to love and light. And in doing so, we enlighten others. Enlightening ourselves has a domino effect, a ripple effect, and the transmission of a healing effect on our creation.
This is my first visit to Fuji Sanctuary, and it’s a place of pure peace. Peace is something that people strive for everywhere, and it’s so important. It’s not just a peace that we see with our eyes, but the inner peace that we feel. It is heavenly. What I felt when I came here is that sense of peace—that sense that, while being a Hindu, I can also relate to all the beautiful traditions and religions that I’ve experienced here. I don’t see differences; I only see commonality.
When I came into the Sanctuary I felt the same power that I would feel going into a Hindu temple—and I think that’s so important, because peace, spirituality, and divinity don’t have a religion or race. They are transmitted from each being, from the grass to the trees, from the trees to the mountains, and from the mountains to all beings.
It’s really been a huge privilege to be here, and I am hoping to do some meditation while I am here. Thank you so much for allowing me this deep inner experience.
Mr. Sada Anand Singh Khalsa, Director of Kundalini Yoga and Meditation Center in Nara, Japan
This year’s ceremony was really good, because there were many people, the weather was good, and people were relaxed. It was beautiful, and I enjoyed it, especially the music—James Twyman’s music was very good. And you know, I like to see how Yuka Saionji cannot help but cry every time. I think it’s good that she cries! I really think the ceremony is getting better and better.
Until our society worships women as mothers and divine creatures, we won’t be free of war, unhappiness, or misery. Women are most important—they are our mothers. If mothers are not respected, how can children survive? If mothers are seen as objects—sex objects, or just housewives or maids, it’s not good. Women have such a range of emotions—they have to, because they have to be able to do such a wide range of things. Men are always thinking—thinking about work and making money—but women are multi-taskers. That’s what I learned from my teacher.
Mr. Humayun A. Mughal, Islamic Sufi spiritual leader
This was my seventh time participating in the SOPP, and this year’s ceremony also happened to fall on my birthday. So, it was really a very special day! The weather was great—everything was perfect.
The stage was simpler this time, and I felt like I was closer to the participants. It was easier to talk to them. I was relaxed and I could be myself, which is always best. I felt that the energy of the participants was elevated since last year, and I received energy and power from them.
My prayer today basically said that if we ourselves are not happy, then happiness cannot come to the world. If we are unhappy, how can we pray for the happiness of others? So, before anything else, we should find happiness for ourselves. We pray for ourselves, and then for all humanity. When all people become happy, then the world will be at peace.
Prayer truly has the power to realize our wishes. Seven years ago, I visited Israel with Masami Saionji, and many amazing things happened there. In the seven years since then, I have seen miraculous things happen through prayer. So, if we continue praying for world peace, who knows what might come about? For example, President Obama is going to visit Hiroshima—the first time an American president has visited there. I believe our prayers for peace helped make this happen. Without a doubt, prayer elevates our consciousness and guides us in a positive direction. Therefore, it is important to keep praying, even just a little.
The SOPP is now 12 years old, and from here on, I think it will rapidly blossom and bear magnificent fruit. I just learned about the Soul of WoMen campaign today, and I would like to know more about it, but I think it is a wonderful thing. I think the time has come for women to have more of a leadership role, in politics and all other fields of activity. I share Masami Saionji’s vision, and I would like to do whatever I can to support this global project.
Mr. Honnen Nakamura, Former Director of Research Institute of Esoteric Buddhist Culture and Researcher at Foundation for the Advancement of International Science
Participating in today’s SOPP ceremony was like being amidst a harmonized vibration and a beautiful flow of time. I feel that with each passing year, the ceremony is more refined. As people’s consciousness has become more elevated, the SOPP has become ever more graceful and elegant. Perhaps it is because there are so many people gathered here who have transcended their individual consciousness and awakened to a universal consciousness.
Through the Fuji Declaration that was inaugurated last year, thoughtful, caring individuals all around the world have reaffirmed their strong desire to realize a harmonious world free of wars, conflicts, discrimination, and inequality.
This year in particular, the internet broadcast directly connected Fuji Sanctuary with people all over the world who wish wholeheartedly for peace and harmony on earth, and in addition, we were able to receive their responses immediately. I really felt how the SOPP has transformed into a global event.
In this day and age, we live our daily lives showered by the blessings of remarkable scientific progress. Some people call it ‘scientism’—a doctrine of the supremacy of science over all. But what is unfortunate is that the majority of people do not believe in things that have not been scientifically proven—in worlds and realms that are yet unknown. The situation is especially grave with regard to religious adherents, many of whom want to believe in the divine realm but are unable to truly believe in it.
Happily, in the life sciences, theoretical physics, and other areas, numerous people on the leading edge of scientific research are conducting their studies with a sense of respect for the existence of something greater.
The late D. T. Suzuki, a well-known Japanese Buddhist author and teacher, proposed that new followers of Buddhism should endeavor to explain the tenets of Buddhism by using the results of scientific research. Albert Einstein wrote, “Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind.” And more recently, Dr. Kazuo Murakami, the renowned geneticist, said that we are entering an era in which science will prove the teachings of religion, and religious teachings will incorporate the results of scientific studies.
Following the introduction of the Fuji Declaration, and with the growing trend in society to bring science and religion together, it is the calling of this era—and a great joy for me—to bring more attention to the science of divinity.
Mr. Noritomo Nishiyama, Chief Priest of Hiwashi Shrine
I participated in last year’s SOPP, but this year, because I was asked to lead the Shinto prayer, I had a renewed sense of the SOPP’s significance and the ardent wish for peace shared by all participants. It was deeply moving, and I am very grateful for the opportunity.
What I wanted to convey most in my prayer today is that we need to eliminate conflicts and wars from this world, and realize a world where all people can live in peace. I, too, strongly felt this sense of purpose today. The prayer May Peace Prevail on Earth is common to all humankind, and I feel that these words say it all.
I shared the stage with prayer leaders from many different faiths, and the fervent wishes of each one of them came across in their messages and prayers. Historically, Japan has not rejected foreign religions, but has accepted them all, placing value in the teachings of each religion and allowing different faiths to coexist in harmony. In this sense, I think the SOPP is an event of great importance.
The wordless peace prayer performed by the group of presenters was done with such a solemn, stately atmosphere, I was really able to sense the depth of this prayer. I thought it was wonderful. And seeing 194 flags all lined up for the prayers for peace in each country was the highlight for me. The flag bearers handled their flags with such care, I could feel the intentions of each and every one of them. The sincere expressions of everyone in the Prayer Field also had a powerful impact on me, and I am sure that their fervent wishes for peace will be conveyed to the whole world.
Our shrine is located within 15 kilometers of the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant, and the area is still under evacuation orders. We have been doing what we can to decontaminate the grounds, so that people in the area can visit their shrine once again. Having made the 500 km journey to Fuji Sanctuary, I offered my prayer on behalf of the disaster-stricken regions of Tohoku. I felt that there was great significance in this, and it made me truly happy to be able to be part of this event. At present, many people in Kumamoto Prefecture are also facing hardships after the earthquakes there. It is my hope that we can all help each other and work together to rebuild Japan.
Today, we celebrated a reawakening of the divine feminine. I believe that we must create a society where women and men can live as equals. In my prayer today, I prayed, “…transcending ethnic differences and national borders, to pray single-mindedly to bring an end to war, so that men and women may join hands with united hearts, and all our fellow human beings may live in peace, happiness, and harmony.”
Somehow, we must realize peace in this world. Little by little, if we make efforts toward this aim, I believe it will absolutely be fulfilled. I hope and pray that this wonderful SOPP will continue long into the future. From my little corner of Tohoku, I too will be sending out waves of peace to the world.
Fr. Franco Sottocornola, Founder of Shinmeizan Center for Interreligious Dialogue
This year it was my third time participating in the Symphony of Peace Prayers, and the second time I was invited to stand on stage with the representatives of various religions. On this occasion, once again, while I offered my prayer as a Christian for the peace of the whole world, I greatly rejoiced to be able to do so among the representatives of other religions. I felt that this gathering at the foot of Mount Fuji was a splendid setting for this interreligious prayer ceremony.
Within this celebration, the flag ceremony is a special part of the SOPP—certainly a beautiful moment, and a very meaningful symbol. It is a moving experience to pray for the peace of each of more than 190 countries, in their own languages! However, I felt that some special prayers should have been offered for countries like Syria and Libya, where these days, the horrors of war are exposed before our eyes.
As far as the particular theme of this year (reawakening the divine feminine) is concerned, this touches on a very important subject for today’s world. As a result of a radical kind of ‘feminism,’ the true, authentic nature of femininity is being obscured, and as a consequence, the true, authentic meaning of the family is also being lost sight of. The Catholic scholar who, perhaps, best expressed the high ideal of femininity is Teilhard de Chardin.
I would like to make two more remarks. First, as mentioned above, a radical kind of feminism, fighting for the defense of women’s rights (which is good!) is taking males as a point of reference, asking for ‘equality’ on all grounds, and disregarding the natural differences and specific nature of the two different sexes. For example, some women claim the right to fight in the army, and even on the front line, like men. This way of wishing for equality just doubles the ‘masculinity’ in our society, and causes the fading away of femininity with its own specific contribution to human life. I feel that what we need is not more masculinity, but a greater amount of femininity to correct the excesses of a male-dominated society.
Another remark has to do with the divine spark of femininity, or its divinely given role in our human world. Beneath, or behind, or at the root of the term ‘divine,’ there is the term ‘God’ (cf. Latin: Divinitas, Deus). It is important to establish a correct religious understanding of this ‘divine role,’ or ‘divine mission,’ entrusted by God to women. The modern idea of ‘gender’ ignores it, and thus deprives womanhood of its God-given meaning. According to Christian faith, God created human beings “to his image and likeness,” as ‘man’ and ‘woman,’ male and female. Neither man without woman, nor woman without man, but the two together, by their mutual love, are the “image of God,” who is Love! (cf. Gen 1, 27).
Certainly, the beautiful landscape of Mount Fuji is very well suited to host the SOPP celebration as a gathering of representatives of various religions, all praying together for the peace of the world and of each and all of its countries! It has been a great and beautiful idea to choose this wonderful place for this ‘feast of peace’!
Mr. Mark N. Zion, Associate Professor at Tama University
The first part of the prayer I read was the priestly blessing from the Book of Numbers. Scholars believe it was written in the 7th century BCE: “May God bless you and keep you, may he show kindness to you, may his countenance shine upon you, and may he establish peace for you.” This is the earliest written record that we have of the Bible (it was found inscribed on a small silver scroll for an ancient funeral about ten years ago), so it’s very special. It reflects a deep understanding of human psychology that people even in ancient times had. Every day, ancient Jews greeted each other with, “Peace be with you,” and the priestly blessing is about establishing peace for others—spreading peace. The craving for peace goes deep within the human spirit.
The Sh’mah, the second group of verses I read, is mystical, and it also may have been written in the 7th century BCE. It doesn’t translate well into English or Japanese—“The Lord our God is one”—but part of the meaning is that everything is God. So, every day, when we say this prayer, it awakens our hearts to the reality of the divine in everyday life—there is always a higher level, another side to everything—a unique purpose that we can connect with.
Today’s ceremony was inspiring, a truly communal experience, where even the speakers were on the same level (physically) as the audience. I’m always brought to tears when praying for the countries of the world, and speaking in the national language(s) of each country brings up the history of that country as well. Colonialism, globalization—this is the reality of the world that we partly created, and we need to raise awareness of our communal responsibility to heal the world. When we see all the flags, we also realize how small the world really is, and how closely we’re all connected.
The theme of the divine feminine, which the SOPP emphasized today, is also connected to Kabbalah (Jewish mysticism). There are the nine male qualities (Sefirot). You may have seen a diagram of these qualities—it’s shaped like a keyhole. The lowest Sefirah (the tenth) is Malkuth (Kingdom) or Shekhinah, the feminine divine. Tiferet, which is at the center as the sixth Sefirah, longs for the Shekhinah (Jews believe that all souls are created from the interaction of these two divine qualities). Redemption in Judaism will come when the Shekhinah is rejoined with Tiferet, when the divine is restored and the universe healed. The Shekhinah is now in exile, mourning in this cosmic emptiness, and she longs for Tiferet, but she needs humanity’s cooperation to help her. The Sabbath, when we welcome the Shekhinah—her presence remains for 24 hours—is a small taste of the world to come. Through our good works (Mitzvot) we can raise the divine feminine and hasten universal redemption: the Age of Peace.
Dr. Jude Currivan, Cosmologist, healer, and author
In today’s ceremony, I felt that even for people from different traditions, love is universal. Love flows through every tradition and all traditions, and what, for me, was so beautiful about today is that everybody wove that love together—wherever they are from, or whatever tradition they come from—into this beautiful offering of Spirit.
The procession of flags made me cry—cry with joy, with gratitude, and also with a sense that it’s the time when all the nations of the world can become one. We prayed for peace in each nation, but I feel that I want to pray for peace on Earth—May peace prevail on Earth. More than this, I feel that now is the time to take a step onwards, to pray for the whole world to be as one. By ‘the whole world’, I don’t just mean humanity. I mean our beloved planet, Gaia, and all her children. We are, all of us together, a living being, and for us to understand that, remember that, and in the love of remembering that, to see ourselves as parts of the whole world—that is how we will heal.
I love my home country, the United Kingdom. But I see myself as a universal being, a spiritual being. Of course, I have human experiences, but since I was very small, I have seen myself as a universal being who happened to be born in a beautiful country that I love. I realized that my country is just one of a family of nations, and that the family of nations is a family of humanity, and the family of humanity is one of the many interconnected parts of the family of Gaia.
For me, Nature is not something separate from ourselves. For me, Nature is a part of us. We are a part of Nature. So, I don’t want to use the word ‘Nature’. I talk about Gaia as a living being. We are her children, and the animals and plants are other children. The oceans, the mountains—everything is imbued with Spirit. Everything is imbued with consciousness. So for me, the entirety of all that we call reality is consciousness expressing itself on all levels of existence and self-awareness. We need to remember that we are a part of Nature, and more than that, we are a part of the Universe, we are a part of a living Universe. We are microcosms of the whole world.
I don’t think the divine feminine has ever been asleep. I say, she has just been asleep sometimes—within us and in our perception of Her. I don’t particularly feel we should see the divine feminine as something separate from divine masculine, but as complementary aspects of the whole. The Chinese tradition of yin and yang symbolizes this. Within yin is the heart of yang, and yang has yin in its heart. What has happened over many years is, within our collective consciousness, the two have fallen out of kilter. When two things are innately interconnected, inevitably, if one is out of kilter, so is the other one. So, when the divine masculine is out of balance, so is the divine feminine. I think we need to stop pushing and pulling these complementary aspects of ourselves, and instead start to dance together.
At Fuji Sanctuary, I feel the light of this place, and I feel the benevolent presence both of Mount Fuji and many realms of Spirit looking over this work of grace—this work of inspiration, of service, and of love. It is just so beautiful. And this love and everything it embodies will radiate out to the whole world!
Ms. Linda Francis, Co-founder, Seat of the Soul Institute
During the procession of flags and the flag ceremony, I felt such warmth, such love, for all the beautiful people in all those countries, some of which I didn’t even know. It was so amazing to see all the flags and all the people coming through the Prayer Field with the flags, and to know that we were all praying together—not only people here, but people watching the broadcast, too. It was so beautiful to see that, because we all need to come together as one. It was very touching.
It was also wonderful to share in the prayers from different faiths, because we all need to come together in that way, too. If we have a dogma that stops us from caring about each other because of our religion, that doesn’t work. What I love to do is to support people in learning how to create authentic power, no matter what their religion. It’s about how we communicate together, how we can really love each other—how, when we find fear in ourselves, we know what to do to challenge it so it doesn’t control us. It’s so exciting, and it doesn’t matter which religion we belong to.
The earth and everything on it is alive, so we’re all interconnected. When we pray, and when we recognize the value in the earth, everything on the earth, and in each other, then things begin to change, because we see everything as precious. I am so grateful that we were all praying together for the earth and all the elements, and for the water, the trees, the plants, and the animals. It’s so beautiful and so important.
Awakening the divine feminine has been part of my practice for a long time. I don’t always call it the divine feminine, but it’s the same thing, because it’s about evolving the parts of myself that are connected with my soul—the loving parts that are full of feminine energy, and also the divine masculine energy. It’s about doing both at the same time, and not letting the parts of me that are unevolved or in fear act in ways that females might act, like feeling jealous or feeling inferior. When I feel that way, I know that it’s fear—it’s not divine feminine energy. When you can see that and change that in you, you get more and more connected and more evolved. That’s so important—it’s essential, if you want to change.
That’s what my partner Gary (Zukav) and I teach about. We teach how we can create a spiritual partnership—in other words, a partnership between equals, for the purpose of growing spiritually, so that, anytime a part of us comes up that’s not evolved, we can help each other to see that and to change it. We’re not trying to change the person, but to say, oh, maybe what you said might be out of fear rather than love. When people can begin to see that, it changes everything. They begin to align their personality with their soul, so that everything they do or say, and everything they intend, is coming from a loving place. And then we can fully give what we came here to give.
This is my first time coming to Fuji Sanctuary, and to Japan in general. I definitely feel the power of Mount Fuji. I feel the power of all the prayers that have been offered here, and I can feel the sacredness of where we are. It’s so powerful and so beautiful, and I really appreciate it. I appreciate being in this beautiful energy. I lived for a long time near a very powerful mountain named Mount Shasta, in California in the United States. It’s so powerful to be in a sacred space, and when you pray there, your prayers are intensified. I felt that here. Our prayers radiate to the whole world and to the whole universe. It’s so beautiful. I could feel that palpably, and I’m so grateful to be here.
Ms. Marianne Marstrand, Executive Director, Global Peace Initiative of Women
The procession of flags into the Prayer Field was very beautiful and moving to me. It was designed so thoughtfully—so expansive. And each flag was honored equally. Every nation with the same dignity, and having all the people pray in the language of that country touches the heart deeply. I felt like those prayers were heard when so many hearts focus on one country, say the name of the country, and hold that country in their heart, while their flag is held up. I think it works, and I wish more people could know about this and create similar activities in their own way.
I was especially moved when we prayed for countries where there are conflicts happening now. I put greater attention into my prayers when I heard the words Yemen, Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq and the countries that are going through so much difficulty, where so many people have perished. It’s hard for us to even imagine what these countries are going through. If only they knew that fellow humans far away are praying for them—maybe they do know. It was something that really touched my heart, and something I will tell others about in our work. I’ll use it as a story, as an example of peacemaking. I hope it inspires others to see that loving acts can have such great power.
Even the phrase May Peace Prevail on Earth is so powerful and yet simple. It makes me think about the simplicity of just caring for people. Religion does not need to be complicated. It’s really about love and respect, and caring for one another, regarding each other with love. So, I love the simplicity of it. I really could feel everybody’s presence. Everyone’s hearts were here. For those hours we were a unified field of energy here, I felt.
I particularly appreciated so much that the Earth was remembered, and that we showed gratitude to all her life systems—to the oceans and the mountains. This is something that humanity has forgotten. We have forgotten and we have become so arrogant, thinking that it’s all for us, and we don’t show gratitude. Gratitude is a very important quality that humanity needs to regain. We need more humility and gratefulness. We have so much to be thankful for.
We have to reawaken the feminine because, without it, we won’t have a world. Life needs the feminine. We need connections with people. We need the beauty of nature. We need to regain the joy of life. So many on Earth have lost this joy. It’s an inherent human quality that should come naturally. If we again remember to honor the feminine we will find that she is already present, and just wanting to be acknowledged. We need to look closely. We need to listen more with our hearts. We need to be present more in life instead of rushing around all the time. Life is precious and wants to be lived and celebrated. There is a way we can celebrate life—that we can all live here—without using up so much of Earth’s gifts. The way we’ve been using the Earth’s gifts is beyond unsustainable—it cannot happen like this anymore.
The feminine includes everything. She cares for everything, like a mother cares for all her children. And the mother, like the Earth, even gives up her own food, her own energy, for her children, and she cares for each of her children equally. So, we need to think of the Earth as our mother. How would we want to treat our own mother—somebody who will sacrifice everything for us? We have to treat this Earth as a gift. This is our gift. When somebody gives you a gift, you don’t step on it, trample it, and fill it with trash, like it’s nothing. We must value this gift. The feminine can remind us of this. Bringing back the feminine can remind us of how much beauty and richness we have in life. Just to be alive is so much. It’s an incredible experience to be on this beautiful planet.
I’m excited for the feminine to be more present everywhere around the globe. Maybe then we can again experience what it means to be interconnected, what it means to be part of nature and part of this planet, celebrating each other. This gathering was very important to me, because it’s bringing attention to this. It’s bringing people together, which we need to do. So many in the world have no hope now. So many young people are taking their own lives, or feeling that there’s nothing for them. We need to remind them that there is something for them. There is a beautiful world out there. And if we can have the right attitude, there is a place for everyone in this world, and something meaningful for each person to do. My teacher says we are at a moment where we have to step into service. It’s not about us anymore. We really need to step into service for the greater whole. We’re at a very critical time—a very different time. What we are seeing now is not something we have experienced before as a human community. We especially need to let young people know this. It’s a critical time and different strengths are needed from all of us. And those who are older and have experience have to give whatever we can at this moment.
I think Fuji Sanctuary is a unique place. I love that people sit right on the Earth. We’re not indoors, in fixed chairs, looking down at a stage—we sit on the Earth. Everyone looked comfortable and at ease—I think the Earth was very happy about that. And to sit at the base of this sacred mountain, Mount Fuji, is also significant. I feel that the openness of the place, surrounded by all the world’s flags, is symbolic—it is from this open space that the prayers can go out. There’s no roof to capture them—they can just travel on the wind to wherever they are needed. I believe in our ability as humans of gathering our energy together, creating a light that can move out into the world.
Ms. Belina Raffy, Founder, Maffick Consulting
The flag ceremony was so beautiful—there were many moving, amazing moments from today’s event. When the flags came down through the Prayer Field, I started crying—I was so moved. It was the beauty of us all holding the space for peace—including the different religious leaders—the intention of everybody, and realizing that it’s not just us in the space, but that this event was happening all around the world, that blew me away. I feel so honored and humbled to be here. I feel really blessed.
I have two passports—U.S. and French—and I have lived in the U.S., Canada, Mexico, and England for a long time, and I now live in Germany, so I felt connected to a few of those flags. I loved, in the ceremony today, how we focused on each individual country, but then on the whole world and on nature. That was really beautiful. I also have a confession. When we were saying the prayers in the different languages, I felt excited when the prayer was in English or French, because I know those languages (laughs). Some of the languages were quite difficult for me and the prayers were spoken very fast, so instead of focusing on peace for that country, I was distracted by feeling apologetic when I couldn’t pronounce the prayers well or fast enough.
Yesterday, I had the honor of writing some prayers on the big sheets in the main building. That was amazing. I chose to write prayers for the U.S. and for Turkey, because the U.S. is in deep need of peacefulness, and I know that Turkey is going through many things at the moment that are not peaceful, and I have some beautiful friends there. When we were writing the prayers, we had an invitation to pray for peace in the whole world in a new way. So, we were writing a new phrase, as well, on those powerful large sheets.
In terms of my work, I have many different groups all around the world that I have the pleasure of working with. Together, we focus on delightful communication, collaborative adaptive change, thriving with nature, and playfulness. One group I love working with are environmental experts. Together, we explore how to communicate what they care about in ways that make it funny, so that people can receive their messages from a ‘different door’—so that people don’t have as much judgment, and are just delighted by the funniness of what the experts have to say. That way, we can actually hear the information that is important—that we need to hear. And instead of it triggering our fear centers, it gets placed in a pleasant part of the brain—one that increases the chances of us doing something constructive and collaborative about it. That’s one of my jobs (big smile).
Another delightful thing I did recently was to work with Yuka and Maki Saionji to help them design the Soul of WoMen Global Network Gathering. In preparation, we talked about how we would like to contextualize and hold the space, and how we might invite inclusiveness and lightness in. I also had the pleasure of participating in the event as well. The gathering included a group of extraordinary people from around the world to explore the idea of the divine feminine and divine masculine, and how these aspects might once again dance together fully.
This event is coming at such an important time. I feel like the masculine—not the divine aspect of masculine, but the overly strong, somewhat toxic aspect of masculine—is feeling that much needed change is coming, and the elements of society which hold power from this aspect are afraid. As such, they are trying to manifest increasingly difficult ways of being for people—an example being the politicians in the U.S. who are trying to greatly reduce women’s access to healthcare, and/or who are making draconian legislation to restrict public restroom use by transgender people. So, I feel that this event is happening at the perfect time—this invitation of a beautiful, healing, feminine wave to come in, a wave that is strong, and can help rebalance and heal the world. I think it’s beautiful timing and a beautiful message. It is time for this change to manifest.
Mr. Alfred Tolle, Founder and Chairman, Wisdom Together
In December of last year, I came to Japan to attend a workshop about the divine spark, and two days ago, we also discussed how we can bring our own feminine and masculine parts to the broader audience worldwide and bring peace to the world. In this effort, I think that the Saionji family has done a wonderful job; they have brought people from all over the world and from all religions so that they can work together, get an understanding of oneness, and bring that out to the world at a deeper level. Instead of seeing conflict and destruction, we can see that we are, on a deeper level, all connected with each other, and on that level we should be able to create a peaceful world, which we don’t see currently, unfortunately. But if everyone goes back to his or her country bringing this kind of momentum with him or her, then I think peace can prevail on earth.
I myself have been organizing wisdom conferences around the world, gathering people of all backgrounds. But the specific focus on peace in today’s event brought a new aspect to my work, which I’d like to integrate when I go back to my country. Our next conference will be in Dubai in March of next year, and I’m thinking that I will bring that aspect into my conferences, so that we can build a platform where we will all work together.
I think praying is very important if you pray in complete freedom, with purity and clarity in your soul and mind. I do not think systems that give frameworks and limit you are helpful, but today, I was impressed to see the openness of the prayers from different religions. They acknowledge that we are really on the same basis of existence—that we are connected to each other. I recently spoke to an astronaut who flew to the moon once. He said, we were all focused on looking at our goal, which was the moon. And then at a certain point, we turned around and looked at Mother Earth. And at that moment in time, a big shift actually happened inside of each and every one of those astronauts. At that moment in time we understood the oneness of everybody. He said that if somebody or an alien had come to ask where he was from, he wouldn’t have probably said that he was from Germany, or from Japan. He would have said, “I’m from Earth.” If we see our work for peace from that perspective, that could help us to help create peace in every part of this world and maybe beyond that.
I have two daughters and live in a family where I am the only male. I understood that the male part is often the active part that wants to take the lead, and sometimes I have the feeling that you need to take the lead. But the older my children grew, the more I understood that sometimes they could lead, and I could learn from them. So, this is about a harmony of the active, dominant male part and the feminine part of understanding, bringing everything into the bigger picture. This is because feminine elements are very important in building peace. I was working for Google for four years, and I saw that the idea they had about gender diversity was based on percentages—they needed more women in leading positions, but it was about having more women who would lead in the same way as men would lead, which does not make any difference. So, I think we have to go deeper and understand what that means, and then we can really change the way we are living and doing business together. And I believe this would be very helpful and support peace in the world.
For me, the most impressive part of today’s ceremony was going through the different countries, praying in the different languages, and then bringing that together in an expression of one world. Actually, this one world is what I have been working for.
Ms. Yuko Tolle, Alternative medical practitioner
I decided to come today because I felt a calling that I had to be here for a special reason. I felt that we need to shed our skin, so to speak, and take a cosmic step forward. My work in Germany is also for this purpose, so I feel very privileged to be here.
The most impressive thing for me was the heart of all the participants. They are truly people of pure heart, and I could feel the power of their pure heart making everything shine.
The flag ceremony is a way to honor all the different peoples and cultures in the world. On top of this, I think that now, we have the power to transcend any and all limitations and set humanity free. This ceremony is really about the whole world, which is why it is so moving. The prayers from different faiths were quite impressive, too. Seeing how much the prayers of different religions have in common, I had the strong feeling that all is one. I think it is very important to be aware of this.
I think the initiative to activate the divine feminine will bring about a great leap forward. I have been active in this area myself, and I feel that although that there is great power in the feminine, it has not been recognized up to now. But now, the reawakening of the feminine and the reunification of the feminine and masculine energies is becoming a major topic. The feminine side, which has been weakened and slighted, is now being revived, and this gives me great hope for the future.
Mr. James Twyman, Musician, author, and film producer
The feeling that I always receive when I hear peace prayers from different traditions, and when I see the flag ceremony with the prayer May Peace Prevail on Earth in all the different languages, is that it’s so moving. My heart just opens. To me, the most important thing is to love the many ways that people love God. And this place, Fuji Sanctuary, is such a beautiful place to do it. So, the SOPP was one of the highlights of my life, to be very honest with you. The whole time I’ve been here, I’ve been so happy, and my heart’s been so open. I think these prayers are changing the world.
For a very long time, the divine feminine has been eclipsed and weighed down by the masculine. The awakening of the divine feminine is really about a balance between the two. We don’t want to have a world that is out of balance in the feminine, just as we don’t want to have a world that is out of balance in the masculine. We want a world where the masculine and feminine within each one of us are in balance. And when they are in balance within each one of us, they will be in balance in the world. So, I think this is the time, because there’s so much focus on it, and we see it happening in many places in the world. But it has to start with us. We can’t expect to see it in the world until we first find that place of balance within us.
I feel strongly about expressing gratitude in any way, and in particular, to nature. The earth is our mother. Whatever country we live in, whatever religion we practice, we have the same mother. So, we all have a responsibility to our mother, and that is to protect her and nurture her, as she nurtures us. We’ve not done a very good job of that, for a long time. But hopefully, we’re beginning to remember that the earth is our mother. And as we honor each other in our religions, our countries, our aspirations, it brings us back to the mother—to where we started, and where we will return. We will all return to the earth. We have to nurture the mother, because if our mother is sick, then we’ll be sick. It works both ways.
The first time I was here at Fuji Sanctuary, there was nothing happening. It was very quiet. It’s so different to see it filled with people, and filled with love and music and light. The ground itself feels so sacred and so holy. That’s what I love the most, to feel the energy that has been planted here by so many people, for so many years—the energy, the light, the prayers, and the peace. This is what I feel.
I would like to see this event taking place all over the world, in every country. The prayer May Peace Prevail on Earth is so simple, and it’s something we can all agree on, no matter what religion we are or where we live. It’s easy, and we need easy ways to come together. So, if we can promote this—the flag ceremony, the peace poles, and so on—this may be the way that we can unite humanity, because it is so easy.
Ms. Monica Willard, URI Representative to the United Nations in New York
The Symphony of Peace Prayers is something that I’ve been involved with for a number of years, but to celebrate it here at Fuji Sanctuary, and to have Kiran Bali from my organization (United Religions Initiative) leading the Hindu prayer, and just to listen to Mrs. Saionji addressing the world—it was a gift. I especially enjoyed hearing the stories of how the prayers were chosen—Mark Zion had a wonderful story about finding his quote written on silver. It was meaningful, and hopefully connected the nations in ways that will add a new vibration this year.
The flag ceremony is something I’ve been blessed to experience in Africa, in the United States, and in many other places. We’ve been doing it for so many years. But to see it here at the sanctuary, and to see everyone walking in with such beauty and grace, with such tall flags, and to see the care and the attention to each language—it was just awe-inspiring. It was an honor to pray in a way I’ve never prayed before. I’ve never done it this way before, and yet, I know that each of those nations heard the peace prayers sent to them in new ways.
Some of the countries I prayed for because I know people in those countries. For other countries, I was just amazed at the language, and I probably mispronounced a lot of it, but I knew that the prayers would still go through, because the intent was so great. My home country, the United States, has been at war for so many years, and there is definitely a warring poll within our nation, as we face elections, and so I pray that this somehow shifts us toward being more caring, more understanding, and more in oneness, particularly as we approach our elections. But I also have to add that, seeing the flags of all the nations of the world here at Fuji Sanctuary, this will be carried with me every time I go into the United Nations and see the flags there. I always think about which flag I held in a ceremony, or something that made an impact on me. To have held the flag of the United States of America at Fuji Sanctuary was a real honor.
I think the reawakening of the divine feminine is needed in every field. But the most important reason we did it here is that you (Byakko Shinko Kai) started it in prayer. You called on the help of the divine as we are moving into experiencing it in all these other realms. And that foundation will make a big difference as it does emerge more fully in men and women.
It was a real gift to be here. I thank the Saionjis for inviting me, and I thank all the Byakko staff who made my trip here so much easier, with such detailed organization. What is really amazing is to know the impact that this has already had at the United Nations, and that it will continue and grow deeper.
Ms. Lily Yeh, Founder, Barefoot Artists
I think this is really a once-in-a-lifetime experience, to see the depth of commitment, the devotion, and the passion that have continued for so many years, and the ability to bring together thousands and thousands of people from all over the world.
It’s very significant to have this event in Japan, which was ravaged by war and has a militarized history. It was very moving to see so many Japanese people, old and young, and so many people from around the world, coming here and being completely absorbed in the ceremony. It means to me that humanity as a whole wants peace, that there is a basic goodness in people, and that we want to express love.
I especially liked the rituals. For example, the wordless prayer that was performed at the beginning, with the sounds and gestures, felt quintessentially Japanese. It began with movement in silence, opening up a solemn, serene prayer. Then, while the presenters were doing the sounds and movements, I felt the vibrations of the sounds go deep, into a different level of my being. It was not melodic—it was pure vibration.
The ceremony continued in this way, one thing after another, different rituals. I think of a ‘ritual’ as a way to be together. The words spoken by the religious leaders and the blessings in different languages were all very powerful—calling out from the depths of our being, wanting peace, coexistence, and understanding. The most colorful part was when the flag bearers came through the Prayer Field, to the center, and all the people said the prayers together, with each flag.
It totally blew me away—the care, the attention to detail, the sincerity, and the thought that went into it. Every detail, every transition in the program was planned out. From the big concept—wanting to heal the world—to the smallest detail, it was impeccable, and very powerful. I feel so privileged to be able to witness this event.
The prayers for peace in each country were the most powerful part for me. The energy was already building up, and then when you see all the flags coming down through the Prayer Field and converging on the stage, it’s so beautiful. Then, we recited the prayers for peace in all the national languages, and every part of the world was considered, all people were included. Then, at the end, after we prayed for all the nations in the world, we prayed for peace for people in special places such as Tibet, Taiwan, and Palestine. That was powerful, too.
What was very moving was to see that it was not just people reciting on stage, but all the participants. It was such a great idea to give everyone flags! I received the Chinese and American flags, and Kiran Bali (British with Indian heritage), who was sitting next to me, received the British and Indian flags—there was so much care and attention to detail. When the name of the country was announced, people proudly showed off the flag of that country. They did it not just for their own country, but for all the nations in the world. Then, at the end of the ceremony, when the flags came out into the field again, in the center of the stage was the Earth flag. I felt inspired and uplifted at that moment.
The intention of the SOPP is so well articulated by the program—the blessings from different religious leaders, and the prayers for peace from thousands of participants holding the flags of all the nations in the world.
I think the timing is perfect now, because these days we see so much aggression. The male energy is often expressed through dominance. The stronger country goes to a weaker country and takes over—dominance through religion, language, economic control, and the destruction of indigenous cultures. We are beyond the tipping point. So, it is perfect timing to spark the energy of the divine feminine in all humanity to reverse the trend. It’s urgently needed.
What I like about the Soul of WoMen campaign is that it’s not just about the feminine. It calls for a balance between the divine feminine and the divine masculine. Right now, it’s off balance. The divine feminine is more about nurturing, caring, collaboration, and listening to each other. If that energy can be brought back into the balance, then we can truly heal and pay homage to all people and all life on earth. It’s through the right intention and the balance of energies that this will happen.
I’d like to share a message that came to me after the ceremony. That is: Go to the broken. Serve the poor. Wisdom and compassion will arise. That is my message. The Catholic prayer from Pope Francis included the poor, and I feel that a lot of the people suffering in the world need to be specially blessed in our prayers for peace and harmony in the world.
I aim to bring the transformative power of art to broken places in the world. I go to traumatized communities to listen and make art with people, often starting with children. I don’t make art just for people to look at; I invite people to imagine and participate. Through creating together, we are able to transform places of deep sorrow and despair into places of beauty and joy. The process of imagining and working together produces nurturing energy and hope that time and again helps individuals and communities to heal and feel empowered. People often tell me that when they see beauty, they see hope.
Mr. Gary Zukav, Co-founder, Seat of the Soul Institute
The prayer ceremony for peace in each country was wonderful, and powerful. It made me cry. It made me realize how deep my love is for all of these countries. They are all so unique, like every personality is unique. Every personality has conflicts within itself, but every personality has a potential that is necessary for it to contribute to Gaia—to our collective consciousness—once the personality becomes evolved. It’s like that with each country. Each country is like a personality of Gaia, and most of them now are not as aware as they will be. They are more destructive and more in conflict, but as they evolve, they will begin to give the gifts that each of them came into being to contribute. That’s what made me cry when I saw all those flags.
I was adopted into a Native American culture in the United States. It’s the Lakota culture—a Sioux culture. I was told a story once about a group of Native Americans who were doing a sweat lodge, which is a sacred ceremony, and after a while some ranchers who lived close by saw them doing this all the time, and one of them rode up and said, “What are you guys doing in there?” And the lodge master said, “We’re praying.” The rancher said, “Yeah, what are you praying for?” And he replied, “You. We’re praying for you.” So, it made me feel very good that people were praying for my country, but it made me feel even better to pray for all the other countries—I loved doing that. I also loved praying the prayers of other religions.
The earth is a great living being—it’s not a geological mass of strata and core materials—and it co-creates with the species that it hosts, which include humankind. We haven’t been co-creating very well with it, but it’s very important that we do, not only for our own benefit, not only for our physical survival, but also for our own well-being. It’s important to be in harmony with this great, generous being. This is not my original idea. I was surprised to discover that this idea that the earth is alive is at the heart of all native cultures—all aboriginal cultures. They don’t worship the earth, they are grateful for the earth, very grateful. They relate to the earth, and they appreciate all forms of life, and we don’t do either one. We don’t even appreciate one another. That’s why this occasion, the Symphony of Peace Prayers, is so important, because it gives us the chance to care for one another, and to project that onto a macroscopic arena, which is all of humankind and all life.
I think the movement to reawaken the divine feminine is a good idea. I think that all feminine are divine and all masculine are divine, but not all males and not all females are aware of that, and so they don’t carry out their fullest potential as personalities on the earth. As we support the emergence of the divine feminine, we are supporting the emergence of it in males like me, and that’s important. Instead of saying ‘divine feminine,’ because that’s redundant—everything is divine, everyone is divine—we could say ‘conscious feminine.’ We support the emergence of the conscious feminine—aware, evolved, advanced femininity—which is not sentimental, it’s strong. It is compassionate, not sugary sweet to please other people. It does what it needs to do to be compassionate, like the earth. The earth doesn’t say, “I gave you this, and now you owe me this.” It just gives. But that’s the nature of life—giving to each other. We’re talking about the feminine, but the feminine energy doesn’t exist only in females. It exists in males, just as male energy exists in females. The famous yin and yang symbol shows that very clearly. So, as we encourage aware, powerful, grounded, healthy, strong, insightful, multi-sensory consciousness in females, it supports that in us males as well. From my perspective, there’s no one on earth who hasn’t been a female countless times, and who hasn’t been a male countless times. So, when we support one or the other, who are we supporting, really? We’re supporting Life, with a capital ‘L’.