Gratitude for All Life on Earth
Rika, Yuka, and Maki Saionji remained on stage as the M.C. introduced the prayer of Gratitude for All Life on Earth. “We human beings are enabled to live as part of nature. How, then, can we be of service to Mother Earth and all living things on this planet? We can offer our prayers in gratitude to all creation, as a way to harness the true spark of life. To all people living this moment, to all forms of life on earth, to all phenomena that surround us, and to this incredible planet, let us offer our prayers in deep gratitude.”
Following the MC, participants offered the following prayer, in both Japanese and English, after which Byakko Deputy Chairperson Yuka Saionji offered her closing remarks.
Gratitude for All Life on Earth
Thank you, dear Oceans.
Thank you, dear Mountains.
Thank you, dear Earth.
Thank you, dear Animals.
Thank you, dear Plants.
Thank you, dear Minerals.
Thank you, dear Water.
Thank you, dear Air.
Thank you, dear Sun.
Thank you, dear planet Earth.
May Peace Prevail on Earth.
Yuka Saionji, Deputy Chairperson of Byakko Shinko Kai
Thank you all so much for taking part in the fifteenth annual Symphony of Peace Prayers today. I am deeply grateful to the prayer leaders who offered the religious prayers today, to Mr. Miyashita for his beautiful performance on the santoor, to our distinguished guests, to everyone who is gathered here today, to all those joining in the ceremony online, and to everyone who is taking part in local SOPP events around the world. I understand that SOPP ceremonies and prayer gatherings are being held in some 60 locations in over 30 countries. As Masami Saionji is always saying, we would not be able to hold this event without your support and dedication.
As we are celebrating the 15th annual SOPP this year, I found myself looking back at how the SOPP came to be. It all began with the prayer for world peace, ‘May peace prevail on Earth,’ which was introduced by Masahisa Goi amidst the devastation of post-war Japan. Goi Sensei offered guidance to people who had lost everything—their loved ones, their livelihood, their home, their hopes and dreams—everything. He asked everyone to pray for world peace. Whatever difficulties, sorrow, or adversity people might be facing, Goi Sensei told them to open their hearts and let the entire planet Earth reside within them. That was his message—no matter how difficult things are, we should think not only of ourselves, but keep all of humanity and all of nature in our hearts, and pray for the peace of the whole world. His prayer is a very simple one, yet it has a tremendous power to reveal truth and to change us from within.
One by one, people began to pray this prayer, and more and more people began to live in accordance with its message. In the most natural way, these words of prayer allowed the universal truth to resonate in people’s hearts, and they were able to walk a path for the simultaneous awakening of their individual self and of all humanity. These people who prayed day in and day out for world peace were pioneers who laid the groundwork for the SOPP.
Since the post-war era, the world has changed dramatically, from rapid industrialization and economic growth to the bursting of the economic bubble, the technology revolution, and the era of artificial intelligence. During this time, I feel that people’s mindset and values have changed, with more attention being paid to that which is visible on the surface and can be counted or measured, and less emphasis on what is unseen. But regardless of how things may have changed in the world or in people’s way of thinking, we have always continued praying for world peace, and hereafter we will continue to do the same.
At times, we have felt separated and isolated, because the things that people believed in and sought after seemed far removed from the prayers that we held dear. Then, in 2005, the first SOPP ceremony was held here at Fuji Sanctuary. Before then, I had never heard of people praying the prayers of different faiths together. There had been gatherings where different religious leaders offered prayers, but to the best of my knowledge, there had not been an event where participants joined in praying different religious prayers together.
But here at Fuji Sanctuary, where we are blessed with natural surroundings, the sounds of people praying peace prayers from different faith traditions created, as the name says, a beautiful symphony. As I mentioned earlier, when we focus on world peace, we have the feeling that the entire planet Earth is being housed in our heart. When that happens, we can readily pray for other countries as if praying for our own happiness and success. We can pray the peace prayers of other faiths as if they were our own prayers, and we can express our gratitude to nature. That, I believe, is the kind of heart and mind that we cultivate through prayer for world peace, and that is how all of you built the foundation for the Symphony of Peace Prayers.
In 2015, we launched the Fuji Declaration, and prominent individuals from around the world were able to take part in the SOPP, giving us faith that we are not alone in our efforts for peace. We saw that we have many colleagues who share our values and are also working for peace, and that gave us courage. We were also able to host an SOPP ceremony at the United Nations (in 2013). Up until then, religious prayers had not been permitted in the General Assembly Hall. But the rules were relaxed, and participants were able to send out prayers for peace from the U.N.
As Fr. Channan said today, when we pray for peace in each country in the native language of that country, it is a moving experience that often brings tears to the eyes of our guests from overseas. Young people from other countries have told us that they used to think peace was impossible, but after coming here, they had the feeling that peace is indeed possible. Young people from Japan have had formative experiences at the SOPP and become determined to work for peace. Our prayer colleagues around the world have fallen in love with the SOPP and held their own SOPP gatherings year after year. Through the SOPP, these people have taken the baton, and they have carried on the vision of those who prayed for peace for so many years. What we are doing here today is based on the foundation built by our forerunners, and going forward, this movement will continue on.
When we meet people who share the same vision and beliefs—beliefs that were once little understood—we are able to see that the era for the rebirth of humanity’s divine spark has indeed come. Today, times are changing, and the world is changing. All around the world, people are standing up to say that originally, we are all one. And for that reason, I think the time has also come for the SOPP to evolve and move forward, to connect with many more like-minded people around the world. I believe many people are looking for a home base where their efforts are praised, supported, and amplified.
The number seven represents a cycle, and as this is the fifteenth year of the SOPP, we are beginning a new cycle. What we have done up to now will form the foundation for the next stage of the SOPP. Regardless of the times or what is happening in the world, we continue offering our prayers for world peace. I know that in doing this, we sometimes feel like we are alone in the world, and that is why we want to connect with others around the world who place importance on the power of prayer and on manifesting our inner divinity. Dr. Alon said today that the SOPP is the realization of true prayers. Each and every one of us plays a vital role in this realization of prayer, and so I would like for us to open ourselves up to many more people, creating a home base for all those who pray for peace.
This year, we embarked on some new initiatives for the SOPP. With the help of Kodomo-Mirai Tankyusha, we have tried to enhance the facilities for parents and young children, so that the parents can more easily participate in the SOPP, and children who may not understand the intent of this event can still enjoy being here and join in the prayers. Our hope is that everyone can feel that their participation is vital to the success of the SOPP.
We have also asked the Brahma Kumaris to set up a booth this year. The Brahma Kumaris has supported the SOPP from the beginning, and it is important that we come together to share and learn from one another, transcending the differences in our organizations. In addition, we have set up a booth to share our activities around farming, with the message that we can express our divine spark in many different ways and through various activities—not only in the realm of spiritual faith.
Lastly, we have exhibits on the Fuji Declaration and the Hand-in-Hand event held in Korea. These movements demonstrate how we can turn our prayers into action and move forward together to bring about the peaceful world that we are all seeking. We also have some vendors offering food and beverages, so that participants can spend more time together, and new connections can be made.
The SOPP is now moving to become a platform for the expression of the divine spark, and a home for those who make prayer for peace a part of their lives and who hold the entire planet Earth in their hearts. In order for peace-loving people around the world to connect with one another, for our prayers to grow stronger, and for all humanity to come together as one, let us continue making our best efforts. It is because of you that the SOPP has come this far, and it is together with you that I hope to see us moving forward.
Earlier, it was raining as we welcomed the flags of the world into the prayer field. Now, let us once again fill our hearts with prayer as the flag bearers close today’s ceremony. Thank you very much, and May peace prevail on Earth.
Just in time for the finale, the sun appeared from behind the clouds, and the audience applauded joyfully as the national flag bearers proceeded onto the stage, then into the aisles. Accompanied by a warm and uplifting orchestral score, the many colors of the world’s flags filled the prayer field one by one. At last, only the Earth flag remained on stage, held proudly as it waved in the gentle wind. As the music crescendoed amid continued applause, the flags were brought upright in unison, and then raised high in the air, and the fifteenth Symphony of Peace Prayers came to a close.