Impression from the ceremony
Following the ceremony, several of the prayer leaders, guests, and participants were kind enough to give their thoughts and impressions. We are pleased to offer some of them here.
Mr. Jagmohan Swamidas Chandrani, Chair, Indian Community of Edogawa
I think an event like the SOPP that encompasses diverse religions is a very wonderful and natural thing. As I said at the beginning of my greeting, Hinduism is known as Sanatan Dharma, which represents the cosmic philosophy—no beginning and no end. From the perspective of human beings, our respective activities that are original to each place eternally continue to fit our land, environment, and society. Therefore, I think all religions are precious as long as they do not give trouble to others.
According to the cosmic philosophy, all things are our own responsibility. But when people try to put this truth into practice, some of them find the realities too harsh and painful to accept. Therefore, many saints extended the hands of deliverance to such people. These efforts were handed down through generations, and later became modes of conduct, also called ‘religions.’ So, we can freely choose our religion. I think that our choice of which religion we give importance to should never be forced on us by others.
I think that the prayers of each religion are lights of guidance. They are a way to settle the lack of clarity in our minds, and to look at what is real. Having karma does not mean that everything is pre-destined. Although karma does play an important part in our daily lives, if we decide to change things and calm our hearts, we human beings can free ourselves from the bonds of karma. This is because of the true freedom that is inherent within us—because God resides within us, and we have God’s total power. Prayer is meant to calm our mental confusion, and to let us concentrate on God.
People who have taken part in the SOPP spared their time to come here. These people from diverse backgrounds and generations gathered at Fuji Sanctuary in order to pray, encouraged by their respective beliefs. How grateful I am for their prayerful minds!
Rabbi Antonio Di Gesù, Rabbi, Jewish Community of Japan
Today’s ceremony was very, very powerful. I felt overwhelmed by the energy generated by the attendees. It’s really nice that we can all be here today, and even if sometimes we don’t agree with each other, we can still pray together. I really hope that, from here on, we can take this spirit to our communities and our work.
Fuji Sanctuary seems very beautiful and peaceful. It must be a deep spiritual experience to be here when it’s quiet and you can just sit, pray, and meditate. What impressed me in the ceremony was Fr. Paul’s message that we have to be caring toward each other even when we don’t agree, and the fact that he spoke so freely in Japanese. The scene that struck me most was the music played by the Shugendô priests. When they blew the conches, I could feel that sound with my body. It was really powerful and moving. I wish I could speak Japanese and tell them how I felt! I also have to add that seeing all the flags of the world walk by, in harmony along the paths of the sanctuary, sent a shiver through my body.
When I think about the future of the world, I worry. I worry because it seems that people who really want to save the world are a very small minority. When I start thinking about what I can do and I don’t find a feasible answer, I get really frustrated. You know, I believe that the energy that prayer generates can work to heal the world, so we need more prayers. Everyday, we need more prayers. I wish I knew a way to spread this message effectively.
I know Byakko is doing really great work spreading a message of peace and tolerance. Seeing all these people here today stay until the end, praying for every country, despite the rain, touched me deeply. Now our challenge is, how do we get other people, the ones who are not here today, involved? How do I get the people in Israel or in Italy involved? I had asked members of my community to come, but even the ones who expressed interest aren’t here today. How do I change this? That is the task ahead, I guess. We all should work on this when we go back to our communities. It’s difficult, though, and I don’t think any group can do it alone. All of us have to work together because everyone wants peace, every religion. Now it’s up to us, religious leaders, to break away from the patterns of the past and shape the future.
Mr. Humayun A. Mughal, Islamic Sufi Spiritual Leader
I was a prayer leader at the 2009 SOPP, too. At that time, we prayed in the midst of a storm. This time, we had just a little rain, but I was still deeply moved by the participants who united their hearts in prayer. They gave me energy.
However, when I leave here and visit Tokyo, I find people in a gloomy mood. People in Japan seem to be suffering not only from the declining economy, but also from spiritual damage. This must be set right. Why has the entire country of Japan lost energy? People with no faith will think, “Why do we alone have to suffer from such misfortune?” However, it is precisely because we live in these times that we need a spiritual transformation.
I think that now is the time for all religious groups in Japan to engage in their original roles. Every religion has a tool called prayer. If they use this tool, and pray together for benefit of all people, Japan’s situation will surely improve. Up to now, many people have been praying only for themselves, but from now on, I would like people to pray for all humanity, for peace on Earth, and ultimately, if possible, for God. God desires to help everyone, but thus far, there have been few people who pray for God. If from now on, people cooperate with God and engage in divine work, God will easily be able to protect human beings.
Those who have taken part in the SOPP at this critical time for Japan are people who are already mentally prepared to pray for God. It was really amazing that so many people traveled here to join in the SOPP and pray with united hearts. It was such a joy for me. This is truly a joint action of heaven and earth. Praying for God, directing our hearts to God, and working with God—these are the things that will be important from now on.
Mr. Hiroshi Nakahigashi, Chief Priest of Hiraoka Shrine
It moves me to see so many people gather here every year to offer prayers. This year, people from the Shugendô faith joined us. Shugendô teaches unity with nature. The disaster in March taught us how helpless human beings are in face of the power of nature. We must remember that we are one with nature. The power of the soil, water, the sun, and the air—not a single life can be born if even one of these invisible elements is lacking. Our ancestors called this mysterious power that is beyond human wisdom ‘God,’ and they revered it. In the 21st century, we need to steadily exchange mutual help with all beings and all forms of life on the basis of this thought.
The recent disaster gave us an opportunity to ask ourselves how we should be living. We have neglected the divinity which resides within each of us, but it is now time for us to bring God to the surface. This is, in other words, a process of ‘opening the cave’ in our hearts. The world will surely take a turn for the better if we do so, and the way we can to do it is through prayer and gratitude.
Mr. Riten Tanaka, Abbot of Kinpusen-ji, head temple of the Shugendô faith
I was profoundly grateful for the invitation to this year’s SOPP ceremony—it moved me with deep emotion. In fact, I joined in the event for the first time last year, as a guest. At that time, I wished that we of the Shugendô faith would also be able to convey a message of peace some day, but I never thought that the day would come so soon. This was thanks to the support of many people.
The feeling of reciting our message in front of nearly six thousand participants, followed by the sounds of the conch shells, was beyond words. It resembled a rumbling of the earth welling up from the foot of sacred Mount Fuji. Hearing it made me tremble and deeply re-confirm the significance of acting for the eternal peace of all humanity.
Japan suffered unprecedented damage from the great disaster that struck the Tohoku region. We can even say that we are in a national crisis, and indeed, many kind offers of aid have come in from around the world. In order to repay their kindness, we need to engage in reconstructing the country and in spreading prayer for peace. I took this opportunity to make a resolution that we would join together in walking along the path of permeating the planet with prayer for peace—an activity that transcends national, ethnic, religious, and historical barriers.
Mr. Kenichi Yamamoto, Composer
Mr. Yamamoto composed original music for the 2011 SOPP ceremony
This year, I composed music for the peace prayer ceremony and the finale. As with last year’s ceremony, my intention for the peace prayer music was to make it natural-sounding. I tried to make a melody like the sound of wind and water, that would not interfere with the prayers, and would instead help people naturally engage in the prayers. I picked up the tempo a little so that the music would back up the prayers.
For the finale, I kept two points in mind as I composed: the powerfulness of the flag bearers who proudly carry the national flags, and the majesty of the national flags that fill the entire Prayer Field in different directions.
When I actually saw the participants pray and the flag bearers proceed, I reconfirmed the power of music and people. I feel honored to have attended the SOPP again this year.
Mr. Katsuhito Funai, President & COO, Funaihonsha Co., Ltd
Attending today’s SOPP and hearing the various speeches impressed me very much with regard to human power, and it reconfirmed for me that everything is decided by our minds. I am amazed once again by the immense power of prayer.
We have launched what we call The Human Club, an organization that aims to create a future that is good for the world and humanity. The message we share is that all things in the world are decided by our will, so we should make the most of each of our small decisions. Each individual’s peace of mind creates peace in the world. I reaffirmed this today.
I think the world has completely changed following the Tohoku earthquake on March 11… I think what is most important right now is to think well, search well, and make decisions with conviction. We are no longer in an age where someone great comes from a distance to decide things for us, and we only need to follow them. It is essential that each of us thinks and decides for ourselves. In so doing, we will go on creating peace in our minds and creating peace in the world. I have reconfirmed this by attending today’s prayer event.
Mr. Shunkichi Inokuma, Trustee, Chôkaidô
I was deeply impressed. I am filled with gratitude and emotion. This is my fourth time attending the SOPP, and every time, I feel at a loss for words when I see the participants praying intently, even in the rain. Prayer is universal. It transcends religious and organizational barriers. I think it is something that delights the divine most.
Through an experience I had many years ago, it became my wish to convey to as many people as possible how wonderful prayer is. I had become seriously ill, and someone gave me an essay written by Masami Saionji. I read it over and over again. In the meantime, my illness was gradually alleviated. Each time I prayed for world peace and practiced the bright thought of Everything will definitely get better! I could sense the preciousness of prayer with my whole being.
Japan is now in a difficult time. It is a time when we must continue praying, for as long as we can. I see the great earthquake as a human-made disaster, in that we have depended too much on science, and have forgotten the spirit of awe and gratitude to nature. I feel that today’s ceremony reminds us to steadfastly continue praying without giving up.
During the past several years, I have been active with the International Association for Religious Freedom, through which I have been seeking to find the meaning of true world peace. How can the world become one, transcending national, religious, cultural, and linguistic differences? There is nothing difficult about this. We only need to pray. In the SOPP, Buddhists, Muslims, and many others are praying together. Anyone who sees this can understand how strange it is for us to fight wars. How wonderful it will be if we can maintain this feeling for a minute, an hour, and even after returning home, and if it spreads to the people around us.
In a sense, I think the SOPP is a model case—a new way of doing things. I wish it could be attended by all the people in the world. We should not pray only for our personal deliverance—we should also pray for the peace of the world. If we pray earnestly, the divine nature that resides in each human being will rapidly be revealed, enabling us to solve any problems. We are already supplied with this power. This is what I have reconfirmed today.
Mr. Masahito Ishikawa, Chief Priest, Moro’oka Kumano Shrine
This was my first time attending this ceremony. I was deeply impressed by the wonderful power of the prayers prayed in unison by the people from many different religions. My usual role is to offer prayers for the peace and prosperity of my district and Japan. I am happy to have been given this rare opportunity to pray with a strong consciousness for world peace. I earnestly wish to continue attending this ceremony in the years to come and to offer a wide range of prayers.
Among all the programs, I was especially moved by the flag ceremony, praying May peace prevail on Earth in each national language. While praying, various aspects of the different countries flashed through my mind.
I think many people are feeling that the Tohoku earthquake was a sort of message from heaven. Naturally, the ‘horizontal’ ties among people are important, but I would like people to reconfirm the importance of our ‘vertical’ ties with heaven. In Shinto, the word ‘now’ is expressed by the term nakaima. This term signifies the present moment in sequence with the past, which traces back to the divine era, and with the future. Likewise, we are individually linked with our parents and ancestors, and with our children, grandchildren, and future descendants. I think it is very important that we live ‘now,’ while remaining conscious of this fact.
Mr. Naoki Kashio, Assistant Professor, Keio University
This was my fourth time attending this ceremony. I think the program was concise and very well organized. I also had a personal discovery. I have been praying every day, but there were many things I couldn’t understand. However, due to the prayers I have accumulated up to now and those that I offered today along with all the participants, my previous understandings, which were only at the level of my intellect, have permeated my whole being.
I think prayer is a form of meditation. I would also say that meditation exists as a part of prayer. But in principle, I think the two can be said to be the same. The keyword, as Yuka Saionji remarked, is ‘light.’ By turning ourselves into light, we integrate with the universe and what is absolute. I am happy to have joined in today’s event because I could understand that Yoga, Zazen (seated meditation), and prayer are basically the same in terms of their structure.
Mr. Tsuruhiko Kiuchi, President, NGO GREEN GAIA; Comet Discoverer
I believe that we earthlings need to create ethical principles that transcend religion, ideology, and other cultural boundaries. Humans are the last creatures that appeared on Earth. To be the last means that we are responsible for keeping the balance of nature. However, human beings today have forgotten their original role and purpose, and instead we are obsessed with gaining money and wealth. This kind of self-centered behavior is harmful to the Earth’s ecosystem.
If the flow of the ecosystem is lost, the Earth will one day collapse. We are presently being admonished by nature for our arrogance, in the form of natural disasters. I think we have come to a point where, as thinking creatures, we need to realize the danger of losing our ecosystem—our true wealth. Once our environment is lost, all our wonderful philosophies and religious principles will be destroyed. I think an event like the SOPP is an ideal starting point for creating the moral transformation that is needed. I hope the SOPP’s ideals will continue to spread throughout the world.
Ms. Michiyo Mori, Head Acupuncturist, Mori Acupuncture & Moxibustion Clinic
I attended the SOPP for the first time last year. Tears flooded out of my eyes when the colorful national flags filled the Prayer Field. I felt as if all the people of the world had gathered there. It was so amazing.
Some people say that paradise is a place where divine beings serve food to one another with long spoons. Right now, the Earth is inhabited by almost seven billion people. Among them, about one billion are on the verge of dying of hunger, and another billion, from overeating. My sincere wish is for people to share food in order to turn the Earth into a paradise.
I always pray for my patients’ health and happiness before giving treatment, and I also pray May peace prevail on Earth. Although I say nothing about it, I keenly feel that my prayer reaches the other person. I keenly feel it every day. Since learning about this prayer, I have been praying it about twenty times a day.
When the Tohoku earthquake struck in March, I keenly felt the pain of it. The moment I saw the scene of the tsunami, I felt as if my body had been torn away. After that, when I knew that the radioactive substances from the nuclear power plant were polluting the earth, air, and sea, I felt like putting my hands on the ground, bowing with my forehead touching it, and apologizing to God. Since this year’s SOPP was held soon after the disaster, I came here with pressing desire to pray for peace. I am really so happy that I could pray with all those people at such an important time.
Mr. Mitsuhei Murata, Former Japanese Ambassador to Switzerland
Having attended the SOPP, I feel that my view of the universe has changed. I was strongly inspired by this ceremony as I discovered that this kind of world actually exists. Especially because this year’s SOPP came in the wake of the Tohoku earthquake and the accident at the Fukushima nuclear power plant, I found that the messages delivered were very much in line with my own thoughts. I have always believed that the world—including Japan—is likely to reach a dire crisis. The world is approaching an ultimate catastrophe. I think that the earthquake and the nuclear plant accident were the final signals of this.
However, this does not mean that the world is bound to collapse in an ultimate catastrophe. These events are but warning signs. In other words, the world can change if humanity summons up its wisdom. A change in the world means that our civilization will change—from egoism to solidarity, from material-centeredness to spirit-centeredness, and from insatiable greed to contentment. I strongly desire to see the world head in these directions.
Seeing the flags of all the countries fill the Prayer Field strongly encouraged me today. I think my attendance at the SOPP has given me great energy to convey my message to the world.
Mr. Honnen Nakamura, Professor, Kôyasan University and Director, The Institute of Esoteric Buddhist Culture
This is my fourth time attending this ceremony. Every time, I have been deeply moved to see the participants intently praying, not for their personal wishes and happiness, but for the peace of all the people in the world. They pray in the open air Prayer Field, sometimes being exposed to strong wind and rain.
I think that, originally, it is the role of religious leaders to come together and pray, surpassing ideologies and ‘isms.’ I say this because what flows underneath all religions is the awakening and peace of people’s souls, as well as a devout, prayerful heart.
I think that in praying the prayers of each religion, and in praying for peace in each country using that country’s own national language, we have gained a conscious awareness of all the countries that exist in the world, and I think we have sent very elevated messages to the world through our prayers.
I have been studying esoteric Buddhism. In it, we have what we call a Mandala—an expression of the invisible, sacred world. It depicts harmonious figures of Dainichi-nyorai—an apotheosized figure of the sun and light—in the center of diverse saints. These saints include non-Buddhist divinities as well, such as Bishamonten and Enmaten—divinities of folk beliefs—who have been revered by the general masses. In other words, a Mandala represents the thought of respecting and treasuring the essence of all existences. Today, I felt that this sacred spirit was present at the SOPP.
In the wake of the March 11 Tohoku earthquake, our way of thinking and sense of value—here in Japan and throughout the world—are beginning to change. The endurance, calmness, nobleness, and civility of the Japanese people attracted the world’s attention. Even though we are still witnessing many tragic incidents around the world, I feel that something is surely changing and budding in our consciousness.
I feel it is extremely meaningful that this event—a ceremony to pray for the peace and happiness of all the people in the world—is taking place at the foot of Mount Fuji, which is a symbol of Japan.
Impressions from participants
I didn’t feel at all uncomfortable offering prayers from faiths that are different from mine. I really enjoyed them. I was especially impressed by the Muslim prayer led by Mr. Humayun Mughal. I hope that, in the future, this kind of event will be held more than once a year—twice or three times. Toward the end of the ceremony, the flag bearers appeared and paraded with the powerful music. It was truly a moving sight. It naturally made me think that we all are people of Earth. Thank you very much.
—Ruminda Murandiram, Sri Lanka
I attended this event for the first time with my friend. I think it is very meaningful for different religions to come together and pray together. I expect that the SOPP will develop into something like an international conference, inviting even more religious groups. It will be wonderful if people can openly engage in discussions without feeling the need to protect their own beliefs.
—I.T., Chiba, Japan
I was moved to think that the SOPP has come this far. (Mr. Kawagishi sang peace songs at the first SOPP in 2005.) I was especially impressed by the prayer and talk from the Islamic prayer leader. For those people who are not familiar with the SOPP, I want to give the message that prayer is vibration—that it is the basis of all our actions. This ceremony has amplified and strengthened the prayer, light, and vibration within me.
—Kôkichi Kawagishi, Kanagawa prefecture, Japan
I have attended every SOPP ceremony, even though I have been busy bringing up my children. Japan is really faced with a challenge. We really need to continue praying with united hearts. I’m determined to continue praying. Prayer is the only means we have. It’s the only thing that connects us with heaven. What is needed is for each of us to be connected with heaven.
I felt a sense of harmony and unity with the guests and participants. I felt that it is so precious to pray for world peace, transcending our religious differences. I was moved to tears to think that we have been sending out prayers for peace from here. I can’t stop my tears even now.
—J.N., Shizuoka, Japan
Up to now, many wars have occurred due to differences in the ways of thinking among religions. But, if we unite our hearts and pray the prayers of different faiths, we acknowledge that all religions aspire for peace. I think this is a wonderful project. I have been attending this ceremony every year, but this year’s SOPP was different from those in the past. I look forward to seeing the evolution of the SOPP in the future, and to hearing the talks of other religious leaders.
—Kakimoto, Osaka, Japan
My friend invited me to this ceremony. I came with my wife and my son. The SOPP was wonderful! I was so happy to be able to pray the prayers of the different religions. I feel it is very good for our countries and for the world. This is the first time I have been here, but I have loved Mount Fuji since my childhood. I am so happy that I could pray here at the foot of Mount Fuji. I hope you will keep carrying out this event.
—Anil Adriyan, Sri Lanka
I have attended all seven SOPP ceremonies thus far. Today’s ceremony was wonderful. I was really moved to tears. As Fr. Paul Koroluk said, the world will really be united if we treat others just as we want them to treat us. The flag ceremony at the end was most impressive. I could not stop my tears, and I had a strong sense that the day will really come when the world will become one. I’m sure I will attend future SOPPs, too.
—Kuniko Inazumi, Tokyo, Japan
This was my first time coming here. I was overwhelmed with emotion when I saw the flags carried to the stage. I felt their vibrations with my whole body. That was simply amazing, and I could not stop my tears.
I was very impressed by the scale of the ceremony. This is an amazing place where everyone is praying for peace from the bottom of their hearts. I was also impressed by the peace prayers from different faiths. It was amazing to see people praying the prayers of other religions, transcending boundaries. I don’t know of any other event like the SOPP. I am so happy to have come, and I will surely come next year too. Next time, I will bring my friends!
—Fumiyo Ôta, Aichi, Japan
I am overwhelmed with emotion beyond words. All I have now is a feeling of gratitude. This ceremony was different from past ones. I had a greater sense of integration with the prayers of different religions than ever before. Their messages, expressed in simple language, were deeply convincing. Everything was so great and wonderful. The flag ceremony couldn’t be better. Seeing the flags pass beside me, I wondered if I had lived in those countries in previous lifetimes. I’m tearing up again now, just talking about it.
—Yûko Sawada, Aichi, Japan
The ceremony was as wonderful as ever. I was especially impressed by the remark by one of the speakers that we must change our way of thinking. The flag ceremony was moving, too. I thought that the sound of the conch shells played by the Shugendô priests had a vibration that connected us with God. I had the same sensation in a previous SOPP when a Shinto presenter played a flute. I felt the vibration truly invited God.
I take pleasure in joining in this event every year, and in hearing the prayers of various religions. I deeply feel that their vibrations connect us with God. One mantra that I heard at an SOPP many years ago still remains in my ears. Although the ultimate being manifests itself as Kami, God, Allah, and others, I have reconfirmed that they all come from the same source, and are all connected.
—Hatsuo Kunieda, Kanagawa, Japan