The need to end conflict, in too many places throughout the world, is immediate; the need is so great, it hardly seems real. We hear about conflict that echoes our worst nightmares. But we do not have to live in a war-torn area or disaster zone to feel despair. Illness and death of a loved one, financial or career setbacks.
We experience pain and adversity every day. We risk acting out of resentment or rage; we risk perpetuating suffering that we address. It is often difficult to know, or remember, how to begin to find peace. For several generations now, as seasons change and autumn arrives, we are reminded of the continuing quest for peace in the world. For example, the United Nations General Assembly reconvenes in September and people all over the world observed the U.N.’s International Day of Peace on Sunday, Sept. 21.
For a moment in time, people all over the world dedicated their thoughts to ending disharmony and imbalance in every corner of the globe and wish, and pray, for peace for everyone. Such observances – such ceremonies – that evoke thoughts, feelings, and intentions, expressed and shared with others, are powerful. Sharing our heart with others – our family, our friends, people in our communities and neighborhoods, and beyond – make visible the support that we give and receive, and that grants us a sense of calm and of being at peace with the world. Small acts can take great courage.
Small actions can help form a bond between the hearts of people. A smile or a few words of comfort; just letting someone know we are at their side. These are things that we can do. Actions on behalf of peace, for yourself, your family and community, have an impact, no matter how small.
For proof, look no farther than the peacemakers who touch each of our lives and who make the world around them better. Think of how much they mean to you now, in the present, or how their past actions continue to influence you in memory. This awareness is at the core of the Shinnyo lantern floating ceremony, The traditional lantern floating ceremony is a simple observance, but like the International Day of Peace, it symbolizes our continuing quest for peace in the world. We remember and honor someone.
We write about our love or gratitude on the side of a lantern. We light a candle. And we send the lantern out onto the water – the water of life, which nourishes and heals, which buoys up our memories and wishes. The lighting of a lantern has historical and unique personal meanings to people who join in. The lights remind me of the pure-hearted resolve to carry through, until we make a difference. Because engaging in acts of faith that peace is possible holds great power and meaning for all of us, Shinnyo-en has shared its lantern floating experience with the City of New York, and in other places around the world, including Hawaii, Kenya, Germany, the United Kingdom and Japan.
On Sunday, Sept. 21, more than 8,000 New Yorkers and visitors from around the world came together to float lanterns once again – in part to remember the peacemakers in our lives, from past to present. People of all ages, nationalities, ethnicities and faith traditions came together in one.
I believe the gathering showed that we all share a collective hope for peace, and that we can reignite our own compassion and willingness to act as peacemakers for the future.
Do not lose your hope and courage to carry through. It may be a long haul, but remember that patience and resilience will give us the power and strength to pave the way. Together, let us feel inspired toward an awakening; let us rekindle our inner light to burn strong, so that we can share its brilliance in concrete actions with many in the world.