Category Archives: For Writers

One year since Fukushima

This weekend, at the Heiwa Peace Garden on our small island, we will commemorate the disaster at Fukushima, Japan.  I was invited to make a statement before a moment of silence was offered in memory of this terrible event that will not stop resounding for quite some time.  It was an honour to be asked, and so the only way to answer it was to speak from the heart.  I’m posting here what I’ve written with the sincere hope that it may help to bring about something good:

Memory as a Seed for the Future

What can be said when disaster strikes?  What needs to be said? Usually, not so much. We stand silently in awe at the enormous power of tsunamis, earthquakes, forest fires, tornadoes, as nature has its way. We see the power of nature at these moments, but we must remember that we also see the power of nature in the very small – in a snowflake or lady bug, the glance of an eye, in the ability for a seed to grow into food, or into the enormity of a cedar with its sheltering limbs.

But, we are nature, too, of course, and as such, we have some power, some ability to use our human nature, which includes the ability to learn from the past and remember, to understand and not ever forget what we most value in life, what kind of world we want for our children and for all of earth’s creatures: a world where peace presides, where weaponry has been put aside, where clear thinking, seeing and foresight leads to the kind of good decisions that promote life and diminish that which has even the smallest chance of causing harm to anyone, to everyone.

One way to think about Hiroshima and Nagasaki is that Japanese people were sacrificed so that all may see the horror of nuclear war.  It is not the only way to think about it, but it is one way. Now, less than seventy years later, we have the great misfortune of seeing Japanese people sacrificed yet again, perhaps this time so that all may see the horror of so-called nuclear peace when faced with actual life and its circumstances, as opposed to some drawing board dream of nuclear perfection.

It is a horrible sacrifice to have to make, and I grieve for those directly harmed. Still, one year later, I cannot help but shake my head in disbelief at the magnitude of the disaster that continues even as we stand here on our peaceful island.

Let us not be powerless in the face of such knowledge. Let us determine to use nature’s power in human form to dedicate ourselves to clear thinking, understanding, and foresight; to allowing compassion to guide our decisions, and to the far seeing vision of true leaders – elders and young ones alike – so that the likelihood of such disasters is erased from our world. Among all their other miraculous powers, certainly the powers of the human heart and mind are meant for this.

In the silence that follows now, please allow a seed of such compassion, of such clarity, foresight and vision to be born in this circle, and let us seek a way, together, to plant that seed on this island, to the benefit of life everywhere, for all of time. If we say we cannot, we never will. If we say we can, we just may discover how.

Peter Levitt

Teacher, Salt Spring Zen Circle




You can read this post and entries with a similar orientation or area of interest by selecting Wanderings in the pages above

I really don’t know why, but in recent weeks I’ve been thinking more than usual about what we do and how we do it. This morning I remembered that I made the little drawing up there at the top of today’s blog as last year’s birthday present to myself to remind me that the way I live actually has an effect on the world – one that I have to live with, too.

All This and Karma, Too?

It makes me smile to see that drawing again, and, as one thing tends to lead to another, seeing it engendered another recollection; namely, one of the best, if humourous, definitions I’ve ever heard of the word karma.  So many people toss this word around like so much perfume or cologne, but in general I think its meaning may not be so clear.  Anyway, someone once told me there was an old Chinese saying that defined it perfectly: Spit straight up, learn something new.

Then, in that delicious never ending chain of associations the mind seems fond of, I also remembered one of the poems in One Hundred Butterflies most people seem to like, which goes like this:


                                        Don’t eat so fast.

                                       When you use your sticks

                                       like scissors

                                       you frighten the rice.


Just after the first edition of this book was published, I sat at the dining table with my dear friend, Kaz Tanahashi . Kaz is a master calligrapher, a painter, writer, translator of significant Buddhist texts, and, at the age of seventy-eight years old, he continues to travel the world for months at a time working for peace.

Anyway, as we sat at his table drinking tea, Kaz asked me to read him one of the butterfly poems, so I read him the poem above. Kaz was so surprised to hear the poem, he burst out laughing and said, “Oh! With just a few words, you’ve destroyed my entire culture!”

I took it as one of the greatest compliments of my life, and laughed hard, too, but in all honesty, I’d prefer not to destroy cultures, any more than I want my sticks to frighten rice, not now and not the rice my grandchildren eat seven generations from now, either.

Hindsight Now

If hindsight is ahead in this great all inclusive moment called now, then one of the great miracles of human understanding and awareness is our ability to see into the future right where we stand at any given moment, and use hindsight now. It seems worth considering, anyway, worth practicing. If you’re reading this note I feel certain you already do this somewhat, so let’s keep going, together. And, let’s make more silly signs and poems that make us laugh, appreciate and see what we are.

Thanks for reading along. If you enjoy this and can think of someone who might enjoy it as well, please send them the link. And, of course, please feel free to comment to let me know what you’re thinking, too.