Chanting for Japan

Victorians find relief for grief through chanting, charities

Chanting fills the Interfaith Chapel at University of Victoria in sympathy for the disaster that has devastated life in Japan.

Chanting fills the Interfaith Chapel at University of Victoria in sympathy for the disaster that has devastated life in Japan.

Victorians find relief for grief through chanting, charities

Tones fill the room as 30 or so people sit cross-legged, hands over their bellies, meditating. The hum rises from my own chest in breaths as we’re instructed to let out our single “omm.” The harmonious notes float up into the triangular top of the Interfaith Chapel at University of Victoria, then circle back down.

I feel tears well into my eyes and, for a second, I don’t know if it’s because of the beauty of sound, or because we are performing a chant called “Sho Sai Shu,” the Dharani of Removing Disaster in sympathy for Japan. I look up for only a second to see that people in each line of meditators have tears on their cheeks, too, and the emotional connection becomes clear.

“When something catastrophic happens, we develop this system of doing things. But one real thing we don’t find a lot of opportunity to do is to allow the impact of what has happened to hit us,” says Venerable Eshu Martin, abbot of the Victoria Zen Centre. “Rather than be with it and feel that hurt, we try to get busy, so emotionally we don’t have to deal with what happened.”

While Martin emphasizes that “doing things” is imperative in times of crisis, he says it comes down to finding a balance. The special chanting ceremony, held at the past two Tuesday-night Zen meditation sits at the UVic chapel, are a prime opportunity of doing just that.

“Chanting in a large group of people helps us to feel bigger than we are, and it connects us to that great strength that is humanity,” says Martin. “These are not just people suffering on the other side of the planet — they are a part of us. Fundamentally, we know how to understand that. Chanting helps us to dissolve into the action of it.”

During the ceremony, participants were also invited to rise from their sit and offer incense to a small bowl. Nearly everyone in the room did. Martin reiterates that often feelings of helplessness and the frustration of not knowing what to do in a crisis that’s occurring thousands of kilometres away can be overwhelming in itself — especially for those with close connections to the area. Yet taking action for one’s self is still action.

“Will chanting cause nuclear reactors to cool off or people across the planet to feel a moment of relief? Who knows? I can’t say,” says Martin. “For me, the scientific research done on prayer speaks to the impact it has on people … and they do say plants do better when you talk to them, and that focusing on negative energy only encourages more negativity. So, I can’t see how this can do anything but help — even if it’s only within some people’s own hearts.”

While the Victoria Zen Centre is not doing any fundraising itself, Martin says the centre will be supporting other organizations in their efforts to do so. There may be more special chants in the upcoming future, and people are always welcome at the free public sits Tuesdays, 7 p.m. at UVic’s Interfaith Chapel. Find out more at zenwest.ca. M

Locals rally to help victims

n Support for Japan has been pouring out, including a recent $500,000 donation from B.C.’s Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General. A number of charities have been collecting donations for support as well.

n The Canadian Red Cross has a number of relief efforts occurring locally. To make a direct donation, however, visit redcross.ca, or call 1-800-418-1111.

n Donations can also be made through the Salvation Army, by calling 1-800-SAL-ARMY, or visiting SalvationArmy.ca/japan. You can also text “QUAKE” to 45678 from any mobile phone, or make a financial donation at the closest Salvation Army unit in your area. Donors must specify their gift is for the “Japan Earthquake Disaster Relief Fund.”

n The Victoria Gilbert and Sullivan Society will donate 10 per cent of its net proceeds from its April 2 performance of The Mikado in support of the Japanese emergency relief effort. For more information about the comic opera, which is set in Japan, visit gilbertandsullivanvictoria.ca or call 250-298-0644.

n Local recording artist Ryan Narciso has partnered with Connie Dunwoody and Marlon Narciso to produce a song called “Tears At Your Door,” which is available for 99 cents through iTunes. (See the video at youtube.com/watch?v=E-PjxqTozhs). All proceeds will be donated to assist with the relief efforts in Japan.

n Tom Lee Music Victoria is hosting a benefit concert Saturday, April 9, 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. at Colwood Pentecostal Church (2250 Sooke), with 100 per cent of the by-donation proceeds being sent to the Canadian Red Cross Japan Relief Fund. Music students and teachers are encouraged to perform. Email joanne.devolder@tomleemusic.ca  by March 28, or phone 250-383-5222.

n Hope Love Japan is a fundraising event hosted by Victoria local Yukari Peerless and friends at the Parkside Victoria Resort and Spa Atrium (810 Humbolt). The group hopes to pull in $15,000 from the community by holding a Japanese traditional afternoon tea event with music by Masako Hockey and Satomi Edwards. The event will also feature a silent auction, with products and services donated by local businesses, crane-making workshop, t-shirt sale, photo-booth with photographer Véronique da Silva and a special Japanese blessing event. Admission by donation, with a suggested minimum of $20. Sunday, March 27 from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Call 250-588-2082 or email  yukari@yukaripeerless.ca for more info.

n The Support Japan 2011 team has been formed from the Japanese Friendship Society (JFS), Victoria Nikkei Cultural Society (VNCS), Victoria Morioka Friendship Society (VMFS) and the Victoria Japanese Heritage Language School Society (VHLSS) banning together to host a number of fundraising events.  T-shirts with the phrase “Gambare Nippon” (“Never give up, Japan!”) will be on sale for $10 at all fundraisers and at several locations around town including Hillside Centre, Fujiya Foods, Silk Road Aromatherapy and Tea Company and Rocky Mountain Soap Company. So far, 1,100 have been sold.

n A Japanese cultural event will take place Saturday, March 26, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., at Hillside Centre, with entertainment, personal stories, paper crane folding and more. Donations encouraged. The amalgamated group will also host a dinner gala April 9 at Golden City Restaurant (721 Fisgard) with special Japanese cultural entertainment and surprises. Tickets to be determined, though 50 per cent of all proceeds will go to the Canadian Red Cross. Then, April 16, a silent auction will be held at the École Victor-Brodeur Centre (637 Head), with Japanese cultural performance and demonstrations. For more upcoming events, or for those interested in volunteering, visit vncs.ca, or call 250-704-6164.

n For anyone interested in donating straight to the source, VMFS president Bill McCreadie has donated his practice — McCreadie & Tait in Trust — to a collection point for donations to go directly from Victoria to sister city Morioka to help with relief efforts. Contact wmccreadie@shaw.ca, or call 250-388-7043 extension 10. Donations over $50 will receive a tax refundable receipt from the City of Victoria.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Orca 1
Orcas: Our Shared Future

Royal BC Museum dives into the world of orcas with upcoming feature exhibition

Joan Miller with the Vancouver Island North Regional Film Commission says there’s much room for optimism in the region rebounding from COVID-19 and is excited about what the future holds for the region. Black Press File Photo
North Island film industry optimistic about post-COVID rebound

Interest in filming here is still high, according to film commission, once things open back up

The 10-part Netflix series Maid, which is being exclusively shot in Greater Victoria, has been filming in Langford and Colwood over the past two weeks. On April 7, filming will take place on the east side of the Esquimalt Lagoon. (Black Press Media file)
Netflix series ‘Maid’ filming in Colwood

10-episode Warner Bros. production filmed exclusively in Greater Victoria

Victoria mural artists Joshua Lundrigan (from left) and Paul Archer join Rob Chyzowski, co-owner of Belleville’s Watering Hole and Diner in front of an Archer-designed mural that went up on Thursday at the Inner Harbour restaurant. (Don Descoteau/News Staff)
Positivity rules with new outdoor mural from Victoria artist

Paul Archer teams with Belleville’s Watering Hole and Diner for patio project

Donna Jones, who was born and raised in the Cowichan Valley, is the executive director of the documentary ‘Bobbi Jo: Under the Influence’. (Submitted)
Islander produces documentary offering hope to those with addictions

Donna Jones and husband Brent just released Bobbi Jo: Under the Influence

‘Frank Ney’ by Patrick Flavin, ‘Millstone River Upper Falls’ by John Collison Baker, ‘Labyrinth of Dreams’ by MA Molcan, ‘On the Other Side’ by Liana Ravensbergen, ‘December Snow’ by Laurel Karjala and ‘Jacks Point’ by Dana Smiley (cropped, clockwise from top-left) are among the works in the Nanaimo Arts Council’s latest exhibition. (Photos courtesy Nanaimo Arts Council)
Nanaimo Arts Council presents its first online gallery show

Submissions now open for upcoming ‘Ekphrastic Celebration’ show

Dorothy Sevcov’s exhibition ‘Having Fun With Acrylics’ is on display at Art 10 Gallery until the end of the month. (Josef Jacobson/The News Bulletin)
Experimental paintings now on exhibit at Nanaimo’s Art 10 Gallery

Dorothy Sevcov’s ‘Having Fun With Acrylics’ on display through April

Courtenay artist Christine Boyer presents Alongside My Path: Native Wildflowers of Canada at Gallery Merrick from April 9 to 23. (Photo courtesy Christine Boyer)
Island painter shows off the wildflowers of Western Canada in first solo show

Courtenay’s Christine Boyer presents floral exhibit at Nanaimo’s Gallery Merrick

Nanaimo Harbourfront Library librarian April Ripley led the effort to create a Vancouver Island poetry booklet in recognition of National Poetry Month. (Josef Jacobson/The News Bulletin)
Nanaimo Harbourfront Library publishes booklet for National Poetry Month

Collection features winners of ‘Poem in your Pocket’ contest

SENCOTEN language revitalizationist and filmmaker Renee Sampson’s short film, Bringing Our Language Back to LIfe, shows online during the Reel 2 Real International Youth Film Festival, April 14-23. (Photo courtesy Wapikoni)
SENCOTEN language featured in short film created on Saanich Peninsula

Renee Sampson film highlights importance of passing on traditional languages to youth

The area surrounding the Chemainus Rotary Club’s bunker door is one of the new surfaces that will feature a mural. (Photo by Don Bodger)
Up to three new murals coming to Chemainus

Project will be coordinated between the Rotary Club and Festival of Murals Society

Jules Sherred, photographer and owner of Polaris Creative, is putting together an exhibit that combines two of his greatest passions: food and advocacy for those with disabilities. (Polaris Creative photo)
Kickstarter launches for fully accessible exhibit focused on food

Raising awareness has been Sherred’s life’s work.

Sooke artist Jessica Ruth Freedman is one of nine virtual in-residence artists who share the creative process, conduct webinars, write and offer sage advice with artsUNITE, a free online wayfinding platform for artists. (Contributed - Jessica Ruth Freedman)
Sooke artist joins artsUNITE, getting creative through pandemic

National program brings much-needed support to arts community

Most Read