proposal to create An Interfaith Garden-Walk of Peace and Tranquillity

In today's fast-paced information society, characterised by "multi-tasking," material consumption and "total connectivity" , little or no time is reserved for the simplicity of interior reflection and calm. These elements, however, are indispensable for the spiritual and physical health of individuals and communities. It is generally recognized, that our relationship to nature, of which we ourselves form a part and which is an integral part of our own being, has become distorted, disturbed. As the destruction of our natural world advances, our own inner ties to the natural world and to the natural conditions of our own existence have been undermined. Nature, in our minds, has been relegated to the realm of "things" to be used and discarded. The starry heavens, which once reminded us of our place in the universe, are obscured from our sight by electrical lighting. Darkness, which once reminded us to turn our eyes inward in the search for the truth about our being and for the path of healing and reunification with the ultimate source of life, is nowhere to be found. The sounds of the changing seasons – the voices of the birds, frogs, and other wildlife, the gentle sound of rain, of wind in the trees, of the silence beneath the falling snow – are obscured by the omnipresent noise of air and land traffic, industry, and the never-ending emissions of entertainment and electronic media. Our sense of touch is blunted by an artificial environment. The subtle fragrances of the earth, air, water, plants, changing according to weather and season, are lost among the myriad chemical odors of manufacturing processes and the manufactured products themselves, as well as by the exhaust from our fuel-powered vehicles. With them has vanished the appreciation of a subtler beauty, a quieter enjoyment, a gentler strength.

The garden symbolizes in a special way the cultivation of our inner life and of our original unity with nature. By planting and cultivating a garden, we reaffirm our respect for and dependency on, but also our own special relationship to nature. We as human beings alone have this ability and this responsibility: to recognize and respect the natural conditions of our existence and to devote ourselves to their preservation and cultivation. By the act of its creation and by its ongoing cultivation, the cultivated garden becomes a place of recollection and retreat, a place to recover the strength which is sapped from the soul by the distractions of daily life, to renew our contact with our own nature and the natural world, to refresh our minds and hearts by the vision of beauty and order in our natural surroundings. To walk through the garden is to move along the path to our inner selves, to rediscover the myriad perspectives of our inner life, and to gradually regain the quiet inner attention capable of regenerating our spiritual and physical powers. The inner vision which achieve thereby is not egotistic, but inclusive and universal, since it is rooted in the natural conditions of life we all share and since the reawakening of our conciousness of those conditions naturally directs us toward our shared roots and common source. As such the garden is a vital building block of community and neighbourhood life and can contribute greatly to their rejuvenation and sustainance.

By reclaiming and cultivating a natural space in urban environment, the garden-walk contributes in an important way to education for sustainable living.

The proposal to create an Interfaith Garden-Walk of Peace and Tranquillity integrates these ideas and elements. It is modelled on gardens from a range of traditions and sources which have served a similar purpose, and finds special inspiration from traditional Japanese gardens.

Japanese gardens are a place for reflection, relaxation,  and contemplation, a place to reestablish one's inner connection to nature and the source of life. When one enters the garden, one leaves behind the noise, rush and confusion of daily life in the city and walks into a place that is peaceful and serene. In every direction, one is shielded from traffic and disorder, in every direction the view is lovely and varied.

As one strolls along the walk, the garden reveals itself in ever-changing perspectives.

Three main elements are employed in the Japancese garden: water, rocks, and plants. Water has soothing and reflective qualities. Rock suggests a sense of solidity, firm grounding, strength and permanence. Plants, a symbol of life and abundance, shape and beautify the landscape, shield and protect the visitor from the busy world outside and direct his vision to a variety of restful, calming or inspiring vistas. By their textures and shades of green they evoke a sense of beauty and calm.

·      Water is an important element because of reflective qualities and because it is considered a source of spiritual and physical purification and of refreshment. Often reflecting pools or ponds include a bridge made of wood or stone (a wooden arched bridge is called sori bashi, a stone version sori ishibashi). In smaller gardens, these "bridges" are sometimes simply slabs of stones. In some cases, water is imitated a sand or gravel stream. Its use in Japanese gardens reflects these universal associations as well as the specific Shinto reverence for water. Small and relatively shallow ponds can display the same elements. A stone lantern often appears near the basin, emphasizing the reflective and purifying qualities

·      Rocks or stones of various sizes are an important component of most Japanese gardens, whose use stems from the reverence shown them in Shinto belief. Similarly, sand, i.e. crushed white or beige granite gravel, raked in waves and circles or other shapes, is used in Japanese gardens to symbolize currents or ripples of water and the purification associated with water, by which the ground was made hospitable to the spirits (kami). Suiseki, or "viewing stones" are naturally formed stones, not artificially carved or shaped, beautiful to look at, that may suggest something in nature like a distant mountain, animal, or human figure. A rock and sand garden or dry landscape is called a Karunsai.

·      Plants include trees, flowering, desduous and evergreen of a variety of species, as well as grasses and flowers. Trees screen and protect the visitor, acoustically insulate the environs from the surrounding traffic sounds, rest the eyes, direct the vision toward lovely sights and perspectives, Some trees used traditionally in Japanese gardens include: Bonsai – potted trees cultivated and shaped by pruning to look like miniature versions of old, weathered trees found in nature, suggesting long life and our connection to the source of life, but also reminding us by their age of our own place in nature and the short span of our present journey in comparison with the whole of the universe. Among the types of trees used are also Prunus species – Japanese flowering plum (apricot), Taiwan flowering cherry, flowering peach and nectarine, Japanese flowering cherry, and Nanking cherry, which all bloom between January and April. Pines which are commonly used include. Japanese Black Pine (the mainstay of garden), Japanese Red Pines (common, weeping, umbrella, and Dragon’s eye) as well as non-Asian pines such as Aleppo, Stone, Canary Island, and Torrey. Lower plants include a multitude of grasses and flowers. Caution must be taken with Bamboo, which has many forms, because of its propensity to spread and the difficulty of containing its growth.

Other elements appear in a Japanese garden, each with its own significance.


  • “borrowed scenery” , (Japanese - shakkei), nearby mountains, works of architecture, are incorporated into the design of the garden, providing distant vistas as part of the garden scenery itself. Because Kyoto is bordered on the west, north, and east by low but very visible mountains, these were easily incorporated into garden designs.  In our case, the panorama of the surrounding neighbourhood buildings, the city below and its architecture, the woods on either side (Pantovcak, Zelengaj), distant mountains beyond the city to the south, Sljeme to the north, form a backdrop which might be integrated by creating various "viewing points" along the path (clear lines of vision, framed by vegetation, perhaps certain raised points along the walk).

·      twisting paths and humped bridges, constructed in this way because evil spirits were thought to move only in straight lines. The twisting of the path also permits the creation of a multitude of vistas and also to the shielding of the visitor's solitude and the encouragement of quiet reflection. For this purpose, carefully placed benches are also essential.

·      in ponds, islands in the shape of a tortoise's back. Tortoises represent longevity , since they were thought to live 10,000 years. Stone figures of cranes also represent longevity, since they were thought to live for 1000 years

·      wells, water bowl, stone lanterns and stone groupings, which incorporate the elements already mentioned above.

·      Japanese Tea House and similar structure. An open type of garden architecture meant to provide a place of rest and recollection, transparent to the exterior natural surroundings. (From its earliest history, the Japanese garden was meant to be seen from one or more structures: palaces, noble villas, monastic residences, tea houses, private homes, or viewing pavilion, transparency being the key characteristic of architecture)

It is important to note that gardens, like the inner life of human beings and communities, are always a work in progress, never a finished production, takes into consideration nearby or distant landmarks that could be seen from the garden

The historic gardens of Kyoto and its environs, are the best-known traditional Japanese gardens. The "Philosopher's Walk" is a particular example of a path area similar to the area between Pantovčak and Zelengaj. As partner city to Kyoto, Zagreb might also consider calling its "Garden-Walk of Peace and Tranquillity" Philosopher's Walk. I hope that businesses and organisations in Japan and in Kyoto will be interested in sponsoring and cooperating on this project.



The individual elements of the Japanese Garden are described at.