In an Unsettled World, They Pray for Peace - The Grafton Peace Pagoda
Sunday, June 12, 2016
Life is full of surprises, some pleasant, some not. I recently heard a term, "Godincidence", a much better way to describe what we think of as coincidences, a term which acknowledges that God is the force behind so many instances in our lives. A while ago, I saw the photo below, taken by Ashley Vickers, As you can imagine, I was mesmorized. I knew I had to go see this place up close. On Friday late afternoon, John and I took a ride to Grafton, NY to visit the Grafton Peace Pagoda. Ashley's picture has probably piqued your interest too, so read on and learn more about this place that's right in our backyard.
This story begins back in 1978 when Native Americans organized "the Longest Walk", a seven month walk from Alcatraz Island, CA to Washington, DC calling for indigenous sovereignty and an end to discriminatory legislation against native people. Accompanying them on this walk was Jun Yasuda, a Japanese nun from the Nipponzan Myohoji Buddhist order who had come to this country at the urging of her teacher, the Venerable Nichidatsu Fuji. He was convinced that if the US could be peacefully reformed and turned away from the path of militarism and domination, peace would come to the world. He believed their spiritual practice could "open a new path of existence, a peaceful and sacred way of life for all humanity." Since that time, Juan san has crossed the country seven more times on foot, drumming and chanting her prayer for peace, Na-Mu-Myo-Ho-Ren-Ge-Kyo. She has organized countless peace walks in the US and abroad supporting indigenous rights, ending US wars, shutting down power plants and cultivating a simple, sustainable life in harmony with the earth.
|Jun Yasuda - a Buddhist Nun (photo from Times Union)|
Construction began in 1985 and was completed in 1993 after nine years of toil and struggle. The Nipponzan Myohoji Buddhist Order does not permit soliciting money, so the Pagoda was built entirely with donated funds, labor and material. Over the years, visitors from many nations and all walks of life have been drawn to this place of refuge to strengthen their own commitment to peace. Currently there is only one other Peace Pagoda in the U.S., that is in Leverett, MA. Another is under construction in Tennessee.
Here's a closer look at this beautiful site, beginning with another gorgeous photo by Ashley Vickers.
Wondering what's inside the pagoda? Nothing but empty space. The first pagodas were built with stone and mud brick, their interiors solid. Although modern construction has created an interior space in the Grafton Peace Pagoda, the area is purposely left unused.
|Can you find the moon?|
All around the Pagoda, scenes from the birth, life and death of Buddha are depicted. Small signs describe the scenes.
|I love this one - "Life is a river, always moving. Do not hold onto things. Work hard."|
|View from the Pagoda looking down on the grounds.|
|Inside the temple|
|John's drum and stick (Cho-na)|
|Notice Jun's sticks are much larger. Her drumming was much louder and stronger.|
During the hour-long service, others entered and found a spot on the floor. Each had a bag wherein they carried their own drum and stick (Cho-na). Near the end of the hour, Jun san moved to the altar, lit some candles and then led the group in a chant-like reading of Chapter 16 of the Lotus Sutra (the most influential and sacred scripture of Buddhism). After the service was over, Jun san asked where we were from and invited us to join them for a soup supper. Although I had a million questions, we declined. I would have loved to take more photos, but I felt pretty sacrileges as I was sitting on a chair in a Buddhist temple during a service, not drumming or chanting.
In closing, I will leave you with a quote from the cover of their brochure:
'Civilization is not to kill human beings;
not to destroy things, not to make war;
civilization is to hold mutual affection
and to respect one another.'
--Most Venerable Nichidatsu Fuji
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