About the New England Peace Pagoda
The arising of the Leverett Peace Pagoda has been unique in the history of Nipponzan Myohoji Peace Pagodas world-wide. This is the first time that a Peace Pagoda has actually grown from the full energy and efforts of the local community. The minds and hearts of the monks and nuns seem to have met our own receptive, open and awaiting hearts, creating a joint vision of peace, non-violence and respect for the sacredness of all life.
The spirit at the work site has consistently been one of enthusiasm, great coopertion and loving-kindness. Involvement with the community in whatever form it takes for each indiviual, draws out the purity and basic goodness within that person. The heart is lifted as a result of working in an atmosphere that crystallizes people's desire for peace, where harmony and prayer are practiced in all aspects of daily life.
The building of the Peace Pagoda is a process as much as it is a result. Indeed, if the structure could have been commerically built in weeks instead of months and years, al that is significant would be lost. It is the process of engagment that changes hearts, providing the tests of challenge and commitment that bring forth transformation.
A community, or "sangha," has taken hold here on our rocky New England mountain top. It is full of love, based on compassion for all beings, and sure in its knowledge that true peace is rooted in the world's great spirtiual traditions. This community is the human manifestation of the outer form of the Peace Pagoda.
"To offer one's heart and hands for this effort, joining many others, is a precious opporutnity. One's energies are dedicated in harmony with others, for the goal of world peace. In the redeeming light of such selfless action, our daily work sows the seeds of purification-within ourselves and the sake of the world."
About Peace Pagodas
The history of Peace Pagodas stretches back 2,500 years to the first stupas, which enshrined the sacred relics of the Lord Buddha,
to be revered throught time as his eternal presence.
The Pagoda is dedicated to the realization of universal peace on earth. It is a symbol of light in the darkness of the present day world, a
visible prayer to awaken humankind to peace.
The Peace Pagoda is the first great monument in this country dedicated entirely to peace. Many other memorials and monuments
commemorate great events or people or the ending of a war and the sacrifice of people in such wars.
The Most Verable Nichidatsu Fujii revived this ancient tradition after the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and built the order's first
Peace Pagoda in Japan. Ven. Fujii believed that out of the ravages of World War II, people's pure desire for peace could be awakened.
Since that time, 70 Peace pagodas have been built by Nipponzan Myohoji, including three in Europe, two in India and four in Sri Lanka.
The Peace Pagoda is conceived as a prayer for peace, a tangible structiure that manifests the dedication of our lives to justice and peace.
It has been said that as one views a Peace Pagoda, "It appears to rise, as a prayer, from the very elements surrounding it- the earth, air, water
and sky. All people, regardless of their creed, may feel its appeal to the inviolable sacredness of all life."
"The appearing of a Pagoda touches the hearts and minds of all people. Those who venerate this Pagoda absolutely reject nuclear warfare
and firmly believe that a peaceful world will be manifested.
The vision of a Pagoda has the power to bring about a sprititual transformation. It illumines the dawnof a spiritual civilization." Ven. Nichidatsu
Engaged Buddhism as Peacemaking
The Lotus Sutra
It was in the Lotus Sutra that Nichiren found unqualified inspiration. Nichiren asserted that the Lotus Sutra is the sole source of human salvation: the only religious expresion capable of responding to mappo, the one truth, and the singular prevention of further strife and calamity. To bring forth the true teachings of the Lotus Sutra for the salvation of all people, and to protect the leaders and the population from what he experience as their own blindness, he pleaded, implored and harangued them to adhere to the sutra.
The twenty-eight chapters of the Hokeko, the Chinese translation of the Lotus Sutra, are divided into two parts. The first fourteen chapters describe the path and the laws of the historical Buddha Shakyamuni, while the latter half of the sutra concerns itself with the eternal Buddha who exists in all time. Aware of the complexity of the Lotus Sutra, Nichiren declared that wholeheartedly chanting na Mu Myo Ho Ren Ge Kyo would develop faith and purify the mind of the devotee, because the chant itself contains the essence of the sutra. Chanting with devotion and respect, he believed, would bring spiritual benefit to the believer.
When the entire nation converted to accept the Lotus Sutra, Nichiren proclaimed, the suffering of the mappo age would be replaced with the realization of our true nature and would usher in a realm of peace and tranquility. The heavenly paradise would then exist on earth. The Sutra includes passages praising those who, like Nichiren, live its truths and fulfill its prophecies. Nichiren ardently embraced thsee passages, which he devotedly chanted and which sustained his difficult life:
This sutra is so difficult to keep.
If anyone keeps it a short time, I shall be pleased,
And so will all the Buddhas.
Such a one as this will be praised by all the Buddhas;
Such a one is brave; such a one is zealous;
Such a one is named precept-keeper and dhuta-observer;
Speedily shall one attain the supreme Buddha-way.
One who, in coming generations, Can read and keep this sutra
Is truly a child of the Buddha.
Dwelling in the stage of pure goodness,
After the Buddha's extinction,
One who can expound its meaning
Will be the eye of the world
Maha Bodhisattva Nichiren
Maha Bodhisattva Nichiren was born in Japan in 1222, the son of poor fishing parents. At sixteen he was ordained at Mt. Kiyosumi. Wars, famines and other disasters characterized that time; religious teachings seemed to bring no relief to the sufferings of the people. This caused Maha Bodhisattva Nichiren to search for the teaching which expressed the genuine will of the Buddha. After years of study, he concluded that the Lotus Sutra was indeed the fullest expression of this.
On the morning of April 28, 1253, Maha Bodhisattva Nichiren stood atop Mt. Kiyosumi as the sun rose and chanted Na Mu Myo Ho Ren Ge Ko. He believed this sacred eternal prayer was the essence of the Lotus Sutra; it contained all the healing power, all teachings of the Buddha; it would raise a righteous way among people, bringing relief from suffering to all.
Maha Bodhisattva Nichiren, strongly emphasized that the government must follow a true, righteous way, for the sake of the whole society. He admonished the government in a major treatise, Rissho-ankoku-ron ("Establishing Righteousness to Secure the Peace of Nations"); however, thrice the government scorned it. Indeed, throughout his preaching life, Maha Bodhisttva Nichiren endured unremitting persecution by enraged government and religious leaders, including exile and attempted beheading. However, his faith only deepened.
Maha Bodhisattva Nichiren's writings are unique in their clear teaching that the realization of inner peace and peace within society are one; they have thus inspired active commitment to the welfare of society.
Most Venerable Nichidatsu Fujii
The Most Venerable Nichidatsu Fujii, founder of Nipponzan Myohoji, was born in Japan on August 6, 1885. He became a monk at 19 years of age, much in opposition to the tendencies of society, which at that time encouraged a military career. At age 32, after much ascetic practice, he came to realize the basic practice he would follow to bring about peace: beating a hand-drum an chanting Na Mu Myo Ho Ren Ge Kyo.
The Most Ven. Fujii believed his mission was to carry out the prophecies of Maha Bodhisattva Nichiren. This included returning the true spirit and teaching of Buddha to India, which had lost those teachings for more than 1,000 years. During his missionary work in India, he developed deep spiritual ties with Mahatma Gandhi, who named him "Guruji", and actually took up the practice of drumming and chanting.
The Most Ven. Fujii felt his mission was to spread the prayer for peace, Na Mu Myo Ho Ren Ge Kyo, thought the world in these times of violence, confusion and impending annihilation. In connection with this, he and his followers have walked through all continents beating their drum.
After Japan experienced the nuclear holocaust, he undertook the construction of Peace Pagodas in which holy relics of the Buddha are enshrined, as a way to raise a profound, universal, spiritual basis for the peace in this world. This practice is taken directly from the Lotus Sutra.
Although he passed away on January 9, 1985, his vows will be taken over by all those who are working for world peace.
Walking For Peace
There are probably few Buddhist groups in America experiencing the diverse level of acceptance and afforded to Nipponzan Myohoji. As engaged Buddhists, they are connected to circles of progressive politcal and social change, which include Native Americans and African Americans as well as many of the major movements for peace and justice in the United States. Their presence offers a spiritual perspective and discipline to lay activist groups, and an activist passion and commitment to Buddhists and others unfamilar with the worlds of social activists. Their absolute commitment to nonviolence and to the abolition of war and militarism, and their personal disciplines of simplicity and spiritual steadfastness, inspires and uplifts those whose lives they touch.
Sasamori Shonin,who dedicated himself to the construction of the Leverett Peace Pagoda and first temple, moved to Managua, Nicaragua to support the effots of the Nicaraguan people to freely develop their society. Sasamori Shonin was attracted both by the liberation theology developed in Latin American and by the spirit of the North Americans assisting the Nicaraguan liberation movement, who guided and supported his Nicaraguan witness. In cooperation with the United States movements for justice in Central America, Sasamori Shonin lived among the poor and, with the support of the local churches in Mangua, prayed and fasted for peace. He went to Nicaragua as he had come to Leverett, with language skills not yet acquired, with neither protection nor possessions, but with enormouth faith in th pwer of his prayer drum and chant. Sasamorei Shonini remianed in Nicaragua for several years, developing very significan't contacts withthe grassroots and religious leaeadership in Managua, with North American activists andwith themovement for liberation theology. To pray for peace and for the Nicaraguan movement for self-determination, he undertook a forty-day fastandprayer vigigl in front of thechurch on themain plaza in Managua. Slight in stature under normal circumstances, his body was skeletal after forty days of fastingand chanting.
Undertalking pilgrimages forpeace, an ancient and honored tradition acquired new life under the guidance of contemporary spiritiual leaders. Gandhimarched throughout India with tens of thousands of followers in a campaign to declare independence from Britain. marin Luther King, Jr. walked with his followers throught the southern United States protesting thelawsofsegregation. Nichidatsu Fujii established walking practice to bear witness for a spritual civilization, both in Japan and abroad. The monks and nuns of Nipponzan Myohoji resinging in the United states continue that tradition, walking ceaselessly across the length ofna breadth of the United States and beyond, wlaking for peace, to end nuclearism, to support justice an minority rights, to end violence, and to proclain the need for a new relationship to each other and tothe earth. In every year since their arrival in theUnited States there have been walks led by or accompanined by Nipponzan Myohoji, to military bases or weapons production facilities, to seatsof government or the United Nations, or on behalf of particular communities or individuals suffering discrimination and injustice.
The 1982 WorldPeace March exemplified the logistical and physical effortsmade by Nippozan Myohoji to awaken the public to the issues of nuclear war. Simultaneious walks wereorganized by the monks and nuns in Europe, Asia, and Noth America, all to concence on theUnited Nations June 1982 for the beginning of the Second Special Session on Disarmament. Walks in the united States began both from San Francisco and los Angeles to New York, with other wlaks originating in New Orleans, maine, and canada. Religioius leaders invited by Nipponzan Myohoji arrived in New York to lend their moral authority to the New York Gathering of one million people,including walkers and demonstratiors. Guruji, then aged ninety-seven, spoke a this event, where over one million people, plus a televised audeince, convenint to proteest the maufacture and proliferatioin of nuclear weapons, hear the aged monk speak.