Monday, July 7, 2014

Grafton Peace Pagoda

We headed out on another adventure on July 7th. We drove to Grafton to see the Peace Pagoda. Do you remember "The Longest Walk" which was a walk organized by Native Americans that went from San Francisco to Washington, DC?   A Japanese Buddhist Nun from the Nipponzan Myohoji order walked with them. This nun did long walks and spent time fasting on the steps of the New York Capitol. She wanted to build a monument to peace. A long-time activist for Native Americans, Hank Hazelton, donated land for the purpose of building this monument to peace.

The work began in October, 1985. After 8 years of toil and struggle, the Pagoda was completed and dedicated in the fall of 1993.

A simple temple to Buddha is the first thing you come to when you visit the site. All are welcome to come in for prayer and meditation.

The Altar in the Temple

A closer look at some of the things on the altar

The Peace Pagoda

Peace Pagodas are a symbol of non-violence dating as far back as 2000 years ago. During that time, the Emperor Ashoka of India, a notoriously bloody warlord, was approached after a particularly wretched battle by a Buddhist Monk who admonished him for his wrong doings. From that time on, Ashoka became a became a fervent believer in Buddhism. After his conversion, he gave up his warlike ways and began erecting Peace Pagodas.

The Guardians of the Pagoda

The middle level of the Pagoda had these beautiful carved scenes of Budda's life.  They reminded me of the Stations of the Cross in Catholic Churches.  

 At his conception Queen Maya dreams of Budda 
in the form of a white elephant.

Queen Maya gives birth to Buddha in the beautiful 
Lumbini Garden in Nepal around 536 BC

It is said as soon as he was born Buddha took seven steps in each of the four directions and announced his mission to save all beings.

 Outside the palace gates meets the four sufferings -- old age, sickness, death and life itself.

 Buddha leaves the palace in search of enlightenment.

 Buddha puts on a beggar's tunic and cuts his long hair.

Buddha meditates under the Bodhi tree and reaches enlightenment.  The forces of Mara try to distract him but they fail.

Buddha's first teaching in the Deer Park set the wheel of Dharma in motion.

After many years of teaching Buddha has a vision of unity and peace and he teaches Na Mu Myo Ho Ren Ge Kyo at Rajgir, Eagle Spirit Mountain.

In Kushinagara the trees lower their blossoms on Buddha's death bed.  His last words at the age of eighty-one are:  "Life is a river always moving.  Do not hold onto things. Work hard".

 After Buddha's death his relics are dispersed to the eight directions.

We walked around the Peace Pagoda at all three levels looking for the door that would lead us inside so we could see what was there.  The answer is:  nothing.  We never found a door and later we found a small brochure that talked about the Peace Pagoda and it answered our question.  "Since the first Pagodas were built with stone and mud brick, their interiors were solid with no space inside.  Although the modern construction techniques used to build the Grafton Peace Pagoda have created an interior space, the area is purposely left unused.  All activities take place outside the Pagoda."

On the path back and in several places around the pagoda and the temple, these rock stacks or cairns.

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