A Shrine To Peace, Southern Roots And The Moon

October 23, 2015

Some celebrations at the beginning of Autumn

*UPDATE* Mr. Leo Levy graciously provided the text of his two addresses he gave at the Peace Pagoda offering a Jewish perspective on the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki at the start of Shabbot, and some of his interesting photographs of the Pagoda

The morning of this past October 3rd a friend insisted by email that I attend the 22nd Anniversary Celebration of the opening of the Grafton Peace Pagoda. This amazing structure is located deep in the woods on a hill located in the rural center of Rensselaer County, which is across the Hudson River from Albany. This is a place where one would normally expect to meet pickup trucks and shotguns rather than a Buddhist shrine devoted to world peace.

Grafton Peace Pagoda, 22nd Anniversary Celebration Grafton Peace Pagoda, 22nd Anniversary Celebration

The Pagoda is the creation of an amazing woman named Jun-san Yasuda, or as we local Americans often call her, Jun Sun. Some 25 or so years ago I encountered several rootless persons in Albany who had been living a hand to mouth existence suddenly start talking like they had a purpose in life, a purpose which turned out to be to help Jun Sun erect the Pagoda. It sounded like a crazy, pointless idea, and perhaps it was, but I did notice the solid certainty about the importance and inevitability of the project from every person involved with it.

What exactly is it? It is described as “a symbol of non-violence,” one of many like it found around the world that originally were built in India over two millennia ago. Currently it is one of only two in the US, the other located outside Amherst, Massachusetts, although another is currently being built in Tennessee. The best description of its function as a structure comes from the Peace Pagoda website:

Many people ask the question, “what is inside the Peace Pagoda?” The answer is, “nothing but empty space.” Since the first Pagodas were built by the piling of stones on mud, 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, this area is purposely left unused. All activities take place outside the Pagoda, which is also known as a Stupa.