From April 20-23, Joe had the opportunity to join the 2016 Peace Walk with the Nipponzan Myohoji. The Nipponzan Myohoji is a Japanese Nichiren Buddhist order dedicated to the work of peace and justice. It is the practice of the order to chant “Na Mu Myo Ho Ren Ge Kyo” (derived from the Lotus Sutra), and beat on hand drums, while walking for peace, human rights, and nuclear disarmament.
The title of the 2016 Peace Walk was “Walk for a New Spring.”
The walk began at the beginning of March from Leverett Massachusetts, the location of the New England Peace Pagoda. Joe joined the March in Baltimore. On April 20, there was a potluck dinner and presentation by the Peace Walkers at the Friends Meeting House on Charles Street, in downtown Baltimore. Liz McAlister attended, with Joe.
The next day, the walkers proceeded from the Friends Meeting House and marched through Baltimore, then Catonsville, and ending up in Ellicott City. For part of the walk, the walkers went up North Avenue, passing just a few blocks away from Jonah House.
While walking through Catonsville, the walkers stopped for a few moments in front of the Knights of Columbus building, to commemorate the Catonsville 9 Draft-board raid in 1968. Jonah House co-founder Phil Berrigan participated in this action.
The following day, the walkers marched through Hagerstown, MD, and then went to the nearby Antietam Battlefield, to witness for peace. The battle of Antietam, also known as the battle of Sharpsburg, was the bloodiest engagement during the American Civil War. The walkers left flowers at some monuments and walked up “Bloody Lane,” where the pile of dead was six feet high.
The Antietam phase of the Peace Walk ended up at the Dunker Church. During the battle, this white-washed church was used as a point of reference for both armies. This was bitterly ironic in that the building was a place where a Brethren church – a historic “peace” church – met to worship. After the battle, the church was commandeered as a field hospital. The surgeons and their assistants dropped amputated limbs into piles outside the windows of the church.
The following day, the peace walkers went to Xa Loi Temple, in Frederick, MD. This is a Vietnamese “Pure Land” Buddhist temple where one of the Nipponzan Myohoji monks, Tim-Shonin, is building a Peace Pagoda. Here is a picture of a quarry pond on the property. The statues are representations of Kwan Yin (or Quan Te Am, in Vietnamese), who is an incarnation of the Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara, and can be compared to the Catholic Virgin Mary.
There are many statues of Kwan Yin, the Buddha, and other Buddhist figures at the Temple. Joe’s favorite was made of plaster, and was just the head of a unfinished statue of massive proportions.
At Xa Loi, the peace walkers celebrated the Buddha’s birthday, known in Japan as Hanamatsuri, in the main meditation hall at the temple.
Below is a shot of Jean Chapman, a friend of the Jonah House community, bathing the baby Buddha in tea. This is a traditional ritual during Hanamatsuri.
Joe spent the night in the hermitage built by Tim-Shonin. Tim-Shonin’s Ancestor Altar included a familiar face (and I’m not referring to Mr. Rogers!). Phil Berrigan was one of the peacemakers on Tim-Shonin’s altar.
After the ritual, Joe caught a ride to DC and from there got the train to Baltimore and was soon back where he began the peace walk with the Nipponzan Myohoji, at home at Jonah House.