Mary Beth and I drove to Albany, New York on Friday arriving there just in time for a dinner at a local restaurant that we just happened to stumble upon. I had a wonderful eggplant Parmesan - one of the best yet.
We stayed in the home of a local Veterans For Peace member and early Saturday morning drove about an hour more to the Grafton Peace Pagoda 23rd Anniversary Celebration.
I was invited to speak about conversion of the military industrial complex by our dear Buddhist nun friend Jun-san Yasuda who lead the construction of the pagoda when it was built 23 years ago. Jun-san has walked with us several times across Maine and will be coming again this year for our October 11-26 'Stop the War$ on Mother Earth' walk that starts next week. Many of the Nipponzan Myohoji monks currently serving their order in the US were at the ceremony and we will have a couple of them join our peace walk as well.
About 150 people attended the beautiful ceremony which also included talks by two Native American legends. Oren Lyons, faithkeeper from the Onondaga Nation in New York, was there as was
Chief Arvol Looking Horse, of the Lakota, Dakota, and Nakota Nations
from South Dakota.
Both men repeatedly warned that humankind must quickly change the way we are living on our Mother Earth or our species will perish. Oren said it was like a 15-round boxing match and we are tied in the 14th round - it could go either way. He called himself a 'runner' for his people - not a chief, not a spiritual leader, just one to carry the messages from his people to the wider culture. He told us the trees surrounding the beautiful pagoda were listening to us and were glad we were all assembled in prayer and action.
Arvol Looking Horse told us, "To understand the depth of this message you must recognize the importance of Sacred Sites and realize the interconnectedness of what is happening today, in reflection of the continued massacres that are occurring on other lands and our own Americas.
"I have been learning about these important issues since the age of 12 when I received the Sacred White Buffalo Calf Pipe Bundle and its teachings. Our people have strived to protect Sacred Sites from the beginning of time. These places have been violated for centuries and have brought us to the predicament that we are in at the global level.
"Look around you. Our Mother Earth is very ill from these violations,
and we are on the brink of destroying the possibility of a healthy and
nurturing survival for generations to come, our children's children.
"Our ancestors have been trying to protect our Sacred Site called the
Sacred Black Hills in South Dakota, 'Heart of Everything That Is,' from
continued violations. Our ancestors never saw a satellite view of this
site, but now that those pictures are available, we see that it is in
the shape of a heart and, when fast-forwarded, it looks like a heart
Arvol also reported on the struggle now underway at Standing Rock in North Dakota against the oil pipeline that would destroy the Missouri River. He said "the young people have made a stand" to protect the Mother Earth.
Both Oren and Arvol thanked the Nipponzan Myohoji monks and nuns for their many years of supporting Native Americans across the US. Each of the men told stories of times when Nipponzan Myohoji walked with them and stood with them in their struggles for justice and protection of the earth.
One of the great joys of the day yesterday was for Mary Beth and I to see our old friends from the southeast - Nipponzan Myohoji monk Utsumi and nun Denise who walked with us many times in Florida over the years. These days they are building a similar pagoda in the Smokey Mountains and we both are eager to visit them and lend a small hand in that great effort.