Buddhist Nun Embarks on Thanksgiving Prayer Walk in New York State
Japanese Buddhist Nun Jun-San Yasuda from the Nipponzan Myohoji order has completed a three-day walk from Little Falls to Fonda, New York—a distance of some 58 kilometers in upstate New York between Syracuse and Albany. The walk follows a long tradition held up by Yasuda and other Buddhists of walking for peace and to remember important historical events, in this case the landing of the Mayflower 400 years ago and the ensuing suffering wrought upon the indigenous people of the continent.
“Some native people from this land said, ‘Our mission is taking care of this Earth,’” Yasuda remarked. “We are [of] the same feeling. Without taking care of this Earth, how do we live in this world? That’s my feeling.” (My Little Falls)
Alexandra Tamburro, one of several people who joined Yasuda as a peace walker, stated on Tuesday: “Today we are walking to honor the land, the water, and the Mohawk Nation. We’re going to walk along the Mohawk River doing 10 miles each day for three days. It will culminate on Thanksgiving Day, when we’ll present a pumpkin pie to Mohawk Chief Tom Porter.” (My Little Falls)
While walking, Yasauda beats a drum and chants Na-Mu-Myo-Ho-Ren-Ge-Kyo. “The chant is the last part of the Lotus Sutra, honoring the light inside of each of us,” said Tamburro. (My Little Falls)
Activists and marchers at a concert marking the end of the first Longest Walk.
From left to right: Muhammad Ali, Buffy Sainte-Marie, Floyd Red Crow Westerman,
Harold Smith, Stevie Wonder, Marlon Brando, Max Gail, Dick Gregory,
Richie Havens, and David Amram. From blog.nmai.si.edu
Yasuda has walked tens of thousands of miles over the years. Her journey as a peace walker began in 1978, when she participated in the Longest Walk, a nearly 5,000-kilometer march across the United States—from San Francisco to Washington, DC—to peacefully protest a series of bills before the US Congress that threatened the treaty rights of Native Americans. In the end, none of the bills were passed and four further major walks have since been organized to raise awareness on issues of concern to Native Americans.
In 1985, Yasuda began work on the Grafton Peace Pagoda, which was completed and dedicated in 1993. The Peace Pagoda is located west of Petersburg, New York, and is one of 80 Peace Pagodas around the world built or inspired by the founder of the Nipponzan Myohoji Buddhist order, Nichidatsu Fujii (1885–1985).
Megan McLean, another of the peace walkers, stated: “Every time we do a prayer walk, it’s for the basic healing of the Earth, the water, creatures, and people here. I met Jun-San when I was 18 and I turn 33 tomorrow, and I’ve been walking with her since then.”
“With this Thanksgiving week coming up, we’re just having a mindful prayer walk, thinking about whose land we’re actually on,” McLean said. “I believe the healing of our country specifically, and the world, will be apparent when we realize historically what has gone on here so that we can sort of mend and heal.”
In a 2017 interview, Yasuda spoke of her kinship with Native Americans, noting that Buddhism and Native American faiths focus deeply on nature and prayer, and that each is non-hierarchical and women-centric. “I studied Buddhism watching native people,” she said. (Life on the Path)
To ring in the New Year in 2019, Yusada also participated in a peace walk in nearby Saratoga Springs, New York. When asked how far she thought she would have to walk before her message sinks in, she replied: “It depends, some people are more openhearted, some people not yet. But I have patience.” (The Daily Gazette)
The Nipponzan Myohoji order was founded by Nichidatsu Fujii in 1917, emerging from Nichiren Buddhism. Fujii met Mahatma Gandhi in 1933, and after World War II he set forth constructing peace pagodas around the world. His first two were in the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Buddhist Nun Starts Prayer Walk In Little Falls (My Little Falls)
The Longest Walk: Activism and Legislation in Indian Country (The National Museum of the American Indian)
Jun Yasuda – A Faith Journey Interview (Life on the Path)
Info on Jun-San Yasuda of Grafton Peace Pagoda and Peace Walkers (Indian Point Safe Energy Coalition)
Ringing in the new year with a walk for peace in Saratoga Springs (The Daily Gazette)
Related news from Buddhistdoor Global
Buddhists in Massachusetts Initiate Peace Walk to Honor Native Americans
One Earth Sangha Issues Buddhist Statement of Support for Standing Rock Protestors
Buddhist Group in New England Marches in Support of Immigrants
Forgotten Japanese Temple in Mumbai an Oasis of Buddhist Calm
Related Features from Buddhistdoor Global