Two people I know presented at Muhammad Ali’s funeral

Jun 12, 2016 Two people I know presented at Muhammad Ali’s funeral

Many years ago, at a 1999 peace gathering across the United Nations, I first met Nipponzan Myohoji Nichiren Buddhist monastics Denise Laffin and Gyoshu Utsumi of the Atlanta Dojo and Great Smoky Mountains Peace Pagoda in Tennessee, who on June 10 represented the Buddhist tradition at Muhammad Ali’s funeral, listed as “Venerable Utsumi and Sister Denise“.

Nipponzan Myohoji is a small order founded by the late Japanese monk Nichidatsu Fujii, that focuses on peace walks, building peace pagodas, and spiritedly chanting and drumming the Odaimoku, Na Mu Myo Ho Ren Ge Kyo, which is the essence of the Lotus Sutra, and is my license plate’s acronym, which reminds me to stay grounded and powerfully peaceful throughout the day. Sister Denise and Brother Gyoshu chanted the Odaimoku at Muhammad Ali’s funeral, as shown here. Tina Turner regularly and beautifully chants the Odaimoku from another Nichiren Buddhist tradition, with a guttural tone.

Both my mentor and friend Jun Yasuda from the Grafton, NY, Nipponzan Myohoji Peace Pagoda  — who a quarter century ago helped me get my bearings on being grounded and peaceful even when seemingly surrounded by turmoil — and Muhammad Ali at different times were recognized with the Courage of Conscience Award.

This small Nipponzan Myohoji Buddhist order that has no public relations arm nor any fundraising function, got fifteen minutes of fame at Muhammad Ali’s funeral.

What has stricken me most about Nipponzan Myohoji goes beyond the order’s Buddhism, to its message of and devotion to peace that has the order’s nuns and monks constantly working together with people of all faiths, taking action for peace and respect for human dignity. Here, for instance, is an article and video about Sister Denise’s and Brother Gyoshu’s participation in the multiday 2015 Selma to Montgomery, Alabama march.  My teacher Jun Yasuda is peace personified, daily connecting with others from all parts of the social spectrum, from grocery store clerks to police and prison guards.

Jun-san also speaks to my favoring a reversal of America’s over-reliance on incarceration, saying: ”The Buddhist way… is we have no fences. To put people in cages is not a solution.” Jun-san has faith in people’s basic goodness, saying: “All humans are beautiful. Somehow society is upside down.”

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