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Spreading peace with a soft voice, drum, and powerful example

Dec 06, 2009 Spreading peace with a soft voice, drum, and powerful example

 

Numerous times I have written about my friend and teacher Jun Yasuda (see all articles here).

My fateful 1991 meeting with her as she fasted across from the White House, for peace during Persian Gulf War I, was a critical turning point. It came near the time that Ram Dass came more fully to my attention, a few months before t’ai chi came more fully to my attention, a few years before I started getting more of a sense of the meaning of Tao, and just months before I left a corporate law firm job to become a public defender lawyer. Jun-san was the main catalyst for me to move in the direction of powerful, peaceful, and effective harmony.

Before meeting Jun-san, I was obsessed and angry over all the rampant human rights violations throughout human history. Jun-san — and, later, t’ai chi, the Dalai Lama and Gandhi — showed me not to be any more angry at injustice than I would get angry at a devastating hurricane, tornado, or earthquake.

Jun-san seemingly imparted with me the lessons she has needed to impart and then left me on my own to pursue them as I wish, and since then we have crossed paths once in awhile, which for me recharges my batteries with her teachings. Just around four miles down the street from my office is Jun-san’s fellow Nipponzan Myohoji Buddhist nun Takako Ichikawa, who arrived several years after I first met Jun-san, and who also is a wonderful inspiration.

Through @BuffaloPost on Twitter, I learned of one of Jun-san’s latest peaceful efforts for justice. Recently, Jun-san fasted and prayed for a week at the University of California-Berkeley for the return of the remains of Native Americans to their tribes; the university apparently holds thousands of remains not only of Native Americans but of many other people from various parts of the world, as well. Joined by other demonstrators, Jun-san said: "The Native American spirituality and prayer are the center of this land," said Yasuda during a pause in her drumming. "What has happened in this country to Native Americans from the beginning has not been peaceful. So this is a reminder that there is a limit to all the taking we are doing on this planet."

I have long known about Jun-san’s close connection with Native Americans, and now learned her view that "[t]he Native American spirituality and prayer are the center of this land." Jun-san’s temple and peace pagoda grounds in Grafton, New York, include testaments to her close connection with Native Americans.

This Nipponzan Myohoji page says: "[Jun] Yasuda had been close to Native Americans, and her stupa was dedicated to their survival. Before building the pagoda, Yasuda had walked across the country four times in support of peace and Native Americans, beating her hand drum as she chanted the Odaimoku. In 1983, she was fasting and praying in New York [apparently at the Albany statehouse on behalf of Dennis Banks], when she met Hank Hazelton, a long time activist for Native Americans. Hazelton offered her a parcel of land. In October of 1985, work began on the structure soon to be called the Grafton Peace Pagoda. The pagoda was dedicated in 1993. Native American symbols ring the pagoda, while other images inlaid into the dome depict various aspects of the Buddha’s life and teachings."

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