Seeking Peace at the Grafton Peace Pagoda

Seeking Peace

This was my view from the top of the Grafton Peace Pagoda. My family and I were humbled to spend a week there recently, helping to maintain both the temple and ourselves.

I’m fortunate to call Jun Yasuda a friend and mentor. She is the keeper of the Peace Pagoda and a Japanese Buddhist Nun from the Nipponzan Myohoji order. This sect of Buddhism is rooted in action. It’s focused on being part of the world, being of service, and striving for peace.

Being out at the Pagoda taught me a lot about prayer. Growing up Catholic, I prayed, but never had a breakthrough moment like I did there. Maybe it was all the scraping, painting and mortar mixing (lol!). But in all seriousness, there is something to be said for prayer in action. Every nail hammered is a meditation. Every crack patched. Every stone replaced, an offering.

I typically see spirit in building design—from the mundane to the intentionally sacred. I recognize there is spirit in everything, but it’s good to be reminded sometimes. The shape of the pagoda is soothing, a balm to my architectural soul.

Grafton Peace Pagoda with gray clouds in the background

Grafton Peace Pagoda

Peace Pagodas are a symbol of non-violence dating as far back as 2000 years ago. According to the Lotus Sūtra, the appearance of a Peace Pagoda is the very embodiment of the Buddha, radiating a message of nonviolence and purifying the land as well as the hearts and minds of people.

Jun Yasuda, a Japanese Buddhist Nun from the Nipponzan Myohoji order, is the keeper of the Grafton Pagoda. She has crossed the country on peace walks at least five times on foot. She walks beating her drum while chanting a prayer for peace Na-Mu-Myo-Ho-Ren-Ge-Kyo.

Many people ask the question, “what is inside the Peace Pagoda?” The answer is, “nothing but empty space.” Since the first Pagodas were built by the piling of stones on mud, their interiors were solid with no space inside. Although the modern construction techniques used to build the Grafton Peace Pagoda have created an interior space, this area is purposely left unused. The space outside the pagoda is for gathering together and reminding people to stay connected to the outside world.

If you find yourself in Update NY, take a little time out to visit the Pagoda yourself. See their website for details.