Walking the Talk of Peace
Buddhist Monks lead Activists on a Journey of Transformation
Beginning February 21, the Monks and Nun of the New England Peace Pagoda will lead their annual “Walk for a New Spring”, from Leverett, Massachusetts to Washington, DC. The walk is 47 days long and will end on April 8th. It is the 13th annual Walk for a New Spring, which began in 2002 in response to the tragedy on September 11, 2001 at the World Trade Center in New York City. This year is the third time the Walk for a New Spring has brought its message to the nation’s capital.
From the harsh frozenness of mid-winter to the warm burst of spring, we walk for the understanding that our life-and-death challenges affecting our beautiful, common home, the earth, affect us all. We have brought ourselves to a time where we are undeniably in the same boat. Money cannot, in the end, buy safety from the catastrophic earth changes of climate change, cannot protect us from the radioactive potential of the nuclear chain to annihilate life. These and other present day realities affect us all.
The destructive policies kept in place by very powerful interests, may seem untouchable, but, truly the limitless spiritual/moral force within each one of us for the good, is more powerful. The Black Freedom Movement facing the entrenched power of Jim Crow is a shining example on our own soil of the unarmed, spiritual power of soul force over physical force.
Yet, when we look at our society we do not yet see the human community of the country coming together.
So, we walk believing that, as never before, we are called to come together and find the genuine path to acknowledge and heal our social wounds and divisions. Starting with the renunciation of war making and killing, let us find ways to transform the old legacy of racism and fear of the other. Let us build genuine relationship with new and old friends, and work to implement social policies based on the acknowledgement of unassailable human dignity.
As President Kennedy said in 1963 “… For, in the final analysis, our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this small planet. We all breathe the same air. We all cherish our children’s future. And we are all mortal.”
We walk to Washington, DC bringing the aspirations of people in over 50 communities in nine states and the District of Columbia.
Some concrete laws and policies we invite support for are:
2013 Walk Reaches the White House
For more information regarding the walk, contact Tim Bullock at 413-485-8469 or email email@example.com
Walk for a New Spring/Walking for Peace
Saturday was cold, gray and rainy; the kind of day for a good book, hot soup, and a wood burning stove. Which was exactly where I was until a phone call that changed the course of the afternoon and sent me out into the elements. Driving along County Road in Cataumet, my job was to find and photograph a group of “peace walkers” from western Massachusetts who had crossed the Bourne bridge that morning and were headed for West Falmouth by evening. Thinking they would be slower than they were and not finding them within a few miles of the bridge, I was about to give up when I came upon a small group in bright colors walking single-file, chanting and drumming, banner held high, approaching the Cataumet Methodist Church where they would stop for lunch. “We are about ten people right now, but the number fluctuates,” says organizer Tim Bullock, a man who has dedicated his life to peace activism since his first (year-long) walk to retrace the route and history of the trans-Atlantic slave trade fifteen years ago. “We invite everyone to join us. On the weekend our group gets larger; people come and people go.”
This is the 12th annual Walk for a New Spring, initiated by the Buddhist order Nipponzan Myohoji of the New England Peace Pagoda in Leverett, Massachusetts. Walking, beating a hand drum and chanting the sacred eternal prayer, Na Mu Myo Ho Ren Ge Ko, are essential practices of this order. The prayer is believed to hold within it all the healing power and all the teachings of Buddha. As “engaged Buddhists,” they are connected to circles of progressive political and social change, which include Native Americans and African Americans, as well as many of the major movements for peace and social justice in the United States.
“They’re active monks. They do these walks all around the world and build depots for peace,” says 21-year old Vanessa Lynch-Zorlu, who has been walking for peace for three years and plans to write a book that will be part memoir and part documentation of the peace and disarmament movement. “Walking is a simple action; it’s something that all of us do everyday. But when you do it together with focused intention, it becomes something so powerful,” she says. “Each night we reach a community and stop and have a potluck dinner, but as we’re walking down the road we see thousands of people. Sometimes they give us the peace sign; sometimes they are screaming at us in their cars, but either way, it’s creating dialogue in the community; it’s creating space for discussion.”
Photographing the walkers in their hats and winter gear and noticing wind burned faces, I wondered why they walk in winter. “The founder of this order believed in using the energy of the earth at mid-winter, a time when the earth begins to thaw, to open up, to spring to a time of new beginnings, new ideas, new birth,” Mr. Bullock explained. “And so we walk at this time, meeting with people in their communities to talk about issues that affect us all.” The Walks for a New Spring started in response to the terrorist attacks of 911, he explained, when communities became gripped with fear. “We felt that if we could just walk around and talk to people, that it would somehow help us all get over this fear.” The peace group is walking from Leverett to Washington, D.C., where they should arrive in early April. Along the way, they will visit communities that have nuclear power plants and those that have been affected by “super storms.” They will talk with people about how to create a more sustainable way of living and how to disarm nuclear weapons and weapons of mass destruction. “We have the answers,” says Bullock,” we all have the answers. We just have to come together in community and work it out.”
I caught up with the group again Saturday evening at the West Falmouth Quaker Meeting House for the potluck and talk co-sponsored by Occupy Falmouth and the Friends’ Peace and Social Order Committee. Tables overflowed with food, the walkers offered their chant and the peacefulness of their presence in thanks, and community members had a chance to mingle, ask questions and engage in dialogue.
The speaker for the evening was Charmaine White Face, a member of the Oglala Sioux Tribe of South Dakota and founder of Defenders of the Black Hills, who has joined the peace walkers for the New England portion of the walk. This is her first visit to Massachusetts, and she seemed surprised by the warm reception she has received at each stop. “People really listen. No one has shouted me down,” she said, reminding the audience that her home state of South Dakota is the most racist state in the nation. An activist, writer, and former college instructor, Ms. White Face is here to talk about the devastation wrought by the mining of uranium in the 1868 Fort Laramie Treaty Territory in the American states of Montana, Wyoming, and North and South Dakota. She spoke for over an hour to a hushed audience about the thousands of abandoned open-pit uranium mines and prospects that continue to spread the radioactive dust and water runoff that poison rivers, wildlife, and residents, and the tens of thousands of exploratory wells (left unmarked and uncapped) that have damaged and destroyed Native American burial sites, sacred sites, and aquifers in the Black Hills.
She talked about cancer rates far above the national average in the Native people of South Dakota, of rivers devoid of fish or life of any kind, of aquifers cross-contaminated with radioactivity, and communities unable to get adequate health care. At almost sixty six years old, Ms. White Face is considered an elder in her community. The “new” elders are in their forties because the true elders have all died. Despite the content of her message, Ms. White Face spoke softly, sometimes with humor, and without bitterness. She believes that the mess left by uranium mining can be cleaned up before the Great Sioux Nation is gone forever. It would take upholding the Articles of the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1868, and enacting a bill (yet to find a sponsor in Congress) created by the Defenders of the Black Hills called the Uranium Exploration and Mining Accountability Act. This bill calls for a moratorium on Uranium mining until all of the open, abandoned mines have been cleaned up. “We’re a spiritual people,” she said. “We believe in miracles.”
Ending her talk, Ms. White Face suggested a ritual that her people use after a “heavy” topic has been discussed. She and the other peace walkers stood at the front of the room, and each of us walked forward to shake their hands one by one. It took a long time. As one Friend said, “the love in that room could have saved the world.”
Please note: For more information on the New England Peace Pagoda, go to: www.newenglandpeacepagoda.org. For more information on Defenders of the Black Hills and ways to help, go to www.defendblackhills.org or write to: firstname.lastname@example.org
The 50 day Walk for the People, Walk for the Earth begins on
Friday, February 15th at 2:30pm at the gates of the
Vermont Yankee Nuclear Facility in Vernon, VT.
There will be a potluck at 6:00pm at the
Green Trees Gallery in Northfield, MAfollowed by a presentation by Charmaine White Face and
The next day, Saturday the 16th
the walk will start at
11 am at Pulaski Park in Northampton
the group will walk into downtown Amherst
amidst a Black History Month town celebration
and have a potluck/community discussion at
5:30pm at the Jones Library.
End of Walk:
Today was a seven mile walk from Sunderland center to the New England Peace Pagoda.
At the four mile mark the walk stopped at Leverett Town Hall to meet with local Jim Perkins who is a former city selectman and currently works with the Leverett Peace Commission.
He welcomed the walk warmly into the town hall and reminded us that, “Although today we are remembering Nagasaki and mourning all of the deaths that followed, we have hope because it has been 67 years since we have dropped a bomb and we are still here.”
After circling the stupa the walkers held a short ceremony with prayers and discussion and heard from Ploughshare activist Daniel Sicker (who spent 3 years in jail from a previous action with Daniel Barrigan) about the recent action in Tenneessee.
The walkers had a short potluck and dispersed, the walk is officially over!
Many of the walkers will be returning to the Peace Pagoda on Sunday for a ceremony to re-dedicate the peace tree that was planted at the pagoda many years ago.
That ceremony will start at 11:00 am, information here: http://nipponzanmyohoji.tumblr.com/post/28664578705/special-ceremony-to-honor-the-tree-of
Saturday at Grafton Peace Pagoda a ceremony will be held to hear stories from the end of the walk around Lake Ontario:
Thanks to all walkers and supporters who made this journey possible!
Na Mu Myo Ho Ren Ge Kyo
Weds. August 8, 2012
Walk day 4
Florence to Sunderland
Today was hot.
Temperatures reached over 93 degrees but despite the heat three new faces joined the walk. Thank you!
Our first stop this morning was at The Hungry Ghost bakery (http://hungryghostbread.com).
Run by Jonathan and Cheryl this bakery uses an efficient oven brought over from Spain that allows the oven to continually burn.
Jonathan and Cheryl are good friends of the pagoda and offer bread to the community weekly.
We left the bakery and the sun had only gotten warmer.
Walkers came down through Northampton and through Hatfield, stopping for lunch at the Hatfield Town Hall before ending the walk day at Sunderland Public Library.
We are here now with pictures and information, and will soon move to Deerfield for our last offical night of the walk.
August 7, 2012
Westfield to Easthampton
After the Hiroshima Day Ceremony walkers spent the night at Genesis Retreat Center.
In the morning, participants traveled to the home of Sister Marjory and Bob for breakfast and morning prayers.
Joining them was Ruth, a vocalist coach on retreat at the Genesis center, who offered a beautiful rendition of Dona Nobis Pace.
The walk was approximately 12 miles.
Something very noticeable in Westfield and West Springfield were the fighter jets overhead. Shortly after the days walk began there was a deafening noise in the sky. We looked up and for the second time on the walk noticed jets flying overhead doing drills.
Westfield is home to the 104th Fighter Wing of the Air National Guard.
After passing the air base the walk passed two farms that were boarding horses.
While passing the second farm the owner came out to say hello.
Les was about to begin putting new shoes on his horse, Chipper.
He took a few minutes to learn a bit about the walk and share some stories about retirement.
About 2 miles passed the horse farm the walk decided to stop for lunch at a gas station.
The people driving support went up ahead and set up a picnic in the parking lot of the Stop’n’Save.
Occasionally people aren’t too happy about sharing their concrete with the walk, but the manager Sajid was friendly and accommodating, letting us use the bathrooms and have water for tea.
After exchanging information the walk continued on the way to the Valley Women’s Martial Arts center (vwma.org) where we met host Janet Aalfs.
Members of the dojo community came out for a potluck and discussion about nuclear power and local alternatives.
The discussion touched on many issues in the nuclear cycle and asked how to change the mindset that put us where we are now.
After an inspiring conversation the walkers moved on to their host’s house for the evening.
Approximately 30 people came out to the United Methodist Church this evening for a Hiroshima Day Ceremony.
The ceremony was led by participants in the five day, “Walk for a Nuclear Free Future” a walk through the Connecticut River Valley aiming to bring awareness to the hazards of the nuclear industry – from uranium mining to radioactive waste stored onsite at local nuclear reactors.
Organizer Tim Bullock started the ceremony with a few words about the walk before asking three walkers to share why they were walking, and some of their experience with the walk.
Dr. Jehann El-Bisi spoke of the afternoon at Arise for Social Justice and learning of Unifirst in Springfield, a laundromat that washes clothing contaminated with radiation. She spoke of several young people who walked briefly with the group, “They were hungry for the truth.” She said.
Next was Friederike Rukauf who is here as a sort of European ambassador. “Where I grew up in Berlin was not so close to Chernobyl,” she began, “But I still remember how we were affected. My sisters were not allowed to play in the woods because the rain was still […] radioactive.”
A welcome visitor to the ceremony was Westfield City Councilwoman Agma Sweeney. She shared with us her connection to the island of Vieques, PR, an island that the U.S. Navy used for testing Depleted Uranium (DU) bombs in 1999 without telling the people.
Following these stories Tim Bullock spoke about Hiroshima, and the 300,000 people who died instantly when the first Atomic bomb in the history of the world was dropped in Japan sixty-seven years ago.
Participants lit candles for all of those killed or otherwise affected by radiation in the last 67 years including Hiroshima & Nagasaki, Chernobyl, Fukushima, Iraq, the U.S., and Australia.
They were invited to circle the display of photos from Fukushima, Hiroshima, the gulf war while the walkers said a prayer for peace.
Violinist Sarah Hubbard, winner of the Daniel Pearl memorial violin shared her music during the ceremony.
We started off the morning at Dunkin Donuts in Adams, NY. We spoke to two of the woman behind the counter, Mandy & Sarah about the walk and they were friendly enough to give Lauren a free coffee (arigatou gozaimas)
As we were leaving the DDs, two men from the air force (in full uniform) came in.
There’s a base in Watertown where some of the drone testing is done. All throughout the rest of the day we saw military convoys, soldiers in civilian cars, and other reminders that we were in town with heavy ties to the military.
After walking for about an hour we wanted to take a rest stop. There were no gas stations around for bathrooms. Andrea noticed a man working outside in his backyard and asked him if we could use his bathroom. He agreed.
He led us up into his house with extreme courtesy. As we were walking out, I noticed an old poster tacked up to the back of his door. It was a picture of Uncle Sam with the caption, “Uncle Sam wants YOU to join the U.S. Army!”.
I figured this man was probably a veteran. It’s always amazing who you meet on the walks.
Once outside, I realized I had forgotten my water bottle in his kitchen. He ran up to get it for me, and returned with water bottles for each of the walkers.
After we left his house we continued on to Watertown. After a lunch break at an abandoned Chevy dealership (where another man had seen us walking and came by to offer a gallon of cold water for us) we marched to the All Souls UU Church of Watertown.
It was a beautiful space. The congregation has a sangha that meets there weekly, a pagan group (and a May Pole) and others of various religious affiliations.
Some of the members of the congregation and friends of the church gathered to have a potluck dinner with us, and to hear a bit about our walk.
We gathered after dinner to share and listen to the stories of those affected by the nuclear industry.
Jun san spoke about the situation in Fukushima, and showed pictures from the book, Children of the Gulf War.
The walkers shared a bit about why they decided to walk, what it was that brought them out in the sun for 15 miles a day.
We opened up the space for questions and discussion, and one man shared the story of how he used to be a nuclear weapons designer.
He worked on nuclear warheads that can hold three weapons at once. Once he asked his commander about the event of a nuclear war, the man laughed and told him if it came to that he wouldn’t have to worry, he would already be dead.
Working in a facility where you make the weapons you are in an immediate target zone.
He said, “I realized I didn’t want to be a part of the end of the world.”
They called him a conscientious objector, and he left.
The walk will come back to the All Souls Church tomorrow night, and then head into Canada the 19th.
Last night Annika left the walk to head back home to N.Adams – We missed you today! Hope you got home safely and spent the day resting up 🙂
This morning we left St. Peters around 7:30 after a short discussion with Father George about the state of the world. A local, Jen Chambers came to offer a ride to the walk. We drove a few miles out of Oswego and walked 12 miles into Pulaski.
It rained briefly today around lunch and we weren’t sure where we would be able to have lunch. The support van stopped at the 6 mile mark at the Sleepy Hollow Bear campsite. Clara and I were riding and we went in to ask the man if we he would lend us some space and a bathroom and shelter from the rain. He opened up the door to his incredible rec room with white leather couches, a pool table, and more than enough space for the walkers to have a comfortable lunch.
After the walk we went a few more miles to Byrne Dairy where we met up with Robert & Robert of Unity Acres. They drove out to bring us to our stay place for the evening.
Unity Acres is a shelter for men. They can house upwards of 80 men at any given time.
Currently there are about 75 men living at Unity Acres.
We met with our host Barefoot who helped organize this evening. After a feast with the residents we’re organizing for Canada and heading off to sleep.
Today there was a piece published in the Post-Standard about the walk:
Tomorrow we walk from Unity Acres into Orwell.
It’s about a 16 mile day.