We live within driving distance of Leverett, Massachusetts, which is home to what I thought was the Peace Pagoda. When my kids were younger, it was a place we would visit often enough that they have many memories of our time there together. Even once they outgrew it, I have continued to go several times a year; it has become a kind of pilgrimage for me. Sometimes on my own, sometimes with a companion. Sometimes just to be quiet. Sometimes to enact ritual. I have written here about the walking meditation I do there.
I recently learned that the same order of Buddhist monks who built the New England Peace Pagoda built another one, making the one in Leverett not the Peace Pagoda, but a Peace Pagoda. The second one is not all that far away: in Grafton, New York. (They are, apparently, working on a third in North America, in the Smoky Mountains.) My daughter and I recently took a road trip that included visiting this other Peace Pagoda. The temple exudes warmth and welcome; the shrine room is resplendent with statues and figures, reminiscent of some Tibetan Buddhist shrine rooms I have visited.
The looming, white, half-egg dome that is the stupa echoes the one in Leverett, but is its own self. The Leverett Peace Pagoda has four statues that depicts the Buddha’s life, each a quarter way around the dome. This one in Grafton has one primary statue of Buddha at the opening of the stairs, then, when walking clockwise, many more depictions of the Buddha’s life flow. I was smitten with these. They remind me of my reading of Osamu Tezuka’s eponymous graphic novel of the life of the Buddha. Slightly different stories depicted between those two, or even the story with which my Tibetan Buddhist husband is familiar. I offer them here, until you can visit it yourself.