On Sunday, September 22nd, thousands of New Yorkers gathered for the first Shinnyo Lantern Floating for Peace in Central Park. Orchestrated by Shinnyo-en, an international Buddhist community, more than 2,200 candle-lit paper lanterns with individually written messages of peace were set afloat onto a large reflecting pool in the center of Trump Rink, in honor of people who have dedicated their lives to the cause of peace. Photos by Noelle Serper.
REV. OALVY GRAINZVOLT (Shinnyo-en USA): Shinnyo-en Buddhism or Shinnyo-en, as we call it, is an international Buddhist community rooted in an eleven hundred year old lineage of Buddhism – the Shingon Esoteric stream of Buddhism. The actual meaning of the name is “a place to find awakening,” almost as you’re coming into a garden with no borders, boundaries or fences.
The ceremony this evening, the Shinnyo Lantern Floating for Peace, really is something that’s been adapted and built upon from a long tradition of lantern floating ceremonies. You need the simple elements of water, which symbolizes healing, compassion, and a sort of continuity with the past, connecting into the future. And fire also…symbolizes awakening.
Her Holiness Shinso Ito is the current head of Shinnyo-en. She is dedicated to making peace throughout the world.
HER HOLINESS SHINSO ITO (Shinnyo-en): (through translator) I’d like to convey our messages to everyone, of all the faiths, in the world. I want people to be awakened -- their kind, caring potential. And I want them to make the most of that caring nature in their everyday life.
REV. GRAINZVOLT: Just as peace is not a one moment in time, it’s a continuous thing, people come throughout the day, make their own lanterns and, most importantly, they’ll write their messages for peace. Whether they want to focus it on remembering someone who’s helped them find peace or they really want to just take a moment to breathe and think about what is my response to the world, to everything that’s going on? What is my step forward in being a part of peace?
When you write something, it’s very individual, it’s very personal, but when you float it and you realize that these lanterns are floating, it’s not just yours that’s out on this big reflecting pool, but it’s actually bobbing and ebbing and flowing with so many others. We realize that our wishes for peace and our paths are always connected with so many others.
What makes this a sort of contemporary and innovative ceremony, that’s unique to Shinnyo-en, is that there’s a real focus on the future, meaning as you float these lanterns, it is not just about remembering the ones we’ve lost or remembering the people who have inspired us or helped us become who we are, but it’s also about seeing where we are now at this moment in time because of them, remembering that, but then thinking what are we going to do in the future?
It’s just taking a moment to explore what we already have within us and what we have in this beautiful world around us, to find both our individual path, and our collective path, to peace.