Great Smoky Mountains Peace Pagoda
Nipponzan Myohoji-Atlanta Dojo
Nipponzan Myohoji-Atlanta Dojo
In Buddhism a Peace Pagoda is a stupa, the Sanskrit term for a structure containing the relics of Lord Buddha. 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.
Almost every bit of construction at the Great Smoky Mountains Peace Pagoda site, including the Peace Pagoda (still under construction), the temples, guest house, gardens and Visitors Center, has been done by volunteers, from children to seniors in their 80s, from skilled carpenters and builders to folks who just want to help.
Our vision is to create a space that reflects the beauty of our shared yearning for peace. Everyone is welcome (you don't have to be Buddhist!). Everyone can do something.
Pilgrimages are ancient practices in most religions, a way of concentrating the heart and mind in prayer for a specific purpose.
In Nipponzan Myohoji, we engage in Pilgrimages that focus on issues of justice, peace and the environment. For us at the Smoky Mountains Peace Pagoda/Atlanta Dojo, we have two annual pilgrimages: one from Selma to Montgomery, AL in March and another to Oak Ridge, TN in the summer.
Nipponzan Myohoji consists of approximately 150 monks around the world, including 35 who live and practice outside of Japan, two of whom are here in the Southeast of the United States.
Utsumi Gyoshu-oshonin first came to Atlanta in 1989 to establish a practice in the city that had been home to Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., whose example of nonviolence continues to be a model and inspiration. Almost 10 years after arriving in Atlanta with only a suitcase in hand, Utsumi-shonin held the Opening Ceremony for the Atlanta Dojo, the altar of which is pictured above.
A little over two years later, the land for the Great Smoky Mountains Peace Pagoda was purchased with the help of many donations and has become the major focus of our work in the Southeast.
Nipponzan Myohoji, was established in 1917 by the Most Venerable Nichidatsu Fujii (Guruji).
Guruji had ordained as a monk in the order of Nichiren Shu at the age of 19, and for the next 13 years he studied assiduously and engaged in harsh ascetic practices, including fasting under waterfalls for a week at a time, but he could not discern a clear path for his life.
He decided to try one last time fasting and praying under a waterfall for a week, vowing to either lose his life or gain the necessary confidence to impart the teachings needed by the people in this age. At the conclusion of that fast, he had a vision of Bodhisattva Superior Practice beating a drum as he walked up the mountainside. On his back, he carried a child and when Guruji asked who the child was, he responded, “Lord Buddha.” Following this experience, Guruji decided to cast aside scholarly pursuits and instead spread Buddha’s teachings by walking as a pilgrim throughout the world, beating a drum and chanting
“Na Mu Myō Hō Ren Ge Kyō.”
This was the “first step that gave birth to Nipponzan Myohoji”.
In ordinary times we have a full schedule of ceremonies, Peace Pagoda work parties and Peace Pilgrimages. Unfortunately due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we have cancelled all events since March 2020 in the interest of everyone's safety and health. We continue to welcome visits to the Peace Pagoda from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., daily. We hope to resume at least some of our events in 2021.
Our work is funded 100 percent by donations, just as the building and gardening at the Peace Pagoda and temple are done exclusively by volunteers. If you are moved to make a donation, we thank you.
Na Mu Myo Ho Ren Ge Kyo