Shanti Stupa: Majestically Dedicated to Peace

Stupa   Located in the northernmost region of India, in the foothills of the Himalayan Mountains, the white dome of the Shanti Stupa can be viewed for hundreds of miles around. Glistening in the sun, it has been visual evidence of Buddhism’s keenness to the concept of world peace ever since it’s dedication in 1991 – at which time the 14th Dalai Lama personally preserved relics of the living Buddha at its base. To a great degree, construction of this monument is due to the thinking of Nichidatsu Fujii, a Japanese Buddhist monk who made the decision in 1947 to construct Peace Pagodas throughout the world, as memorials to the ideal of world peace. Shanti Stupa is considered to be one of the most striking and beautiful edifications in the world dedicated to the concept of world peace – and it is certainly one of the most highly elevated peace monuments on earth.

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Located in the Foothills of the Himalayan Mountains, Shanti Stupa Overlooks the Indian Town of Leh
Photo credit: mckaysavage / Foter.com / CC BY

The notion of a stupa originated even before the days of Buddha, as earthen burial mounds for ascetic thinkers , who were involved in the process of extreme spiritual self-denial and austerity within the traditions of Hinduism – from which Buddhism spun sometime between the 6th and 4th centuries BCE. According to tradition, these ascetics were buried in a seated position within a chaitya, which served as a prayer hall for the devoted. Upon the death of Buddha, his remains were cremated and distributed amongst eight mounds – and the urn and embers for his cremation were buried in 2 additional mounds. In the 3rd century BCE, the Emperor Ashoka of India – who had converted to Buddhism – had the original stupas containing the remains of Buddha opened for the purpose of redistributing the ashes between thousands of other stupas he had ordered constructed throughout his kingdom. By then, stupas had evolved to include an entrance, fence-like enclosure, square raised area on top, canopy, and circular pathway around the base of the structure. Elaborations on the stupa became more and more common as the practice spread into other areas of Asia – to include the “chorten” of Tibet and the “pagoda” of East Asia.

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The White Dome of Shanti Stupa Can Be Seen For Hundreds of Miles
Photo credit: Will Vousden / Foter.com / CC BY-NC-SA

Construction on the Shanti Stupa began in April of 1983, with the intention of commemorating 2500 years of Buddhism and promoting the ideal of worldwide peace and prosperity. Completion of the monument came through the allied efforts of Ladakhi Buddhists of India and the Japanese  Nipponzan-Myohoji Buddhist Order that has long venerated India as the “sacred” land of Buddha’s life and death. Indira Gandhi, who was the Prime Minister of India at the time, ordered the construction of a road to the location in 1984, which now acts as an avenue for tourists to visit the site. The Indian government provided a great deal of financial assistance for its construction, making it an effort supported by both religious and secular interests. The monument includes a photograph of the present Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso, as well as a golden statue of Buddha that sits on a “turning wheel of Dharma,” reliefs of Buddha in various poses of meditation, and other artistic depictions of the life of the Buddha.

When interviewed concerning the reasons for terrorism, the Dalai Lama has noted distinctive and increasingly dangerous changes that have occurred within his lifetime. In his opinion, terrorism has become increasingly more vengeful in its motivation – involving “a mixture of politics, economics, and religion.” He has also noted the inequality of wealth in the world, which has involved the exploitation of poorer countries by the West – as they are drawn to the available natural resources, including the oil of Arab nations. In the midst of the injustices stemming from these factors, jealousies and hatred have been created and viciously mixed with religious narrow mindedness.  “When combined with lots of anger and frustration,” says the Dalai Lama, this concoction causes “a huge amount of hate.”  As countermeasures to the new face of terrorism now plaguing the world, he points to religious pluralism, tolerance, and open discussion that must pervade the interaction of human beings on our planet. If approached the wrong way, the Dalai Lama cautions that the scourge of terrorism can become an even greater worldwide problem. “While today there is one bin Laden, after a few years there will be ten bin Ladens,” he warns. “And it is possible that after a few more years, there will be 100 bin Ladens.”

Rather than through guns and war, the Dalai Lama insists that the most logical way to tackle future concerns of terrorism is through prevention. In the aftermath of 911, his issued statements to world politicians called for educational programs and the promotion of non-violence. “It is difficult to deal with terrorism through non-violence,” the exiled spiritual leader exclaims, but in the long run he also believes it will be the most effective in preventing the growth of radical violence in the world. You will find more information on Shanti Stupa in the video below, but please take a moment afterward to sign the petition to which this website is dedicated.

You can help promote the establishment of a monument dedicated to all American victims of terrorism, whether they died at home or abroad, by clicking the link above and signing the petition. Nothing is asked but your signature for a good cause.


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Fostering a New Culture for Living: The International Day of Peace

InternationalThe International Day of Peace was first established in 1981 by the 36th session of the United Nations General Assembly, as an effort to promote a “specific time to concentrate the efforts of the United Nations and its member states, as well as of the whole of mankind, to promoting the ideals of peace and to giving positive evidence of their commitment to peace in all viable ways.” Ambassador Emilia Castro de Barish from Costa Rica initiated the original resolution for consideration, but a prominent organization known as Pathways to Peace also played a major role in its passage, through its nascent efforts to promote the Culture of Peace Initiative. Since 1982, it has been observed annually on the 21st of September by numerous countries, political affiliates, military organizations, and cultural groups. Through the guiding efforts of both Costa Rica and Great Britain, a second resolution passed in 2001 called for a global ceasefire and day of non-violence to be held on the day of peace. Traditionally, this yearly commemoration of amity is also considered to be the inauguration day of a new UN General Assembly, which normally meets from September until December.

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Photo credit: pasma / Foter.com / CC BY-NC

Originally postulated as an idea for worldwide peacebuilding toward the end of World War II (1945), Pathways to Peace (PTP) first sponsored and systematized research projects in 1962 and emerged as a worldwide consulting service in 1970. In essence a worldwide educational and peace creating association, it eventually incorporated in 1983 as a non-partisan organization, and assumed its status as a primary consultative service to the United Nations in 1987. Since then, the overall objective of PTP has been to foster communication and cooperation between existing nations and organizations, as a means of lessening tension in specific areas of the world and gradually implanting a developing sense of peace. According to the philosophy advocated by PTP, peace is an evolutionary process that comes gradually through the dynamic nurturing of amity-seeking values, often referred to as a “culture of peace.” The organization works on the local and global level in sponsoring this initiative, often times through collaboration with other organizations. PTP is a regular participant in conferences held at the United Nations, where it addresses the ideals and methodology of peacebuilding.

Springing from the ideals of PTP and its founder, Avon Mattison, the Culture of Peace Initiative came into existence in 1983. Greatly affected by the destruction evident in the aftermath of World War II, Mattison has always espoused the diplomatic ideals of what she has called “wishful thinking,” or the perpetual and repeated redetermination that peace is much more than just ending a war – requiring a whole new frame of reference in acumen. She realized that once you are successful in ending one war, another springs into existence three, five, or ten years later. “We must change the culture itself that started the war. We have to make war obsolete. It must be incomprehensible that we ever tried to solve our problems in this way,” she says. To supplant the cycle of death and destruction that entails war, she envisions a society that repeatedly embraces the ideals of progress and peace. “You can’t end war by being involved in war. You have to transcend that and go to another level and create a culture of peace, based on the idea of, as Albert Schweitzer said it so well, ‘a reverence for life.’” In the early 1960s, Mattison became a member of a group that worked feverishly for the establishment of the day of peace – in the process forging a friendship with Robert Muller, the Assistant Secretary-General of the United Nations who also won the UNESCO Peace Education Prize in 1989. They worked together along with other dedicated individuals until the “idea reached its critical mass,” says Mattison. Pathways to Peace, the International Day of Peace, and the Culture of Peace Initiative are the results of the friendship forged between Muller and Mattison – and their tireless efforts as proponents of world peace, which also include the establishment of the University for Peace in Costa Rica.

The Culture of Peace Initiative (CPI), as established in 1983, is a United Nations sponsored effort to unite the assets of organizations throughout the world that are struggling to bring peace to practical reality. Another intention of CPI is to highlight the behind-the-scenes work of those “unseen and unheard” people that are dedicated to a culture of peace, while also demonstrating what people around the world can do to promote the International Day of Peace one step at a time. In describing and explaining CPI, the website offers the following explanation for making peace a reality in the 21st century:

■ A local-global PeaceBuilding Initiative uniting our strengths along diverse pathways to realize a Culture of Peace for All. CPI highlights inter-generational and inter-cultural PeaceBuilders who are revealing the emerging Culture of Peace.

■ A dynamic global community platform of shared learning, co-creation, inspired action and thoughtful assessment related to the emerging vital force of PeaceBuilding.

 ■ Where the many pathways of human endeavor such as business, education, environment come together to better understand each other and share activities in a way that enables deeper connections and wider systemic awareness.

 ■ Where individuals, businesses, other organizations, and networks can come together to use the PeaceBuilding compass to navigate through these turbulent times. We are at a crossroads that calls out for the best in each one of us, individually and collectively. Our purpose is to enable creativity and collaboration for finding working solutions to the toughest challenges of our times.

Timorese Celebrate International Day of Peace

Timorese Celebrate the Day of Peace
Photo credit: United Nations Photo / Foter.com / CC BY-NC-ND

We live in a world that is too often dominated by a culture of death and annihilation, in which closed-minded ideologies often seem to be on the increase, undermining the ability of one culture to reach out to another in tolerant acceptance of apparent differences. At a time when mass communication has achieved the unprecedented ability to grant instantaneous worldwide contact with billions of people, global challenges and pressures too frequently sabotage social cohesion and the human capacity to reach out in understanding to one another. The Culture of Peace Initiative seeks to foster a deeper sense of the commonalities that bind us together as human beings, while also teaching the obligation to respect the contrasts amongst the diversity of cultures in the world. The mutual understanding that can stem from these efforts would include a lessening of terroristic activity in the world, since a great deal of the motivation for transnational violence comes from the very things CPI hopes to prevent preemptively. This website supports such proactive thinking strongly, but also urges you to sign the petition that you can access by clicking on the link below.

You can help promote the establishment of a monument dedicated to all American victims of terrorism, whether they died at home or abroad, by clicking the link above and signing the petition. Nothing is asked but your signature for a good cause.

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