High School Service Learning Day ~ Peace PagodaA bright and chilly January morning saw a group of seven students travel to the Peace Pagoda in Leverett, where a small order of monks depends on the generosity of their neighbors in order to devote their lives to peace and prayer. Just days before, we had heard the story of one of the monks who came to the Peace Pagoda after completing “The Walk of the Middle Passage,” a journey from Leverett through former plantations in Jamestown, Virginia, to New Orleans, to the Caribbean, and then from West Africa on to Cape Town.

Shoulders hunched against the cold, and mumbling about cold toes, the students trudged up the icy driveway until the bright, white stupa that is the New England Peace Pagoda came into view. Brother Toby met us, and gave us a tour of the stupa, which features four carvings depicting the Buddha at different stages in his life. Then he took us into the temple, where he lit incense, struck a large bell to begin prayer, and beat an enormous drum while chanting Na Ma Myo Ho Ren Ge Kya, the drumbeats carrying the prayer out into the world. Students remarked on the power of this moment, on feeling the drum reverberate in their chests.

Students spent the next two hours stacking firewood, a task Brother Toby said would have taken him days to complete. Much of the wood had to be chipped and hacked out of the frozen ground. Students commented on the satisfaction of seeing the piles of wood shrink as the stacks grew straight and tall. After the work was complete, they were glad to go inside to thaw their fingers and toes and enjoy a snack of popcorn and hot chocolate, which the monks shared from their stash of donated groceries, a small reminder that generosity begets generosity.

High School Service Learning Day ~ Peace Pagoda

Cherrie Latuner