Friday, September 16, 2011

How a Buddhist Monk Commemorates 9/11

Two weeks after the terrorist attacks, Rudy Giuliani staged a prayer gathering at Yankee Stadium, with Oprah Winfrey as the ecumenical m.c. All the major faiths of New York City (and, therefore, of the world) were represented, except one. Nobody invited a Buddhist.

The president of the city’s Buddhist Council at the time was a Japanese monk named T. K. Nakagaki. He was also the abbot at the New York Buddhist Church, a seventy-three-year-old temple on Riverside Drive. Noting the oversight, Nakagaki persuaded the other members of the council, typically an acquiescent bunch, to raise a ruckus. They sent the Mayor a letter of grievance and began organizing ceremonies of their own—interfaith undertakings that included, but did not rely on the hospitality of, their Abrahamic counterparts. If the Buddhist point of view was to be heard, the Buddhists, against their nature, were going to have to assert it more loudly. This was New York.

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