New Yorkers Set Thousands of Lanterns Afloat in Collective Quest for Peace

September 21, 2015
New York, NY

Shinnyo-en, the international Buddhist community, welcomed New Yorkers and visitors from around the world, to set thousands of paper lanterns afloat on the Paul Milstein Pool at Hearst Plaza, Lincoln Center, in its third celebration of “The Shinnyo Lantern Floating for Peace.” Taking place one day before the International Day of Peace and the opening of the U.N. General Assembly, the occasion brought together prominent civic, interfaith and business leaders, along with New Yorkers of all ages, to inspire a collective quest for peace through lantern floating, live music and cultural performances at one of the most iconic settings in the city. More than 11,000 people attended the Shinnyo Lantern Floating for Peace throughout the day to share their messages for peace.

The Shinnyo Lantern Floating for Peace is based on a traditional Buddhist ceremony and has been adapted by Her Holiness Shinso Ito, Head Priest of Shinnyo-en, and one of the highest-ranking woman Buddhist leaders in the world, to inspire a spirit of harmony and compassion that transcends all boundaries of age, gender, nationality, ethnicity, and religious tradition – and empower people to create a stronger force for peace in our families, our communities, and globally.

“We see before us beautifully-lit lanterns in all the colors of the rainbow,” said Her Holiness, during her Evening Lantern Floating Ceremony remarks. “Thank you for opening your heart and sharing with all of us. According to Buddhist custom, we dedicate our lanterns to our loved ones who have passed on. This tradition links us to the past, but also empowers us to express our thoughts, hopes, and resolve for the future.”

She added, “Each of our lanterns tonight is a beacon of peace—and a symbol of our resolve. As we float the lanterns, we express our ardent intention to push forward, carrying into the future an impassioned commitment to the peace and well-being of others. See how the individual lights of the lanterns shine on one another.”

Shinnyo-en is dedicated to helping people from all backgrounds and faiths realize greater self-awareness, happiness, and harmony for the good of humanity. For many years the organization wished to create the lantern floating experience in New York City during the month of September to galvanize the international, interfaith and multicultural communities and reinforce the message that each individual has the potential to promote peace in their everyday lives. Shinnyo-en has conducted contemporary Shinnyo Lantern Floating ceremonies around the world, in settings as diverse as Honolulu, Berlin, Paris, Taipei and Tokyo.

At dusk, Her Holiness led the Evening Lantern Floating Ceremony, which included a traditional Buddhist ceremony coupled with innovation, an expression of enhancing and empowering each of our unique abilities for positive transformation. Buddhist mantras were followed by music and dance performances by local New York City artists. Among the renowned artists who performed during the ceremony included a duet with Misty Copeland, principal dancer at American Ballet Theatre (ABT), and Clifford Williams, to “Ave Maria.” Copeland, who was named one of the 100 most influential people in the world by TIME magazine, became the first African-American woman to be promoted to principal dancer in ABT's 75-year history. In addition, there were other performances representing the diversity and energy of the New York arts scene, including buskers from around the city; Decadancetheatre, the all-female hip-hop dance group; Decoda Music; and Bolo Bolo Blauweh, the Djembe African Drumming group, among others.

Her Holiness also bestowed special recognition of individuals whose work exemplifies the message of the Shinnyo Lantern Floating for Peace. Among the special guests who were honored this year for their commitment to peacemaking efforts included Terry Lundgren, CEO of Macy’s. Lundgren was recognized for Macy’s decade-long Rwanda Path to Peace Project, which brings Hutu and Tutsi women together, representing both sides of a deadly genocide, to weave baskets that are sold in Macy’s retail outlets around the country.

“From my first visit to Rwanda, my life and my heart have been changed by the weavers I’ve met, by what they have endured, and by all they have taught us about courage, forgiveness and grace,” said Lundgren. “At tonight’s Shinnyo Lantern Floating for Peace, Macy’s dedicates our lantern to the hope that all of humankind will soon embrace the tolerance, peace and love demonstrated by our incredible friends and partners, the weavers of Rwanda.”

Rick Guidotti, Founder of Positive Exposure, a nonprofit organization that works to transform public perception about individuals living with genetic differences, and Nora Fyles, the Head of the United Nations Girls’ Education Initiative (UNGEI) Secretariat, were also honored.

Her Holiness herself is renowned as a female Buddhist master and for her pioneering approach to making ancient teachings and trainings relevant and accessible to lay audiences so that any individual, regardless of faith or background, can cultivate his or her true self and act with wisdom and compassion in their everyday lives. Her Holiness is one of the few women to be granted the title of Daisojo, the highest priestly rank in Japanese Buddhism. She is also the first woman ever to have officiated at a Buddhist ceremony at the Daigoji Monastery in Japan which has the history of over 1,100 years.

At the end of the ceremony, Her Holiness set afloat a lantern onto the Paul Milstein Pool, inscribed with the message, “Be a Light for Peace.” She was joined by others in attendance in illuminating Hearst Plaza, Lincoln Center, in one of the most uniquely captivating visual experiences in New York City.