Who Are the Buddhist Monks Walking and Drumming Around Town?

By Connie Mears

Cars slow down whenever Senji Kanaeda walks down Madison Avenue. Wearing a vibrant saffron robe, he bangs lightly on a small hand drum, chanting in a smooth tenor. “Na-mu-myo-ho-ren-ge-kyo.” He repeats the mantra, which expresses devotion to the mystery of life. As a Buddhist monk, Kanaeda walks for peace wherever he goes—whether in his native Japan, which he recently visited; at home on Bainbridge; or on the various Peace Walks he participates in with fellow monk Brother Gilberto Perez (both are pictured below).

The two form Nipponzan Myohoji Dojo on the island’s south end, which follows the Mahayana vein of Buddhism, focusing their attention outward toward the world rather than inward in meditation. If you see Kanaeda on the road, feel free to wave or even join his walk for peace. “Crying and worrying doesn’t help,” Perez said. “So we pray. And we walk.”