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  Andover Townsman: Monks stop at Raytheon

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By Andrea Gregory

  ©Andover Townsman, March 11, 2004
Tow-bee Keyes and Gyoway Kato, chant and drum outside Old Town Hall on Monday, after a continuing prayer walk that took them to Raytheon on Route 133.

Brother Gyoway Kato said the snow didn't bother him as he walked through Andover on Monday. Wear- ing a yellow rain poncho and holding a Japanese drum in the shape of a ten- nis racket, Kato said long walks are a form of prayer for Buddhist monks from his temple, Nipponzan Myohoji Peace Pagoda.

"It's not hard. Your mind becomes very free and you don't have to think about too much," said Kato.

Even with Monday's snow, he said most of the time the weather was "com- fortable." It was only when the walking stopped and the snow fell upon him and his fellow travelers that spring began to feel further than a week and a half away.

Kato is taking part in the third annual "Walk for a New Spring." Monks, nuns and lay people take a three- week-long walk. They leave during winter temperatures, walking until a new season arrives, with their final des- ination being the City Hall Plaza in Boston on Friday, March 19.

There is a political agenda tied into their journey. They hand out flyers that read "Toward a Nonviolent Future!!" and express con- cern about Boston Univer- sity's plan to build a bio-terror lab on Massachusetts soil. They stop in at places such Andovar's Raytheon plant - where missiles are made under government contracts - and join with protesters who are calling for world piece. They will talk about flaws they see in the Bush administration and the war in Iraq. But mostly, their journey is a quiet one, set to the beat of handheld drums and the chanting of soft voices.

Andover was just a stop on the tour. The journey began in Pittsfield. The group walks 15 to 20 miles per day, visiting about 70 towns and cities in total.

The monks spent part of the afternoon in front of Raytheon's driveway. By nightfall they stood in front of Old Town Hall accompa- nying local protesters from the Merrimack Valley Peo- ple for Peace.

With large wooden sticks, the monks softly beat on their small drums covered with plastic bags to protect them from the snow and rain. Their voices chanted "Na Mu Myo Ho Ren Ge Kyo." Their eyes stared straight ahead as the evening traffic of Main Street began to die down.

"These vigils are happening in many towns throughout the country," said Brother Tow-bee Keyes.
"Why are we walking? Walking is a practice of an order. Walking is a prayer, a prayer for peace. We're going from this winter of suffering and violence to a spring of awakening," said Keyes.

Keyes and Kato have taken other long walks and seen a good deal of the state and the world traveling by foot. Kato said he once took part in a 13-month walk. The monks say the first Walk fbr a New Spring was in response to the Sept. 11 attacks.
"It started after 9/11. People were very afraid, afraid of what they saw happening," said Keyes. "People bear witness to what is wrong with our country. Many people love this country and want it to stand for what they can be proud of."

The monks say the com- munities they pass through embrace them and have begun to expect them. They say local residents often open their homes as do dif- ferent churches and tem- ples. Keyes said they come prepared with sleeping bags.

Keyes said people are welcome and encouraged to walk with them.

"The walking is a prayer, and it's simple. Anyone can just come and participate with a few steps or a few miles or a few days." said Keyes. For information on participating in the Walk for a New Spring call 617-441- 7756.



Merrimack Valley People for Peace meets monthly, on the fourth Tuesday,
at 7:30 pm,
at North Parish Church, North Andover.

Contact Merrimack Valley People for Peace       (978) 685-1389
            P.O. Box 573
            North Andover, MA 01845

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