LINCOLN CENTER — A maze of thousands of white paper lanterns holding colored LED lights will float atop the reflecting pool at Lincoln Center as symbol of peace while carrying messages from thousands of New Yorkers and other visitors this Sunday.
Traditionally, Buddhists float lanterns to mark a person's death, with fire symbolizing "awakening" and water symbolizing "compassion," said Rev. Qalvy Grainzvolt, a Shinnyo-en leader who is helping organize the event.
The broader theme of this ceremony is "peace," and organizers will encourage participants to write the name of someone who has inspired peace, or a message or prayer for peace, on one of the 4,000 lanterns on hand.
The vastness of the theme is exactly the point, Grainzvolt explained.
"When people start to write their messages and float them… you may see what they write and you may see that they wish for peace in the Middle East, for their neighborhood, for their families," he said.
"I believe that there will be people coming from all walks of life," Grainzvolt noted. "The violence that’s happening in the world is very much in their minds."
Organizers are hoping the combined effect of all the lanterns intermingling in the water is also a reminder of the beauty people can create together.
"It’s magical. It’s something ethereal," said Grainzvolt, who has attended similar ceremonies in Hawaii in the past.
This is the second time the ceremony has been hosted in New York City. Last year's also took place on International Day of Peace, but happened in Central Park.
Shinnyo-en leaders are expecting an open flow of people who both made plans to attend and just stumbled upon the experience.
During the lantern floating — which takes place between 1 p.m. and 5 p.m., and again in an evening ceremony at 7 p.m. — a wide array of musicians and dancers from the Brooklyn Youth Chorus to a Shinnyo drumming circle will perform.