New York

Of Buddhists and native Americans and nuclear war:

Thousands are pouring in to New York City in anticipation of a massive antinuclear rally this Saturday.

Already, outside the United Nations, Buddhist monks from Japan, in yellow and orange robes, are beating on drums in a slow mantra for peace; about the city young people with backpacks and bedrolls have increased noticeably, many wearing the antinuclear buttons that show an N slashed out.

A big red stop sign near the United Nations, says "Stop World War Three." This Friday participants in a convocation that will bring together Moslem, Hindu, Shinto, Jew, Catholic, Sikh will carry to the altar for "healing" a bit of their endangered mother, the earth.

Among the oldest of these many visitors--a man, one might say, with a foot in both the 19th and 20th centuries--is Grandfather David, a 100-year-old spiritual leader of the Hopi Nation, from the Village of Oribi, the third Mesa, in Arizona.

Barely five feet in height, nut-brown and wizened, quite blind and somewhat deaf, he wears moccasins with tightly curled toes, to symbolize the peaks of the mountains where the rain clouds form, and a red headband for all the flowers of the earth.

He has trained as a holy man from the age of 6 or 7, though, in the Hopi way, one works the land no matter how holy one's attitude, not becoming too involved in spiritual matters until after the harvest. He speaks almost no English.

Occasionally, because of his great age, which nobody knows for certain, and failing health, he falls asleep in the middle of a talk, sitting on a sheepskin-covered chair.

But when he was awake, through a young translator aged 73, he delivered a speech with some vigor:

He had come to New York, he said in his staccato language, because of an old Hopi prophecy of a small but devastating gourd of ashes. Should this gourd--which the Hopi elders liken to the nuclear bomb--be allowed to fall to the ground, it will burn everything around it.

The Hopi have also heard of a house of Mica on an Eastern land where men will come to solve their problems: the United Nations, they now believe.

They had tried three times to enter the United Nations for credentials, the interpreter said, and been turned away. But three was a sacred number for the Hopi, so they were confident that the fourth time they would not be turned away.

Even if they were, it was their mission to persevere; they had to spread the warning. It had been prophesied.

He dozed off. When he awoke, he said, under questioning by a reporter, that government troops were the terror of his youth as compared with the terror of his old age. He also spoke his only words of English the reporter would hear: "Are they taking my picture now?"

Nobody was, so it seemed the time to go home.

Curiously, however, when the Buddhists were questioned the next morning outside the United Nations, they told of a prohecy much like that of Grandfather David.

They were monks of the Nipponian Myohoji, a translator said, and had been marching for peace for decades, against the atom bomb in particular for the past two years. They had begun in Japan and traveled in 58 countries, and the March on Saturday would be their last stop.

They were joined in their demonstration by many sorts of people: Canadian college students, brown-robed Capuchin Friars from East Harlem, Japanese businessmen in business suits.

The monks in the front lines of the demonstration held long vertical purple banners with red suns, and most of the participants held a drum, somewhat like a tambourine, on which was written a prayer.

Lord Buddha, according to a translator, handed down the prayer more than 2,000 years ago. It said that in the era of the decay of the law, humanity would face the threat of great fire but that Buddha would leave a very powerful medicine to reduce the threat and make the world safe and filled with heavenly people.

The medicine, the translator said smiling, was prayer.

They had wanted to have their prayer in the U.N. Chapel, but they encountered a problem similar to that of the Hopi--the United Nations was closed to the public. They would, therefore, pray in the street. No problem. They had been marching, after all, for years.