Buddhist New Member's Meeting Review - We Welcome You To Happiness

As the Chicago territory of the umbrella Buddhism organization, Soka Gakkai International – U.S.A grows, Chicagoans are opting for a more peaceful and positive lifestyle choice.

Front of the SGI - USA, Chicago territory building


     Located at 1455 S. Wabash, in the booming and ultra-trendy South Loop, the Soka Gakkai International Culture Center, SGI-USA abbreviated, holds weekly Tuesday meetings to introduce new comers of what SGI-USA is all about as well as the practices of Nichiren Daishonin's Buddhism and how they can benefit from such an organization. Al Bailey, the central-zone office manager, feels that those who happen to "stumble" across the practice and law are very fortunate and should try it out for curiosity.

Outside of the room where the new member's meetings takes place

     "In Buddhism, the proof is in the pudding. Most religions have two proofs, theoretical and literal or documentation. For example the Bible, the Qur'an, or the Sutra. However, Buddhism has a third and that's actual proof - the most powerful proof, and that is where one will see that Buddhism really works," says Bailey.

     According to the SGI-USA Buddhism In Action booklet, the power falls upon the individual to transform their life and become a source of positive change in their family, local community and the world. Bailey adds to the notion by stating that the responsibility to empower our life and others rests upon the individual as well.

The Buddhist library

     "Religion is like a recycling of cause and effect. Buddhism goes beyond that and helps to empower people. The people determine their life by the causes they make," says Bailey.

     During the weekly introductory meetings, members welcome prospectives with an opening chant of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, the mystic law of the universe according to those who practice the Buddhist philosophy. The chant directly translates to dedication, mystic law, cause and effect and sound or suture. Members move to cite portions of the Lotus Sutura, Buddhist scripture, for about five minutes. As the meeting progresses, long time practicing members share their personal experiences of how they benefited from chanting. Such experiences are referred to as actual proof by members. For instance, MiMi Avery of the South ide has been practicing Buddhism for 21 years and recalled how when she was a struggling professional dancer in Las Vegas, chanting and actively believing in Buddhism led her to a job in Japan, a movie deal, and a gig with Sammy Davis Jr. all within three weeks.

The Buddhist Gohonzon in the new member's meeting room

     "Chanting is a reflection of our own enlightment. It's like a light bulb of enlightment that inspires you to learn more," says Avery.

A woman chanting to the Buddhist Gohonzon in the main auditorium

     Avery continued to state that individual happiness could lead to world peace or happiness for all. Avery's statement parallels the speech given by Darnell Pulphus, the vice, general director of the center. During his talk, Pulphus revealed that Buddhism is about individual happiness and the well being of others. Through one's individual happiness, that person can share their happiness to others, thus focusing on the well being of others. Moreover, Pulphus emphasizes that chanting leads to actual proof because the law of the universe has to prove itself.

The Buddhist altar

     "The real power of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo is best realized through actual proof," says Pulphus.

     The meeting concludes with a Q&A for members to answer questions, explain or clear up any misunderstanding about Buddhism. Alan Ruffin of the South Loop who is new to the philosophy and brought himself to his first meeting took a comparative religion class in college.  He has ever since been curious about the teachings of Buddhism.

Hallway that leads to the new member's meeting

     "I have always been interested in Buddhism. After today, I was impressed with the amazing self-reforming," says Ruffin.
To find out more information about SGI – USA, you can go to http://www.sgi-usa.org/ . To find out more information about the Chicago territory of SGI-USA, you can go to http://www.sgi-usa-chicago.org/






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