Last year, my sister, who is a practicing member of ‘Soka Gakkai International’ (SGI) since 2006, was finally able to sakabuku (recruit) me. I like to believe she was finally able to convince me to join this practice. For those of you, who do not know my sister, we are polar opposites of each other and have very different tastes and preferences. My parents say ‘ek purab to doosra paschim’ (One is north then the other is south). I think we are different yet alike, and both of us being members of SGI proves my point on similarities
SGI is based on the teachings and philosophy of Nichiren Buddhism, a 13 century monk from Japan, which places the highest emphasis on the sanctity of life. Members seek, through their practice of Buddhism, to develop the ability to live with confidence, to create value in any circumstance and to contribute to the well-being of friends, family and community.
Even though I started practice back home in Hyderabad, I feel I got closer to this practice in Beaverton. The members here make me feel like I am home away from home; my practice I would say has become stronger here. What I like about Nichiren Buddhism is not a religion and no one forces anything on to you; it is rather a way of living. We are encouraged question anything and everything. Unless we are convinced, we should not follow. However at the same time this practice encourages us to be open to understanding, dialogue and discussion.
The philosophy of this practice is rooted in the concept of “human revolution,” a process of inner transformation through Buddhist practice. It is a process that leads us to develop our character and to act not only for our personal fulfillment but also for the betterment of society.
We believe that happiness is being able to experience profound joy that comes from never being defeated by any problem in life. In fact, we use life’s challenges as catalysts to deepen and expand our inner lives. True happiness results from our efforts to manifest our highest potential—wisdom, compassion, courage and vitality.
Apart from doing Gongyo (Chanting) regularly or at least strive towards making this a routine of my daily life; I attend discussion meeting on various teachings for the founding presidents of SGI International, on excerpts from lotus sutra, the recorded teachings of the historical Buddha Shakyamuni, who lived some 2,500 years ago. (Born as prince Gautama Siddhartha, he abandoned his sheltered, princely life and sought instead to understand the inescapable sufferings of every human being—birth, aging, sickness and death—and the means by which these sufferings could be overcome).
Back to my current stay in Beaverton: I am a part of the youth division members (Members out of Middle school till age of 25 years) and will be participating in the Seattle ‘Seafair’ Parade this weekend. As Sensi (Teacher or mentor) Ikeda says, you need to strive for your own success. I have been going for practice every weekend, either in Seattle or at the practice session here in Beaverton or Lake Oswego. I am taking part in a dance routine in the parade (I know you must be wondering how a person with two left feet, signs up for dance!). Dancing and practice sessions are hard work. I am learning, straining myself (realizing I no longer have the stamina I once used to have when I was into sports earlier) and enjoying meeting people and learning from their experiences. Even though after the long grueling practice sessions I just want to lie on a bed and pass out.(This is serious business man!! I am not kidding) I enjoy myself.
I have never seen so much of coordination and planning among groups. Don’t get me wrong I have been a part of planning teams for large scale programs earlier but this kind of efficiency- I have a lot to learn! Everything is well thought of (even though I hear, this year teams are not as geared up as previous years I can only imagine what they mean by that, I think the planning team is on top of everything), when we had to drive to Seattle for a combined practice with the teams from all over Washington and Oregon State- We need to message our car numbers to the coordinating team in Seattle after crossing certain check points which are generally 3 check point. (The same routine is also followed back to Portland and Beaverton) The food and stay everything is arranged in Seattle if requested for to the program management committee. We even get packed meals for the drive back. We have separate teams for logistics with walkie talkies- coordinating form water, medicines, food to parking’s and sunscreen lotions. We have a costumes team, designing costumes, taking care of dress and flags and stuff. Then the BSG team, consisting of Soka members and Byakuren (Soka- Males, Byukuren- Female members of behind the scene team or BSG) , the SGI- CIA or FBI team as I like to call them, with their earpieces glued to their ears for coordinating the crisis and other stuff. It is amusing yet fascinating to see them.
Everyone takes their responsibility seriously and keeps you on your toes. It feels good to be a part of the team learning from each other. The scorching sun (90 degrees Fahrenheit) during the 4-5 hours out door practice doesn’t seem to bother anyone. We have teams to get the participants (of band, dance and flags) water, sunscreen, medicine etc. It looks like a well- organized high scale event (reminds me of some movies where CIA or FBI are coordinating every move for a president during a state event) and this is JUST THE PRACTICE SESSIONS. I don’t even know what will happen on the actual parade day this weekend. I can’t wait!!
 Source: http://www.sgi-usa.org/aboutsgi/about/aboutsgi.php