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Diversity Experience with Soka Gakkai International – USA

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            Soka Gakkai International (SGI-USA) is an American Buddhist association that promotes world peace and individual happiness based on the teachings of the Nichiren school of Mahayana Buddhism (SGI-USA, n.d.). Actually, I was invited by a friend to be an observer in one of their prayer sessions at the National Headquarters in Santa Monica, California. Buddhism interests me much because of its rich history and this religious affiliation does have many followers. My friend informed me that the applying Buddhism involves three basic components including faith, practice and study.

            On that fateful day, I was quite nervous but excited to attend such Buddhist ceremony. When I got there, there were about thirty of us since it was not really a huge gathering like the other special days or occasions perhaps. It felt quite awkward because I did not exactly belong there but the feeling of being an “outsider” made it interesting. The feeling of being “alone” gave me the shivers. We waited for the Buddhist leader to arrive. It took him about 30 minutes before the prayers began.

            I noticed that the members came from different races, ethnicity and social backgrounds. There were whites, blacks, Chinese-looking men and women. Some brought along their children. It was quite amazing to not how people who come from diverse cultures could unite as one through a Buddhist order. I wondered what made them convert and started professing Buddhism above other religious beliefs.

            During the prayers, the leader lighted somewhat a candle but not quite and smoke began to spread all over the room. The believers then began chanting some lines. It sounded like “Ramyoho Rengekyo..” They repeated the line about hundred times while stopping from time to time. The officiating leader read some verses from a book. I did not understand a thing he said

but I assumed it would probably be something on becoming a good follower of Buddha and growing to be a better person. I think. Generally, all religions have common teachings about God and what humans should do to be forgiven for their trespasses in order to enter the Kingdom of Heaven.

            The religious rites lasted for about an hour. The participants were concentrating and imbued holiness in them. I observed that the chants were done to make positive forces go near them and draw away the evil spirits. My friend did not come with me but told me later that the chants will give the Believer more blessings, good health and fortune. It sounded unique but if one really has faith in something, I guess it would be all worth it.

            After the religious gathering, I felt ecstatic as if I was in seventh heaven. I was happy to know a new religious order which is one of its kinds for me. The event somehow made me a better person because I learned to appreciate the religious orders of other people in our community. I realized that after all, all religions are the same. We believe in a Supreme Being and everything that is being taught to us is for our own good.

            In conclusion, to fully appreciate cultural and religious diversity, we need to respect, trust and accept one another. This is what is making the world “crazy” at the moment. No one gives in and people are trying to dominate one another which should not be the case. We only need to understand and observe our differences and learn from our diversities because our being not similar turns out to be the greatest thing in this world. Some may refuse to see it but it is there.


Soka Gakkai International-USA. (n.d.) Retrieved December 3, 2007, from http://www.sgi-usa.org/

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