Photo: Eric Wells.

Photo: Eric Wells.

SGI-USA members celebrate the opening of the New England Buddhist Center.

by Anne Hudson and Eric Lockwood
SPECIAL TO THE TRIBUNE

BROOKLINE, Mass., Oct. 5—On the heels of SGI World Peace Day, 250 leaders throughout North Zone celebrated the soft opening of the SGI-USA New England Buddhist Center. Attending the ceremony on behalf of SGI President Ikeda were SGI Vice President Yoshiki Tanigawa and Soka Gakkai Vice President Kyoichi Rikitake.

President Ikeda sent a congratulatory message expressing how overjoyed he was for the opening of “this center of peace and culture.” The new facility, located in the Boston suburb of Brookline, Massachusetts, is slated to officially open by year’s end.

The building buzzed with excitement as members got their first glimpses of the new center located less than a mile from where President Ikeda stayed when he visited Boston and lectured at Harvard University in 1991 and 1993.

“Can you believe we finally have our own castle for kosen-rufu?!” declared North Zone Leader Steve Saperstein in opening remarks. After introducing the honored guests from Japan, Mr. Saperstein evoked cherished memories with a slide show of past SGI-USA centers in New England: from the homes of Japanese pioneer members and a former warehouse to Swedish dance hall and a former union workers’ hall/wrestling arena.

He recalled Sept. 27, 1991, when President Ikeda came to the Harcourt Street center in Boston and quipped that the clock on the back wall was huge for such a small center. He then encouraged the members to develop the kind of fortune to have a big community center.

“So I think we made it!” Mr. Saperstein said to cheers and applause. “Today, let’s determine to reply to our mentor and fill this beautiful castle with thousands and thousands and thousands of Bodhisattvas of the Earth who are waiting to hear about the SGI.”

North Zone Women’s Leader Margaret Cain then called on the members to achieve victory in the 4 Pillars of Kosen-rufu—discussion meetings, shakubuku, study and personal guidance—as a means of expressing their appreciation for the good fortune reflected in their new center.

In his address on the launch of this new chapter of kosen-rufu in New England, SGI Vice President Tanigawa shared the impact of the mentor-disciple relationship on his own life and his efforts to introduce Nichiren Buddhism to others in Tokyo during his time as a Soka Gakkai youth leader.

Based on personal encouragement Mr. Tanigawa received from President Ikeda in 1982, he confidently conveyed that devoting one’s life to kosen-rufu, supporting SGI activities and patiently encouraging one person after another may seem like the long way around to life’s fulfillment, but in fact it is the most direct path.

He also described his own concerted efforts to expand the organization’s membership in his role as a young men’s leader in Tokyo’s Taito Ward. He faced a series of obstacles when first appointed but was determined to achieve a resounding victory by uniting with the young men to introduce as many individuals as possible to the life-affirming practice of Nichiren Buddhism. “Once we made a crack in the wall, the wall came down. There was one youth who joined and then introduced 16 friends to the practice, all of whom received the Gohonzon.”

This momentum eventually led to Taito Ward introducing the most people to the practice in the nation, a first for their organization. When President Ikeda learned of their victory, he requested that the members be featured on the front page of the Seikyo Shimbun, the Soka Gakkai’s daily newspaper. This victory created a prime point of mentor and disciple for the members of Taito.

His experience served as a clarion call to view the opening of their new center as a profound opportunity to redouble efforts to share Nichiren Buddhism with others in the spirit of enduring compassion. Placing the center’s opening in historical perspective, Mr. Tanigawa cited President Ikeda’s 1993 guidance about New England as the birthplace of the American Renaissance, in which he conveyed his wish that the members produce waves of a new American Renaissance of the 21st century from New England that would reach “the rest of the United States and the entire world” (My Dear Friends in America, third edition, p. 350).

Echoing that sentiment, Mr. Tanigawa stressed the significant time in which the center has opened—a time of great expansion of kosen-rufu in the United States. “I’d like to propose that you use the great expansion movement to create a crack in the wall, if you will, to bring down that wall, so that a new movement for kosen-rufu in the United States can begin from right here in New England.”

To reach the SGI-USA New England Buddhist Center:
303 Boylston Street Brookline, MA 02445

For more details, call the Boston Center: 617-264-2000