“We Must Dispel the Darkness of the Times”
An open letter from SGI-USA Orlando Region.
The members of Orlando Region would like to express our profound appreciation to SGI-USA members across the country for your outpouring of support and prayers, as we strive to create value from the senseless tragedy that, on June 12, took 49 innocent lives.
We first learned about the mass shooting that Sunday morning, when we were gathered at the Orlando Buddhist Center for our Soka Spirit chanting session. We immediately began chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo fiercely for everyone’s safety, while reaching out to all the members. One by one, we were able to verify that none of our SGI-USA members had been injured or killed.
At the same time, we fielded phone calls and text messages from members across the country who expressed that they were chanting together with us for the people of our city. We’ll never forget your outpouring of compassion.
Nichiren Daishonin states, “When great evil occurs, great good follows” (“Great Evil and Great Good,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 1119). We determined that the only way to eradicate this evil was to strengthen the forces of good and widely propagate Nichiren Buddhism in our community. We resolved to become an oasis of courage and hope, and fulfill our mission to advance the ideals of Buddhist humanism, which uphold and protect the sanctity of all life.
The next day, we opened the Orlando Buddhist Center for people to chant and connect with one another. In the evening, the youth hosted an introductory Buddhist meeting with 58 members and 10 guests. I’ll never forget the image of one young man standing outside the center playing “Forever Sensei” on his trumpet until everyone was inside.
Reminders of the tragedy were everywhere: the sound of helicopters whirring overhead for days afterward; blocked streets; still, abandoned cars near Pulse, the nightclub where the shootings occurred; and the news of those who lost their lives, the majority of them young people.
Then the stories began to unfold. We learned about a recent guest who had begun chanting only one week earlier. Her daughter was working late Saturday night and planned to go to Pulse afterward. When they spoke by phone earlier that evening, the mother heard how tired her daughter sounded and encouraged her not to go. Later that night, she received a call from her daughter; she had stayed in.
One way or another, every one of us has been touched by this senseless loss of life. One young women’s division member lost a dear friend she had known since high school. Her friend had actually gotten out alive but went back to save another person, and both were killed. One young men’s division member lost five of his friends. Another young man is a friend of one of the first responders, who pulled four people to safety while the gunman was in the bathroom.
That’s precisely why it’s so encouraging to see the local SGI-USA youth so determined and full of hope. Without hesitation, they are passionately sharing Buddhism with others as the deepest cause to create a peaceful society. We can only imagine what good will come from the youth-led introductory meetings they have begun hosting at the Orlando Buddhist Center.
SGI President Ikeda’s lecture series “The Buddhism of the Sun—Illuminating the World” reminds us that we must dispel the darkness of the times with the light of Buddhist humanism. The Orlando members have taken to heart President Ikeda’s June lecture, “The Persecution at Tatsunokuchi,” determined to make Orlando the “Land of Tranquil Light.” As Bodhisattvas of the Earth, we will strive together with our mentor to be the beacon of hope against all forms of violence and hate.
We of Orlando Region have been forever changed by this tragedy. The precious individuals who lost their lives have awakened us to our mission to remove misery and suffering from our community, one person at a time.
With deep appreciation,
On behalf of SGI-USA Orlando Region,
Orlando Region Leader