Feature

Happy Birthday, FNCC!

The Florida Nature and Culture Center celebrates 20 years.

Since it's opening 20 years ago, the SGI-USA Florida Nature and Culture Center has welcomed thousands of SGI-USA members from across the nation, who come to refresh their Buddhist practice and deepen their understanding of the oneness of mentor and disciple. Photos by Roxy Azuaje and Mary D'Elia


On June 19, 1996, SGI President Ikeda arrived at the Florida Nature and Culture Center, his treasured gift to the members of the SGI-USA nestled on 125 acres of restored wetlands in Weston, Florida.

Four days later, on June 23, he led the 21st SGI General Meeting at FNCC’s Friendship Auditorium, where 1,500 SGI representatives from 52 countries gathered. There, President Ikeda delivered his touchstone guidance on the “six conditions for happiness” and also cited words by second Soka Gakkai President Josei Toda: “Becoming happy yourself is no great challenge; it’s quite simple. Working for the happiness of others in addition to your own happiness, however, is the foundation of faith” (My Dear Friends in America, third edition, p. 474).

Photo: Roxy Azuli and Mary D'Ella

Commemorating the FNCC’s 20th anniversary, Florida Zone members held a three-day celebration, which began with 195 unit through zone leaders attending a leadership conference June 24–26 themed “Expansion With the Heart of the Mentor.” Participants traveled from as far away as Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands to learn about such topics as the oneness of mentor and disciple, the Year of Expansion, America of Capable People,[1]“America of Capable People” is from SGI President Ikeda’s “Four Mottoes for the New Departure of American Kosen-rufu” (see Oct. 2, 2015, World Tribune for more details). as well as to study President Ikeda’s 1996 guidance on the “six conditions for happiness.”

On the afternoon of June 26, the festivities culminated in a general meeting with over 1,100 members and guests enjoying Ikeda Youth Ensemble performances, encouragement from territory leaders and a moving faith experience on the dignity of human life by the U.S. Virgin Islands Chapter young men’s leader (see My Great Battle).

In a video message to the three-day event, SGI-USA General Director Adin Strauss reminded the members that the gathering not only served as a celebration of the FNCC’s 20th anniversary, but also as a response to the deaths in Orlando’s recent and devastating mass shooting. “The only way to eradicate the forces of evil is to increase the forces of good,” he said.

And in response, 12 new Bodhisattvas of the Earth received the Gohonzon during Sunday’s general meeting, including a men’s division guest who had been an FNCC driver for 10 years, as well as two youth who participated in the Ikeda Youth Ensemble performances.

New Bodhisattvas of the Earth receive the Gohonzon during the general meeting.
New Bodhisattvas of the Earth receive the Gohonzon during the general meeting.

Two decades later, President Ikeda’s spirit to encourage the members lives on at the FNCC. “I just want to share that, for the first time in my life, I am living fully, I am expressing myself fully, I am feeling each moment of joy and victory fully,” said participant Parul Sharma, the Tallahassee District young women’s leader, of North Florida Region.

She said of the weekend’s festivities: “I cried, I laughed and I chanted from every cell of my being.”

sgi_36776493124 World Tribune & LB

 

(pp. 6–7)

Notes   [ + ]

1. “America of Capable People” is from SGI President Ikeda’s “Four Mottoes for the New Departure of American Kosen-rufu” (see Oct. 2, 2015, World Tribune for more details).