A New Beginning

The New Jersey Buddhist Center opens.

Fresh start—Members celebrate the grand opening of the SGI-USA center in Teaneck, New Jersey, Aug. 7. Highlights of the day’s event included a ribbon-cutting ceremony, Brass Band and Fife and Drum Corps performance, and new members who joined the SGI-USA. Photo: Kevin Lyden.

by Carolyn Somerville

TEANECK, N.J., Aug. 7—During his first trip to the United States in 1960, SGI President Ikeda attended a discussion meeting in New Jersey on Oct. 14. At that gathering, he encouraged the handful of SGI-USA pioneers, many of whom were war brides feeling isolated in a foreign country. “This Buddhism has the power to transform your suffering into happiness, to change the tears you have shed into glittering jewels of good fortune,” he told them. “Those who have wept the most bitterly have the right to become the happiest people of all” (The New Human Revolution, vol. 1, p. 188).

On Aug. 7, 2016, over 1,000 members celebrated the official opening of the SGI-USA Buddhist center in downtown Teaneck, New Jersey, continuing to uphold their mentor’s encouragement from 56 years ago and advancing kosen-rufu throughout the Garden State.

The new center, which accommodates the growing membership, was a relocation from its East Orange, New Jersey, facility. The other local SGI-USA center in Cherry Hill will remain open to the members.

Photo: Meghna Damani.
Photo: Meghna Damani.

To reach the
New Jersey,
Buddhist Center

719 American Legion Drive
Teaneck, NJ 07666

At the grand opening, a ribbon-cutting ceremony was held followed by three joyous meetings throughout the day. The New Jersey Fife and Drum Corps and Brass Band performed a rousing rendition of “Crimson Dawn of Peace.” President Ikeda’s message crystallized the members’ determinations for kosen-rufu, as expressed by New Jersey Zone Leader Michael Petkov in opening remarks: “Through this new beginning in New Jersey, we will create a foundation for all and a launching pad for thousands of youthful successors who will continually seek out their mentor, manifest their full potential and rid the world of suffering.”

Photo: Meghna Damani.
Photo: Meghna Damani.

The newly appointed New Jersey Zone women’s and men’s Leaders, Sanjukta Baruah and John Franlkin, were also announced. At each opening ceremony, powerful experiences in faith were given by youth, including Mariel Festa’s (see Hope Is a Decision).

In his closing remarks, SGI-USA General Director Adin Strauss spoke of the challenges facing the country and the world. With regard to the recent acts of unspeakable violence both within the U.S. and elsewhere, Mr. Strauss reminded the crowd that the choice is not between withdrawal from the world or blaming the abstract “other,” but to live the Buddhist vow (as recited daily in gongyo): “At all times I think to myself: How can I cause living beings to gain entry into the unsurpassed way and quickly acquire the body of a Buddha?” (The Lotus Sutra and Its Opening and Closing Sutras, p. 273).

Reflecting on President Ikeda’s 2002 Peace Proposal and his concept of “global citizenship,” General Director Strauss called on the New Jersey members to become global citizens by carrying out their inner transformation and then dialogue with others in order to experience true joy.

Photo: Meghna Damani.
Photo: Meghna Damani.

The highlight of the day included the 18 new members who joined the SGI-USA, and the introductory meetings held immediately after each opening ceremony for the many guests who attended.

Kaila Esteves, a young women’s division member who played in the Fife and Drum Corps, said she loves the new center, seeing it as “a new beginning for members to fight even harder for kosen-rufu.”


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