Cherishing Life Above All
An open letter from SGI-USA Virginia Region in response to the events in Charlottesville.
As each group seeks its separate
roots and origins,
society fractures along a thousand
When neighbors distance themselves
from neighbors, continue your
for your truer roots
in the deepest regions of your life.
Seek out the primordial “roots” of
Then you will without fail discover
the stately expanse of Jiyu
unfolding in the depths of your life.
—SGI President Ikeda, from “The Sun of Jiyu Over a New Land,” My Dear Friends in America, third edition, p. 208
To our fellow SGI-USA members across the nation,
On behalf of Virginia Region, thank you very much for your sincere prayers for the community of Charlottesville, Virginia, in the wake of the senseless violence and hatred that erupted on Aug. 12.
That morning, members poured into various SGI-USA centers throughout our region to study together SGI President Ikeda’s series “The Buddhism of the Sun Illuminating the World.” In Charlottesville, where no Buddhist center yet exists, members joined the joint lecture via video broadcast from a member’s home.
The lecturer noted that while we were meeting to study how to accomplish peace based on respect for the dignity of every human being, forces promoting hatred and division were rallying in the South. The leader declared that the teachings of SGI Nichiren Buddhism were the absolute antidote to this way of thinking. What pride we could take in being part of Sensei’s humanistic movement for kosen-rufu!
None of us knew at that time the level of violence that would unfold in the beautiful city nestled in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains— home to Monticello and the University of Virginia, which together were named a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Returning from activities later that day, we turned on our televisions and, along with the rest of the nation, were shocked, horrified and revolted by what we saw. We immediately started calling
the members in Charlottesville to check on their well-being.
Fortunately, none of them were physically injured. One member who lived near the scene was away that weekend, while a visiting SGI-USA youth found herself in lodgings near the scene. She was able to leave the area and get home safely that night, relieved but deeply affected by what had happened.
Amid the 24/7 news coverage of these events and their implications for America, members across Virginia plunged into reflection, prayer and dialogue on the meaning of these events right here on our home ground. Some individuals initially felt like disengaging entirely from what was going on around them—viewing the problem as simply being foisted on them by evil outside influences. Blue Ridge Chapter Women’s Leader Tamyra Turner reported that the chapter team had resolved to intensify their one-to-one encouragement of the members—to study and chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo with them—so that they could awaken to their mission as Bodhisattvas of the Earth and courageously share Buddhist humanism with others.
Tamyra also shared that Montpelier District in Charlottesville has a family— a mother and her teenage son—receiving the Gohonzon in a few days at the district discussion meeting. She sees this conferral as a refutation of the kind of hatred proliferating in the community; by embracing the Gohonzon, this family is taking a stand to awaken profound respect not only for their own limitless potential but for all other living beings as well.
Virginia Region revved up our efforts to share Buddhism widely during the significant month of August, the 70th anniversary of Sensei taking faith. These gatherings were being led by our unbelievably spirited and determined youth. Between Aug. 12 and 17, the time of this letter, we had already helped seven people receive the Gohonzon, six of them being youth. Such united efforts have brought renewed joy and energy to our members, families and friends. What just occurred in Charlottesville gives those efforts even stronger meaning and greater urgency. We would like to conclude with a joint determination:
In our deeply divided state that has witnessed much bloodshed throughout America’s history, we of SGI-USA Virginia Region are determined to uproot the evil that lurks within the human heart that drives people to separate from one another and blinds them to what we all share as human beings. We will achieve this through earnest prayer, study and action. We are resolved to do our human revolution and courageously engage in dialogue that inspires ourselves and others with profound respect for the sanctity of life. The members of Virginia Region are determined to imbue every interaction we have with others in our family, on our jobs, at school and in the community with firm belief in the limitless potential that they each possess! We will create a new history for America in which life itself is cherished above all.
With deep respect and appreciation,