Houston’s “Castle of Happiness” Opens
by David Barol and Paul Sanford
SPECIAL TO THE TRIBUNE
HOUSTON, June 3—When Hurricane Harvey devastated Houston last August, SGI President Ikeda sent several messages to the members in which he expressed his heartfelt sympathy and concern, as well as his encouragement to change poison into medicine. Less than a year later, more than 400 bodhisattvas from Houston and surrounding areas did just that by gathering on June 3 at their new SGI-USA Houston Buddhist Center for two grand openings.
Honored guests from the community included U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee; Executive Director of the Center for the Healing of Racism Cherry Steinwender; and Harris County Sheriff’s Office Executive Director of Community Relations Jacqueline Fortune.
The 8,000-square foot facility is over twice the size of the previous center and consists of four Gohonzon rooms.
After ribbon-cutting ceremonies led by SGI-USA General Director Adin Strauss, the members gathered for gongyo in the Main Gohonzon Room. Following gongyo, they were overjoyed to learn that President Ikeda had sent a message. He reminded the members to advance based on the “unity of many in body, one in mind” and called on them to “build a castle of capable people, a castle of happiness and a castle of victory that is foremost in the entire world.”
To reach the new SGI-USA Houston Buddhist Center: 8726 Richmond Ave., (713) 622-6181
U.S. Rep. Lee, who represents the 18th Congressional District of Texas comprising central Houston, unveiled a congressional proclamation to the SGI-USA. It reads in part: “I am honored to join family, friends and colleagues in paying tribute to SGI-USA as they celebrate this wonderful occasion. Your commitment and dedication to bettering the community is most deserving of the respect, admiration and commendation of the United States Congress.”
In keeping with the spirit of a fresh momentum for Houston, the celebration also included four youth who received the Gohonzon and a sneak peek of what is to come on Sept. 23 (the 50,000 Lions of Justice Festival) through performances by Ikeda Youth Ensemble members.
General Director Strauss congratulated the members who had won after enduring severe hardships caused by the hurricane. Emphasizing that their personal triumphs based on faith have had a profound effect on others and would continue to do so in the future, he cited President Ikeda’s guidance: “The drama of a single individual changing their karma or destiny demonstrates the truth of Buddhism. It opens the way to victory in life for all others burdened with the same suffering” (October 2017 Living Buddhism, p. 47).
Houston Region Young Women’s Leader Brittane Lewis reflected on the significance of the timing of the new center. “The fact that our opening has taken place only a few months before Sept. 23 has fueled our determination to introduce many more Lions of Justice in Houston,” she said.