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Frontline News

Voices From the First In-Person Discussion Meetings

Photo by Yvonne Ng.

The discussion meetings took shape as family affairs, as gatherings of comrades emerging from an unprecedented, shared hardship.

Since the start of the pandemic, the first 11 in-person, hybrid discussion meetings were held July 17–19 at the Los Angeles Friendship Center and the Chicago and New York culture centers. Each meeting was outfitted with a special panoramic camera, called a “Meeting Owl,” enabling the in-person and Zoom participants to hold meaningful, hybrid discussions. (Additional centers will hold such meetings in August and expand from there.)

This day, so long-awaited, was cause for a contagious kind of joy coursing vibrantly through all in attendance, guests and members, new and old alike, a family of Bodhisattvas of the Earth. Here are two of their impressions.

‘Winter Always Turns to Spring’

by Marjorie Joffee
Wakefield District Women’s leader

Can I tell you something? I almost became a recluse. When I got the invitation to hold our district meeting at the culture center, I thought, Too far! Not for us! I’m 75, and the center’s an hour away. 

But I remembered a question asked by Felicita, one of our pioneers, halfway through the pandemic: “Margie, when are we getting back together?” 

I’ve gotten comfortable, I realized. I’ve fallen into a rut! I reached for the phone, excitement bubbling up, to spread the word. 

The way we know one another in person is different. This I had forgotten. Coming together like this, for the first time in years, reminded me what it is to see old friends. And of course, the chanting was wonderful—like a choir, as one young woman put it. 

Something that struck me was a scene after the meeting, of one young man, one of the six guests, connecting with three generations of our SGI family at once, discussing his dreams for his future. He really enjoyed himself, he said, and got a sense of where he would fit in in the SGI. 

Midway through, we shared our favorite quotes from Nichiren Daishonin’s writings. A smile broke across Felicita’s face as she looked around the room. “Winter always turns to spring,” she said. We’re greeting it with open arms and fighting spirits. 

An Experience You Don’t Want to Miss

by Allen Zaki
Windsor District Men’s leader

I feel that this meeting in person, at the local level, this is a turning point for my district. I can’t express enough how joyful it was—above the masks, our eyes showed our happiness. 

For many, especially those who had not chanted with others since the start of the pandemic, it got emotional. The resonance of our chanting—to unite as a district behind daimoku—I think even I had forgotten just how powerful a feeling this is. For one young woman who received the Gohonzon earlier in the month, it was her first time experiencing the SGI in this intimate, local setting. 

Three guests attended on Zoom, and we discussed with them what it means to “employ the strategy of the Lotus Sutra,” study content from the July Living Buddhism. A fourth guest, a sincere young man unable to make it due to his work schedule, appealed to me ahead of time: “Please let me know what happens in the meeting.” 

I followed up, and it turned into our own informal study of the discussion material. After, he asked how he could sign up for our publications. Next time, he says, he’ll be there, and with his own publications in hand.

If you have the opportunity to do an in-person discussion meeting, by all means do it! The joyful efforts we made toward this historic meeting have created a new kind of energy for us, an energy that we’ve carried with us from our center. It’s an experience you don’t want to miss. 

An Inside Job

Global Citizens Seminar