Enlightenment from the Buddhist Club


Steven Workman

time to chant: Soka Gakkai International Buddhist Club members Karina Cabrera, left, Brenda Vaughn, below and Jesus Cruz chant “nam-myoho-renge-kyo” during a meeting at the Administration Building.

“The essence of Buddhism is compassion,” Josei Toda, second president of Soka Gakkai, said. “We, too, need to have compassion but, being ordinary mortals, the reality is that it is quite difficult for us.”

Soka Gakkai International (SGI) Buddhist Club wants its members to keep this message close to their hearts.

Founded in 2001, the club follows SGI, a Japanese sect of Buddhism whose name translates to “the origin of values academic society.” An offshoot of the Nichiren sect, SGI is concerned with bringing about world peace and believes that by chanting, followers will find true happiness and unlock their true potential.

The club gathers to reflect on topics like compassion and peace, and members are eager to meet new participants, including some that are still on the fence about the practice.

“SGI Buddhism is based on the belief of Nichiren Daishonin,” explained Brenda Vaughn, club president. “Nichiren believed that every human being is born with the ability to become happy and reach Buddhahood. He discovered the key to happiness when reading Siddhārtha Gautama’s — the Buddha’s — writing titled the ‘Lotus Sutra’.”

That key to happiness is the chant “nam-myoho-renge-kyo.” It means “praise the Buddhist law of the Lotus Sutra” in Japanese from the original Sanskrit the “Lotus Sutra” was written in.

“Nam-myoho-renge-kyo means devoting one’s life to the law of cause and effect through the Buddha’s teachings,” said Vaughn. “Nichiren revealed that by chanting these words we can reach our highest potential, challenge our problems, and become absolutely happy.” It is chanted at the end of every meeting.

“I became involved in SGI Buddhism by attending a meeting at Glendale College SGI Buddhist Club,” said Vaughn. “I was interested in Buddhism and was practicing by myself by researching Buddhism on the Internet before I found the club. When I arrived to the club I expected to see yoga and meditation like how I read on the Internet. I was surprised to see people chanting and wanted to know more.”

Vaughn has been a member of the club for two years now, having taken over as president after being selected for the job by previous president Colleen Pathe.

“This is my first semester as the president and I will say that Colleen made it look easy, but it is very challenging!” said Vaughn.
Member Jesus Cruz got into SGI after his mother converted, joining the club after seeing a banner for it on campus.

“I thought it was great that there was someone here at school trying to spread this philosophy and decided to attend the meetings,” said Cruz.
The SGI Buddhist Club meets 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. on Mondays.