Unity. Peace. Love.
In the weeks following the election, at a time when the country is so divided, these concepts have become incredibly fragile. Yet because of their practice, members of the Buddhist Philosophy for Peace Club remain hopeful of what is to come.
All are welcomed into the Buddhist community at the University of Maryland, whether looking to educate themselves, or to devote the rest of their lives to the practice. The club stems from Soka Gakkai International (SGI), a community-based Buddhist organization that spreads positivity and promotes peace, happiness and respect.
“I’d say that our primary goal is for students to benefit each time they’re at our meeting,” said the club’s treasurer, Kevin Gima, a junior physics major. “Whether they attend just one in their lifetime, or come back for more, we hope that our reading benefits them in some way.”
The club meets up once every two weeks. It’s normal for new faces to show up each time. At the beginning of each meeting, returning members give a basic rundown of what it means to practice Buddhism.
A central part of practicing Buddhism is chanting the Japanese mantra, Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, for minutes or even hours on end.
The official SGI website describes the meaning of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo as “bringing forth the pure and fundamental energy of life, honoring the dignity and possibility of our ordinary lives,” or as junior dance and psychology major Kima Oudit puts it, the “mystic law of the universe.”
“I find that my life flows better because of my practice,” said Oudit, who was born into a Buddhist family and has been chanting since she was two years old. “I am a person who is able to understand and care for others. I am generally a happier person, and I am able to take on difficult and easy tasks with conviction and courage.”
Rosie Gordon is a practicing Buddhist, a club member and, believe it or not, a grandmother. She makes a special trip to campus every other week to sit in on club meetings and inspire college students with her story.
“My son went to UMD, and I would support the student meetings back then,” Gordon said. “But I wanted to keep going back even after he graduated.”
Gordon was introduced to the SGI organization for the first time as a college student in the late 1960s, and for a long time, was skeptical that chanting had the power to bring about good for herself and others.
“These people had so much energy,” Gordon said. “We were amidst the war in Vietnam. ‘Why were they all so happy?’ I asked, to which they answered, ‘It’s because we chant.’”
Today, she swears by it.
“Why have I continued? I think the power of the mind is incredible. I have had one thing after another, after another, that has kept me chanting,” Gordon said. “If you think you can, you can. And if you think you can’t, you can’t.”