Information about this center is no longer updated. This data was last updated on 11 October 2009.Phone: 803-419-4551
Activities and ScheduleThe group meets at the center in Columbia to pray for world peace on the first Sunday of each month. In addition, there are smaller weekly Wednesday services (7 p.m.) held at the center. Libby Shropshier, a vice-chapter leader in the Columbia area, said the group has become more focused on the smaller group (district-level) meetings, held in members' homes, rather than on large group meetings at the center. She said this reflects a desire for a family-like atmosphere within the faith community. Meetings at the district level are held weekly. The group also holds larger meetings every few months on the chapter or area level, as opportunities for larger group discussion and for members to bring guests.
The Columbia SGI group also sponsors men's and women's division meetings and youth activities. Shropshier said the Columbia SGI Buddhists hope to develop youth retreats and events on a level comparable to the offerings of area churches.
Shropshier said the group places great importance on involvement in the larger Columbia community. SGI Buddhists in Columbia are involved in various volunteer organizations, such as Adopt-a-Highway, and the groups also hold Open House receptions at the community center as a way of reaching out to the community and teaching others about Soka Gakkai Buddhism. The group holds fund-raising activities, like a recent carwash to raise money for the youth camping trip. In 1997, the group also held a 10-year anniversary celebration of the founding of the community center.
HistorySoka Gakkai Buddhism first came to the United States as the faith of Japanese immigrants married to American soldiers after World War II. Many of these Japanese women came to the U.S. with the intention of propagating this type of Buddhism, Shropshier said.
"They didn't speak English, they didn't drive," she said, "so it was really a heroic effort that got them as far as it did."
During the 1960s, a sizeable SGI Buddhist community began to develop in South Carolina, spearheaded by some local Japanese women. At that time, the closest SGI center was in Washington, D.C. Each weekend, the Japanese women would organize trips from Charleston, S.C. to D.C. to attend the weekly activities. When several of these founding women moved from Charleston to Columbia, the center of SGI Buddhist activity in S.C. moved with them.
Eventually, the group acquired a building on Hampton Street in downtown Columbia in 1987. According to Shropshier, the building, which had previously been used for some kind of processing, was in a state of disrepair and required extensive work on the part of the local community to prepare it for use as a religious community center. Shropshier said the community had no problems in acquiring the center, which was funded by the national Soka Gakkai organization.
DemographicsThe SGI Buddhists in the Columbia area are ethnically diverse, including African-Americans, Caucasians, Chinese, Indians, Koreans, and Mexicans. According to Shropshier, Caucasians and African-Americans are dominant, and there is also a large number of Hispanics.
All ages are represented in the SGI Columbia community, with a sizeable youth population. As the group is one of the older Buddhist groups in Columbia, some of the long-time members who are first-generation Buddhists (i.e., converts to Buddhism) now have children who are being raised Buddhist.
DescriptionThe SC SGI-USA Community Center is located on Hampton Street in downtown Columbia, near the Richland County administration building. The two-floor structure was once used for some type of processing, such as making glasses, according to Shropshier. On the street level of the center is the main gohonzon room, where the large gohonzon is located in an altar with candles, incense and greenery. (A gohonzon is a scroll inscribed with the name of the Lotus Sutra, nam-myoho-renge-kyo, which is the sacred mantra chanted daily by SGI Buddhists.) A member of the community will sit in front of the altar and lead the group in gongyo, the recitation of passages from the Lotus Sutra. (The Lotus Sutra is the most sacred of all Buddhist writings, according to Nichiren, a teacher in the particular school of Buddhism practiced by Soka Gakkai adherents.) In the basement level of the center is a smaller gohonzon room, a conference room, a kitchen and a bookstore.
Interfaith RelationsShropshier said the SGI Buddhists have been involved with Partners in Dialogue, a local interfaith organization. Such involvement in interfaith understanding and education is especially important to the SGI Buddhists as a part of their involvement with the greater community. As SGI is particularly focused on attaining world peace, they see such cooperation between people of different faiths as an important precursor to reaching that peace.