SGI - USA Asheville Chapter

Information about this center is no longer updated. This data was last updated on 11 October 2009.

Phone: 828-683-8460
Email: sunlotus@bellsouth.net

Activities and Schedule

The Soka Gakkai International -USA Chapter in Asheville is divided into three Districts that hold their own meetings: the South District (roughly centered in Hendersonville), West District (roughly centered in Sylva), and North Central District (which includes Asheville proper and points North). A typical meeting is held once a month in a member’s home beginning at 7:00 pm. Attendees sit before the altar, known as the gohonzon, which every SGI member owns. After brief introductions, the group launches into amazingly rapid chanting practice, including two chapters from the Lotus Sutra as well as devotional chanting of the title of that scripture, known as daimoku. This lasts for about fifteen minutes, and ends with a series of short silent prayers. Next someone will read passages from various SGI materials and the group will discuss how Buddhism impacts their lives. The discussion concludes after forty-five minutes to an hour. After another minute of daimoku, the session winds down and members move into the living room to eat and socialize.
Besides these discussion meetings, Districts often also hold monthly study sessions, which include a greater focus on a particular text or subject, and tozo meetings, which consist of fifty to sixty minutes of constant daimoku practice. There is also a Kosen Rufu Gongyo (World Peace Prayer) Service held on the first Sunday of the month at 10 a.m., for the three districts combined, at the Fairfield Marriott Inn at 3 Rocky Ridge Rd., off Brevard Rd. These larger meetings include longer chanting practice, Chapter business, and bestowal of gohonzons on new members. Finally, the Chapter also holds a monthly study meeting that is designed for newcomers, hosting all three districts, on the third Tuesday of the month at the Asheville Friends Meeting House. This larger, more public meeting begins at 7 p.m. and roughly follows the schedule of regular discussion meetings. This sort of open session, held in a public, non-SGI space and geared toward people who are not necessarily members of SGI or even Buddhists, is an unusual innovation not commonly found in Soka Gakkai groups in other areas.

Demographics

There are about twenty-five to thirty core members of SGI Asheville Chapter, with another forty or so peripheral members. District meetings draw five to twelve people on average, while the public meetings at the friends meeting house attract around twenty attendees. The membership is primarily European-American, though about fifteen to twenty percent are Asian-American (mainly Japanese). Unlike in other parts of the country, SGI Asheville has very few African-American and Latino members, likely a reflection of this Western North Carolina region’s overall demographics, where European-Americans constitute a greater percentage of the population than in many other areas. Most members range from their thirties to sixties or seventies; many are longtime Buddhists with three or four decades of practice under their belts. Approximately seventy percent are female.