Soka Gakkai International USA - New Orleans, Louisiana

Information about this center is no longer updated.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

Phone: 504-310-2011
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Katrina Update

The New Orleans Soka Gakkai International Community Center was fortunate to escape damage from Hurricane Katrina. The rising flood waters stopped about 10 blocks short of the building on Prytania, although wind damaged many of the Center's immediate neighbors. As the hurricane loomed large in the Gulf, Regional Leader Brian Saito consulted with Area Leader George Nakamura and decided against using the Center as a shelter for members. Mr. Saito and his wife removed the sacred scroll ("Gohonzon") from the altar in the meditation hall and brought it with them as they evacuated. Many New Orleans members evacuated to Shreveport, LA, some 300 miles to the north. Other SGI-USA Buddhists hosted many of the refugees during the crisis. The Gohonzon was reinstalled at the Center on October 1st, when members gathered for their first meeting after the storm. Overall, the Center's membership has decline by 15% as members who lost their homes had to relocate. The Center's membership includes many Buddhists from Mississippi and the Gulf coast. They were particularly hard hit by Katrina. Some of their stories are recounted in a recent issue of the SGI-USA periodical, the World Tribune (April 14, 2006).

Coming Events

The Summer Youth Division will hold its annual Sun Lotus Festival on Saturday, July 29th, from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. The SGI Center will sponsor an exhibit on the "Culture of Peace" in Baton Rouge, LA beginning September 9th. The month-long exhibit will include performances by the Center's youth dancers and choral group. The event will be on exhibit over October 1st, the World Peace Day promoted by Soka Gakkai International.


Soka Gakkai International (SGI USA) is an American Buddhist association that promotes world peace and individual happiness based on the teachings of the Nichiren school of Mahayana Buddhism. After the Korean War many American service men who had married Japanese women brought them back to the U.S. There were also a few students and businessmen who moved to the U.S. during this time who practiced the Nichiren-based faith. In Louisiana, the first district was formed around a military base in Leesville in 1962. A district was established in New Orleans in 1966 with about a dozen members. Two early leaders of SGI in New Orleans were Mr. Robert Robertson and Mr. Jerry Correll. As in other parts of the country Japanese women formed the majority of the members in the early period. In 1960, Daisaku Ikeda became president of SGI and started to travel to countries outside of Japan where there were practicing members. He primarily came to the U.S. to support the wives of veterans who were practicing their faith. In 1974, Ikeda visited New Orleans and held an impromptu picnic in City Park. In 1988 New Orleans hosted a convention for the entire Midwest SGI membership which was held at the U.N.O. arena. At that time the center received its "gohonzon", the sacred inscription used for devotional purposes. Today there are eight districts with about 300 active members in metropolitan New Orleans. This district center serves Baton Rouge, Shreveport and Jackson Mississippi which have a collective membership of about 800 people. In March of 2004 SGI celebrated the 30th anniversary of President Ikeda's visit. In July of 2004, the members of SGI held a grand opening of their new center located at 1315 Prytania St.

Activities and Schedule

Soka Gakkai International-USA’s Yearly National Calendar has many events and holidays such as SGI World Peace Day on October 2nd which honors the beginning of President Ikeda’s worldwide efforts for peace, culture and education based on Nichiren Daishonin's Buddhism, and SGI-USA Day on October 5th which commemorates President Ikeda setting in motion the American movement to spread the Daishonin's Buddhism. The New Orleans Center holds small prayer meetings every Sunday at 10 a.m. at 1315 Prytania Street. The Center also holds a World Peace prayer service ("Kosen-rufu Gongyo") on the 1st Sunday of each month. Members gather for this service to recite the daimoku, a short litany taken from the Lotus Sutra. This is recited in front of a special scroll containing sacred scripture, viz., the gohonzon which is the object of primary ritual significance installed in an SGI center. The center also holds regular study programs to discuss the basic principles of the SGI teachings, including the thorough study of The Three Pillars of Buddhist faith. In the past, SGI-USA has held a 12-week series of introductory meetings about Buddhism based on the teachings of Nichiren. These are held every monday night at 7 p.m. On the national level, Soka Gakkai holds conferences at The Florida Nature and Culture Center. SGI-USA has also been creating and presenting a wide range of exhibitions throughout the country since 1991.


The SGI-USA community of New Orleans is ethnically diverse. In earlier times member with ties to East Asian countries predominated, but succeeding generations have brought members from diverse backgrounds. Women are also especially well represented in this community.

2004 South Central Regional Meeting

On March 20th of 2004 SGI-USA members who had been present in New Orleans during President Ikeda's visit in 1974 met to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the event. Called the "Happiness Grooup" they gathered in conjunction with the annual meeting of the South Central region. Because over three hundred were expected to participate, the SGI-New Orleans chapter arranged to use the auditorium of the Ursuline Academy, an all women's high school on Nashville Ave. The meeting included dance and music performances, several speeches by SGI leaders, a group photograph, a slide show dedicated to those who attended President Ikeda's visit. The SGI youth were well represented in these presentations. An aesthetic diversity marked the proceedings as traditional Korean dance performance followed an Alicia Keys' rendition which followed a children performance in animal costumes. Rock music groups shared the stage with the Taiko Drum Corps of New Orleans with the audience enthusiastically cheering for all. A representative from Governor Kathleen Blanco was on hand to proclaim the day "World Peace Awareness Day." Towards the end of the ceremony an inspiring letter written by President Ikeda was read to the congregation. From the auditorium many of the members proceeded to City Park where the group held a tree planting ceremony. (See photos.) The tree ceremony began with a word of thanks and a certificate from the City of New Orleans to SGI. To reciprocate, SGI presented a Friendship Award to the city representatives. Both groups share the goals of bringing people together, regardless of background, respecting nature, and working for peace. Finally, SGI and the City of New Orleans unveiled a commemorative plaque, which is dedicated to President Ikeda and pronounces the area “Friendship Grove.” This serves as a testament to faith of all SGI members and as a crystallization of their accomplishments. The plan is for the grove to have 100 trees.

Gambit Weekly

A weekly publication featured an article about how children and young people respond to the attacks of September 11, 2001. Lisa Lincoln was interviewed for the story which appeared on October 2, 2001. The passage below is taken from the on-line version available at:
Five days after the attacks, a local forum on terrorism drew a crowd of about 20 youths, ages 10 to 19. All were Japanese Buddhists. Their Sept. 16 meeting ended with plans to reach out to local Arab American and Muslim youths, says Lisa Lincoln, spokesperson for Soka Gakkai International (SGI) -- USA, a Buddhist lay organization. Soka Gakkai literally means "value-creating society."
A majority of the Buddhist youths said they did not feel safe after the events of Sept. 11. Some still had trouble sleeping and felt overwhelmed. "They discussed rumors they had heard about Nostradamus and the end of the world," she says.
Jean Saito, a 16-year-old student from Benjamin Franklin High, says she and her friends have witnessed verbal and physical abuse of Arab American children in some area schools. "Some of the children in the group are Japanese or half-Japanese and we discussed how 60 years ago, during World War II, this type of behavior was directed toward children like themselves," Lincoln says.
Sean Lewis, a 14-year-old student at McMain Magnet School, told the group he did not understand why the U.S. would bomb Afghanistan "if the terrorists are already here." A Buddhist student at Pontchatoula High on the Northshore expressed concern about being drafted for war. He said he did not want to kill anyone, but still wanted to be able to stand up for the United States. The Buddhist concept of "bad karma vs. good karma" came up. Did the innocent people who died in the World Trade Center have "bad" karma, one youth asked. "The answer of course was things like this and accidents happen to good people just as well," Lincoln says. "The best that we can do is find positive things to pull from it."

Prepared by:

Olivia Rochon, Rachel Drude, Tim Cahill