"It starts with me! It starts from now!"

Taplow Court“It starts with me! It starts from now!” was the subject of today’s Men’s Division Inspiration Day held at Taplow Court.

About 50 men from South Central England gathered at the SGI-UK headquarters today to study, discuss and get inspired about Kosen-Rufu in Europe. 2011 is the 50th anniversary of Daisaku Ikeda’s first visit to Europe, so there was plenty to celebrate and talk about.

It was a good feeling being amongst friends, both old and new. After a brief welcome we were straight into morning Gongyo. It always make the hairs on the back of my neck stand up, chanting with so many other people.

After a quick look through the schedule, Thierry told us about a very positive experience, brought about by his Practice.  Following a rousing, uniting song, to the tune of Beethoven’s Ode To Joy, we had a quick break to allow time for the chairs to be arranged in a circle, for the study session.

The morning study was great and was based on Sensei’s lecture on extracts from “The Blessings of the Lotus Sutra” and the vital part we all play in promoting Kosen-Rufu. Giuseppe, Ken, Lawrence and Paul read sections and these were interspersed with further inspiring experiences. An hour and a half sounded like plenty of time to cover the notes, but time flies when you are enthralled.

Taplow CourtAfter lunch and chance to talk amongst ourselves about the morning, we made our way to the Mentor-Disciple room in the Manor House. It was my first look at the inside of the house, and it is beautiful. It has been carefully restored and contains a number of period artefacts as well as a multitude of photos and memorabilia of Sensei and the history of the SGI in the UK. After a short period of group chanting, Ricky Baynes the SGI-UK Chief Advisor, who has been practicing for the best part of the fifty years of the SGI in Europe, gave us a history and explanation of the Mentor-Disciple relationship.

We had been told that there was a surprise waiting for us when we got back to the main hall, and indeed there was. The SGI-UK’s Glorious Life Chorus sang two inspirational songs. They were excellent and were richly rewarded with a standing ovation as they left the hall.

So we were all buzzing as we split up into seven small groups to discuss the morning’s study and to relate our own experiences. It was very interesting to hear that, although the experiences were very varied, there was a common theme of progress though them all. It just goes to show that no matter what the problem, chanting Nam Myoho Renge Kyo has a positive effect in some form or another.

Men’s Division Inspiration Day - Group PhotoThe weather had been sunshine and showers all day, but we were lucky enough to catch a convenient dry spell, just long enough for the obligatory group photo. I’m sure it will appear in the next bulletin.

Back in the main hall, Ricky gave a talk on Life and Death, his life and his wife’s death, she passed on last year. It was a very personal and moving account, reducing Ricky (and many of us, if we’re honest) to tears on several occasions. Ricky is a very down to earth sort of chap. In his seventies, he is a great example to us all of how Nichiren Daishonin’s teachings can support, nurture and help us grow in the face of any adversity.

Following evening Gongyo and having sung the song from the morning once again, we all packed up and said farewell to each other. Boots commented, as he did his impression of a doorman, that people were reluctant to leave. He was right, we had all gained so much from the day, we were all wishing it had been the more usual weekend event.

It just remains for me to thank everyone involved in the organisation of the day for their fantastic efforts. I came away inspired to the max, having learned so much and thoroughly enjoyed the day.

Same time next week chaps? Smile

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