Who knows what one may find in the lower level of the Fletcher Allen Library on any given day.

On November 9th, the Soka Gakkai International (SGI) met for a group session on the practice of the Lotus Sutra Buddhism, inviting anyone who happened to be wandering the floor that afternoon.

A warm and still atmosphere fell over the room as the members of the group began to chant "NAM MYOHO RENGE KYO" with hands pressed in prayer form in front of their faces.

According to the SGI, the chant connects the ideas of devotion, mystic law, cause and effect, and sound/vibration.

When spoken, a powerful feeling of centering and focus is seen on the faces of the group members. Serene is too simple a word to illustrate the mood.

"I feel tranquility and inner peace when I chant," Holly Schmidlapp said. Holly has been chanting and practicing the Lotus Sutra for four years.

"I use it to break away the inner darkness," she said.

This particular form of Buddhism - Nichieren Buddhism along with the Lotus Sutra - is a dynamic philosophy grounded in the realities of daily life.

The practice leads to empowerment and inner transformation or "inner evolution."

According to this sutra, or sermons of the Buddha, all people can posses sthis Buddha Nature, a state of inner freedom, which allows the person to change the value of any situation in their daily life.

If they can cultivate their good cause, then there will be a good effect, therefore changing their karma circle and ultimately their destiny.

"True happiness is the ability to face any obstacle and overcome it," Liz Joyce said when explaining how the chant centers her life. "Enlightenment comes from being grounded in reality."

Richard Rodriguez, who led the group in the chant for this meeting, claims that reaching Buddha Nature or your highest potential is an inner journey.

"Chanting reveals that higher self more readily," Rodriguez said.

The group has grown tremendously in the last four years, with practicing members of 25 years and a few newcomers who stumbled over the language of the chant.

The group is small, no more than 15 people. A member even came from Montpelier for this week's meeting.

"I would invite the community to get a correct understanding of [the Lotus Sutra]," John Gelineau, who has practiced for more than 20 years, said.

"We don't point fingers; we are looking at ourselves for that deep change," he said.

The students of the Lotus Sutra take a 13th century ideology and study it to overcome job stress, create the hope of a new love or to ultimately grant everyone the peace they have found within themselves.

"I was just curious … you just have to try it," Liz Joyce said. "You can chant for a green light, a lover, for whatever. Just try it."

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