SGI-Australia Celebrates Women's Division Day; Women in Sydney Sponsor Seminars on Winning Over Depression
During June and July 2007, SGI-Australia women celebrated Soka Gakkai Women's Division Day in cities such as Melbourne, Gold Coast, Brisbane, Sydney and Hobart on Tasmania. Overall, some 2,400 women, 500 of them guests, participated in the meetings throughout Australia.
On June 23-24, SGI-Australia women in Sydney, New South Wales, sponsored two seminars offering expert advice on overcoming depression, titled "The Darker the Night, the Nearer the Dawn," which included an introduction to the practice and philosophy of Nichiren Buddhism that offers hope for the depression, isolation and spiritual poverty prevalent in modern society. The two seminars in Sydney drew a total of 835 SGI women, family and friends.
An exhibition and film screening formed the backdrop for both days' activities. Aptly titled, "Dark to Dawn: Being Creative about Depression," the exhibit offered alternatives to the conventional wisdom that depression is only negative and destructive. Panels challenged viewers to see individuals with depression as having latent potential to make valuable contributions to society, given the proper support and care. A film focusing on the creative expression that vies to be set free within the lives of those touched by depression was also shown.
Four individuals shared personal accounts, painful and hopeful, of challenging their own bouts with depression. Each expressed heartfelt gratitude to people in their immediate environment who consistently provided needed encouragement to never lose hope for their eventual return to sound health.
Each day's program also included a forum in which professionals in the diagnosis and treatment of depression were invited to share their views and expertise. The panel included Dr. Puja Lal from the Bankstown Hospital Psychiatric Unit, Dr. Karen Fisher from the Nepean Hospital Drug and Alcohol Abuse Unit and Anne Johnstone, a counselor in positive psychology. In addition, Buddhist perspectives on depression were presented that highlighted how Buddhist practice allows one to overcome feelings of powerlessness and how the community of practitioners provides non-judgmental, nurturing support and friendship.
SGI-Australia women's leader Liz Bowen remarked that although many Australians live in material wealth many of those same people experience loneliness, depression and lack of purpose in life. An objective of the various women's meetings was to address these issues through the power of dialogue, highlighting the SGI's group discussion movement as an inspirational model for challenging the dilemmas of modern society with hope and confidence. Ms. Bowen stated that the SGI, where members are encouraged to transcend differences and actively care for and interact with others, is an ideal place for fostering friendships, overcoming isolation and building a sense of purpose.
[Adapted from an SGI-Australia report. Also reported in the July 19, 2007 issue of the Seikyo Shimbun, Soka Gakkai, Japan. All photos are from the Sydney events and are courtesy of SGI-Australia]