Back to listMay 21, 2007

First Sign Language-Interpreted Conference Held at the FNCC

The sight of hundreds of raised hands turning in and out--the American Sign Language gesture for applause--was a common one at an SGI-USA Buddhist study conference on the Writings of Nichiren Daishonin from May 18-21, 2007, at the Florida Nature and Culture Center (FNCC) where sign language interpretation was offered for the first time. Participants enjoyed the "sign of the day," a brief lesson in how to sign terms SGI members commonly use such as "chanting" and "enlightenment."

(Laura Hamm Goetschel)

Between sessions, the sign language interpreters, the two deaf participants and several others who have made longstanding efforts to support deaf SGI-USA members in their local areas discussed various ways to express Buddhist terminology in American Sign Language--with many yet to be created.

The conference, facilitated by SGI-USA study department members, focused on SGI President Ikeda's recent lecture series on Nichiren's well-known letter "On Attaining Buddhahood in This Lifetime."

SGI North America and Oceania Study Leader Jeff Kriger also lectured on "The Unanimous Declaration by the Buddhas of the Three Existences."

(Rika Hagiyama)
Patricia Loeb interprets at a Q-and-A session

Due to the nature and depth of the presentations, the sign language interpreters, Jennifer Eagle and Pat Loeb, had quite a task preparing for the conference. In addition to interpretation, PowerPoint presentations were created to help all attendees get the most out of each session. These efforts paid off. The two deaf participants conveyed how encouraged they were.

Jock Williams from Maryland said that in his 30-year practice of Nichiren Buddhism, he had many ups and downs. It wasn't until a few years ago when he visited Japan and met deaf Soka Gakkai members that he began developing more conviction in his practice. The bright outlook they had and the way they embraced him was inspirational.

"The amazing support from everyone at this conference has helped me take my understanding of Buddhism to a whole new level," he said.

Richard Monts from South Carolina said that this was his second FNCC conference. His first was a men's conference at which many of the participants took notes and shared them with him after each session. He truly appreciated their support, but recalls, "I had collected an overwhelming stack of notes that took a really long time to get through." This time, being able to take in the presentations at the same pace as the other participants, he said, helped him have a very fulfilling experience.

[Adapted from an article by Rika Hagiyama in the June 22, 2007 issue of the World Tribune, SGI-USA]