“Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. Nam-myoho-renge-kyo.” Chanting the praises of the Lotus Sutra with her eyes closed and hands clasped together, Naima Mora allows her spiritual world to unfold in front of the camera. One might recognize her as the sweet dancing girl from Detroit, or the winner of America’s Next Top Model in 2005. In the short video, the 30-year-old model talks about her childhood, career, ups and downs in life, and her Buddhist faith. It reveals her struggles and how she rose above them. It is a peek into the life of this established model and happy-go-lucky soul. As of today, Mora’s video has received more than 31,000 views on YouTube.
‘Wow. Such an amazing experience and so inspiring. I had no idea she was a Buddhist. I remember watching her on Top Model’, commentsYouTube user James Plummer on Mora’s video. Opening up a chapter of her life for everyone to see has inspired many, and that is the ultimate goal of the series, ‘Buddhist in America’.
Naima Mora overcame great obstacles through the power of reciting the Lotus Sutra. From SGI-USA
This video series is an online endeavor of Soka Gakkai International-USA’s (SGI-USA) media presence. SGI-USA, the American branch of this global movement, boasts about 100 centres around the country, which hosts informal gatherings to share thoughts, prayers and teachings. To serve this purpose, SGI-USA’s website offers a comprehensive database for Buddhists in the US. Members of the SGI association follow a laypeople’s vision of Nichiren Buddhism. SGI-USA’s YouTube channel enjoys over 3900 subscribers, and some of their most-watched videos are from ‘Buddhist in America’.
Another touching story is that of Arlen Vidal. A Los Angeles resident and Nichiren Buddhist for 13 years, she spoke of her family and personal successes in life in her interview for the series. Vidal reveals that she learned later in life that her parents were guerrillas in El Salvador. Her father, who converted to Buddhism, told Vidal how his new spiritual beliefs changed his views on conflict: “Now that I know about Buddhism, I know that there is a better way to fight back”.
These stories of conflict resolution, reconciliation and spiritual attainment are SGK’s watchwords. It is keen to emphasize these ethics after its troubled past with ‘shakubuku’, an aggressive proselytizing method that the movement has largely renounced. While the doubters remain, followers are keen to project a reformed image under its leader and advocate of peace, Daisaku Ikeda.
SGI-USA has gone online to showcase the lives of American Buddhists in a simple and relatable way. We get a glimpse into their hopes, fears, and questions in a matter of minutes. Accessible and aesthetically pleasing visuals are appealing to the online generation, and even better when they leave a constructive message.
The ‘Buddhist in America’ series offers insight into what it is like being a Buddhist (and in many cases, a Buddhist immigrant) striving to live the American Dream. When asked what it meant to be a Buddhist in America, Arlen Vidal had a simple response: “Being a Buddhist in America is just being me. And knowing that I have this unlimited potential… just being Arlen is good enough!” These are beautiful reflections on Buddha Nature – our true face – as SGK disciples continue to walk shoulder-to-shoulder, reciting the words “nam-myoho-renge-kyo”.