In the study of Shinnyo Buddhism, the altruistic spirit will be awakened and promote action to change lives.

That’s just one of the messages that Fumio Ishizaka and Steve Somogye of the Shinnyo-en Buddhist temple in Chicago shared with a gathering of Buddhists this week at Bella Nitesh Arts and Education Center. They visited the Youngstown sanga (assembly), where Brandon Loewit coordinates services and meditations.

Loewit said he has been practicing Buddhism about 11 years, and seven years ago he made a commitment to study with the Shinnyo-en School of Japanese Buddhism. He said one needn’t be a monastic monk to train.

“Buddhism is about cultivating one’s true self,” Loewit said. “It’s asking the question ... what can I do right now to live a happier life?”

Ishizaka and Somogye said their focus is to help Buddhist practitioners learn and understand the philosophy of Buddhism. “We discuss the practical use of teachings,” Ishizaka said. “It’s applying to your daily life what applied to Buddha’s life 2,500 years ago.”

He said the basic teachings remain the same, but how people implement them “evolves with culture relevance.” Somogye added, “It’s adapted to the culture.”

For those interested in learning about Buddhism, Somogye suggested “Buddhist Reflections,” which is available online.

Though it is sometimes described as a religion, Loewit said Buddhism is “more a philosophy” and “way of life.”

Loewit said the practice of mindfulness, a meditative practice in Buddhism, is gaining popularity. “It can be applied to all situations,” he said of the method of being aware of one’s thoughts, feelings and environment.

“We should be aware of our inner conduct and how it applies to outer situations,” he said. “Altruistic practices for the benefit of everyone are valued.”

Somogye said, “Each one of us has a Buddha nature and can achieve enlightenment.”

He said that path includes “letting go of what’s important to one’s self and thinking about others.”

Somogye noted that Buddhism has a “simple philosophy that’s complicated to follow.” That’s because people “tend to be self-centered and want more than they need,” he said.

Shinnyo Buddhists encourage participants to make positive contributions to create a better world. “If you try, those in the world of Buddha will help,” Ishizaka said

He described those at the gathering as “Buddas in training who will discover their Buddha nature in their hearts.”

The web site notes that buddhahood is spiritual awakening. Practitioners “develop the buddha, or awakened nature, within themselves through altruistic Buddhist practice” the information states.

“Each person discovers this for himself,” Loewit said.

Loewit said three basic tenets of Buddhism are leading a moral life, being mindful of actions and thoughts and developing wisdom. Six “perfections” to be achieved are giving, effort, ethics, patience, concentration and transcendental wisdom.

Loewit said the philosophy of Buddhism “must be actualized.” That is accomplished through charitable acts of service for family, friends, strangers and the community. Compassion for others also is an important component.

On a personal level, Loewit said the practice of Buddhism helped him get through a difficult time involving a death. “I drew on the practices to be strong,” he said.

Loewit said Buddhism has helped him “live a happier life.”

“Now I ask different questions about what I can do,” he said.

Ishizaka and Somogye also showed videos showcasing Buddhism.

A belief that truth lies in the middle path and not extremes was conveyed. It noted that Buddha taught about cause and effect. From birth, everyone is destined to get older and die because that’s part of the natural law. Discovering enlightenment leads to fulfilling one’s role in society and giving service. Taking action to transform lives leads to true peace of mind.

The Youngstown sanga meets at 6 p.m. Mondays at Bella Nitesh Spiritual Arts and Education Center, 837 Boardman-Canfield Road (U.S. Route 224), Suite 302, in the Hitchcock Park office complex.

Contact Loewit by email at

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