Triumphant Chronicles of Ordinary People
What constitutes a strong experience?
Sharing our personal faith experiences at meetings is a proud tradition. SGI President Ikeda says of their significance: “One might say that giving an experience in faith involves an airing of past humiliations. The willingness of Soka Gakkai members to so readily and happily share their experiences, however, comes from their immense joy at having triumphed over suffering. This overrides any embarrassment they might feel. Sharing an experience is also an expression of compassion, stemming from the hope that others with similar problems can overcome them and become happy as quickly as possible . . .
“In these triumphant chronicles of ordinary people’s lives, we can find proof of the validity of Nichiren Buddhism and a true picture of the Soka Gakkai” (The New Human Revolution, vol. 2, pp. 263–64).
The main purpose of an experience is to illuminate the process of human revolution that we undergo when we challenge our obstacles and dreams based on faith, practice and study. Our deep inner transformation is the ultimate aim of our Buddhist practice.
In The New Human Revolution, SGI President Ikeda gives the following points about what makes an effective experience:
• “If you treat it like a biography and try to put in everything about the subject’s life, the article will lose its focus and no one will grasp what you’re trying to say” (vol. 10, p. 43).
• “A faith experience must be logical and comprehensible to the average person living in society” (vol. 10, p. 43).
• “If you only report superficially that someone recovered from an illness or that their business improved, there is a chance you will promote a distorted understanding of faith” (vol. 10, p. 43).
• “Let’s say there is a person who was involved in a terrible accident and was seriously injured, just barely escaping with his life. Now he’s disabled and trying to make the best of his situation. If you only highlight the fact that his life was saved as a result of his faith, you’ll be writing a very superficial story. You need to dig deeper and report on how he is striving valiantly in spite of his disability, how he still has hope and is doing his utmost to lead a full life. That’s the real story. It is in such a positive and forward-looking approach that Buddhist humanism is found” (vol. 18, p. 49)
• “It is important that you also share your disappointments. Even if you don’t achieve the desired results, frankly share the difficulties and joys of making the effort and demonstrate your resolve to keep on trying. If you do that, everyone will begin to think: ‘I can do that too. I’m going to give it a try.’ That dedicated, steadfast attitude will rouse sympathy in everyone, transcending the generation gap. Just be yourself, nothing more and nothing less” (vol. 25, pp. 289–90).
• What was the problem, obstacle or challenge?
• How did you overcome the issue with your Buddhist practice?
• What was the turning point in your human revolution?
• What did you realize you needed to change, and what actions did you take to change it?
• How did you pray about it?
• What was the resolution?
• Was there a specific passage from Nichiren Daishonin’s writings or SGI President Ikeda’s encouragement that served as your source of inspiration?
• What did you learn from this experience?
Tips for Preparing:
• Keep your experience to 5–7 minutes (or under 1,000 words).
• Practice reading your experience beforehand with your leader or another member.
• Pace yourself; don’t talk too fast or too slow.
• Stick to your script at the meeting; ad-libbing may cause you to skip crucial points in your experience or go overtime.
• Chant with the determination that your experience will instill hope in others and inspire them to persevere in faith.