My First Days of Practice: Rachel & Keith

Rachel Guida and Keith Southerland share their first experiences practicing Soka Gakkai Nichiren Buddhism.

First Days of Practice (2)Rachel Guida
Los Angeles

Joined: February 2015

Growing up in a religious household, I prayed a lot but never saw proof of my prayers being answered. I had big dreams that I thought were impossible to achieve and ultimately doubted my purpose in life.

In November 2014, I asked a good friend from work how she got through her hectic days with a smile. She said she was Buddhist and chanted Nam-myoho-renge-kyo.

In February 2015, I joined the SGI and instantly saw actual proof. During times of struggle, I would have breakdowns and stay in a place of sadness for a long time. I don’t anymore. I understand the purpose of my struggles: Without a broken heart, I would not have felt love, and if I didn’t lose my “dream job,” I would not have found one that could help me advance kosen-rufu.

I appreciate all my sufferings. They have made me who I am today—an awesome Buddha.


First Days of Practice (1)

Keith Southerland

Joined: March 2015

When I was in 11th grade, I went to Philly’s pride parade with some friends and came across the SGI booth. After I started chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, I got into all four colleges that I had applied to. Shortly after, I received the Gohonzon in March 2015.

I used to struggle with self-confidence, social anxiety and depression, and, as a result, had shallow relationships. Then, I read SGI President Ikeda’s guidance from Discussions on Youth. He talked about the importance of improving and challenging our own lives, while emphasizing that love should help us advance, not hold us back.

Now, I’m becoming more confident and going for my dreams. As a textile designer, I want to create a fabric that isn’t toxic to the people involved in producing it. Buddhism has helped me realize that I don’t need to seek validation from others to feel complete. Since beginning my practice, the biggest change I’ve seen has come from within.