Feature

What Expansion Means to Me

2016: The Year of Expansion in the New Era of Worldwide Kosen-rufu.

Photo: Emily Terada


The SGI theme for 2016 is the Year of Expansion in the New Era of Worldwide Kosen-rufu. We asked SGI-USA members across the country to share what “expansion” means to them.
Radhika Shenoy
Chandler, Ariz.
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Photo: George Nakamura

Last year, I became more aware of my mission as a Bodhisattva of the Earth, and I began sharing this practice with many people. In the last four months of 2015, I was able to bring 12 guests to meetings, and one of my friends received the Gohonzon. I was inspired by their impressions of the SGI. One person told me that they never knew an organization like this existed on this planet. It’s been a driving force for me to share Buddhism with more people. As a chemical engineer, mother and wife, I am determined in this Year of Expansion to expand my life condition, to believe in myself and win in all aspects of my life.

 

Pat Henry
Washington, D.C.
Photo by Chuck Gomez
Photo: Chuck Gomez

Last year, I really experienced the joy of planting the seeds of Buddhism and seeing them blossom, when five friends received the Gohonzon. Over the course of my 31-year practice, I’ve introduced 100 people to Buddhism. Thanks to all the causes I’ve made, my husband now calls me “Ms. Happy,” because I always have hope. Expansion to me means to expand the joy of practicing and sharing Buddhism with others. Seeing others grow through this practice brings me joy. I’m praying now that SGI President Ikeda’s vow for the happiness of all humanity will be my vow! I enjoy when people ask me why I’m so happy and I can tell them I’m a Buddhist. I’ve learned that you don’t have to force this practice on anyone; you just have to open your own heart.

 

Dion Moore
Hillside, N.J.
Photo by Kevin Lyden
Photo: Kevin Lyden

In the past, I only cared about myself. My turning point came when I flunked out of nursing school. Just as I determined to return to school fully focused, my house was put up for auction, and my friend attempted suicide. By chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo and participating in SGI-USA activities, I gained the motivation to study hard. I graduated from nursing school and passed my licensing exam. I learned how important it is to maintain a high life condition. Today, as a nurse at a methadone clinic, I feel compelled to fight harder for the happiness of others. Today, there’s not a single person I don’t talk to about Buddhism. Expansion means to fully dedicate myself to the members in my district and chapter, and to make a cause every day to advance kosen-rufu, no matter what.

 

Rick Dannelly
Lakewood, Colo.
Photo: Rayna Manger Tedford
Photo: Rayna Manger Tedford

After my wife passed away in 2006, I determined to share Buddhism with others on her behalf. Since then, I’ve introduced two families every year to this practice. I’ve developed a deep sense of joy and fulfillment through doing so. Expansion to me means to champion a sense of courage and mission in the life of each member, and to raise the level of excitement for propagation in my chapter. Each member in our organization has the potential to be even more amazing. I’m determined to embrace SGI President Ikeda’s spirit of compassion and care for people, and to develop a life condition where I can impart joy and courage to others.

 

Amanda Santos
Lowell, Mass.
Photo by Deepanjan Das
Photo: Deepanjan Das

I was introduced to the practice in 2010. At the time, I experienced great strength, courage and comfort through my practice and continuous prayers, as I supported my dad during his illness. By caring for my dad, I awakened to my mission to help others in healthcare. Today, I work at a middle school nurse’s office during the day, go to nursing school at night and do as many SGI activities as I can. I’m determined to expand my prayer, my courage to share Buddhism with others and my capacity to foster and build deep bonds of friendship with the young women in my chapter. This year, I want to live with the spirit that, by expanding my life, I’m expanding kosen-rufu in America.

 

Brandon Hill
San Francisco, Calif.
Photo: Kingmond Young

When I was introduced to this practice in 2008, I didn’t have a job, my roommate was on drugs, and my mom was sick and living 3,000 miles away. I remember being told that if I chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, I would have nothing to lose, only something to gain. I began to chant every day and within 30 days, I found a job, a good place to live and helped my mom get the best treatment. I have since helped six people receive the Gohonzon. This year, I want to break through my limitations by developing more friendships and at creating tremendous victories in my life. I am determined to stand up as a disciple and show actual proof. To me, this means being a great husband and leader, and having the conviction to build the career of my dreams as a story artist. This year, I will visit the Hall of the Great Vow for Kosen-rufu with my wife and deepen my resolve to share this practice with everyone I meet.

 

Chad Lutu
San Antonio, Texas
Photo by Craig Gunduth
Photo: Craig Gunduth

I spent my 20s in prison. After I began seriously practicing Buddhism, I started to understand that the fastest way to transform my karma is to help another person become happy. In 2013, I introduced seven people to the practice. Since then, I’ve helped about 30 people receive the Gohonzon. Today, my outlook on life has changed completely. I’m so appreciative that my parents enabled me to encounter this practice and that my son can have a different life. To me, expansion is not a numbers race; it’s a race to save people’s lives.

 

Jackie Caraves
Santa Monica, Calif.
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Photo: Debra Williams

When I learned of this year’s theme, I looked up the word expansion to understand what it literally means. Expansion is a synonym for growth and development. For me, this means to challenge and win in the areas of my life that I fear the most. As a Ph.D. student in ethnic studies, I’m writing a dissertation proposal on the experiences of transgender Latinas and Latinos, and how they navigate family, labor and spirituality. I want to humanize their experiences and emphasize the sanctity of their lives, a core principle in Buddhism. I think that my expansion will happen by centering my life on prayer to the Gohonzon and encouraging the person in front of me with an open heart.

 

Gustavo Shimabuco
Miami, Fla.
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Photo: Mary D’Elia

Six years ago, I was working in Kentucky as a tractor-trailer truck driver, when I said to myself: “Gohonzon, I’m going to change this and go back to Florida.” In the middle of the year, I lost my job and returned to Miami. As I engaged in SGI activities, I renewed my vow to advance kosen-rufu in Florida. I was then able to start nursing school at age 52! I’m so appreciative for the tremendous change between who I was in 2010 and who I am today, thanks to the wonderful opportunity to take responsibility in the SGI-USA men’s division. I want to expand my life for the sake of the members in Miami and to expand my courage to share Buddhism. Recently, my co-worker decided to receive the Gohonzon. My biggest change: learning to appreciate my life while dedicating my life to the happiness of the people.

 

Aisha Williams
Oakland, Calif.
Photo by Kingmond Young
Photo: Kingmond Young

Expansion to me means to challenge myself to care more deeply about people and to pray for their problems as if they were my own. I recently introduced a co-worker to the practice. He had heard about Nam-myoho-renge-kyo before from a store clerk some years ago. She spoke little English and would write Nam-myoho-renge-kyo on ripped-up cigarette cartons for customers. Years later, when he came to a district meeting with me, he recognized the chanting and soon received the Gohonzon. Seeing him strengthen his practice brings me great joy. This year, I’m determined to build more loving relationships at home, at work and in the SGI-USA. I’ll strive to do so by caring for the person right in front of me.

 

Mario Madrid
Guerneville, Calif.
Photo By Issa Aryanpure
Photo: Issa Aryanpure

Expansion to me means to expand my life state—not just through the quantity of my prayer but also the quality of it. In the past few years, I’ve helped 12 people receive the Gohonzon. This month, my mother will join the practice! To see another person’s life transform gives me the greatest joy. This year, I want to share this philosophy with even more people and to participate in district activities as much as possible. With this practice, all our goals can be achieved.

 

Teresa Espinoza
Chicago, Ill.
Photo by Bob Nardi
Photo: Bob Nardi

I received the Gohonzon in March 2003, and since then, I’ve introduced almost every member in my district to the practice. With nine children of my own—my three eldest of which have received the Gohonzon—my determination is to foster and raise youth who can advance kosen-rufu with our mentor, SGI President Ikeda. To me, expansion means opening the path to happiness for every human being, just as the three founding Soka Gakkai presidents did for us. I want to share my way of life with my friends, neighbors and co-workers, and create history so that, when I go to Eagle Peak, I will have graduated from this lifetime with honors.