Interview

Who will inherit the Baton for Kosen-rufu?

District Profile: Pittsburgh East District

Pittsburgh, Penn. Photo: © iStockphotocom/Pittsburgh: treveler1116


SGI-USA’s Pittsburgh East District encompasses communities from the east side of Pittsburgh to communities east of the city such as, Wilkinsburg, Monroeville and Murrysville.

For a number of years, their monthly discussion meetings were attended mostly by five longtime members.

In 2013, however, the district members wondered, Who will inherit the baton for kosen-rufu in Pittsburgh East District? They united in front of the Gohonzon to expand their membership and to especially attract youth. Now after less than three years, some 30 members attend district discussion meetings, one-third of whom are youth division members. Today, Pittsburgh East District has become a hub of capable youth and propagation.

Photo: Gabriel Columbo
Photo: Gabriel Columbo

Q: What has been the key to
developing your district? 

 

Charlene Franklin
District Women’s Leader

IMG_7847A: Uniting with the heart of my mentor, SGI President Ikeda, and reaching the hearts of each member in the district has been the key to developing our district.

I began reading President Ikeda’s poem “An Ode to District Leaders” every day. I read it so many times that I memorized most of it. I was especially inspired by these lines:

“Mr. Toda said: ‘We live in a tumultuous age, in do-or-die times. Those who build a solid foundation will succeed. Those who strengthen their local areas will triumph” (An Ode to District Leaders: The Front-runners of Kosen-rufu, p. 7).

Charlene Franklin writing letters of encouragement to the district members. Photo: Gabriel Columbo.
Charlene Franklin writing letters of encouragement to the district members. Photo: Gabriel Columbo.

I began sending the monthly calendar of district activities along with a handwritten note to each member. It is my greatest joy to take this action to touch the hearts of the members. Based on these simple and consistent efforts, we now have many youth to whom we can pass the baton of kosen-rufu in Pittsburgh East District!

 

Patrick Burke
District Men’s Leader

IMG_7807A: We broke through using the strategy of the Lotus Sutra.

When I became the men’s leader for Pittsburgh East, I felt somewhat jealous of our neighboring district, which was bursting at the seams with youth, while we had few or no youth attending meetings. The district leaders and members united to expand our membership and especially attract young people. While the situation didn’t transform immediately, we continued to chant weekly to attract youth.

One by one, our members introduced their friends to Buddhism. Sharing Buddhism with others raised the spirit of our members and created the dynamism needed to attract youth. The experience taught me the power of single-minded prayer.

 

Richard Taylor
District Young Men’s Leader

IMG_7862A: I found my family when I joined the SGI and Pittsburgh East District in August 2015.

Growing up in foster care, I never understood the meaning of family. Now, each day, I receive a phone call or letter of encouragement from a district member. I’m determined to spread this unity and warmth to all the people in my community by introducing them to Buddhism!

 

Sherry Cottom
District Vice Women’s Leader

IMG_7827A: Waking up to my mission as a Bodhisattva of the Earth spurred the growth of our district.

Although I had been practicing Buddhism for almost 30 years, in 2013, I realized that I had a self-centered practice, which left me complaining often and missing my true purpose in life.

Through fighting together with Sensei and my Pittsburgh East District co-leaders to encourage each member and spread Buddhism, I feel more youthful than ever! In these mere three years, I have had more benefits than in my first three decades of practice.

Through this experience, I have learned to persevere, bearing in mind Nichiren Daishonin’s words, “If you travel for eleven but stop with only one day remaining, how can you admire the moon over the capital?” (“Letter to Niike,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 1027).

 

Brandi McClain
District Young Women’s Leader

IMG_7783A: Encouragement from my fellow district leaders. Even when I struggle with a consistent practice or get down on myself, my SGI family never gives up on me. My goal is to spread this SGI warmth by reaching out to more people in the community. I’m determined to become the most beautifult person and declare to people: My Buddhist practice helped me bring out my best self!

 

Pittsburgh East District members gather for a district study meeting, March 2016. Photo: Gabriel Columbo
Pittsburgh East District members gather for a district study meeting, March 2016. Photo: Gabriel Columbo

Four Keys to Victory

1. Chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, with the focus of attracting young people who will inherit the future of kosen-rufu.
2. Writing letters of encouragement to each member.
3. Overflowing with warmth and care for each person.
4. Burning with the spirit to elevate the life condition of the community through widely propagating Buddhism.