Interview

Returning to the Heart of the Soka Gakkai

Youth district leaders share their thoughts on the one-hour discussion meeting format.

Riverbend District, New Orleans, LA. Photo: Maile Zox.


With the purpose of returning to the heart of the discussion meeting and our mission as Bodhisattvas of the Earth to share Buddhism, the SGI-USA Central Executive Committee introduced two ways to make the district more relevant to members and guests starting in September 2015. These include shortening the meeting to one hour, to give ample time for Q&A with the central figure and to give time for quality discussion afterward.

Photo:Marc Giannavola
Photo: Marc Giannavola

Tariq Imran Hasan

Greenwich Village District Young Men’s Leader
New York City

After receiving my undergraduate degree in the U.S., I began working in Vietnam. Since Vietnam doesn’t have an official SGI organization, their core faith activity is discussion meetings. It was there that I began to truly appreciate and enjoy the district and the warm encouragement it provides.

Returning to New York, I eventually joined Greenwich Village District—a district with many artists and students who bring joy and a youthful spirit to our activities.

Although our meeting time is shorter, we don’t truncate the discussion time. One person will present a study topic for discussion and we get right into the dialogue, sharing our experiences, challenges and determinations. Our post-meeting time is often an extension of the discussions that took place during the meeting. In the previous format, we were more generous with our time allotments, but this new format has given our district more structure and advanced planning without having to lose time for discussion. Through this, I have learned how to value my own time more.

We also encourage our new members to participate in our activities through opportunities such as being the emcee or presenting an explanation of the practice. We continue to have guests regularly and introduce new friends to the SGI.

Photo: Gayathri Suresh
Photo: Gayathri Suresh

Divyaa Janaki Ravichandran

Bellevue Lotus District Young Women’s Leader
Bellevue, Wash.

With the one-hour discussion meeting format, we plan a lot more now for each discussion meeting—con rming a central figure, making sure there is an encouraging experience and choosing the topic that best suits our members. We’ve also been incorporating songs into our agenda. When the members sing together, it unites us and brings a lot of joy. We’ve also adopted a new and improved method of communication. These advancements resulting from the new format have led to greater participation among our members and a wonderful feeling of unity!

After every meeting, I enjoy catching up with the members. After our study meeting, we plan for our discussion meeting, when most of the members are present. People naturally share what they’re going through and volunteer to do various things to not only support the meeting but also one another. Because there’s more interaction, it’s easier to plan in line with what the members are going through.

After my son was born, I wanted to change my career path from engineering to psychology but was unclear what action to take. After I shared my determination at a discussion meeting, the members gave me so much support. Soon after, I was able to get in touch with some people who had changed their career path similarly. I saw that opening up about my progress helped me reach my goal faster!

Having central figures at our discussion meetings has been inspiring. One leader who came to our meeting had so much happiness in her smile and voice. Deeply encouraged, I determined to exhibit the same kind of warmth. Being a district leader has allowed me to develop more compassion in my life, especially toward my husband, son and neighbors. Now I can empathize with people’s struggles and varying life conditions and always be open to learn from everyone.

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