My First Days of Practice: Clara & Antwon

Clara Kitongo and Antwon Lord Funches share their first experiences practicing Soka Gakkai Nichiren Buddhism.

Clara Kitongo
Photo: Emily Kitongo.
Photo: Emily Kitongo.

Joined: Sept. 26, 2016

In 2016, I found myself questioning whether to return home to Uganda, feeling dejected from society and struggling to build positive relationships. It was at this time that a young man introduced me to Buddhism. I was drawn to the idea that chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo was about trusting in my own life and its expansiveness. Chanting gave me hope, and my mind became clearer. I received the Gohonzon three days later.

Since then, I have transformed my relationships through expanding my heart, reflecting on my life and having honest dialogues. I’ve also decided to return to school for a graduate degree in public policy. I love that this practice teaches us that we are the protagonists of our lives! That’s why I always share Buddhism with others and have helped two friends receive the Gohonzon.

I recently attended a young women’s conference at the Florida Nature and Culture Center, where I made a determination to become strong like a mountain and advance kosen-rufu together with SGI President Ikeda and my new sisters in faith!


Antwon Lord Funches
Photo: Bob Nardi
Photo: Bob Nardi

Joined: April 3, 2016

In 2015, as a senior in high school, I became increasingly dissatisfied with my classes. I didn’t see how they applied to my life, and my relationships with classmates were becoming volatile.

Many of these challenges arose from my arrogance and inability to effectively communicate with others.

During that time, I was introduced to Buddhism by one of the coaches on my poetry team. As I chanted Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, I became more centered and less affected by the negativity in my environment. I continued to see benefits and received the Gohonzon in April 2016.

With hopes of becoming more outgoing, I became active in the Gajokai (an SGI-USA young men’s training group) while consistently studying The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin and SGI President Ikeda’s guidance. Recently, one classmate with whom I had many challenges expressed her respect for me.

When I feel the weight of the world’s sufferings and the many factors that divide us, Buddhism helps me return to our shared humanity as Buddhas. I’m determined to keep pushing my limits and supporting others with great compassion and understanding.


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