SGI-USA General Director, Adin Strauss, discusses "practice for others" and how his experience as a unit leader was the beginning of a lifelong friendship.
It was just a few months after I started practicing Buddhism that, to my surprise, I was asked to become a unit leader. As someone new to the practice, lacking in study, I truly thought that I had little to offer.
I was charged with chanting for and inviting a small group of young men to discussion meetings. One young man responded to my phone calls, so I went to visit him.
On the surface, we had little in common. I had grown up in New York and had a job in the financial industry. He had recently emigrated from a country in political turmoil, and was seeking citizenship as well as a career path in a new country.
What could I offer him? At least once a week, I made the one-hour journey by subway and on foot to his home. There, I would teach him gongyo as best I could, and we would read SGI President Ikeda’s guidance from the World Tribune together, as comrades. And I made sure he knew the schedule for young men’s activities and discussion meetings. We would often go out to eat, and he enlightened me to the great taste of his native cuisine.
I will never forget how, directly after he committed to take part in an important young men’s activity, he received notice that his green card was moving forward. His joy became my joy. Of course, it was his chanting of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo and his practice that created that great step forward in his life. But as a unit leader supporting him, I also felt I had in some small way been a part of this young man transforming his destiny at the deepest level.
We developed a beautiful relationship, one that has carried forward to now, 30-plus years later. And my experience in looking after and supporting this young man as a unit leader at the beginning of my practice is one of my precious treasures.
Years later, I came across this bit of encouragement from SGI President Ikeda, which I have kept with me ever since. In “To My Friends” for Oct. 29, 2009, he writes:
We are fortunate to have the opportunity to pray
for the happiness of our friends,
and to positively transform karma.
Let’s lead lives filled with
With so many wonderful people joining the practice, let’s offer them an opportunity to be unit leaders so that they can learn the bodhisattva way of “practice for self and others,” and develop into individuals who can achieve their aspirations in life and inspire limitless others in the process.
See you on the front lines!
With deepest appreciation,
SGI-USA General Director