Sensei! Happy 90th Birthday!
Thousands of SGI-USA youth across the country celebrate SGI President Ikeda’s legacy and life with December Youth General Meetings.
On Jan. 2, SGI President Daisaku Ikeda, the Buddhist philosopher, educator, author and peacebuilder, celebrates his 90th birthday. As president of the Soka Gakkai International, he has globalized the philosophy and practice of Nichiren Buddhism, enabling millions of ordinary people throughout the world to awaken to the power of their own lives and transform the destinies of their families, communities and countries.
As a heartfelt birthday gift expressing their vow as successors, thousands of SGI-USA youth gathered across the country for December Youth General Meetings, where they reaffirmed their determination to usher in an era of hope and respect. The celebrations also served as dress rehearsals toward the 50,000 Lions of Justice Festival, which will take place on Sept. 23, 2018, in nine cities across the U.S. (see p. 8). In response to the general meetings, President Ikeda sent a powerful message, calling on his successors to bring forth the heart of a lion king and break through all hardships as they walk the path of their youthful vow.
“At last, we have entered an age in which our grass-roots movement promoting peace, culture and education, based on the respect for the dignity of life as taught in Buddhism, is becoming a reliable compass for leading humanity toward a bright future,” President Ikeda said. “I ask the youth of the SGI-USA to widely expand your network of young Bodhisattvas of the Earth through cheerful and courageous dialogue, imparting hope and encouragement to those around you.”
At every location, the members united four divisionally, making painstaking efforts to enable the youth to attend their respective meetings—through one-to-one encouragement to confirm the youth and coordinate transportation, which was spearheaded by the men’s and women’s divisions. They picked up youth with the spirit that none of them would miss the opportunity to celebrate their mentor’s 90th birthday, while repaying their debt of gratitude for his efforts to spread Nichiren Buddhism around the world. Each location premiered a video created by the SGI-USA that touched upon the relationship between Buddhism and human rights, and how President Ikeda has committed his life to the battle for freedom and the equality of all people. Participants also took in powerful faith experiences by newer youth members and dynamic performances by the Ikeda Youth Ensemble groups.
Among the first zones to hold general meetings: members of Los Angeles North Coast Zone gathered on Dec. 10, undefeated by the Southern California wildfires affecting their area. On the same day, Chicago Zone welcomed some 200 guests.
SGI-USA Youth Leader David Witkowski relayed how two days before Chicago Zone’s general meeting, a group of youth eating out together invited their server, a young woman, to the general meeting. Inspired by the SGI’s message of nonviolence and its philosophy of the dignity of life, she not only decided to attend but also asked to bring her friends.
“I realized that there are no shortages of young people who are ready for this Lions of Justice movement and who are seeking a mentor like President Ikeda,” Mr. Witkowski said. “The bottom line is: How determined am I in my prayers and actions to find these youth? Our next effort will be for every chapter in the SGI-USA to wage an all-out effort to bring the youth who attended the general meetings in December to their respective chapter kickoffs in January.”
The December Youth General Meeting coverage will continue in an upcoming issue.