Experience

My Year of Brilliant Achievements

Manami Koizumi shares, "True victory comes down to my conviction and vow that I will never waver as a disciple of SGI President Ikeda."

Photo by EMILY TERADA.


by Manami Koizumi
Irvine, Calif.

Two years ago, SGI President Ikeda wrote in a message to SGI members around the world: “Please promise with me to work hard over the next two years with our fellow members around the world to expand our network of Bodhisattvas of the Earth, and forge ahead with energy, wisdom and good cheer to make the triumph of mentor and disciple resound into the eternal future of the Latter Day of the Law” (Oct. 7, 2016, World Tribune, p. 3).

At that time, I had just started my senior year at the University of California, Irvine, was appointed the South Orange County Region young women’s leader and accepted responsibility as the SGI-USA Fife and Drum Corps (FDC) leader for the 50,000 Lions of Justice Festival on Sept. 23.

Though feeling stretched in my capabilities, I vowed to Sensei that I would accomplish the following goals by the festival:

• graduate within the top 1 percent of my university class;

• get a job and car that supports kosen-rufu right after I graduate;

• find clarity in my relationship;

• create a new precedent of victory in my region and support the FDC to become a world-class training group; and

• support my brother and sister to start practicing Buddhism.

After graduating in August 2017, I determined to get a job, but nothing happened, and my feelings of incapability deepened. To pay the bills, I begrudgingly began working at a restaurant with an owner who had a negative impression of the SGI. At the same time, I had many doubts about my relationship that deeply challenged my insecurities.

I felt the same sense of incapability within my region and FDC responsibilities. At every meeting or rehearsal I led, I faced anxiety and often felt I could not go inside to simply greet the members. It seemed that no matter how much I chanted Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, did activities and persevered in my actions, I would always return to my wall of doubt.

Going into 2018, the SGI’s theme was announced: “The Year of Brilliant
Achievement.” I was encouraging members that this was the year to make brilliant achievements, but deep in my heart, I didn’t believe this was true for my life. But because I continued chanting, even when I felt miserable, I was able to meet the right opportunities at the right times.

In February, I attended the SGI-USA Youth Training Course in Japan with
200 other members. During that trip, President Ikeda wrote to us:

You have all grown, standing resolute, as grand and gallant as young lions. Lions never succumb nor do they ever retreat. Lions leap ahead, roar, battle and win without fail. I therefore firmly entrust each of you with the torch of justice, the heart of the lion king that I together with the everyday champions of our movement have kept ablaze over the years. I do this because there is no one I believe in and trust more than I do you. (March 2, 2018, World Tribune, p. 4)

His words of encouragement throughout the training course reminded me that I needed to chant with conviction and “simply make up my mind” (see “Reply to Yasuburo,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 829). I was a disciple of Sensei, and disciples don’t lose! From that point, I started to think less about “how” things would happen, and just simply resolved that they would, no matter what.

Through the 50K campaign, I learned the importance of winning in the morning with prayer. From my restaurant job, to meetings, to rehearsals, to encounters with my friends, family and partner— everything was determined by my life force. I chanted that I would meet every situation with Sensei’s heart, with the most embracing and strongest life force.

After chanting this way, things started to shift. South Orange County Region registered 1,256 lions for the 50K Festival. We continued changing our goals because we kept surpassing them! Every day I made causes to encourage the young women in the region and in the FDC, and my conviction began to develop. The members of the FDC started to experience great breakthroughs, which led to a shift in our performance that was now coming from a place of conviction and a desire to encourage everyone on behalf of Sensei.

This past August, one year since I had graduated, I was offered a job at Soka University of America with the exact description and pay that I had chanted for. At my restaurant job, I did my best and developed great bonds of trust. The restaurant owner now supports my practice 120 percent and even offered to sell me a car that fit my budget exactly! He said, “I want you to have the best car so you can support the people you take care of in the SGI.”

Regarding my relationship, I received guidance that if I made a decision based on my vow for kosen-rufu, nobody would lose. Though it was a hard decision to make, I ended the relationship with the determination that we would both absolutely win.

Despite juggling two jobs, an internship, volunteering, leading the SGI-USA student campus club and my two leadership responsibilities in the organization, I graduated in the top 1 percent of my university class. I had 13 squad members attend 50K, seven of whom were college friends, who told me they attended because they wanted to know how I was able to smile amid my struggles.

My brother and my sister both started practicing toward the festival, too! My brother is currently a chapter leader and supported 50K as a member of the Soka Group (a young men’s behind-the-scenes training group), while my sister is a district leader and performed with me in the FDC. One of my happiest moments was when my sister shared on the FDC GroupMe that she never felt so victorious in her life!

Looking back, everything changed the moment I resolved it would. It was not about my job, my relationship, or my leadership position; everything came down to my conviction and vow that I would never waver as Sensei’s disciple. This was my true victory.

Toward 2019, I will take this fighting spirit back to the district discussion meetings, where I was first embraced and started my Buddhist practice at age 16. I will take my life to the next level by opening new doors in my career and gaining acceptance into graduate school in 2020!

Thanks to the SGI and Sensei’s encouragement, I’ve learned to “leap ahead, roar, battle and win without fail.” WT