Skip to main content


A Shared Vow to Awaken Others to Their Greatness

Allen Zaki

With “home visits” and “personal encouragement” as the bywords for the SGI-USA in 2019, this World Tribune series features SGI-USA leaders who discuss their personal experiences of being home visited, home visiting others and the lessons they’ve learned.

by David Witkowski
SGI-USA Vice Youth Leader

A young man I was supporting years ago had been diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer. I remember visiting him and not knowing what to say. I read this guidance from SGI President Ikeda: “The light of compassion shines when we empathize with such people, when we feel their sufferings as our own, when we take action putting ourselves in their shoes” (October 2015 Living Buddhism, p. 37).

Taking this to heart, I really tried to chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo as if I were in this young man’s shoes, praying deeply for his breakthrough. I resolved to fight alongside him. And when he overcame his cancer, I felt so much joy. It was an amazing feeling, as if I had broken through myself.

I’ll never forget this experience or President Ikeda’s words, which I always keep in mind as I support others to break through in their lives.

Q: What’s the most important thing in doing home visits?

Of course, it’s important that the member gets any questions they have resolved, or feels inspired to transform their lives through participating in SGI activities and whatever campaign is at hand, but in the end, was that visit a great memory?

In the past, I would often think, if I didn’t see a clear result from our visit, maybe I had failed. But I’ve realized that what matters is if the visit helped us form a genuine connection that leads to them having a sense of trust toward the SGI and President Ikeda.

Q: What are three things you keep in mind as you prepare for home visits?

1) I make sure I know a little bit about the person I’m visiting. How long have they practiced? What’s their family situation like, and whom do they live with? What are their hobbies? Preparing this way is a part of my effort to be someone they feel they can be completely open with.

2) I chant to open up my life. The best cause for them to open up is for me to open my life first.

3) I bring guidance from President Ikeda or Nichiren Daishonin that has inspired me. When I share encouragement that has touched me, I can share it with conviction, and aim to help them develop their own connection with Sensei and Nichiren Daishonin.

Allen Zaki

Q: How did you learn the Soka Gakkai spirit to treasure the person in front of you?

Over time, many members I’ve connected with have moved to different places. Some have even passed away. From this, I’ve realized the importance of treasuring the person in front of me and giving 100 percent when I’m with them. I try to treat each visit with a person as if it is my first and last time meeting them. In other words, going in with a sense of awe and respect for the person and without any prejudgment. And, based on my prayer, I do my best to share what needs to be said to fully support that person in breaking through.

A senior in faith once encouraged me to “give a piece of my life” to the person I’m visiting. Because of this, I often think, How much deeper can I dig to encourage this person?

It’s through doing home visits that I’ve learned how to give more of my life to the people in front of me—whether they are fellow members, my family or my co-workers.

Q: What makes a home visit victorious?

Home visits are about reconfirming the principles of Buddhism to win in our lives. Everyone experiences different kinds of struggles; some of these they share and others they don’t. I try to listen carefully, ask questions and open up about my challenges, too. This helps establish our relationship as comrades who are in it together. People tend to feel more strength when they know they’re fighting alongside someone else.

Victorious home visits remind me of the dialogue between the guest and the host in “On Establishing the Correct Teaching for the Peace of the Land” (The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1). Through heartfelt dialogue, the host [Nichiren Daishonin] resolves the doubts of the guest who decides to take faith in the Lotus Sutra. In the end, it’s about making a shared vow to awaken more people to the greatness of their lives.

Kosen-rufu Begins With One Person

“Connecting Beyond the Screen”