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Taking Away Suffering and Bringing Out Joy

SGI-USA Vice Women’s Leader Donna Snyder visits a member and her son, New York, Sept. 15. Photo by ANJELICA JARDIEL.

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 Donna Snyder
SGI-USA Vice National Women’s Leader

I continue to learn the Soka Gakkai spirit to treasure the person in front of me from SGI President Ikeda’s example. Whether seeing him in person or in videos, or through reading The Human Revolution and The New Human Revolution, I am always touched by how present he is with whomever is in front of him, and his heart to encourage them.

Once, on a trip to Tokyo, two other young women’s division members and I were invited to attend an event in the Toda Memorial Garden at Makiguchi Hall. President Ikeda was hosting an important gathering for friends of the SGI. As he was leaving the venue with the guests, he stopped to introduce them to us, and to engage in a short and joyful dialogue. In the midst of his very important activities with these guests, I was so moved by Sensei’s spirit to create an unforgettable encounter and encourage us deeply

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

  1. I do my best to home visit members with another leader, but if that’s not possible, I still never go alone, because I always bring something that encourages me from the SGI-USA publications and President Ikeda’s guidance.
  2. Sometimes, I’m aware of an aspect of the person’s struggle, but other times, I’m not. In any case, I try not to go with assumptions.
  3. I chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo that my voice can do the Buddha’s work and lift any heaviness in their heart, so they can return to the Gohonzon with a fresh determination. I also pray that I’ll be able to meet and appreciate any of their family members who might be home.

Q: What is most important in doing home visits?

The most important thing is to create an atmosphere of trust, where true heart-to-heart dialogue can occur and we can learn from each other. I am always so moved by a person’s courage to open up and reveal their deepest challenges, often sharing things they never have before and sometimes never intended to.

Q: How do you encourage a member who is really struggling?

I think the best way is to give them hope; hope that they can transform their suffering.

I keep in mind one of my favorite passages from Nichiren Daishonin: “Winter always turns to spring” (“Winter Always Turns to Spring,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 536). Regarding this encouragement, President Ikeda said:

These words of Nichiren Daishonin are a message of encouragement that causes the sun to rise in the hearts of all humanity. They are a source of courage enabling us to remain undaunted by the harshest winter of karmic suffering. They are a source of hope that unfailingly calls forth a springtime of happiness . . .

In the early days of our movement, a young women’s division member from the Tohoku Region in northeastern Japan earnestly asked me how she could contribute to worldwide kosen-rufu. I praised her and told her that to ponder that question itself was the spirit of the Buddha.

“Everything,” I said, “starts from sincerely encouraging the person right in front of you. From there, the way forward will definitely open.” Each person’s life is a precious treasure tower.

April 2018 Living Buddhism, p. 4

With this in mind, I share my own experience of transforming my struggles through Sensei’s guidance and Nichiren’s writings.

Q: What is the goal of home visits?

After a home visit, I can always pray with more clarity than before. With an understanding of the person’s challenge, I chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo for them to have a great breakthrough in their life, so they can share their victory with others.

The goal of home visits, to me, is to take away suffering and bring out joy, enabling each of us to deepen our faith, refresh our resolve and advance in our human revolution together with our mentor.

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