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There Is No Substitute for Chanting


This year, the SGI-USA is focused on developing the district as the oasis of open-hearted discussion and encouragement. In this new series, the World Tribune speaks to Soka Victory Districts to learn the keys to their advancement.

Columbia District
Columbia, Mo.

Columbia District is located 120 miles from the two closest SGI-USA centers in St. Louis and Kansas City, Missouri. Our members’ gracious hearts to open their homes has been the foundation of kosen-rufu here.

We have many youth in the city, because of the University of Missouri. The challenge is that they often come and go. One great thing is that the university has allowed us to establish “Soka: Buddhists for Peace” last year, a campus club that hosts intro-to-Buddhism meetings.

This year marks the 20th anniversary of Columbia District’s founding, and we are very happy to become a Soka Victory District despite the various challenges we face in an outlying area. It reaffirms the power of prayer and fuels our determination to continue striving for kosen-rufu!

Q: Does the district have a motto?

Our motto is “Never Be Defeated!” This means embodying the same spirit as SGI President Ikeda and chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo with the determination to advance kosen-rufu.

With that as our basis, we wholeheartedly engage in our human revolution by sharing this practice with others, fostering youth and future division members, uniting as a four-divisional team, and employing the three pillars of faith, practice and study in our daily lives.

Q: What were some points of action that led to becoming a Soka Victory District?

We began inviting guests to our weekly chanting sessions. Now, we have over 10 members and guests joining us consistently.

We also involve the youth in planning our discussion meetings. This meant moving our planning meetings to the university campus, where it’s more convenient for them to attend. Their fresh, creative ideas have transformed our meetings and keep us from falling into things out of force of habit.

The determination of the youth is our driving force, and, together, we take full responsibility to ensure that our meetings are joyful.

Q: Could you share a recent breakthrough in the district?

Our young men’s leader, Devesh, along with three other youth, wanted to attend the SGI-USA Student Division Conference in Florida this August to refresh and deepen their faith. But being international students, they had many challenges, including financial ones.

As they chanted for courage, our young women’s leader, Apoorvee, recommended applying for funding from the university—a resource that was available for students. Based on prayer, challenging SGI activities and taking persistent action, the group met all the qualifications to apply.

Their request, however, was denied. Rather than being discouraged, they strengthened their determination and appealed the decision, even increasing the amount they were asking for to include travel expenses. As a district, we chanted with a fighting spirit for these youth to awaken to their mission in life.

As a result of their never-give-up spirit, they were approved for the funding! All four youth are now able to attend. This experience ignited in them the spirit to face their struggles with prayer.

Q: What are your determinations for the future?

In the past three months, we have helped three people receive the Gohonzon! We did this by focusing on helping one person a month begin their Buddhist practice. We are determined to continue this rhythm.

Our ultimate aim is for each member to achieve unshakable happiness built on strong faith, and to raise capable individuals who are awakened to their mission in life.

Q: Any advice to other districts?

Chant abundantly! We chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo before inviting members, for the success of each meeting, before each home visit, for our own personal breakthroughs and for everything else—there is just no substitute for chanting.

The interview was conducted with women’s leader Nobuko Oba; men’s leader Nick Henson; young women’s leader Apoorvee Sawhney; young men’s leader Devesh Kumar; chapter men’s leader Toshi Ezashi; and vice chapter women’s leader Mine Ezashi.

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