The Joy of Contributing to World Peace
My family experienced the tragedies of war, but now we are protagonists for peace.
by Nanami Vittor
Ellicott City, MD.
My family suffered the horrors of World War II in Japan. Two of my older sisters died, and my father was financially devastated. Growing up, I remember asking myself: Why do countries go to war? Why do people kill one another? I wanted to contribute to world peace but had no idea how.
When I was a student at 19 years old, I was confused about what justice was and if people could become happy in this world. My friends and I participated in student political uprisings, but I felt powerless inside. In 1967, I befriended a woman in my neighborhood who always had a beautiful smile. She told me about the Soka Gakkai and explained it as a world peace movement based on each person’s happiness. This was what I had been searching for. I started chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo that same day. I also started reading Ikeda Sensei’s books, including The Human Revolution. I was struck by the first sentence: “Nothing is more barbarous than war” (p. 3).
After I started practicing Buddhism, I wanted to help my parents. My father was paralyzed from a stroke when I was 15, and my mother was a very closed person. I later learned that when my two sisters died, she suffered debilitating sadness, to the point where she couldn’t get out of bed for days at a time.
While still a new member, I had the opportunity to attend a meeting with Sensei and asked him how I could introduce my parents to Buddhism. “Simply become the greatest daughter,” he told me. At the time, they and my older siblings strongly opposed my faith, but I did my best to show the power of Buddhism through my care for them. One day, when I was telling my father about the practice, he surprised me by saying, “OK, I trust you,” and he received the Gohonzon! Soon after, my mother and sister also joined the Soka Gakkai. Now, nearly all of my family practices. My father overcame his health challenges and went back to work. Also, after my mother joined, she opened up, and for the first time, I saw her exude the joy of life.
My dream of sharing the Soka Gakkai’s philosophy of peace around the world came alive in 1972, when I heard Sensei speak about the Soka Gakkai’s mission for world peace. Though I had wanted to work for peace since I was a child, this time I thought, I can do it! The next year, I started school at the University of California, Berkeley, where I met my husband, Frank. His job took us to several countries, starting in the Middle East. In 1981, we moved to the Netherlands with our daughter, Amy, and son, Masaichi, as my husband started work at the International Tribunal.
The SGI organization in the Netherlands was small, but I enjoyed sharing Buddhism and building our network of peace. I did, however, struggle to balance raising my two kids and working for a Dutch company while participating in kosen-rufu activities.
Soon after we had arrived, Sensei and Mrs. Ikeda visited the Netherlands. I shared my struggle with Mrs. Ikeda, and she told me how when she was a young mother raising her three sons, she always brought them to meetings, confident that their lives would absorb the daimoku and positive experiences they heard. From then, I stopped seeing kosen-rufu activities and parenting as separate and included my children in developing SGI Netherlands.
In total, I’ve traveled to more than 20 countries in five continents, where I’ve been able to share the Buddhist philosophy of peace.
My greatest benefit is family revolution. I’m in awe of how happy and harmonious we have all become. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, we gathered 12–15 family members almost every year—nieces, nephews, my children and grandchildren. We called it our “Family Kosen-rufu Gongyo.”
I am filled with appreciation for the SGI and Sensei for developing our global network for peace. I’m still in touch with that woman with a beautiful smile who introduced me to the SGI 54 years ago. She lives in Hawaii, and we have a wonderful friendship. I was recently appointed the SGI-USA Many Treasures Group (MTG) vice women’s leader and look forward to the day we can all meet in person again. With the MTG guidelines as the foundation for our group, let’s take care of our health so we can win in our districts and create an environment filled with mutual support and encouragement.
Q: What advice would you give to newer practitioners?
Nanami Vittor: Each of you is a protagonist in our world peace movement. The New Human Revolution and The Human Revolution are like the blueprint for worldwide kosen-rufu. I encourage you to study those novels, from which you can learn Ikeda Sensei’s heart to achieve kosen-rufu while awakening to your own unique mission.