Interview

A Youthful Spirit Brings Happiness

Meryl Shapiro and her dog, Rosie, April 2021. Photo courtesy of Meryl Shapiro.


World Tribune: We learned that you recently had a profound experience introducing young people to Buddhism. Does this come naturally?

Meryl Shapiro (New York): Not at all. I’m 73, single and never had children. As a longtime SGI member, I’ve introduced a number of youth, but in the two years I fought all out for the Lions of Justice Festive in 2018, I only brought one young man. I knew this was a precious victory, but in contrast to everyone else’s results, I felt defeated.

In March 2021, with the youth general meeting approaching, I had to do my human revolution and win. As I chanted Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, I realized that I had a frozen area in my heart that the sun of Buddhahood hadn’t yet melted.

When I was young, I was never joyful. I suffered from depression, anxiety and anger. While I had transformed much of this through my Buddhist practice, I thought of myself as unable to relate to young people. I realized that seeing myself as disconnected from them reflected my own deep belief that I didn’t have a Buddha nature.

WT: Self-reflection like that can be tough but also exhilarating. Tell us more about your realizations.

Shapiro: I began to chant about Ikeda Sensei and his attitude toward young people. I realized that if I had considered myself a disciple, I had to chant to share Sensei’s struggle to find and nurture youth. Millions of SGI members around the world were doing the same, and I determined to join them. Instead of thinking, I, Meryl, have to shakubuku youth, I chanted that We, Sensei and all of SGI, will help youth become happy! My sense of defeat transformed into lightness and joy.

WT: Inspiring! What results have you seen?

Shapiro: Young people always break into a big smile whenever I tell them about Nam-myoho-renge-kyo and the SGI because they feel hopeful and inspired. In those moments I feel like I see their Buddha nature.

Just a few weeks ago, I leashed up my shakubuku partner—my dog, Rosie—and we went to the park. Six-year-old Nya came up to us to say hello to Rosie, and then she asked, “Do you have that card?” She had heard me share Buddhism with her mother previously. Nya took the card and went back to her friend on the jungle gym. A few days later, I saw her mother and mentioned that Nya had asked for the card. She asked me to tell her about all youth activities from then on, saying, “I’m very interested in my children becoming enlightened.”

While I always see tremendous protection and harmony in my daily life from sharing this Buddhism, my true benefit is how much my heart has expanded. I am filled with awe at the power to touch every life, no matter what age. And at 73, I feel more youthful than when I was actually a youth!