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Becoming a Pillar of Kosen-Rufu

by Oona Friedland

Serving as Byakuren has deepened my relationship with Ikeda Sensei, with the SGI-USA and with our global movement. Not being a participant in the meeting, but watching it through the eyes of the members we are supporting, taught me the importance of being there to facilitate a safe and harmonious space for kosen-rufu to happen within our centers. 

When I first started my Byakuren training, I felt like I was just showing up, holding doors open and cleaning. But through studying Sensei’s writings and learning from others working behind the scenes, I’ve learned the true Byakuren spirit: to fight alongside our mentor toward our shared vow for kosen-rufu. 

Sensei says, “How infinitely worthy, beautiful and sublime is the youth of our Byakuren Group members who, in this dark, defiled age, sincerely and selflessly work to be of assistance to others.”[1]

I remember some shifts that were particularly difficult. One day, after watching the news and seeing the world so full of violence and disharmony, I actually felt afraid to go out in public to do my Byakuren shift. But thinking back to that quote, I realized that through our actions, we are fighting for a society that respects life. Standing at the SGI-USA centers, we are the pillars of kosen-rufu. Knowing this, I realized I didn’t have to fear the saha world.[2]

Another time, I was struggling with self-doubt. I couldn’t see my own Buddhahood and was questioning if it even existed. It felt like the meeting was going by so slowly, my feet were hurting and I was tired. Then, I realized some of the other Byakuren members would be able to relate to these feelings of self-doubt, and everyone who was fighting alongside me also was facing some obstacle in getting there that morning. Knowing that we are all in it together helped me redetermine to challenge those things that I struggle with. The very next day at work, my manager informed me that I would be receiving a 10% raise. 

Serving as Byakuren forged my understanding that our practice and daily life are not separate by any means. Even little things like holding the door open for others or picking up trash are ways that I can bring the Byakuren spirit of caring for others, always being the one to say “I’ll do it!,” into my community. To me, that is what kosen-rufu is all about. 

Supporting the SGI—joining meetings, participating as an emcee or serving behind the scenes—is never an obligation. It is a profound responsibility that we are entrusted with, a noble cause we are making for our own lives. Through this training, we are able to transform our self-doubt and fears, and gain treasures of the heart more valuable than any material benefit. 

Photo by Rayna Tedford.

‘The Great Pathway to Certain and Unshakable Happiness’ 

In volume 24 of  The New Human Revolution, “Vigilant Safeguarding” chapter, Ikeda Sensei encourages members of the Byakuren Group, one of the SGI’s youth training groups. He appears in the novel as Shin’ichi Yamamoto. 

“The members of the Byakuren Group are the ‘faces’ of the Soka Gakkai and the ‘flowers’ of Soka.

“Young women dedicating themselves to kosen-rufu and their fellow members are incredibly admirable and noble. All of your efforts and hard work will adorn your lives in the form of great benefits and good fortune. This accords with the workings of the rigorous Buddhist law of cause and effect. 

“Therefore, as a Buddhist, you need to be committed to advancing along your chosen path.

“The only pathway to true happiness is to act based on your own convictions, deriving from the teachings of Buddhism, and not worry about how others may judge you.”

Shin’ichi wanted to assure them that although their sincere efforts may seem to go unnoticed by others, the Buddhas and bodhisattvas throughout the universe observe all. …

Everything is up to the individual. Both positive and negative effects in one’s life are the results of one’s own actions. The way to transform the negative karma one has formed and create the most positive effects possible is through practicing the true teachings of Buddhism and dedicating oneself to kosen-rufu. This is the great pathway to certain and unshakable happiness. Buddhist practitioners should strive to live out their lives with an understanding that Buddhas and bodhisattvas throughout the universe are aware of their actions, based on the causality of life.

The shining examples offered by members of the Gajokai, the Soka Group and the Byakuren Group brim with that spirit. (pp. 121–22)


  1. Byakuren Group Handbook, p. 10. ↩︎
  2. Saha world: This world, which is full of suffering. It is also defined as an impure land, a land defiled by earthly desires and illusions. The saha world describes the land where Shakyamuni Buddha makes his appearance and instructs living beings. In the Lotus Sutra, it is held that the Buddha land, or the pure land where the Buddha dwells, is in fact the saha world. ↩︎

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