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Redefining Joy Amid the Times

A report on the March 2022 youth general meetings.

Photo by pixabay / pexels.

by Maya Gunaseharan and Ryo Kuroki 
SGI-USA Young Women’s and Young men’s Leaders 

March is a very significant month for the youth of Soka. On March 16, 1958, 6,000 Soka Gakkai youth division members gathered with their mentor, Josei Toda, in what he called a “dress rehearsal” for kosen-rufu.[1] At this event—just two weeks before his noble life came to a close—Mr. Toda entrusted the future of kosen-rufu to the youth division.

As an expression of our enduring vow to respond to this call, in the latter half of March, the youth division of SGI-USA commemorated March 16 with celebratory gatherings across the nation. 

Considering the challenges posed by the ongoing pandemic, war in Ukraine and continued violence and racism in our country, the meetings were themed “Redefining Joy Amid the Times.” 

Open to all youth members and guests, the goal of these meetings was to awaken every attendee to the power they possess to create and experience joy. We want each youth to discover how they can be a protagonist in shaping a society that respects the dignity of life. 

Due to everyone’s efforts, these meetings were a tremendous success. Thank you very much!

Celebration—Youth of Rocky Mountain Zone gather virtually for their March youth general meeting, March 2022.

Writing Our Own History

In a congratulatory message, Ikeda Sensei said, “As you carry out your human revolution in your own unique way, please write your own history of creating the greatest value.”

Leading up to the meetings, promotion was rooted in heartfelt one-to-one conversations, placing emphasis on awakening a determination in each person. Many youth were struggling with personal challenges, but they used this opportunity to create value for themselves and others nonetheless. For many of us, this has meant mustering the courage to base our happiness on our conviction in faith rather than external conditions. 

One young woman had recently lost her sister to addiction and her father to cancer. Yet she lives with gratitude, because she feels that, with Nam-myoho-renge-kyo and her mentor, Sensei, she can transform any suffering. She invited seven friends and joyfully shared her experience at her local meeting.

As disciples of Sensei, the real victory comes with what we do next: How will we follow up with each precious person who attended? How will we encourage each youth who couldn’t make it and connect them with their district family? Our efforts to visit every person, listen to them and help them identify how Nichiren Buddhism can help them break through their sufferings is how we will take the baton from Sensei and move kosen-rufu forward with a redefined sense of momentum, excitement and joy.

Three key points from Ikeda Sensei that lead to a peaceful society where each person is valued and respected: 

1. Our individual lives are not possible without the support of many others.

Takeaway: Understand our interconnections to bring about a deeper level of joy.

2. The problems of the world are interrelated, and problems in distant places will quickly find their way to our local communities.

Takeaway: Spread happiness to those around us, affecting a change in the rest of the world.

3. While our specific circumstances and sufferings may vary, our problems in their essence are the same.

Takeaway: Chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo to summon empathy and the power to dispel all suffering.

Voices From the March Youth General Meetings

illustrations by ngedit_vector/Fiverr

Shannon Griffin

I left the March youth general meeting asking the same question I walk away with after every meeting or interaction with the SGI commmunity: How is it possible for such a nice and welcoming community to exist? Sometimes I still have to pinch myself about that.

As a Hope Champion,[2]I was delighted to facilitate one of the discussion groups at the meeting. I’m so appreciative that this practice focuses on helping people grow and develop their leadership capabilities. Being a facilitator was about listening to others and being inspired by them. 

In my group discussion, people talked openly about their struggles and concerns. The war in Ukraine was weighing on the minds of many and some also voiced that they were worried they would lose hope. We decided as a group to use these fears to return to the Gohonzon, chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo to channel them into something positive. It was nice to know that other people were feeling all the things I was.

I’ve been chanting since 2020, and the greatest benefit has been becoming more open and able to connect with others. Especially during this time, I have found that I can meet people where they are with compassion and patience and give myself more grace. I’m looking forward to attending meetings in person so that I can receive the Gohonzon soon!

Kazukiyo Kobayashi
Torrance, Calif.

I was appointed the young men’s leader for the North Torrance Chapter last November, so this was my first big campaign where I felt I had to stand up and fight as a leader. I challenged this opportunity as a training ground to develop my own Buddhist practice and the confidence to pursue my career and personal aspirations as a supply chain systems analyst and fashion designer. 

I tried to get connected to as many guys as possible, with a focus on developing a genuine relationship with them. I firmly believe that the bond we develop with each other makes these big events much more meaningful. The theme of this meeting was definitely intriguing, considering what everybody is going through during these turbulent times. I was hoping to spark guys’ interests in attending, where they would say, “Oh this could help me out” and “That sounds really cool.” 

I’m happy to report that we had 100% attendance of the young men’s division members who registered in my chapter. This effort would not have been possible without the joint effort of my co-leaders. I am super appreciative of them. 

My key takeaway from this effort is the importance of taking care of others. Yeah, we fight to get as many people to attend, but we want to focus on ensuring that they gain something to benefit their lives. 

Miguel Saeteros
New York

I received the Gohonzon in 2020,  and now I’m a proud chapter leader. Before practicing Buddhism, I was easily overcome by my own negativity and doubts, and it impacted my work and studies. One of the main reasons is that I have a speech impediment, but I realized that even with this challenge, I can have a positive impact on hundreds of people. 

As a young men’s leader, I reached out to nearly 60 young men toward the March youth general meeting. I had many wonderful conversations, and I also had three friends and family members join the meeting! They all enjoyed it, and my brother will be attending an upcoming in-person meeting.

Sometimes I get caught up with my own worries. But this meeting reminded me that I want to be more selfless. Reaching out to others who are going through something and encouraging them gives me joy and energy. Seeing others happy makes me happy. 

I want to deepen my faith and practice this year. I’m also determined to pursue a master’s degree and become the pillar of my family to change the next generation. My friend will be receiving the Gohonzon at the upcoming kosen-rufu gongyo meeting, and I will continue to introduce others to the SGI!


  1. See March 2021 Living Buddhism, p. 22. ↩︎
  2. During the COVID-19 pandemic, guests are recognized as HOPE Champions when they are:  1) chanting consistently, 2) self-subscribing to the SGI-USA publications, 3) receiving benefit and 4) have shared their experience at a meeting. ↩︎

Advancing Together