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SGI-USA to Expand Reopening

At the Central Executive Committee Conference, representative leaders discuss the next phase of in-person activities in 2023.

Photo by Jonathan Wilson.

SANTA MONICA, Calif.—If we, as an SGI community, were to compress the lessons of the COVID-19 pandemic into two essential Buddhist principles, they would be these:

1. Life is the foremost of all treasures. Even the treasures that fill the entire universe are no substitute for life.[1]

2. It is impossible to construct one’s own happiness and security on the fear and suffering of others.[2]

“These have been the bedrock principles that have guided us these last 2 1/2 years,” said SGI-USA General Director Adin Strauss, addressing members of the SGI-USA Central Executive Committee (CEC) and Executive Council at their quarterly conference.

“No matter how many times we repeat these principles, it can never be enough. This is not a guideline from an authority figure; this is Buddhism. This must be the departure point for any reopening discussion.”

The CEC and Executive Council held its third quarterly conference of the year on Sept. 17 at the SGI-USA Headquarters in Santa Monica, California, where representative leaders from throughout the country discussed and voted on the next phase of reopening in-person activities and other activity guidelines for next year. The Executive Council, SGI-USA’s highest decision-making body, affirmed the guidelines for 2023, setting into motion a series of fresh initiatives toward 2030.

Become a model of advancement and unity.

The conference began with a moving message from Ikeda Sensei, who praised the members’ noble efforts and encouraged the SGI-USA to become a model of unity, citing these words from Nichiren Daishonin: “If one can establish a relationship with even just one phrase of the Wonderful Law, that relationship will continue unbroken over a million kalpas.”[3]

“As you make dynamic progress in your lives and your efforts for kosen-rufu, please continue to joyfully help one friend and then another form everlasting bonds with Buddhism and enjoy the happiness that practicing it brings,” Sensei continued. “And please keep spreading the great light of hope and humanism far and wide.”

General Director approved to new 3-year term.

The Executive Council voted to appoint SGI-USA General Director Adin Strauss to a new 3-year-term (October 2022–October 2025).

During the meeting, Mr. Strauss acknowledged the following members attending the CEC and Executive Council Meeting for the first time:

• Nanami Vittor, Executive Council member
• James Herrmann, West Territory leader
• Margaret Kasahara, West Territory women’s leader
• Paul Niihara, Central Territory leader
• Mike Woods, Central Territory men’s leader 

Since the start of the pandemic, the SGI-USA has reviewed COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths across the country each week to make real-time decisions on whether members can gather safely at Buddhist centers across the U.S.

The CEC members voted on the following guidelines, which were approved by the Executive Council.

Approved guidelines:

Photo by Toshi Takahashi.

Restart indoor home visits

As of Oct. 1, these visits would be contingent upon all participants: gathering in small numbers; being symptom-free, masked and willing to disclose their vaccination status if asked; and agreeing to plan the visit in advance. This applies to home visits alone; the SGI-USA will not hold other meetings in people’s homes at this time.

Photo by Jonathan Wilson.

Hold chapter-level kosen-rufu gongyo meetings at locations far from Buddhist centers.

As of Oct. 1, chapters fulfilling certain criteria can rent a facility for kosen-rufu gongyo meetings, which would also count toward fulfilling the requirements for individuals to receive the Gohonzon.

The criteria include: a substantial portion of the membership having to travel more than two hours one way to attend a meeting at the nearest open SGI-USA center; at least 30 chapter members uploading proof of a vaccination/booster in their online SGI-USA Member Resources account; and at least one Byakuren and one Soka Group uploading proof of vaccination and supporting the activity.

At the same time, the CEC voted for all region through national leaders to be vaccinated since they are responsible for the safety and protection of the members; as well as members of the youth training groups, Byakuren, Soka Group and Gajokai, given their high contact with members at in-person activities.

Photo by Anthony Wallen

Open Buddhist centers and rental facilities to all members, regardless of vaccination status, COVID rates permitting.

In early December, the SGI-USA national team, based on current COVID data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, will make a decision whether to enact the following plan:

On Jan. 1, the SGI-USA will open Buddhist centers, including rental facilities, to all members regardless of vaccination status. All participants must consent to wearing a mask at all times while attending in-person SGI-USA activities, while the venues will operate at 75% capacity.

The SGI-USA, meanwhile, encourages but does not require members to get the Bivalent vaccine booster and upload proof of vaccination in their online Member Resources account.

Photo by Yvonne Ng.

Continue to hold in-person discussion meetings at opened Buddhist centers based on the current guidelines.

The SGI-USA will continue to hold in-person discussion meetings at opened Buddhist centers based on the current guidelines, which require members to be fully vaccinated and masked. The rationale for maintaining the vaccine requirement: discussion meetings are held in smaller rooms, where close quarters and chanting together pose a higher risk to those gathered.

Chicago. Photo by Bob Nardi

Open divisional activities to members and guests regardless of vaccination status.

With this change in direction, divisional activities will be held only in person at open Buddhist centers. These include: Kings of Soka, the women’s division Champions of Peace and Happiness Group, the men’s division Courage Group, the young women’s Ikeda Kayo-kai; and the young men’s monthly general meetings.

Exceptions to this guideline include: geography-related concerns, such as wintertime climates that make travel dangerous and meetings held in the Caribbean where members live far apart; and circumstances where the number of meetings for a specific group make it impossible to meet in person, such as Kayo-kai Core meetings and monthly women’s Sophia Group study meetings.

What activities are open to all members regardless of vaccination status?

  • Kosen-rufu gongyo (hybrid)
  • Introductory meetings (in person only)
  • Region study meetings (hybrid)
  • Soka Family Day (hybrid)
  • Divisional activities (in person only)
  • On-base military meetings

Hold hybrid region study meetings at opened Buddhist centers.

In a new development, regions will hold their monthly study meetings in person at opened Buddhist centers in a hybrid format. These meetings will count toward the criteria to receive the Gohonzon.

Buddhist meetings held on military bases will also be open to participants regardless of vaccination status.

Soka 2030 meetings will remain virtual for now. Also, personal memorial services and weddings cannot be held at our Buddhist centers during this phase.

Yvonne Ng.

District Is the Core: appoint group leaders in every district.

Last September, the SGI-USA introduced the “District Is the Core” initiative toward 2030, shifting the focus of the organization and community to the frontlines, rooted in the concept that districts are the places where countless people can be empowered to transform their lives and thereby change our society.

In 2023, the SGI-USA will continue this focus by appointing group leaders in every district as the key to better member care.

Highlights of the 2023 study program.

In October, the SGI-USA will hold its first introductory exam in three years at opened Buddhist centers. Another intro exam is scheduled for fall 2023.

Starting from January 2023, there will be a change to the monthly district study meeting material. Districts will choose from two options: 1) material provided in Living Buddhism’s monthly “District Study” series or 2) study material from any recent World Tribune or Living Buddhism.

Photo by Yvonne Ng.

For monthly discussion meetings next year, PowerPoint study presentations will no longer be provided to make space for each district to present the study material in ways best suited to their members.

Districts will choose from three study options for discussion meetings. Study of: 1) a passage from The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin; 2) a Buddhist concept; or 3) any article from a recent issue of World Tribune or Living Buddhism.

For youth leaders, the Ikeda Wisdom Academy will conclude its fifth class, with an exam on Feb. 4, 2023, for district–national leaders. (Find a study guide in your Member Resources account under “My Exams” and review questions in the November 2022–January 2023 issues of Living Buddhism.)

Its sixth class will launch in spring 2023 and focus on The Wisdom of the Lotus Sutra, vols. 1–3. 

Florida Nature and Culture Center will return to double occupancy, host a full conference schedule.

The SGI-USA Florida Nature and Culture Center in Weston, Florida, will hold a full year of conferences for the first time since 2019, bringing back the territory leaders conferences for East, Central and West, as well as the two elementary school division conferences.

Photo by Noriko Kakusho.

In January 2023, the FNCC will maintain its vaccination requirement as it returns to double-occupancy rooming and require participants to wear masks indoors at all times. Participants will be required to take a COVID test before traveling and will receive a full refund if they test positive. (Travel fee reimbursements are not included.)

In October, the SGI-USA promotes Sustaining Contribution to assure our future.

Sustaining contributions provide steady, vital financial support to the SGI-USA while allowing members to contribute in a predictable way through automatic credit or debit card deductions. This year’s promotion effort will be held Oct. 1–31. 

Such steady contributions enable the SGI-USA to better plan for acquiring and maintaining community centers; providing tools to assist members’ practice, such as paid Zoom accounts for chapter through national teams; supporting new and ongoing projects and activities; and introducing our values to society.

SGI-USA’s momentum will impact the entire world.

In a virtual guidance session held with SGI leaders in Japan, SGI General Director Yoshitaka Oba conveyed Sensei’s message to the participants and thanked everyone for all their efforts.

SGI Vice President Yoshiki Tanigawa then encouraged those taking leadership to carry out their kosen-rufu activities with a joyful spirit, to never forget the bond of mentor and disciple and to take the initiative (see full guidance on pp. 9–10).

“SGI-USA’s momentum in advancing toward 2030 will impact the entire world,” he said. “With the youth, who are growing at a remarkable pace and leading our movement, let us make a fresh new start as we vow with one another to expand and show dynamic progress, more than ever before!”


  1. See “The Gift of Rice,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 1125. ↩︎
  2. September 2022 Living Buddhism, p. 17. ↩︎
  3. The Record of the Orally Transmitted Teachings, p. 219. ↩︎

Closing the Gap

Exert Ourselves Joyfully to Enrich Our Districts