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Transform One Life, Then Another

Photo by Anjelica Jardiel.

SGI-USA General Director Adin Strauss gave the following words to open the Central Executive Committee Conference, held on March 5, 2022, at the SGI-USA Headquarters in Santa Monica, Calif.

by Adin Strauss
SGI-USA General Director

We will have plenty of opportunities today to discuss our focuses toward 2030, the “District is the Core” and “Propagation Renaissance.”

But I’d first like to focus on something on all our minds—namely, the war in Ukraine and what it says about the state of our world and what we must do about it.

Estimates are that 15 to 20 million people were killed in Europe during World War II.[1]Most of the continent was in ruins. It was in that aftermath that the United Nations was created and then, the European Union.

The 1970s saw the U.S. and Soviet Union come to a series of agreements to lessen the threat of nuclear war and strengthen mutual communications.  

We breathed a sigh of relief. And, yet, the 1990s saw ethnic purges and war in the Balkans—well within living memory of people who experienced World War II.

And now, we see the horror of war playing out yet again. Why is this?

I was poignantly asked the same question by a wonderful Many Treasures Group member during the turbulent times following the murder of George Floyd. She had participated in peaceful protests with her daughter but asked with frustration: Why am I protesting exactly the same things today that I was in the ’60s?

A society or a nation is a collection of individuals, and because “Buddhism is like the body, and society like the shadow,”[2]this lamentable state shows we have further to go to sink the roots of Buddhism deeply enough in society and the world.

Peoples’ lives continue to cycle through the six lower worlds, and that is why we find ourselves in 2022 facing a horrific war, nuclear threats—everything we thought we had moved past.

Nonetheless, Nichiren Daishonin’s conviction is “But still I am not discouraged.”[3] What can we do?

With the stirrings of spring come the first tentative signs that we are shifting to a new phase in the COVID-19 era. In the context of “changing poison into medicine,” we have taken a number of positive steps:

We have discovered powerful new audio/video technologies that will unite geographically far-flung people in our community going forward.

We rolled out a great new social media platform, Buddhability; and, through the ABC Campaign,[4] we learned about the vital importance of “cherishing each person” and how consistent and warm human connections are crucial to enable guests to establish a solid practice.

But we are facing some stiff challenges as well, for example, ensuring that our districts stay strong and that we have enough leaders to provide that crucial member care.

This is why we themed this conference “Rebuilding the Foundation.”  I believe we need to rebuild as follows:

1) The Foundation of Our Districts: by improving our discussion meetings, strengthening our member care efforts and continuing to appoint and nurture frontline leaders;

2) The Foundation of Our Youth: by warmly guiding them, sharing our experiences, entrusting them and supporting them; and

3) The Foundation of Propagation: while not rushing, we need to sink the roots of the Mystic Law into our society by broadly sharing Buddhism in our communities, which will in turn increase the joy and benefit that our members experience.

Thinking about the tragedy unfolding before us and our own challenges here at home, what comes to mind is a passage from Nichiren’s writings that Ikeda Sensei shared recently:

There is no place among the worlds of the ten directions that the sound of our voices chanting daimoku [Nam-myoho-renge-kyo] cannot reach. Our voices may be small, but when we intone the powerful sound of daimoku, there is no place in the universe that they do not penetrate.[5]

There’s no doubt—a single person’s daimoku will change the course of history. Each of us can be that person!

It’s so easy to wonder whether we can truly have an impact. Let me affirm: Our daimoku and our efforts to share Buddhism will transform one life, then another and still another.

Given the scale of needless suffering, we urgently need to build these foundations of propagation and member care.

Especially, I want to call out to our youth: This is your time. Please step forward fearlessly! Sensei has shown us how to create limitless value with our anger, our frustration and our sadness. We are all behind you!

Using our “Relay Daimoku” goals as a touchstone for this year (see sidebar), let’s pull out all the stops. Thank you!

SGI-USA Relay Daimoku
Let’s chant as appropriate for our personal schedules between 5 a.m. and 10 a.m. every day for:

Peace of the Land– No War! Happiness and safety of all people throughout the world!Earliest possible end to the COVID-19 pandemic!6,000 Bodhisattvas to arise from SGI-USA in 2022! Complete victory of the March Youth General Meetings!


  1. <accessed on March 8, 2022>. ↩︎
  2. “A Comparison of the Lotus and Other Sutras,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 1039. ↩︎
  3. “The Essentials for Attaining Buddhahood,” WND-1, 748. ↩︎
  4. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the SGI-USA in 2020 initiated the ABC Campaign: A) Abundant chanting; B) Buddhist study; C) Connect life-to-life with members, guests and family (by phone or videoconferencing). ↩︎
  5. Gosho zenshu, p. 808. ↩︎

Q: Why do we say ‘planting seeds’?

I enjoy and benefit from my Buddhist practice, but how can I deal with my parents’ criticism of it?