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277 Byakuren Inducted Across SGI-USA

Philadelphia. Photo by Jonathan Wilson.

by Cassie Colby 
SGI-USA Byakuren Leader

Congratulations to all of the newly inducted Byakuren Group members!

Throughout April, joyful dialogues and interviews were conducted across SGI-USA, culminating on April 23, when we welcomed 277 young women and nonbinary members into the young women’s division training group. It has been amazing to hear many wonderful reports on the Byakuren interviews held across SGI-USA, from Montana to Maine and everywhere in between. Thank you, everyone, for your continuous support!

As Byakuren members, we have an incredible mission to expand kosen-rufu at this time. Our training is teaching us how to become people who can naturally express Ikeda Sensei’s heart through our actions and words in our everyday lives and to become the most capable and trusted individuals in society.

In The New Human Revolution, volume 24, the “Vigilant Safeguarding” chapter, Sensei says that youth training groups enable us “to establish a foundation of educating, training and motivating ourselves” (p. 128). Sensei created these youth training groups, including the Byakuren, for us to become people who can protect and serve the precious members and guests of the SGI, and create a humanistic society.  

When I was in high school, I remember longing to join the Byakuren Group. As I reflected on these feelings recently, I realized that I wanted to support behind the scenes so that I could hide. For the majority of my life, I felt embarrassed and ashamed of who I was, and my desire was to not be seen.

Fortunately, in 2017 I joined the Byakuren Group and faced my life and fears head-on. I was reacquainted with my true bodhisattva self and learned how to be proud of who I am. Through supporting various SGI meetings and movements, I began to understand that the purpose of this training is to become a confident individual who radiates courage, compassion and wisdom and clearly sees the preciousness of my life. 

This transformation has been my greatest treasure and victory and will forever serve as a core foundation of my Buddhist practice. I am determined that, through this training, each Byakuren member will also learn how to embrace their unique self and mission.

Byakuren members across the country are dramatically transforming how they carry themselves in everyday life. At the core of our training, we are learning how to continually challenge ourselves, refresh our promise to fulfill our vow for kosen-rufu, and take everything we learn through Byakuren training back into our place of mission and win where our feet are planted. We need people in society who carry themselves in this way and can be a role model for others during this chaotic time, when many people aren’t concerned about others’ well-being. 

I hope each of you are proud to support the SGI-USA in this way. I know I am. It’s truly my greatest honor to be a Byakuren member at this time. 

Congratulations again to the most amazing Byakuren members for creating a new era in the Year of Youth and Triumph. Let’s continue to challenge ourselves to become the most capable individuals within SGI-USA and in society!

The Meaning of ‘Byakuren’

On July 8, 1966, the Byakuren Group (a young women’s division training group dedicated to supporting SGI activities behind the scenes) was established by Ikeda Sensei, who gave the group its name. Byakuren, meaning “white lotus flower,” symbolizes the strength and beauty of its members who remain unsullied by their surroundings though they live in the corrupt world of the Latter Day of the Law. Sensei further explains the significance of the name, saying: 

The Mystic Law is likened to a white lotus. In a letter to the lay nun Ueno, the mother of Nanjo Tokimitsu, Nichiren Daishonin writes: “Myoho-renge-kyo is likened to the lotus. The great mandara flower in heaven and the cherry blossom in the human world are both celebrated flowers, but the Buddha chose neither to compare to the Lotus Sutra. Of all the flowers, he selected the lotus blossom to symbolize the Lotus Sutra. There is a reason for this” (“Wu-lung and I-lung,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 1099). 

He goes on to explain that the reason is because unlike other flowers, the lotus both blooms and produces fruit simultaneously. In other words, this symbolizes that we don’t have to wait to attain Buddhahood only after we have accumulated good deeds; it happens instantly. Nichiren elaborates on this, saying, “With regard to the Lotus Sutra, when one’s hand takes it up, that hand immediately attains Buddhahood, and when one’s mouth chants it, that mouth itself is a Buddha” (“Wu-lung and I-lung,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 1099). The white lotus symbolizes this profound principle of simultaneity. (Oct. 27, 2006, World Tribune, p. 2)

Voices From New Byakuren Members

Byakuren Training Is Life Training

Ali McPherson
Bronx, New York

“You deserve to be happy,” my mother’s partner told me. They introduced me to Buddhism when I was unemployed, going through a break up and just didn’t feel worthy. I started chanting and on May 1, 2022, I received the Gohonzon.

I’ve developed amazing sisterhoods with young women in the SGI. Many of them are Byakuren members who talk about how significant the training is for their lives. I decided to join Water Lily (a pre-Byakuren training group), and my first month, I did a shift every weekend. 

Byakuren training is life training. There are times when I feel like I can’t do something, and I want to quit. These same thoughts appear when I’m supporting behind the scenes, but I can persevere by remembering I’m doing this for kosen-rufu—for myself and for others. My goal is to feel genuinely happy inside even while facing obstacles. 

Water Lily activities were an adjustment at first. Instead of relaxing on the weekend, I was waking up early to support others. But I think about how everyone put me first when I was a new SGI member. They were there for me and made me feel so welcomed. Now, as a new Byakuren member, I think, Wow, I get to do that for someone else.

Courage Revolution

Saloni Sinha
St. Louis, Mo.

The St. Louis Region is really spread out, and it’s been a challenge to have meetings in person. To give our members that joy of being together again after the isolation of the pandemic, I decided to join the Bya-kuren and support behind the scenes.

I’m usually an anxious person, and I’m an introvert by nature. So I really enjoy that Byakuren activities enable me to challenge those tendencies and push me out of my shell to greet and welcome members and create bonds of trust with the other youth working behind the scenes. 

I struggle with confidence. In my relationships, at work and in my studies as a Ph.D. student, I have a loud inner voice telling me that I am not good enough. I want to initiate a courage revolution in my life. That means developing the courage to value myself—to show actual proof that I don’t need to seek validation from outside myself, to see my inherent value. Byakuren training is the perfect place to wage this revolution in my life. 

Strengthening My Life Force

Audrey Crooks
Sacramento, Calif. 

I’ve always seen Byakuren at meetings and looked up to them. They are powerful young women and nonbinary people who make members feel safe and cared for. I’ve wanted to join for a long time, but I never felt like I had the time to fully commit to the group. I don’t necessarily have more time now, per se, but as long as my life force is strong, I know I’ll be able to do it.

Soon I will be graduating with a bachelor’s in music and violin performance, and that comes with starting a totally new phase of my life. I’ve never not been a student before, and I have some fear of not getting into an orchestra after graduating. I want to use this Byakuren training to break through my fears. 

Whenever we start a new endeavor, devilish functions are going to show up. But over my years of practice, I’ve witnessed how pushing myself to participate in activities makes my life state shoot right up. So I know that the causes I make as a Byakuren member will enable me to overcome anything I’m going through in life. 

May 3, 2023, World Tribune, pp. 8–9

The Power of a Grateful Heart

Courageously Wield the Mighty Sword of Faith