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Advance With 10 Friends

Translating into action the SGI’s 2024 Theme: The Year of Fresh Departure for a Youthful Soka Gakkai Worldwide.

Illustration by Ayumi Inoue.

A new age will be created by the passion and power of youth.”[1] These were the words written in 1953 by second Soka Gakkai President Josei Toda in his “Guidelines for Youth”—penned with the heart to pass down clear guiding principles to the young people he entrusted with the future of kosen-rufu. In March 1954, Daisaku Ikeda was appointed as the Soka Gakkai’s youth division chief of staff, tasked to “become the driving force for planning and carrying out every aspect of kosen-rufu.”[2] Based on the spirit contained in these guidelines, he traveled throughout Japan, oversaw all activities and exerted himself to his limit.

As we mark 70 years since Ikeda Sensei’s appointment, we return to this eternal starting point for youth with the Soka Gakkai’s 2024 theme: Year of Fresh Departure for a Youthful Soka Gakkai Worldwide.

In March, youth around the world will host country-specific peace gatherings. For the SGI-USA, the youth have pledged to gather 10,000 young people at chapter-level March Youth Peace Festivals—to solidify the foundation of the SGI-USA youth division and widen the path of kosen-rufu in America toward 2028, the year we mark Ikeda Sensei’s 100th birthday. 

The SGI-USA motto toward March is “Advance With 10 Friends.” This is based on Sensei’s guidance, “If each of you can cultivate 10 genuine friendships, then kosen-rufu will surely advance!”[3]

What does it mean to cultivate genuine friendships, and how can we take action toward next March? SGI-USA youth leaders, Amelia Gonzalez and Shota Okajima, tell us their thoughts.

—Prepared by the World Tribune staff

Boston. Photo by Lillian I.

Cultivating Genuine Connections to Build a Force for Peace

World Tribune: What is the spirit behind the motto “Advance With 10 Friends” toward next year’s March Youth Peace Festivals?

Amelia Gonzalez: Of course, our goal is to gather 10,000 young people around the country in March, but at the heart of it, this is an effort to unite and build a force for peace. For that reason, as an SGI family, we are each fighting to cultivate 10 genuine friendships with those in our immediate environments.

Ikeda Sensei speaks extensively about the power of friendship to change society in his 2017 peace proposal. In it, he states: “A rising tide of friendship within the younger generation cannot fail to transform society. It is my confident expectation that friendship among youth will powerfully turn back the sullied currents of divisiveness and give birth to a vibrant culture of peace based on profound respect for diversity.”[4]  

It is our time to redirect the world toward coexisting in harmony. Imagine, if we established 10,000 genuine connections of trust and care in our land, how that would significantly impact the state of our world.

Shota Okajima: We can each chant about 10 people with whom we would like to develop a stronger bond. They don’t just have to be youth! This effort has helped me reflect on what kind of friend I am and how deeply I’m caring for those around me. If we can become people who have these kinds of relationships with others, I believe it will naturally lead to more people wanting to practice Buddhism. 

Various studies show that people are happier when they have genuine connections.[5] We recently held a young men’s division (YMD) conference at the Florida Nature and Culture Center, where we held a friendship summit. Many of the YMD who spoke expressed that they struggled during the pandemic due to a lack of authentic relationships with others. These days, while we are increasingly “connected” through social media, etc., people report having fewer close friends than ever before. Sensei says of this:

Having just one friend doubles one’s happiness in life. … 

Friendship is the most beautiful, most powerful and most valuable treasure in life. It is your true wealth. No matter how much status people may gain or how rich they may become, a life without friends is sad and lonely. It also leads to an unbalanced, self-centered existence.[6]

This is so true! Toward March, we are striving to increase our happiness tenfold by forming 10 genuine connections.

Amelia: The young women’s division (YWD) members that I have been meeting with recently express a similar sentiment. Some feel that they don’t have any real friends. Some YWD don’t feel that they have people who care about them. So I encourage them to chant about it and be the ones to foster those relationships. 

If we stop and think about it, we each have many connections with people around us. We could probably come up with more than 10 people, including those in our family, whom we would like to develop a relationship with and naturally introduce to Buddhism. 

Shota: I’m really excited to challenge this. We can take immediate action now toward March. It’s also important to have a goal or dream toward March and ask ourselves if we are taking any action toward it. How are we actualizing kosen-rufu by going for our dreams and fighting for our own happiness and the happiness of others?

Amelia: In his 15th Soka Gakkai Headquarters Leaders Meeting message, Sensei says: 

Next year will mark the 70th anniversary of that youthful appointment [as Soka Gakkai youth chief of staff]. I now call on all of you, my beloved young disciples throughout Japan and the world: My young friends, become the youth chiefs of staff of the new era!

I hope you will forge a magnificent, ever-growing network of like-minded people shining with the light of human revolution. With the passion and power of youth, please safeguard humanity’s right to life and brightly illuminate people’s lives and society![7] 

I feel like Sensei is saying that now is the time for the youth to take full responsibility for kosen-rufu and, together as an SGI family, refresh ourselves and advance kosen-rufu with a youthful spirit.

Shota: Toward March, our goal is to narrow the gaps that exist between people through developing meaningful connections. SGI members have a profound mission to transform our lands. We hope you join us and make this a united effort toward March! 

December 1, 2023, World Tribune, pp. 6–7


  1. July 2021 Living Buddhism, p. 54. ↩︎
  2. Sept. 15, 2023, World Tribune, p. 3. ↩︎
  3. Feb. 18, 2022, World Tribune, p. 8. ↩︎
  4.<accessed on Nov. 16, 2023>. ↩︎
  5. See the “Harvard Study of Adult Development,” one of the world’s longest studies of adult life, <accessed on Nov. 15, 2023>. ↩︎
  6. Discussions on Youth, pp. 37–39. ↩︎
  7. Sept. 15, 2023, World Tribune, p. 3. ↩︎

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