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Ensuring the Mystic Law Long Endures

Celebrating 30 Years of the SGI-USA Junior High and High School Division

Photo by Jolie Tea-Taniguchi.

This month marks the 30th anniversary of Ikeda Sensei founding the SGI-USA Junior High and High School Division in San Francisco on March 14, 1993. At that time, Sensei expressed his hopes for the growth of the future division members “thirty years from now” (see My Dear Friends in America, p. 277). Noting the importance of fostering young people, he has said:

The important question, therefore, is: Who will carry on the Buddha’s spirit of great compassion and spread the Mystic Law, the teaching he revealed, in the evil age of the Latter Day? …

Fostering successors for our movement is a sacred undertaking to perpetuate the Law and is our responsibility for the future of kosen-rufu. (May 2017 Living Buddhism, p. 42)

The following are voices from current members of the junior high and high school division and recent graduates who are now in the student division.

“I refuse to feel defeated”

by Nico Konyk
Gig Harbor, Washington

I’ve been to every future division conference at the Florida Nature and Culture Center and Soka University of America since as far back as I can remember. I’ve made friends with young people from across the U.S. and even from other countries, like in 2019, when a group of youth from Brazil attended the conference at SUA!

In his message to the 2022 conference, Ikeda Sensei said to us: “Chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo is the way to summon up [the ‘courage of a lion king’] and remain undefeated in any challenge.”

Be it taking on the role of emcee, meeting new people or playing my violin at the talent show, I’ve done something at every conference to step outside my comfort zone. I’ve always seen these conferences as opportunities to test my courage and try something new.

Speaking of courage, it recently came in handy. I sail competitively, and at the beginning of January, I sailed in a two-day regatta, several races held over one weekend. In my first race, I placed well below what I’d hoped to. My coach, teammate and I were disappointed. At first, I was feeling down, but that evening, I chanted Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, summoning the courage to shrug off my negativity, appreciate what I’d accomplished and focus on what lay ahead. The next day, I woke up early and chanted focused daimoku until I felt: I’m gonna place where I want to today! The past is the past! I can do this!

Readying the sails, I could tell my teammate was still feeling chaffed by my performance the day before, but I didn’t take it personally. As soon as we were on the water, we were in harmony. That day, in our two races, we placed fourth and fifth in 25-boat fleets, all the while having a really good time.

When I feel down on myself, I remember Sensei’s words to the future division and, chanting with the courage of the lion king, I refuse to feel defeated and choose to live with a winning spirit.

“Future division meetings helped me build confidence in myself”

by Sudha Shahi
Rowland Heights, California

My parents came to the U.S. from Nepal when I was 5 and were having trouble getting my visa, so I couldn’t come. Two years later and with no visa for their 7-year-old, they were introduced to chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo by a family friend. Soon after, I got my visa and reunited with my parents in the U.S.! Our family got disconnected from the SGI for a few years, but in 2018, this same family friend invited me, now 14, to the 50,000 Lions of Justice Festival and started bringing me to future division and youth meetings. At first, I felt like I didn’t belong because it had been so long. I didn’t say much, but I deeply respected this family friend and enjoyed connecting with her, and I felt the warmth of the SGI members.

One of the core values of the future division is to study hard to become capable in society and work for the happiness of others. In elementary school, I had poor grades. I was still getting used to English and life in America, and by middle school, I had an image of myself as someone who would never do well in school. I had no confidence and didn’t speak in class because I didn’t think I had anything valuable to say. But when I began attending future division meetings, we would often read Ikeda Sensei’s guidance aloud. One time, I was asked to present on one of Sensei’s books. I confidently spoke without fear of judgment, and everyone cheered me on!

Future division meetings helped me build confidence in myself, which reflected in my school performance. Even the teachers noticed a clear difference in my presence, and I was able to tell them about Nam-myoho-renge-kyo!

I’m currently in my first year of Azusa Pacific University’s nursing program. It’s a Christian school, which helps me deepen my understanding of Buddhism. In one of my papers, I related the Buddhist idea of why we suffer to that in Christianity, and presented it to the class. I also created discussion questions on the Buddhist view of suffering. My classmates seem interested in my perspective, and some have started learning about Buddhism as a result.

My mom and I have had health issues, so growing up I saw mom being taken care of by nurses. For me, whenever I went to doctor visits, the nurses connected so well with me, and we built a strong bond. They would always remember me. I want to do that for others as well.

I want to thank all the people who have helped me along the way.

“I have a great mentor in Ikeda Sensei”

by Solar Kawabata
Aliso Viejo, California

Growing up, my family struggled financially, but my parents never complained or fought about it in front of me. I saw them quietly take all their hardships to the Gohonzon. As a result, I never knew the severity of our situation until much later. They chanted abundant daimoku and did SGI activities almost every day. They brought me to the SGI-USA Denver Culture Center, where I would find others kids and play with them. This is where I met some of my best friends!

By attending future division meetings and conferences, and observing my parents, I learned that if I chanted Nam-myoho-renge-kyo I could overcome any challenge. I had a hard time in high school when my peers called me “skinny.” I don’t know if they intended to hurt me, but this made me overly conscious about my image, so I began overeating to gain weight. At times I ate so much that I threw up my food. In chanting about this situation, I realized that I was OK as I was, and comments from my peers didn’t bother me as much.

A major turning point came when I attended the Junior High and High School Conference at Soka University of America in 2019. There, I made two close friends, and the last night we talked until the morning about our lives, hopes and dreams. It was during that talk when we made a shared determination to apply to SUA for college. Throughout the coming year, we encouraged one another, and the three of us entered SUA in fall 2021!

While in the future division, I was able to develop a foundation of confidence that I have a great mentor in Ikeda Sensei and that when I chant, I can get through any hardship and come out stronger and more able to encourage others. Even now, I struggle with second-guessing myself and questioning who I really am, which can get me down. Because of my foundation, however, I can chant through these moments.

I’m currently in my second year at SUA focusing on the life sciences concentration. I’m still exploring what career I will pursue, but I’m most interested in contributing to creating a more humanistic health care system. I look forward to building on the foundation of faith that I’ve developed and using my education to improve the lives of others.

“I was able to discover an ally where I once thought there was an enemy”

by Phoebe Johnson
Columbia, South Carolina

Growing up, I felt that the future division was my second family where I could center myself and learn basic Buddhist concepts to help me in daily life.

Last school year, I stepped out of class to grab my bag from the orchestra room. When I came back, my teacher was upset because he didn’t know where I was. I started to explain myself when he cut me off. Soon the two of us were cutting each other off and I was dismissed. I’ve always been a good student, and nothing like that ever happened to me. I was angry, feeling unheard.

Later that week, I attended an Ikeda Wisdom Academy meeting, which reinforced what I had learned in the future division: World peace starts with me. When in conflict with another person it’s tempting to walk away. Just as a person may declare another their enemy because they don’t view an issue in the same way, nations, too, go to war over similar misunderstandings. Chanting over the next few days, I realized I needed courage to have a dialogue with my teacher. Holding onto this grudge won’t do me any good, I thought. I typed up my apology and emailed it to him.

Just stepping into his class the next day took courage. “Thank you,” he said.

That’s no apology! I thought. But as the day progressed, he continued to thank me for other small deeds. I realized that he apologized in his own way. I felt the barrier between us lift, and there were even moments when we would talk and joke around. At the year’s end, he gave me great career advice. By not walking away, I was able to discover an ally where I once thought there was an enemy.

Studying Ikeda Sensei’s guidance in the future division has made me think deeply about the kind of person I want to become—someone who makes friends wherever she goes and brings smiles to the faces of the people around her.

From the March 2023 Living Buddhism

Nichiren Daishonin—His Lifelong Vow and Great Compassion

Highlights of the March 2023 Study Material