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Frontline News

Every District, One Precious Youth

Stories from the frontlines of our movement.

Teaneck, N.J. Photo by Kevin Lyden.

One person awakening to their Buddhahood can change the world—this is the message and conviction that the SGI-USA youth division embodied when they resolved to help one precious young person begin their Buddhist practice in every district this year, fostering people who will contribute to world peace (see Jan. 13, 2023, World Tribune, p. 6).

If the enlightenment of one person opens the way for all people to attain enlightenment, our collective efforts to foster one new protagonist after another have the power to shape a new era.

Heeding this call, districts across SGI-USA are inviting young people to their neighborhood discussion meetings and teaching the basics of faith, practice and study so they can take on life’s challenges with unshakable hearts.

The World Tribune spoke with young people who have recently joined the SGI-USA’s people’s movement and the leaders fostering them, offering a glimpse into this family affair.

—Prepared by the World Tribune staff

Everyone Has Something

by Linda Artope
District Women’s Leader • Long Beach, Calif.

Everyone has something they’re going through, something they’re challenging. I know that this Buddhist practice works, and the way to break through those problems is to chant daimoku and share Buddhism with others. It all boils down to your life condition. Everyone’s going through something different, so I chant to be ready to talk to people about Buddhism when they’re ready to hear it. So far this year, we’ve welcomed five new members into our district. Our goal is to have 12 new happy members by the end of the year.

In our district, we like to have little unofficial pop-up gatherings, inviting the new members and guests over for dinner or to hang out. It’s natural, especially when you’re young, to feel like you’re alone in your suffering. But by creating spaces for them to dialogue and bond, they strengthen relationships and learn that they aren’t going through it alone. 

Since we’ve started welcoming more youth into our district, more men’s and women’s division members have been coming out to the meetings, too, saying, “The youth are so inspiring!” The youth bring a fresh, vibrant spirit to our meetings. 

Finding My Own Answers

by Dulce Caroline Torres
Torrance, Calif.

I met Linda randomly when I was driving for Uber. We bonded because we both lived in Chicago before moving to California. It’s a really cool friendship that we have—I love that I can be totally honest with her and she will accept me even if she doesn’t understand. She’ll give me advice and say, “This is one perspective to view the situation from, but it’s not the perspective.” There’s always space for me to find the answer for myself.

When we first met, I was going through a lot in my life. I questioned anything and everything that I was taught growing up. After some time, I remember asking Linda, “What if I don’t chant?” and she told me we would be friends regardless. That gave me the comfort to attend meetings on my own terms, knowing that just because I was invited didn’t mean I had to say yes.

It’s been a slow process of human revolution—I really love that term. Someone told me that she chants for clarity, and I had no idea what that meant. I have the tendency to give my power away and let others decide everything for me. But through chanting, I’ve slowly started to understand that I can look within myself, that I have all the answers within me. 

Building a Strong, Youthful Foundation 

by Tom Truscio
Palm Beach Chapter Men’s Leader • Palm Beach Gardens, Florida

Last year I chanted to support one youth, stick with them and help them grow. Soon after, I met Lewis. I thought, He is the one! 

Since we first met in December, Lewis has grown so fast! He received the Gohonzon, took the intro exam and just joined the Young Men’s Division Academy. 

I’m 70, and he’s 21. He sees the world differently than I do. We have deep conversations about life, and we learn from each other.

It is important to listen to, embrace and have true dialogues with young people. It’s so difficult to maintain steadfast faith and never give up, especially when you’re young. I know because I was in the youth division for 19 years and many supported me. Raising youth means to be there with them in the good times and the bad, helping them make decisions based on their Buddhist practice. My hope is that young people can share this Buddhism with others who might be struggling.  

If we don’t support the youth, what would happen to kosen-rufu? We are seven years out from the Soka Gakkai’s centennial in 2030. I think it is our time to create a strong, youthful foundation in the SGI to realize our mentor’s dream. 

It’s such a wonderful privilege to support Lewis. I see him as a good friend. If every district can support one youth, it will be a tremendous victory for everyone.  

Sharing My Hopes and Dreams

by Lewis St. Cyr
Boynton Beach, Florida

I was mindlessly scrolling YouTube one day when I stumbled upon a video about Buddhism and creativity. It piqued my interest, but I didn’t think anything of it. Two weeks later, I met someone who asked if I had ever heard of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo.
I was connected to a district right away. 

I’m not easily trusting. When I first came in to the SGI community, I was skeptical. But every time someone reached out to me just to ask how I was doing, it reignited my desire to chant. 

Tom, in particular, is my guy. Every week he invited me over to chant, and we would talk. His presence made me feel comfortable about this Buddhist practice. Our relationship is not one of him being “I’m older than you, and I know better.” I can show up as myself, and there is no judgment. If it weren’t for him, I wouldn’t be practicing.

I wasn’t big into the community aspect at first but now I believe it’s one of the most important parts of Buddhism. Having a supportive community to share my honest hopes and dreams with feels important. SGI members always tell me to dream big. One day I want to pay their generosity forward. 

Starting With Prayer

by Cathy Allen
District Women’s Leader • Minneapolis

“If a youth comes, how can we make this meeting relevant to their life?” Our district always talks about this, and the youth create that atmosphere. 

When setting goals this year, Northeast University District united around Ikeda Sensei’s words “Everything begins with prayer” (November 2021 Living Buddhism, p. 60). My co-leader Kristine always prays to meet young people who will become disciples of Sensei. As a result, she introduced one young man, Nik, to Buddhism. Another, Yuta, then moved to our district from Japan. Our united prayer produces results—one youth at a time. 

So far this year, two young women have received the Gohonzon in our district! One is Taylan, an incredible young woman. She was introduced by our chapter young women’s leader, Favi, who brings lots of guests.

The other is Raman, who reached out to us late last year seeking solutions to her problems. We first met at Kristine’s place. Then Raman’s, then mine. We chanted for her happiness, praying for the wisdom to encourage her, to create a relationship where she felt comfortable. Naturally, then, we want to see her, and she wants to see us. She received the Gohonzon in April.

Don’t get me wrong, our district isn’t perfect. Working together is not always easy. But we start with prayer. Members then take the initiative to talk with one another, and we unite. We pray and take action to raise youth who will contribute to the SGI and the world.

A Reminder of Victory

by Raman Kaur

In 2022, I was a constant worrier, struggling to manage dental school and a new marriage in Minneapolis. Stuck, I called a friend back in New York and said: “You know, I think I should go to that meeting you suggested. Now is the time.” She laughed and said, “You finally want to go?”

We worked together for a year and, seeing me as the worrier that I was, she often asked, “Want to chant?” suggesting I go to an SGI meeting. “It’s only two train stations away!”

I never went. Who wants to talk about their problems?

But in Minneapolis, I wanted to talk to someone who could help me break through. I met Cathy and Kristine (my SGI moms!), who had me over for a chitchat and chant. They welcomed me without judgment, and I felt I could talk about anything.

For six months, I chanted daily to a blank wall, at first resistantly but, gradually, with dedication.

Attending meetings in Northeast University District was… fun! Even if I was tired, I made sure to attend, especially in person. Hearing others’ achievements motivated me. If this person can win, I can, too!  I felt. 

This April, I received the Gohonzon. With it, I’m no longer a worrier. Seeing the characters on the Gohonzon as I chant now reminds me of victory, that I can be happy and bring happiness to others. 

My apartment manager knocked on my door recently, distressed. The Gohonzon enshrined behind me, I invited her in with confidence. “Want to chant?”

May 19, 2023, World Tribune, pp. 6–7

The Treasure She Left Me

Launching the Fourth Class