Skip to main content


How I Was Supported in Faith

On raising capable young people.

Photo by Mary D’Elia.

Teaching young people the essence of faith is a cornerstone of the Soka Gakkai. To do so, we must spend time with them, speak with them and work together with them.

Ikeda Sensei says on the subject: “If one has the passion to foster them into capable individuals, then pray for them, do your best for them, and a seed will be sown in their hearts. Though it may not be visible right away, it will eventually blossom vigorously” (Reaching Beyond, pp. 189–90).

At the Central Executive Committee Conference held in March, SGI-USA General Director Adin Strauss called on men’s and women’s leaders to make raising successors “a mandate for us.” He called “raising youth” one of SGI-USA’s three themes of empowerment for advancing kosen-rufu in the Year of Youth and Triumph, together with propagation and unity.

“Many of the current youth members will be graduating,” he said. “This is why men and women must take full responsibility for fostering successors” (see March 17, 2023, World Tribune, p. 8).

With this theme in mind, the World Tribune asked six recent SGI-USA youth division graduates how being supported as youth enabled them to stand up. Here’s what they shared.

Photo Courtesy of Merilly Ruglas

Feeling Sensei’s Heart

by Merilly Ruglas
New Orleans

One of my seniors in faith, whom I consider my Buddhist mom, was the first person to tell me, “Merilly, I am so proud of you.” 

I grew up in an abusive environment. Joining the SGI as a young woman, it was the first time I had people who were nice to me, who encouraged me, whom I could trust to share my struggles with. No matter what, even if I wasn’t truly doing my best, the SGI women always believed in me. They never gave up on me. 

The women’s division members encouraged me to chant and support behind the scenes in the Byakuren Group. They were always checking up on me and challenging me to build a relationship with Ikeda Sensei. At the time I had no idea what it meant to “feel Sensei’s heart,” but I am so grateful that I was encouraged to chant about it and discover the mentor and disciple relationship for myself. Because in those moments at 3 a.m. when I felt like there was no one to reach out to, I had Sensei’s guidance to encourage me.

I learned that I am a capable person. 

Now, as a women’s division member myself, I am chanting to raise my young women’s district co-leader as a disciple of Sensei and to never give up on her, just like the women’s division who raised me.

Photo Courtesy of Erika Marcano.

Building My Foundation

by Erika Marcano

I joined the SGI in 2017, when everyone was preparing for the 50,000 Lions of Justice Festival. That battle—chanting, waking up early to support rehearsals behind the scenes as a Byakuren member and gathering my squad of six guests—gave me my foundation in faith. 

I was always supported by amazing women’s division members, and I learned the importance of our kosen-rufu movement through them. 

They were always caring for me, calling me, chanting for me, inviting me to meetings, giving me guidance or just meeting with me and having casual conversations over coffee. They were always keeping in touch. For me, the most important thing was feeling that there were people who truly cared for me. 

This is my second year as a women’s division member, and I am a district leader. My determination is to have a lot of youth in my district so that they can feel the same care that I did. The SGI is the best place to train your life.  I want them to feel that, and I want to make sure they can connect to the kosen-rufu movement and Sensei’s heart in their own unique way.

Photo Courtesy of Jimmy Anicet

Leading Me Back to the Essence

by Jimmy Anicet
Malden, Massachusetts

My sponsor, a vice district men’s leader at the time, visited me every week for two years and taught me everything. At first, it was gongyo, then, as I got involved in the district, he taught me how to emcee a meeting and give a presentation. He consistently told me why it was important to take youth training seriously, and he was instrumental in me becoming someone who could always unite with my leaders.

I had a lot of questions in the beginning of my Buddhist practice. Eventually, he told me that rather than continue to ask him for the answers, I should read The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin and Ikeda Sensei’s guidance myself. I read the entire first volume of The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin in the first six months of practice. I’ve been practicing for 11 years now, and because of that foundation, I always find a way to move forward. I always go back to Sensei and Nichiren’s writings to break through. 

My sponsor later told me that he used to chant two hours every day for me. As a men’s leader now, I strive to support the young men in the same way. I feel strongly that as men, it is our responsibility to take young men under our wings. All of the youth have a great mission, and I will ensure that they win. 

I understand why my sponsor supported me in the way that he did—supporting youth brings the most joy. Their growth ensures the continuation of kosen-rufu.

Photo Courtesy of Tom Kim.

Creating a Nourishing Environment 

by Tom Kim
Cleveland, Ohio

I’m a product of the “garden of Soka” in Kentucky. In college, I really felt the care of the Soka family. My district women’s leader was always supporting the youth. I still remember her delicious dump cake! She often asked me to do things for the district meeting, and even though I didn’t want to, I would say yes because I couldn’t say no to her. I was such a shy person, but these opportunities helped me to speak confidently. 

I struggled with consistency in my own practice until I was in my early 30s, but no matter how many times I ignored their calls, the men and women of my district would bring me food or call just to check in and say hello. I’m so deeply appreciative of their consistent care. All of those efforts bore fruit when I decided to stand up on my own.

As a zone future division men’s leader, I am determined to build flourishing “gardens of Soka” to nourish the youth. I especially want to raise the future division as successors of kosen-rufu. Soon, I will be a father. I am looking forward to my daughter being raised in the same garden that I was nurtured in. 

Photo Courtesy of Midori Wu.

Paying it Forward

by Midori Wu

I grew up in São Paulo, Brazil. My mother received the Gohonzon right after I was born, so my older sister and I grew up watching her practice.

At 14, I remember enjoying the meetings because I had a lot of friends, but I also remember thinking, Why is my life so hard?  My friends at school didn’t have to chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo or wake up early to do gongyo.

One pioneer woman would encourage me every time we met. “Things will be just fine, don’t worry,” she would say, even though she had no idea what I was going through. There was one occasion when I was deeply suffering from a breakup, and I asked her if we could meet for lunch. I was feeling hopeless—like I would never find love again. Without knowing what had happened, she talked about the power of daimoku, that it could heal whatever wounds I felt in my heart and that I could transform any situation. She always said the exact thing that I needed to hear.

From there, I chanted to understand and love myself and made goals for my life. Soon after, I met the man who would become my husband, who was truly the benefit of my prayer.

I moved to Seattle just two years ago having done everything I could as a youth in Brazil. I feel that all of my efforts as a youth, waking up early to support as a Byakuren member and staying up late to prepare for meetings, are now my greatest treasures. I wouldn’t be who I am today without the SGI and the care I received, and now I’m ready to pay it forward and help raise youth in my district!

Photo Courtesy of Rishi Wadhwa.

Becoming a Man of Conviction

by Rishi Wadhwa
Fremont, California

When I began practicing Buddhism in New Delhi, India, at 18, I had no ambitions, I had no goals and no sense of what I wanted to do in my life. Every Saturday for two years, like clockwork, my senior in faith visited me. We would chant 30 minutes and study together from Discussions on Youth or The New Human Revolution. Those visits helped me solidify my personal goals, and eventually I decided I would move to the U.S. to contribute to cancer research. 

Since then, I have had many crucial turning points where I have completely transformed the situation based on the support and encouragement of seniors in faith. 

In my last year as a young men’s division member, I lost my job. My wife and I had one child, and she was pregnant with our second. I had a lot of anxiety about what was going to happen. A men’s leader told me that this was the time to overcome my fears and tackle them head-on. I fought all out to support and visit the young men, and I developed unshakable conviction. Now, I don’t fear any storm of hardship. 

During the pandemic, many young men isolated themselves. As the region men’s leader, my determination is to go to their homes, listen to them and encourage them just as I was supported as a young person.

Currently, I work as a senior project manager for a major biotech company, a significant leap from the lost 18-year-old that didn’t have any goals or ambitions. It is undoubtedly because of the SGI and the support I received that I am where I am today. 

April 14, 2023, World Tribune, pp. 6–7

Repaying Gratitude

The Profound Power of Our Prayer