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‘I’m Counting on All Soka Youth’

At the Central Executive Committee Conference, representative leaders discuss a powerful new vision toward 2030 that accelerates the pace of introducing and fostering capable youth who can lead the future.

Photo by Allen Zaki.

SANTA MONICA, Calif.—In every age, the Soka Gakkai tradition is to pour our energies into raising successors, nurturing their hearts and teaching them the best way to live as human beings.

In the 30th and final volume of The New Human Revolution, Ikeda Sensei opens the “Vow” chapter with the words “The door to a new era is opened by young people.”[1] He then echoes this point at the chapter’s conclusion, declaring: “I’m counting on you, the members of the young men’s division, young women’s division and student division! I’m counting on all Soka youth around the world!”[2]

Introducing and fostering countless capable youth toward 2030 served as the centerpiece of the Central Executive Committee (CEC) and Executive Council Conference, held on Sept. 16 at the SGI-USA Headquarters in Santa Monica, California.

Representative territory and national leaders from throughout the country gathered for the third quarterly conference of the year, where they discussed and voted on a broad new vision toward 2030 centered on fostering youth and joyfully returning to the basics.

The Executive Council, SGI-USA’s highest decision-making body, affirmed the activity guidelines for 2024, setting into motion a powerful new focus for the next five years.

Sensei, in a moving message to the conference, said to the representative leaders that “the greater your mission, the busier you will be and the more difficult the situations you will encounter.” Citing these words from Nichiren Daishonin “Three things are required—a good teacher, a good believer, and a good teaching—before prayers can be effective and disasters banished from the land,”[3] Sensei continued: “In this connection, basing your faith on the oneness of mentor and disciple and the unity of ‘many in body, one in mind,’ please ensure that everyone receives abundant benefit, and move everything in the direction of hope, peace and victory.”

A Powerful Start for Our Golden Pillars

SGI-USA General Director Adin Strauss opened the conference with the following men’s division leadership appointments:

•  James Herrmann, SGI-USA Men’s Leader

•  Kevin Moncrief, SGI-USA Men’s Advisor 

•  Mike Woods, SGI-USA Men’s Vice Leader (Mr. Woods will continue in his capacity as Central Territory Men’s Leader)

•  Alex Marcos, West Territory Leader

•  Jason Lions, West Territory Men’s Leader 

•  Nathan Gauer, SGI-USA Future Division Leader

Mr. Moncrief will serve as a national men’s advisor for 6 months. He was also appointed as the men’s leader for Southern California Mojave Zone, where he resides.

Mike Bynum, who served as a national vice men’s leader, was named the men’s leader for Los Angeles Sunshine Zone.

‘We need to get back to the basics.’

Mr. Strauss called 2024 a crucial year for the SGI-USA and the world, in which our country will continue to face ongoing challenges, including severe weather events and an ever-deepening divide toward election season. “We have to ask ourselves: What should we as leaders who were entrusted with kosen-rufu in America focus on right now?” he said.

In volume 17 of The New Human Revolution, a young man asks Sensei what members should bear in mind as the Soka Gakkai initiates the fresh expansion of kosen-rufu. Sensei responds: 

Developing a movement that widely spreads the ideals of Buddhism in society is like centrifugal force. The stronger that centrifugal force becomes, the more important it is to have a powerful centripetal force focused on Buddhism. And the core of this centripetal force is the mentor-disciple relationship.[4]

Toward that end, Mr. Strauss introduced the framework for both developing and broadly expanding our kosen-rufu movement toward 2030, based on three key activity focuses: strengthening our youth; strengthening our bonds of friendship through member care; and strengthening study.

“We need to ask ourselves: Am I chanting enough daimoku with enough intensity to ride the wave of events in life and society, or is the wave riding me? Am I modeling Buddhism consistently in my own words and actions at work, in my family and in the Soka Gakkai? Am I studying Sensei’s guidance with the spirit: This applies to me?” he said. “Next year will be a joyful return to the basics for the SGI-USA.”

1) Strengthening Our Youth: Raising Successors Toward 2030

Amelia Gonzalez and Shota Okajima opened this session with a powerful determination on behalf of the SGI-USA youth to greatly widen the path of kosen-rufu in America in the next five years, culminating in 2028 by gathering 100,000 youth in cities and towns across the country to commemorate Sensei’s 100th birthday.

The youth said the first milestone in this five-year battle will be March 2024, which marks the 70th anniversary of Sensei becoming the Soka Gakkai youth division chief of staff, a role in which he was entrusted to plan and carry out every aspect of the kosen-rufu movement on behalf of his mentor, second Soka Gakkai President Josei Toda.

The youth will celebrate by holding Youth Peace Festivals at the chapter through zone level, depending on location, with the aim of gathering 10,000 youthful successors. The festivals will also serve as an opportunity to restart the Ikeda Youth Ensemble performing groups, which will include future division members.

Toward March, their focus will be to “Advance With 10 Friends” based on Sensei’s encouragement that “if each of you can cultivate 10 genuine friendships, then kosen-rufu will surely advance!”[5] The SGI-USA will also continue its “Each District, One Precious Youth!” initiative.

At the festival, a new SGI-USA song will be introduced to commemorate March 16, Kosen-rufu Day, a day in which the mentor bequeaths to his youthful disciples the mission and responsibility to accomplish kosen-rufu.

2) Member Care: Strengthening Bonds of Friendship

Naoko Leslie, the national women’s leader, spoke of the guidance Sensei gave on the importance and beauty of member care by emphasizing repetition, which for us means to continually visit and encourage the members and help them establish the basics of Buddhist practice.

Next year, at the region through national levels, leaders will be assigned to chapter teams, where they can focus on visiting and encouraging frontline leaders, while emphasize “BYOP,” or bring your own publications, to discussion meetings.

“If we can encourage one district leader to stand up, the entire district will definitely transform,” Ms. Leslie said. “Let’s deepen bonds of friendship. We can do gongyo and chant together, which is the source of our benefit and how we transform our karma.”

The SGI-USA will also launch its first One-Year Members’ Celebration Meetings, to be held in the first half of March for those practicing more than one year and less than two years.

For our Many Treasures Group, for members ages 65 and over, region or zone-level meetings will be held each month, with a national meeting once a quarter.

These meetings will emphasize the valuable role that our most senior members play in introducing and fostering youth in the basics of faith.

Ms. Leslie shared from the same guidance on how Shakyamuni Buddha went out from early morning and walked many miles. Back then, people went barefoot, and Shakyamuni was said to have very large feet.[6]

Emphasizing home visits as the key, she said, “Let’s grow our feet together based on Sensei’s guidance!”

3) Strengthening Study: Creating a Rhythm and Long-Term Program Toward 2030

In 2024, the national study focus will include several significant changes, starting with making the monthly district study meeting optional.

With that change, the monthly study material will no longer be published in Living Buddhism. Districts wishing to continue holding monthly study meetings are encouraged to focus on Sensei’s “Buddhism of the Sun” lectures series in Living Buddhism, or material from any recent World Tribune or Living Buddhism.

With this change, members will be encouraged to attend their monthly Region Study Meeting. With this meeting taking on added importance, the national study department will hold a monthly session for presenters.

Regarding study exams, the following changes were introduced:

•  Introductory Exam, to be held every April and October with revised content in 2024;

•  Intermediate Exam, to be held every December with new content in 2024;

•  Advanced Exam, to be held every two years, starting in January 2026; and

•  Ikeda Wisdom Academy Exam, to be held every other January, starting in 2025, for district through national youth leaders.

After these initiatives were voted on by the CEC and affirmed by the Executive Council members, they received guidance in a joint session with SGI Vice President Yoshiki Tanigawa.

Mr. Tanigawa called the SGI-USA’s focus on welcoming one new youth to each district and strengthening the youth division “extremely important and most fitting.” 

He recalled that, at the First SGI-USA Executive Conference held in February 1990, Sensei said to those present:

Something that characterizes true leaders is that they are thoroughly dedicated to raising young people. When you put all your energy into developing the rich potential of youth, both you and the organization are rejuvenated. I hope that you will find and raise people with great potential, allowing them to steadily grow and fully engage themselves. If you create such a flow, the future will open up boundlessly before you.[7] 

“In planning our activities for the coming year, let’s each return to our prime points in faith and in our struggles as disciples and start anew, with fresh determinations,” Mr. Tanigawa said. “And, together, let’s generate great waves of developing and expanding our youth.”

Hall of the Great Vow Reopens in November

On Nov. 1, The Hall of the Great Vow for Kosen-rufu will hold gongyo sessions for overseas SGI members for the first time in three years. For information on visiting the Hall, the upcoming schedule and other questions, contact your SGI-USA zone office. See the November 2023 Living Buddhism to read about its history and spirit.

October 6, 2023, World Tribune, pp. 8–9


  1. The New Human Revolution, vol. 30, p. 599. ↩︎
  2. Ibid., p. 825. ↩︎
  3. “How Those Initially Aspiring to the Way,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 880. ↩︎
  4. The New Human Revolution, vol. 17, pp. 8–9. ↩︎
  5. Feb. 18, 2022, World Tribune, p. 8. ↩︎
  6. See May 13, 2022, World Tribune, pp. 2–3. ↩︎
  7. My Dear Friends in America, third edition, p. 58. ↩︎

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