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Our July Youth Victory Is a Warm-Up For a Historic August!

Oahu, Hawaii

by Amelia Gonzalez and Shota Okajima
SGI-USA Young Women’s and Young Men’s Leaders

Congratulations to the youth of the SGI-USA for holding historic young women’s division gatherings and young men’s division outings in July! Our deepest appreciation to the incredible women’s and men’s divisions for your support!

YWD Friendship Gatherings

To celebrate the founding of the young women’s division on July 19, 1951, friendship gatherings were held by chapter throughout the month. From painting and karaoke to pizza making, the infectious joy sparked fresh momentum to spread Buddhism widely. One chapter young women’s leader rented a van to drive all of the guests to the gathering, including six of her own, with a spirit to ensure the happiness of the people in her community. We learned that true friendship is fighting for the happiness of our friends and fellow members. And the joy we experience by making the happiness of others our top priority leaves us feeling rejuvenated and empowered. 

With chapter leaders as the protagonists working side by side with the women’s division, the young women achieved an unprecedented victory, tripling our attendance from last year!

Another chapter leader, who worked hard for the success of her gathering, was accepted into a master’s program that she had previously been wait-listed for. Many of the young women’s division members are receiving tremendous benefits from the causes they made in July. 

YMD Outings

Similarly, the young men’s division created waves of joy and encouragement through our summer outings to commemorate the founding of our division on July 11, 1951. The activities ranged from barbecues to sports, where young men were able to fully refresh and build great camaraderie. 

Working closely with the men’s division, we more than doubled our attendance from last year! 

These gatherings sparked young men to share Buddhism with others for the first time. Many said they found a sense of fulfillment in taking on the challenge to have dialogues with others and to connect even one more person to Nichiren Buddhism. 

One high school student brought more than 10 of his friends to his young men’s outing and experienced the joy of fighting for each person’s happiness toward the meetings. Another young man, who was hosting his chapter outing, achieved his goal of having 15 young men attend. He realized that by chanting and taking action with the same heart for kosen-rufu as Ikeda Sensei, he can achieve any victory.

Looking Ahead

This August, we, as the youth of the SGI-USA, will run even faster to encourage each member and guest to attend their district meetings. Our real victory lies in how we support and care for each of these precious individuals who we made a connection with in July. We are determined that in helping our friends become happy, we will end August happier than ever! Thank you everyone for your support!

Photos by Hudson Chung, Sushant Das, Kamaile Hanohano, Bobby Joseph, Molly Leebove, Nik Linde, Nathalia Lopez, Cam Morose, Hiromi Narita,  Brigid Perry, John Sanford, Tomoko Yabusaki, Takahiro Yamada, Yoko Yamazaki, Allen Zaki

Fighting Against My Limits

Nik Linde

In 2020, I had just separated from my partner, and I needed hope. By chance, I met my next-door neighbor who taught me about her Buddhist practice. I chanted for over a year before receiving the Gohonzon in October 2021. The following year, I took on responsibility as young men’s division leader in my district and have since developed a sense of responsibility to support others by becoming a true friend. 

Toward our young men’s outing, I was inspired by others who were fighting. It felt like something big that we were all pushing toward together. For me, I had to challenge my own self-doubt and fear to tell others about my Buddhist practice. I invited some of my friends to the outing, and they all had a positive reaction. I was pleasantly surprised when two of them showed up! Through this, I learned that it’s important to fight against my own limiting beliefs. 

We played activities and games that produced a joyful energy. For young men, even if few words are spoken, shared activities facilitate bonds of trust. 

When I’m chanting to the Gohonzon, I’m thinking about all of the young people out there and chanting that this can be the Year of Youth and Triumph for us all. By uniting as youth, we can make a positive change moving forward.

I Can Do It!

Elizabeth Barrera

I’ve been struggling with debilitating anxiety. At their worst, the panic attacks would keep me from even leaving the house. 

When I heard about the July friendship gatherings, I felt intimidated. I was just recently appointed a chapter young women’s leader, and although I had been practicing Buddhism for six years, I couldn’t say that I had a fighting spirit. I was battling with this voice telling me, I can’t do it, I can’t fight. But, Ikeda Sensei says that our karma only becomes our destiny if we give up, so I decided: Elizabeth, that voice can be true but only if you want it to be. I don’t think I can, but I’m going to do it anyway. I’m going to prove that voice wrong.

I began chanting every morning and evening with one of my women’s leaders. Some days, it would give me just enough fuel to get through the day, and then in the evening, I would chant again to recharge. The more I met with other young women and the more my leaders and chapter team supported me, the more capable I felt. 

In the end, I surpassed my goal of the number of young people I wanted to connect with, in fact doubling it. I learned that I can do it, and if I think I can’t, that’s just fundamental ignorance. Plus, I can rely on my Soka family to do it with me; I don’t need to do it alone.

August 11, 2023, World Tribune, pp. 6–7 

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