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‘Something Every Young Man Should Experience’

Training—James Eleby with fellow Soka Group members, Fishkill, New York, November 2022.

by James Eleby
Rensselaer, New York

I first started doing Soka Group activities in 2015, not long after I joined the SGI. I didn’t really have a lot of structured activities in my life at that time, so it was unlike anything I had ever participated in before. Everything was so organized and dynamic. 

When I say it changed my life, I mean it changed what I was doing day to day. Making a cause with each shift redirected my life. I supported our weekly Soka Spirit meeting before the pandemic, and it protected me from going out and partying too much on weekends. It helped keep me on track. 

As a young man, I was always a little reckless. I never really paid attention to my safety or to that of those around me. But now, if I see something unsafe out in public or at work, I do not hesitate to jump in and help. It’s like a reflex, now, to be aware of any potential accidents or small ways I can help people around me. 

I also learned how to break through my own hesitation when performing a task. Striving behind the scenes, things just get done, period. Before, if things got difficult in my life I would just give up and not follow through. But, in the Soka Group, I learned how to push past that. Every task I was given as a Soka Group member had to be done, even if I didn’t think I could do it. But I learned that I could.

I remember one meeting when I had first joined. It was a zone leaders conference, and members from all over the country were traveling to participate. I was in charge of directing people on the bus. Everyone was so happy to be there and so happy to see me, even though they didn’t know who I was. I remember feeling so important because I knew exactly what I was doing and was able to help everyone when they weren’t sure where they were going.

Participating in the Soka Group gives me a sense of purpose. It teaches me how important each person is to the kosen-rufu movement. And I strive to advance kosen-rufu in my daily life, at work and with my family. 

There had always been a part of me that wanted to go unnoticed. I felt like it never mattered if I was there or not. But the Soka Group has shown me that I am valued, my contributions are valued, my presence is valued. The support of the entire SGI community showed me that. There is so much confidence and power that comes out of being capable and knowing that you are capable. This is something every young man should experience.

Photo by Melissa Sayas.

Develop the ‘Underlying Toughness’ to Face Life’s Challenges

The following excerpt is from Ikeda Sensei’s guidance to Soka Group members in the “Vigilant Safeguarding” chapter of The New Human Revolution, vol. 24, pp. 116–17.

“To grow as youth, it’s vital to overcome the tendency to feel dependent upon others. If you think for even a moment that you might pass your responsibilities on to the men’s division, or that it’s OK to neglect Soka Gakkai activities by telling yourselves that you’re too busy at work, you won’t be able to train yourselves.

“Young people should be enterprising and wholehearted, voluntarily shouldering full responsibility and ready to take on any task. No matter how busy you are at work, it’s vital that you challenge yourselves to participate in Soka Gakkai activities. If you ignore this or give up trying, saying you just can’t find the time, you are passing up an opportunity to do your human revolution and fully develop your lives.

“In your youth, you’re often called upon to do the grunt work at your job, and you frequently bear the brunt of the burden. You probably have very little free time for yourselves. But it’s important to exercise your ingenuity and create time, make a genuine effort and apply yourselves fully in your Buddhist faith and practice.

“Over time, those experiences will train you and foster the strength that is the underlying toughness you need to face all of life’s challenges. This will eventually become your good fortune. That’s why struggles are actually life’s greatest treasure.”

Jan.20, 2023, World Tribune, p. 8

What Is Human Revolution, Really?

The Two Ways of Practice and Study