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Training Like No Other

Friendship—Dinesh Sajnani and fellow young men, March 26, 2023. Photo by Andy Utsumi.

by Dinesh Sajnani
Plano, Texas

A member back in India told me a story I could never forget. They were visiting a Soka Gakkai center in Japan when another member’s shoe broke as they walked. Noticing them struggling, a young man staffing the center—a Gajokai—rushed over and handed them a spare shoe in exactly the right size. Hearing this made me realize one thing: Gajokai training is incredible.

Moving to the U.S. strengthened my belief in this. Two hundred members would visit our Dallas Buddhist Center for an activity, and the Soka Group and Gajokai took care of the traffic seamlessly. If you had a question, they had an answer. They were joyful and quick. Their life state was so vast. I was like, Wow, man. So, when I was asked to be inducted into the inaugural class of the Young Men’s Division Academy in 2019 to begin my Gajokai training, I was honored. I wanted to become a better version of myself.

The requirement to graduate was one shift a month, but I committed to weekly Gajokai shifts every Friday, 6–9 p.m. 

I remember being given a checklist of things to do on my first one. First, I was to prepare the meeting room before the members arrived.

“Open the altar.” … Check.

“Arrange the chairs.” I paused.

The Gajokai member training me helped me align every chair in the room. I had to make sure the setup was inch-perfect. When we finished, he congratulated me and said, “Take a picture of your accomplishment: your first chair setup!” I never would’ve imagined taking a picture of chairs before. That encouraged me. I realized that if the chairs were disorderly, some might not see the altar well. Others would be too close to one another. But now the members wouldn’t need to worry. That made me proud of each Gajokai duty.

Say a guest visits the center for the first time. They won’t know where to go or what to do, but the Gajokai have the answer. Someone might be distressed; there might even be an emergency, but the Gajokai are ready to respond. 

This training in vigilance and readiness prepares you for what life throws at you.

In May 2020, I moved temporarily back to India to meet the love of my life. (We met online!) But this was at the height of the pandemic. I was vigilant and prepared, wearing two masks and a face shield. After traveling for 30 hours, I still clocked in to work remotely on time. Gajokai don’t clock in late.

In 2021, now married in India, my whole family and I got sick with COVID. I took care of everyone’s medicine and doctor’s appointments until they recovered, even though I was sick, too. 

Then in 2022, my wife and I got in a serious motorcycle accident. I was fine, but my wife was left unconscious. I rushed her to the hospital with no hesitation.

My wife on life support, I doubled my daily daimoku with the determination that she would open her eyes before my chapter’s New Year kickoff meeting. I stayed there with her for two weeks, 200 masks and hand sanitizer on hand for visitors. I did not let my other responsibilities fall through the cracks, including making sure that our bills were paid.

From the hospital, I attended our kickoff meeting over Zoom and reported that my wife had finally opened her eyes. One year later, I moved back to Dallas with my wife fully recovered. This benefit was from my Buddhist practice and Gajokai training.

I now cherish each Gajokai shift in Dallas. Each is an opportunity to train more, summon my courage and expand my capacity.

The strength of young men is often associated with their physical capacity. But, as Buddhism teaches, real strength is more than just that. It’s your capacity to care for others. The Gajokai has given me the opportunity to care about the experiences of others to the most minute detail. Where else can you get such incredible training?

Photo by Nicole Walter.

‘Vigilantly Safeguard the Citadel of the Law’

The Gajokai was established in 1971. In The New Human Revolution, Sensei explains the spirit of the group and the origin of its name. 

News soon spread to members throughout the country that a new group for safeguarding Soka Gakkai facilities had been established as the Gajokai. The young men’s division members who were engaged in this activity became Gajokai members from Feb. 1, making that the effective day on which the group was established.

Gold badges were also created to present to Gajokai members, with a design employing the letter “G,” which is the first letter in the words Gakkai, Gajokai and gengo, which means to “vigilantly safeguard.” Gengo is a word that appears in Buddhist sutras, in the phrase “vigilantly safeguarding the citadel of the Law.” The spirit of the Gajokai is to vigilantly safeguard, in the spirit of not begrudging one’s life, the citadels of the Law for kosen-rufu—the Soka Gakkai Headquarters and facilities—and the organization and all of its members. (The New Human Revolution, vol. 24, p. 91)

April 21, 2023, World Tribune, p. 8

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