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We Youth

On the 2024 theme: The Year of Fresh Departure for a Youthful Soka Gakkai Worldwide

Illustration by Abscent84 / Getty Images.

Since the completion of the Hall of the Great Vow for Kosen-rufu in 2013, the Soka Gakkai has established the timeless bedrock upon which the Soka Gakkai will stand as a world religion. Now, the time has come to realize our vision for global kosen-rufu by establishing a world that treasures the dignity of life, with the spirit of our mentor, Ikeda Sensei, burning brightly in our hearts.

In six years, we will celebrate the 100th anniversary of our founding in 2030. These next six years will mark a fresh start in our efforts to transform the destiny of humanity.

Sensei once said: “When youth act and speak out boldly, they open the way to a new age. … We must always remain a youthful Soka Gakkai, a youthful SGI” (January 2019 Living Buddhism, p. 59).

To grapple with the turbulent times facing humanity, what’s indispensable are youth brimming with the resolve to substantially advance kosen-rufu with their youthful passion and power.

This was the same spirit—grounded in Josei Toda’s “Guidelines for Youth”—with which Sensei assumed all responsibilities 70 years ago as youth division chief of staff. Returning to this eternal starting point of the Soka Gakkai, the theme for 2024 is the Year of Fresh Departure for a Youthful Soka Gakkai Worldwide.

Based on this theme, we will focus on creating new activities on a broad scale that will rally and unite Soka youth around the world, including the March Youth Peace Festivals in the U.S.

The way of the oneness of mentor and disciple is rooted in the vow and mission for kosen-rufu. That is where we find our perpetual youthfulness in our lifelong pursuit of human revolution.

With youthful hearts, our goal is to live as models of the Soka Gakkai spirit and of the shakubuku spirit as we ring in the dawn of a new era toward the 95th anniversary of the Soka Gakkai’s founding in 2025 and the 100th anniversary in 2030.

Sensei says:

Even as we advance in years, let’s always maintain a youthful spirit and create a rhythm in our lives that will enable us to keep working for kosen-rufu. There is no retirement age in life or in faith. An energetic spirit to work for kosen-rufu is proof of one’s youthfulness. Even when first Soka Gakkai President Tsunesaburo Makiguchi was over 70, he used the phrase, when speaking to his disciples, “we youth.” (Embracing Compassion, vol. 1, p. 96)

In this month’s feature, we carry interviews with young people discussing the challenges of their generation and the importance of sharing Buddhism at this time. In addition, we will reprint Sensei’s November 2006 address on this spirit of fostering youth.

Let this year be a new beginning, where we ask ourselves every day how “we youth” can effect positive change within and around us.

—Prepared by the Living Buddhism staff

Youth Interviews

Living Buddhism met with two teenage members to discuss the 2024 SGI theme, the Year of Fresh Departure for a Youthful Soka Gakkai Worldwide, and the importance of sharing our Soka philosophy with their peers.

Mason Yu
Farmington, Connecticut

Living Buddhism: Hi Mason, thank you so much for meeting! How have you developed your Buddhist practice?

Mason Yu: I grew up in a family that practices in the SGI, and I started chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo consistently this past summer when I went to the Junior High and High School Conference at Soka University of America. Attending this conference helped me determine to chant morning and evening. Now, I know that no matter what happens, I can overcome any anxiety or struggle.

What from the SUA conference inspired you?

Mason: Everyone I met was so supportive, and I felt the experiences members shared impressed me the most. One youth leader shared her experience about resolving a major conflict involving her dad against all odds. It was all because of her faith that the situation turned around. This also made me want to chant for the happiness of my friends and family.

How would you like to encourage others?

Mason: A lot of my friends get overwhelmed by pressure in academics and conflicts with friends. I’ve seen this have a negative impact on their mental health, sometimes causing them to isolate. In those times, I chant for them to open up. One friend recently told me he found Zen Buddhism, so I introduced him to Nichiren Buddhism, and he said he wanted to check it out! I now chant to see the opportunities in life, whether for personal breakthroughs or when it’s best to share Buddhism. Next year, I will begin college, and I want to do my best to help people become happy based on Ikeda Sensei’s example.

Bless Muslar
Los Angeles

Living Buddhism: Hi, Bless! How would you describe some of the challenges of teenagers today?

Bless Muslar: I’d say that the top obstacle is a lack of confidence in ourselves. We have so much pressure to succeed. We are told that education is key; but what about the young people in my community, which is mainly people of color, who have limited resources. Very few of them can receive higher education. Due to this reality, students have additional anxiety about getting high grades. With the smallest grade drop, they will think of themselves as not smart or failures. This cycle significantly affects the mental health and hope in the hearts of my peers.

Practicing Buddhism has been my backbone. Many times I feel stuck, but I always find the answer to why at SGI meetings and always find a way forward. In Buddhism, it’s impossible to limit myself.

That’s a powerful perspective! Have you tried spreading this hope to friends?

Bless: Yes! One of my friends was involved in gang violence and had a hard time getting out of it. Because of this, he came to school on and off. His friend died from gun violence. He was in between trying to become a scholar and trying to get out of this gang life. I wanted to encourage him just like Ikeda Sensei would. I told him he deserved a great life and to stay in school, not just for grades but to develop consistency and make the effort for his future. This year, he has been consistently coming to school and has so much appreciation for me!

Buddhism opens your eyes to a new perspective on life and helps us attain a growth mindset. A lot of people aren’t familiar with Black people who practice Buddhism. Sometimes I struggle with opening up about Buddhism because, being unfamiliar with it, people may assume it’s odd or view it from a negative perspective. I’m learning how to look past that and focus on how this philosophy can change people’s lives.

From the January 2024 Living Buddhism

Today, Again

Fostering the Youth Is Fostering the Future