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Becoming a Billionaire in Faith

A roundtable discussion on the real benefits of participating in the May Commemorative Contribution Activity.

The new Ikeda Hall exhibition “Daisaku Ikeda and America” opened at the Florida Nature and Culture Center (FNCC) in Weston, Florida, January 20, 2024. Photo by Mary D’Elia.

Living Buddhism: Thank you for joining us for a discussion on May Contribution. Can you talk a little about when you began participating and what you were going through at the time?

Krithi Byadgi, San Francisco: Yes, I started making contributions to the SGI-USA when I became a district young women’s leader in college. I was working three to four jobs at the time to pay for school. But the biggest hurdle was overcoming my fear of parting with money.

When I was growing up, my mom left an abusive relationship, and we lived in different women’s shelters before moving into a cramped room. I think for me, leaving with nothing gave me this fear that I would never have money, which represented security. That fear extended to all aspects of my life. So, even today, I see May Contribution as an opportunity to challenge and transform those fears blocking my happiness.

Kenichi Hackman, Los Angeles: I think a lot of young people are anti-organized religion. So, May Contribution may feel like passing the collection plate around. But May Contribution is a faith-based activity centered on bringing forth appreciation. 

I learned this when I was around 8 years old. I was with my dad at our local Buddhist center, and he had two $5 bills in his wallet. The first was for my lunch money. The other was his contribution. I remember we waited until the Buddhist center closed at like 9 p.m. to give while no one was there. Although it wasn’t much, the women’s division member receiving our contribution just embraced and thanked us from the bottom of her heart.

Every May, I always go back to this memory. If I could help someone feel that warmth, that’s really the heart of May Contribution to me. 

Celize Christy, Dallas: I grew up with a personal resentment toward May Contribution because my birthday is in May! As a child, my mom always asked me to contribute my birthday money. Every May, she was like: “You got those birthday cards? Let’s put that money toward the SGI.” And I was always like, What? 

My mom was a single parent who strongly encouraged pursuing higher education. When I was applying to college, I had no idea where the money for school would come from. Fortunately, I received scholarships but not for the full tuition. I won first place for a scholarship I interviewed for and got exactly the amount I needed—on my birthday. 

I didn’t understand it then, but every year when I contributed my birthday money as a child, I was steadily building fortune. Now I imagine what fortune I’m building when I contribute with genuine intention and appreciation. I think about my appreciation for my life, my Buddhist practice and the many people who have supported me.

Cam Morose, Boston: In elementary and middle school, ostensibly I had friends but, inwardly, I knew I didn’t have any real friends. Because of this, I believed there must be something wrong with me and that I needed to change for other people to like me. I obsessed over trying to impress others, whether it be on the sports field or in the classroom. 

Contribution is such a profound opportunity for me to challenge this insecurity because participating is something completely personal. The real battle every May for me is an internal one, waged in front of the Gohonzon. Nichiren says, “unseen virtue brings about visible reward.”[2] How much can I truly believe this? How much can I challenge my tendency to only act virtuously when seen by others? Striving to win in front of the Gohonzon helps me deepen my conviction in the law of cause and effect and believe that whatever I decide to contribute will come back into my life tenfold.

Mark Horton, Los Angeles:  I’m 65 years young, and the benefit of May Contribution is having a résumé of challenges to share with people that show there’s light at the end of the tunnel, and it is so bright you have to put on shades.

It started when I was a youth picking up cans and plastic bottles and even took down a rusted rod iron fence in my backyard that I recycled for cash as a part of my contribution. I took the bus and walked to meetings. I mean, sometimes I literally did not know where my next meal was going to come from. I didn’t even dream of a house or know if I could take care of my family. Even though I didn’t have a lot then, my sincerity to contribute what I could helped me develop a vast life condition. And looking back now, it’s all come back tenfold. I see it in my family.

Now the challenge is how to make May Contribution a challenge because now I have money to give. Today, it’s about how sincerely I can pray about it and unite with my wife about how much we want to contribute. My main concern is how much more I can give. 

Phyllis Sapp, Minneapolis: I used to be such a sad, miserable and broke person, and now I’m not. I’ve completely transformed everything through my Buddhist practice. 

Back during the recession, my husband lost his job, and I wasn’t working. And there was a point where I thought we’d lose everything. I was so bent out of shape. I determined through prayer that there’s no way we’re going to lose our home. We didn’t, and I ended up getting a job and that led to many other wonderful benefits! That experience helped me realize that no matter what happens, we have our Buddhist practice and we are protected by the causes we make. And, if we do lose something, it is in order to gain something better. 

For me, the challenge is always the attachment to money. But Buddhism teaches us how to create good fortune, that is to create a life condition of true happiness rich with benefit. That is what we should be attached to, because it brings us things money can’t buy.  Building fortune is the key to living a happy, secure and wonderful Buddha existence.

When I first started chanting, I heard from a senior leader that each year that you practice will be better than the year before. And it’s true. Every November I think, my year has been so amazing, there’s no way next year could be better. But every year is more beneficial and more filled with fortune than the year before.

Kenichi: I’ve started to see in the last couple years what it means to make kosen-rufu my focal point. So just the act of being open to May Contribution, talking to others about it, chanting about it—you’re already doing your human revolution.

Today, when I contribute, it’s with the determination that I want to support this movement in every aspect of my life. And that’s where I feel protection comes from. I feel like I’ve been protected the last few years since I started contributing to the SGI-USA.

Phyllis: I think the No. 1 thing I hear from youth is, “I can’t afford it,” which I totally understand. I was also a youth, and I couldn’t afford it either! But when I was a youth, a women’s division member told me, “You can’t afford not to contribute.” She explained to me that making that cause for the sake of spreading the Mystic Law, for the sake of supporting our organization that helps so many people change their lives, is a cause I couldn’t afford not to make.

Celize: Sensei says that nothing can ever destroy the boundless good fortune that accompanies an unshakable commitment in faith. In my own life, what does that commitment in faith look like? I want to do things of my own volition, not obligation. I ask myself, “What does it mean to develop my life based on a self-motivated practice?”

Cam: I feel like one thing I’ve learned through this practice is that giving is the gateway to Buddhahood. Whenever I challenge myself to give something (e.g. time, money, words of appreciation), it is like jet fuel for my life condition! Because of this, participating in May Contribution is one of the most powerful investments I can make in my own happiness.

Mark: That’s right! I’m a billionaire in life condition and nobody can take that away from me. And the benefits aren’t the things I have; they are the life condition I enjoy every day.

From the May 2024 Living Buddhism


  1.  “On Attaining Buddhahood in This Lifetime,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p 4. ↩︎
  2. “The Farther the Source, the Longer the Stream,” WND-1, 940. ↩︎

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