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Daily Life

Raising the Future

A discussion with parents on fostering successors for peace.

Photo by Yvonne Ng.

Jason Berg (Chicago): I’ve seen how learning gongyo makes a big difference in whether kids go on to embrace the practice on their own, so I have always tried to make it a part of our morning routine. When they were younger, I made it a point to wake up earlier to do gongyo first and then again with my children. What’s great is when they challenged themselves to do gongyo, they were able to see their own actual proof.

At the same time, I don’t push any formalities. When I was in college struggling with depression, I had to chant lying down until I had the strength to get up. Of course, I don’t encourage them to do that, but I want them to be natural in front of the Gohonzon.

Terumi Saito (New Orleans): I was actually never strict when it came to doing gongyo. If they didn’t want to do it, then I let it be. But when they had difficulties, I chanted for the wisdom to be able to encourage them to practice.

When my eldest daughter was struggling, I chanted for her to go to the student division conference at the Florida Nature and Culture Center (FNCC). Through that conference, she decided to practice. For my second daughter, we took a road trip back to her school one summer. During that time, I encouraged her to do gongyo and connect with her district, which she did. And for my son, I chanted for him to go to Soka University of America. He eventually decided to go, and that’s where he stood up in his faith. It all came back to the trust I had built with them over the years and my prayer for their happiness.

Wendy Desouza (Sebastopol, Calif.):I openly share with my daughter about my benefits, how I’ve dealt with my problems with prayer and action, and how I sometimes feel defeated or uncertain, too. I think that honesty is better than preaching or pretending we know everything. She needs to see the in-between of chanting and the breakthroughs.

A big turning point for my daughter was when she encountered an obstacle and ran out of solutions. Rather than offering encouragement, my husband and I explained that she’s ultimately the one that can find the solution through chanting. That resonated, and she started chanting on her own. 

It’s important to value her feelings while guiding her in discovering the potential in herself. The greatest lesson for her to learn is that she has the power to change any situation.

George Artope (Long Beach, Calif.): I heard one statistic that said kids ask nearly 100 questions a day about everything! That’s why I strive to be present to understand what they’re actually seeking to know.

For instance, my daughter had questions about my grandmother’s passing. My wife and I did our best to share the Buddhist view of life and death. We can’t explain everything all at once, but we chant to have the wisdom to respond in an encouraging way that she can comprehend.

In addition, we strive to share challenges and victories with our kids and instill in them the importance of giving their best effort. This summer, we’re encouraging them to write down their goals. One of my daughter’s goals is to visit Paris when she turns 10! We don’t know how that will happen, but we
encourage having big dreams and striving toward them.

Terumi: To be very honest, I had no choice but to take them along with me to SGI activities back then. But because of that, they grew to make friends at the center and feel comfortable around SGI members.

Whenever there was a youth conference at FNCC, I sent each of my kids. Even if we were struggling financially, I didn’t let that be an obstacle. It was their opportunity to learn about Sensei and Buddhism from the “garden of Soka.”

By involving them in the SGI like this, there wasn’t any separation between SGI and family life—SGI became their family.

George: When we go to the center, we always tell them we’re going to Ikeda Sensei’s house. And they love it; they get to see their friends and they’re involved in meetings, as emcee, for instance. My 8-year-old daughter involves her 3-year-old brother so he’s not left out. They’ve shared that they’re inspired by the SGI community.

As a youth, I struggled with opening up about Buddhism, especially since my friends didn’t practice. But my kids have friends in the SGI, they have grandparents that practice, and they always see members. It’s much more ingrained in their daily lives—to the point that they’re frequently singing “Forever Sensei!” 

Wendy: We have to win as parents first because when we’re challenging our goals, we bring that life condition home. More than anything, I hope my daughter can see that her parents aren’t giving up and that happiness takes effort. It comes back to winning in the morning with daimoku and doing our best to live the mentor-disciple spirit each day—or else we get thrown off course.

Beyond that, it’s taking opportunities to have small conversations. For example, we like to talk together in the car about current events, or I listen to my daughter share frustrations about her friends. I ask her what she thinks she should do. I avoid trying to give advice because I want her to know she has wisdom. Whatever we are doing, I look for opportunities to spark her compassion and learn from her, too.

Jason: I have many responsibilities at work and in the SGI community, but the one I take most seriously is at home. My children don’t care what I know about Buddhism; what matters is my life condition.

I keep in mind two things. First is Sensei’s example. Even though he had limited time with his kids, he gave 100% when he was with them. Second, I try to never complain in front of my family and always come home a better version than when I left—especially after SGI activities. To me, it all comes back to having appreciation for my family.

I’ve gone through so much to transform the generations of disharmony in my family. That’s really the driving force behind my determination as a parent.

Terumi: Our immediate successors are our children. Even before having kids, I determined that my kids would contribute to kosen-rufu. Sure, they ultimately make the choice, but as parents, it’s our responsibility to show them why our practice is great. We can’t be hands-off and hope for the best. I owe it to them for helping me become the person I am today; my most joyful memories are with them. In turn, while we have built such a harmonious family, I have to continue to show them how to live as a disciple of Sensei—especially now that I have grandkids!

George: I think the teamwork between parents is important. I’m learning the importance of checking in with each other—it’s so simple but easy to forget. We’re proactive with taking parenting classes, too. When we’re made aware of new habits that we can create and can identify those we want to transform, it helps us refresh and refocus our daimoku and actions. Having young children, I really do believe that parenting is more about parenting the parent. It comes back to our seeking spirit to improve. As long as I continue doing my human revolution, I know they’ll be fine.

Wendy: I agree, I have to evolve with my daughter. I feel my job is to learn who my daughter is and what kind of support she needs—it’s not what I need. Sometimes we have different perspectives, and those are opportunities for me to self-reflect. Ultimately, when I chant, I remember that my daughter has her own mission. She was born into a family of SGI Buddhists for a reason. When I rely on prayer, I can trust my daughter to make the best decisions for her life. And I tell her that—that I absolutely trust her and am behind her. That’s what gives her confidence.

Jason: I see that as my kids grow older, they’re getting more serious about things in their lives. As they go out into the world, I want to make sure they have, and know how to use, all the tools at their disposal. I’ve come to believe that with abundant daimoku, I can move the universe. Whether my kids stand up in faith is between me and the Gohonzon—I have to decide. That’s how powerful daimoku is. And this is important, because the greatest gift I can give to my kids is faith.

June 7, 2024, World Tribune, pp. 6–7

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