I have the fortune of being “born into this practice” of Nichiren Buddhism. In fact, I am a third-generation member of the Soka Gakkai International (SGI) organization.
What is the essential purpose of Nichiren Buddhism? It is to fundamentally relieve suffering, to root out the causes of war and violence in people’s lives and there plant the seeds for harmony, peace, and happiness.1
So what is the SGI?
“The SGI is based on the teachings and philosophy of Nichiren Buddhism, which places the highest emphasis on the sanctity of life. Members seek, through their practice of Buddhism, to develop the ability to live with confidence, to create value in any circumstance and to contribute to the well-being of friends, family and community.
“The SGI-USA is the American branch of the SGI network, with more than 2,600 neighborhood discussion groups and nearly 100 SGI-USA centers throughout the country.
“The core activity for all SGI-USA members is the neighborhood discussion meeting. These informal gatherings bring people together for Buddhist prayer, study, sharing and discussion of ways Buddhism can be applied to the challenges of daily living” (sgi-usa.org).
From Junior Pioneer to District Leader.
My practice in this Buddhism started as a Junior Pioneer; today, our youngest members belong to the Pre- and Elementary School Division. Most of my activities during those early years included participating in cultural festivals, singing and dancing to songs like “Pearly Shells.”
Pioneer is a term we affectionately use to call those Gakkai members who started the propagation of Nichiren Buddhism world-wide. Not only were the pioneer members in Hawaii responsible for establishing Nichiren Buddhism in Hawaii, but also throughout the world. Today, the SGI is present in over 190 countries because of the efforts of third SGI President Daisaku Ikeda and our pioneer members. My grandmother is one of the pioneers in Hawaii.
During my teens, I became a member of the Young Men’s Division (YMD), participating heavily with the Hawaii King Brass Band. We marched in local events such as the Aloha Week Parade, and numerous SGI culture festivals and meetings. My most memorable event was the culture festival held at Paradise Cove in the 80s when I got to meet President Ikeda for the first time.
In my later years as a YMD, I received valuable training on caring for our members as a YMD leader of my district. At that time, and for most of my youth, I was part of the Diamond District, which was in the Kapahulu area.
At the turn of the Century, I became the Pacific Zone bureau chief for the SGI-USA’s weekly publication, World Tribune. Although this was only for a short time, it was a great honor and opportunity to work with many members across Hawaii and the Pacific to share their experiences and encouragement with the rest of the world. I still keep ties with the World Tribune staff today, providing assistance with photographing local events for the various publications of the SGI-USA.
While living in Kunia, I became a YMD leader for the Royal Kunia District. Before I knew it, I graduated to the Men’s Division and today serve my community as a district leader for Palisades.
Faith, practice, and study.
Nichiren Daishonin says, “Without practice and study, there can be no Buddhism” (“The True Aspect of All Phenomena,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 386).
Simply put, I develop my faith through understanding how to apply this philosophy to all of life’s challenges and helping others to do the same. The more I learn and understand this philosophy (study), the more I build confidence to apply the principles of Buddhism in my daily life (practice); the benefits, or actual proof of practicing this Buddhism, helps to deepen my faith.
And the benefits come in many forms: improved circumstances for health and career, for example; happiness; and the ability to help others. No matter the challenge, the greater the obstacle, the greater the benefits. The key to success is to meet each challenge with confidence and wisdom developed through past experiences, which I get through my practice.
The bottom line is that anything is possible through faith, practice, and study.
- Check out my related post: Why Buddhism? For me, it’s about the actual proof.
A Human Revolution, the Basis for My Buddhist Practice.
Genuine, living Buddhism is only found in unceasing struggle.2
It’s all about transforming my life condition, which in turn transforms my environment. The environment is a mirror of me. When one changes, the other changes as well. Mahatma Gandhi put it this way: Be the change you want to see in the world. As I continue to polish my mirror through this practice and chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo (see below), I continue to change my life condition and my environment.
“Human revolution, based on the life-affirming principles of Nichiren Buddhism, is a revolution of great hope for all humanity, opening the way for each individual to realize happiness for themselves and others, and spread a network of peace and justice dedicated to building a better society.
“Human revolution is not something difficult or complex. It is chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo earnestly and striving our hardest to rise to each challenge before us. It is facing every difficulty with courageous faith and making tenacious efforts to change poison into medicine. It is moving forward each day – even if just one more step today than yesterday, one more step tomorrow than today – breaking out of our old mold and building a new self” (From SGI President Daisaku Ikeda’s Message to the 62nd Soka Gakkai Headquarters Leaders Meeting on 6 January 2013).
- No pain, no gain. [15 October 2014]
“The invocation of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo was established by Nichiren Daishonin on April 28, 1253. Having studied widely among all the Buddhist sutras, he had concluded that the Lotus Sutra contains the ultimate truth of Buddhism: that everyone without exception has the potential to attain Buddhahood.
- Nam: The word nam derives from Sanskrit. A close translation of its meaning is “to devote oneself.”
- Myoho: Myoho literally means the Mystic Law, and expresses the relationship between the life inherent in the universe and the many different ways this life expresses itself.
- Renge: Renge means lotus flower. The lotus blooms and produces seeds at the same time, and thus represents the simultaneity of cause and effect.
- Kyo: In a broad sense, kyo conveys the concept that all things in the universe are a manifestation of the Mystic Law.
“Chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo–also known as “Daimoku”—is the primary practice of SGI members. Through this practice, one is able to reveal the state of Buddhahood in one’s life, experienced as the natural development of joy, increased vitality, courage, wisdom and compassion” (sgi-usa.org).
The people I got to meet and work with.
- Chicago Tribune article on SGI [01/26/2007]
- The Hindu Article on SGI [01/27/2007]
- USA Today article on SGI [02/22/2007]
- Columbus Dispatch article on SGI [04/06/2007]
- Tina Turner and the SGI [05/29/2007]
- Herbie Hancock on Beliefnet [11/21/2007]
- For the sake of peace: 50 years ago, 50 years ahead [03/21/2008]
- Live bravely [03/14/2009]
- WT: Photo featured in January 29 issue [02/31/2010]
- Photos from Rock the Era event [02/01/2010]