by Takako Mino
Rancho Cucamonga, California

When I was 5, my mom determined to support the dream of American kosen-rufu, so she somehow convinced my dad to move from Tokyo to Long Island, New York. Four years later, we moved to Illinois for my dad’s work. It was there that I began to resist my parents’ practice and became short-tempered with them.

Deep down, I wanted desperately to be normal and fit in. Though I was confident on the surface, I was actually extremely insecure and ashamed of myself.

I took my faith into my own hands six years ago during my studies at Claremont McKenna College in Claremont, California. I was studying international relations and seeking to understand how to build peace from the grass-roots level.

As part of my research studies, I went to Uganda, a country that had just gone through a devastating war. I interviewed former child soldiers and other survivors about their experiences. I found that many of them felt hopeless and powerless, and looked outside themselves for the solutions to their suffering. As I pondered ways to help them, I began to realize that all the answers that I had been searching for were found in the empowering philosophy of Nichiren Buddhism, in its way of helping each person become a protagonist for peace.

I began to realize that all the answers that I had been searching for were found in the empowering philosophy of Nichiren Buddhism, in its way of helping each person become a protagonist for peace.

I came home and read The Human Revolution, SGI President Ikeda’s serialized novel about the Soka Gakkai. Learning about Josei Toda and Daisaku Ikeda standing up amid the destruction of WWII to make a vow for world peace shook my life to the core. This was my first prime point with Sensei and when I began to understand the shared vow of mentor and disciple.Through applying my Buddhist practice, I eventually awakened to my mission to contribute to peace through education. I am currently in my fourth year of teaching high school English, while pursuing my Ph.D. in education. My dream is to open a university in Africa grounded in Soka education and its emphasis on the happiness of each student.

Teaching is an everyday struggle, but every morning, when I chant Nammyoho-renge-kyo before the Gohonzon, it is a reminder of my mission. No matter how difficult the students may be, I am reminded that I am the Buddha, and they are Buddhas, too. So no matter what, I must never give up on their potential.

I had one student, for instance, who was easily angered and bullied her classmates. I was honestly intimidated by her. During a discussion about racism in class, she cussed out another student. When I told her to calm down, I saw for the first time a deep sense of regret and lack of confidence in her eyes. From then on, I determined to somehow break through with this student.

As I chanted to sincerely praise her each day and fundamentally respect her life, I realized that it came down to my own human revolution. Instead of seeing her as a troublemaker, I began to see her Buddha nature. And because I changed, she changed. Whereas before, she came into class angry, she began to greet me and expressed genuine enjoyment in coming to class. At the end of the semester, she had the whole class sign an appreciation poster for me and thanked me for not giving up on her.

By following Sensei’s guidance to change myself first, I also developed the courage to sincerely encourage my friends to start practicing this Buddhism for the sake of their happiness. Three of them received the Gohonzon last year.

In May 2015, I was appointed the Southern California North Zone young women’s leader, and our team determined that our mission was to transform the darkness of the times, starting from our community.

Last December, a terrorist attack occurred in San Bernardino, California, tragically killing 14 people. In our zone, our response was empowering 15 bodhisattvas to receive the Gohonzon that weekend.

One of the Bodhisattvas who emerged around this time was a young man that I personally introduced to Buddhism. After receiving the Gohonzon, he later shared with me that he was about to commit suicide before recalling our initial dialogue about Buddhism. He has since taken on responsibility as a unit leader and is challenging himself to introduce his friends to the practice. I truly feel that helping each person awaken to their infinite potential and teaching them the bodhisattva way of caring for others is what will turn the tide of history in our country.

Through seeking Sensei’s guidance and taking on leadership responsibilities for the happiness of others, I’ve learned to open up my heart and embrace my true self. I was recently appointed the West Territory young women’s leader, and my personal determination is to treasure every person in front of me and connect them to the person who awakened me to my mission for humanity, President Ikeda. Together with my mentor, I am determined to make America “the model for worldwide kosen-rufu!”