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I Found the Best Way to Live

December 4, 2020

By Glenn Turner, Ottawa 

SGI Canada Vice General Director

As a young man, I had no clue where I was going. I had dropped out of university twice. Though interested in many different things—particularly writing and other languages—I was not able to commit to anything long enough to advance. The people around me knew they could not rely on me. I lived from day to day, not unhappily, but with no idea what my future would be, and no confidence that I could influence it in any way. 

In 1983, I was working for a moving company in Ottawa. A colleague at work had been trying to introduce me to Buddhism for a year, but I was not interested. Finally, he invited me to a party one weekend. What he didn’t tell me was that we had to go to a Buddhist meeting first, in order to get to the party. It was a surprise to me, but I liked the sound of the chanting, and the people were all very nice. 

Thanks to the efforts of my friend and another member, I began to attend district meetings regularly in the following weeks. I was learning about SGI and Buddhist philosophy—and I liked what I heard—but I still wasn’t practising on my own. After a few weeks, a district leader said to me, “Glenn, you can come to as many meetings as you like, but if you don’t try practising for yourself, you’ll never really understand.” That made a lot of sense, and so I started to chant and do gongyo[1] at home, on my own. 

The difference was remarkable. Almost at once I realized that I had the power to change my life, and that it was possible for me to become absolutely happy—something I had never even thought was important before. Simultaneously, I saw how selfish and irresponsible I had become. 

I was fortunate to begin practising when I did. The members in Ottawa chanted a lot, and there were many opportunities to participate in activities, particularly for a young person. Without really understanding the benefits, I did as many activities as I could. There were culture festivals in other cities—weekend activities in Montreal, district meetings in Ottawa, and lots of youth division events. My favourite activities were in Soka Group[2] and Gajokai[3]—protecting members and making sure that meetings ran smoothly. I was always happiest in the parking lot directing traffic or waiting at some obscure and little-used back door. 

Participating in these activities proved to me that I could succeed in any endeavour—in SGI or in daily life—by using my practice. Gradually, I came to understand that these efforts for kosen-rufu[4] were having an even more profound effect, and that my life was changing direction and revealing its purpose. 

I joined SGI and received the Gohonzon in November, 1983. Through doing activities and chanting to overcome obstacles, I was able to complete my university diploma, change careers, and meet a woman who would become my wife. Rose joined SGI in 1985. We both became youth division leaders in Ottawa, and we were married in 1990.

Over the last 37 years, there have been moments when my practice faltered. During the worst time though, I never stopped practising, After I abandoned my leadership positions, and devoted myself to other causes, I found myself stuck and unable to move forward with any of the projects that I wanted to succeed. In the end, knowing that I could get things moving by working for kosen-rufu, I returned to activities. The turning point for me was a large meeting planned at Carleton University, which I determined to support as much as I could. As I invited everyone I met in the months leading up the meeting, I found that more and more opportunities opened up to talk to people about Buddhism. During the meeting itself, I returned to my roots as a Soka Group member, happily directing traffic out in a distant parking lot. Following the event, as the roadblocks in my life began to disappear, I naturally returned to meetings and took on more responsibility, thinking a lot about SGI President Daisaku Ikeda. 

When President Ikeda visited Montreal in 1993, Rose and I were both very involved. She worked as a Maple Leaf[5] Group member, and I was part of the group responsible for security. It was a very exciting experience, and we had the great good fortune to be close to President Ikeda on several occasions. One of the things that impressed us the most was President Ikeda’s cheerfulness and informality. During meetings he would make jokes, and while being driven from place to place, he would take impromptu photographs. He made sure to thank everyone for their efforts at the end of his time in Montreal. We were moved by President Ikeda’s compassion and respect for everyone. 

This was my closest contact with President Ikeda but, curiously, not the most significant. During a training course in Japan in 2019, Canadian members visited the Ota Ikeda Culture Centre in Tokyo, which is dedicated to the history of the Soka Gakkai. There was a statue depicting the young Daisaku Ikeda, taking the lead to advance kosen-rufu in Ota Ward during the famous Kamata Chapter Campaign[6]. The statue showed him walking into a storm, his hair, jacket and tie blowing in the wind. The sculptor had managed to capture on Daisaku’s face a look of confidence and even happiness despite the obstacles in his path. This dramatic work of art depicting the youthful disciple replying to his mentor made me suddenly aware of the depth and importance of Sensei’s determination.

At that moment, thinking about President Ikeda’s efforts on our behalf, I understood that this was the best way to live—struggling against adversity for the sake of others, for the sake of kosen-rufu—and that I had to follow my mentor, as best I could. 

The past few years have offered me many opportunities to challenge myself. Despite having little confidence in my abilities, I became a trusted person in my workplace and community, volunteering for our local minor hockey league after working as a teacher and teacher-librarian for over 25 years. For much of that time, I was the leader of our school library network, and in my last year of teaching, I was awarded the “Teacher-Librarian of the Year” award by my provincial association. I was also able to research, write, publish, and promote a book, while still working full-time. My Buddhist practice has enabled me to accomplish things that I did not think I was capable of. 

While still working at my school, I was able to talk to many of my colleagues about Buddhism, and 18 of them have chanted at least a little bit. We held weekly chanting sessions at school before classes and during lunch hours. Six teachers have continued to chant over the last few years, and during the COVID-19 pandemic, five of us have met online every week to chat and chant. 

Most recently, as a staff member of SGI Canada, I have been able to use my skills and interests to the fullest in the service of Canadian kosen-rufu. I am sometimes surprised to realize that my days are spent writing and working in two languages, as I had vaguely hoped would be the case when I was young. I seem to have arrived where I wanted to be, after all. 

The more I practise, the more I realize how much in me remains to be changed. Selfishness, irresponsibility, anger—they are still part of my life. Being more aware of my mission does not always stop me from complaining. But I am convinced of the power of the practice to allow even me to do my human revolution and help others to do the same. I will keep moving forward, proud to be able to work for the kosen-rufu of Canada alongside SGI Canada members and President Ikeda.


Published in September 2020 New Century


[1] Gongyo: Literally, to “exert [oneself in] practice.” In Nichiren's (1222-1282) teaching, gongyo means to chant the daimoku of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo and recite portions of the “Expedient Means” (second) chapter and the “Life Span” (sixteenth) chapter of the Lotus Sutra with faith in the object of devotion called the Gohonzon.

[2] Soka Group: Young men’s behind-the-scenes training group supporting the safety and logistics at SGI meetings.

[3] Gajokai: Men’s and young men’s training group supporting SGI meetings and facilities.

[4] Kosen-rufu: Literally, it means “to widely declare and spread [the Lotus Sutra]”; to secure lasting peace and happiness for all humankind through the propagation of Nichiren Buddhism. More broadly, kosen-rufu refers to the process of establishing the humanistic ideals of Nichiren Buddhism in society.

[5] Maple Leaf Group: Young women’s behind-the-scenes training group supporting the safety and operations at SGI meetings.

[6] Kamata campaign: In February 1952, SGI President Ikeda, then an advisor to Tokyo’s Kamata Chapter, initiated a dynamic propagation campaign. Together with the Kamata members, he broke through the previous monthly record of some 100 new member households by introducing the Daishonin’s Buddhism to 201 new households. This example invigorated the entire organization, triggering the momentum for the realization of his mentor, second Soka Gakkai President Josei Toda's goal of 750,000 member households.