On 18th June 2016, 120 youths went on tozan with our Chief Priest and embarked on the journey of a lifetime. This “Journey to the Beginnings” was planned in anticipation of the year 2021, when we celebrate the 800th anniversary of the birth of our True Buddha, Nichiren Daishonin. We set out to trace Nichiren Daishonin’s footsteps: from his birthplace in Chiba; to Mount Seicho where he first chanted Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo and declared True Buddhism; to Kamakura where he submitted the Rissho ankoku-ron; as well as where he experienced the significant Tatsunokuchi Persecution and revealed his true identity as the True Buddha. Most importantly, we had the good fortune to visit the Head Temple and attend the Gokaihi Ceremony to repay our debts to the Three Treasures. We also had the rare opportunity to visit and learn about the Head Temple buildings such as the Mieido, Mutsubo, Kyakuden as well as nearby temples Myorenji and Shimonobo.
Throughout this journey, we learn and felt Nichiren Daishonin’s great compassion to save people from suffering as he overcame enormous difficulties to propagate and protect the True Law. We were aware of Gohonzon’s mystic protection as the skies cleared up suddenly in the midst of a storm for us to make our way onward, and everyone had a high life condition to overcome personal challenges to participate in all the tozan activities. There was no dispute that Youth Tozan 2016 concluded on a high note. New friendships were forged. Let us forge a faith that is unshakeable and support one another on this Journey to a new beginning.
Yong Yuen Shen, Sengkang Zone
With the protection from Gohonzon, we managed to overcome numerous obstacles while planning and executing the tozan. I am sure most of us here also felt this protection of Gohonzon and suffice to say, the 4th Youth Tozan ended on a high note. I am grateful to the Youth Tozan main committee for dedicating their time and effort in planning for the tozan. Due to the scale and complexity of the event, the committee was formed a year ago. During the tozan, I was inspired by planners, facilitators and group leaders for their selflessness in making the tozan a successful one, and I am confident that they can succeed the current youth core and be the next generation of youth leaders.
Through this tozan, I have personally gained a deeper understanding of the life of Nichiren Daishonin by visiting the actual historical sites and walking the same path as Nichiren Daishonin did 700 years ago. The learning in this tozan definitely strengthened my faith and conviction in Gohonzon. This tozan also serves as a platform for me to bond and understand the Sengkang youths better and I am determined to perform home visits to them and nurture them as new youth leaders.
Ashley Mun, Bishan Zone
We were really fortunate to have been able to see the Tai fishes. For the past few weeks before we went there, the fishermen were not able to see them. But on the day we went there, we saw an abundance of Tai fishes. This showed that our Daimoku has really made this experience an unforgettable one, and we were able to maximise our learning experience, through learning about the life of Nichiren Daishonin. The fact that such a phenomenon occured during the birth of Nichiren Daishonin means that there is something really mystical about Him, and that has really deepened my faith and belief in Nichiren Shoshu.
I was very fortunate to see Dai–Gohonzon at the Head Temple and repay my debts of gratitude to the Three Treasures. Actually, we were supposed to be able to see Dai-Gohonzon only when we achieved worldwide kosen-rufu, but we had the opportunity to see Dai-Gohonzon now due to High Priest’s compassion and consent. This has also strengthened my faith. We went to various places in Head Temple and learnt more about the place. This really made me appreciate the Gokuyo of Nanjo Tokimitsu.
Hazel Lau, Tampines Zone
I was very grateful that I got to help out as a Group Leader (GL) for this tozan. Even though I only started practising three years ago, I have received so much benefits that I wanted to repay my debt of gratitude to Gohonzon by contributing back. Actually, I am a very fearful person and I tend to worry a lot. This was also why I almost fell into depression before I started practising three years ago. At that time, I had the chance to help out in the Youth Kenshu, and by going for all the planning meetings and chanting for the success of the kenshu, gave me a chance to pull myself out from these self-centred worries. This was when I naturally started to see more light in my life.
This time, being a GL was scary to me – imagine having to call all these people whom I was not familiar with. My greatest fear was that people would dislike me, and here I had to make contact with them – what if they rejected me? But I remembered all the encouragement about compassion, to do what is best for others instead of thinking only about myself. So during preparation and the actual tozan, I used this to remind myself, and I am so glad that I did. I was scared to talk to people but then I thought – I have compassion and concern, so I just asked about how they were. I learnt so much about them, I felt very lucky that I got to witness the Gohonzon’s power first-hand. Not just in the youth members who showed great changes, but also when I heard the stories of many other members, e.g. going on tozan even though there were exams or deadlines.
However, right after their tozan, they came back to witness that instead of failing miserably because of having had less time to study, their results actually improved more than they could imagine! Of course it is not because the Gohonzon is magical, but it is because we put the Gohonzon first and with this higher life condition we could make the best out of our efforts, be it in our studies, work or relationships. I remembered one member said that when we help out in activities, we often think that we are offering help, but in fact we are the ones being helped. I totally agree and hope that more members will volunteer to help so that they can feel the power of the Gohonzon in their lives. Thank you.
Arthur Lee, Tampines Zone
For me, the most memorable part about Youth Tozan is meeting new people and making new friends, who now feel like my family. This is different from when I was in school where I got bullied. I became more confident and communicate better with people around me instead of just ignoring them in the past. After coming back from tozan, my resolve is to wake up with determination and go to sleep with satisfaction.
Gee Zi Ling, Tampines Zone
The most tiring part of tozan was walking from place to place because we had to endure walking long distances. For example, in Kamakura, Nichiren Daishonin also walked the same distance from his house to the Omachi Street every day just to propagate Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo. It was so tiring and people threw things at Him but yet He continued to do it day after day. After Youth Tozan, I feel that I want to go to temple more often and join in the activities. In the past, I did not like to go to temple because I felt there was nothing to do there. Now I like to go to the temple because I feel that there are people for me to talk to. I am also more interested to learn and listen to Chief Priest’s lectures because my faith is stronger now. In addition, I want to learn how to shakubuku people.
Serene Tan, Sembawang Zone
This Youth Tozan had been a fulfilling one, which has been a different experience from the other tozans I have been to. Even though it was a hectic schedule, I have learnt a lot from it. Not only about the life of Nichiren Daishonin, one thing that got me thinking was the night when we had to pen down the journey of our faith. For me, I would say my faith is like fire. That made me reflect that my faith should be like a mixture of flowing water and fire, and I should be consistent in my practice.
For that, I am thankful to practise together with my friends who always encourage me (as my practice has not been that consistent) and who also came on this Youth Tozan together with me. Also, I am thankful to Ivan as he had encouraged us to come to Youth Tozan, otherwise I would not have learnt so many valuable things which made me reflect about my own faith and study, and I would not have met so many wonderful friends. Thank you!
Carey Chan, Sembawang Zone
Before this tozan trip, I did not feel a need to go due to various reasons, but after the trip I felt that those reasons were just excuses. This tozan was a fulfilling one, with no regrets. We went to various temples outside of Taisekiji and also learnt more about the life of Nichiren Daishonin which made me feel that my faith was really weak and ignorant during my past years of practice. We were always taught about faith, practice and study. This tozan really allowed me to study about this religion which I felt has strengthened my faith steadily and I hope to continue having faith in Gohonzon.
Through this trip, new friendships were forged and our old friendships became even stronger. This Youth Tozan was very different from previous tozans because this was my first Youth Tozan. This tozan has given me a chance to practise with my friends who are always encouraging me in terms of faith and practice. I hope we can encourage more youths to come to temple and continue to practice together. Thank you!
Walter Lee, Sengkang Zone
I felt that I have benefited a lot from this Youth Tozan. Not only have I learnt about and visited places that are historic to the origins of Nichiren Shohu, I have also familiarised myself with my zone mates. I have forged many friendships with the members of Sengkang Zone and I feel that we have all grown closer together.
One experience that I found to be the most memorable was at Taisekiji when we were walking to the Shimonobo. It was raining, and several Nichiren Shoshu believers stepped into puddles and wet their shoes, socks and feet, but no one complained about it. In fact, because we were so pressed for time, everyone picked up their pace and I found it very admirable that everyone placed the activities of the Youth Tozan before their personal comfort.
For me, the highlight of this tozan was in Chiba where everybody shared their experience during the “Draw my Faith” segment, and listened to my group mates and the few representatives who told their stories, and where they see themselves in five years’ time. This really rekindled the flame that I had. This was further emphasised by Chief Priest speaking about how the year 2021 holds a special significance for Nichiren Shohu. I suddenly felt that the success of achieving 800,000 Hokkeko believers by 2021 and the establishment of a second temple in Singapore should be what I pray for when I chant Daimoku.
After that experience, I felt the change in me when I compared my mindset before and after the Youth Tozan. Before attending the Youth Tozan, I used to pray for my own benefits, such as superficial things like good examination results. However, after attending the Youth Tozan, I now pray for others’ happiness and to shakubuku my friends. I slotted the post-its that we wrote on the last night in Chiba into my envelope so that when the envelope is mailed back to me in two years’ time, I will experience the sense of nostalgia. This is because I feel that this Youth Tozan has benefitted me greatly and I would like to experience it again, even if through memories instead of actually being there with everyone in 2018. Overall, this Youth Tozan has been a very meaningful experience and I am looking forward to attending the next one!
Seet Ann Qi, Hougang Zone
The most memorable story that I learnt from this tozan is the spirit of Abutsu-bo. I feel that all of us can learn from him because Abutsu-bo continued on his journey to meet Nichiren Daishonin at the age of 90 despite having to scale mountains and cross the sea. We are still young and should have more energy to do more. We cannot give up!
After tozan I did my Gongyo more consistently. Sometimes when my mother comes back from work, she is too tired but now I encourage her to do Gongyo together. This was unlike in the past, when she was the one who nagged at me to do Gongyo. After tozan I also feel that I need to contribute to Singapore’s kosen-rufu. Chief Priest shared that there is a book in Japanese and he would like to have a team to translate it into both English and Chinese. I have started taking Japanese lessons and hope to contribute to these translation efforts in future.
This journey is very long for everybody and along the way we may want to give up, so I hope that we can encourage and support one another to continue this journey together, just like how we did Gongyo together every day during Youth Tozan.
Gina Wong, Sembawang Zone
This is my very first Youth Tozan and actually, it was a last-minute decision that I made to join this Youth Tozan. Even when I had decided to go, I has worried that I would have a lot of project meetings with my classmates as it was a precious two-week holiday where everyone would be planning to do projects. However, I believed that ecerything would turn out fine if I had a strong ichinen to go for this tozan.
In general, the tozan trip was really smooth-sailing for me. There were many memorable moments during the trip, such as my first time seeing the Tai fish, fireflies and visiting other temples. These are places where we might not have the opportunity to go to during other tozan trips and I am really grateful that I made the right decision to go for this Youth Tozan.
Throughout the trip, I was also able to learn about the life of Nichiren Daishonin, and also visit some places that he went to, which was an amazing experience. From this trip, I felt that my faith has become stronger and my practice has become more consistent now. I am also really thankful for my friends in temple. It is really great to encourage each other to come to temple together and chant.
I have felt the changes in my environment ever since this Youth Tozan, and I will continue to contribute to temple and also attend more temple activities from now on. Thank you!