About the Journal’s Author

Who’s the young Buddhist radical? James C. Stephens from 1970-1984. In 1970, while attending California State University Northridge,  I made a decision to become a member of the Soka Gakkai, a Japanese Buddhist sect. The following entries represent a slightly edited and shortened version of the journals I kept over the fourteen years of my practice. They represent an honest reflection of my spiritual journey as an idealistic young Buddhist practicing in Santa Monica, California during the expansion of Nichiren Shoshu Academy, a radically ‘evangelistic’ Buddhist movement established in the United States by Masayasu Sadanaga, aka “George M. Williams” as a student at UCLA in 1960.

  1. gary spraggins says:

    I was in the brass band when you were, Knew Russ Delando and Jim Jay well. Really enjoyed your journal, brought back many memories. I’ve also become a Christian since then (as have many of my former member friends). Thanks for sharing.
    -Gary Spraggins (Burbank District, Brass Band drum section)

  2. Herb Barker says:

    Hi Jim__Hope you are well. Am active in SGI the same as I was the day I joined in March 69, hope you are too. L.A.B.B. 1972-76. Herb

  3. Hi James, It has only been 47 years. I live in Guatemala, run a hotel on lake Atitlan and have white hair now. David (James is my middle name) Glanville
    Whatever happened to Ginsburg?

  4. samquinones says:

    I was in NSA in the Pomona area from 1974 to 1979, beginning at the end of my freshman year in high school and ending in my sophomore year in college at UC Berkeley. I was in Brass Band drum corps for a bit and marched in the NYC parade, without instruments as someone lost half of them, including my snare.

    I was also in the Anaheim Stadium show.

    I found NSA a great place to be for a while. It helped me stop smoking marijuana, which led to a whole new perspective and approach to life. I never would have gone to Berkeley had I not stopped smoking weed.

    The NSA focus on material benefits was a joke. The biggest benefit I received, apart from getting away from dope, was the discipline that came from chanting morning and night. I missed five times in five years. That was an important lesson for an adolescent. A lot of other healthy things i learned as well – but most were related to hard work and showing up on time, etc.

    In Pomona, the chapter was largely made up of desperate people, I remember. Folks in their 20s and early who went from bad job to bad job, lots of car problems, moving a lot. I don’t think I realized this until later and maybe I’m missing a lot: Rick Johnson, Adderly Guillory, Steve Langdon, Jane Perry, Robin Brannon, Steve Davis, Dave Durant, Lowell Froedesson, Rick Nagy. Always wonder what became of them.

    I was part of a crew of a half dozen kids from Claremont High School who were members. My French teacher, Penny Herman, was a very high-ranking leader of NSA in what’s now called the Inland Empire. She and her husband both left NSA later.

    At the time, Herbie Hancock, Tina Turner, and a couple Dodgers were members. so were half the good-looking women of Hollywood apparently – that was my conclusion when I went to the dance practices for Anaheim and other get-togethers in LA.

    Then it was time for me to leave NSA, which happened very easily. No drama. I called the Berkeley chapter and told them and a couple guys came over. We spoke for 30 minutes, I told them I was decided and they accepted that and took my Gohonzon and that was it.

    I’m only vaguely aware of what has happened to NSA since then – apparently there’s been a schism. Ikeda and Williams have died, I guess. NSA is a shell of what it once was.

    I’m happy to be away. But I don’t regret at all joining NSA. It helped me learn and move through a tough time.

  5. I joined NSA in 1968, when I was in High School. I lived with my parents in Laguna Beach, but we members frequently traveled to Santa Monica to the Headquarters. I was a member of the Kotekitai and went on Tozan in 1970. I learned some good things from NSA, but my final lessons from them were that NSA was an organization built on big egos, hero worship of Ikeda, blind obedience to leadership, and getting a regular flow of money from the membership. I remember when our local leadership began to have infighting in 1971; it was a very confusing time for the rank-and-file members. The straw that broke this camel’s back was one time my boy friend and I got together with with one of the mega-honchos (I can’t remember her title), only to discover that she was having an affair with another leader, who was single and 20 years her junior (she was married). That totally disillusioned me and ended my relationship with NSA. I was not surprised to learn later of the rift within the organization and the eventual destruction of the Sho-Hondo.

  6. sokjeng says:

    dear James and Elizabeth Stephens

    i’m sokjeng from thailand. i read colume “Toward the 21st Century”. this’s same as sensei talking about in “Sprad your wings toward the future: The Highway in Los Angeles”.
    i want photo in link below to make a magazine. how about license with this photo?
    please contect me if you would share the copyright of this photo.


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