Posts Tagged ‘Gary Curtis’

by James C. Stephens

May 4, 1974

Gary CurtisTonight after the meeting, I went to Santa Monica to talk to Soshibucho Gary Curtis. I told of my problem of following and wanting to take the lead. He related his experience of his early practice, when he was a butaicho with no real tai, but expected to lead gongyo at a meeting which the Senior leaders didn’t show at, but instead a younger member jumped up and led gongyo. I did plenty of onshitsu he said. Now my competition with that same leader is totally reversed. It’s more like, you lead the new member’s meeting, no you, no you.

I told him of the people I had shakubukued and how I’m not taking care of them, but others are. He said, each person’s mission is different, be proud of what you can do. Do what you can do, you are you. I can’t wait to see you a fatter smiley Jim Stephens, then I believe your true nature will come out instead of the thin you.

For a member of four years, you give rotten experiences and are a lousy emcee. For chanting four years you should have some heavy spiritual revelations which you can relate to the guests.

“How can I give better experiences?”

Paul Newman Exodus“You aren’t blind, just look around and see what kind of experiences you enjoy! Nobody likes a predictable character like Steve McQueen. They like a person like Paul Newman that goes through all sorts of conditions. You’ve got to be a good actor. You’ve got to have a bigger vision of the future. In front of a lot of people you have got to be a good actor. No more you knows or likes. How can you relate to older people that way?

Example of Mr. Enaba, a happy person who raised capable leaders, not a grab ass person, but a man happy to see people grow above him. But he has incredible fortune. Wow, when I was appointed he was so happy, he didn’t think of himself, he knew his mission. He did not give us much guidance and when he led meetings he never spoke more than 7 minutes. But such simple people are the people President Ikeda loves. And he shows them too. He almost ignores the screamers, Sensei! Sensei! But he goes out of his way to meet the behind the scenes people. He knows them. You should try to become such a person.

Wow, we (our General Chapter) won Gojukai for 6 months and I never once rubbed it in on anyone. Right now we are going to drive deep foundations for our lives. But two months from now the other General Chapters will wonder what hit them when we totally wipe them out.

I want happy people, not fanatics. He told me I was not ready to raise people all the way.

I ask, “How can I get ready?”

Don’t worry, that’s all.


by James C. Stephens

March 7, 1974

On Friday, March 1st a new era began in NSA. At the first Headquarters Mr. Williams enshrined a new Joju Gohonzon. The old Gohonzon was ten years old and had Soka Gakkai written on it. The new Gohonzon has Nichiren Shoshu Academy, November 26, 1973 written on it. Friday night I was TCD for this activity. Boy did I go through some heavy changes. Dave Anderson, my TCD chief gave it to me with both barrels. I was TCD of the cross walk on Lincoln Blvd. and what a responsibility it is to guard the crosswalk for pedestrians.

Saturday morning I got a call from my Shibucho to be TCD at the Joint Headquarters. So Saturday morning the first thing I had to do was get some gas. The lines at most stations were about 30 minutes long and I didn’t really have the time to wait that long. Strangely, a service station decided to open up exclusively for my member Paul Diamond and I. (Many years later he asked me to fill in for him as a chauffeur for Eli Broad, who would become the wealthiest entrepreneur in Los Angeles. I did so. Picked up the three newspapers he read daily,  Wall Street Journal, New York Times, and LA Times, drove to his house and drove him in his Jaguar to the UC Board of Regents meeting in Long Beach).

Afterwards I went to the Joint Headquarters and talked to Scott Wilson and at about 4:30 I went to the airport to pick up Mrs. De Chu of Panama. She’s really a groovy person. She speaks Spanish, English, and Japanese and was really an incredible person.  After I picked her up at the airport I took her out to buy some clothes. We sang Doshi-no-uta together.

At eight I had another mission. Instead of going to a meeting I had to drive Mrs. Hall and Mrs. Chuda. I drove them to Malibu in the super van. What a trip. It was pouring rain and all the way out we were learning Doshi-no-uta. I was teaching them the words and son, but in essence they were teaching me the spirit of the song. We sang the song all the way there in the rain, fixed up some beads for President Ikeda’s room and then sang Doshi-no-uta to Mr. Enaba and his wife before we left. It was such a groovy experience.

Sunday morning at 6:00 I started picking up Senior leaders at the Airport for the special Senior leaders meeting with Mr. Williams that afternoon. Once Brad Nixon from Seattle found out that I was originally from Montana he casually joked about the need for leaders in Montana. Later he got serious and he asked my name and who my Shibucho was.

To me it was definitely a benefit from the Gohonzon that such a thing would happen. It was not a mere circumstance. I’m sure of that. Cause and effect are too clear to me for that.

After morning transport, I was told no more help was needed that they had a fresh crew. Well I stayed anyway just downstairs and shaved and washed my face and then took a nap for an hour while we were waiting for the leader’s meeting to conclude.

Afterwards we cleaned up and I was fortunate to be able to give Mrs. O’Rayeh who was carrying Gohonzon’s for Las Vegas, a ride to the airport. On the way, I told her of my Montana benefit from Brad Nixon. He told me he would give me Montana and Idaho and even part of Canada if I decided to move. She was in the bus earlier when he talked to me.

Josei Toda Portrait

Second President Josei Toda.

On the way, she told me about her early practice and her husband Mr. O’Rayeh. She told me that they both received guidance from President Toda personally. She told me he was a very funny person, but very powerful when he had to be, but immediately afterward he would encourage the person he just scolded. Mr. Grant told me that once too. He said that Mr. Williams would scold someone and he really would forget right afterwards. He doesn’t harp on things. Mrs. O’Rayeh said also that President Toda usually wore a kimono. He was a very relaxed person and unusually tall for a Japanese. When he used to give guidance he always would look at you over his glasses with his head tilted down.

I swear I believe we or at least me, for example, take Japanese or people who have practiced a long time for granted. But I felt her beauty from the Gohonzon very deeply. She has had the Gohonzon for something like 20 years. She’s definitely a groovy example of the Gohonzon.

Later that night I got guidance from my Soshibucho Gary Curtis on my job. He told me to stick with it. It’s easy to cop out, he said, but stick it out. He said to quit before the convention is senseless. If you have the Ichinen there will be plenty to do two weeks before the Convention.

Last week Pres. Ikeda was in town for three days. My Chikubucho in fact our whole district was fortunate to have our Chikubucho be with President Ikeda.

For three days before President Ikeda got here, the Malibu Training Center now renamed the Malibu Community Center by President Ikeda, was moving fast. Friday night I helped in the pouring rain and I mean pouring.

Saturday, however I had tobon at the 1st Headquarters during the day. That day was really far out. The Koteketai was leading a whole lot of songs and then all of a sudden, I was called. “And now we’ll have a song from the Toban.” What a hell of a rush. I started off by singing NSA we’re going to Sho Hondo. Oops! Everybody cracked up. Then I sang a vigorous rendition of Shakubuku Song and quickly exited back to my seat to the thunderous applause of the Koteketai. What a rush!

During the week I made the resolution to be on time for work. Monday I did not work, but really got a lot accomplished. I took care of 3 warrants, my registration, address changes, payed off a bounced check and various other things. It was totally worthwhile. Now I have one warrant left which I’m now working on taking care of. I decided not to buy a new car, but to put money into my ’64 VW and get it painted. I think it’s a wise decision, because the price of cars has gone up accordingly with the price of everything else. Hell, you can’t even buy milk one day without the price going up the next minute you turn around. It’s a strange situation. Everywhere you turn there’s some type of problem. If it’s not inflation, it’s gas lines, it’s a line at the post office. The even sadder thing is that the Government is not moving fast enough to put a stop to this critical situation. The gas crisis they say, well it’s over, but is it? Maybe temporarily, but unfortunately the Arab oil barons, a handful of men, could do it easily again to us at an even more crucial time.

It’s four a.m. now at the Joint Headquarters and people are still moving around so at least one Toban should be up. Guess who?

It’s my first Toban at the Joint so I want to be the best Toban! I’m not trying to be a martyr by staying up all night, but Mr. Hall said the Joint Headquarters should be especially protected even if “it means staying up all night yourself.”

by James C. Stephens

Tuesday, October 30, 1973

Saturday,  I went over to Soshibucho’s (Gary Curtis) and talked with him while he was working on refinishing his VW body. He is always busy while talking to members. It’s far out. He told me to either get with it in school or get the hell out. He told me to find a master in my field and related his experience in photography of his similar problems. He also told me what Mr. Fukushima said of getting guidance—1st receive. 2nd Forget. 3rd chant dmk to remember and practice.


Wednesday, October 31, 1973

Last night’s Western Territory with Vice President Williams was a fantastic new beginning for Sepulveda Chapter and for each one of us. Russ Dilando was appointed Sepulveda Chapter Chief. I really feel we will definitely advance and further I resolve to help make our Chapter #1 in Shakubuku in the world.

After Mr. Kikimura, Vice President Williams rose to the podium to the Fanfare of the people! Tonight he really more than ever before shined to me. Maybe it’s me changing, but he really hit home. First he talked about the 1974 Convention in San Diego in April. He said we had to have some new thing so we are going to have the Mexico-San Diego Convention on the Ice, so you better start figure skating! “Do you like the idea?” #! Hai!! The theme is NSA entering the Winter and then we’ll have a Brass Band, Koteketai, and Bagpipe parade, ON THE ICE!!!!!!!!! And also a parade down main street. The November General Meeting will be in San Diego.


Throughout the meeting Mr. Williams related President Ikeda’s guidance to establishing our lives in society. 1974 President Ikeda has named Year of Society. Our society has become the 3 No Society.

  1. No ideology for people to trust.
  2. No emotions. But people with Gohonzon really bring these feelings out of their lives.
  3. No interest. But with us every year you travel, horseback rides, skate or flying across the world.

by James C. Stephens

April 27, 1973

This month in fact, ever since Sepulveda became a chapter I have gone through some changes. My district chief Mike Lisagor has really helped me understand more of the spirit of this Buddhism and of President Ikeda. He has had many of the same problems that I have. We are definitely kenzoku.


For the last four or five Fridays I have been working on the Malibu Training Center. The Training Center is right next to the ocean. I can’t say but the feeling is so fresh and pure like the beautiful forests. Not like Mammoth Mountain, but a feeling of serenity and power and freshness. I believe it must be President Ikeda’s spirit.

Recently, I freaked out when I was really sick, I could hardly breathe and I can really understand shiki-shin funi from this. What was strange about this time that I got that titan feeling, was it so and ugly I thought what would I do if I wasn’t in Nichiren Shoshu; so instead of waiting around for someone to feel sorry for me and encourage me, I called my soshibucho Gary Curtis, and told him my problem. He told me I had no goals in my life. Even if its just to get across the street a person must have a goal he can reach. I told him I used to enjoy things so much and he said when you get older that fortune goes away, but by chanting you can get that excitement back. He said to call him back in a couple of days after I chant three hours of daimoku a day. Well I chanted and it felt like a new beginning. I didn’t stay home and chant those three hours, but I reached my World Tribune goal. I got one World Tribune on the street which was such a good feeling.

My brother flew in from Colorado earlier and we went out to Two Guys from Italy for dinner with my dad before the meeting. After the meeting I freaked out about being alone, but its so strange I am feeling stronger inside about just standing up.

My problem is just keeping going. I have a lot of things I want to do, but I am so lazy I never do anything, so I really chanted to overcome this and even more my on-shitsu nature. I really weep many tears during my daimoku and then Mr. Williams came and chanted many daimoku with us in Brass Band. I just don’t understand but I really felt alot for Mr. Williams. He has so much patience to put up with people like me. I was really choked up with tears while chanting to the Joju Gohonzon. Even with my bad nature Sogohonbucho really loves us. I’m really a fortunate person to be with him last night.

Russ explained at Band what he explained to me earlier when I called him that it is our Christian nature to be defeated and accept it. He said Sogohonbucho is always victorious. He never just stops, but always fights to win.



by James C. Stephens

June 28, 1972

Gary CurtisSoshibucho Gary Curtis gave us guidance tonight at our first Hancho training meeting.

–Your experience should be a smorgasboard.

–Our language should be intelligable.

–Every district meeting like a play. If someone blows it, you rewrite it.

–What do you have to do to get benefits? Give the Gohonzon what you have least of.

–If you haven’t got guts, start being brave. When terribly afraid–that’s when I got the most insight into Gohonzon. POW’s get changed or molded by their captors.

–If you want to do something different, do it three times a week. I am sure you can think of something different to do.

–If a meeting is bad, it your fault. Change it.

–Worse thing is chasing after members. If you’re really living, members will call you.

–If you don’t feel good, lie about it.

–Twist your guts, that’s where Human Revolution comes from.

–If you don’t have members, don’t drop out. Perseverance, just keep on fighting.

–Talk to your leaders. Hell is having no one who you understand or who understands you.


by James C. Stephens

Thursday-January 27, 1972

Phil Toy, Ken Tapola and I got a house which we had been chanting for. The house is going to be great for meetings. It is really a wreck now, but it can be fixed up so nice. When I think about how I would have reacted to such a house two years ago, I can really laugh at myself. We have changed.

This evening Russ enshrined Bill Myers Gohonzon and it was a good okrie.

Afterwards, we went to see Larry Jason in a play, put on by the Black Art Class. Russ, Chico, and Iwere the only white’s there. I really enjoyed the play, but even more I realized something more about the great separation between the white and black person in America. The feeling I got was, from the Blacks, “What are you doing here?” Wow, I enjoyed it though.

Another experience I had recently which I really enjoyed occurred during our recent World Tribune Campaign. Dan Castle who is an interpreter for deaf people took me to promote with at a deaf couple’s home. He didn’t say anything, but just talked with his hands with the couple we visited. It was an extraordinary experience, and so warm.


Saturday-January 29, 1972

Tonight we had a Leader’s Meeting at the Santa Monica Civic with Sogohonbucho and I was appointed Hancho. Wow, did I go through numbers. I couldn’t do Gongyo well, my heart thumped a million times a second, unbelievable.”


Thursday-February 11, 1972

My new district chief or Chikaton is Nancy Joyer. She’s really encouraging.


Saturday-February 19, 1972

“Everyday is a battle,

Reminds me of fighting for Seattle,

But each day I try to renew

the spirit of being a Bodhisattva.

A year ago I told my taicho

I really didn’t care about people.

He told me to chant to change that condition.

Strange, I have a much different feeling about

about people this day.

Last night before my member

came over I thought how fortunate

I am to have such friends.

I recall when I was young in Montana,

I used to dream of having a friend with whom you

could discuss anything and not hold anything back.

Many of my childhood feelings are really blossoming once again.

But the fruit of my dreams is now based in reality.


 Thursday-March 23rd, 1972

“Ron called me from Mammoth and says he should be down this weekend. I was really in a sour mood for him and also my dad today, definitely the lack of diamoku. I became very fed up with school today and called Soshibucho Gary Curtis.  I told him I was sick of school and he said, “Why? Are you having tests now?”

“No,” I said, “I just can’t get behind political science.”

He said,  “School is really a game and is a test for you. A lot is bulls…, but without it what do you want to be, a dishwasher?”

He said if he could take it for six years, I could take it for 1 ½ more years.


by James C. Stephens

January 21, 1972

Record: Second American Revolution; II Volume

“President Ikeda has stated in his preface to Human Revolution;

“A great revolution of character in just a single man will help achieve a change in the destiny of a nation and further enable a change in the destiny of all mankind.” October 12, 1965-

I am very excited to start my diary for the year of Sho-Hondo 1972. 1971 in passing was a year with many significant events which had great impact on my life. Last May 12 we had a Min-on in the Hollywood Bow. which filled it; on July 23-25th we had our Seattle Convention, on September 12, 1971 the 700th Anniversary of the Tasonokuchi Persecution we opened our new Los Angeles No. 1 Community Center, and on January 1, 1972 we welcomed the New Year of Sho-Hondo. Most significant, however was not the events, but the struggle leading to each one of the events. 1971 was a year of turmoil in the world and at times in my own life. In June or May our family separated. My mother and brother left for Mammoth Lakes in Central California. I am sure there was and is a benefit in that episode. My father and I have realized many things about life because of such an experience. I realized that sooner or later castles built on sand do wash away.

In December, I took the Freshman Study Exam for the Nichiren Shoshu Study Academy.

New Year’s Gongyo at Myohoji Temple. It was really strange. It was unbelievably cold everywhere with snow capped mountains everywhere in Southern California and cold winds, whew. But, so strangely when Jim Jay, Rich Rode and I arrived at Myohoji Temple there was unmistakably a warm breeze blowing at the Temple. That was definitely President Ikeda’s Ichinen, the same thing happened in Eliott Bay in Seattle during President Ikeda’s fireworks during the Seattle Convention, such a warm breeze during chilly night air.”

“Tonight, we just ended our World Tribune campaign and we reached our goal of 85. Last Sunday we ended our campaign for the entrance examination to the Nichiren Shoshu Study Academy. Our district got twenty people out for the exam. One of my members, Bill Myers took the exam and achieved a score of 98.

Today, I visited my member Ron Uota in the hospital. Ron was paralyzed from an accident 3 years ago, but last Thursday night before the study exam he had a car accident which totaled out his car, and almost himself also. I tried to reach him for several days, but with no luck. I thought he had gone home and not left word. It was not until Tuesday that I discovered from his landlord and then parents that he was in very serious condition from an automobile accident. I was a little bit freaked out on how to handle the situation. So I called Shibucho Guy McCloskey and he said to chant diamoku, so that’s all I could do. In the next three days his condition went from poor to stable to fair in Intensive Care Unit to a regular hospital room today. I visited him today and what a strange situation. Everyone was very down, but Dan Castle and I were in good spirits and I am sure we encouraged Ron to get better. His parents are Nembutsu and were in very depressed condition. Such encouragement as that pity is not needed, it only hurts harms people trying to recover. Soshibucho Gary Curtis is going to come out and see him Sunday.

File2818Tuesday, Sogohonbucho gave a Seminar at Valley State College (now California State University at Northridge CSUN—I have a picture of me talking with then Masayasu Sadanaga-now George M. Williams, the General Director of SGI-USA). I introduced Mike Pimenthal one of Chico’s members to him. Then Lance Stromsei got guidance on his works since he could only come to meetings on Saturdays and Sundays. The guidance Sogohonbucho gave was to everyone right around him. He hit me with his Ichinen, so powerful. He related his experience when he worked as a janitor from 12 to 8 in the morning and was a student at UCLA and had meetings in starting Nichiren Shoshu of America. He said when you are studying you should preview and review your lessons. After class you should go directly to a study spot in the library which is marked with your name and study for an hour or so. Every day you should not fail to do that. He said that when you are stupid like me that’s the only way to really pass. You can’t study late at night because that usually falls through.’

File2819After the seminar we walked with Sogohonbucho to his car. The feeling I got was really indescribable, but it was fresh like after a rainfall, and the sun comes out and everything smells so fresh. It just seemed like everything was okay.”

Masayasu Sadanaga, aka George M. Williams talking with Lance Stromsoe, Carol Dell, Ken Dilando, and James Stephens after his lecture on Buddhism at Valley State College (CSUN).