October 28, 2030
Good Afternoon Everyone. We are Liz Nobu & David Witko!
In honor of the 100th anniversary of the SGI’s founding on November 18, we are pleased to interview Aanya Gamble Hill, fondly known as “The Ambassador of Hope, Peace, Joy & Happiness!”
Aanya has spent the last 46 years as an engaged Buddhist lay leader and activist for peace and justice throughout the world. Much of her service took place in what she refers to as “the city with heart”, the sunny side of the bay, Oakland, CA.
Aanya, tell us about your life in Oakland.
I moved to Oakland from San Francisco in 1998 with my husband about a week after we got married which was three days after our tenth anniversary. We were excited to start our new, empty nest life in sunny, diverse Oakland. I had already been practicing SGI Nichiren Buddhism for 15 years and my husband had practiced for 11 years. Yes, I’m happy to say I introduced him to the practice!! He is my world peace partner.
We established firm roots in our new Buddhist community and our neighborhood as well. It felt so wonderful to walk down the street and get to know the merchants, shop owners and all the regulars on the street. We fit right in and I just made it a point to smile and strike up conversations with people which usually led to a natural discussion about Buddhism.
My own experience with the practice had shown me that anyone could change their destiny and create a happy, fulfilling life for themselves simply by chanting the one essential phrase, the wonderful law of Nam Myoho Renge Kyo and taking action. I learned early on that if I used the strategy of the Lotus Sutra, chanting first, and then took whatever action that “occurred” to me it would prove to be the perfect thing I needed to do to solve my problems. I also saw that everyone involved won. It wasn’t a one sided victory, it was a win-win for everyone.
Having these kinds of experiences over the years naturally made me determined to share the teaching with as many people as I possibly could. The premise is that the more happy people there are, the more peaceful world we create. When people are happy they usually don’t want to hurt, maim, kill or destroy others. My efforts really were and still are effortless. The joy of dialoguing with diverse peoples, and respecting different cultures and faiths became such an easy way to make friends and develop mutual understanding.
How did you become known as an Ambassador of Peace?
My strong vow and determination is always to introduce this practice to young people because they are the leaders of the future and decide the course of the world. The SGI youth set a goal to create a new clear future by 2030. A world free of nuclear weapons. I wholeheartedly supported their efforts and I am so proud of their accomplishment.
What did you do?
I started my own personal campaign to find, foster and leave a legacy of youthful peace builders wherever I went. First I started in my own family. It wasn’t easy, family can sometimes be the toughest, but I was determined that everyone in our blended family would practice this teaching; my 2 daughters, my husband’s son and daughter and their combined 8 children. I knew our grandchildren would grow up to be influential in the world and touch many lives so it was important to me that they have a practice that affirms life, justice and equality for all.
Mystically by devoting my life to the goal of world peace led to the great good fortune of easily building a successful travel business. People were attracted to me. My income allowed our family to travel to many wonderful places around the world and meet many amazing people. It especially gave me the opportunity to fulfill a philanthropic desire to provide college education scholarships to children in the United States and Africa. My contributions have so far enabled over 100 young people to attend Soka University of America. It’s been a dream come true!
We understand you’ve received several awards for your service. Can you tell us about them?
Yes, I’m honored to have been the recipient of the Gandhi, King, Ikeda Peace Builders Award as well as receive an Honorary Doctorate from Soka University of America. The organization, Planting Justice, presented me with a humanitarian award for my efforts to improve community health. We contribute money to provide vegetable gardens installed and maintained by formerly incarcerated youth in low income neighborhoods.
This program has created well paying employment to over 75 people, with a zero return to prison ratio as well as fresh fruits and vegetables at no cost in neighborhoods where there are no grocery stores or produce markets. We’ve also been able to create some smaller gardens that are planted and maintained by young children who absolutely love growing their own organic foods! It’s an extremely rewarding feeling. I am grateful that I have something I can share to improve the lives of others.
Why are you so passionate about vegetable gardens?
Growing up, everything I ate came from our back yard. My parents planted all types of vegetables and we had several fruit trees. There was nothing quite like going into the back yard and enjoying lunch straight from the garden; lettuce, tomatoes, peas, peaches, plums, figs, etc. We also raised our own chickens so we always had fresh eggs and I knew the neighboring cow that the milk and butter came from. It was a much healthier time. Having seen so many people suffer health challenges that could easily be alleviated with fresh foods I just wanted to make a difference.
We hear you’re into body building and you look amazing! Tell us!!
About 15 years ago I received a scholarship to participate in the Master Key Master Mind Alliance. This life enhancing personal development work supported what I already believed – our inner world creates our outer world. One of the personal pivotal needs I determined was true health. True health is not just the absence of illness but I sure was willing to fight to stay as physically healthy as possible. I started consistent weight training to reduce fat and inches and build strength and muscle. Not to sound conceited, but I’m pretty stoked with the results! I’ve won 2 body building competitions for my age group and I look and feel amazing!
My regular good habits of walking and weight training fit nicely into my other personal pivotal need, legacy. Looking and feeling great always elicits compliments and questions from young people which allows me to share my life philosophy and the joy of advancing agelessly with hope, grace and wisdom.
That’s beautiful Aanya! Do you have any parting words for our audience?
Thank you David and Liz. I would like to remind everyone of the importance of living life with a heart of appreciation and an undefeated mind. We have everything we need already inside us to lead happy, contributive lives. We are all brilliant diamonds, we all have a Buddha nature. Let’s tap into that inherent power and continue to create a world where everyone can live happy and at ease.
Thank you so much Aanya Gamble Hill for your time with us today. You have encouraged well over 1500 families to take faith in the mystic law and fostered them into capable people in society. Your tireless, sincere efforts for peace have spread to over 60 countries and we so appreciate your passion for peace, justice and equality! Thank you for your time today and be well.
Oh, you’re most welcome! Thank you Liz and David for choosing me to interview. As my friend Mark J would say, “Peace be the journey.”