Part 2: Human Revolution
Chapter 18: Buddhism Is a Teaching of Dialogue [18.4]
18.4 Sharing Buddhism Begins with Our Prayers for Others’ Happiness
In a discussion on the practice of shakubuku stressed by Nichiren Daishonin in his writings, President Ikeda explains the essence of talking to others about Buddhism as Soka Gakkai members in contemporary times and the “benefit of rejoicing on hearing the Law,” a concept described in the Lotus Sutra.
Shakubuku1 is sharing the truth. Because the Lotus Sutra teaches the truth, it is known as the “teaching of shakubuku.” 2
Now, in the Latter Day of the Law, all our efforts to communicate and spread the greatness of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo—the essence of the Lotus Sutra—constitute shakubuku.
Shakubuku doesn’t mean picking fights with people. Telling others about the Mystic Law is an expression of compassion.
Chanting for those you speak with about Buddhism to understand your sincere concern for them is very important. Chanting gives rise to wisdom. It produces conviction and joy. Introducing Buddhism to others is challenging, but when you remember that your efforts to do so will lead both those individuals and you yourself to happiness, nothing could be more enjoyable.
Mr. Toda often said: “Sharing Buddhism shouldn’t be something painful or unpleasant. It should be done with joy.”
Some of those you talk with about Buddhism may immediately decide to take faith and start practicing, but others may not. There’s no need to worry. In both cases, your sincere prayers for others and your effort to share Buddhism with them produce enormous benefits. And precisely because it’s so challenging, you can tap your inner wisdom and grow as a person. When you sow seeds, flowers are sure to blossom in time.
The key is to talk to people joyfully, filled with appreciation and pride that we can serve as envoys of the Buddha.
Compassion isn’t about someone taking pity on the less fortunate from a position of superiority. It is egalitarian, not hierarchical. It is a feeling of empathy for another, equal human being. Its foundation is respect.
Discussing and pursuing the truth together as equals, as fellow human beings, and together awakening to a more genuine, meaningful way of life—that interaction itself is the essence of shakubuku, of sharing the Mystic Law.
In “On Establishing the Correct Teaching for the Peace of the Land,” the Daishonin describes the “host” who engages the “guest” in dialogue as “a friend in the orchid room.”3 In a room filled with orchids, the flowers’ sweet fragrance permeates the clothing of those who enter. In the same way, our dialogues on Buddhism should envelop others with the sweet fragrance of compassion.
Sharing Buddhism does not mean forcing our beliefs on others, nor is it for the sake of the organization. Because it means venerating each person’s inherent Buddhahood, it is an act of the highest respect.
Mr. Toda often said: “Deep empathy is the essence of shakubuku.” Compassion is the foundation. We should never try to spread Buddhism by arguing with people, forcing our views upon them, or by taking a confrontational stance.
It’s not dialogue when you interrupt or insist on your own conclusions. You need to be broad-minded enough to listen patiently without objecting to each little point you might disagree with. That will put the other person at ease and encourage them to listen to what you have to say.
In this sense, Buddhas are true masters of dialogue. Shakyamuni and the Daishonin were without a doubt the kind of individuals whose mere presence brought joy and comfort to others. That’s why people eagerly listened to their words.
A certain sutra recounts the following story about Shakyamuni.4 A person named Upali, a follower of the Jain religion, tried to defeat Shakyamuni in a debate. But he was so moved by Shakyamuni’s character and wisdom that he asked to be allowed to join the Buddhist community.
Nevertheless, Shakyamuni, rather than taking pride in winning Upali over, told him to stop and think the matter over carefully.
Impressed even more, Upali confessed: “Venerable sir, I have heard that you have said, ‘Offerings should be given to me only, not to others. Offerings should be given to my disciples, not to the disciples of others. Offerings made to me or my disciples are of great fruit, but not the offerings made to others.’”
But now, Upali said, he realized that Shakyamuni would never be so narrow-minded as to make such arbitrary demands, and he begged yet again to be allowed to join the Buddhist order.
When Upali’s Jain teacher learned of this, he visited Upali’s home with a contingent of his disciples. Upali welcomed them hospitably, but his former Jain teacher called him a fool for setting out to vanquish Shakyamuni in debate only to end up being enticed by Shakyamuni and converting to Buddhism.
Upali replied calmly and courteously: “Sir, such an enticement is good. My dear ones and blood relations, all Brahmans and nobles, should be enticed by those enticements. For that would be for their happiness and welfare for a long time.”
I once asked Mr. Toda if teaching others about the Mystic Law is, in effect, teaching ourselves. He replied: “To teach others about the Mystic Law requires that we ourselves live our lives based on Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. There is no other way to communicate the greatness of Buddhism. There isn’t any special technique or method for us to master. Propagating the Mystic Law in the Latter Day of the Law . . . means deciding, ‘My life is none other than Nam-myoho-renge-kyo!’”5
He also said: “Deciding that you yourself are Nam-myoho-renge-kyo is the ultimate shakubuku.” His tone was firm, indicating he wished to tell young people the truth.
Joyous faith comes from the determination to practice just as the Daishonin teaches. All the Soka Gakkai’s efforts have accorded with the spirit of the Daishonin’s writings. That is why the true joy and benefits of upholding the Lotus Sutra are found only in the Soka Gakkai.
In short, there is no greater joy than a life dedicated to kosen-rufu, to propagating Buddhism. There is no greater joy than seeing others become happy through our efforts in dialogue to share the Mystic Law. And when we rejoice at others’ happiness, our own lives become increasingly pure.
That is why it’s important to talk to others about Buddhism without arrogance. Rather, we should do so filled with joy at our good fortune to have been born as human beings and to be able to share even one word about the teachings of Buddhism. That’s what matters, not whether people listen to what we have to say.
In “The Benefits of Responding with Joy” chapter of the Lotus Sutra, Shakyamuni teaches that those who invite others to hear the Law preached, and who share their seat with them where the Law is preached, acquire enormous benefit (cf. LSOC18, 288).6 What incredible benefit, then, we will receive when we personally tell others about the teachings and principles of Buddhism!
No matter how the other person reacts, by praising and sharing the Mystic Law with them we attain benefit beyond measure. Realizing this is a source of great joy.
It is also important that we praise those who are working hard to share the Mystic Law with others. They are supremely noble envoys of the Buddha. Such praise brings joy to everyone, ourselves included, and further advances kosen-rufu.
When our faith is so strong that we love the Gohonzon, love daimoku, and love Soka Gakkai activities, the “benefits of responding with joy” will flow forth limitlessly in our lives.
From The Wisdom of the Lotus Sutra, vols. 2 and 5, published in Japanese in November 1996 and September 1999.
The Wisdom for Creating Happiness and Peace brings together selections from President Ikeda’s works on key themes.
- *1Shakubuku: A method of expounding Buddhism by refuting another’s attachment to erroneous teachings and thus leading that person to the correct teaching. The term “shakubuku” is used in contrast to “shoju,” which means to lead another gradually to the correct teaching in accord with that person’s capacity. These two kinds of practice are described in the Shrimala Sutra, T’ien-t’ai’s Great Concentration and Insight, and other works. In Nichiren Buddhism, the term “shakubuku” is also often used synonymously with propagating or sharing the Mystic Law.
- *2In “On Practicing the Buddha’s teaching,” Nichiren Daishonin writes: “Anyone who practices Buddhism should first understand the two types of practice—shoju and shakubuku. All the sutras and treatises fall into one or the other of these two categories. . . . In this age, the provisional teachings have turned into enemies of the true teaching. When the time is right to propagate the teaching of the one vehicle [the Lotus Sutra], the provisional teachings become enemies. When they are a source of confusion, they must be thoroughly refuted from the standpoint of the true teaching. Of the two types of practice, this is shakubuku, the practice of the Lotus Sutra. With good reason T’ien-t’ai stated, ‘The Lotus Sutra is the teaching of shakubuku, the refutation of the provisional doctrines’” (WND-1, 394).
- *3In his treatise “On Establishing the Correct Teaching for the Peace of the Land,” the Daishonin writes: “How gratifying! You have associated with a friend in the orchid room and have become as straight as mugwort growing among hemp” (WND-1, 23). “A friend in the orchid room” indicates a person of virtue. The implication is that the company of a virtuous person works as a good influence, just as one is imbued with fragrance on entering a room filled with orchids.
- *4Cf. The Collection of the Middle Length Sayings (Majjhima-Nikaya), translated by I. B. Horner, vol. 2 (Oxford: Pali Text Society, 1994), pp. 38–49.
- *5Cf. Translated from Japanese. Josei Toda, Toda Josei zenshu (Collected Writings of Josei Toda), vol. 2 (Tokyo: Seikyo Shimbunsha, 1982), pp. 466–67.
- *6The Lotus Sutra states: “Suppose there is a person who is sitting in the place where the Law is expounded, and when another person appears, the first person urges him to sit down and listen, or offers to share his seat and so persuades him to sit down. The benefits gained by this person will be such that when he is reborn he will be in a place where the lord Shakra is seated, where the heavenly king Brahma is seated, or where a wheel-turning sage king is seated” (LSOC18, 288).