Is there a correct way to introduce Buddhism to people?

This Q&A series addresses frequently asked questions by those who are interested in Nichiren Buddhism.

Weston, FLorida. Photo: Laura Mintz.

Q: Is there a correct way to introduce Buddhism to people?

A: There isn’t a formula or one right way to teach others about Buddhism—it simply requires a will and prayer to develop our own lives, help others do the same and positively transform society.

The practice of teaching others is central to the compassionate tradition of Buddhist humanism rooted in the Lotus Sutra. Buddhism in one sense is the story of a person (the Buddha) who awakens to the enlightenment within, and, seeing that the people are suffering, passionately and committedly strives to help others discover the same state of enlightenment within their lives.

This desire of the Buddha can be encapsulated in the passage from the Lotus Sutra that states, “At all times I think to myself: How can I cause living beings to gain entry into the unsurpassed way and quickly acquire the body of a buddha?” (The Lotus Sutra and Its Opening and Closing Sutras, p. 273).

Naturally, as we start to enjoy benefits from our practice, we develop the desire to see our friends, family members, coworkers and those we meet benefit from Buddhist practice just as we have.

At the same time, we may also face fears, doubts and negativity from within, thinking: What if they don’t like or aren’t interested in what I have to say? Do I even know enough to explain Buddhism? Do I have enough experience or benefit from Buddhist practice to confidently talk about it?

The truth is that each of us has all we need to speak confidently and sincerely with anyone about Buddhism. We all have a limitless storehouse of courage and wisdom within us. When we chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, we find the wisdom to use the best words and approach, and the courage to engage others in honest, sincere dialogue.

SGI President Ikeda recalls:

My mentor, Mr. Toda, often used to say to the effect: “The Daishonin states that ‘Nam-myoho-renge-kyo encompasses both practice for oneself and the teaching of others’ (On the Receiving of the Three Great Secret Laws,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 2, p. 986). When you chant in earnest, you’ll quite naturally wish to share this Buddhism with others.”

A few simple words can suffice. When we summon forth the courage of the Buddha within us and share our own honest experiences of the joy of faith and the greatness of Nichiren Buddhism, we will be able to touch the lives of those with whom we are talking and enable them to form a connection with the Mystic Law. (September 2, 2011, World Tribune, p. 8)

Joyfully talking about the benefits of our faith with others constitutes “practice for others.” It’s an essential element of Buddhist practice that will dramatically expand our own state of life, our benefits and our happiness, regardless of whether the other person accepts what we say. In this way, we plant a seed for attaining happiness in the other person’s heart that will sprout without fail in the future.