Q: How do I help those closest to me see the value of my Buddhist practice?
Good to Know
A: Despite our best efforts, it can be difficult to convey to our closest family members and friends the great value we derive from practicing Nichiren Buddhism. Countless SGI members, including SGI President Ikeda, have grappled with this problem.
During his first U.S. visit in 1960, a woman asked at a meeting in Washington, D.C., how she could encourage her husband to practice Buddhism. President Ikeda responded:
It may be lonely being the only person practicing, but if you exert yourself diligently, your benefit and good fortune will extend to and be shared by your entire family. Your presence will be just like a huge umbrella sheltering them from the rain. It is a mistake, therefore, to think that you and your family cannot become happy because no one but you practices.
Offering prayers for your family members to take faith in Nichiren Buddhism so they may become happy is certainly important, but the most fundamental thing is for each of you to demonstrate the greatness of faith with your own life. If you continue to strive in faith as wives and mothers, growing as human beings and becoming sunny presences overflowing with good cheer, wisdom, warmth and consideration, then your families will naturally come to approve of this Buddhism. Thus, to be loved and deeply trusted by your families is the first step for them gaining an understanding of the Soka Gakkai.(The New Human Revolution, vol. 1, p. 215
Ultimately, our faith can work to protect and benefit our loved ones, and our own “behavior as a human being” (“The Three Kinds of Treasure,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 852) determines how others perceive us. Showing actual proof of faith through our character, way of life, and contributions at work and in the community is far more effective than simply explaining in words the merits of Buddhist practice.
Additionally, President Ikeda offers: “There’s no need to be impatient or in a hurry. When I first joined the Soka Gakkai, my father disapproved of my practice . . . It’s important to start with your own human revolution and make your inner Buddhahood shine forth. It’s also vital to cherish your family” (Youth and the Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, p. 177).
Though he never took up faith, President Ikeda’s father saw his son use his Buddhist practice to transform his life and, thus, supported him with pride, developed a deep understanding of the Soka Gakkai and had unfaltering trust in second Soka Gakkai President Josei Toda as his son’s mentor in life (see The New Human Revolution, vol. 24, p. 38).
Instead of being discouraged when our loved ones don’t understand or support our Buddhist practice, we can view these challenges as opportunities to chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, work on our own inner transformation and cultivate harmonious relationships. This is the surest path to demonstrating the greatness of Nichiren Buddhism.