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Daily Life

Sharing Buddhism With Others

A young man becomes an SGI-USA member at a discussion meeting, Houston, July 2019. Photo by Prashant Sharma.

Q: Isn’t it enough for me to just chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo?

One’s own happiness to the exclusion of others is not true happiness. We cannot be happy while others are suffering. Seeking happiness for oneself and others is genuine happiness. The original purpose of Buddhism and the profound wish of the Buddha is to help those who are suffering and enable as many people as possible to become happy.

Founding Soka Gakkai President Tsunesaburo Makiguchi said: “While there is no dispute about the fact that someone who believes [in the Mystic Law] will have their prayers answered and realize benefit, this alone does not constitute bodhisattva practice. There is no such thing as a self-centered Buddha who simply accumulates personal benefit and does not work for the well-being of others. Unless we carry out bodhisattva practice, we cannot attain Buddhahood. Working for the welfare of others with the heart of a parent is the mark of both the true believer and the true practitioner.”[1] (June 2019 Living Buddhism, p. 50)

Q: I feel uncomfortable forcing my beliefs onto someone else.

Propagation does not mean trying to force some-thing on someone, nor is it for the sake of the organization. Propagation is an act of venerating the Buddha nature in the lives of others. Therefore, our efforts in shakubuku should be motivated by a spirit of the greatest respect for the other person.

[Second Soka Gakkai] President Toda said, “The basis for doing shakubuku is a feeling of sympathy for others’ sufferings.” Compassion, in other words, is fundamental. You don’t propagate Buddhism with a confrontational spirit of trying to refute someone’s ideas and win the person over to your own side. (The Wisdom of the Lotus Sutra, vol. 2, p. 197)

Q: What’s the secret to sharing Buddhism with others?

I once asked second Soka Gakkai President Josei Toda, “When we do shakubuku, are we in a sense doing shakubuku to ourselves?”

He replied: “The point is that Nam-myoho-renge-kyo is the very wellspring of our lives. Unless we have that realization, we cannot do true shakubuku. There isn’t any special technique or method for doing shakubuku. In the Latter Day, shakubuku is a matter of determining: ‘Nam-myoho-renge-kyo is the sum and essence of my being!’”[2]

He also once said, “The ultimate shakubuku is to determine that one’s life itself is Nam-myoho-renge-kyo.” President Toda spoke these words with a resolute tone; it was the voice of someone who deeply wanted to help young people understand the truth. (WLS-2, 203)

Q: What’s the benefit of sharing Buddhism?

By joyfully chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo and sharing Buddhism with others, we connect our lives with that of the Buddha, function as the Buddha’s emissaries and live as Bodhisattvas of the Earth. In other words, through this practice of faith for the sake of self and others alike, the power of the Buddha wells up within us and the life state of the Bodhisattvas of the Earth beats in our hearts. We are filled with great joy and a burning desire to help other living beings, and our lives are transformed.

Through that, we carry out our human revolution and transform our karma, thereby building a life state of absolute happiness. (The New Human Revolution, vol. 25, pp. 12–13)

• • •

When we talk with others about Buddhism, we are actually grappling with our own ignorance and earthly desires. That’s why it gives us the strength to surmount our own problems, enabling us to solidly transform our state of life and change our karma.

In that sense, sharing Buddhism comes down to overcoming our own cowardice, laziness and delusion, thus enabling us to dispel the darkness or ignorance in our own lives and in the lives of others. (June 2019 Living Buddhism, p. 53)

Q: I don’t know anyone I can introduce to the practice.

First, it’s important to pray wholeheartedly to the Gohonzon to be able to share Nichiren Daishonin’s teachings with others. When you do so, people who are seeking Buddhism will appear in your environment. It’s also crucial that you speak with as many people as possible about the practice. Of course, there is no guarantee that any of them will take faith right away. But what matters is that you continue to tenaciously deepen your bonds of friendship with them, praying every day for their happiness while engaging them in dialogue. If you plant seeds and nurture them with care, they will definitely bloom one day and bear fruit. (NHR-13, 165–66)

• • •

Sharing Buddhism with others means praying wholeheartedly that they will truly feel your sincerity. Then, regardless of how they respond at the time, they will be left with a deep sense of trust, knowing how much you care for their happiness. They will be profoundly moved. That’s what’s important. (WLS-5, 59)

Q: I’ve invited guests to meetings, but none have started practicing.

The “Benefits of Responding with Joy” chapter explains that just by inviting someone to listen to a discussion of the Lotus Sutra, we accumulate immense benefit. It says that the act itself of making room for a visitor in such a meeting place produces benefit. Accordingly, the benefit we receive by telling someone about Buddhism is truly enormous.

Whether or not the person begins practicing after hearing an explanation of the Mystic Law, our benefit is the same. President Toda once commented humorously about people who had difficulty taking faith no matter how many people talked to them, saying, “These people have given that many more members the opportunity to receive tremendous benefit.” (WLS-5, 51)

Q: Did President Ikeda struggle with shakubuku, too?

When I [President Ikeda] was young, my efforts were really just trial and error, but they became the foundation for future success. The important thing is to be determined, positive and optimistic, and to never stop challenging ourselves, no matter what the circumstances. Let’s be invincible optimists! . . .

When I look back, the first person who began to practice Nichiren Buddhism through my intro-duction was a teacher at an elementary school in Ota Ward. This happened just a short while after I began working at Mr. Toda’s company. Until then, I had spoken about Buddhism with several of my friends. Mr. Toda had even met with one of them and talked to him about Buddhism. But so far none had taken faith and begun to practice.

I was so frustrated that I searched very hard for the best ways to talk about Buddhism to others. I prayed wholeheartedly, and I continued to propagate the Daishonin’s teachings, each time with the firm resolve to bring one more person to this faith. I can’t begin to measure what valuable experience and training this gave me.

And how overjoyed I was when I was finally able to successfully convince someone to embrace Nichiren Buddhism! I could never describe my elation in words. I decided that I would thoroughly look after them and make sure that they triumphed in life. I had the elementary school teacher come to my home every morning, and we did gongyo and read Nichiren’s writings together before going to work. I also remember fondly how I used to stop by after work to teach my friend gongyo.

The advance of kosen-rufu lies in the repetition of such patient, painstaking efforts to awaken one friend after another to faith in Nichiren Buddhism. This is true Buddhist practice. (August 2016 Living Buddhism, pp. 16–17)

• • •

Since I started practicing at the age of 19, I have shared Nichiren Buddhism with many people in my life, from family members and friends to neighbors and acquaintances. Some were responsive and some were not. One person actually returned all the letters I had written to him about Buddhism. There were times when I wondered why so few people were seeking Nichiren Daishonin’s teachings.

But no one can avoid the sufferings of birth, aging, sickness and death. Deep down, everyone is longing for the Mystic Law, which is the key to overcoming these vicissitudes of existence.

I prayed earnestly and spoke to as many people as possible, wishing to enable them to forge even a small connection with Buddhism, and that everyone I encountered would become happy.

Nothing brought me greater joy than when my sincere and steady efforts at dialogue resulted in someone deciding to practice Nichiren Buddhism.

Mr. Toda once joined me when I was introducing Buddhism to someone. I was deeply grateful to have a wonderful mentor who would support me in this way, being the inexperienced youth that I was.

“We create trust when we share Nichiren Buddhism,” Mr. Toda used to say. We pray for the other person’s happiness and speak with them in earnest. Whether they decide to start practicing, our sincerity is sure to reach them.

I have stayed in touch with those friends I shared Nichiren Buddhism with in my youth but who didn’t embrace faith. Back then, I wrote in a poem: “May you find happiness, my friend!”[3] This wish for each of them remains unchanged, even though we took different paths in life.

All my efforts to share Buddhism with others are the golden treasures of my life. And those challenging experiences contributed positively to my later dialogues with world leaders and thinkers. (June 2019 Living Buddhism, pp. 55–56)

Q: How do I help my friend stand up in faith?

When someone joins the organization, it’s important to teach them to do gongyo, to inspire in them the spirit to share Buddhism with others and to foster them into champions of dialogue for kosen-rufu. That’s how propagation is accomplished. (NHR-25, 32)


  1. Translated from Japanese. Tsunesaburo Makiguchi, Makiguchi Tsunesaburo zenshu (Collected Writings of Tsunesaburo Makiguchi), vol. 10 (Tokyo: Daisanbunmei-sha, 1987), p. 151. ↩︎
  2. Toda Josei zenshu, pp. 466–67. ↩︎
  3. Daisaku Ikeda, “Morigasaki Beach,” Journey of Life: Selected Poems of Daisaku Ikeda (London: I. B. Tauris and Co. Ltd., 2014), p. 7. ↩︎

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