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Gosho Study

I enjoy and benefit from my Buddhist practice, but how can I deal with my parents’ criticism of it?

Answer: Continue treasuring your parents while developing confidence that your efforts in faith will lead to their happiness.

Photo by Susan Forner.

This study series focuses on Nichiren Daishonin’s disciples, who faced challenges that we can still relate to today, and his enduring encouragement to them that we can apply to dynamically transform our lives.

Having anyone criticize our Buddhist practice can be unpleasant, even more so if it’s our parents or family members. Dealing with such opposition requires all our wisdom, courage and compassion. Most certainly, arguing with them about religion won’t create any value. 

Many of Nichiren Daishonin’s followers also had challenging family relationships on account of their Buddhist practice. In his many letters to them, he stressed the importance of treasuring their family, also teaching that, for children, the best way to contribute to their parents’ happiness is to practice Buddhism and become happy themselves. 

Two central lay disciples of Nichiren—the brothers Ikegami Munenaga and Munenaka—exemplified how to transform dilemmas into opportunities to solidify unshakable happiness, or Buddhahood. Let’s learn how the Daishonin’s encouragement helped them overcome their father’s opposition to their faith. 

A Father Strongly Opposes His Sons’ Faith

Munenaka, the elder brother, and Munenaga, the younger, lived in Ikegami, in what is today Tokyo’s Ota Ward. It is said that they became Nichiren’s disciples a few years after he declared his teaching of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo in 1253. 

Their father, Tayu Yasumitsu, opposed the brothers’ faith and twice disowned Munenaka on that account. Yasumitsu followed the priest Ryokan, who hated the Daishonin. Nichiren perceived that Ryokan was behind the father’s attempts to dissuade the brothers from their faith. 

Disownment in those days was serious. It meant not only loss of inheritance but also of social status, income and reputation. By disowning his elder son, the father aimed to entice the younger Munenaga to abandon his faith and thus become his sole heir. 

Responding to their predicament, the Daishonin wrote the brothers detailed letters containing strict yet warm encouragement, specifically addressing Munenaga. 

The Wise Are Always Prepared to Face Obstacles

A core message of these letters: When we practice Buddhism correctly, negative influences, described as devils and obstacles, will undoubtedly arise. But these should be met with courage and taken as opportunities to become stronger, wiser and more compassionate. 

For example, Nichiren writes to Munenaga:

There is definitely something extraordinary in the ebb and flow of the tide, the rising and setting of the moon, and the way in which summer, autumn, winter, and spring give way to each other. Something uncommon also occurs when an ordinary person attains Buddhahood. At such a time, the three obstacles and four devils will invariably appear, and the wise will rejoice while the foolish will retreat. (“The Three Obstacles and Four Devils,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 637)

The “three obstacles and four devils” are various hindrances, internal and external, that dissuade people from continuing their Buddhist practice. These include opposition from one’s parents.  

Like someone attuned to and appreciative of the changing seasons, wise Buddhists are prepared for the natural appearance of these obstacles. They see them as signaling and assisting their attainment of Buddhahood, as a cause for rejoicing. 

We should note that the Daishonin does not identify the father himself as a devil or somehow evil. Instead, such intrinsic devilish functions are using Yasumitsu to obstruct his sons’ faith. 

Nichiren urges the brothers and their wives first and foremost to support one another and unite to overcome this obstacle while summoning the courage not to compromise their faith.

Addressing the brothers’ wives, he writes:

If both of you unite in encouraging your husbands’ faith, you will follow the path of the dragon king’s daughter[1]and become a model for women attaining Buddhahood in the evil latter age. (“Letter to the Brothers,” WND-1, 502)

After persevering in faith while also treasuring their father, the Ikegami brothers and their families eventually broke through. In the end, the father even embraced the Daishonin’s teachings. 

For us to see such results, Ikeda Sensei says: 

As for striving in faith for a happy and harmonious family, there is no need to be impatient with family members who do not practice Nichiren Buddhism. One person upholding faith in the Mystic Law is like a shining sun that illuminates all family members and loved ones, the benefit of their Buddhist practice extending to everyone. The most important thing is to pray and have absolute confidence that your efforts in faith will lead to their happiness. (The Teachings for Victory, vol. 1, pp. 106–07)

While the brothers’ story took place more than 700 years ago, it continues to inspire countless SGI members today. Our SGI publications and discussion meetings are filled with countless stories of those who experienced family discord at the start of their Buddhist practice. But by persevering in faith, they have transformed the friction into warm family bonds, beautiful examples of the Soka Gakkai’s guideline of “faith for a harmonious family.” 

By patiently practicing and always treasuring your parents, they too will come to appreciate your faith. 

—Prepared by the SGI-USA Study Department


  1. Dragon king’s daughter: The 8-year-old daughter of Sagara, one of the eight great dragon kings, said to dwell in a palace at the bottom of the sea. In the Lotus Sutra, she attains Buddhahood and vows to rescue living beings from suffering. ↩︎

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