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Part and Parcel of My Practice

Friendship—Karen Kaplan and her guest Pierre who signed up for the 50,000 Lions of Justice Festival, an SGI-USA youth festival, in 2018. They recently reconnected in August.

by Karen Kaplan

A friend of mine sat in my car’s passenger seat, crying, desperate for answers. An auto company had just called to remind her of an overdue payment. Her partner didn’t think it was a big deal, but she scrambled to resolve it immediately. She felt the burden of solving every problem that came her way. “Why is my life always like this?!” she cried out.

I had introduced her to Nam-myoho-renge-kyo five years earlier when a pretty bad hurricane, Irma, hit Miami. Though she dabbled in Buddhism for a bit, chanting and coming to meetings from time to time, she didn’t embrace it for herself. We became close regardless.

Sensing her desperation that day in my car, I urged her to chant to the Gohonzon. “Whatever you desire, chant for it,” I said, and we did, together, later that day. Since she was familiar with Buddhism, she already knew what to do: faith, practice and study. And before long, her issue was resolved.

It was seeing her in that unusual state of despair that I realized the importance of propagation. If you plant a seed of Buddhahood, even if that person doesn’t practice at the time, you never know when a seemingly unsurmountable challenge will come up. When they’re stuck and nothing else works, they will have Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. That’s why I talk to people about Buddhism. 

Another friend struggled with an untimely death in her family. “How could this happen?” she asked. She lost hope. I explained the Buddhist view of life and death, a truly hopeful one, and said, “It’d be a good idea for you to come to a meeting.”

She came to the SGI-USA Miami Buddhist Center twice and chanted for a while before slowing down for one reason or another. I’m still working on supporting her. But when talking with some friends recently, she said, “My friend Karen is telling me about Buddhism, and it is one of the most positive philosophies there is.”

Though sharing Buddhism is about helping others, it helps me, too. When I feel down, if I go out and talk about Nichiren Buddhism with someone, it immediately brightens my day and brings my life condition up. The more I do it, the more cheerful and open I become. 

When they’re stuck and nothing else works, they will have Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. That’s why I talk to people about Buddhism.

Whenever I’m out in the community, whether it be at a venue or supermarket, I start a dialogue with somebody and try to find a connection with them. 

Every Wednesday, I go to Dunkin’ Donuts to talk to a young man there. After a few months, he knew how I’d want my coffee and that I wouldn’t order any sweets. He’s gotten his hands on intro-to-Buddhism resources, study articles, you name it, but the challenge is bringing him to try chanting, since experiencing its benefits is how you come to understand it. I refuse to give up on him or our friendship.

Not everyone starts chanting, and that’s OK. They appreciate the conversations, and I know I’ve planted the seed. Introducing others to Buddhism is part of our daily practice. I’m fortunate that I was taught that from the beginning. Since starting in ’73, propagation has been part and parcel of my Buddhist practice, and I’m glad I’ve stuck with it ever since.

Photo by official-mG / Unsplash
Ikeda Sensei’s Guidance

Sharing Buddhism Creates Trust

Since I started practicing at age 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 sought Nichiren Daishonin’s teachings.

But no one can avoid the sufferings of birth, aging, sickness and death. Deep down, everyone longs for the Mystic Law, the key to overcoming these ups and downs of life. I prayed earnestly and spoke to as many people as possible, wishing to enable them to forge even a small connection with Buddhism and wishing they 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 shared Buddhism with someone. I was deeply grateful to have a wonderful mentor who would support me in this way, inexperienced youth that I was.

We pray for the other person’s happiness and speak with them seriously. Whether they decide to start practicing, our sincerity is sure to reach them.

“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 seriously. 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!” This wish for each of them remains unchanged, even though we took different paths. All of my efforts to share Buddhism are golden treasures of my life. And those challenging experiences contributed positively to my later dialogues with world leaders and thinkers. (For Our Wonderful New Members, pp. 28–30)

Sincerely Helping Others Benefits Us

The Dragon Girl