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Life Lessons from Nichiren

When I share Buddhism, while most people respond positively, how can I deal with the negative responses I get?

Answer: Every effort you make to talk with others about Buddhism is a cause for their happiness and yours, so keep trying!

Photo by Yvonne Ng.

Sharing Buddhism with those around us is an essential part of our Buddhist practice. Also called “bodhisattva practice” or “practice for others,” it entails helping people awaken to their full potential, their Buddhahood. Ikeda Sensei writes:

The most important part of Nichiren Buddhist practice is sowing the seed of Buddhahood in people’s lives. That practice of sowing is nothing special. It is simply reaching out to those in our lives and speaking to them, even just a few words, about the Mystic Law. It is communicating, in our own way, how wonderful the teachings of Buddhism are. This will awaken the Buddha nature inherent in all people, allowing it to sprout and blossom. (For Our Wonderful New Members, p. 25)

But talking to others about Buddhism is sometimes easier said than done. We might feel shy, uncomfortable or hesitant to bring up the topic or may even face hostility.

Nichiren Daishonin’s disciple Nanjo Tokimitsu is a remarkable example of maintaining conviction in faith, spreading Nichiren Buddhism and protecting fellow members, all while enduring severe challenges.

Strengthening Our Faith in Times of Adversity

Having faced many difficulties—losing his father at age 7, becoming steward of Ueno Village in his teens—Nanjo Tokimitsu developed faith in Nichiren’s teachings at an early age. By his late teens, he was actively spreading Nichiren Buddhism, offering his residence as a local center of propagation activities.

The ruling Hojo clan, hostile toward Nichiren, harassed his followers in Ueno, Atsuhara and surrounding villages. This escalated into a series of attacks known as the Atsuhara Persecution, in which many of his disciples were severely mistreated, and three of them killed.

During this time, Tokimitsu used his influence to protect his fellow practitioners, even housing some. The authorities in turn heavily taxed him, forcing his family into poverty. To encourage the 20-year-old Tokimitsu, Nichiren wrote the following:

As you crave food when hungry, seek water when thirsty, long to see a lover, beg for medicine when ill, or as a beautiful woman desires powder and rouge, so should you put your faith in the Lotus Sutra [Nam-myoho-renge-kyo]. (“Persecution by Sword and Staff,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 965)

Having faced life-threatening persecutions himself, the Daishonin encouraged his embattled young disciple to approach faith naturally, as if seeking food when hungry or water when thirsty. Sensei explains:

Those who wish to transform their karma, who pray for the realization of kosen-rufu, and who strive for that cause with ungrudging devotion are guaranteed to achieve a life of happiness and victory. Those who sincerely persevere in their Buddhist practice will be victors; they will win out in the end. (Teachings for Victory, vol. 5, p. 14)

By persevering amid obstacles to advance kosen-rufu—to widely spread Buddhism—we cultivate our character and become individuals who are not swayed by life’s storms.

In Tokimitsu’s case, he easily could have been consumed by concerns for his family’s well-being or his standing in society. Yet he maintained strong faith, supported Nichiren and protected his fellow believers throughout his life. In the end, he overcame opposition, illness and more, enjoying a long, victorious life.

Even Negative Responses Lead to Enlightenment

In the same letter to Tokimitsu referenced earlier, Nichiren emphasized that even when people respond negatively, they form a “reverse relationship” with the Mystic Law (see “Persecution by Sword and Staff,” WND-1, 962). Even rejecting and slandering the correct teaching is a cause that establishes a connection with the Law. And the seed of Buddhahood planted through that connection will eventually blossom.

So, by telling others about it, we are helping even those who react negatively form a connection to this philosophy and practice.

At the same time, we also benefit ourselves. Sensei explains:

Sharing Buddhism is … a struggle to break down the icy walls of darkness or ignorance in our own lives, which take the forms of apathy, passivity and other negative emotions.

When we talk with others about Buddhism, we are grappling with our own ignorance and earthly desires. That’s why it gives us the strength to surmount our own problems, enabling us to transform our state of life and change our karma. (For Our Wonderful New Members, pp. 22–23)

Finding the courage to tell people about Buddhism enables us to do our human revolution, a meaningful process of inner transformation. We carry out this change by chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo to bring forth our inherent wisdom, courage, compassion and confidence—the qualities of a Buddha—taking on all obstacles as opportunities to forge a stronger self.

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

As we keep sharing Buddhism and continue developing our conviction and desire to help others awaken their Buddhahood, we will see the seeds of happiness and benefit blossom in our lives, communities and the world.

—Prepared by the SGI-USA Study Department

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.

I’m Awakening to My Buddhahood