Friday, 28 February 2014

Trekkie Shakubuku

Goodness me, I was almost leaving February without an entry.
Perish the thought!

So, following a recently established tradition, I am going to share with you lot some notes I took to prepare for my February discussion meeting.

The topic of the meeting was "Friendship", following encouragement from President Ikeda to make 10 new friends.

We like to have a little study point during discussion meetings, and we decided to have it on shakubuku this time.

To prepare, I first went to the SGI Library definition of shakubuku:
A method of expounding Buddhism, the aim of which is to suppress others' illusions and to subdue their attachment to error or evil. This refers to the Buddhist method of leading people, particularly its opponents, to the correct Buddhist teaching by refuting their erroneous views and eliminating their attachment to opinions they have formed. The practice of shakubuku thus means to correct another's false views and awaken that person to the truth of Buddhism.

The term shakubuku is used in contrast with shoju, which means to lead others to the correct teaching gradually, according to their capacity and without directly refuting their religious misconceptions. These two methods of propagation are described in the ShrimalaSutra, Great Concentration and Insight by T'ient'ai (538-597), and other works. Nichiren, who employed shakubuku in his propagation, writes in his 1272 treatise The Opening of the Eyes: "When the country is full of evil people without wisdom, then shoju is the primary method to be applied, as described in the 'Peaceful Practices' chapter [of the Lotus Sutra]. But at a time when there are many people of perverse views who slander the Law, then shakubuku should come first, as described in the 'Never Disparaging' chapter [of the sutra]" (285). Here "evil people without wisdom" means those who are ignorant of the Buddhist teachings. "Evil" means the unhappiness of acquiring no roots of goodness. It is contrasted with "people of perverse views who slander the Law," i.e., those who have a biased view of Buddhism and slander its correct teaching.

Nichiren describes Bodhisattva Never Disparaging [A.K.A. Fukyo, if you don't want to spend five minutes reciting his name], who bowed in respect to everyone he met and praised them as potential Buddhas, as a practitioner of shakubuku. In citing Never Disparaging as an example, Nichiren made clear that shakubuku is not a form of verbal or rhetorical aggression, but an expression of reverence for the truth that everyone possesses a Buddha nature, and of compassion for people. At the same time, in bowing and praising people as potential Buddhas, Never Disparaging was in effect challenging and refuting their misconceptions about Buddhahood, and was for this reason attacked.
Before I moved on, I tried to get something from a non-SGI source. I am always interested to see how we are portrayed and/or seen from the outside of the organisation.

After a long, frustrating search on Encyclopedia Britannica, I found this snippet in an article by Frank E. Reynolds, called "Buddhism":

After World War II, Sōka-gakkai, under the leadership of Toda Jōsei (1900–58), grew rapidly through a technique of evangelism called shakubuku (Japanese: “break and subdue”), in which the resistance of the other person is destroyed by forceful argument.
Wow. Those were the days. Resistance is futile, people.

Finally, I turned to my very Favourite Buddhist Book Of All Time (FBBOAL from now on): "The Buddha in daily life" by Richard Causton. At page 257, we find the following:
In the broadest sense, then, practice for others consists of any action one takes that lead to another person, either directly or indirectly, towards his or her own eventual enlightenment.
This is called shakubuku. The most direct shakubuku, of course, is to tell others about chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo and explain the Buddhist view of life. While some people are willing to try chanting simply because they are told about it in this way, others are more sceptical. Generally speaking, these people will begin to practice only because, over a period of time, they come to respect someone they know who is chanting and trust him or her as a person of good sense, warmth and understanding. Indeed, there are numerous cases of people starting to practice only many years after first learning about Nam-myoho-renge-kyo but who, during the whole of that period, have nevertheless been keeping a watchful eye on the friend, relation, colleague or neighbour who does chant. From this it follows that showing proof of the benefits of practising this Buddhism, particularly in the form of our own human revolution, in itself constitute shakubuku when it gradually convinces others of the power of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo.
That will be all for tonight. Some nice food for thought, methinks. (and some more Trekkie stuff)


  1. hello ewa, just found your blog thanks to a tip of a fellow lilac :) thank you for writing, i love your blog! its so full of energy and life..force :) makes me laugh and think and hope.. keep writing please! cecilia

  2. Hi Ewa, Causton's book is also my favourite, I also lived in Ukraine, been to Sicily (a Sicilian friend introduced me to Buddhism) and I like you! We should get in touch.

    1. We most definitely should! You can find me at ewa dot munchkin at gmail dot com.


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