SHAKUBUKU MEANS SPEAKING THE TRUTH
Ikeda: It is a great mistake to suppose that shakubuku means trying to force someone to take faith. Doing shakubuku essentially means speaking the truth. Since the Lotus Sutra explains the truth, it is called the "sutra of shakubuku".
Now, in the Latter Day of the Law, all our efforts to tell people about and spread Nam-myoho-renge-kyo -- the essence of the Lotus Sutra -- constitute shakubuku. In house-cleaning, for example, it doesn't matter whether one cleans vigorously or at a leisurely pace as long as the main objective of a clean house is realized.
Suda: People probably suppose that shakubuku had to be harsh because of the somewhat alarming image one gets from the Chinese characters with which the term is written [a combination of two ideograms meaning "break" and "restrain"].
Ikeda: Shakubuku does not mean going out to pick a fight. Shakubuku, sharing the teachings of the Daishonin's Buddhism with others, has to be thoroughgoing compassion. Josei Toda, the second Soka Gakkai president, once said:
We should do abundant shakubuku out of sincere conviction in the Daishonin's teaching. And in so doing, we should not harbour feelings of antipathy towards others. We should not get into angry disputes. All we need to do is teach people earnestly and gently. The important thing is that we have this spirit to teach. If someone opposes or attacks us, then that person will suffer the consequences of his or her actions. It is important to share Buddhism with a spirit of compassion. It's almost like being in love.
President Toda certainly had a way of putting things! When people are in love, they go all out. They go through many sheets of stationery writing and rewriting letters. They stay up all night thinking about the words they will use to invite the other person out on their next day off. If everything goes well, they might decide to get married. Unlike marraige sometimes, however, shakubuku will never cause one to have regrets!
Endo: I think we can say that Skakyamuni's method of preaching was to teach people gently. Shakyamuni first expounded the doctrine of the "true entity of all phenomena" in an attempt to help people grasp the truth that everyone can become a Buddha. When Shkyamuni revealed this teaching, Shariputra alone understood, while others did not.
And so Shakyamuni related various similes and parables. As a result, the four leaders of the voice-hearers came to understand. Because many still had not yet grasped his meaning, however, Shakyamuni next explained his profound relationship with them from the distant past. Through this revelation, all of the voice-hearers could finally accept and understand his teaching.
Thus, Shakyamuni racked his mind to find a way to clarify his teaching so that all people could comprehend it. He did not abandon people because they were slow to understand. He had the deep wish, and the tenacity of purpose, to enable all people to become Buddhas, no matter how much effort it required on his part.
Suda: That is the very spirit that motivates our practice of shakubuku today.
Ikeda: Yes. The key point is to pray that your sincerity will be understood by the other person. Wisdom arises from prayer. Prayer gives birth to confidence and joy.
While shakubuku us difficult, when we bear in mind that, through our actions, both the other person and we ourselves will definitely realize tremendous happiness and benefit, nothing could be more joyful. Mr Toda often said: "We should not agonize over doing shakubuku. We have to do shakubuku with a sense of joy."
In practice, while some will immediately believe and understand the Daishonin's Buddhism, there will of course be those for whom this will not e the case. But there is no need to be impatient. Whatever the immediate outcome of our efforts, there is absolutely no doubt about the benefit we receive from having offered earnest prayers and made the effort to conduct dialogue about our faith. And precisely because shakubuku is not easy, it affords us opportunities to tap our innate wisdom and grow. If we plant a seed, in time it will definitely flower.
The key point, it seems to me, is to talk to people with a sense of joy and exhiliration to be serving as the Buddha's envoy.
Endo: I think it's also important to warmly praise those doing shakubuku.
Ikeda: That's right. Those carrying out this practice are "envoys of the Thus Come One"; they should be respected as Buddhas. This is the spirit of the "Teacher of the Law" chapter. Those who have the spirit to praise others accumulate good fortune and strength and as a result can lead many to happiness.
SGI members who dedicate their lives to kosen-rufu should be treasured as Buddhas. When we understand this spirit, we understand not only "The Teacher of the Law" chapter but the entire Lotus Sutra.
(Source: The Wisdom of the Lotus Sutra VOLUME II, World Tribune Press, pgs 192-195)