Aug 19, 2010

Family and Buddhism Q & A

From Art of Living, December 2001
by Akemi Baynes 

Can my family and close friends benefit from my Buddhist practice?

First and foremost, Nichiren Daishonin's Buddhism exists for the sake of both ourselves and others. It provides a means whereby we can change our own destiny for the better, and up to a certain point, influence the life condition and surroundings of others. Because the Buddhist priciple of oneness of the person and their environment is a reality, when we chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, quite naturally, people in our personal orbit will be positively affected by it, as well as ourselves.

What is the best attitude to have towards our families?

If your husband isn't practising, you might think: "If only he'd practise, my life would be easier and I'd get more benefits." But it's precisely because he doesn't practise that you're in a position to strengthen your faith and become more conscious of how you use your life. Whatever positive change you then make in yourself will definitely affect everything around you. So even if you're finding life difficult, if you keep on smiling and figthing, people will be very much encouraged by you. You will benefit them by lifting their life state.

On the other hand, should you be fortunate enough to have an understanding husband, please don't take him for granted. Don't get into the habit of saying, "I'm going out. Cook your own dinner!" He might, on occasion, object strongly to your going to a Buddhist meeting, in which case it's probably better not to go. But this is not the same thing as using him as an excuse for not going. If you think, "I really don't want to go tonight, and anyway, I'm sure my husband won't let me", then prbably he won't. We should never let family members become obstacles to our practice.

Nichiren Daishonin is very clear as to the attitude he expects of us as Bodhisattvas of the Earth: "None of you who declare yourselves to be my disciples should ever give way to cowardice. Neither should you allow concern for your parents, wife or children to hold you back, or be worried about your property. Since countless kalpas in the past you have thrown away your life more times than the number of dust particles of the land for the sake of your parents, your children or your lands. But not once have you given up your life for the Lotus Sutra." (WND, p. 764; MW1 p. 176)

Once we've commited ourselves to kosen rufu, we need at some point to communicate to our families what this involves. Regardless of how they respond we should feel grateful towards them. After all, they are the reason we can chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. In general, if children have been taught from an early age about Buddhism, they won't mind you going out to meetings. If they do, it's an opportunity for you to grow, and to pray that one day they will joyfully support your practice.

Some of my family and friends oppose Buddhism. What can I do?

Knowing the benefits of chanting, it can be quite frustrating to observe the suffering of someone who rejects the practice. We might think, "If only they chanted they'd become happy." But we should never be afraid of our friends' or relatives' suffering which can perhaps best be viewed as a process to be gone through in order to meet the Gohonzon. Please have absolute faith in what Nichiren Daishonin says:
"anyone who has a connecton with the Gohonzon will, at some point, start practising and change their karma. This is a fact." The more we believe this the less frustrated, worried or impatient we will be. In the meantime, we can hasten the time when somenone starts to practise, through chanting for their happiness.

What is the best way of teaching someone about Buddhism?

To reach someone in the right way, you need to have an abundance of wisdom. This means knowing instantly how to respond, being spontaneous based on a very solid and strong practice. If your chanting is totally directed towards someone's happiness, when you see them suffering you'll know straightaway what to do: do they need to be rescued, given a little push, or left alone? The Lotus Sutra says that we can see with the Buddha's eye through to the truth of a person's life. President Ikeda is an expert in this! He says that, whenever he meets someone, he has the attitude that this could be the last time he meets them. He puts his whole life and effort into understanding each person to the core. That is the kind of life state we should be aiming for.

Isn't it selfish of us to spend time on activities when we could be with our families?

It might be argued that time spent on Buddhist activities could be better spent with your family. But what sort of time are we talking about? The quality of time spent with one's family is definitely more important that the quantity. There are many households where the mother spends most of her time scolding her children and ordering them about, the father slumps in front of the television and drinks beer all evening and that's it! Such families spend a lot of time together but there is almost no value in it.

As SGI members, it's important to try to make the most of every moment. This means not just being with our families physically, but talking to each other, sharing our feelings and developing understanding - even if it's only two or three times a week.

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