Giving Support to New Members

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The Initial Stage is Crucial for the Development of Faith

In today’s society, the thinking of most people is based on practicality. All aspects of our life benefit from advances in scientific technology. All kinds of goods are available everywhere, and it seems as if we can obtain anything we want if we have enough money. It appears as if we are living in an environment in which we can all  live comfortably. However, the reality is that no one can predict the future. Most people actually live with uncertainty. Furthermore, when people think that they cannot do anything to resolve their problems, feelings of despair begin to prevail. Those who can make ends meet are truly fortunate compared to people who become victims of recession and unemployment, sinking into a desperate situation, and becoming unable to maintain normal daily lives. In addition to economic uncertainty, the numerous value systems held by so many diverse people can make daily life decisions confusing. Many people make choices in life and constantly worry about the correctness of their decisions. We live in a society where it is difficult to determine what is good and what is bad. Nevertheless, all people try to find the right way to live their lives.

There are numerous reasons for becoming a Nichiren Shoshu believer. Many were shakubukued and decided to practice because of the inspiration they received from their sponsors and their own desire to become happy. New members are usually eager to practice earnestly and try to overcome their problems. Because of this, it is crucial in the beginning to teach them the basics of faith, practice, and study so that they will practice correctly and see the merits that germinate from Buddhist faith.

It is very important to help the new believer completely and thoroughly. A Hokkeko organization that seriously promotes the development of the faith and practice of new believers will see an increase in the number of active, new members who participate in activities and attend the temples regularly. However, an organization that does not give support to new believers may see an increase in the number of shakubuku, but will not have an increase in the number of active members.

Doing shakubuku is the ultimate and final goal. When we are interested only in shakubuku results, however, then the numbers become more important than the development and nurturing of new believers. If we don’t make great efforts to take care of the new believers, the development of their faith and practice will slow down. New members usually experience uncertainty and anxiety. We should make every effort to help them in the early stages of their practice so they can have confidence and continue to practice consistently.

By improving our own efforts in practicing for ourselves and others we, ourselves will have fulfilling daily lives. This will lead each of us to do shakubuku with true joy. Doing shakubuku is practice for the sake of others. It is more important for ten people each to shakubuku one person than for one person to do ten shakubuku. This is because as more people do shakubuku, the number of people who earn merit from this practice to the Gohonzon will increase.

Recently, someone gave an experience about doing shakubuku. The following is a summary. Mr. A who was experiencing severe hardship was shakubukued by a friend and became a Nichiren Shoshu member because of his desire to solve his problems. Mr. A practiced sincerely, doing Gongyo and chanting Daimoku. He regained interest in his job and his economic situation improved. He then told his friend, Mr. B, about his experience. Mr. B decided to become a Nichiren Shoshu believer, and told his friend Mr. C about his experience. Through this process, a total of five people became Nichiren Shoshu members in a short period of time. This is a perfect example of doing shakubuku. Whether we can achieve our pledged goals or not depends on our shakubuku efforts, such as described in the above example. From a different point of view, this example shows the importance of supporting, educating, and encouraging new believers. Receiving Gojukai is not the final goal of doing shakubuku. It is actually the very beginning. We therefore need to make sure that all new believers are able to correctly conduct faith, practice, and study.

The Importance of Gathering Together

In order for an organization to be successful, all the members must realize that the final results ultimately depend on their own effort. The members will be motivated to act if they are given the opportunity to do shakubuku, shown how to do shakubuku, and a have a system to support both the new believers and those who are doing shakubuku. Furthermore, if the members realize that they will open their hearts from doing shakubuku, they will surely have even more motivation. On the other hand, if the members are simply told to do shakubuku and not given any specific help, it is obvious that great results cannot be expected. The relationship between action (doing shakubuku) and results (developing merit) must be explained to prevent the members from harboring negative thoughts such as “I am not sure if my efforts will be rewarded,” or “I don’t think my effort will make that much difference.” Members can sometimes lose self‑confidence, become discouraged and, even before trying to do shakubuku think, “I know that I should do shakubuku but I don’t feel like doing it,” or “I cannot do shakubuku.” It is  especially difficult for the members to motivate themselves under these conditions. We should work together and help each other gain the confidence to do shakubuku. In addition, let’s talk about what we have accomplished together and use this as motivation for the next activity.

A gathering place that can be used freely all the time is indispensable for activities. Meeting together at such a place and then going out to do shakubuku will bolster our confidence and helps eliminate negative thinking. There we can discuss the results of the activities and make detailed plans for our future shakubuku efforts. Through these causes, faith, practice, and study will be better understood.

Always Have Determination

Nichiren Daishonin discussed faith, practice and study in the Gosho, “The True Entity of Life”:

Exert yourself in the two ways of practice and study. Without practice and study, there can be no Buddhism. You must not only persevere yourself; you must also teach others. Both practice and study arise from faith. Teach others to the best of your ability, even if only a single sentence or phrase.

(Gosho, p. 668; MW-1, p. 95)

Let’s study this Gosho and make a determination to always exert ourselves.

In 1999, Sixty-seventh High Priest Nikken Shonin talked about the importance of determination during a lecture to newly qualified priests. He stated:

In order to uphold the Gohonzon and the Three Great Secret Laws, one must practice this Buddhism oneself and lead others to this Buddhism. This is the key to true happiness in life. All the people in the world will eventually be led to this Buddhism. During the process of becoming a priest there will be various problems. However, you must keep the spirit that, “I will endure all hardships and continue to practice so I can become a fine priest.” Everything is derived from the sincere determination to become a priest. If this determination is not solid, then when sansho shima and other persecutions appear, you may follow the wrong path. To make the determination, “I will devote my life as a priest” is very important.

(Summarized)

Even though this lecture was given to the priests, let’s take this guidance from the Sixty-seventh High Priest to heart, always uphold our determination, and show solid actual proof.

(Nichiren Shoshu Monthly, March 2008)