Shakubuku is a method of propagating Buddhism which was practised by Nichiren Daishonin. This method of propagation can be described as strictly refuting another's attachment to heretical views and thus leading him to the correct Buddhist teaching.
In Sakyamuni's day, shakubuku was considered the best approach for those people who had distorted ideas about the Lotus Sutra. Nichiren Daishonin embodied the ultimate truth indicated in the Lotus Sutra in concrete form as the Gohonzon of the Three Great Secret Laws. Therefore, shakubuku became a way to teach people who had misunderstood the Daishonin's Buddhism and this method of propagation is commonly used in the Latter Day of the Law.
Literally, shakubuku means to break (shaku) misguided attachments and to subdue (buku) evil, which actually means to enable others to right their wrong ways of living and place themselves back on the correct course of life.
The term shakubuku was also elucidated in the famous Buddhist text 'Milindapanha' (Questions of King Milinda), which takes the form of a dialogue between the Indo-Greek king Menander and the Buddhist monk, Nagasena. It was misinterpreted to mean 'violence'. Therefore, it was pointed out that shakubuku does not mean to punish but rather to subdue — that is to say that he who is given over to wrong views is to be subdued. Nagasena in his clarification replied to the king, "The proud heart, Great King, is to be subdued, and the lowly heart, cultivated — the wicked heart is to be subdued, and the good heart to be cultivated — carelessness of thought is to be subdued, and exactness of thought to be cultivated — he who is given over to wrong views is to be subdued, and he who has attained right views is to be cultivated — he who is not noble is to be subdued, and the noble one is to be cultivated — the robber is to be subdued, and the honest brother is to be cultivated."
Nichiren Daishonin himself practised shakubuku in the literal sense of the word, since Japan was a country actively 'slandering the Law', that is, following Buddhist teachings which, unlike the Lotus Sutra, denied that all people equally possessed Buddhahood. Moreover, the Daishonin had to undergo a lot of persecutions which also threatened his life. However, he himself had insisted on non-violence from the beginning to the end.
Shakubuku is an act of courage and compassion, and it corresponds to the 'practice for others' (keta) in terms of the practice of jigyo keta. In the broadest sense, practice for others consists of any action one takes that leads another person, either directly or indirectly, towards their own eventual enlightenment. The most direct shakubuku, of course, is to tell others about chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo and explain the Buddhist view of life.
If the ultimate aim of 'practice for oneself is our individual 'human revolution' — conquering the negative aspects of our character and developing wisdom, courage, compassion and joy — the ultimate of 'practice for others' is kosen-rufu. Kosen-rufu, literally means to 'widely declare and spread', in other words, to propagate true Buddhism throughout the world.
In the practice of Nichiren Daishonin's Buddhism there is no such thing as self-sacrifice, since practice involves enlightenment to the universal law of cause and effect. Thus, one discovers that 'practice for others', based on the profound compassion of jihi — the desire to help others overcome their sufferings and gain lasting happiness through practicing this Buddhism — is in fact the most pure and noble of all causes. In the practice of shakubuku, we should completely 'strip' the soul to verify the unquestionable truth essential to happiness, that is, the ultimate truth of life, thereby sincerely leading others to understand that the Buddha nature exists within everyone's life, that daimoku is the basic principle which fuses one with the universe and that the Mystic Law is the source of life force constituting the very marrow of a human being.
Strong faith in the Gohonzon is the fundamental power to change one's destiny. Those who do shakubuku are messengers of the Buddha and definitely get benefits. Although we are all common mortals with many weaknesses, we must take the Daishonin's instruction as absolute. Those who are dedicated to daimoku and shakubuku will assuredly feel the benefits of true Buddhism both physically and spiritually. Thus, regardless of social status or wealth, one who has been consistent in chanting daimoku and doing shakubuku can live a life of great glory.
The guidance we give and meetings we hold with our members must all be conducted in the form of convincing dialogues. We should never be high-handed or forceful. The Gosho, Teaching, Practice and Proof, states: "Although the teachings that you advocate are perfectly consistent with the truth, you should never on that account be impolite or abusive, or display a conceited attitude." (AfW-IV-132) All of our activities must be based on dialogues which give courage and confidence to others, and which by confirming the truth, become the source of support in our daily lives.
SGI President Ikeda, at a leaders' training session in the Kanto region of Japan, on August 17,1993, gave guidance as follows:
As explained by Tien-t'ai in the Hokke Mongu (Words and Phrases of the Lotus Sutra), 'upsetting attachments and arousing doubts' is a method of propagation that Sakyamuni employs in the Lotus Sutra to lead people to the correct teaching. For example, in the "Emerging from the Earth" (Yujutsu, 15th) chapter, there appear countless Bodhisattvas of the Earth. The appearance of the Bodhisattvas of the Earth 'upsets the attachments and arouses doubts* in the minds of the other bodhisattvas. "How could Sakyamuni have instructed so many bodhisattvas in the short time since he attained the Way?” they wondered.
In the 'Life Span of the Thus Come One' (Juryo, 16th) chapter, by way of assuaging these doubts, it is revealed that the Buddha has been enlightened since the eternal past
The SGI is the manifestation of the Bodhisattvas of the Earth. And, the actions of the SGI have in fact generated waves of 'upsetting attachments and arousing doubts' throughout society.
We have shaken up and set in motion the minds of people trapped in narrow ways of thinking. It might be said that 'upsetting attachments and arousing doubts' is the principle for reforming society. In practical terms, it means taking action to dynamically lead society towards a new and vast horizon. Our movement is advancing in a manner that accords with the teaching of the Lotus Sutra.