[T]he Sutra says that anyone who reads, recites, and expounds the Lotus Sutra will be attractive in appearance, fearless, safe from accidents, and served by angels from heaven. It goes on to say that the figure of the Buddha will appear in the dreams of such a person, lead him or her to renounce the world, attain enlightenment, and enter Nirvana just as the Buddha does.
This is an outline of the chapter called “Peaceful Practices.” The message of this chapter stands in contrast with that of the previous chapter, “Encouragement for Keeping the Sutra.” In that chapter, we recall, the Sutra tells us that we should be ready to accept any difficulty, and endure patiently if we come under persecution while spreading the Sutra. This also means that, in order to spread the Sutra, we must try to convince and convert someone who may be causing us problems. Later, in Chapter Twenty, “Never-Despise Bodhisattva,” the Sutra will tell us about a Bodhisattva named Never-Despise, who used to bow to and respect everyone he met, preaching the law to them, even when they hit him or threw stones at him.
Great Master Chih-i and Nichiren called such ways of spreading the Dharma, shakubuku, meaning “converting others by persistent preaching.” On the other hand, spreading the law by peaceful practices, as described in this chapter, is called shoju, “accepting.”
Shakubuku is the way to reproach opponents for their errors and make them awaken from their illusions. Shoju is to lead and convince them by respectfully accepting and understanding their viewpoints and situations. The difference between these two ways of propagation depends on the times and the abilities of the hearers to understand. Although the two methods seem to be entirely different, they have the same aim—to save others. Therefore, they share the same spirit.
In the history of Buddhism, Great Master Chih-i generally undertook the way of shoju, and Nichiren generally practiced the way of shakubuku. However, Chih-i also valued the spirit of shakubuku, and Nichiren also gave importance to the spirit of shoju. In our times, the way of shoju seems more appropriate, but it must be flavored with the spirit of shakubuku, too.
Introduction to the Lotus Sutra