shakubuku ［折伏］ (): A method of expounding Buddhism, the aim of which is to suppress others’ illusions and to subdue their attachment to error or evil. This refers to the Buddhist method of leading people, particularly its opponents, to the correct Buddhist teaching by refuting their erroneous views and eliminating their attachment to opinions they have formed. The practice of shakubuku thus means to correct another’s false views and awaken that person to the truth of Buddhism.
The term shakubuku is used in contrast with shōju, which means to lead others to the correct teaching gradually, according to their capacity and without directly refuting their religious misconceptions. These two methods of propagation are described in the Shrīmālā Sutra, Great Concentration and Insight by T’ien-t’ai (538–597), and other works. Nichiren, who employed shakubuku in his propagation, writes in his 1272 treatise The Opening of the Eyes: “When the country is full of evil people without wisdom, then shōju is the primary method to be applied, as described in the ‘Peaceful Practices’ chapter [of the Lotus Sutra]. But at a time when there are many people of perverse views who slander the Law, then shakubuku should come first, as described in the ‘Never Disparaging’ chapter [of the sutra]” (285). Here “evil people without wisdom” means those who are ignorant of the Buddhist teachings. “Evil” means the unhappiness of acquiring no roots of goodness. It is contrasted with “people of perverse views who slander the Law,” i.e., those who have a biased view of Buddhism and slander its correct teaching.
Nichiren describes Bodhisattva Never Disparaging, who bowed in respect to everyone he met and praised them as potential Buddhas, as a practitioner of shakubuku. In citing Never Disparaging as an example, Nichiren made clear that shakubuku is not a form of verbal or rhetorical aggression, but an expression of reverence for the truth that everyone possesses a Buddha nature, and of compassion for people. At the same time, in bowing and praising people as potential Buddhas, Never Disparaging was in effect challenging and refuting their misconceptions about Buddhahood, and was for this reason attacked.