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Do You Know The Meaning of "Shakabuku," A Basic Buddhist Word Commonly Used In Society and in Pop Culture?

Updated on May 29, 2014

Grosse Pointe Blank (1997)

Debi: You know what you need?
Marty: What?
Debi: Shakabuku.
Marty: You wanna tell me what that means?
Debi: It's a swift, spiritual kick to the head that alters your reality forever.
Marty: Oh, that'd be good. I think.

This movie definition of "shakabuku" has been quoted repeatedly. The original meaning of "shakabuku" is not to far from the pop culture definition. The term "shakabuku" refers the process of leading a person to the correct teaching of Buddhism by refuting his/her attachment to erroneous beliefs. Also, it involves conquering mistaken views in one's own mind and bringing out the Buddha wisdom within. There is a second method called "shoju," which involves teaching without pointing out mistaken beliefs.

Interestingly, Nichiren, a 13th Century reformed monk, believed that "shakabuku" had a different meaning. According to the Soka Gakkai Dictionary of Buddhism, which was published in 2002, Nichiren made clear that "shakabuku" 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. In Never Disparaging, Nichiren challenged and refuted misconceptions about Buddhahood, and was for this reason attacked.

The early 1990s was a tumultuous time when Soka Gakkai members were ex-communicated from the priesthood of Nichiren Soshu. I recall in the early 90's when I was invited to a Buddhist meeting, I was told in front of the entire group of strange faces that I was wasting my life by not chanting. I guess this one leader had adhered to the harsh "shakabuku" method. But it was interesting that around the same time 2 other individuals tried to introduce me to Soka Gakkai under the more gentler method. One person stopped me in a school parking lot and explained his experience of being a terrible student in high school, but then he made a determination to turn his life around and was even admitted to the Univerisity of Washington (UW) law school. I learned from my brother that his law school, UW, has always been a very competitive law school because there were only avery limited slots for day students. The other person was a very patient next door neighbor in my apartment building in Washington, D.C. who was tremendously encouraging.

New Member's Guide

I later found that there was much controversy to Soka Gakkai method of introducing Buddhism and was even labelled a "cult." Historically, members have encouraged visitors to test Buddhism by asking and chanting for material goals or parking spots. The organization was heavily criticized that this was far from the pursuit of enlightenment (Buddhahood) and kosenrufu (world peace). However, the theory behind it was that Nichiren Daishonin's Buddhism is a religion based on action and through chanting Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo, they would experience a "human revolution" where they raise their life conditions and set aside preconceived notions and personal negativity in order to grow in their life.

Embarrassingly, I fell within the group that also put Buddhism to the test and chanted for a house, which came true within hours of making it a determination. After making this goal at Boston Market, I returned home to find a call that a particular house dropped by $35,000. What I later realized was that the chanting gave me clarity to make good judgment. I saw the potential in a house that needed a lot of work, and yet, I had very little real estate marketing theory. This house tripled in value in 18 months and allowed me to remove the requisite private mortgage insurance (PMI) This little imperfect house allowed us to fold my husband's student loans with bad interest rates into it so that he did not have to worry about them. Doubled in size now, I am hoping some day to turn my house into a place where people can come and chant.

Here is another example of someone with a material goal. An SGI member who chanted to be a millionaire and asked a leader why he was not one. The leader replied that maybe he did not have the karma for it yet. He advised that when you continue your Buddhist practice and develop wisdom and good fortune (good karma) you will be a millionaire automatically and be happy in other non-material ways. The leader's words came true. This member stated that it took him 15 years to reach his initial goal and required many changes in his habits, thinking, determination and character, all benefiting him in every aspect of my life.

Nowadays, the term "shakabuku" in Nichiren Daishonin's Buddhism has evolved to a form of a non-preachy introduction of Nichiren Daishonin's Buddhism. What we share is that by chanting Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo, we become happy daily and can withstand any surprises that can occur during a day. Once I asked a leader why it is difficult to introduce Buddhism to others, and the answer was that the individual's life condition was not receptive to it. Like all conversion, there is a belief that if it is not broken, why fit it? The same goes with conversion to Buddhism. Either the person is in such low life condition that he or she is truly ready to try something else or the person has such an elevated high life condition that they enjoy learning something else. For me, I felt in the former category where I felt that my life was not going well, and that I needed spiritual encouragement and motivation to overcome the ruts in my life.

The reason that "shakabuku" is a lingering thought lately is that I had a conversation with a person who is in remission for cancer but suffered a cold for the last 5 weeks. He was feeling bad, and his symptoms failed to improve. I immediately thought that I would encourage him to chant Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo. Instead of my suggestion going from one ear to the other, he actually told me that he was going to return to his desk and try it. I hoped that his attempt would bring him some energy and some relief and a better day. I had in fact shared the importance of chanting Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo with someone, and it was not hard when I saw how this person was suffering tremendously.

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    • formosangirl profile image

      formosangirl 6 years ago from Los Angeles

      Alocsin, I don't recall this phrase when I watched Grosse Point Blank the first time. Now I have noticed a lot of people wanting to know the meaning of this word. It is a trustworthy organic search term on Google Analytics for me. Thanks for visiting.

    • alocsin profile image

      alocsin 6 years ago from Orange County, CA

      I did not know the meaning -- thanks for enlightening me, no pun intended. Voting this Up and Interesting.

    • formosangirl profile image

      formosangirl 6 years ago from Los Angeles

      Thanks, Felesar. Now that you mentioned it, I recall someone had once made the same comment, but then I forgot the name of the movie. I will add it. Thanks again.

    • profile image

      Felesar 6 years ago

      I stumbled here today searching for "Shakabuku" - a phrase I heard watch a film that's nearly 40 years old. The film is called "The Last Detail" and stars a young Jack Nicholson. I didn't understand the chanting concept in the film, but it makes more sense now. Just leaving this note to both thank you and suggest perhaps including that in your Related Movies section. Cheets

    • formosangirl profile image

      formosangirl 6 years ago from Los Angeles

      Hi Manuela, one of the leaders at SGI-USA in Santa Monica said that you need to contact SGI in Japan and they will help you.

    • formosangirl profile image

      formosangirl 6 years ago from Los Angeles

      I am going to a District meeting today. I will ask one of the leaders for the information. Thank you so much for reading my article. Your life will be amazing because of the practice.

    • profile image

      Manuela Pinto 6 years ago

      I'm already practice it when I'm was in Lisbon. However, I'm alone in my region and need to find a group nearest or, I´m obliged to create one.I need some help to do it, I'll dooing my best to find people. Seia is a City in "Beira Interior". If you can help I'll be gratefully to you. My Beste regards, Manuela


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