Introducing People Will Make Your Life Happy
Many practitioners have reservations about stepping forward and introducing someone to the practice. Perhaps you are one of them. When facing fears it is valuable to remember that introducing people will allow you to take a step forward in your practice and will result in your own life becoming absolutely happy.
Chant Your Way Out of Your Fears
As with everything else in Buddhism, everything starts with chanting about it. It’s good to chant until you have pulled your life condition from the lower worlds and into the compassion of the Bodhisattva.
If you’ve been a person who doesn’t reach out easily, chanting can help you pull out of your fears. Having been a person like that, I have found that doing this work has opened up my life in ways I could never have imagined, and now I have deep connections to wonderful friends. There are many wonderful benefits to facing that fear. It’s part of doing our human revolution.
You Are Offering An Opportunity
Introducing someone can seem difficult or comfortable depending on how you view it. For example, some people are worried that saying something is trying to ‘convert’ someone. If you have this concern, remember that you are not trying to convert anyone. You are offering them an opportunity, something valuable.
If they try chanting for ninety days they will see whether the practice works for them. They may decide not for now and that’s alright. Some people who have heard about Buddhism haven’t contacted the person who tried to introduce them for twenty years. Then when the time was right, they called.
Think of It As Sharing Your Life
Introducing someone becomes much easier if you think of it as just sharing something about your life. One forty-three year practitioner, who has introduced many people, said that talking about Buddhism is just sharing something of interest that she is doing. For example she might be taking a walk with someone, and just mention that she went to a really good Buddhist meeting last night. It’s rather like sharing a good book you have read.
Doing this lets the people around you know that you are here. Sometimes people are just waiting and knowing where to connect with the practice allows them to come forward. “I’ve always been curious about Buddhism”, they might comment. After one such contact, a man went right over to the community center and started chanting.
Following Up Is Caring
After introducing someone to the practice, some practitioners are unsure of how to follow up with them and are worried about seeming pushy.
Following up shows your newcomer that you think practicing is important. If you don’t follow up with them your newcomer will drift away. They need guidance, as this is completely new to them. And it is unlikely they will call you. So it is really the responsibility of the sponsor to follow up every week or two and see how their chanting is going. New people need regular encouragement, and need to hear experiences and explanations of how the practice works. This becomes crucial if issues come up. Usually they are glad you have cared enough to call them.
Inviting your newcomer to coffee, for a walk, or to dinner will allow you to build a friendship with them. The Buddhist discussion can develop naturally over doing something together. Over time you will find that the people you have introduced will become close friends. People come back to their sponsors years later to tell them how much the practice has meant to their lives.
If your district likes to work with newcomers they may have a weekly meeting with a Buddhist concept as the topic. Then you have a reason to call the person you are working with and tell them about the topic. If this is not the case, then following up with them becomes even more important as you are their only contact.
If you are mostly responsible, you have the opportunity to think about what they need to learn and work on explanations of the basics of how to practice. This will deepen your own practice. And remember you are not alone in this. Practitioners who have been introducing newcomers will be glad to help you.
If you have any small groups in your area, encourage your newcomer to come to them as soon as possible. There are many reasons small groups are valuable for newcomers. This is discussed in another article.
People Will Tell You How They Feel
Most people will tell you if they feel they are moving ahead too quickly. You will know by the kinds of things they say to you. One practitioner, who was working in this manner with a newcomer named Lynn, was told by her that she didn’t want to study and didn’t want to become part of an organized religion. The practitioner let her go and then would send Lynn an invitation to a general women’s meeting every year or two. Lynn would come and seemed to enjoy herself.
Six years later, Lynn came over to visit the practitioner and told her she was still chanting and felt she should get a Gohonzon. So you never know how things might work out. This part of why doing this work is such an adventure.
The Workplace: A Unique Challenge
Introducing someone in the workplace creates different challenges. Just sharing your life in a casual way gives another person the opportunity to express an interest. If the workplace doesn’t seem appropriate for follow up but your person has expressed an interest, I would introduce the newcomer to someone who can help you support them by following up outside the office.
Introducing People Will Become a Joy
Once you take the initial plunge to start talking with people, you will find that introducing people becomes as natural as chanting and you will smile that you were so worried about it before you began. It will also become your greatest joy.
“Handling Fears of Introducing Someone”,© Margaret Blaine, The Practical Buddhist