They best way to convert other people to the Dharma Way, is to convert yourself to it first. Be an example for them to follow. One natural act flowing out of good character is more convincing than the most eloquent speech.
If you’re living in the west, there’s a good chance that in a lot of the circles that you move in, you are the only Buddhist. There is a good chance that people sometimes think of you as their one Buddhist friend, or the one Buddhist in the office, or something like that.
That means we have an opportunity to set an example. If the one Buddhist in the office is not very mindful and kind, that isn’t a good thing. But if the one Buddhist in the office consistently shows seemingly limitless patience and kindness that is a very good thing. It may make people curious about trying out Buddhism for themselves or it may not, but we shouldn’t be thinking about that. As Buddhists we aren’t trying to convert anyone. The only reason people come to the path is because they see something that makes them interested. We can’t convince anyone to try cultivating mindfulness and compassion. We can only manifest mindfulness and compassion ourselves and do our part to try to make the world a better place.
Even if we think someone we know could really really use some more mindful awareness in their lives….showing them will always mean more than telling them.
And I don’t mean to say we should be fake, that we should feign gentleness and virtue. If we’re doing the work, these things will show and that is a very important point. It’s when we are slacking off, when we are not doing the work that we run into trouble.
Several years ago I ran a Dharma School, kind of like a Sunday school for the children of Buddhist parents. It was rewarding and also very challenging, at times. Once in a while a parent would say something along the lines of, “I want my kid to meditate at home. How do I get them to do it?” Because they wanted their kids to be more mindful and focused, kinder and happier. These are good things to want for our kids. But when I was asked questions like this over and over I learned that the parents usually didn’t meditate at home. They didn’t do it but they wanted to convince their kids to do it.
So, again and again I had to tell people, “Parents who don’t meditate have kids who don’t meditate.”
Be a light. Set an example.