Soka Gakkai International
Buddhism in Action for Peace
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by Daisaku Ikeda, President, Soka Gakkai International
The high hopes with which we greeted the start of the twenty-first century seem to have been replaced with a sense of frustration and hopelessness. Although the two key themes of the new century need to be the culture of peace and dialogue among civilizations, it appears we have yet to free ourselves from the negative legacy of the war- and violence-ridden twentieth century. The gap between the power of technology and the ethical standards needed to control this power seems to be widening irrevocably. Most disturbing is the sense that the world is turning its back on dialogue--the willingness to engage and talk that affirms the vitality of the human spirit.
I have consistently asserted that the mission of the SGI is a spiritual battle against those forces in the world--violence, authority, materialism--that violate human dignity. Specifically, the essence of this battle lies in never losing faith in the power of words, in remaining committed to dialogue under any circumstance. Our resolve is most severely tested when we are confronted with the type of adversary that prefers violence to discussion. Nevertheless, we must not be silent: We must exert all our strength of the spirit to press forward with dialogue.
Recent disquieting developments involving Iraq and North Korea are evidently linked to the "war on terrorism." Naturally, the atrocities of indiscriminate terrorism must not be tolerated. Yet we have the choice between a "hard" and "soft" power response; and a single-minded reliance on hard power demonstrates a sad failure of imagination. To become trapped in cycles of hatred and retaliation is to allow ourselves to be dragged down to the level of the terrorists.
Have we escaped the nightmares of violence and war committed in the name of ideology throughout the twentieth century just to find ourselves in the grasp of another nightmare today?
I feel I must express my concern about the hard-line stance of the United States, which has advocated preemptive strikes against potential terrorist threats. Needless to say, terrorism is absolutely unacceptable: Emergency response with armed force may even be necessary to combat it in certain cases. Even in such cases, those who possess hard power must exercise moderation and self-control--the very fount of soft power. related article Fulfilling the Mission: Empowering the UN to Live Up to the World's Expectations (August 30, 2006) by Daisaku Ikeda, President, Soka Gakkai International In his United Nations proposal suggesting areas of reform, SGI President Ikeda stresses that the UN is the most universal forum, upholds Dag Hammarskjold's commitment to dialogue, and also urges that countries consider supporting UNESCO's Education for All campaign.
A strong impetus toward hard power is provided by economic globalization. In its present form, globalization gives rise to societies characterized by a grotesque disparity of income where scant attention is paid to the needs of "losers." This deterioration of care for others signals a loss of self-control and moral leadership.
The way forward, I believe, lies in developing a "life-sized paradigm" by which to understand our world and where we stand in it. By "life-sized" I am referring to a way of thinking that never deviates from the human scale--a humane sensitivity to life as a whole and also to the details of everyday human existence.
When we examine modern civilization from the perspective of our true human proportion, what we see is that our intellectual capacities have become grossly distended, and our sensual and affective capacities atrophied. This imbalance takes the form of a dulling of our natural responsiveness to life and the realities of daily living. We must view contemporary, high-tech warfare from a life-sized perspective to appreciate the horror of such truly bizarre forms of war as million-dollar missiles flying over the heads of people subsisting on one or perhaps two dollars per day.
This can but spur us to a deepened awareness, inspire in us a process of constantly reconfirming our recognition of who we are and what we are doing. We need to restore our sensitivity to life itself, our palpable awareness of the realities of daily living; and here, I believe, women have an especially important role to play. I have for some time expressed my view that the twenty-first century must be a century of women. related article Dialogue in Buddhism The practice of dialogue expresses a central tenet of Buddhism--faith in human beings, in their limitless dignity and potential as possessors and embodiments of universal truth.
In addressing these challenges, I would like to stress the centrality of the concept of human security, focusing on three major themes: disarmament, development and education.
Regarding the problems of disarmament and weapons of mass destruction, I would like to make the following specific proposals:
For India, Israel and Pakistan to follow Cuba in acceding to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), and for North Korea to renew its participation;For North Korea to declare nuclear-weapon-free status, reciprocated by security assurances from the nuclear-weapon states;
For the creation of a nuclear-weapon-free zone in Northeast Asia;
For the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) to enter into force provisionally, and for the launch of a system of international monitoring of nuclear tests;For a special session of the UN General Assembly to be dedicated to the cause of nuclear abolition, and the establishment at the UN of a new specialized agency dedicated to ensuring nuclear disarmament;
For the negotiation of a nuclear disarmament treaty as a step toward a treaty for the comprehensive ban of all nuclear weapons, whereby the nuclear-weapon states fulfill their "unequivocal undertaking" to eliminate their nuclear arsenals.
The second aspect of promoting human security is to confront the obscene threat to human dignity posed by poverty and starvation.
In this regard, I would like especially to stress the Millennium Development Goals. I propose that world summits be held every other year until 2015 to ensure that the world's heads of state and government are thoroughly informed of progress toward these goals. The SGI welcomes the decision by the World Summit on Sustainable Development last year to create a World Solidarity Fund, and thoroughly endorses the goals of the Millennium Campaign. Regarding the pressing issues of water resources, I call on Japan to play a more active role, taking full account of its experience in this field. related article The Challenge of Global Empowerment: Education for a Sustainable Future (July 2002) by Daisaku Ikeda, President, Soka Gakkai International In his Environmental Proposal, SGI President Ikeda states that SGI has proposed the establishment of an international decade of education for sustainable development to follow the UN Decade for Human Rights Education from the year 2005.
The third challenge for human security is that of creating a global society in which all people have access to education.
This year marks the start of the UN Literacy Decade (2003-2012) as part of ongoing efforts to promote the campaign of "Education for All." In December 2002, meanwhile, the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution formally proclaiming a Decade of Education for Sustainable Development, originally proposed by the SGI, to promote efforts to build a sustainable global society.
We are committed to provide maximum support toward assuring the success of these decades for literacy and sustainability education. Environmental education, like peace education and human rights education, must be at the heart of a new vision of humanistic education, education that empowers people in their active quest for happiness and a better future. By promoting this kind of education, we can establish the foundations for a new era of hope in the twenty-first century.
In finding solutions to environmental problems and the myriad other issues facing our world, what is most essential is that each individual embrace a sense of responsibility and proactive commitment. It is always individuals of conviction, courage and passion who have overcome the seemingly impossible to set in motion the forces of historical change. Pervasive feelings of powerlessness and hopelessness are the fundamental evils confronting contemporary society. To combat them, we need to find a new theorem for peace: We must awaken to the fact that the inner determination within each individual's life contains the power to change the world.
We cannot remain passive in the face of the severity of the reality that confronts us. Rather, we should open ourselves to the limitless power that is created when awakened people unite and act together. It is in proving this truth that humanity in the twenty-first century can fulfill its mission.