Soka Gakkai International
Buddhism in Action for Peace
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by Daisaku Ikeda, President, Soka Gakkai International
In recent years, international society has been convulsed by new threats and divisive debate over how best to respond to them. We cannot turn a blind eye; at the same time, however, it is clear that an exclusive reliance on military force will not bring about a fundamental solution. There is also the impact on people's hearts and minds: the failure of military action to produce a clear prospect for peace has left many with feelings of powerlessness and dread.
At best, attempts to break an impasse through military force or other forms of hard power respond to the symptoms of conflict; to the degree they plant further seeds of hatred they can in fact deepen and entrench antagonisms. I believe that no actions will gain the wholehearted support of people or bring about lasting stability and peace without an acute awareness of the humanity of others. What is needed is the spirit and practice of self-mastery--which I consider to be the very essence of civilization.
There appears to be a progressive erosion of people's understanding of what it means to be human--how we define ourselves and how we relate to those different from us. Self requires the existence of other. It is by recognizing that which is different from and external to ourselves that we are inspired to exercise the self-mastery that brings our humanity to fruition. To lose sight of the other is thus to undermine our full experience of self.
In September 1957, my mentor Josei Toda issued a declaration calling for the abolition of nuclear weapons. In it he condemned them as an "absolute evil," a threat to the collective right of humankind to exist. He stressed the importance of confronting and eliminating the fundamental evil that lies hidden in the depths of people's lives--the urge to manipulate and exploit others for our own benefit. It is this deep-rooted impulse that allows people to use weapons that instantly reduce so many lives to smoking ashes. 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.
Toda's appeal demonstrates a remarkable insight; it signifies the transformation of our inner lives, the revival of a concrete and vivid awareness of the existence of others. The historic challenge of abolishing nuclear weapons begins with the actions we initiate within our own lives.
Ultimately, the key lies in reestablishing a raw sense of reality, which can breathe new life into this stifling virtual world. If we could but learn to feel the wound and shock of others" pain as our own... I believe that such awareness and sensitivity represents the single greatest deterrent to war.
This concern is central to Buddhism; indeed, Shakyamuni's decision to dedicate himself to seeking truth was motivated by his confrontation with the four human sufferings--birth, aging, sickness and death. For Shakyamuni this meant not only the direct impact of suffering on people's lives but the deep-rooted indifference, arrogance and discriminatory consciousness that prevent us from feeling others" pain as our own.
Contemporary civilization has averted its eyes from death, seeking to make it "someone else's problem." This collective turning away from personal confrontation with death has fundamentally weakened restraints against violence. This is the deeper meaning of my mentor's call for the abolition of nuclear weapons--the most horrific manifestation of a civilization that treats death as someone else's problem.
Just as there is no unhappiness strictly limited to others, happiness cannot be hoarded or kept to ourselves. We are faced with the challenge and opportunity to overcome our narrow egotism, to recognize ourselves in others as we sense others within us, and to experience the highest fulfillment as we mutually illuminate each other with the inner brilliance of our lives.
Despite persistent questions about the effectiveness of--or even the need for--the UN, it remains the only body that can truly serve as a foundation for and give legitimacy to international cooperation. It should be strengthened and made more effective. 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.
The Iraq crisis highlighted its inability to function adequately when there is serious division in the Security Council. To remedy this, the General Assembly should be strengthened and empowered; the practice of holding emergency special sessions should be encouraged. This will provide a broader basis for making the difficult decisions needed to meet emerging threats to peace.
We also need to coordinate and integrate the strategies and activities of the UN agencies that provide support--from humanitarian relief to post-conflict peace-building--for people and societies caught up in violent conflict. To this end, I advocate the creation of a "peace rehabilitation council."
I would also like to call for a "UN people's forum," a gathering of the representatives of NGOs and civil society, perhaps to mark the UN's sixtieth anniversary in 2005.
It is crucial to foster a global environment in which conflict is resolved through the rule of law rather than resort to force. The recently established International Criminal Court (ICC), in helping sever the cycles of hatred and violence that drive conflict and terror, must be central to this process. We should not underestimate the deterrent potential of trying crimes of terrorism in an international judicial venue such as the ICC.
It is time to shift emphasis from nuclear non-proliferation to actual reduction and abolition. I have repeatedly called for the earliest entry into force of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT). Global public opinion must be mobilized to encourage the remaining states whose ratification is required for it to enter into force. Nothing would do more to create a stable system for non-proliferation than for the five declared nuclear-weapon states to make good on their long-standing commitment to disarm. I urge them to take the lead in drawing up a concrete timetable for nuclear abolition. 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.
Regarding fears about North Korea's weapons programs, it is important that each country take a positive approach to developing the framework for multilateral dialogue that has finally emerged out of the six-party talks. These talks should be given permanent standing; one goal should be establishing a Northeast Asian nuclear-free zone.
I am encouraged by the stress recently given to empowerment as a key to human security. This resonates with my own conviction that the struggle to contribute to society by taking action for the sake of others is the indestructible foundation for peace.
Education must be the focus of human security. Literacy opens the door to knowledge, empowering people to develop their abilities and fulfill their potential. Raising literacy rates among women and increasing girls" access to primary education improves the lives not only of women themselves but also of their families and communities. To help achieve universal primary education, I believe there is a role for a "global primary education fund."
Human rights education, which can help transform the feelings of hostility and prejudice that simmer below the surface in many societies, is essential to building a world without war. I wholeheartedly welcome the second Decade for Human Rights Education to begin on January 1, 2005, and urge a particular focus on children. Efforts to educate and empower people at the grassroots level can set in motion limitless waves of transformation.
Eliminating the word "misery" from the human lexicon was Josei Toda's fervent wish. Embracing that proud mission, the SGI will continue to forge solidarity among the world's citizens as the basis for a robust and enduring culture of peace. Peace is not something far removed from our everyday lives. It is a matter of each of us planting and cultivating the seeds of peace within the reality of daily life. I am certain that herein lies the most reliable path to lasting peace.