Soka Gakkai International
Buddhism in Action for Peace
History & Philosophy
Stories and reflections on the Buddhist approach to life
The SGI’s activities in support of nuclear abolition trace their roots back to 1957 when, at the height of the Cold War, second Soka Gakkai president Josei Toda made a public declaration calling for the outlawing of all nuclear weapons at a gathering of 50,000 young people in Yokohama, Japan.
Drawing on his conviction and insight as a Buddhist, Toda asserted that all people have “an inviolable right to live” and condemned anyone who would jeopardize that right as “a devil incarnate.” In taking such a stark moral stance and seeking to stigmatize nuclear weapons as an absolute evil, he was articulating the idea that the indiscriminate nature and scale of destruction wrought by nuclear weapons crossed any reasonable bounds of legitimacy as a military weapon. The only way to protect humanity from this destructiveness was to eliminate them completely.
Daisaku Ikeda, who succeeded Toda as third Soka Gakkai president and is now president of the SGI, was present at that gathering and was deeply inspired and moved by Toda’s declaration. Under Ikeda’s leadership, the SGI has for decades been engaged in an extensive range of grassroots activities designed to communicate to the public the inhumane character of nuclear weapons and the profound peril they pose.
In 1973, youth members of the Soka Gakkai in Japan launched a petition drive for nuclear abolition; they gathered 10 million signatures, which were presented to the United Nations in January 1975. In 1997 and 1998, SGI youth in Japan and around the world collected 13 million signatures in support of the “Abolition 2000” campaign, presenting these to the UN in October 1998.
Working with relevant UN agencies and other NGOs, the SGI has also organized a series of antinuclear exhibitions. “Nuclear Arms: Threat to Our World” and “Nuclear Arms: Threat to Humanity” were seen by over 1.6 million people in 24 countries between 1982 and 2002, while “From a Culture of Violence to a Culture of Peace: Transforming the Human Spirit,” launched in 2007, has visited more than 200 cities.
Ikeda has long asserted that dialogue, open exchanges of ideas and perspectives, is the most certain way to build the foundations of peace. “The true value of dialogue is not to be found solely in the results it produces but also in the process of dialogue itself, as two human spirits engage with and elevate each other to a higher realm.”
In 1972 and 1973, he traveled to London to meet with the 80-year-old British historian Arnold Toynbee to discuss a wide range of problems facing humankind. Their dialogue was published in English in 1975 as Choose Life, and has since been published in 28 languages.
Since that time, Ikeda has exchanged views with representatives of cultural, political, educational and artistic fields from around the world. Many of these meetings have led to the publication of collaborative dialogues on a diverse range of topics, including history, economics, peace studies, astronomy and the healing arts. Among the individuals with whom Ikeda has published dialogues are former Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev, Brazilian champion of human rights Austregésilo de Athayde, Indonesian Muslim leader Abdurrahman Wahid and Chinese literary giant Jin Yong.
related article The Lotus Sutra The message of the Lotus Sutra is to encourage people's faith in their own Buddha nature, their own inherent capacity for wisdom, courage and compassion. As international recognition for Ikeda’s contributions to cultural exchange and the promotion of education and peace grew, he accepted invitations to deliver lectures at some 30 universities throughout Asia, America and Europe, starting with the University of California, Los Angeles, in 1974 and Moscow State University the next year.
In his exchanges with educational institutions, which include numerous dialogues with educators around the world, one of Ikeda’s primary concerns has been to develop a network of educational exchange and collaboration. His efforts to promote peace and humanistic education have been recognized through the receipt of some 300 honorary doctorates and professorships.
Since 1983, Ikeda has authored an annual Peace Proposal, published on January 26, the anniversary of the establishment of the SGI. These proposals offer analysis of the issues facing humanity, suggesting solutions and responses grounded in Ikeda’s Buddhist philosophy. They include specific agendas for strengthening the functions of the UN, including expanded civil society involvement, which Ikeda regards as essential to enhancing the democratic functioning of the world body.
Many of the themes raised in these proposals are taken up and developed by the SGI and its constituent national organizations. They also inspire the programs of the Ikeda Center for Peace, Learning, and Dialogue in Cambridge, Massachusetts (originally founded as the Boston Research Center for the 21st Century in 1993), and the Toda Institute for Global Peace and Policy Research (established in 1996).
The peace proposals also provide a focus for the activities of SGI members around the world, who address specific themes through symposiums and conferences, campaigns to promote nonviolence and interfaith dialogue, to protect their local environment or provide humanitarian relief in times of crisis.
related article Global Citizenship—Tracing the Infinite Extent of Our Relations by Daisaku Ikeda What makes a global citizen? SGI President Daisaku Ikeda outlines what he considers to be the essential qualities of global citizenship and the role of education in nurturing these values. All such activities provide opportunities for SGI members to actively engage with the pressing issues of our times, developing a concrete awareness of their responsibilities and potential as global citizens. Reaching out to conduct dialogue with friends, family and neighbors enables individual members to exercise the qualities of courage, compassion and wisdom that embody the Buddha nature inherent in each individual, facilitating their own process of inner transformation while contributing to their local society and the global community.
In addition to their regular discussion meetings and Buddhist study sessions, as different SGI organizations develop their own distinctive activities—be they cultural events, campaigns to combat school violence, reforestation programs, literacy training programs, or public education and awareness exhibitions—the spirit of Buddhist humanism takes root and develops in communities around the world, adding to a groundswell of empowered citizens dedicated to creating a better world for all humankind.
Sep. 8 Second president Josei Toda issues his “Declaration Calling for the Abolition of Nuclear Weapons” in Yokohama, Japan.
May 5 Daisaku Ikeda meets for the first time with British historian Arnold J. Toynbee at his home in London; the two collaborate on a dialogue later published as Choose Life.
Sep. 14 The “Nuclear Arms: Threat to Our World” exhibition opens in Vienna, Austria.
Aug. 6 Ikeda commences writing The New Human Revolution.
Sep. 24 Boston Research Center for the 21st Century is founded in Boston, Massachusetts, USA (renamed the Ikeda Center for Peace, Learning, and Dialogue in 2009).
Feb. 11 Toda Institute for Global Peace and Policy Research is established in Tokyo, Japan.
Oct. 26 SGI presents a petition with more than 13 million signatures in support of “Abolition 2000,” a campaign to eliminate nuclear weapons led by the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, to the United Nations Deputy Secretary-General.
May 3 Soka University of America founded in Aliso Viejo, California, USA.
Jul. 26 Ikeda issues “The Challenge of Global Empowerment: Education for a Sustainable Future” proposal.
Aug. 30 Ikeda issues “Fulfilling the Mission: Empowering the UN to Live Up to the World’s Expectations” proposal.
Nov. 9 Minoru Harada inaugurated as sixth Soka Gakkai president.
Sep. 8 Ikeda issues the antinuclear proposal “Building Global Solidarity Toward Nuclear Abolition.”
May 11 Soka Gakkai Youth Division presents a petition calling for a Nuclear Weapons Convention to UN officials in New York, USA.