Feature

The Soka Gakkai International

Humanity's force for peace.

Photo: @iStockPhoto/Ricardo Reitmeyer


On September 8, 1957, at a gathering with 50,000 youth, second Soka Gakkai President Josei Toda made a declaration calling for the abolition of nuclear weapons. This declaration has served as the basis for the SGI’s movement for world peace. Considering the gun violence plaguing the United States today, we commemorate the anniversary of President Toda’s declaration by reaffirming the roots of the SGI’s philosophy of peace.

The Soka Gakkai International, rooted in Shakyamuni Buddha’s teaching of the Lotus Sutra and Nichiren Daishonin’s practice based on this sutra, embraces a philosophy of peace. The three founding presidents of the Soka Gakkai—Tsunesaburo Makiguchi, Josei Toda and Daisaku Ikeda—have each made concrete efforts toward creating a peaceful world, taking the term peace out of the realm of theory and flowery rhetoric.

Mr. Makiguchi, an educator and founding president of the Soka Gakkai, endured 16 months of imprisonment for refusing to give up his faith in Nichiren Buddhism despite the harsh threats and interrogations by officials of Japan’s military government, which carried out an agenda of war and senseless killings to expand the Japanese empire. Mr. Makiguchi died in prison having never recanted his beliefs.

Second Soka Gakkai President Josei Toda accompanied Mr. Makiguchi to prison and upon release, actively condemned the suffering inflicted on common people by war and declared nuclear weapons to be the manifestation of absolute evil whose stockpile must be wiped from the planet. He determined to spread Buddhism in order to rid the world of misery, leading 750,000 households to join the Soka Gakkai in approximately six years.

President Ikeda, the third Soka Gakkai president and current president of the SGI, inheriting the convictions of Mr. Makiguchi and Mr. Toda, has endeavored to build bridges of friendship and understanding, by engaging in dialogues with over 7,000 world leaders, and building educational and cultural institutions that promote international exchange. Since 1983, he has submitted detailed annual peace proposals to the United Nations.

The Inviolable Right to Live

Second Soka Gakkai President Josei Toda delivers his Declaration for the Abolition of Nuclear Weapons in Yokohama, Japan, September 8, 1957. Photo: Seikyo Press.
Second Soka Gakkai President Josei Toda delivers his Declaration for the Abolition of Nuclear Weapons in Yokohama, Japan, September 8, 1957. Photo: Seikyo Press.

From the Buddhist perspective, “life is the foremost of all treasures” (The Gift of Rice,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 1125). A cornerstone of Buddhist practice is to actively protect the sanctity of life. On the other hand, the terms devils and devilish functions are used to describe forces in life that rob people of hope and cause suffering. Violence, war and the threat posed by nuclear weapons are, without a doubt, clear manifestations of devilish functions (see Lessons from The Human Revolution).

In his September 8, 1957, Declaration for the Abolition of Nuclear Weapons, President Toda stated in part:

I wish to declare that anyone who ventures to use nuclear weapons, irrespective of their nationality or whether their country is victorious or defeated, should be sentenced to death without exception.

Why do I say this? Because we, the citizens of the world, have an inviolable right to live. Anyone who jeopardizes that right is a devil incarnate, a fiend, a monster. (www.joseitoda.org)

At a time when people were shrouded under the escalating tensions of the Cold War and the threat of nuclear weapons, Mr. Toda’s declaration displayed his unconquerable desire to save humanity from the destruction of the planet. This declaration constitutes the beginning of the SGI’s peace movement.

Inheriting the Revolution of Peace

In a society where violence is still seen as a viable means to achieve a goal, how do we inherit the bloodless revolution for peace for which the SGI’s three founding presidents have striven?

From the Buddhist perspective, any harm we inflict on others is a simultaneous attack on ourselves. SGI President Ikeda addresses this, saying:

Those who use violence may seem powerful, but it is actually the weapon of cowards. They use it because they are afraid of their opponents. Violence only causes more violence. This creates a vicious cycle, until both parties are deeply hurt. And when this happens between countries, it leads to continuous brutal wars.

Engaging in dialogue and taking sincere action is the way to build peace. To carry out such efforts, we first need the courage to overcome our own fears. When our attitude changes, the attitude of the other person will change, too. Nonviolence is the “weapon” of the brave. (Translated from the October 1, 2014, issue of Boys and Girls Hope News, the Soka Gakkai’s monthly newspaper for the boys and girls division)

Our mission is to decide that we will halt the cycles of violence in our families, communities and societies at large. This means to learn from the example set by our three founding presidents, to act based on our conviction that all life is precious, to challenge ourselves to “kill the will to kill” (see The Age of Soft Power) and employ humanistic dialogue to promote understanding of and respect for the dignity of all life. President Ikeda states:

Great good can come of great evil. But this will not happen on its own. Courage is always required to transform evil into good. Now is the time for each of us to bring forth such courage: the courage of nonviolence, the courage of dialogue, the courage to listen to what we would rather not hear, the courage to restrain the desire for vengeance and be guided by reason. (“The Courage of Nonviolence,” One by One: The World Is Yours to Change, pp. 60–61)