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Transcending Differences by Awakening to Our Deeper Roots

Soka Philosophy of Peace: Challenging Ignorance

Teenage school friends smiling to camera, close up


Nichiren Buddhism teaches that all people are capable of achieving enlightenment. That is, we all have the ability to bring forth limitless resources of courage, wisdom and compassion to positively contribute to society. Discrimination based on race, gender, class or any other superficial distinction, therefore, can never be justified. SGI President Ikeda explains the roots of baseless discrimination:

“The roots of racism run deep. Movements to fan racial hatred for political, economic or religious advantage are always with us. The seriousness of this problem lies in that it is so closely tied to people’s spiritual and emotional desires. In other words, we might say that the desire for an identity—to know where one came from and where one is going—lies at the root of racism. People cannot withstand a vacuum of ideas; a philosophical and ideological void drives people to seek their identity in their race” (The Wisdom of the Lotus Sutra, vol. 1, pp. 8–9).

The SGI exists to awaken one friend after another to the shared identity of humanity, and develop a world based on mutual respect and harmony, where all people can freely display their unique traits and abilities. The following are excerpts on overcoming discrimination by President Ikeda.

President Ikeda and Dr. Vincent Harding (1931–2014) meet in Tokyo, 1996. The late Dr. Harding was a leading historian and human rights champion. Photo by Seikyo Press.

Fight Unceasingly Against Injustice!

The struggle for social justice—the struggle to win true freedom and equality—is a major challenge and goal for all humanity. As long as people are discriminated against, oppressed and treated contemptuously anywhere in the world, we cannot rest; we must continue to seek a more perfect solidarity for all humankind. As Dr. King astutely observed, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”[1]Martin Luther King Jr., Why We Can’t Wait, with a new introduction by Dorothy Cotton (Boston: Beacon Press, 2010), p. 87.

The essence of the Buddhist teachings lies in the unceasing struggle against threats to justice and in the quest to realize a peaceful world and the happiness and welfare of humanity. We must struggle decisively against the diabolical forces that cause human misery and threaten the dignity of life—this is the fundamental ideal on which the peace and human rights movement of the Soka Gakkai International is based. (America Will Be!, p. 5)

Shifting to a “Person-Oriented Society”

[Martin Luther King Jr.] explicitly stated that to resolve deeply rooted social problems, “we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values.”[2]King, “A Time to Break Silence” in A Testament of Hope, p. 240.To bring about this “revolution of values,” Dr. King asserted that a rapid shift from a “thing-oriented society” to a “person-oriented society”[3]Ibid. was essential. He astutely pointed out that giving priority to things over people gives rise to a cold-hearted, ruthless society that dehumanizes people.

This transformation of values—from a society in which things take prece-dence over people to one in which people take precedence over things—is the first step to peace and completely in accord with the ideals motivating our Soka Gakkai Inter-national movement for peace, culture and education.” (America Will Be!, p. 163)

Elevating Human Consciousness

Regrettably, even now in the twenty-first century, these stupid, senseless acts of discrimination still continue in many places around the world, causing countless individuals hardship and suffering. Since the dawn of recorded history, we know that humans have devoted themselves to endless technological progress. However, human consciousness does not have a corresponding maturity. In the twentieth century, in which each ensuing war used more advanced technological weaponry, unprecedented numbers of lives were lost.

This reminds us that science and knowledge alone will never rid society of suffering. In this sense, the advancement of science and technology forces us to question the kind of education we need to perfect and elevate ourselves as human beings. (America Will Be!, p. 206)

(pp. 26-27)

Notes   [ + ]

1. Martin Luther King Jr., Why We Can’t Wait, with a new introduction by Dorothy Cotton (Boston: Beacon Press, 2010), p. 87.
2. King, “A Time to Break Silence” in A Testament of Hope, p. 240.
3. Ibid.