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Peace, Culture and Education: The Flowering of a New Humanism—Part 10

Part 3: Kosen-rufu and World Peace—The Flowering of a New Humanism

“The Wisdom for Creating Happiness and Peace” is a three-part series that features key selections from SGI President Ikeda’s collected works, which thus far have been compiled into 150 volumes in Japanese. These selections introduce core concepts expressing the wisdom and universal message of Nichiren Buddhism. Through this series, SGI members throughout the world are able to simultaneously study the SGI president’s thought and philosophy.

The Power to Overcome the Threat of Nuclear Weapons

On the initiative of SGI President Ikeda, in response to his mentor’s declaration against nuclear weapons, the SGI has sponsored exhibitions around the world promoting nuclear abolition. During his first visit to Costa Rica in 1996, President Ikeda attended the opening of the “Nuclear Arms: Threat to Our World” exhibition. Inspired by the happy voices of children ringing through the venue from the Children’s Museum next door, he began his speech on that occasion with impromptu remarks about them. From a speech delivered at the opening of the “Nuclear Arms: Threat to Our World” exhibition at the Costa Rican Center for Science and Culture, San José, Costa Rica, June 28, 1996.

Girls and boys, emissaries from the future! How wonderful to be joined by these young messengers from the future who will shoulder responsibility for the 21st century!

We can hear the vibrant voices of children playing in the center’s Children’s Museum next door even here in this hall. The sight and sound of these youngsters, boisterous and full of vitality, are the very image of peace. In them lies the power to overcome the threat of nuclear weapons. In them lies hope.

Children are symbols of thriving life, while nuclear weapons are symbols of death and destruction. How significant that we are able to celebrate the opening of the “Nuclear Arms: Threat to Our World” exhibition here, together with these children.

The Soka Gakkai rejects all forms of violence. This is our eternal creed. During World War II, the first and second presidents of our organization, Tsunesaburo Makiguchi and Josei Toda, spoke out resolutely against Japanese militarism and were imprisoned as a result. President Makiguchi died in prison at the age of 73.

In 1957, only seven months before his own death, President Toda, Mr. Makiguchi’s successor, issued a Declaration Calling for the Abolition of Nuclear Weapons. At a time when the nuclear arms race was intensifying, my mentor confronted the threat directly, strongly denouncing nuclear weapons and the prospect of mass death they embody and declaring that all people of the world have an inviolable right to live.

To make the philosophy of respect for the dignity of life the leading spiritual current of the age was the foremost task that President Toda entrusted to us youth. For this reason, I have dedicated myself to the best of my ability to conducting dialogue and forging bonds of friendship with people around the world in the pursuit of peace.

Our focus must be to develop the inner potential of life that is greater than the power of nuclear weapons, and to create a growing solidarity of the people that is more powerful than the impulse for nuclear proliferation.

This is an important challenge for education and other awareness-raising activities to empower people.

For my part, to the end of my days, I am determined to join with you in the unceasing spiritual struggle to create a world free from violence.

Dialogue Is the Sure and Certain Path to Peace

The September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States shocked the world. Amid a climate of growing fears about the rise of terrorism and a spiraling new arms race, President Ikeda here stresses the importance of remaining committed to dialogue. From the peace proposal titled “Toward a New Era of Dialogue: Humanism Explored,” commemorating the 30th SGI Day, January 26, 2005.

In the years since the terror attacks of September 11, 2001, the world has experienced an extraordinary heightening of tensions. As governments tighten security measures to forestall the terrorist attacks that could occur at any time, the lives of many ordinary citizens are filled with a sense of fear and insecurity. There is no sign of a return to normality.

While conditions during the Cold War were in some ways similar, there is something even more unfathomable about the current threat. It is impossible to identify the potential perpetrators of terrorist acts, and there is no clear sense of what would constitute a resolution to the situation. There is a gnawing sense of vulnerability that even the most aggressive military actions or intrusive security measures are powerless to alleviate.

In many countries, the priority accorded to national security has in recent years fueled a drive to expand armaments. Increasingly, domestic security concerns are being used to justify curtailment of rights and freedoms. Meanwhile, energy and attention have been distracted from international efforts to address such global issues as poverty and ecological degradation. The resultant aggravation of threats to people’s lives and dignity are another tragic outcome of terrorism and efforts to suppress it.

How can 21st-century humankind overcome the crises that face us?

There is, of course, no simple solution, no “magic wand” we can wave to make it all better. The way forward will be perilous as it requires finding an appropriate response to the kind of violence that rejects all attempts at engagement or dialogue.

Even so, there is no need to fall into meaningless and unproductive pessimism. All these problems are caused by human beings, which means that they must have a human solution. However long the effort takes, if we do not abandon the work of unknotting the tangled threads of these interrelated issues, we can be certain of finding a way forward.

The core of such efforts must be to bring forth the full potential of dialogue. So long as human history continues, we will face the perennial challenge of realizing, maintaining and strengthening peace through dialogue, of making dialogue the sure and certain path to peace. We must uphold and proclaim this conviction without cease, whatever coldly knowing smiles or cynical critiques may greet us.

The year 1975, when the SGI was established, was a time of deepening conflict and division in the world. The aftershocks of the fourth Arab–Israeli War (1973) and the war in Vietnam were still being felt; the first summit of leading industrialized countries was held in that year to strengthen the unity of the Western bloc, while in the Communist bloc, the confrontation between China and the Soviet Union was escalating ominously.

I dedicated the year leading up to the founding of the SGI to intensive efforts in dialogue. My first visits to both China and the Soviet Union were made in 1974. Keenly aware of the potentially explosive tensions, I met repeatedly with the top leadership of both countries, engaging them in earnest dialogue.

In Japan at the time, the Soviet Union and its people were regarded with violent hostility. There were many who criticized my decision to travel there, asking what purpose could possibly be served by a person of religion going to a country that officially denied the value or validity of religion. But my sincere belief, as a Buddhist, was that no vision of peace was possible that didn’t recognize and include the one-third of the world that was the Communist bloc. It was crucial, in my view, that a breakthrough be found as soon as possible.

On my first visit to China, in May and June 1974, I witnessed the people of Beijing building a vast network of underground shelters against the eventuality of a Soviet attack.

When I met, some three months later (in September), with Soviet Premier Aleksey N. Kosygin, I conveyed to him the concerns I had encountered in China about Soviet intentions and asked him straight out if the Soviet Union was planning to attack China. The premier responded that the Soviet Union had no intention of either attacking or isolating China.I brought this message with me when I next visited China in December that year, conveying it to the Chinese leadership. It was also on this visit that I met Premier Zhou Enlai, discussing with him the importance of enhancing and strengthening friendship between China and Japan, and of working together for the betterment of the entire world.

In January of 1975, I visited the United States and presented to the United Nations a petition with more than 10 million signatures calling for the abolition of nuclear weapons gathered by the youth membership of the Soka Gakkai in Japan. I also had the opportunity to exchange views with U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger.

It was in the midst of such exhaustive efforts to promote dialogue that the SGI was founded 30 years ago on this day, January 26, 1975. The inaugural meeting was held on the island of Guam, site of fierce fighting in World War II, and was attended by the representatives of 51 countries and territories. From its inception, the SGI has sought to draw on people’s energy and creativity to forge an effective grassroots movement for peace.

Since that first gathering, the members of the SGI have consistently upheld the conviction that dialogue represents the sure and certain path to peace. I have also committed myself to “human diplomacy,” the kind of diplomacy that seeks to unite a divided world in the spirit of friendship and trust, and to promoting broad-based, grassroots exchanges in the cultural and educational fields.

Seeking to look beyond national and ideological differences, I have engaged in dialogue with leaders in various fields from throughout the world. I have met and shared thoughts with people of many different philosophical, cultural and religious backgrounds, including Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism and Confucianism. My consistent belief, reinforced through this experience, is that the basis for the kind of dialogue required in the 21st century must be humanism—one that sees good in that which unites and brings us together, evil in that which divides and sunders us.

To be continued in an upcoming issue.

Translated from the December 2017 issue of the Daibyakurenge, the Soka Gakkai’s monthly study journal.

With President Ikeda’s permission, some minor edits and revisions have been made to the original Japanese, and excerpts of remarks originally in dialogue format have been recast as monologues for ease of reading.

—Selected Excerpts Editorial Committee

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