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Peace, Culture and Education: The Flowering of a New Humanism—Part 9

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 Starting Point of the Soka Gakkai’s Peace Activities—The Declaration Calling for the Abolition of Nuclear Weapons

In his novel, The Human Revolution, SGI President Ikeda chronicles second Soka Gakkai President Josei Toda’s 1957 Declaration Calling for the Abolition of Nuclear Weapons. He underscores that the heart of the Soka Gakkai’s activities for peace lies in combating devilish functions that threaten the dignity of life and humanity’s right to exist. Adapted from The Human Revolution,[1] Volume 12, “Declaration” chapter. (At the Soka Gakkai’s Festival of Youth held at the Mitsuzawa Stadium in Yokohama on September 8, 1957.)

Standing before the microphone with calm assurance, Josei Toda began powerfully: “Today’s Festival of Youth has been blessed with clear, sunny skies, free of any trace of yesterday’s storm, as if the heavens themselves have responded to your enthusiasm. It was with a profound sense of joy that I watched the competitors among you fully embody the Soka Gakkai spirit in each event, as the rest of you wholeheartedly applauded their efforts.

“Nevertheless, for all our joy today, it is likely that the Soka Gakkai will encounter persecution again in the future. And we ourselves may face all kinds of attacks. Having said that, I would now like to share with you what I hope you will regard as the foremost of my instructions for the future.

“As I have long said, the responsibility for the coming era must be shouldered by the youth. Needless to say, kosen-rufu is our mission, and we must absolutely achieve it. But today I would like to state clearly my feelings and attitude regarding the testing of nuclear weapons, a topic that is currently being debated heatedly throughout society.

“I hope that, as my disciples, you will inherit the declaration I am about to make today and, to the best of your ability, spread its intent throughout the world.

“Although a movement calling for a ban on the testing of atomic or nuclear weapons has arisen around the world, it is my wish to go further, to attack the problem at its root. I want to expose and rip out the claws that lie hidden in the very depths of such weapons. 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. I propose that humankind applies, in every case, the death penalty to anyone responsible for using nuclear weapons, even if that person is on the winning side.”

Toda viewed nuclear weapons as the most devilish invention of the 20th century. The Japanese word for “devil” (ma) is a transliteration of the Sanskrit word mara (devil), which has also been translated variously into Chinese as “murderer,” “robber of life” or “destroyer.” One might say that the function of devils is to confuse and torment people’s minds, take away life and destroy wisdom.

According to Buddhism, the epitome of such evil is personified as the devil king of the sixth heaven. Another name for this devil is Freely Enjoying Things Conjured by Others, indicating one who desires to control and subjugate people. In this light, the doctrine of nuclear deterrence, which plays upon people’s fears to justify the maintenance of nuclear arsenals capable of mass annihilation, is itself a manifest function of the devil king of the sixth heaven.

A defining feature of Toda’s declaration against nuclear weapons was that it called upon people to vanquish this devilish nature residing deep within the lives of human beings. Although a popular movement to ban nuclear weapons was gaining strength in Japan as in many other parts of the world, Toda concluded that in order to “rip out the claws” of these weapons—to root out the devil that lurks behind them—it was vital to firmly establish the understanding that they are the product of the devilish nature of life, that they are an absolute evil whose very existence must be rejected.

His stance was that nuclear weapons and their use must be absolutely condemned, not from the standpoint of ideology, nationalism or ethnic identity, but instead from the universal dimension of humanity. This is what makes Toda’s declaration so extraordinary. It is also the reason why his declaration would shine ever more brightly through the years.

Although Toda stated in his declaration that those who use nuclear weapons deserve the death penalty without exception, this in no way meant that he was endorsing or advocating the death penalty as a general means of punishment. He had often said that the idea of one person condemning another does not exist in Buddhism, which is based on the law of cause and effect. Why, then, did Toda go so far as to use the words death penalty in his declaration?

Toda was not advocating that a law be passed requiring the death penalty for those who use nuclear weapons. Rather, his aim, quite simply, was to establish the idea that the use of nuclear weapons, an act that would deny humanity its fundamental right to exist, must be considered an absolute evil. By causing this idea to take root in the hearts and minds of national leaders and people throughout the world, he hoped it would serve as an internal restraint against the use of nuclear weapons. Only the harshest punishment could possibly fit such a crime of ultimate evil, and that would be nothing but the death penalty.

Had Toda simply been satisfied to brand those who used nuclear weapons as devils, fiends and monsters, his declaration would have remained abstract. He certainly could not have fully conveyed his conviction that the use of nuclear weapons constituted an absolute evil. By daring to propose the death penalty, Toda meant to stamp out any tendency within people’s minds to justify the use of these weapons. In a way, he was passing a sentence of death on the devilish impulses within human life itself.

Toda issued his declaration at the height of the Cold War. The vast majority of arguments concerning nuclear weapons made during this time were based upon the ideologies of either the Eastern or Western bloc. Toda’s declaration, however, was a radical departure from this way of thinking; it identified nuclear weapons as an evil when viewed from the most fundamental perspective of their impact on human beings themselves.

“Even if a country should conquer the world through the use of nuclear weapons,” Toda continued, his voice even more forceful, “the conquerors must be viewed as devils, as evil incarnate. I believe that it is the mission of every member of the youth division in Japan to disseminate this idea throughout the globe.

“I shall end by expressing my eager expectation that you will spread this, the first of my declarations, to the entire world, with the same enthusiasm you have shown in today’s sports festival.”

Toda closed his speech to resounding applause. Waves of emotion and excitement swept the stadium.

It is deeply significant that Josei Toda made this declaration against nuclear weapons the foremost of his final instructions to the youth. Because Nichiren Buddhism is a religion that exists for people’s happiness, the fulfillment of its religious mission to establish the correct teaching in society must be accompanied by the realization of a peaceful land, and this comes about through the fulfillment of each individual practitioner’s mission in society.

Toda realized that the devilish nature inherent in life underlies nuclear weapons, and he keenly sensed that the only way to vanquish it was through the power of the Buddha nature. Since human beings created nuclear weapons, they are also capable of eliminating them. Toda was convinced that the existence of the Buddha nature within human beings would open the way to nuclear abolition without fail.

He entrusted the youth with the task of inspiring this conviction in others, urging them to believe in people’s Buddha nature, to address that Buddha nature and to communicate widely the absolute evil of nuclear weapons.

Toda’s declaration would become the basis for the Soka Gakkai’s activities for peace.

Shin’ichi Yamamoto[2] was overwhelmed with emotion as he listened to Toda’s declaration, telling himself that he must, without fail, fulfill his mentor’s instructions.

From that time on, he began to ponder and search in earnest for a way to spread Toda’s conviction throughout the world.

Inner Transformation Is the Key

Speaking in Hiroshima, site of the world’s first atomic bombing, President Ikeda outlines the essential way to build lasting peace. Based on the Buddhist principle that social turmoil is caused by the impurities in people’s lives, he explains that the Soka Gakkai’s efforts are aimed at helping individuals purify and transform their lives. From a speech delivered at a Hiroshima Prefecture commemorative gongyo meeting, Hiroshima Prefecture, October 15, 1989.

Second Soka Gakkai President Josei Toda keenly perceived that nuclear weapons are fundamentally different from conventional weapons in that they pose a threat to the very existence of humanity.

Today, the abolition of nuclear weapons is one of the most important goals of peace movements around the world, which is completely understandable given what we know today. But Mr. Toda accurately discerned the nature of the problem from the earliest days of the nuclear arms race and issued a call for nuclear weapons to be banned, making his insight all the more prescient and astute.

We all have the right to live, the right to attain happiness. That right to live is inviolable. In addition, no one has the right to rob us of our spiritual freedom.

As long as the people remain weak and subservient to authority, the devilish nature of power will thrive and seek to exploit them. The only way for the people to secure true peace and happiness is to stand up with a strong sense of indignation and fight against such abuses of power, against the devilish impulses inherent in life. My mentor Josei Toda’s demand for the abolition of nuclear weapons was a challenge and a rebuke to this hidden devilish nature.

The purpose of our Buddhist practice is to enable people to courageously uphold their principles and advance on the great path to happiness, undeterred by harassment or persecution from those in power; it is to protect human dignity and achieve lasting peace and spiritual freedom for all people. Taking to heart Mr. Toda’s instructions, which were backed by his outstanding character, judgment and conviction, let us spread our great movement for peace and the solidarity of the people throughout the world and into the coming century.

What triggers war and all the other threats to human survival? What are their causes?

Nichiren Daishonin cites a Buddhist treatise stating: “Because anger increases in intensity, strife of arms occurs. Because greed increases in intensity, famine arises. Because foolishness increases in intensity, pestilence breaks out. And because these three calamities occur, earthly desires grow more powerful and false views increasingly flourish”[3] (The Record of the Orally Transmitted Teachings, p. 33).

In other words, at the most fundamental level, the turmoil of war, famine and pestilence arises from defilements within our lives, from the three poisons of greed, anger and foolishness.[4] Based on this, we must face the prospect that Japan and the rest of the world will always be prone to such tragedies.

Since my inauguration as the third Soka Gakkai president, two things have constantly remained in my prayers: that there will be no earthquakes and that we will have good harvests. This has been motivated by my genuine desire for the safety and security of our members, the noble children of the Buddha; it is still my earnest prayer.

Enduring peace cannot be achieved solely through political and economic measures. The impurities of the three poisons, which could be considered a sickness inherent within life, must be eliminated. In other words, the sure way to lasting peace is the purification and transformation of individual human lives. That is the teaching of Buddhism and the heart of our Buddhist practice. I am firmly convinced that it is the best prescription for fundamentally healing the spiritual ills of humanity and society.

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


  1. Translated from the 2013 second revised edition of the Japanese. ↩︎
  2. Shin’ichi Yamamoto is the pseudonym for SGI President Ikeda in The New Human Revolution. ↩︎
  3. T’ien-t’ai’s Words and Phrases of the Lotus Sutra. ↩︎
  4. Three poisons of greed, anger and foolishness: The fundamental evils inherent in life that give rise to human suffering. In the renowned Mahayana scholar Nagarjuna’s “Treatise on the Great Perfection of Wisdom,” the three poisons are regarded as the source of all illusions and earthly desires. The three poisons are so called because they pollute people’s lives and work to prevent them from turning their hearts and minds to goodness. ↩︎

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Nichiren Buddhism Is a Teaching of Mentor and Disciple—Let’s Walk the Great Path to Happiness Together and Win!