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Global Perspective

The Wisdom of Buddhist Humanism—Eliminating War

Excerpts From Ikeda Sensei’s Annual Peace Proposals:
Eliminating the Misery of War

Photo by Priyanka Karmakar / Unsplash.

Our voices have the power to move people’s hearts and change the world. With this spirit, Living Buddhism is highlighting key themes from Ikeda Sensei’s peace proposals, which he began issuing annually on January 26, 1983—the Soka Gakkai International’s founding day, to set into motion a new momentum toward peace.

Buddhist philosophy is rooted in the conviction that all life possesses dignity and deserves respect. Each life entity is potentially a Buddha. Therefore, the idea that a group of people have more value than another is antithetical to Buddhism. The logic of war, of forcing others into submission for the prosperity and glory of a particular nation, cannot be justified from a Buddhist worldview.

The Buddhist teaching of dependent origination expresses the interdependence of life, holding that no being or phenomenon exists in isolation. Everything functions to support and be supported by others. Ikeda Sensei explained this concept during his second lecture at Harvard University, saying:

No person or thing exists in isolation. Every being functions to create the environment that sustains all other existences. All things are mutually supporting and interrelated, forming a living cosmos, what modern philosophy might term a semantic whole. That is the conceptual framework through which Mahayana Buddhism views the natural universe.[1]

Based on this notion, harming another equates to harming oneself.

In this time, when our natural environment is at the edge of destruction, humanity has no choice but to band together to ensure a healthy planet for future generations. To initiate war or violent conflict in this reality spells insanity. Now is the time to use our spiritual, natural and economic resources to support the continued existence of life on our precious Earth.

The primary solution to resolve global and local conflicts is dialogue, which Sensei has advocated and demonstrated for more than a half century. Dialogue has been criticized for seeming to be a passive way of conflict resolution. Only dialogue, however, has the power to change people’s hearts, broaden their perspective and humanize the “other side.” Sensei writes on the topic:

In order to arrive at a fundamental solution to the problems facing humanity today, open dialogue aimed at developing mutual trust and understanding is essential. At the root of conflicts in the world today lie mistrust and hatred. In order to transcend conflict and division, the genuine power of dialogue is indispensable. To this end, while communicating our beliefs and convictions clearly to others, we must exert ourselves fully to respect the dignity of people’s lives and endeavor to understand them. Respecting our differences and learning from one another, we must tenaciously persist in talking with others, engaging them repeatedly in discussion. We must recognize that the fundamental path to solving these problems exists only in the process of substantial efforts at dialogue.[2]

The SGI movement for peace, culture and education aims to create a society without war through dialogue and mutual understanding.

—Prepared by the Living Buddhism staff

Excerpts From Ikeda Sensei’s Peace Proposals

A Universal Renunciation of War (1984)

When we look at the condition of the world today, it is growing increasingly confused and chaotic, with little prospect of a new international order. Rather, it is fraught with volatility, further aggravating instability. Far from achieving any order, our planet has entered a new era of nuclear instability: underpinned by anxiety and fear, the nuclear arms race fundamentally precludes the possibility of stability. Indeed, instability in inevitable. …

In the face of the threat of nuclear war, differences of ideology and social systems are completely irrelevant. Nevertheless, the absurd arms race persists because the utterly outdated worship of nuclear deterrence is still very much alive today.

Bertrand Russell[3] called nuclear weapons an absolute evil, and I fully agree. The evil does not lie only in their colossal destructive and lethal power. The worship of nuclear deterrence depending on this power originates in and exacerbates distrust among human beings. Indeed, the growth in the cult of nuclear weapons is inversely proportional to the ability of human beings to trust each other.

This is why I believe nuclear stability and nuclear equilibrium to be essentially impossible. Buddhism teaches the oneness of life and its environment. In light of this principle, it is impossible to create peace in a constant state of insecurity under the threat of nuclear weapons. …

What is truly needed now is to bring together the will of humanity to renounce war without being trapped by the technicalities of the disarmament process. The stronger the will becomes, the more conspicuous the futility of military expansion will be, further advancing disarmament.

The renunciation of war has never in history been as urgently needed as in this nuclear age, even though to some it remains utterly unrealistic. With the threat of nuclear weapons broadly perceived at the grassroots level worldwide, the absurdity of war has never been so strongly felt as today.[4]

Controlling Conventional Weapons(1995)

Any attempt to usher in an era without war can only end as an empty fantasy in a world overflowing with weaponry. We are confronted with the formidable task of reducing and dismantling the armaments industry that churned out huge numbers of weapons during the Cold War. …

The fact that the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council are responsible for more than 80 percent of worldwide arms exports can only be described as abnormal. Certainly, it seriously undermines the credibility of these countries as guardians of international security. It may be difficult to make the Register of Conventional Arms mandatory immediately, but the five major exporters should at least reach a concrete agreement among themselves concerning a framework for regulating weapons exports.[5]

Guidelines for Arms Transfers (1999)

One of the factors required for the deinstitutionalization of war is to reduce the international traffic in arms.

The arms trade intensifies and protracts warfare. Lamentably, far from decreasing, the international arms trade increases year after year. …

To profit from warfare and carnage in other countries, to use it to enhance one’s own national influence and prestige, to callously sacrifice human life for one’s private gain. The arms trade is evil. Murderous and morally unforgivable, it is an assault on humanity and human security. It epitomizes the worst that humanity is capable of.

When one country in a region strengthens its military might through arms imports, this heightens regional tensions and instabilities by inciting its neighbors to acquire new weapons systems of their own. Likewise, increasing supplies of arms to the factions in an internal conflict prolongs and intensifies the fighting.

Breaking this cycle requires a two-pronged approach. The first step is to reduce demand through efforts to defuse suspicions and build mutual confidence, and the second is to block the supply of weapons flowing into conflict areas. …

I have two other proposals to make relative to inhibiting the arms trade. First, we must restrict illicit arms transactions. … Anyone providing arms or covert aid to conflicting parties—especially if such aid violates a U.N. Security Council arms embargo—should be strictly punished under national law. We should also seek consensus within the international community to expand the competence of the International Criminal Court (ICC) to cover the crime of illegal arms trafficking.

Second, major arms-exporting nations should take the initiative in drawing up guidelines to limit the trade.[6]

An Arms Trade Treaty (2007)

The disarmament issue I wish to discuss here is that of controlling the international transfer of conventional weapons, which take countless lives in civil wars and regional conflicts around the world. These are, for all intents and purposes, weapons of mass destruction.

Currently, there are around 640 million small arms and light weapons in circulation worldwide, with some 8 million more manufactured every year. The proliferation of such weapons fuels human rights violations and armed conflicts, killing more than 1,000 people every day. …

I have called repeatedly for the strengthening of international frameworks regulating the arms trade toward the larger goal of the deinstitutionalization of war.[7]


  1. My Dear Friends in America, third edition, p. 345. ↩︎
  2. September 6, 2002, World Tribune, p. 2. ↩︎
  3. Bertrand Russell (1872–1970), British philosopher, cofounder of the Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs, recipient of the Nobel Prize for literature in 1950. ↩︎
  4. A Forum for Peace, pp. 353–57. ↩︎
  5. Ibid., pp. 343–44. ↩︎
  6. Ibid., pp. 345–46. ↩︎
  7. Ibid., p. 347. ↩︎

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