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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

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—the Soka Gakkai International’s founding day—in 1983 to set into motion a new momentum toward peace.

Buddhist philosophy stems from the conviction that all life possesses dignity and deserves respect. Each life is potentially a Buddha. Therefore, the idea that a group of people have more value than another contradicts 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. 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, with our natural environment 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 can be found only through 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 our perspectives and arrive at a mutual understanding. Sensei writes:

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

Removing the ‘Arrow of Fundamental Delusion’ (2013)

Shakyamuni believed that conflict arises from the fundamental darkness or delusion that prevents us from recognizing in the lives of others the same irreplaceable value that we sense in our own. Living in ancient India, Shakyamuni often witnessed such violent confrontations as tribal conflicts over water and other resources, and power struggles between states.

He identified what he considered to be the essence of the problem: “I perceived a single, invisible arrow piercing the hearts of the people.”[3]That is, because people’s hearts are penetrated by the unseen arrow of fundamental delusion, they cannot free themselves from attachment to an egocentric worldview.

For example, Shakyamuni saw that two tribal groups in conflict were afflicted by the same desperation, “like fish, writhing in shallow water.”[4] And yet their minds were clouded and they could not recognize that the other group shared their concerns over the lack of water or the constant fear of being attacked and overrun.

It was to overcome this that Shakyamuni declared: “All tremble at violence; life is dear to all. Putting oneself in the place of another, one should not kill nor cause another to kill.”[5]

There are two key points here. The first is that Shakyamuni always focused on a process of inner reflection by which we attempt to put ourselves in the place of others and feel their anguish as our own, rather than obedience to external rules as the basis for self-control. The second point is that he did not consider it enough that we ourselves refrain from the taking of life, but insisted that we should also not cause others to kill. In this, he is urging us to cultivate, through wholehearted dialogue, the goodness that exists within the lives of others and to join with them in a mutual vow against violence [6]and the taking of life.[7]

Transcending the Discriminatory Consciousness (2015)

Hate speech … is becoming a serious social problem in many countries. Even when it does not lead to the direct violence of hate crimes, it arises from the same malevolent urge to harm others. …

To prevent such situations from escalating, the first step is to develop the means of bringing oneself face to face with the other, free from this kind of collective psychology. To this end, an episode from the Vimalakirti Sutra describing the interactions between Shakyamuni’s disciple Shariputra and a female deity is instructive.

Shakyamuni urged his disciple Manjushri to visit the home of the lay believer Vimalakirti, who was suffering from illness. Another of his leading disciples, Shariputra, decided to accompany him. The visit occasioned a far-reaching discussion between Manjushri and Vimalakirti on the Buddha’s teachings.

When this discussion reached its climax, a goddess who was among the listeners adorned everyone with flowers as an expression of joy. Shariputra, saying that such flower petals were not appropriate to a practitioner of the way, attempted to brush them off, but they stuck to him. Seeing this, the goddess said, “Flowers do not have a discriminatory consciousness; yet you discriminate among people,” thus pointing out the attachments that held Shariputra in their grasp.

Shariputra recognized the truth of what she said, but as he continued to question her, the goddess used her magical powers to change Shariputra into her form and herself into his. She continued to point out to the baffled Shariputra the depths of his discriminatory consciousness, and then returned them both to their original forms. Through this astonishing sequence of events, Shariputra realized that we must not allow our hearts to become caught up in external appearances and that all things are without fixed form or characteristics.

What I think is significant here is how this experience of exchanging forms made it possible for Shariputra to become vividly conscious of the discriminatory gaze he had been directing against this female deity, and that as a result he was able to become deeply aware of his error.

With the advance of globalization, there is more and more movement across borders, and many people, through the experience of visiting or living in another country, have been forced to recognize the kind of discriminatory gaze that they had unconsciously cast on other groups when they were living in their country of origin. This makes it all the more important that people exert themselves to understand the other and see things through their eyes.

Without such efforts, particularly in times of heightened tensions, it is all too easy for our own ideas of what constitutes peace or justice to become a threat to the lives and dignity of others. This is why the reversal of perspectives experienced by Shariputra is so important. It opens us up to seeing the threat implicit in the gaze we direct at others. It encourages us to actively imagine the threats felt by others to themselves and their families and subverts our assumptions and assertions.

When Shariputra was first encouraged by Shakyamuni to visit the ailing Vimalakirti, his initial response was one of hesitation, and when he arrived with Manjushri, he was first concerned about the fact that there was no place for him to sit. For his part, Vimalakirti, when asked the cause of his illness by Manjushri, responded, “Because all the living beings are ill, I am ill also.” He went on to say that his visitors, if they were truly concerned for his well-being, would best express that by caring for and encouraging others suffering from illness. Thus, while Shariputra was occupied with an obsessive concern for himself, Vimalakirti was focused on the reality of suffering experienced by all people, regardless of circumstance and the distinction between self and other.

When we look at current conditions in the world through the lens of the contrast portrayed in this sutra, we can extract the following lesson: While peace and justice should be experienced as a common good, when they are rendered divisible by an excessive concern with the self, they can serve to justify violence and oppression against other groups with whom we find ourselves in conflict.

This is why expanding human solidarity based on a shared concern for the threats faced by all of us—such as the increase of extreme weather events accompanying climate change or the catastrophic damage wrought by the use of nuclear weapons—holds the key to the alleviation of human suffering.[8]


  1.  My Dear Friends in America, third edition,
    p. 345. ↩︎
  2.  September 6, 2002, World Tribune, p. 2. ↩︎
  3. A New Way Forward, p. 41. ↩︎
  4. Saddhatissa, trans., The Sutta-nipata, 4:2:936. ↩︎
  5. Buddharakkhita, trans., The Dhammapada, 10:130:2. ↩︎
  6. (trans. from) Iwano, ed., Kokuyaku issaikyo, 29/30:162. ↩︎
  7. 2013 Peace Proposal <>. ↩︎
  8. 2015 Peace Proposal <>. ↩︎

District Discussion Meeting Material

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