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Global Perspective

The Wisdom of Buddhist Humanism—No More Nukes

Excerpts From Ikeda Sensei’s Annual Peace Proposals:
Abolishing the Evil of Nuclear Weapons

Klaus Vedfelt / Getty Images.

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.

We live in a crucial time to stand up for the survival of the human race and life on planet Earth. Just one year ago the threat of nuclear weapons appeared an issue of the past, and we focused on other pressing challenges. This year, however, the use of nuclear weapons has reentered the political discussion, placing our world at a dangerous crossroads. Even a small-scale nuclear war would cost millions of lives and disrupt the earth’s ecosystem, causing a “nuclear famine.” A large-scale nuclear war would usher in a “nuclear winter,” making the earth uninhabitable for most life forms.

While the Cold War and nuclear arms race was intensifying, second Soka Gakkai President Josei Toda took an unequivocal stance against nuclear weapons on September 8, 1957, when he made his Declaration for the Abolition of Nuclear Weapons. At that time, the theory of nuclear deterrence, which uses the threat of nuclear weapons as a means of national security, had taken root. In his declaration, Mr. Toda said:

Although a movement calling for a ban on the testing of atomic or nuclear weapons is now underway around the world, it is my wish to attack the problem at its root, that is, to rip out the claws that are hidden in the very depths of this issue.[1]

For Mr. Toda, the enemy was not nuclear weapons per se but the thinking that justified their existence.

Buddhism recognizes that the cause of mistrust, hatred and violence, as well as compassion and peace reside in the human heart. According to Buddhism, nuclear weapons are the physical manifestation of the most evil tendencies inherent in life that seek to rob others of their existence. Therefore, simply outlawing nuclear weapons is not enough. Ikeda Sensei writes about this:

Toda had the insight to understand that the logic that justifies the possession of nuclear weapons grows from the most extreme form of human desire—the desire to dominate and bend others to our will, the readiness to annihilate them, destroying their lives and livelihoods, should they resist.[2]

Our Buddhist practice addresses the root of violence and destruction in the human mind.

Through Buddhism, we can transform not only our own tendencies toward mistrust but those of others as well, creating an environment where both parties develop mutual respect. Sensei explains that the key to uprooting the evil that gave birth to nuclear weapons is to create a groundswell of empathy through dialogue. He writes:

Dialogue challenges us to confront and transform the destructive impulses inherent in human life. I earnestly believe that the energy generated by this courageous effort can break the chains of resignation and apathy that bind the human heart, unleashing renewed confidence and vision for the future.[3]

SGI members in 192 countries and territories are practicing and promoting this kind of dialogue to create a fundamental change in their communities and societies.

—Prepared by the Living Buddhism staff

Excerpts From Ikeda Sensei’s Peace Proposals

De-clawing the Demonic Impulse (2004)

I would like to examine my mentor Josei Toda’s declaration calling for the abolition of nuclear weapons, which he issued in September 1957 and which is his enduring message to humankind. At the time, the Cold War was growing ever more intense; the United States and the Soviet Union were leading the rush to conduct nuclear tests in a desperate effort to make these weapons even more effective.

Toda’s declaration was issued just seven months before his death, during a brief respite in his final illness. To write it, he summoned the whole of his life force, pouring into it the entirety of his being.

He was stressing the importance of confronting and eliminating the fundamental evil that lies hidden in the depths of people’s lives. In Buddhist terms this refers to the urge to manipulate and exploit others for our own benefit. It is this deep-rooted impulse that allows people to use, without apparent qualm, weapons that instantly reduce so many lives to smoking ashes.

Toda’s declaration sought to expose the fallacy of the theory of nuclear deterrence that was used to justify nuclear weapons as a necessary evil. This forceful warning against the total disregard for life that lies at the heart of such theories retains its significance and impact undiminished to this day. …

The striking phrase “to remove the claws” demonstrates a remarkable perspective, discernment and insight. It signifies the transformation of our inner lives, of the destructive impulse in us all. This means reviving a concrete and vivid awareness of the existence of others, and developing the spirit of self-mastery, the ability to control our impulses and desires within the context of that awareness. This, I believe, is the true import of his statement. Ultimately it is not something outside ourselves that must be de-clawed: the grand historic challenge of abolishing nuclear weapons begins with the actions we initiate within our own lives.

From the start of the industrial revolution, modern civilization has been on a trajectory of fevered advance, served by the tools of scientific rationalism. The driving force has been the untrammeled pursuit of desire, the limitless inflation of the superficial self. Nothing manifests this more fiercely than nuclear weapons, which embody the willingness to hold the right to live of all people on Earth hostage to the predominance and security concerns of certain countries. They epitomize a civilization dedicated to the service of desire, born of the fusion of technological development and military objectives.

How can this be resisted and transformed? I believe that the key lies in fostering a genuine awareness of others, which in turn forms the basis for the development of such virtues as public consciousness and public spiritedness.[4]

Education for Peace (2006)

In my view, the crucial need is for a radical change in ideas and a search for new approaches. Rallying public opinion to the cause of disarmament requires not just experts or those already involved in the peace movement, but people from all walks of life. Rather than concentrating on the technical and physical facts of disarmament, there needs to be a revolutionary transformation in the way people think about peace, so that it is felt as an immediate and personal reality.

Peace is not simply the absence of war. A truly peaceful society is one in which everyone can maximize their potential and build fulfilling lives free from threats to their dignity. …

The basis for these initiatives must be a shift in our frame of reference from national to human sovereignty. Disarmament education needs to be a grassroots movement that helps to raise world citizens who are firmly committed to the interests of humankind and the planet, and to strengthen the solidarity among them. In this sense, disseminating knowledge and information about disarmament should not be an end in itself: Our greatest priority should be changing people’s mindset and behavior so that they are grounded in a culture of peace.[5]

Reconfiguring Our Worldview (2007)

The challenging politics of nuclear disarmament are indeed, to borrow the words of Max Weber (1864–1920), a process of “slow, strong drilling through hard boards, with a combination of passion and a sense of judgment.”[6] But the energy released by a reconfiguration in our fundamental way of thinking can fuel the persistent exertion required. …

In my proposal of two years ago, I offered what I consider guidelines for “humanism in action”:

Recognizing that all is change within a framework of interdependence, we of course see harmony and oneness as expressions of our interconnectedness. But we can even appreciate contradiction and conflict in the same way. Thus the struggle against evil—a struggle that issues from the inner effort to master our own contradictions and conflicts—should be seen as a difficult yet unavoidable trial that we must undergo in the effort to create a greater and deeper sense of connection.[7]

Underlying this statement and expressed in the repeated reference to connection is the belief that we must never lose sight of the bonds we share as members of the same human family, a connection that transcends cultural, ethnic and national borders. This is not to deny the reality of clashing interests and outlooks; these need to be faced head-on if we are to avoid encouraging evil, thus inviting catastrophe.

The challenge of preventing any further proliferation of nuclear weapons is just such a trial in the quest for world peace, one that cannot be achieved if we are defeated by a sense of helplessness. The crucial element is to ensure that any struggle against evil is rooted firmly in a consciousness of the unity of the human family, something only gained through the mastery of our own inner contradictions.

It is this kind of reconfiguration of our thinking that will make possible a skilled and restrained approach to the options of dialogue and pressure. The stronger our sense of connection as members of the human family, the more effectively we can reduce to an absolute minimum any application of the hard power of pressure, while making the greatest possible use of the soft power of dialogue. …

When our thinking is reconfigured around loyalty to the human race—our sense of human solidarity—even the most implacable difficulties will not cause us to lapse into despair or condone the panicked use of force. It will be possible to escape the snares of such shortsighted thinking.[8]


  1. The Human Revolution, p. 1780. ↩︎
  2. September 28, 2007, World Tribune, p. 2. ↩︎
  3. Ibid. ↩︎
  4. 4. 2004 Peace Proposal <>. ↩︎
  5. 2006 Peace Proposal <>. ↩︎
  6. Weber, “Profession and Vocation of Politics,” 369. ↩︎
  7. 2005 Peace Proposal <>. ↩︎
  8. 8. 2007 Peace Proposal <>. ↩︎

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