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Global Perspective

The Wisdom of Buddhist Humanism—Protecting Our Planet

Excerpts From Ikeda Sensei’s Annual Peace Proposals:
Creating a Sustainable Planet for Future Generations

Photo by Arthur Ogleznev.

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

The last decade has brought with it increasingly destructive storms, intensified wildfires and longer droughts. Climate change-induced weather disrupts the lives of millions each year. Islands and land at sea level have begun to be subsumed by rising oceans. The concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, which traps heat, has reached 416 parts per million. As a result, the hottest nine years in history were recorded in the past ten years.[1] The only option to keep our planet inhabitable is to transform human activity and our relationship with nature.

Buddhism teaches the oneness of life and its environment—that the condition of people and their environment mirror one another. Therefore, in order to have a robust environment that supports life, we must take bold action to cherish our natural resources. This mindset, unfortunately, has not driven the majority of human activity in the modern age. Second Soka Gakkai President Josei Toda observed in 1957:

People may think they are the rulers of this planet, but they will be in big trouble if they destroy their natural environment. Protecting the environment is protecting humanity as well.[2]

Our mission as Buddhists is to create an age where humans can live in harmony with nature so that future generations have a healthy planet to inherit.

Ikeda Sensei has noted that policy changes alone are insufficient in creating a sustainable society. In his 2012 Environmental Proposal, he wrote:

Sustainability must be understood as a challenge … requiring the commitment of all individuals. At its heart, sustainability is the work of constructing a society that accords highest priority to the dignity of life—the dignity of all members of present and future generations and the biosphere that sustains us.[3]

Sensei continues to emphasize that we need to reconsider how we fundamentally operate as a society—from one in which natural resources are exploited for immediate financial gain, to one that seeks to work in harmony with nature. While this may appear to restrict economic development, this approach can generate new growth if we widen our approach. He writes:

Although physical resources are finite, human potential is infinite, as is our capacity to create value. The real significance of sustainability is, in my view, as a dynamic concept in which there is a striving or competition to generate positive value and share it with the world and with the future.[4]

Below are selections from Sensei’s peace proposals illustrating key ideas on protecting our planet.

Excerpts From Ikeda Sensei’s Peace Proposals

A Uniting Nations of Environment and Development (1992)

Industrialized countries have pursued material wealth above all, placing utmost precedence upon economic growth. The prosperity of one’s own country comes first, putting aside concern for the Earth’s environment. They have continued to provide assistance to developing countries, but it has not resulted in improving the livelihoods of people. Poverty and the population explosion that accompanies it have been left unaddressed. This has ultimately led to environmental destruction within developing countries. These factors have compounded into cumulative effects: global environmental destruction. …

Sustainable development represents a balanced approach to development that ensures environmental protection, replacing the conventional means of squandering natural resources at the expense of environmental destruction. It is a form of development that seeks to look directly to the future, protecting the interests of future generations and meeting basic needs of the present generation. Nevertheless, there are deep and entangled disagreements between the North and the South concerning precisely how sustainable development is to be implemented.

Specifically, developing countries are raising their voices in criticism of the unbridled consumerism of the developed countries as the primary cause for the severe environmental degradation. …

The essence of our environmental problem is how we should create a society that can coexist in harmony with the natural ecosystem. It poses the fundamental question of how human beings should live, transcending the boundaries of politics, economics, science and technology. It is a multifaceted problem encompassing all fields of endeavor ranging from our values to the nature of culture in our future society.

The problem requires far more than a political or economic response within the borders of any one country. We must promote a transformation of people’s consciousness on a global scale. An inner-motivated spirituality is urgently needed for us to share a sense of crisis as global citizens. The inner transformation is a task confronting humanity as a whole.[5]

The Drafting of an Earth Charter (1997)

Humankind is faced on every side by inescapable dilemmas: the threat of nuclear armaments and other weapons of mass destruction, the intensification of ethnic discord, damage to the Earth’s environment from the effects of global warming and destruction to the ozone layer, and the widening of the economic gap between North and South. …

The gravity of the crisis, which casts its dark shadow over the path ahead, is multilayered, affecting not only individuals and societies, but ethnic groups and nations, as well as the ecosystem and even the survival of Earth itself. There is no longer any doubt that this shadow is a symptom of the deadlock that grips contemporary civilization.

I would like here to explore the means for changing the norms that are required to create a new global civilization or “human civilization,” focusing on environmental issues which have emerged and are demonstrating the limits of contemporary civilization. Today, ecologists are telling us that if radical changes are not made, the Earth itself might not survive another century. The greatest threat to human existence, therefore, is our failure to deal properly with environmental problems.

People have warned for a long time that science and technology are like a two-edged sword. But their voices have been overwhelmed by the rapid succession of advances making what was once thought impossible possible. Economic growth and prosperity brought about by technological advancement have so captured people’s imaginations that the progress and spread of the civilization of science and technology has known no limits and no barriers.

But now the triumph has been found to be marred, with damage to the Earth’s environment inflicted by the side effects of that civilization, telling us that limitless growth is an illusion and declaring that progress may in fact turn out to be our downfall. Air pollution, water pollution, pollution of the soil, indiscriminate cutting of vast forests, desertification, damage to the Earth’s protective ozone layer and the resultant effects of global warming: none of these issues can be simply left to resolve themselves. …

It is now clear that the problems of the Earth’s environment cannot be resolved merely as the extension of approaches adopted in the past. I believe that there is a growing awareness of an impending cataclysm that will drastically change current trends if efforts are not made to fundamentally re-evaluate the nature of civilization. …

It is a fantasy to think that the kind of conspicuous consumption of resources by the mass-producing, mass-consuming North could be sustainable much longer. More importantly, it is very shortly going to be something that global society will no longer condone. A vicious circle plagues the nations of the South, our close neighbors on this one-and-only Earth, linking poverty, population growth and environmental destruction. As many observers have pointed out, the harsh realities of the so-called PPE (poverty, population growth and environment) problem are directly attributable to the North-South disparities that have resulted from the structure of the international economy. …

I believe a way will be found out of our difficulties if we probe much deeper, questioning and redesigning the relationships of human beings to each other, of human beings to the environment and of human beings to society as a whole. Now is the time to transform our civilization into one based on values premised on the principle of human dignity in the true sense. It is time for a shift in the fundamental perspective of each and every person in the world.

The clues to a view of life and the world that will lay the philosophical foundations for that revolution can be found in the wisdom of Buddhism. The Buddhist canon gives us a beautiful parable of the cosmic view of history, showing how all the phenomena of the universe interrelate, producing a perfect, subtle harmony: Suspended above the palace of Indra, the Buddhist god who symbolizes the natural forces that protect and nurture life, is an enormous net. A brilliant jewel is attached to each knot in the net. Each jewel contains and reflects the image of all the other jewels in the net, which sparkles in the magnificence of its totality.

This poignant image illustrates the concept of “dependent origination.” Dependent origination is the fundamental Buddhist doctrine that teaches the coexistence of all things in the universe, including human beings and nature, in interdependent relationships. It expounds the symbiosis of the micro-cosmos and the macro-cosmos that unite as one organism.

The idea goes far beyond the mechanistic view of the world removed from humanity that formed the background of modern science. What I would like particularly to emphasize is that Buddhism sees the relationships of all things in the universe not as a still, static image but as the dynamic pulsing of creative life.[6]


  1. <accessed on January 25, 2022>. ↩︎
  2. April 3, 1998, Word Tribune, p. 11. ↩︎
  3. <accessed on January 25, 2022>. ↩︎
  4. Ibid. ↩︎
  5. A Forum for Peace, pp. 208–11. ↩︎
  6. Ibid., 216–23. ↩︎

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