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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. Many islands and coastlines 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 10 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.

—Prepared by the Living Buddhism staff

Excerpts From Ikeda Sensei’s Peace Proposals

U.N. Decade of Education for Sustainable Development (2005)

Climate change needs to be addressed from a long-term perspective as something that threatens to undermine the very foundations of human survival.

It is said that in order to halt global warming it will be necessary to reduce total emissions by half. We need to rethink our ways of life as individuals and the core values and structures of contemporary civilization. The nature of the long and difficult path to sustainability reinforces once again the importance of taking action now with a long-term perspective.

The truly difficult and frightening aspect of the environmental crisis is that, even if we are able to note and respond to specific, individual danger signals, we cannot predict the most distant effects within the context of a vast system of interconnections.

In November [2004], a documentary on the environmental crisis, Strange Days on Planet Earth, was broadcast in Japan. It traced the connections between what at first seem to be unrelated phenomena—respiratory illness in the Caribbean and African dust storms; landslides in Hawaii and changes in the flora of South America—demonstrating that
they are all interlinked parts of a global ecological crisis. …

Chingiz Aitmatov,[5] in his book, The Mark of Cassandra, uses the following parable to describe the psychological state that prevails among so many people. “Suppose,” he writes, “that a severe structural defect has been discovered in one of the massive bridges spanning San Francisco Bay, but it can still be traveled. It is as if we are saying that so long as the bridge holds up and is passable, let’s keep transporting freight over it, leaving the problem of the bridge itself for someone else to deal with in the future.”[6]

In this work, which bears the name of the Greek prophetess of doom, Aitmatov portrays the dark side of contemporary civilization. … International efforts are lagging behind the rapid pace of ecological degradation; at this rate the gap will only grow greater. We need to pay earnest heed to Cassandra’s prophecy (the various signals indicating changes in the global environment) and take action—at the international, national and local levels—to redirect the path of human civilization before these predictions of disaster become a reality.[7]

A World Environmental Organization (2008)

Ecological integrity is the shared interest and concern of all humankind, an issue that transcends national borders and priorities. Any solution will require a strong sense of individual responsibility and commitment by each of us as inhabitants sharing the same planet.

The founding president of the Soka Gakkai, the educator and geographer Tsunesaburo Makiguchi (1871–1944), stressed that individuals should be aware of three levels of citizenship: our local roots and commitments based in our immediate community; our sense of belonging to a national community; and an appreciation of the fact that the world is ultimately the stage on which we live our lives and that we are all citizens of the world. On this basis, he urged that people transcend an excessive or exclusive attachment to national interests and develop an active awareness of their commitment to humankind as a whole. …

Combating climate change is a challenge that demands us all to rise above the constraints of self-interest. We need to build an international framework of cooperation and solidarity against this threat. Specifically, I would ask the major emitters to take the initiative in establishing ambitious goals and implementing bold and effective policies while actively supporting the efforts of other countries. In this way, I hope they will engage in positively oriented competition aimed at making the greatest contribution to the resolution of this planetary crisis.

In a book published in 1903, Tsunesaburo Makiguchi called for “humanitarian competition” among states.[8] This was a vision of an international order in which the world’s diverse states strive to positively influence each other, to coexist and flourish together rather than pursuing narrowly defined national interests at each other’s expense. I feel that the work of solving the global environmental crisis provides a unique opportunity to move toward such a world.[9]

An International Sustainable Energy Agency (2009)

Global warming is having profound impacts on ecosystems everywhere. In addition to causing meteorological disasters, it has the potential to aggravate armed conflicts and the problems of poverty and hunger. It epitomizes the twenty-first-century crisis of human civilization.

[Former] United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who has identified climate change as one of the key issues for the U.N. to address, has warned: “Yet, in the longer run, no one—rich or poor—can remain immune from the dangers brought by climate change.”[10] None of us, in other words, can be a bystander: We must all see this issue as our own.

Climate change is both an ongoing multidimensional crisis and a threat to the future of humankind, in that it burdens future generations with immense challenges of dire consequence. …

Some may express concern over these initiatives, arguing that technology transfer could undermine the economic competitiveness of individual countries and that financial cooperation further adds to the burden on their taxpayers. But international cooperation toward the common goal of reversing the trend of global warming can be framed by the principle Makiguchi considered central to humanitarian competition, that “by benefiting others, we benefit ourselves.” From this broad perspective, efforts to benefit the whole of humanity ultimately serve the national interest.

Further, this new agency (national sustainable energy agency) could serve as a locus for bolstering solidarity, embracing input from local governments, the private sector and NGOs, for the building of a sustainable global society.[11]

We need to rethink our ways of life as individuals and the core values and structures of contemporary civilization.


    <accessed on January 25, 2022>. ↩︎
  2. April 3, 1998, Word Tribune, p. 11. ↩︎
  3. <accessed on January 25, 2022>. ↩︎
  4. Ibid. ↩︎
  5. Chingiz Aitmatov (1928–2008), Kyrgyz author. ↩︎
  6. Translated from Japanese. Chingiz Aitmatov, Kassandora no rakuin (The Mark of Cassandra), (Tokyo: Ushio Shuppansha, 1996), p. 239. ↩︎
  7. A Forum for Peace, pp. 233–35. ↩︎
  8. Translated from Japanese. Tsunesaburo Makiguchi, Makiguchi Tsunesaburo zenshu (Collected Writings of Tsunesaburo Makiguchi), vol. 2 (Tokyo: Daisanbunmei-sha, 1996), p. 398. ↩︎
  9. A Forum for Peace, pp. 240–42. ↩︎
  10. Ban, Ki-moon. “Climate Change—Together We Can Win the Battle” in Human Development Report 2007/08. Fighting Climate Change: Human Solidarity in a Divided World, p. 23. ↩︎
  11. A Forum for Peace, pp. 246–48. ↩︎

District Discussion Meeting Material

‘Letter to the Brothers’—The Soka Gakkai Tradition of ‘Faith for Overcoming Obstacles’