Welcome to the
President of Soka Gakkai International,
Peace Proposal 1996
Toward the Third Millennium: The Challenge of Global Citizenship
(The full text of SGI President Ikeda's peace proposal, commemorating the twenty-first SGI Day, January 26, 1996)
The year 1995, which marked the fiftieth anniversary of the end of World War II, was an important turning point for our era. In many ways, it represents an invaluable opportunity to look back and evaluate the twentieth century as a whole.
Now that more than six years have passed since the end of the Cold War, we can reflect on the past with a measure of objectivity. In fact, historians and social scientists have been doing just that in recent years, and already many important works dealing with recent history have been published. These works all share the common realization that any close examination of the problems that have erupted since the end of the Cold War inevitably leads to the study and assessment of the twentieth century in its entirety.
One such work is British historian Eric Hobsbaum's book The Age of Extremes published in 1994. Hobsbaum had already dealt with the history of the nineteenth century in three previous works: The Age of Revolution, The Age of Capital, and The Age of Empire. In The Age of Extremes, he defines a "long nineteenth century" extending from 1789, when the French Revolution began, to 1914. During that time, he contends, civilization made virtually continual progress on the material, intellectual, and spiritual levels. Hobsbaum then goes on to identify a "short twentieth century" extending from the outbreak of World War I in 1914 to the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. According to Hobsbaum's analysis, this "short twentieth century" was characterized by the retreat of norms and standards that had once been taken for granted, and the emergence of trends toward extremes of both productivity and destruction.
A Century of Extremes
The twentieth century has indeed been incomparably more extreme than the nineteenth century, both quantitatively and qualitatively. Its history chronicles one tragedy after another, including two world wars, the Nazi Holocaust, the Soviet gulags, the plight of Palestinian and other refugees, the widespread massacres in Cambodia, ad infinitum. On many occasions, I have proposed various means of overcoming the horrors of what could be termed a century of war and brutality. It seems to me, however, that the real problem lies in the failure of human wisdom, by which we remain trapped in the vicissitudes of history, despite our heartfelt anguish at the misery of these events.
Former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev echoes these sentiments in a collection of dialogues with myself that is currently being compiled. "The true tragedy of this century," he points out, "has been that people never listen until it is too late." Unless we bring to a halt the accelerating tendency toward extremes, acts of human folly will result in the self-destruction of the species.
Observing the unspeakable atrocities taking place in Rwanda, the former Yugoslavia, and elsewhere in the wake of the Cold War, I feel strongly that our pain and anguish can no longer be considered a merely individual matter. If we do not squarely confront the question of what might be called the shared karma of humanity, we will have no way of overcoming the inhuman nightmares of the twentieth century.
The coming twenty-first century will begin the third millennium. We must not permit it to be stained with the same kind of brutality and bloodshed that has ravaged the present era. I strongly appeal to all people to prevent the spread of fanaticism, which is so often used to justify inhuman acts. The price we have had to pay has been enormous, with every repetition of these tragedies. We must not let painful lessons of the twentieth century go to waste; rather, we must overcome the divisive forces that have once again emerged and, in the little time remaining in this century, place highest priority on generating the basis for a common struggle of humanity against such global problems as environmental degradation and poverty.
When we stop to consider this common struggle of humanity, I am reminded of the words of the late Dr. Aurelio Peccei, co-founder of the Club of Rome. In our collection of dialogues entitled Before It Is Too Late, he states that we must ". . . prepare responsibly and compassionately a way of life for the generations of those who will follow us."1
It will take many years and much effort to resolve the global problems we now face. The long-term endeavor toward their resolution can only be sustained by a strong and broad-based spirituality among people. I believe it is precisely to this motivating force that Dr. Peccei refers when he speaks of our responsibility for the future. We must carefully and prudently choose our paths of action based on a broad perception of the obligation we have to future generations of humanity and all forms of life.
In the course of our discussions, Dr. Peccei and I concluded that the true problem lies not in our ailing Earth but in the malaise of humanity itself; we also agreed on the pressing need for a "human revolution." Dr. Peccei emphasized that: "Only the human revolution can unearth our inner potential and make us feel fully what we really are and behave accordingly. . . ."2 These words can truly be considered an expression of the ultimate goal of the "human revolution" movement that we of the SGI have undertaken on a global scale.
In 1989, the SGI sponsored the exhibition "War and Peace: From a Century of War to a Century of Hope" at the UN Headquarters in New York. With the common struggle of humanity in mind, I wrote as follows in my exhibition message:
We cannot sit by passively. Like-minded people must unite in solidarity to show proof in our time that nothing can defeat the courage and wisdom of the human being. Is this not the greatest heritage we can bequeath to the future?
Inspired by a sense of responsibility for the future, the SGI has sponsored many events over the years. As a non- governmental organization (NGO) with official ties to the United Nations, we have held various exhibitions designed to raise awareness of global problems (including "Nuclear Weapons: Threat to Our World," "War and Peace," and "Environment and Development"); we have supported the UN human rights education campaign with another series of exhibitions (including "Toward a Century of Humanity: An Overview of Human Rights in Today's World," "What Are the Human Rights of Children?" and an exhibition on the Holocaust entitled, "The Courage to Remember"); and we have pursued various humanitarian activities throughout the world to support the efforts of the office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
SGI's efforts are not limited to UN-centered endeavors for peace. We are also active in the spheres of culture and education as we strive to realize what we consider to be the social mission of religion.
Our aim is to pursue humanism, to practice religion in the service of people, and to take resolute action to overcome the difficult problems now confronting humankind.
Increasingly, people around the world are reexamining the significance of religion, a phenomenon that no doubt reflects a kind of spiritual anxiety they feel as the end of an era approaches. I believe this can be taken as proof of a growing awareness that the roots of our modern crisis are to be found in the human spirit.
How can religion respond to the deep-rooted insecurities and fundamental needs of people? What is the role of a living religion in today's society? What are the necessary conditions for a world religion? Every religion is called upon to carefully consider and develop answers to such questions. Taking into account the prevailing conditions of our times, last year, on the occasion of the twentieth anniversary of our founding, we formulated and adopted the Charter of the Soka Gakkai International. Reaffirming the path we have pursued thus far, the charter gives voice to our core philosophy and offers guidelines for future action.
The basic spirit of the charter is expressed by the following passage, which appears in the Preamble:
We believe that Nichiren Daishonin's Buddhism, a humanistic philosophy of infinite respect for the sanctity of life and all-encompassing compassion, enables individuals to cultivate and bring forth their inherent wisdom and, nurturing the creativity of the human spirit, to surmount the difficulties and crises facing humankind and realize a society of peaceful and prosperous coexistence.
We, the constituent organizations and members of SGI, therefore, being determined to raise high the banner of world citizenship, the spirit of tolerance, and respect for human rights based on the humanistic spirit of Buddhism, and to challenge the global issues that face humankind through dialogue and practical efforts premised on a steadfast commitment to nonviolence, hereby adopt this charter. . . .
These three basic tenets--world citizenship, the spirit of tolerance, and respect for human rights--constitute essential conditions for a world religion in today's world. Further, the charter sets out ten purposes and principles that will serve as guides for our future activities. Of these, three in particular are of special relevance to the idea of a united struggle by humankind against threats to human dignity.
#2. SGI, based on the ideal of world citizenship, shall safeguard fundamental human rights and not discriminate against any individual on any grounds.
#3. SGI shall respect and protect the freedom of religion and religious expression. . . .
#7. SGI shall, based on the Buddhist spirit of tolerance, respect other religions, engage in dialogue and work together with them toward the resolution of fundamental issues concerning humanity.
The Mission of Religion
Twenty-two years ago, attempting to clarify the social mission of people who uphold religious beliefs, I had similar principles in mind as I presented the following argument in a lecture I gave at the 36th General Meeting of the Soka Gakkai in Japan.
At every opportunity, I have asserted that Buddhism thoroughly protects the sanctity of life and the freedom of the human spirit, and that this constitutes our mission. At times such as these, however, when a crisis is once again building, I wish to take the further step of reaffirming, as part of our religious belief, that we will go to all lengths to uphold the sanctity of life, the freedom of the human spirit, and genuine democracy. We are naturally committed to protecting freedom of religious belief. Furthermore, responding to any crisis of human dignity that may emerge, we must be prepared to protect people whose rights are in danger, or who are threatened by tyranny or oppression, even if their beliefs and opinions differ from our own. For example, we should protect people who practice different religious faiths, as well as people who uphold systems of thought that deny religion altogether, because this is a necessary outgrowth of the core tenets of Buddhism, which extol the dignity of humanity.
I sought to emphasize in that speech the necessity of mounting a common struggle, transcending religious or doctrinal differences, against threats to human dignity. It is no exaggeration to say that human solidarity, the bonds of humanity, are at the very core of Nichiren Daishonin's Buddhism. Because of its doctrinal rigor, Nichiren Daishonin's Buddhism has often been viewed historically as rejectionist or dogmatic. This, however, must be termed a biased and one-dimensional view. While he consistently maintained the rigor and purity of his teaching, Nichiren Daishonin also emphasized: "The Nirvana Sutra states: 'The sufferings of all living beings are the sufferings of the Buddha.' And I say: 'The sufferings experienced by all people are the sufferings of Nichiren.'"3
As this statement shows, we must not forget that Nichiren Daishonin's teachings were inspired by a profound empathy and compassion for people's pain and sorrow; they are rooted in the concept, to put it in contemporary terms, of the universality of human rights. It is only natural for us to conclude, therefore, that we must transcend sectarian differences when the very foundation of what makes us human is being undermined by a crisis of human dignity.
I believe I made our position clear at that time. Furthermore, the various campaigns for peace we have pursued since then are a concrete manifestation of our understanding of the social mission of religion.
Since then, however, our progress was obstructed by our relationship with the Nichiren Shoshu priesthood, which sought to enforce their authority over the laity. They represent a reactionary force and have stubbornly clung to arguments of extraordinary absurdity. (They have insisted, for example, that singing the choral movement of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony violates Buddhist teachings because Schiller's poem makes mention of 'gods'). Under these circumstances we were unable to fully engage in interreligious dialogue or join in common causes with other organizations.
Happily, over the past several years, the SGI has been able to sever ties with the "Nikken Sect" through our efforts for religious reformation, and we have been able to shed the shackles of the old order.
Therefore, we have been able to return once more to the original sense and purpose of Nichiren Daishonin's Buddhism. Based on this, we have sought to widen our efforts to engage others in open dialogue, with the aim of becoming a world religion capable of contributing to humanity in the twenty- first century. I also wish to emphasize that the recent adoption of the Charter of the Soka Gakkai International was intended as a step in this direction.
Remaining true to these core values, the SGI will continue to pursue socially engaged activities that enhance peace, culture, and education. Through these means, we will work to strengthen the fabric of solidarity throughout the world, fostering a new spirit of humanism. In order to overcome and rectify the inhumanity of our world, the time has come for people to choose hope and take decisive action.
Formulated on the basis of this understanding, the SGI charter is intended to respond to the needs of our times. I would now like to discuss some of the problems presently confronting the international community, developing my comments around the three principles of world citizenship, the spirit of tolerance, and respect for human rights as expressed in the charter and rooted in its underlying spirit of humanism.
Toward the Elimination of Poverty
The United Nations has designated 1996 as the "International Year for the Eradication of Poverty," and will begin the "First UN Decade for the Eradication of Poverty" in 1997. It is thus preparing to put its full strength into solving the perennial problem of poverty, which was one of the principle themes of the World Summit on Social Development held in March of last year.
In "An Agenda for Development" published in May 1994, UN Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali pointed out that many of the causes for the world's conflicts can be traced to the more than 1 billion people who live on this planet in a condition of "absolute poverty." According to the World Bank's "Social Indicators of Development 1995," 1.1 billion people cannot obtain even the minimum necessary nutrition or satisfy basic human needs. With the world population estimated at about 5.9 billion people, this means that at least one out of every six persons lives in extreme poverty.
The problem lies not just in the magnitude of these numbers but in their ceaseless increase. The World Bank estimates that in the absence of effective countermeasures, 1.3 billion people will live in absolute poverty by the year 2000. Similarly, the World Health Organization (WHO) states in its "World Health Report 1995" that "the world's biggest killer and the greatest cause of ill-health and suffering across the globe is . . . extreme poverty."4 The report goes on to warn that one-third of all the world's children suffer from malnutrition.
To date, various efforts have been made at the national level, through the UN and concerned organizations to deal with the issue of poverty. Those efforts have proven inadequate, however, and we have reached the present point without making much headway toward a solution. In the post-Cold War era, we often witness conditions of poverty and want feeding the flames of confrontation, and the resulting violence and destruction causing deeper and more widespread destitution. This spiral of interlocking violence and poverty has devastated such countries as Somalia and Rwanda.
According to a report issued by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies last year, there are currently 56 armed conflicts raging in the world; some 16 million people have been forced to flee to foreign territory; and some 26 million have become displaced persons within their own countries. Thus, with their lives, freedom, and property threatened, nearly 1 percent of the world's people have been driven from their homes.
Further, the advanced industrialized nations, partly due to global economic stagnation, are increasingly showing signs of "assistance fatigue" in their dealings with developing countries. In fact, the Economic and Development Review Committee of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), which coordinates the official development assistance (ODA) provided by advanced countries, announced a policy in May of last year that would reduce the future number of recipient countries and regions.
Some scholars claim that the current situation simply reflects the dead end that has been reached by what has been called a "systemless system." Unless an international framework can be created that will shift the focus away from bilateral assistance, which tends inevitably to be shaped by arbitrary and self-serving interests, it will be difficult to prevent the situation from worsening.
The international community must seek effective legal and institutional measures that will realize the spirit enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which states in its preamble that "the advent of a world in which human beings shall enjoy freedom of speech and belief and freedom from fear and want has been proclaimed as the highest aspiration of the common people."5
As I have stated before, it is my belief that we need to shift toward a new concept of "human security," which centers not on the security of states but on the well-being of people.
Arnold Toynbee once observed that the way to determine whether assistance is directed toward correct long-term goals is to ascertain whether it is designed to link material assistance with spiritual assistance.6 As Toynbee suggests, assistance up to now has tended to focus on macroeconomic development of the recipient country.
In this sense, development efforts have not been sufficiently focused on those who are suffering from poverty, or on education, health, or other fields that must be accorded priority for "human development." For this reason, I feel it is imperative that we effect a fundamental reorientation of current assistance programs.
When people's basic needs are met and they are given the opportunity to establish their lives, they naturally develop their abilities and, manifesting those abilities, begin to take an active role in society. Once people are set on a path to "human development"--one which encourages self- reliance and autonomy--the societies and nations to which they belong move steadily toward stability. It is therefore critical that we achieve a transition to this type of participatory development.
The word "development" has strong utilitarian overtones. In contrast, "human development" encompasses a broader conceptual framework that includes the element of individual commitment. As such, its aim is to draw forth the limitless capacities of citizens. With the UN playing a pivotal role, we must strive to create an environment that will encourage and foster the inner potentialities of each individual, as these constitute a resource that is "both renewable and expandable."7
Doing so will make it possible to stop armed conflicts before they begin, and to prevent the deadly spiral of violence that brings such misery to humankind. I am convinced that we must take a direct approach to the intractable problem of eradicating poverty as a first step toward correcting the distortions and imbalances that presently afflict global society.
Efforts are already being made to establish new ethical underpinnings that will support this endeavor. In January of last year, the Commission on Global Governance (an international group of 26 intellectuals and activists of global stature) published the final report of their Commission, Our Global Neighborhood. The central vision of this work is the fostering of an ethic of world citizenship and the enhancement and strengthening of global civil society.
Last year, a series of three United Nations Renaissance Conferences was sponsored by the Boston Research Center for the 21st Century, an SGI-affiliated peace research institute. Participants discussed the need, if the coming century is to be an era of hope, for an awakened world citizenry to unite in solidarity in bringing about fundamental changes in our thought and institutions. In particular, there was consensus that constructive reforms in the UN and other global institutions must arise from changes in the hearts of people.
We can say with confidence that the most pressing need of our times is for world citizens who will respond with courage and imagination to the deepening global crisis of human dignity. As my thoughts turn to this most urgent of issues, I am reminded of the words of philosopher Karl Jaspers.
In the peace proposal I issued on the thirteenth anniversary of the founding of the SGI in 1988, I argued, citing historical parallels to what Jaspers called the "axial period in history," that our present age, more than any past era, demands individuals committed to the welfare of the whole of humankind. Jaspers stated a fundamental truth when he wrote that: "We must seek the philosophical idea and the thinker in their physical reality. The truth does not hover all alone in the air of abstraction."8 He manifested his commitment to this credo through his unwavering involvement, broad-ranging interests and relentless examination of the essential issues of our age.
Jaspers wrote books pertaining directly to current political issues, including Man in the Modern Age (1933) written just prior to the Nazi ascent to power, The Question of German Guilt, immediately after the collapse of the Third Reich, followed by The Atomic Bomb and the Future of Man. His way of life was such that his disciple, Hannah Arendt, was moved to write the following: "Jaspers, at least in all his writings after 1933, has always written as if to answer for himself before all of mankind."9
Jaspers has this to say to those who have grown idle in the midst of a false and superficial peace: "We can enjoy the happiness of existence in the interim granted to us. But it is a last respite. Either we avert the deadly peril or prepare for the catastrophe."10 He then leaves us with this warning: "Today we stand poised on the razor's edge. We have to choose: to plunge into the abyss of man's lostness, and the consequent extinction of all earthly life, or the leap to the authentic man and his boundless opportunities through self-transformation."11
According to Jaspers, as long as this "last respite" is nothing more than a postponement, we cannot afford to turn our eyes from the harsh reality that surrounds us. The concept of "world citizen" is not a distant or disembodied one. Jaspers asserts that the transformation of the self into the "authentic man" is the first necessary step toward world citizenship.
How can we speak of the future of humankind if we are so desolate of spirit and desensitized that we can ignore the sufferings and threats to the dignity of those with whom we share this world?
One of the necessary attributes of a world citizen is a shift in focus toward the welfare of humankind. Unless we discipline our spirits through our day-to-day experience, however, such a conceptual shift alone will not give us the strength we need to set a new course for our times.
This is in fact one of the issues SGI is now attempting to address through our movement for "human revolution." Simply stated, this movement is dedicated to encouraging people to become aware of their own boundless inner power and to take responsibility for the welfare of humankind. Although it may seem an indirect approach, I am convinced that this human revolution, with its first principle of inner reformation, is in fact the most certain path toward realizing a genuine global revolution.
Tolerance and Reconciliation
We live in what has been termed a "cold peace"--symbolized by the problem of crushing poverty. The international community must move beyond this to a genuine and lasting peace. We must find means of resolving the conflicts and confrontations that continue to erupt throughout the world, in particular the internal conflicts that have become so prevalent.
The United Nations designated 1995 the Year for Tolerance, providing an opportunity to raise awareness of the racial, ethnic, and religious intolerance that so often spark confrontation. The year also saw the occurrence of a truly tragic incident that made us all bitterly aware of just how deeply rooted the problem is. This was the assassination in November of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, one of the principal proponents of Middle East peace, by an Israeli student belonging to an extremist Jewish group opposed to peace with the Palestinians.
For many years I have watched the steady progress of the Middle Eastern peace process and have considered it a hopeful sign of the advent of an "age of reconciliation." Inasmuch as I have long called for compromise in the interest of peace and welcomed the progress being made, Prime Minister Rabin's death came as an especially heavy blow.
In Bosnia, as well, the end of last year finally brought into sight an exit from a conflict that victimized so many and produced so many tragedies over the course of more than three and a half years. It cannot be said, however, that the killing and destruction is entirely behind us. The fact that the conflict was permitted to reach a stalemate despite the condemnations of international public opinion can be attributed to two things: the ease with which ethnic and religious differences came to be viewed in absolute terms, and the mistake of allowing all problems to be blamed on such differences.
It is equally disturbing to note, as demonstrated by the ominous rumblings of ethnic strife continuing in the former Soviet Union, the clearly regressive phenomena of fanaticism and intolerance that mark the history of our post-Cold War, post-Yalta system world.
The "old fissiparous nationalism" to which E. H. Carr referred in his book, Nationalism and After, has in fact revived in the wake of the Cold War and become the driving force behind various ethnic and national movements. In this context, I cannot help thinking that the concept of "national self-determination" (as set forth in the UN Charter and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights) should perhaps not be accorded the overriding value it has enjoyed and that a reassessment may be necessary. Although this right is recognized in various ways by international law, the question remains as to whether it can be applied without limits.
Of course, I do not deny the importance of ethnic or national self-determination. But if we say that the goals of peace and freedom cannot be achieved in its absence, then we are saying most of the nations and peoples who have not attained statehood in the full sense of the term will never be able to realize these goals. At the same time, we must note that established nation-states have not necessarily succeeded in realizing these goals, either.
It therefore seems clear to me that national self- determination cannot be viewed in absolute terms. Instead, what is needed is a calm and measured look at the factors that prevent the sought-after "fruits" of national self- determination--peace and freedom--from being realized. We must thoroughly examine the circumstances that permit simplistic national rhetoric to take precedence over more complex realities. Likewise, we must continually strive to remove false trappings and think long and hard about what genuinely constitutes the best interests of the human person.
I believe that it is precisely the spirit of tolerance that nourishes the much-desired fruit of peace and freedom. If any nation proves this, it is the new South Africa led by President Nelson Mandela, which continues to struggle with and overcome one challenge after another. President Mandela himself has spoken of these challenges, and of the grand dream of transforming South Africa from a "country in which the majority lived with little hope, to one in which they can live and work with dignity, with a sense of self-esteem and confidence in the future."12
More than a year and a half has passed since the people of the new South Africa took up the task of forging a "rainbow nation." This beautifully symbolic phrase indicates a nation in which people of different ethnicities and cultures form a multi-hued, harmonious whole while giving free rein to the distinctive characteristics of each component group. Many issues must be resolved before the South African people can fully emerge from the shadow of long years of discrimination and abuse. It is clear, however, that they are making steady progress toward building a society of racial harmony.
As evidence of this, the UN Commission on Human Rights, which had debated the apartheid question since 1967, announced in February of last year that the age of apartheid has ended in South Africa. Accordingly, the Commission resolved to remove the issue from its agenda. South African progress toward democratization has also been recognized by the Organization of African Unity (OAU), which has agreed to readmit South Africa as a member. Thus, South Africa is taking one step after another to reinstate itself in the international community.
I have had the opportunity to meet twice with President Mandela and once with Vice-President de Klerk. In my discussions with both men, I felt strongly that the central ideas driving the move to abolish apartheid were the desire to overcome hatred and distrust, and a commitment to dialogue. There is no doubt that sustained dialogue, in which each party makes every effort to understand the other's position, is the preeminent factor in preventing the slide into violence and chaos, and in enabling the splendors of human tolerance to shine through.
In June 1992, then-President de Klerk expressed these thoughts concerning apartheid: "We desire to create a society in which all people are victors, instead of one consisting of winners and losers who oppose and threaten one another in the pursuit of self-interests."13
This determination not to create losers is crucial if we are to resolve the widespread civil strife that plagues our world today. So long as there are even a few losers, people who know the bitter taste of defeat, we can neither hope for a truly stable society nor expect to eliminate completely the seeds of future conflict.
I believe that education is the only tool we have to heal past wounds and build forward-looking societies in which everyone is a victor. In my conversations with President Mandela, we continually returned to the theme of education. At first, education may seem an indirect means of addressing these problems, but I am convinced that it is in fact the most effective means of instilling the spirit of tolerance. Only through learning can we open the spiritual windows of humanity, releasing people from the confines of ethnic or other group-based world-views. Ethnic identity is deeply rooted in the human unconscious, and it is crucial that it be tempered through unremitting educational efforts that encourage a more open and universal sense of humanity.
Since President Mandela assumed office, he has given national priority to educational policy. Desiring to support that effort, last year the SGI-USA youth division undertook the "Friendship through Knowledge Exchange: Books for Africa" project, through which 10,000 volumes were donated to South African universities and other educational institutions. Nor has our support for education been limited to South Africa; in Japan, the members of the Soka Gakkai youth division have been in the forefront of support for a UNESCO- sponsored literacy project in Asia and Africa.
These are perhaps humble contributions, but they stem from the conviction that the success of South Africa's efforts to create a "rainbow nation" are certain to give hope to other African nations and, by extension, all who suffer from ethnic divisiveness. I personally believe that South Africa's continuing struggle to champion the spirit of tolerance manifests the kind of philosophy of coexistence that our times demand. I also believe the international community should spare no effort to support this unprecedented challenge.
As I observe developments in South Africa, I am reminded that the true source of human happiness lies in the reconciliation and harmonization of different groups, not in their division and conflict. It may be only natural for people to tend to strengthen their association with groups in an attempt to assuage the uneasiness arising from a vacuum of identity. I have come to suspect, however, that "national consciousness" is largely a fiction half- intentionally created over the course of modern history.
The Bengali poet Rabindranath Tagore possessed both a delicate sensibility that permitted him to directly grasp the eternal, as well as penetrating insight into the nature of human existence. In his work, The Religion of Man, he reflected on the nature of ethnic conflicts, what we might call the aporia of human history:
Our great prophets in all ages did truly realize in themselves the freedom of the soul in their consciousness of the spiritual kinship of man which is universal. And yet human races, owing to their external geographical condition, developed in their individual isolation a mentality that is obnoxiously selfish.14
Tagore forcefully indicts the kind of human brutality and inhumanity that can erupt at any time given the right conditions. He leaves us with the following warning:
The vastness of the race problem with which we are faced to-day will either compel us to train ourselves to moral fitness in the place of merely external efficiency, or the complications arising out of it will fetter all our movements and drag us to our death.15
More than half a century has passed since this cry rose out of the soul of this great poet, and his words shine all the brighter as the regressive phenomena of world history become increasingly evident. It may be possible for opposing groups to reach some sort of an agreement concerning "external efficiencies" in the political or economic sphere. Certainly, such understandings are important; but unless we address the issue of "moral fitness" posed by Tagore, hostilities will inevitably break out again at the slightest provocation.
Tagore explained the main theme running through The Religion of Man in the following way to Albert Einstein: "Our religion can only have its significance in this phenomenal world comprehended by our human self. . . . [Divine reality] has found its highest place in the history of our religion owing to its human character . . . and offering an eternal background to all the ideals of perfection which have their harmony with man's own nature."16
The inherent role of religion can be defined as taking human hearts that are divided and connecting them through a universal human spirit. In a speech given at Harvard University, I emphasized that it is "the religious" that supports, inspires, and provides the impetus for people searching for the good and the valuable in their lives; moreover, religious sentiment can offer people a means to access the inner resources that enable them to transcend themselves. This was precisely what Tagore was seeking, and it also constitutes one of the conditions religion must meet if it is to contribute to a more hopeful future.
Tolerance is more than just a mental attitude; it must grow out of a sense of larger order and coexistence, a cosmic sensibility that issues up from the deepest wellsprings of life. As explained by the Buddhist doctrine of "dependent origination," no phenomenon in either the human or natural domains arises independently of all others. The cosmos is created through the interrelation and interdependence of all things. Tolerance that is firmly rooted in a world view of dynamic interdependence can, I believe, be instrumental in enabling us to transcend the threat of a clash of civilizations, and to realize a philosophy of coexistence that will permit us to build a world of human harmony.
The Universality of Human Rights
In my earlier remarks on the problem of ethnicity, I emphasized that the principal criterion for appraising a given political decision must be whether or not it truly serves the best interests of people. In concrete terms, our yardstick should be the assurance of individual dignity and human rights.
With the adoption of the Vienna Declaration at the World Conference on Human Rights in 1993, the universality of human rights has been accorded a new degree of recognition by the international community. Respect for those rights in all parts of the world is becoming a matter of common concern for all people.
One of the pioneers in this field was the late Austregsilo de Athayde (former president of the Brazilian Academy of Letters), who was involved in the drafting of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. In a compilation of dialogues we had, Mr. Athayde maintained that human rights constituted the most sublime and inalienable value to which humankind has given birth. For this very reason, he insisted that it is necessary to define human rights in terms that are eternal and universal, free from national or temporal restrictions. It would seem that the international community is at long last making substantive efforts to establish the universality of human rights.
The United Nations is continuing various efforts to support this trend. One effort I have followed in particular is the attempt to encourage each country to improve their endeavors by quantifying in detail the level of human development (a prerequisite for human security) and using it to identify problem areas. This is called the human development index (HDI), originally formulated and continually refined under the auspices of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
Stefan Zweig was one thinker who cast his unwavering gaze on the endless madness and tragedy resulting from militarism. As he observed in his 1941 book, Brazil: Land of the Future: "And so we are no longer willing to judge a country by its industrial, financial, and military strength, but rather by its peaceful way of thinking and its humane attitude."17 I think that the HDI and Zweig's thinking are related in important ways.
When seeking to define human rights in the broadest sense, I believe that the right to live in a truly humane way can be said to constitute the essence of human security. Human rights are fundamental and must take priority over all else; without human rights, neither peace nor human happiness is possible. Because human rights represent the most sublime and inalienable value, and endow people with their distinctly human character, their violation cannot be permitted, whether by states or by any other actor.
Nearly a century ago, Soka Gakkai's first president, Tsunesaburo Makiguchi, clearly foresaw the trends of our own era in his book, Jinsei Chirigaku (The Geography of Human Life). It was a time (1903) when the reach of imperialism had extended to the entire world and when, following Japan's victory in the Sino-Japanese War and before the outbreak of the Russo-Japanese War, Japanese nationalism was on the rise. While the Japanese state was growing aggressive and jingoistic abroad, it strengthened its grip over the lives of citizens at home. This was the context in which Makiguchi, looking upon the institution of the state from a global perspective of concern for humankind, set forth his vision of the new age to come. In his Geography, he emphasized that the primary mission of the state is to ensure the personal freedom of its citizens, protect individual rights, and work to augment people's happiness and well-being.
Makiguchi proclaimed that the ultimate purpose of the state was not domination and control but the attainment of a more humane way of life and living. He also called for an era of "humanitarian competition," rather than competition by means of military might or political power. I feel that the validity of his foresight is being borne out by the developments of the present time.
Although the HDI may not work directly to improve the human rights situations in specific countries, it certainly provides a valuable incentive that can help usher in an era in which all states compete to attain a greater humanity. Only when the kind of humanitarian competition envisaged by Makiguchi becomes the central trend of the times can we usher in an era of universal human rights.
This year is the second year of the UN Decade for Human Rights Education. This campaign, dedicated to fostering social norms that will encourage people everywhere to respect human rights, was launched with the vigorous support of NGOs worldwide.
Until now, efforts to establish the norms and standards of human rights have been pursued principally through the adoption and promulgation of various declarations and treaties. To work toward the actual implementation of those rights in the countries and societies concerned, however, it is first necessary to create a foundation for a universal culture of human rights throughout the world. Here again, education is the key.
As I have already noted, the SGI has sought to do its part to encourage and spread awareness of human rights by sponsoring exhibitions such as "Toward a Century of Humanity: An Overview of Human Rights in Today's World" in venues around the globe. Through these efforts, we have called on people to join in the fight against discrimination.
When I consider this fight against discrimination, I always remember something I heard in 1990, in a meeting with Nelson Mandela, who at that time was vice-president of the African National Congress. I had just proposed to him various ideas for an anti-apartheid exhibition, lectures on human rights, and suggestions for cultural exchange when one of his aides made a remark that wrung my heart: "Your proposals for educational exchange mean that you recognize us as human beings, but in South Africa we are registered not as human beings but as blacks."
It should be noted that the problem of not seeing people as people--of judging people by preconceived labels--is hardly one restricted to apartheid-era South Africa. On the contrary, this kind of mistaken, discriminatory attitude is at the root of all denial of human rights, providing cover for the shame people feel when they defame and persecute their fellow human beings.
At least one scholar has suggested that the reason the German people could not prevent the tragedy of the Holocaust during World War II was due to an "inability to grieve" or a failure of empathy. It is no coincidence that Nazi Germany, which engaged in the violation of human rights domestically, also pursued aggression internationally; these constitute two sides of the same coin, and are rooted in the same contempt for human dignity.
The same thing can be said about Japan in the 1930s and early '40s. While the militarist government invaded the countries of Asia, heaping one atrocity upon another, they increasingly curtailed popular freedoms at home, beginning with the freedom of religious belief, and sacrificed the Japanese people at the altar of their aggressive policies. We must never forget this history.
A "People's" World Order
We are now entering a great period of transition between the end of one century and the beginning of another, and people in all parts of the world are experiencing the confusion that characteristically accompanies such transitions. Perhaps our expectations that governments will create a new order have been excessive. What is in fact needed is an alternative concept of grassroots power that will build a new world order from the ground up.
Since the beginning of the 1990s, the United Nations has organized world conferences and otherwise backed serious efforts to address a variety of global issues, including those of the environment, indigenous peoples, human rights, the family, population, social development, and the status of women. A recurring theme in the process is that the task of building a society in which all members can live with true human dignity cannot be left to governments alone. There is growing recognition that the active engagement of the world's people must be sought, and that the emergence of a new global civil society can be an important element in the resolution of the problems we presently face.
In the peace proposal I wrote two years ago, I proposed that the Boston Research Center for the 21st Century conduct research on reforming and strengthening the UN as it marked the fiftieth anniversary of its founding. I am delighted to write that the center's research was completed in the form of a report entitled A People's Response which was delivered to United Nations headquarters in October last year.
This project is especially significant because it was achieved through open dialogue, with people examining UN issues in a personal context. The important point here is that the results were achieved through dialogue that brought together the collective wisdom of specialists and ordinary citizens. I believe that the new world order for peace will come into being as the power of this kind of popular solidarity grows to take on global proportions.
With this in mind, we at the SGI resolved last year to establish the Toda Institute for Global Peace and Policy Research, which will open this spring. Last year marked the fiftieth anniversary of second Soka Gakkai president Josei Toda's release from jail, where he was wrongfully incarcerated by Japan's military authorities during World War II. The institute will base its work on his concepts of peace, including the abolition of nuclear weapons, protection of the right of existence (the right to human dignity), and the unity of the global family. Thus, it will endeavor to contribute to world peace in ways that meet the needs of our times.
The Toda Institute will seek the cooperation of leading researchers throughout the world to grapple with various global problems and propose solutions. One of its most important characteristics, however, will be the links it will forge between researchers and activists, through which it will attempt to contribute to the formation and enhancement of a global movement of people's power. In this way, the Toda Institute will embody the new concept of a people's research institute. Until now the energy and efforts of researchers and activists have tended to be fragmented and uncoordinated. What we hope to do is promote greater solidarity through the common dimension of the world's people, thereby directing these energies more effectively toward the solution of the world's problems. To achieve this, it will be necessary to publish and make available the results of the institute's research efforts worldwide. In cooperation with academic and research institutions as well as NGOs, the institute will set to work on creating a new global network of citizens, scholars, and activists.
Many specific research topics are slated for study, including security, development, human rights, and the environment, as these interact with cultural, religious, and ethic factors. However, in view of the fact that Toda himself issued a "Declaration for the Abolition of Nuclear Weapons" in 1957 and enjoined the younger generation to work toward the abolition of nuclear weapons, highest priority will be accorded to projects dealing with the issue of nuclear weapons and disarmament.
At the end of last year, the Treaty on the Southeast Asian Nuclear Weapon-Free Zone was signed. Taking its place beside the Tlateloco Treaty for Latin America, the Raratonga Treaty for the South Pacific, and the Perindaaba Treaty for Africa (scheduled for signing in February), the new treaty is significant because it designates, for the first time, a large section of Asia as a nuclear-free zone. If nuclear free-zones can be expanded throughout the world and the world's citizens can be mobilized to cast a "broad non- nuclear net," the dream of a world free of nuclear weapons can be realized.
In response to the atavistic program of nuclear testing conducted by China and France last year, a new wave of anti- nuclear sentiment has arisen in the international community. It is said that negotiations on the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) will reach their final stage this year. This treaty should be concluded as soon as possible for many reasons, including its symbolic importance as a milestone on the road toward abolition of nuclear arms. Fifty years after the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, we have reached a crucial turning point in our drive to abolish nuclear weapons.
I have taken every possible opportunity to advance specific proposals aimed at the outlawing of nuclear weapons. My basic stance is clear: Nuclear weapons, which have no other purpose than to instantaneously slaughter vast numbers of human beings, are an absolute evil. Anyone who would use such weapons must be condemned in the name of all humanity. Nuclear weapons cannot be justified for any reason whatsoever, and must be abolished. To achieve this goal, the CTBT is essential because it will contribute to the eventual prevention of the development, production, possession, and deployment of nuclear weapons. It is my hope that the Toda Institute will study specific measures that will ultimately lead to the elimination of all nuclear weapons.
Also, in view of the fact that we have now put the fiftieth anniversary of the end of World War II behind us, I hope the institute will work to map out a long-term, grand design for a world without war. It is my understanding that the Fourth United Nations Special Session on Disarmament is scheduled for 1997. With this in mind, I hope the institute will take up a topic I have consistently emphasized--how to construct a global, cooperative system that renounces war--and that it will play a central role in bringing together the world's intellectual resources to formulate alternatives for a brighter human future.
One specific direction that should be explored is transforming the nuclear-free zones now spreading throughout the world and simultaneously designating them "war-free zones." If this is achieved, we will be well on our way to realizing a world in which no rational positing of a need for nuclear weapons is possible. If, on the other hand, this is beyond our reach, then the ultimate abolition of nuclear weapons will probably remain elusive.
At the end of last year, I enjoyed discussions on two occasions with Dr. Oscar Arias Sanchez, the former president of Costa Rica and recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize. As we exchanged opinions concerning war and peace, Dr. Arias emphasized that military expenditures should be cut back, and the funds spent instead to promote education and culture. In fact, his ideal is to eliminate all armaments worldwide.
After World War II, the Marshall Plan was carried out to rebuild Europe. Dr. Arias contends that a new, global Marshall Plan is now necessary so that resources can be invested in "human development" rather than arms. While it might be easy to dismiss such talk as mere idealism, Dr. Arias' assertions are persuasive in that Costa Rica's Constitution, adopted in 1949, actually succeeded in abolishing that country's armed forces.
Some might say that this achievement was only feasible because Costa Rica is a small country. Nevertheless, the elimination of armaments on a larger scale is not completely impossible, as evidenced by the abolition of slavery, apartheid, and other inhuman institutions when people have finally recognized that they serve no use and bring only harm.
At the urging of Dr. Arias, Costa Rica's neighbor, Panama, revised its constitution in October 1994 to remove the legal basis for its armed forces. Although many problems remain, Haiti, too, has begun to dismantle its army and move in the direction of abolishing its military.
I am in whole-hearted agreement with Dr. Arias' proposal that we inculcate in younger generations a "culture of peace" to supplant a "culture of war." The Peace Institute should conduct the kind of comprehensive research that will show the way toward worldwide disarmament and demilitarization, reflecting the will of the world's people.
Although the third millennium will begin in approximately five years, this does not mean that a new era will come about naturally, without conscious effort. Such renewal ultimately depends upon the human will to open the door to a new age. Human beings have an innate ability to create new options and to make informed choices. The challenges before us may be difficult, but inasmuch as we ourselves have created them, it is clear that we also have the capability to resolve them. As Toynbee pointed out, the most potent historical forces are unleashed when people resolve to confront serious challenges.18 We find ourselves enmeshed in deepening crisis not because we lack the necessary capacities, but because we do not adequately recognize our possession of them.
One of my close friends, the late Norman Cousins, once warned that "the main characteristic of pessimism, like cynicism, is that it sets the stage for its own omens. It shuns hope for the future in the act of denying it. It narrows the field of vision, obscuring the relationship between the necessary and the possible."19 In this way, he keenly admonished anyone who, without making any particular effort, would simply give up. Let us etch these words in our hearts and remain faithful optimists as we work together to take up the challenge of doing what is required of us.
January 26, 1996
Copyright 1996 by Soka Gakkai
All rights reserved
1. Daisaku Ikeda and Aurelio Peccei, Before It Is Too Late, ed. Richard L. Gage (Tokyo: Kodansha, International Ltd., 1984) 129.
2. Ikeda and Peccei, 129.
3. Nichiren, 'Ongi Kuden,' Nichiren Daishonin Gosho Zenshu (Tokyo: Soka Gakkai, 1952) 758.
4. World Health Organization, World Health Report 1995 (Geneva, 1995) 1.
5. United Nations, Universal Declaration of Human Rights, "Preamble," 1948.
6. Ikeda and Peccei, 37.
7. Ikeda and Peccei, 116.
8. Karl Jaspers, Way to Wisdom: An Introduction to Philosophy, trans. Ralph Manheim (London: Victor Gollancz Ltd., 1951) 134.
9. Hannah Arendt, Men in Dark Times (New York: Harcourt, Brace & World, Inc., 1968) 74-76.
10. Karl Jaspers, Philosophy is for Everyman, trans. R.F.C. Hall and Grete Wels (New York: Harcourt, Brace and World, Inc., 1967), 124.
11. Jaspers, Philosophy is for Everyman, 124.
12. Nelson Mandela, "Inaugural Address," Capetown, South Africa, May 9, 1994.
13. "Frederic de Klerk and SGI President Meet," Seikyo Shimbun, June 5, 1992: 2.
14. Rabindranath Tagore, The Religion of Man (New York: The Macmillan Company, 1931) 154.
15. Tagore, 156.
16. Tagore, 203.
17. Stefan Zweig, Brazil: Land of the Future, trans. Andrew St. James (New York: The Viking Press, 1941) 12.
18. Arnold Toynbee, A Study of History, as introduced in Norman Cousins, Human Options (New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 1981) 51.
19. Norman Cousins, Human Options (New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 1981) 51
Each year since 1983, Soka Gakkai International (SGI) President Daisaku Ikeda presents peace proposals on behalf of the international lay Buddhist organization, to which Soka Gakkai belongs. In them, he articulates Buddhist ideals and philosophy as a framework for addressing the manifold problems our global society faces in its efforts to realize human security and world peace.
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