A Peace Movement Led by Everyday People

(Photo above by Rasheeque Ahnaf / Pexels)

After World War II, the United Nations was established in 1945 to “save succeeding generations from the scourge of war.” Unfortunately, since then, some 250 armed conflicts have broken out around the world, claiming hundreds of millions of lives. Today our world seems to be in a never-ending cycle of war and devastation.

Buddhism teaches that each person contains the potential for enlightenment and is a Buddha worthy of the utmost respect. This is why war is the most horrific tragedy. In war, the tremendous loss of life alone proves the point that, in war, everyone loses.

Buddhist philosopher Daisaku Ikeda writes, “For both victor and vanquished, war leaves only a sense of endless futility.” But what can we do as ordinary people in the face of such horrific acts as war?

Let’s begin by addressing the origins of conflicts, the greatest being war. In an essay titled “Thoughts on Peace,” Ikeda writes:

It may be tempting to think that wars are started by the state, or an alliance of countries. However, in fact, wars are started by the workings of the individual human heart. Buddhism teaches that war is the result of anger and egotism. To overcome the threat of war, we must conquer and subdue the selfish nature that lurks in every human heart.

A Piece of Mirror and Other Essays, pp. 98–99

How do we conquer the egotism and anger that exist in the human heart? The 13th-century Buddhist reformer Nichiren Daishonin explains that famine, warfare and pestilence arise from the three poisons of greed, anger and foolishness. He writes, “Famine occurs as a result of greed, pestilence as a result of foolishness and warfare as a result of anger” (“King Rinda,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 989).

Ikeda comments on this last point about anger:

There is a terrible destructive force in the fiery magma of anger that wells up at frustration, discrimination, betrayal, insult or exploitation by others. When that suppressed negative energy explodes, it can manifest as violence or aggression and even escalate into warfare. These eruptions of hatred and malice in the forms of nationalism or of economic, ideological or religious conflict are often the cause of war and armed conflict in our present age.

The Teachings for Victory, vol. 2, p. 137

The effort to create a truly peaceful and harmonious society begins with us addressing the anger in our hearts.

Buddhism opposes all forms of violence because when anger is met with more anger, it proliferates. And the use of force only creates a cycle of vengeance and further violence. So how do we rid ourselves of the three poisons, anger included?

Simply put, chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo enables us to bring forth limitless inner strength, confidence and wisdom to use our anger as a catalyst for our inner transformation.

Simply put, chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo enables us to bring forth limitless inner strength, confidence and wisdom to use our anger as a catalyst for our inner transformation.

Responding to anger or violence with dialogue may seem counterintuitive. The side that chooses dialogue may seem weaker. But in looking at the examples of Shakyamuni Buddha and Nichiren, we can see the humanism and effectiveness of their ways.

Mahatma Gandhi said: “Nonviolence is the greatest force at the disposal of mankind. It is mightier than the mightiest weapon of destruction devised by the ingenuity of man.”

By rejecting violence and always choosing the path of dialogue, we can transform our anger into the determination, wisdom and creativity necessary to resolve conflicts in a way where all parties win.

Through our Buddhist practice, we can become masters of conflict resolution in our families, workplaces or greater society. We can learn how to recognize the Buddha nature in others and engage in value-creative dialogues.

Having conducted more than 1,600 dialogues with leading world figures, Ikeda exemplifies how to create value and mutual understanding among peoples and groups with differing views. He writes about becoming a protagonist of peace:

Great good can come of great evil. But this will not happen on its own. Courage is always required to transform evil into good. Now is the time for each of us to bring forth such courage: the courage of nonviolence, the courage of dialogue, the courage to listen to what we would rather not hear, the courage to restrain the desire for vengeance and be guided by reason.

Daisaku Ikeda

No matter how seemingly hopeless the times become, let’s continue practicing Buddhism, day after day, with the spirit to never succumb to hopelessness and consistently bring forth the inherent goodness in ourselves, others and the world.

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