Thoughts on Peace
(From an essay series by Daisaku Ikeda first published in the Philippine magazine Mirror, in 1998)
Some people who have seen war stories in the movies or on TV may have been impressed by it; finding it somehow attractive and feeling that the actors looked glamorous and brave.
The reality of war, however, is completely different. It is cruel and filthy and filled with sadness and misery. Anyone who has actually experienced war knows it must never be repeated. I saw more than enough of the horror of war when I was young, living through air raids in which explosives and incendiary bombs fell like rain. Wandering in a sea of fire; worried out of my mind about my family, feeling terrible sadness and helplessness as I saw people dying around me.
No matter what justifications may be offered, in my view, there is absolutely no such thing as a just and correct war. War treats human life as a means to an end, and it brings only terrible suffering and unhappiness to ordinary men and women on both sides. Each person who has died in war was irreplaceable and precious--someone's parent, child or friend. That is why we must always oppose war. All conflicts should be resolved, not with violence and brute force, but with wisdom and sustained dialogue.
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.
Natural disasters such as floods or earthquakes cannot be prevented by human reason or wisdom. But problems that are caused by human beings themselves can be resolved by human beings.
Two-time Nobel Prize winner Linus Pauling wrote in his book, No More War: "I believe that there is a greater power in the world than the evil power of military force, or nuclear bombs--there is the power of good, of morality, or humanitarianism. I believe in the power of the human spirit."
I also hold that an inner change in the depths of people's lives can transform egoism and replace it with a loving humanism that seeks peace and coexistence among all people.
So what keeps this "power of good" from having a greater impact on the world? What hinders progress toward peace? In a single word, it is mistrust. It is the prejudice and preconceptions that grow from mistrust. Often these have roots in past conflicts and rivalries. Without removing this wall of mistrust, and without the effort to discover the goodness that shines in every single human being, no progress toward peace will be possible.
When I first traveled to the Soviet Union in the early 1970s, people wondered why, as the leader of a religious movement, I wanted to visit a communist country that did not recognize religion. I responded, "Because the citizens of the Soviet Union are people, fellow human beings like myself." I wanted somehow to create a new path, to transform mistrust into trust, fear into confidence, an unhealthy lingering over the past into a commitment to the future. In every country I've visited, I have always felt how earnestly people everywhere yearn for peace.
The first condition for world peace is for people to really learn about each other, to start to really understand and appreciate each other. The surest way of melting the "ice" of mistrust is to promote interaction among ordinary people--through meetings, visits, and cultural and educational exchange. Young people who are not caught up in the past can often lead the way.
Many years ago, it was the tradition among the Canadian Indian indigenous people to hold great celebrations when a daughter came of age.
Two daughters of a great chief had reached adulthood and a feast was being prepared. But news arrived that enemies to the north were preparing for war. The daughters went to their father and said, "Dear father! Someday we will become mothers and will give birth to children who will grow up to be strong chiefs like you. For their sake, please invite the people of the north to our celebration."
The chief couldn't refuse his daughters, so reluctantly he sent a message to his longtime enemies and invited them.
They came in great numbers, bringing their wives and children and many gifts. War songs changed into songs of joy.
Later the two sisters each gave birth to a son, and they became chiefs called Peace and Brotherly Love. Near Vancouver there is a beautiful twin-peaked mountain and according to legend, the two girls who loved peace became these peaks and still watch over Vancouver today.
The heart of even one peace-loving woman is strong; it can change society and reshape history.
I believe it is far too risky to leave the world's future in the hands of politicians. People must be wise and take action themselves to create peace. We must unite across borders: unite in our rejection of the idea of war itself. When the people of one country communicate with those of others, they can create a current toward peace. It is vital to create a network of people that transcends national borders so that a small number of corrupt leaders cannot break the webs of friendship and solidarity that join us.
Peace can never be attained by passively waiting for it. It is necessary for each of us, no matter how weak we feel we are, to build deep within our hearts a stronghold for peace that can withstand, and in the end silence, the incessant calls to war.
As Chilean poet Gabriela Mistral has written, "Have courage, my friends! For pacifism is not a sweet jam as some may think . . . Continue speaking out for peace, against the wind and the waves . . . Pacifism is not something easy. One must not abide injustice in silence. My friends, continue to cry out, until the circle of peace is expanded."
Real peace is only to be found in the realities of daily life. We must plant the seeds of a fundamental peace in the daily life of individuals, in our hearts and inner lives. And we must protect and foster these seeds until they grow into the firm reality of peace for all.
Thus, it is up to us to construct a world without war. Whether we give up on this as an impossible goal, or whether we continue the challenge, however great the difficulties involved--on this the fate of the entire twenty-first century depends.