May 8, 2011

Thoughts on Peace

by Daisaku Ikeda

"No matter what justifications maybe offered, in my view, there is absolutely no such thing as a just and correct war."

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 maybe 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 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 which are caused by human beings can be resolved by human beings themselves.

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 if good' from having a greater impact on the world? What hinders progress towards 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 with the effort to discover the goodness that shines in every single human being, no progress towards peace will be possible.  

When I first traveled to the Soviet Union in the early 1970s, people wondered why, as the leader f 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 have 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 part can often lead the way.

Many years ago, it was tradition among Canandian 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 the 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 could not refuse his daughters, so reluctanly he sent a message to his long time 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. bear 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.

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 watr itself. When the people of one country communicate with those of others, they can create a current towards 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 of 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 individual, 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.

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