24 Jun 2019 Understanding 2019 Peace Proposal
Extracted from To The Young Eagles – Soar into the Vast Skies of the World! from SSA Times issue 605
The annual “Youth for Peace Symposium” (YFPS) will be held on June 30, 2019 at SSA Headquarters and preparations have begun in full swing. At this year’s YFPS, the 2019 Peace Proposal written by SGI President Ikeda will be explored. The following are three key highlights of what will be discussed at the session:
- The need for a shared vision of what constitutes a peaceful society
- The need to work together to foster “people- centred multilateralism”
- Mainstreaming of youth participation
A Shared Vision
The first theme that is mentioned in the peace proposal is the need for a shared vision of what constitutes a peaceful society.
SGI President Ikeda first explains the current situation whereby the omnipresence of weaponry is raising threat levels worldwide and tensions are mounting over nuclear weapons.
He then questions, “Why does history seem to be repeating itself in this way in the twenty-first century?”
He brings up eminent physicist and philosopher Carl Friedrich von Weizsäckerʼs observation that the efforts to overcome “the institution of war” had yet to reach the point where they could be described as a transformation of consciousness as people has yet to recognise “peacelessness as an illness of the soul”.
Peacelessness as an Illness of the Soul
President Ikeda explains this idea of “peacelessness as an illness of the soul” expounded by Weizsäcker, noting that it is not something external to ourselves but within. Simply put, it is the willingness to use any means necessary to meet oneʼs objectives with no thought to the damage incurred.
In the case of the nuclear weapons, President Ikeda asserts that to truly put an end to the era of nuclear weapons, we must struggle against the real enemy, which is neither nuclear weapons per se nor the states that possess or develop them, but rather the ways of thinking that permit the existence of such weapons—the readiness to annihilate others when they are perceived to be a threat or a hindrance to the realisation of our objectives.
What then is required if we are to overcome the pathology of peacelessness and instead accelerate global momentum towards the kind of disarmament that saves lives?
President Ikeda points out that a treatment-focused Buddhist approach may shed some light on how to address this challenge.
He tells a story among the Buddhist teachings about a man named Angulimāla, a contemporary of Shakyamuni, who was widely feared as the murderer of many.
One day, Angulimāla spots Shakyamuni and decides to kill him.
However, though he pursues him with all his might he is unable to catch up with him.
Out of frustration, he finally halts and shouts, “Stop!” to which Shakyamuni replies, “Angulimāla, I have stopped. You too should stop.”
The perplexed Angulimāla then asks him why he is being asked to stop when he has already stopped moving.
Shakyamuni explains that he was referring to Angulimālaʼs acts of killing living things without mercy and the malice behind them.
Deeply affected by Shakyamuniʼs words, Angulimāla determines to eliminate the malice in his heart and cease his evildoing. Then and there, he throws down his weapons and asks to become Shakyamuniʼs disciple.
Another Important Turning Point in Angulimāla’s Story
One day, as he is walking around the city begging for alms, he sees a woman suffering from the pains of childbirth. No one is at her side, and he too, feeling utterly helpless, leaves the scene.
However, unable to stop thinking of her pain, he approaches Shakyamuni to recount what he has seen.
Shakyamuni urges him to go to her immediately and offer the following words: “Sister, since my birth I have not destroyed a living thing knowingly, by
that truth may you be well and may the one to be born be well.” Fully aware of his own history of evil deeds, Angulimāla cannot grasp Shakyamuniʼs true intent.
However, Shakyamuni clarifies that Angulimāla has, of his own accord, already succeeded in dispelling the malice lurking behind his actions, deeply repenting and earnestly engaging in religious practice. As if to remind him of this, Shakyamuni again urges him to offer these words to the pregnant woman: “Sister, since I was reborn as one who seeks the noble path, I have no recollection of having
consciously taken the life of a living being. By this truth may you be well and may the one to be born be well.”
Knowing Shakyamuniʼs profound compassion, Angulimāla rushes to the womanʼs side and offers her these words. The suffering woman is calmed and safely gives birth.
What can We Learn from the Story?
President Ikeda explains that these two events indicate the changes Shakyamuni hoped to inspire in Angulimāla. He first sought to direct his attention to the malice, the intent to do harm, that had governed his actions for so long. Then, by illuminating a path by which Angulimāla could save the lives of this mother and child, Shakyamuni sought to direct him towards a personal commitment to become someone who saves others.
He clarifies that though this parable depicts the inner transformation of a single individual and is set in a completely different era and cultural milieu from our own. Nevertheless, he believes it still holds relevance to our time because it doesn’t limit itself to the cessation of hostile acts but is oriented towards the saving of lives. He proposes that this could serve as a useful basis for a remedy capable of transforming society at its core.
He asserts that now more than ever, we must redouble our efforts to overcome the pathology of peacelessness by cultivating a mutual recognition of this pathology and join together in search of a cure. All our efforts must aim to save all people from danger“. In other words, we must develop a common vision for a peaceful society,”President Ikeda concludes.
Extracted from To The Young Eagles – Soar into the Vast Skies of the World! from SSA Times issue 608
The second theme mentioned in the peace proposal is promoting a people-centred multilateralism. The aim of it is to get past the differences in national perspective and find ways of relieving the suffering of people facing grave threats or crises.
President Ikeda explains that the foundation for people- centred multilateralism must be the effort to build a world in which all people can enjoy a feeling of meaningful security and can together foster hope for the future.
However, there is a regrettable tendency for people living in countries that are not directly impacted by the refugee crisis or problems of poverty to distance themselves from these challenges and the responsibility to resolve them.
President Ikeda then relates the story of Shakyamuni’s four encounters, which describes the initial motivation of the teachings of Buddhism and suggests the transformation in consciousness required of people today.
Shakyamuni’s Four Encounters
Born into a royal family in ancient India, Shakyamuni enjoyed a very protected and enviable childhood with high political status and material wealth. He never had to worry about the cold of winter or the heat of summer. However, when one day Shakyamuni came out of the palace gates, he saw commoners suffering from illness and old age. He also came across a corpse of a person by the roadside. Shakyamuni was deeply shaken by these sights. He intensely sensed the reality that no one, including himself, could avoid the four sufferings of “birth, ageing, sickness, and death”.
He also observed people imagining themselves being immune from these sufferings and, as a result, despised and distanced themselves from those who are suffering. He described this human psychology: “In their foolishness, common mortals—even though they themselves will age and cannot avoid ageing—when they see others ageing and falling into decline, ponder it, are distressed by it, and feel shame and hate—all without ever thinking of it as their own problem.”
Buddhist Spirit of Empathy
Using the story earlier, President Ikeda asserts that Shakyamuni’s words apply not only to the suffering of ageing but also to sickness and death, and pointed out the admonishment by Shakyamuni as the arrogance of the young, the arrogance of the healthy, and the arrogance of the living.
He points out that if people were to reconsider the arrogance in terms of the connections of the human heart, they would clearly see how the apathy and lack of concern arising from arrogance actually deepens and intensifies the suffering of others.
President Ikeda urges us to recognise that all human beings are likely at some point to experience the suffering that afflicts other people—that there is no happiness which is our sole possession, no suffering that remains entirely confined to others—and to strive for the welfare of both self and others. This is where the essential spirit of Buddhism is expressed.
Finally, he cites founding Soka Gakkai president Tsunesaburo Makiguchi’s emphasis on the need “to engage consciously in collective life” by choosing “to do things for the sake of others, because by benefiting others, we benefit ourselves”, as the kind of reorientation the world today desperately requires.
Mainstreaming Youth Participation
The third and last theme discussed by President Ikeda is mainstreaming of youth participation.
President Ikeda highlights that “youth” has become a keyword across many fields at the United Nations (UN). He quotes UN Secretary-General Guterres’ words at the University of Geneva when sharing the Disarmament Agenda that stressed the importance of youth to disarmament as well:
“And young people like the students present in this room are the most important force for change in our world… I hope you will use your power and your connections to advocate for a peaceful world, free from nuclear weapons, in which weapons are controlled and regulated, and resources are directed towards opportunity and prosperity for all.”
Widespread Sense of Resignation Affecting Youth
Nevertheless, despite the importance of youth in transforming various global issues including arms competition, President Ikeda points out a challenge that will have a grave impact on youth—that is, widespread resignation, the sense that reality is beyond one’s power to change, given the complexity and scale of the issue.
He notes that in Nichiren Daishonin’s treatise to the highest political authority of his day, “On Establishing the Correct Teaching for the Peace of the Land”, Nichiren had identified a widespread sense of resignation as the root cause of the disorder assailing society.
At the time, the Japanese people suffered from repeated disasters and armed conflicts, and many were sunk in apathy and resignation. Nichiren’s treatise urges an earnest confrontation with the challenge of how to spark the light of hope in the hearts of people beaten down by repeated disaster, how to mobilise social change to prevent wars and internal conflicts.
Nichiren stresses the need to root out the pathology of resignation that lies hidden in the deepest strata of our social being, infecting all people: “Rather than offering up ten thousand prayers for remedy, it would be better simply to outlaw this one evil.” (WND-1, p. 15)
President Ikeda asserts that it is a treatise that calls on us to reject resignation in the face of our deep social ills and instead to muster our inner human capacities so that we may together meet the severe challenges of our age as agents of proactive and contagious change.
The Path to a Breakthrough
President Ikeda then introduces the term “boundary situation” from the philosopher Karl Jaspers which explains that each of us carries the unique burdens of our lives in the form of the particularities of our birth or surroundings, these restrictions serve to narrow the conditions within which we live. President Ikeda says, “When, however, we recognise our own boundary situation and resolve to overcome it, the narrowness of our individual circumstances, which cannot be supplanted for anyone else’s, is transformed into the depth with which we live out our original selves.”
Quoting Jasper’s words that “in this boundary situation there is no objective solution for all time; there are only historic solutions for the time being”, President Ikeda shares how Jasper’s call propelled him to take his own actions, visiting China and the Soviet Union for the first time, during a time of heightened Cold War tension, as the times called forth.
He writes, “Needless to say, I was not in possession of any infallible plan or method that could guarantee success. Rather, I earnestly embraced each encounter and dialogue in the uniqueness of that one-time-only circumstance, creating opportunities for educational and cultural exchange one step at a time.”
With his own experiences, his advice to the young people of the world is: “Each of you is a possessor of life imbued with dignity and limitless possibility; although the realities of international society may be severe and seemingly immovable, there is no need for you to accept or resign yourselves to this reality, now or in the future.”
President’s Ikeda asserts that “to call forth and mutually strengthen the will for transformation from within people’s hearts—it is in this capacity for life-to-life resonance that the essence of youth is found”.
As youth, let us continue to ponder “What is our own boundary situation?”, “What can we do to overcome it?” and “What are the actions that only we can take?”, while igniting “the will for transformation” in others too.
Interested participants may register at the following link: https://boeportal.ssabuddhist.sg/studentdivisioneventregistration.