This Q&A series addresses frequently asked questions by those who are interested in Nichiren Buddhism.
Q: My friend is hesitant to practice Buddhism because he says religion is to blame for most wars. Where does SGI Buddhism stand on the issues of war and peace?
A: World peace has always been and always will be the fundamental goal and purpose of the SGI.
The founder of Buddhism, Shakyamuni, is known for his efforts at diplomacy to avoid war, endeavoring through dialogue to convince rulers to forgo armed aggression.
Nichiren Daishonin, the founder of Nichiren Buddhism, saw peace as the natural outcome of elevating the collective life state of the people, writing: “There are not two lands, pure or impure in themselves. The difference lies solely in the good or evil of our minds” (“On Attaining Buddhahood in This Lifetime,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 4).
In his treatise “On Establishing the Correct Teaching for the Peace of the Land,” Nichiren urged people to pray for peace, saying, “If you care anything about your personal security, you should first of all pray for order and tranquillity throughout the four quarters of the land, should you not?” (WND-1, 24).
In the same spirit, first Soka Gakkai President Tsunesaburo Makiguchi stood up against Japanese militarist authorities to advocate and spread Nichiren Buddhism as a path toward peace. He and his disciple, Josei Toda, refused to give in to pressure from the Nichiren Shoshu priesthood to adopt Shinto worship rituals in support of Japan’s aggressive war policies. Both were imprisoned as a result and Mr. Makiguchi died in prison as a martyr for religious freedom and peace. Mr. Toda emerged from jail committed to establishing a movement for the worldwide spread of Nichiren’s teachings, resolved to rid humanity of misery and war. And his disciple Daisaku Ikeda has spent his life committed to realizing his mentor’s dream and striving for the happiness of humanity and world peace.
Buddhism identifies ignorance as the cause of suffering, conflict and war. This fundamental inability or unwillingness to recognize the inherent value of life, called fundamental darkness, leads people to disregard the suffering of others and conclude that there are things more important than human life and dignity. It creates the willingness to sacrifice others for selfish gains.
Nichiren sought the widespread propagation of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, or kosen-rufu. In doing so, he aimed to enable each person to overcome their fundamental darkness and reveal their innate enlightened nature. Today we call this transformation “human revolution,” which means changing our own tendencies that lead to conflict and misery, into qualities such as courage, wisdom, tolerance and compassion—qualities fundamental to peace.
SGI President Ikeda, who has worked to actualize and widely disseminate these ideals of Nichiren Buddhism, has said: “True and lasting peace will only be realized by forging life-to-life bonds of trust and friendship among the world’s people. Human solidarity is built by opening our hearts to each other. This is the power of dialogue.”
By sharing and acting to fulfill the vow for kosen-rufu and engaging in courageous dialogue for that purpose, we are building the foundation for both our personal benefit and happiness and for world peace.