What Motivates Ikeda's Commitment to Global Peace?

[Posted by M. Bogen, 12-23-14] Writing in the Afterward to A Forum for Peace: Daisaku Ikeda's Proposals to the UN (I.B. Tauris, 2014), book editor Olivier Urbain (left) identifies what he considers the three main factors motivating Daisaku Ikeda's lifelong devotion to creating a more peaceful world for all.

Ikeda's first motivation, says Urbain, flows from his experiences with World War II as a youth. The Ikeda family twice lost their home to air raids, and more devastatingly, his eldest brother died in action in Burma. His mother's grief at this loss is etched in Ikeda's memory, as are the words his brother bitterly spoke once while on leave from China. "There is nothing glorious about war," said the brother. "What the Japanese army is doing is horrible. Such arrogance and high handedness! I feel terrible for the Chinese people." Says Urbain: "Those were words of truth that most people in Japan at the time would hesitate to speak, but his brother said them without hiding his fury." Urbain also relates a story where Ikeda's mother expressed sympathy for an American pilot that young Ikeda saw attacked by military police and citizens after parachuting to the ground in Japan. His mother said: "How terrible. His mother must be so very worried about him."

The second reason, Urbain says, "is to be found in the philosophy that Ikeda puts faith in, based on the spirit of empathy found in engaged Buddhism." "Empathy here," Urbain adds, "has something in common with the shared pain shown by his mother and brother." Urbain then cites a quote from Simone Weil that Ikeda has identified as representative of the compassion that "originates from empathy" and which forms "the main pillar" of Mahayana Buddhism: "Compassion is able," said Weil, "without hindrance, to cross frontiers, extend itself over all countries without exception; for all peoples are subjected to the wretchedness of our human condition. Whereas pride in national glory is by its nature exclusive, nontransferable, compassion is by nature universal." For Ikeda, then, support for institutions such as the UN makes perfect sense as a social and political manifestation of Buddhist compassion.

Third, says Urbain, "is the vow and determination he made to his mentor, Josei Toda, the second president of the Soka Gakkai." For ten years, until the time of Toda's death, they worked together with the objective to "rid the world of misery." In particular, says Urbain, Ikeda has faithfully attempted to realize Toda's instruction that:

You need not only to make concrete proposals for the peace of humankind, but to take the lead in working toward their implementation. Even when such proposals are not fully or immediately accepted, they can serve as a "spark" from which a movement for peace will eventually spread like wildfire. Theorizing that is not grounded in reality will always remain a futile exercise. Concrete proposals proposals provide a framework for the transformation of reality and can serve to protect the interests of humanity.

"I believe," concludes Urbain, "that the uniqueness of Ikeda's proposals lies in the fact that he has continually advocated the importance of solidarity among people to solve global issues, based on his belief and endless trust in the power of awakened people and on a solid optimism that problems that were created by people can be solved by people."

Olivier Urbain, Ph.D., is Director of the Toda Institute for Peace and Policy Research.

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