For the Sake of Peace: Seven Paths to Global Harmony, a Buddhist Perspective

alt Daisaku Ikeda
Published by: Middleway, 2001. Santa Monica
ISBN: 10: 0967469724 13: 978-0967469720

Reviewed by: Motse Ramathe
In Conflict Trends Issue 4 of 2001

As a Buddhist leader, educator and philosopher, Daisaku Ikeda has written extensively on the sub- ject of world peace. In his latest book, For the sake of Peace, Daisaku Ikeda confirms the individual’s responsibility in bringing peace to the world. He argues that world peace can be achieved through self-control, dialogue and the creation of a culture of peace.

The author claims that the twentieth century brought shame to the human race. Millions died due to unnecessary wars, the global environment has been grievously damaged, and the gap between the rich and the poor seems to be ever widening. In the first chapter, the author cites the following as the main reasons for conflict in the world: isolationism; greed; poverty; environmental irresponsibility; nuclear negativity; and the illusion of efficiency. In chapter two, the author highlights the responsibility that we, as humans, have in normalising the situation in order to bring about world peace. This, he believes, can be done by being renewed internally. Such a renewal means being able to transcend the differences between good and evil, love and hate, and so on. However, the big question is what will bring about such a change in character?

In chapter three, the author maintains that the seed for peace does not lie in ideas, but in human understanding and empathy between ordinary people - this can only be achieved through constructive dialogue. It is only in an open space created by dialogue - whether conducted with our neighbours or between states - that attitudes are changed. Hate changes to love; ugliness changes to beauty; and stereotypes and prejudice change to tolerance and acceptance. Chapter four highlights the impact that certain people (particularly those who are devoted to dialogue and self-mastery) have on the values underlying current systems of politics, economics, education, religion and culture. This automatically changes the way people view competition. The whole notion of 'doing to others as you would have them do unto you’ is established.

Chapter five provides some useful insights on how transformation in the new millennium could be achieved. Key to this is the promotion of a culture of peace, which would focus on balancing and redressing the arrogant imperialist assumption that has insinuated itself into the Western cultural out- look. It denies any attempt to judge one culture by the values of another, or rank them according to some hierarchical scheme. Chapter six stresses the fact that there is little the UN could do in terms of building peace within the world. Establishing world peace depends on how eager and willing we are as individuals, as members of civil society and as members of religious organisations (and so on) to engage and listen to those who are different from us. In chapter seven, the author proposes the concept of a new cosmology to help solve some of the world’s challenges (poverty, population growth and environmental destruction). Such a cosmology would destroy our false inorganic connections - especially those related to money - and re-establish our organic connection with the cosmos and the sun, as well as earth’s connection with mankind, nations and basic family units.

In the last chapter, the author looks at how much our basic right to life has been threatened by the existence of nuclear weapons (and other armaments), and most importantly, by the unwillingness of nations to stop the production of such weapons. He goes on to argue that the exchange of ideas between top leaders is the best way to eliminate the deep-rooted distrust that exists among nations. In the long-term, removing this distrust could indirectly lead to disarmament, thereby serving as a key to achieving global peace.

Dialogue between conflicting parties is starting to bear more positive results, particularly when one studies the conflicts where this technique has been used. We are more optimistic than ever before about the outcome of both the DRC and Burundi conflicts. This is because people have chosen to sit down and educate each other about the effects that such conflicts have on different nations. Any person who has wondered whether he or she could make a difference, should read this book - it is inspiring.

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