Friday, May 14, 2010

Religion and Peace - Arms Down! Campaign

Thanks to the support of UCI Faculty members and students, religious leaders and our Sangha members and friends, we, Rissho Kosei-kai International of North America, had a very successful symposium on Religion and Peace yesterday at UC Irvine campus.

The panelists are Professor Jack Miles of UCI, Pulitzer Prize winner, Pastor Eric Smith of University United Methodist Church, Dr. Willian Vendley, Secretary General of Religions for Peace, Katerina Ragoussi, Religions for Peace Global Youth Network, and me.

Dr. Miles shared his insights on the present global challenges, and Pastor Smith and I presented our response to these challenges based on respective religious faith and teachings.

Dr. Vendley's presentation covered the latest important transformation of religions for working together for peace, and Katerina explained all about the Arms Down! campaign for arms reduction in the world.

I would like to share with you my presentation, titled " A Buddhist Approach to Global Peace."

Distinguished guests and all participants, thank you very much for giving me the opportunity to speak on “a Buddhist Response to Our Shared Challenges.”

[What is Dependent Origination?]

The core of the wisdom of the Buddha is known as Dependent Origination.
Dependent Origination is a simple and profound principle, it explains that “all things in this world are always changing, through interaction with each other.”

We are all interconnected. There is no isolated self, but instead, an interconnected self. Our lives are supported by the blessings of nature and all other beings. Can you see this reality? Because of this inter-connectedness, we live with a sense of gratitude.

Everything comes into being, through Dependent Origination. We may be different in culture and race, but we are inter-connected. Therefore, we are all part of one collective entity. “Many manifestations stemming from this “One-ness”-- One but Many”. To exclude people with different values, would be delusional. Whereas, wisdom to see this reality, cultivates a generous mind and heart. We can be “inclusive” in our world view.

Every phenomenon is also constantly changing in a causal way. Our encounter at this symposium is the result of an inter-weaving of various causes and conditions. And this encounter is a cause or condition that will directly influence the future of everyone in this room -- perhaps even in the world.
Everything is changing. That is why we need to do our best in each moment.

[Causes of Global challenges]

By not understanding or neglecting the principle of Dependent Origination, we live with self-centeredness and excessive desires. We may fail to see the preciousness of life in all beings. Individuals’ illusions form a collective illusion, emanating into the present world disharmony, including global militarization. As all are interconnected, each one of us is responsible as a cause of the current global challenges.

[Buddhist Approach to Global Peace]

(1) Our principle Buddhist Approach to global peace is to walk the Way of the Buddha. Buddhism encourages us to cultivate our hearts and minds, and to promote our human values. If we walk the Way, wisdom and compassion arise spontaneously. We will find peace within, and that will naturally spread to our surroundings. Our genuine compassion will find no boundary.
Whoever we meet -- our hearts will embrace those in need. Through this change in us -- the world will change.

The Buddhist Approach to Peace is to walk in this Way, and to share this Way with as many people as possible, so that together, we will attain peace and become agents of creating better world. This is the fundamental importance of the Buddhist Way.

(2) Secondly, as a Buddhist approach, our social engagement with global challenges is very important. The sphere of our lives has now expanded to the global level. As the relationship is global, we need to be careful to always make wiser choices, so that our ways of living bring about harmony at the global level. Even though we are peaceful, if our decisions are harmful to other’s lives, then these choices are not in accord with the true Buddha Way.

In order to attain both personal happiness and happiness for all, we need to study and apply the Buddha’s Teachings humbly in a global context. Then, the way of the Buddha truly becomes the way of global peace.

At Rissho Kosei-kai, we have been participating in the “Donate-a-Meal” practice. In this practice, we skip a meal once a week, and share the hunger and pain with those who are in difficult situations. With a prayer in compassion, we donate the money equivalent to the meal we skip. Since it began in 1975, we have contributed to various humanitarian activities. Total contributions have amounted to $200 million dollars.

In January,1991, when the Gulf War broke out, I was in the office of the Donate-a-Meal program in Tokyo. Just after the war ended, I was able to take a truck full of medicine, food, and powdered milk to children in Baghdad from Amman, Jordan.
As Japan was with the multi-national force, confronting Iraq, it was a very challenging experience for me to visit Baghdad. In this city, I met with a young Iraqi woman staff at the UNICEF office. The office had just reopened on that day. After hearing the Donate-a-Meal practice of many people, she tearfully said, “How grateful I am to know that people on the other side of the globe are praying for our peace.”
Many RK members sincerely offered prayers for peaceful resolution of the war and safety of people in their everyday chanting. Youth and children stood on street corners in the cold winter -- even when it was snowing in Northern Japan -- asking for support for the children in Iraq. In that short meeting with the young woman in Baghdad, I was convinced of the importance of sincere actions, rather than just words. When we trust, we are trusted. I experienced Dependent Origination and the way of building confidence between peoples and nations in the midst of a war-torn area.

What is our vision for the future?
Is the world where countries are protecting themselves by military force and nuclear weapons the world we are truly envisioning?

Are we truly talking with our children about what kind of world we want to build? If the conversation is based on a mere wish that the lives of our children are secure and that our nation continues to be peaceful and wealthy, then how is it possible to make this world without nuclear weapons; where all children have access to basic education?

It is important to expand our scope of thinking, so that we are sure to strive for living in harmony with all beings.

On the UCI campus, there is a student group, called Olive Tree Initiative, who send students from various background every year to Israel to study the Israel/Palestine issues from the wide spectrum of views and stances. Upon returning, they share their learning. I have found the same ‘light’ in them. It is the light I often see in the people who humbly and selflessly engage themselves in creating peace for all beings.

(3) The third point in our Buddhist approach to global peace is to work towards cooperation among different religions.

As Swiss-German theologian Hans K√ľng states, “No Peace Among Nations until Peace Among the Religions”.

Founder of Rissho Kosei-kai, Rev. Nikkyo Niwano, with his conviction that all religions originated from the same Universal Truth, dedicated the latter half of his life for promoting interfaith cooperation. In 1970, the first World Conference of Religions for Peace was held in Kyoto with more than 300 leaders representing all major religions. They discussed their shared future. All the negativity that religions have created in the history of humanity, were for the first time transformed into a radiant positive force to build peaceful world.

At the first UN Special Session on Disarmament in 1978, on behalf of Religions for Peace, Rev. Niwano addressed the world political leaders by saying, “All nations should take major risks for peace and disarmament, instead of taking risks with arms”. The voices to call for international peace had continually been spreading. This movement created a significant impact on political decisions twenty years ago.

Now the world is facing another challenge; proliferation of nuclear weapons and further building of military power all over the world.
The US reduction of its military expenditures may not be an option, but it has to be the determination of all religious communities in this country.

Not only praying and wishing, but we need to take action in building more significant causes for global peace. Rissho Kosei-kai has joined the new call by Religions for Peace, “Arms Down! Campaign”. Our focus is to circulate petitions and get 50 million signatures world wide, for arms reduction and to support the UN Millennium Development Goals, which includes achievement of the Universal Primary Education for all children in the world.


Buddhism is a Way to benefit all beings in the world and to promote ones’ own human values. By engaging ourselves in benefiting others, we are further awakened to a deeper compassion and wisdom. And through promoting human values of all beings, can peace in the world be secured.
As Ekayana Buddhists, we acknowledge all faith traditions as Ways for peace in the world. We need to continue to walk our Spiritual Paths together , until world peace is achieved.

Let’s walk the respective ways of our faiths -- hand in hand.
Let us start from you and I.

Let us make one more step forward with respect in our own Ways.
Let us each be more mindful in this precious moment.

Thank you for your attention.

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