Part 3: Kosen-rufu and World Peace
Chapter 31: The Great Path to World Peace [31.22]

31.22 The Starting Point of the Soka Gakkai’s Peace Activities—The Declaration Calling for the Abolition of Nuclear Weapons

In The Human Revolution, President Ikeda (who appears in the novel as Shin’ichi Yamamoto) chronicles second Soka Gakkai president Josei Toda’s 1957 Declaration Calling for the Abolition of Nuclear Weapons. He underscores that the heart of the Soka Gakkai’s activities for peace lies in combating devilish functions that threaten the dignity of life and humanity’s right to exist.

[At the Soka Gakkai’s Festival of Youth held at the Mitsuzawa Stadium in Yokohama on September 8, 1957]

Standing before the microphone with calm assurance, Josei Toda began powerfully: “Today’s Festival of Youth has been blessed with clear, sunny skies, free of any trace of yesterday’s storm, as if the heavens themselves have responded to your enthusiasm. It was with a profound sense of joy that I watched the competitors among you fully embody the Soka Gakkai spirit in each event, as the rest of you wholeheartedly applauded their efforts.

“Nevertheless, for all our joy today, it is likely that the Soka Gakkai will encounter persecution again in the future. And we ourselves may face all kinds of attacks. Having said that, I would now like to share with you what I hope you will regard as the foremost of my instructions for the future.

“As I have long said, the responsibility for the coming era must be shouldered by the youth. Needless to say, kosen-rufu is our mis¬sion, and we must absolutely achieve it. But today I would like to state clearly my feelings and attitude regarding the testing of nuclear weapons, a topic that is currently being debated heatedly throughout society.

“I hope that, as my disciples, you will inherit the declaration I am about to make today and, to the best of your ability, spread its intent throughout the world.

“Although a movement calling for a ban on the testing of atomic or nuclear weapons has arisen around the world, it is my wish to go further, to attack the problem at its root. I want to expose and rip out the claws that lie hidden in the very depths of such weapons. I wish to declare that anyone who ventures to use nuclear weapons, irrespective of their nationality or whether their country is victorious or defeated, should be sentenced to death without exception.

“Why do I say this? Because we, the citizens of the world, have an inviolable right to live. Anyone who jeopardizes that right is a devil incarnate, a fiend, a monster. I propose that humankind applies, in every case, the death penalty to anyone responsible for using nuclear weap¬ons, even if that person is on the winning side.”

Toda viewed nuclear weapons as the most devilish invention of the 20th century. The Japanese word for “devil” (ma) is a transliteration of the Sanskrit word māra (devil), which has also been translated variously into Chinese as “murderer,” “robber of life,” or “destroyer.” One might say that the function of devils is to confuse and torment people’s minds, take away life, and destroy wisdom.

According to Buddhism, the epitome of such evil is personified as the devil king of the sixth heaven.1 Another name for this devil is Freely Enjoying Things Conjured by Others, indicating one who desires to control and subjugate people. In this light, the doctrine of nuclear deterrence, which plays upon people’s fears to justify the maintenance of nuclear arsenals capable of mass annihilation, is itself a manifest function of the devil king of the sixth heaven.

A defining feature of Toda’s declaration was that it called upon people to vanquish this devilish nature residing deep within the lives of human beings. Although a popular movement to ban nuclear weapons was gaining strength in Japan as in many other parts of the world, Toda concluded that in order to “rip out the claws” of these weapons—to root out the devil that lurks behind them—it was vital to firmly establish the understanding that they are the product of the devilish nature of life, that they are an absolute evil whose very existence must be rejected.

His stance was that nuclear weapons and their use must be condemned categorically, not from the standpoint of ideology, nationalism, or ethnic identity, but instead from the universal dimension of humanity. This is what makes Toda’s declaration so extraordinary. It is also the reason why his declaration would shine ever more brightly through the years.

Although Toda stated in his declaration that those who use nuclear weapons deserve the death penalty without exception, this in no way meant that he was endorsing or advocating the death penalty as a general means of punishment. He had often said that the idea of one person judging another does not exist in Buddhism, which is based on the law of cause and effect. Why, then, did Toda go so far as to use the words “death penalty” in his declaration?

Toda was not advocating that a law be passed requiring the death penalty for those who use nuclear weapons. Rather, his aim, quite simply, was to establish the idea that the use of nuclear weapons, an act that would deny humanity its fundamental right to exist, must be considered an absolute evil. By causing this idea to take root in the hearts and minds of national leaders and people throughout the world, he hoped it would serve as an internal restraint against the use of nuclear weapons. Only the harshest punishment could possibly fit such a crime of ultimate evil, and that would be nothing but the death penalty.

Had Toda simply been satisfied to brand those who used nuclear weapons as devils, fiends, and monsters, his declaration would have remained abstract. He certainly could not have fully conveyed his conviction that the use of nuclear weapons constituted an absolute evil. By daring to propose the death penalty, Toda meant to stamp out any tendency within people’s minds to justify the use of these weapons. In a way, he was passing a sentence of death on the devilish impulses within human life itself.

Toda issued his declaration at the height of the Cold War. The vast majority of arguments concerning nuclear weapons made during this time were based upon the ideologies of either the Eastern or Western bloc. Toda’s declaration, however, was a radical departure from this way of thinking; it identified nuclear weapons as an evil when viewed from the most fundamental perspective of their impact on human beings themselves.

“Even if a country should conquer the world through the use of nuclear weapons,” Toda continued, his voice even more forceful, “the conquerors must be viewed as devils, as evil incarnate. I believe that it is the mission of every member of the youth division in Japan to disseminate this idea throughout the globe.

“I shall end by expressing my eager expectation that you will spread this, the first of my declarations, to the entire world, with the same enthusiasm you have shown in today’s sports festival.”

Toda closed his speech to resounding applause. Waves of emotion and excitement swept the stadium.

It is deeply significant that Josei Toda made this declaration against nuclear weapons the foremost of his final instructions to the youth. Because Nichiren Buddhism is a religion that exists for people’s happiness, the fulfillment of its religious mission to establish the correct teaching in society must be accompanied by the realization of a peaceful land, and this comes about through the fulfillment of each individual practitioner’s mission in society.

Toda realized that the devilish nature inherent in life underlies nuclear weapons, and he keenly sensed that the only way to vanquish it was through the power of the Buddha nature. Since human beings created nuclear weapons, they are also capable of eliminating them. Toda was convinced that the existence of the Buddha nature within human beings would open the way to nuclear abolition without fail.

He entrusted the youth with the task of inspiring this conviction in others, urging them to believe in people’s Buddha nature, to address that Buddha nature, and to communicate widely the absolute evil of nuclear weapons.

Toda’s declaration would become the basis for the Soka Gakkai’s activities for peace.

Shin’ichi Yamamoto was overwhelmed with emotion as he listened to Toda’s declaration, telling himself that he must, without fail, fulfill his mentor’s instructions. From that time on, he began to ponder and search in earnest for a way to spread Toda’s conviction throughout the world.

From The Human Revolution, vol. 12, “Declaration” chapter.

The Wisdom for Creating Happiness and Peace brings together selections from President Ikeda’s works on key themes.

  • *1Devil king of the sixth heaven: Also, devil king or heavenly devil. The king of devils, who dwells in the highest or the sixth heaven of the world of desire. He is also named Freely Enjoying Things Conjured by Others, the king who makes free use of the fruits of others’ efforts for his own pleasure. Served by innumerable minions, he obstructs Buddhist practice and delights in sapping the life force of other beings, the manifestation of the fundamental ignorance inherent in life. The devil king is a personification of the negative tendency to force others to one’s will at any cost.