world peace

You are the missing piece in world peace

Vishesh Gupta, chairperson, Bharat Soka Gakkai, sheds light on peace and its time-honoured relationship with Buddhist philosophy.

The concept of peace can sometimes be incomprehensible to the common man and quickly be dismissed as a pursuit for those endowed with time and wealth. The common man has his own struggles. If it’s not getting up and going to work, it is finding work; if it’s not trying to lose weight, then it is scraping enough money for one meal; if it’s not looking for a better house, it is searching for a dry patch on the road to spend the night.

The bigger picture, however, is a world torn by strife. War, people displaced by the hordes, destruction and death are collectively changing the landscape of the world we live in, bit by bit, second by second. And while the common man’s realities may be far removed from it now, the bigger picture will soon be the only picture. It is not just important but imperative that we seek out peace.

A symposium based on the 2016 peace proposal by Daisaku Ikeda, president of Soka Gakkai International, a Nichiren Buddhist organisation, held at the Indian Institute of Management Bangalore, called for individual transformation as a stepping stone to world peace. On the sidelines of the symposium, Soulveda spoke to Vishesh Gupta, chairperson, Bharat Soka Gakkai, on the concept of peace and its time-honoured relationship with Buddhist philosophy.

Excerpts from the exclusive interview:

In a world increasingly dictated by violence, how does peace find its place?

History of mankind has shown that when the world is plagued by natural calamities, war, conflict and tension, is when peace is required the most. During such harrowing times, achieving peace seems next to impossible. On the other hand, it is said that when the evil is at its strongest, the good surfaces once again.

The need of the hour is to make the 21st century the centennial of peace, as the 20th century was marred by wars. Though there was advancement in science and technology, it has not given the kind of appeasement the human race deserves. Sixteen years of this century have already gone by. Now is the right time to start talking about peace and striving to achieve it.

“It is ordinary people who create extraordinary things. Likewise, it is ordinary people who will bring peace to the world.”

When people across the globe are struggling for basics like food, shelter and security, how can peace be the solution? 

Well, both are important and not very different from each other. In his peace proposal, Mr Ikeda talks about fundamental aspects like the power of inner change to empower individuals and change the world.

Mr Ikeda also mentions three key areas that require immediate attention from governments and civil societies: refugee crisis, environment pollution, climate change and abolition of nuclear arms. While we are talking about peace, we are also saying we need to take practical measures to solve the problems of the common man.

For instance, if a person has been hungry for three days, the first thing to do is give him food and not talk about peace. You give this man enough food and then talk about peace. The emphasis is on inner change as it is integral to bigger change.

During the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami in Japan, when food packets were dropped, people were considerate of each other’s hunger. One sacrificed food for the other. It was moving to see people cross perceivable limits of human mind and emotion.

How are ordinary people like you and me supposed to relate to ideals like peace?

It is ordinary people who create extraordinary things. Likewise, it is ordinary people who will bring peace to the world. When people like you and me stand up for peace, only then will we be able to realise it. Someone might be the president of a country, someone else might not be able to afford a one-course meal, but both have the same capabilities. It is imperative for us to realise our individual capabilities.

How can we be sensitised to care about something that is happening thousands of miles away from our homes?  

Human life cannot exist alone. We need the entire ecosystem which we are dependent on. Our happiness, sufferings and worries–are all dependent on this ecosystem. We have to understand that our lives are interconnected. There is an element of relationship we share with each other. It may be invisible, unsaid and unwritten. Once we are aware of this fact, anything happening in far-off Syria or America or Pakistan will impact us.

Do you think people are capable of such change?

A hundred percent. That is the kind of confidence we must have in each other. It will enable us to realise our full potential. Buddhism calls this potential ‘enlightenment’. When we are enlightened, we know supreme goodness. Through this we are able to create a better environment, a better society, a better community, a better country and a better world. All great people who have contributed to the peace and prosperity of the human race were able to realise this potential from within, but for the sake of others. Buddhist philosophy believes that the human being is the microcosm and the universe is the macrocosm. We feel the universe contains us but it is the other way round–the microcosm contains the macrocosm. Hence, we can tap this power of the universe, make a strong resolve and determine to do good for others.

How does an ancient philosophy like Buddhism connect with peace in modern times? 

The fundamentals of Buddhism remain the same as that of peace. Shakyamuni Buddha emphasised on changing ourselves from within. In modern terms, we call it human revolution. Two important aspects of peace are human revolution and dialogue. Human revolution means bringing about inner change.

In the peace proposal, the need for dialogue has been reiterated as a step towards world peace. Can you elaborate on this?

The dialogue which Mr Ikeda has talked about in this peace proposal is not just a normal conversation. This dialogue is built on the premise if I talk to this person, he will definitely change because there is goodness in him. A dialogue helps when you wish to convey the message of peace to people who are not settled in their own minds or who may be creating problems in society. It will encourage and empower them to realise what they are doing is wrong so they can start working in the right direction.

  • Vishesh Gupta is the chairperson of Bharat Soka Gakkai (BSG), the Indian affiliate of Soka Gakkai International (SGI), a lay Buddhist organisation working towards creating a climate of peace. In line with its underlying philosophy of Buddhism, BSG, over the years has taken steps to promote peace, culture and education to contribute positively to society.

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