Choose Hope

Choose Hope 2018-01-18T16:15:07-08:00

Choose Hope makes the profoundly democratic case that ordinary people must lead their leaders to a safer and saner future. This book offers new perspectives to those who may have given up hope for a better future for humanity. When our common future and that of future generations is at stake, none of us can afford to be indifferent. Nor can we reasonably expect our political and military leaders to have the wisdom and will to solve our most serious and dangerous problems.

The book, written as a dialogue between an American and a Japanese peace activist, advocates that to create a true peace, ordinary people must make profound changes in their thinking about the world. The authors combine their Western and Eastern perspectives to argue that we must move beyond narrow national loyalties to embrace a global vision that cares for all humanity, while strengthening global institutions to make that vision a reality.
All of this begins with people who are willing to speak out and take action to create a better future. One primary action is dialogue—to engage in a humanistic dialogue and to come to an understanding amongst people is an important step. The authors provide inspiring examples of individuals working for peace and an end to the nuclear threat. The authors give particular encouragement to youth to use their natural idealism in becoming engaged in social action and playing a role in shaping the world they will inherit. They suggest a philosophy focused on compassion, courage and commitment. Compassion to help others and discover value in everyone, the courage to take action and speak out for positive change and have the perseverance and commitment through whatever challenges one is faced with.

The world will change as individuals change, and each of us has an important role to play. With hope, it is possible to change the world. But hope will not just happen to you. You must consciously choose hope, and then choose to act upon it.

This book’s encouraging and positive message will help readers find such hope as well as ways to put that hope into action to create a world that they can be proud to leave to their children and grandchildren.

David Krieger is a founder of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, and has served as President of the Foundation since 1982. Under his leadership the Foundation has initiated many innovative and important projects for building peace, strengthening international law and abolishing nuclear weapons. He has lectured throughout the United States, Europe and Asia on issues of peace, security, international law, and the abolition of nuclear weapons. He serves on the boards and advisory council of numerous peace and justice organization the world over and is a founder of Abolition 2000, a global network of over 2000 organizations and municipalities committed to the elimination of nuclear weapons. He has written and edited numerous studies and books about peace and nuclear weapons, including Nuclear Weapons and the World Court and Waging Peace in the Nuclear Age.

Daisaku Ikeda is president of the Soka Gakkai International, a lay Buddhist association pursuing the values of peace, culture and education and committed to fostering within individuals a sense of responsibility for the shared global community. He is also the founder of a number of educational, cultural and research institutions. Prolific writer, poet and peace activist, he is recognized as one of the leading interpreters of Buddhism, bringing its timeless wisdom to bear on the many contemporary issues confronting humanity. He has written dozens of books, including the award-winning For the Sake of Peace. He has traveled to more than 50 countries to speak with leading thinkers, applying his strong belief that dialogue is the most basic starting point for peace. Among the hundreds of honors and commendations given him around the world, he received the United Nations Peace Award in 1983.

“Our survival requires that we turn from war and bloodshed to conciliation and discussion. This inspiring book shows that dialogue is good not only between opponents but is also creatively stimulating among advocates of peace.”

—The Dalai Lama

“In this nuclear age, when the future of humankind is imperiled by irrational strategies, it is imperative to restore sanity to our policies and hope to our destiny. Only a rational analysis of our problems can lead to their solution. This book is an example par excellence of a rational approach.

“Both authors, David Krieger and Daisaku Ikeda, are life-long campaigners for peace in the world; in this dialogue they discuss a variety of issues relevant to the achievement of their goals. This will encourage the reader to seek further ways to fulfill the tasks before us.”

—Joseph Rotblat, Nobel Peace Prize laureate

“This book gives us all hope because it reminds us that in addition to the gift of life, we are each also given the gift of choice. We each can choose to reject the bomb, the bullet, and all the techniques of violence. We can choose to live fully alive in each moment, refusing to hurt or kill our brothers and sisters, who make up the human family. We can, above all, as Daisaku Ikeda and David Krieger remind us in this inspirational book, choose hope.”

—Mairead Corrigan Maguire, Nobel Peace Prize laureate

“In a world threatened by tremendous dangers, voices of courageous leaders are urgently needed. In the dialogue presented in this brilliant book, Daisaku Ikeda and David Krieger offer many bold ideas for ways of moving toward a future with peace and abundance for all members of the human family.

“This book will encourage active people everywhere to take the vital steps necessary to sustain hope for this generation and all the generations to come.”

—Frank K. Kelly, senior vice president of The Nuclear Age Peace Foundation and author of Court of Reason: Robert Hutchins and the Fund for the Republic

“This is a noble book by two noble men who invite us to join them in waging peace and implanting a new hope in an embittered world of hatred, greed and war. There is a contagiousness of caring here. My hope is that we will all catch it.”

—Gerry Spence, trial lawyer and author of Give Me Liberty

“Nothing could be more important than Choose Hope by two reputed world thinkers. All the elements are assembled here to obtain, at long last, a tremendous century and millennium of peace.”

—Dr. Robert Muller, former UN assistant secretary general and co-founder of the UN University for Peace

“With passion and admirable clarity, two of the world’s most dedicated peace thinkers explore the full spectrum of human possibilities for peace and justice, considering practical steps and expressing their visionary hopes. An inspiring book, especially valuable in this dark time.”

—Richard Falk, professor emeritus of international law and practice at Princeton University

“In a world where the only superpower asserts the right to possess thousands of nuclear weapons indefinitely and has announced plans to build “new, more usable nuclear weapons,” it is obvious that humankind remains in mortal danger. Choose Hope offers the fascinating, deeply held views of two activists who are working hard to lessen nuclear dangers. David Krieger and Daisaku Ikeda identify positive measures to be taken by citizens of the world in order to increase the hope that global annihilation need not be the inexorable outcome of more than 55 years of nuclear folly.”

—Admiral Eugene Carroll, former Deputy Director of the Center for Defense Information

“It is impossible to separate threats to the ocean, to the environment, and to life itself from the nuclear industry. Choose Hope helps us to recover our sanity and to make the choice between life or nuclear death and suffering, and reminds us that our choice matters, now more than ever.”

—Jean-Michel Cousteau, President, Ocean Futures Society

“In the dialogue in this book between two eminent thinkers, David Kreiger and Daisaku Ikeda, whose lives are devoted to the cause of peace, there are nuggets of wisdom that the authors have culled from philosophers and leaders, such as Socrates, Plato, Nelson Mandela and Einstein.

“These are fertilizers to nurture young minds in the cause of peace and the prevention of universal annihilation. The challenge is to avoid negative attitudes that compel us towards conflict, which will, in the nuclear age, lead us to an empty void.

“We must free ourselves from current trends of thought that lead to war.

“This book provides great inspiration for leaders in every sphere of human activity and also for young people all over the world to commit themselves to waging peace as a means of breaking decisively with the degradation of the twentieth century and lifting humanity to our highest possibilities.”

—Arthur N.R. Robinson, President, Trinidad and Tobago

“For anyone, especially young people, wishing to make the world a more peaceful and humane place, Choose Hope is the answer. This inspirational dialogue between two of the world’s foremost advocates for peace passionately provides the moral, political and spiritual justifications for the need to take decisive steps to end the threat of the nuclear age. I highly recommend it to any young person who wants to make the world a better place in which to live.”

—Marc Kielburger, founder, Leaders Today, and executive director, Free the Children International

Choose Hope is just what was needed for a peace conversation between our tradition and that of the East. Often we are separated on judgments but, as this book indicates, we both seek peace in the world even though we may approach it on different tracks. Well worth reading.”

—The. Rev Theodore M. Hesburgh, CSC, president emeritus, University of Notre Dame

Prefaces to the English Edition
Prefaces to the Japanese Edition


Chapter One
Peace, Imagination and Action

Chapter Two
From a Century of War to a Century of Peace

Chapter Three
The Challenge To Bring Forth a New Reality

Chapter Four
Peace Leadership


Chapter Five
Children of the Nuclear Age

Chapter Six
Conscientious Objection to War

Chapter Seven
Hiroshima and Nagasaki

Chapter Eight
The Season of Hiroshima


Chapter Nine
The Mission of Science

Chapter Ten
The Challenge of Abolition 2000

Chapter Eleven
The Abyss of Total Annihilation


Chapter Twelve
Human Security and the Future
of the United Nations

Chapter Thirteen
Literature and Life

Chapter Fourteen
The Importance of
Nongovernmental Organizations

Chapter Fifteen
The Role of Education



About the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation

About the Soka Gakkai International

Chapter 1: Peace, Imagination and Action

The Twenty-first Can Be a Nuclear Weapons–Free Century

Ikeda: Today, we confront the need to turn human history away from its customary course of war and violence and toward peace and harmonious coexistence. One of the most important aspects of the task is the abolition of nuclear weapons. The nuclear arsenals in the world today are many thousands of times more powerful than the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Nonetheless, political and military interests avert our eyes from this tremendous danger. Author Jonathan Schell sounded an alarm some time ago in his now-classic bestseller The Fate of the Earth, in which he spoke of the “death of death.” After a nuclear war, death would cease to exist because life would be no more.

Krieger: It is difficult to imagine a world without life, but nuclear weapons make such a world possible, at least for much of life that includes humans. Without humans, there can be no history. Without humans, there is no possibility to interpret and convey the past to the future. The end of human life would mean the end of human intelligence, creativity and, ironically, the application of technologies.
If other intelligent life exists in the universe, perhaps future space archaeologists coming to earth would discern that our species reached this critical juncture and failed to muster the will to control its own species-threatening technologies. I doubt they could ascertain why we failed. But if they visit earth within the first 240,000 years after our annihilation, traces of plutonium 239 in the environment would alert them to how we failed.

Ikeda: Of course, this is only an imagined possibility related to the common threat we face. But imagination might be the key to meeting the historical challenge confronting us. If we can imagine a future void of human beings, surely we can act to prevent such a future.
That is why the alarm must continually be sounded to wake the peoples of the earth and their leaders. Unless we stimulate a movement to abolish nuclear weapons, our world may be destroyed. That is why I greatly admire the way you speak out courageously against the threat and folly of nuclear weapons and do all you can to create a world free of them.

Choosing Hope

Krieger: Thank you. I equally admire your long commitment to nuclear-weapons abolition. Among the hopeful evidence of movement toward that end have been initiatives undertaken by the youth of your organization, the Soka Gakkai International. I believe that leadership for peace requires deliberately choosing to be hopeful. We could just as easily opt for despair, ridicule or anger. But only the hope of changing the world opens new vistas.
The nature of hope is determined by individual values. What we need is not narrow, self-centered hope but hope on an ego-surpassing and far-reaching scale.

Ikeda: Your remarks accord with the Buddhist teaching of emphasizing the greater self in preference to the smaller self. In spite of all hardships and complications, our task is to persevere in the hope that the twenty-first can be a nuclear-weapon-free century. To realize that goal, it is vital to start with the realization that we live constantly with the threat. The British philosopher Bertrand Russell acutely exposed the ethical ruin of our Nuclear Age. Russell, noting that our world has germinated strange concepts and distorted morality regarding security, pointed out the irony of a world in which weapons are precious things securely kept, while children are exposed to the danger of nuclear incineration.
That we take pains to protect weapons while we expose children—the future of the race—to peril is impermissible. To ignore this absurdity will spell defeat for humanity. We must not live to destroy. We have the spiritual power to create peace and happiness.

Nelson Mandela’s Struggle

Krieger: That power is within us. All it takes is one person to choose hope, to choose to make a difference, and the world will change.

Ikeda: Pioneers of new epochs have always stood independently for their ideals and faith. For instance, the struggles of a hero like Nelson Mandela brought down the infamous apartheid system in South Africa. While the ten thousand days he spent in prison might have obliterated courage and hope in ordinary people, Mandela never retreated a step. When the outside world learned of his staunch battle, people began supporting him and distancing themselves from the unjust South African regime. Then, as I still vividly remember, hope dawned. In October 1990, six months after his release, Mandela visited Japan as deputy president of the African National Congress. Even then, at our first meeting, I sensed the indomitable will behind his gentle expression and could see he was compelled not by hatred of white people, as his critics suggested, but by compassionate love for all humanity.

Krieger: Though Mandela, during his years in prison, had every reason to despair, his story is filled with hope. He sought to overthrow a powerful, entrenched, racist regime in a country where whites had dominated blacks for centuries. Throughout his twenty-seven years of imprisonment, he persevered and retained the conviction that human dignity must triumph over racism. And, in the end, he succeeded. His seemingly impossible dream became a reality. After release from prison, he became the first black man to be elected president of South Africa.

Ikeda: His aim was not to replace whites with blacks, as some said, but to build a society where all could live in equality. As he said after his release: “It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.”

Krieger: Such accomplishments are not possible without strong conviction. The greatest aspect of Nelson Mandela’s story was his spirit of forgiveness after assuming power. After his long, hard struggle, he was neither bitter nor vindictive. He demonstrated his true stature as a human being by seeking to uphold human dignity for all, even the oppressors.

Scientists for the Abolition of Nuclear Arms

Krieger: Einstein is another of my heroes. He was certainly one of the greatest scientists of all time. Yet, more important for me, he was a great human being who never lost his humanity and who spoke out clearly about the dangers of the Nuclear Age. Prophetically he said, “The unleashed power of the atom has changed everything save our modes of thinking, and thus we drift towards unparalleled catastrophe.” He understood that humankind had entered a new era, one that demands a change in our modes of thought.

Ikeda: Einstein knew that nuclear weapons development affects matters much more fundamental than mere techno-scientific progress. In April 1955, just before his death, he joined with Bertrand Russell and others to issue the Russell-Einstein Manifesto. This probing of how human beings should live in the Nuclear Age might be called their testament to humanity.

Krieger: I consider the Russell-Einstein Manifesto one of the most important statements of the twentieth century. Basically, it says that humankind has a choice about the future: “There lies before us, if we choose, continual progress in happiness, knowledge and wisdom. Shall we, instead, choose death, because we cannot forget our quarrels? We appeal as human beings to human beings: Remember your humanity, and forget the rest. If you can do so, the way lies open to a new Paradise; if you cannot, there lies before you the risk of universal death.”
Humanity always has a choice about the future, but to choose the path of peace, justice and human dignity requires leaders of extraordinary commitment and perseverance.

Peace and democracy cannot be achieved in a day. But, according to a hard and fast historical principle, one brave person willing to lay down his or her life for a cause will always find a way out of all difficulties. Mandela’s example shows how one person of conviction can initiate progress toward many triumphs. The thirteenth-century Buddhist reformer, Nichiren —whose teachings we in the SGI practice—wrote, “One is the mother of ten thousand.” The courage of one person transmits itself to others until there are ten thousand courageous people moving triumphantly forward.

Another courageous person whom I greatly respect is Joseph Rotblat, one of the eleven signers of the Russell-Einstein Manifesto. He has long been a leader in the global effort to rid the world of nuclear weapons. In the 1940s, he worked on British and American projects to produce an atomic bomb. He believed that the only reason for creating such weapons was to deter the Germans from using them. Then, when it became clear the Germans would not develop an atomic weapon, he left the Manhattan Project, the American project that was then close to creating the first atomic weapons. He was the only scientist to do so. That in itself is admirable. Even more admirable has been his dedication for more than fifty years to ending the nuclear threat to humankind.

Rotblat has said that war has the power to make foolish animals of human beings, and that even normally prudent and sensible scientists lose the ability to make sound judgments once war starts. On the basis of the Russell-Einstein Manifesto, he and others created the Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs, of which, after serving as chairman for forty years, he is now the honorary chairman. Rotblat’s efforts to set people on the correct track again are highly admirable.

Krieger: The Pugwash Conferences have brought together scientists from East and West to discuss common dangers. Wherever Joseph Rotblat speaks, he has a simple message for scientists and the world at large: Remember your humanity. This was the title of the lecture he delivered in 1995, when he and the Pugwash Conferences shared the Nobel Peace Prize.

Ikeda: Emerson expressed a similar opinion when he said: “We are to revise the whole of our social structure, the state, the school, religion, marriage, trade, science, and explore their foundations in our own nature…. Is it not the highest duty that man should be honored in us?” In the face of complex, apparently unsolvable problems it is vital that we return to the starting point and remember our humanity.

The Passion of Linus Pauling

Krieger: Another great scientist who signed the Russell-Einstein Manifesto is Linus Pauling. Like Einstein and Rotblat, Pauling was outspoken in opposing nuclear-weapons testing and in advocating their abolition. In 1957, he and his wife, Ava Helen, organized a petition among scientists to seek an end to atmospheric testing of nuclear weapons. It started as a petition of American scientists only but, assuming a life of its own, ultimately included scientists from all over the world. Pauling delivered the petition with more than nine thousand signatures to Dag Hammarskjold, then-UN secretary-general. For his efforts to halt atmospheric nuclear testing, Linus Pauling received the 1962 Nobel Peace Prize, his second Nobel award.

Ikeda: According to Pauling, both his scientific and peace achievements were fueled by his desire to save human beings from suffering.7 In science, his spirit of inquiry was inexhaustible. Working for peace, his conviction was unyielding. As you know, in September 1998, the SGI organized an exhibition in San Francisco called “Linus Pauling and the Twentieth Century” with the cooperation of Pauling’s family. We envisioned it as a way of establishing guidelines for the twenty-first century based on the nobility of Pauling’s life and ideas.

Krieger: I was impressed by the tremendous effort you devoted to the exhibit, which even included antagonistic letters Pauling received because of his work for peace.

Ikeda: A video at the exhibition, which seemed to make an especially strong impression on visitors, showed Pauling remaining staunch in the face of criticism and pressure from the government and the media.

Krieger: It is a sad commentary on our society that someone should be reviled for working toward a more peaceful, less dangerous world. But nationalism’s grip on the twentieth century, which continues into the new century, makes such antagonism possible and sometimes prevalent. Pauling was certainly not alone in being unjustly criticized. In spite of his critics, however, and without hesitation, he spoke the truth as he saw it and stood firm for human dignity. This was the measure of his greatness.

Ikeda: In twentieth-century Japan, Tsunesaburo Makiguchi, the first president of the Soka Gakkai, and Josei Toda, the second president, both fought for peace and humanity. The Japanese militarist fascists of the time were invading other nations and violating human rights. Makiguchi and Toda courageously stood up against them. Originating in religious faith, their actions arose from their staunch desire to foster universal opposition to fascism, which threatened human dignity. Josei Toda has been the source of all my own work for peace. I have inherited his spiritual attitudes, and my life is devoted to taking the struggle for peace to the whole world.

The Power of the People

Ikeda: Historically, the reformation of society has been accomplished through the power of people passionately striving to accomplish their vows and goals. But today, unfortunately, society seems profoundly impotent. People are convinced that the individual is powerless to change the prevailing situation. Confronted with day-to-day reality, sensitive people lose hope and shut themselves within their own small worlds. This strikes me as a major evil of our times.

Krieger: Making people aware of their power to change policies and governments presents an important challenge. Of course, people have always had this power, even as far back as ancient China, with its concept of the Mandate of Heaven. The Chinese people overthrew rulers who lost the Mandate of Heaven. More recently, we have witnessed popular movements break down the Berlin Wall and reunite Germany; dismantle the former Soviet Union and create democratic governments in its stead; replace communist governments throughout Eastern Europe; overcome apartheid in South Africa; and replace corrupt governments in places like the Philippines, Haiti and Indonesia. We are just beginning to see the emergence of a powerful popular movement for globalization—the movement for global democracy, including the democratization of the World Trade Organization. I believe that more such movements are on the way.

Ikeda: Arnold J. Toynbee, the renowned British historian, once said that, ultimately, it is “deeper, slower movements ” that create history. I am certain that the power and actions of ordinary people residing in the subcurrents of history constitute those quiet movements. But as you say, while popular movements have made spectacular progress on the national scale in the last decade and a half, global democracy has yet to emerge.
In July 1998, Boutros Boutros-Ghali, the former UN secretary- general, told me that, in the twenty-first century, no individual nation will be capable of solving international problems. Such problems will have to be addressed as global issues unsolvable within domestic frameworks. This, he insisted, is the nature of our times.

Many of the most important problems we face today cross national borders, which modern technologies make entirely permeable. Borders cannot restrain serious pollution or disease. They cannot protect against missile attacks capable of destroying even the most powerful nations. On the positive side, borders are permeable to ideas spread through modern forms of communication, including satellite television, cellular telephones and the Internet. While modern technologies have expanded our problems from national to regional and global scales, they have also provided means by which we can work together to solve these problems.

Loyalty to All Humanity

Ironically, as the world becomes increasingly borderless, people’s awareness remains largely constrained within their national borders. This is the key aspect of the issue.

Krieger: Yes, paradoxically, most people are still conditioned to give their loyalty to a nation in a time when such loyalty often impedes action for the good of humanity as a whole. Few national political leaders today espouse a vision of a world order that prohibits war and weapons of mass destruction, that upholds human rights for all peoples everywhere and that holds leaders accountable under international law for crimes against humanity.

Ikeda: The adoption in July 1998 of a treaty setting up the International Criminal Court—which you had long advocated—was of great significance. UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan described it as a gift of hope for future generations. But developing it into something truly effective demands the support of ordinary people.

Most people don’t yet know much, if anything, about the International Criminal Court. People do know, though, when they are being abused and, in spite of tremendous obstacles, can rise up against tyranny. This new court would be a way to hold leaders accountable for serious crimes. It strongly upholds the interests of ordinary people.

As globalization proceeds, we enter an age in which everybody’s actions strongly influence everybody else. When we realize this, we can then alter our mindset and strive to build a global society of mutual coexistence and mutual prosperity. This will be done by going beyond devotion to the interests of the nation-state and devoting ourselves to the interests of all humanity. As Martin Luther King Jr. said, injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. The key to the solution is, in your terms, the imagination to care for others. It is the empathizing heart or what Buddhists refer to when they talk about mercy.

Krieger: At no other time has that imagination been in greater demand than today. Most troubling to me about the state of the world is a currently pervasive sense of complacency and indifference among the well-to-do. This represents the diametric opposite of empathy and compassion. We have tremendous potential to make the world a more decent place. Global news networks using modern technologies inform us about what is happening all over the planet. In spite of this information, however, many people remain in a state of complacency. The modern equivalent of fiddling while Rome burns is people watching television sitcoms as suffering continues and global threats to human dignity mount.

Ikeda: It is necessary for each individual to look reality in the face, speak out and initiate action in his or her immediate surroundings. The worst thing we can do is to resign ourselves to believing we are helpless. Instead, all of us must come together and revise our outlook. As the German philosopher Karl Jaspers said: “We can enjoy the happiness of existence in the interim granted to us. But it is a last respite. Either we avert the deadly peril or prepare for the catastrophe…. Today we stand poised on the razor’s edge. We have to choose: to plunge into the abyss of man’s lostness, and the consequent extinction of all earthly life, or to take the leap to the authentic man and his boundless opportunities through self-transformation.”

Krieger: People in the most powerful countries seem not to grasp the dangers inherent in relying for security on weapons of mass destruction. The very nuclear-armed states that threaten others with such weapons are themselves threatened with similar massive destruction. Citizens of rich countries often remain indifferent to the suffering of citizens of poor countries. Little is done to reduce the disparity between the rich and the poor. Indeed, that disparity seems to be widening. The biggest challenge is to awaken people everywhere to the dangers to humanity as a whole and to each individual. But encouraging people to act and demanding change are not easy tasks and may have to be carried out person to person. Such activities may be disheartening at times and certainly demand perseverance. A strong will, together with hope—driven by a powerful spirit—are supremely important.