At the time of the Persian Gulf War in 1991 after
Iraq invaded Kuwait, Rissho Kosei-kai's founder and then president, the
late Rev. Nikkyo Niwano, was interviewed about Japan's postwar
Constitution by the organization's Japanese-language magazine Yakushin.
An extract from that interview follows.
The Persian Gulf War has raised many questions in Japan
regarding the deployment overseas of troops from Japan's Self-Defense
Forces, such as whether they should be involved in the transport of
refugees, and as a result a subtle shift seems to be taking place in
the way many Japanese interpret the nation's Constitution. I would like
to ask you, as a Buddhist, to give us your thoughts about Japan's
I always think of the postwar Constitution as the wellspring of
Japan's pride and hopes for the future. Its most important clause is
Article 9, renouncing war: "Aspiring sincerely to an international
peace based on justice and order, the Japanese people forever renounce
war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force
as means of settling international disputes." For the first time in
human history, a national law states that the country will never again
engage in war. The Japanese have a lot of things to be proud of
internationally, but I think this is the most important one.
Could you tell us a little more about what you mean by "most important"?
I say this because the deepest wish of people everywhere is to be
free from war. I think that one aspect of how we measure the degree of
human social development is the extent to which large-scale violence is
used. In primitive times, small groups of people repeatedly fought one
another over food supplies, or inflicted violence on one another in
petty quarrels, or sought revenge if they had been attacked. This type
of behavior gradually diminished as civilization advanced.
But at the same time the scale of violence changed. Whereas in the
distant past the fighting took place between families or villages or
tribes, as civilization developed, battles broke out on a larger scale,
between states and nations. So when Japan as a nation renounced war,
this was surely a sign of its intellectual and cultural advancement.
That is why I think it is something of which Japan should be proud.
Yet many people assert that the Constitution was imposed
on Japan by the Allied Occupation, after our country was defeated in
the Asia-Pacific War.
Yes, many people do say that. However, I think we have to look at
the matter from a different angle. That is, because the war and the
subsequent defeat were such terrible experiences for the Japanese, the
people realized fully how deeply precious peace is. This realization is
invaluable, I think. That is why in all the years since the end of the
war the Japanese have resolutely defended the new Constitution.
On the surface we can say that it was "imposed," but in fact what is
called the "MacArthur draft" was very close to the adopted text that
was prepared by a group of Japanese scholars. That formed the basis of
the version sent by General Douglas MacArthur, Supreme Commander of the
Allied Powers, to the National Diet for revision and approval. So we
cannot honestly say that it was completely imposed on us.
I think what is far more important than the details of how the Constitution came into being is what it actually says.
I understand what you mean. Why do you feel that the Constitution is the wellspring of Japan's hopes for the future?
After the Asia-Pacific War, Japan's future seemed very bleak. Many
of the nation's cities had been reduced to bombed-out rubble, its
industries and factories were destroyed, and the people suffered severe
shortages of food and other necessities. So it was not surprising that
people were asking themselves what type of future awaited them. It was
at this time that the new Constitution was promulgated, and Japan
became the first country ever to have officially renounced war.
Thoughtful people felt this was a ray of hope. Wallowing in defeat,
they found in it the one thing in which they could take pride in the
eyes of the world, and this gave them the courage to begin again. That
is why I say the Constitution was the wellspring of Japan's hopes for
the future. The Japanese people must always continue to have such pride
and hope, not only now but in times ahead, as well.
It is well known that there is some disagreement
concerning the interpretation of Article 9 of the Constitution. Leaving
aside the disagreement, in your view what should be our understanding
of the spirit of that article?
I cannot do better than quote the preamble to the Constitution.
We, the Japanese people, desire peace for all time and are
deeply conscious of the high ideals controlling human relationship, and
we have determined to preserve our security and existence, trusting in
the justice and faith of the peace-loving peoples of the world. We
desire to occupy an honored place in an international society striving
for the preservation of peace, and the banishment of tyranny and
slavery, oppression and intolerance for all time from the earth. We
recognize that all peoples of the world have the right to live in
peace, free from fear and want.
What do you think? Doesn't this recall the spirit of Mahayana
Buddhism? I think a sentence like "[We] are deeply conscious of the
high ideals controlling human relationship" reflects exactly the spirit
of the Lotus Sutra.
Engaging in power politics still holds a strong attraction for some
people in the world. It exerted a great influence on President Saddam
Hussein of Iraq, for example, who abused the ideals of justice and
truth. The result of this is the criticism that it is totally
irresponsible to simply verbally extol peace but do nothing to ensure
What then should be the attitude of people of religion? The Buddha
called anybody who was able to teach him something "a good friend,"
even someone like the treacherous Devadatta, who tried several times to
kill him. And Bodhisattva Never Despise, who appears in chapter 20 of
the Lotus Sutra, revered even those who threw stones at him, saying,
"You will one day become buddhas." Such a sublime spirit will finally
bring harmony to human relationships.
This ideal is expressed in terms of the perfection of everything on
earth in chapter 21 of the Lotus Sutra, "The Divine Power of the
Then with various flowers, incense, garlands, canopies, as
well as personal ornaments, gems, and wonderful things, they all from
afar strewed the saha-world. The things so strewn from every
quarter were like gathering clouds, transforming into a jeweled canopy,
covering all the place above the buddhas. Thereupon the worlds of the
universe were united as one buddha-land.
This passage describes the world as being united. It is not just a
colorful description but an image of an ideal human society that can be
realized in the future. If we take a good look at how world events are
progressing, we can clearly see that we are now slowly moving in that
direction. Countries around the world are endeavoring to act according
to the Charter and resolutions of the United Nations, the Cold War
between the United States and the Soviet Union is largely over, and
Germany has become one nation again. The European Community is also
assuming greater importance.
You would see the Persian Gulf War as a historical
retrogression then? It seems extremely ironic that Iraq's weapons
should have been sold to that country by some of the world's great
Yes, in that sense any country can still be overwhelmed by
delusions. Stockpiling weapons is the delusion of using your assets to
strengthen your nation's armed power. It is because Japan turned that
delusion in the direction of peace that it has become as economically
successful as it has. Truly, "delusions are inseparable from
It is truly inspiring that Japan has been able to maintain
its Peace Constitution in a world in which delusions flourish among
I am certain there have been many difficulties in achieving this.
The important thing is to overcome them. Japan has come as far as it
has and I am sure it will continue to uphold these ideals in the
future. To do so, however, Japan has to build relationships of mutual
trust with other countries. This is nothing but the practical
application of the Buddhist teachings of dependent origination and that
all things are devoid of self.
What should be our attitude to the opinion that the actual conditions in most other countries are still far from this ideal?
It is true that most countries are suspicious of one another and
that as a result they continually try to increase their armaments. Thus
if one country has nuclear weapons, others want to acquire them as
well. Trust is lacking; only doubt, intimidation, deceit, and plotting
seem to prevail. And yet, at the same time, we have the declaration to
the world as national policy through our Peace Constitution that Japan
is a country that trusts other countries and lives by that trust. The
country has continued to make that declaration until now. It is highly
praiseworthy, is it not?
Japan is said to be not very good at diplomacy, but surely it is
creditable to avoid lies, deceit, and plotting. If Japan continues to
act in good faith, that eventually will be recognized by international
society, and Japan will hold a place of honor in it. I am convinced
that Japan must continue to be seen as a peaceful and civilized nation,
and I would like to see it strive to help other countries recognize
that delusions are inseparable from enlightenment.
This article was originally published in the January-March 2008 issue of
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