Nonviolence Is the Way

Nonviolence is the realistic way to resolve conflicts and achieve peace. It’s in harmony with the scientific findings that compassion is the basic human nature. If we look at the history of the last centuries, we see that violence only brings more hatred, more negative emotions. If violence is used to counter violence, it has no positive effect. In Europe, the leaders realized that violence was not the right method. They thought more broadly and so, after World War II, they started the European Union. I often tell people how, during World War I and II, France and Germany were enemies. My friend and tutor for quantum physics, Carl Friedrich von Weizsäcker, when he was 90, told me that when he was young, Germans regarded all French as the enemy, and the French likewise regarded all Germans as the enemy. But now those attitudes have changed completely.

As people gained deeper experience, they realized that violence was out of date. Violence depends strongly on the concepts of “we” and “they,” and then, based on that, come fights. But by considering all neighbors as one community, they started the European Union. I always say that since the European Union started, there is no danger of quarrels leading to war in Europe. If there were no European Union, then perhaps by now some serious problems would have arisen. But people become in tune with their basic human nature by being nonviolent.

People’s thought has significantly changed between the beginning and the end of the 20th century. Take, for example, the Solidarity movement in Poland. 200,000 Russian soldiers were there, but people were determined to fight aggression with nonviolent methods. Such things are clear indications that people on this continent, after suffering so much through violence, have realized that nonviolence is the best method.

I wish that Russia would join the European Union. I also think that the same spirit as the EU should start in Latin America and in Africa. Africa has so many different countries, so maybe first it could start with just North Africa, and then expand to include Central, East, West and Southern Africa. And then the whole world! Eventually our goal should be for the whole world to become one union. I think this is possible. This is my dream.

India is a good example. India is a union of North, Central, East, West and South. All states are like different countries, with their own languages and scripts. Yet they form one union. My dream – maybe an empty dream – is that India, China and Japan will someday form a single union. The concept of a union is based on the concept of nonviolence.

This century should be a century of dialogue. When people have different interests, there should be dialogue, not weapons. It is possible. First must come denuclearization. This is very important. At the occasion of the meeting of Noble Peace Prize Laureates, which was supposed to take place in South Africa, but because the government there had difficulties, was shifted to Rome, we spoke about how to bring about denuclearization. At that time, I suggested that we should set a time table for this and hold the nuclear powers to it. But nothing happened. “Denuclearization” – it sounds very nice, but maybe not so effective without a fixed time table. Then if it becomes a worldwide movement, maybe it can be achieved. After that, we need to get rid of all offensive weapons, then defensive weapons. To achieve a peaceful world, we need to demilitarize step by step.  

To achieve external peace, first we need to attend to the internal level. There is too much anger, jealousy and greed. So, we need external disarmament and internal disarmament, both together. Internal disarmament comes through education. With a more compassionate mind, even our physical health is better.

In connection with this, it is important to smile. People love to see a smile, not a frown or a serious face. Children, and even dogs prefer a smile. When you smile at a dog, it wags its tail. If you feed a dog and have a very serious face, the dog will take the food, but then go away.

Social animals have social concern since their survival depends on the rest of the community. We humans are social animals and the whole world is our community. With this way of thinking, we develop respect for others. Then even if there are different views, different interests, we can reach some agreement for how to proceed.
First, we need to respect the rights of others, our brothers and sisters. Whether we like it or not, we must all live together on this planet. In the European Union, East and West depend on each other and North and South depend on each other. The future of all depends on each one depending on the others. For a global economy, national boundaries are not so important.

Global warming is a serious issue. If it continues, then in the next century, there will be serious difficulties in the world. I’m a monk, so I have no children. But you who are parents and grandparents, you have responsibility for your children and grandchildren. So please take global warming seriously.

Also, the human population is increasing. When I arrived in India it was six billion. Now it is seven billion. Scientists say that by the end of the century it will be ten billion. So think of the well-being of all with the environment and society.

Nonviolent ways are the only ways to tackle problems. In India I am trying to revive the ancient Indian philosophy of nonviolence and secular ethics. India is the home of nonviolence. For over 3,000 years there has been religious harmony. I have suggested that Indian Muslims must help their Sunni and Shia friends in Afghanistan, Syria and so on. In India there has been no problems between Sunni and Shia. In India, Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Parsis and so on live in harmony. Like this, I have taken steps to promote religious harmony.

There is too much emphasis on material things. In India it is easy to combine modern material education with the ancient traditions of nonviolence, moral responsibility and emotional knowledge. I am fully committed to help India revive its ancient traditions concerning the emotions. China also has its ancient traditions. Now there are 400 million Buddhists there. If you combine India and China, that is a huge population.
Step by step, using different professions, we can build a peaceful, compassionate world. It is possible, then, that the latter half of the 21st century can be more peaceful. I’m 84 now, so in another ten or twenty years it will be time for me to say, “Bye, bye.” But we must start now, with vision and practical methods. That’s all. Thank you.