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Dialogue as a Peacebuilding Practice

"Ours is thus an age where there is a critical need for truly creative dialogical processes grounded in respect for the dignity of life."

Photo by MARTHA MANZANARES.


The Ikeda Center for Peace, Learning, and Dialogue is pleased to announce the December 2018 publication of its newest title, Peacebuilding Through Dialogue: Education, Human Transformation, and Conflict Resolution.

The book—edited by Peter N. Stearns, a professor and provost emeritus at George Mason University—is published by George Mason University Press in collaboration with the Ikeda Center. It includes a foreword by SGI President Ikeda and features 13 leading scholars exploring the power and versatility of dialogue as a peacebuilding practice. With its expansive approach, the book makes original and invaluable contributions to peace studies, civic studies, education studies, organizational studies, conflict resolution studies and dignity studies. Peacebuilding Through Dialogue is intended for scholars, students and engaged citizens.

In her advance praise, Melanie Greenberg of Humanity United said, “This vibrant, insightful volume sheds new light on dialogue processes that serve as the DNA of peacebuilding and help bridge the chasms of deeply divided societies.” And Stanford University Professor Emerita of Education Nel Noddings said: “This set of chapters on the use of dialogue in peacebuilding is powerfully informative and beautifully written. Engaging in dialogue is challenging work, and this fine book provides substantial help.”

The book is available for $35 in hard copy or e-book through the University of Virginia Press at www.upress.virginia.edu/title/5366.

Excerpt From President Ikeda’s Foreword

The Lotus Sutra, which expresses the essence of Mahayana Buddhism, identifies 10 states or inner conditions of life. These are the 10 realms or worlds of hell, hunger, animality, anger, humanity, rapture, learning, realization, bodhisattva and Buddhahood. The Buddhist concept of mutual possession of the Ten Worlds teaches that each of these worlds possesses within it the potential of the other worlds in an interdependent and interactive relationship.

The experiences of suffering and despair, desire, anger, joy, learning and altruistic concern do not constitute discrete, isolated realms. Within each of these experiences, the other nine states continue to exist as latent potentialities that can become manifest at any moment through interaction with our surroundings.

This understanding of life stands in strong contrast to a discriminatory worldview that assigns fixed value to different people. In the Lotus Sutra, the 8-year-old dragon king’s daughter was able to attain enlightenment in her present form. This example of the enlightenment of women was a disruptive challenge to the entrenched bias of the male Buddhist practitioners of the time, awakening them to the true meaning of equality and human dignity. The story of the dragon king’s daughter demonstrates that the path to enlightenment is open to all people without distinction, and that this is a vital concern to us all.

Ultimately, the teaching of the mutual possession of the Ten Worlds encourages us to see others in ourselves, ourselves in others, and to perceive our deeper connections and unity. It is an appreciation of human life as inherently diverse and mutable; it embodies an unwavering faith in the limitless potential and dignity of all people. I am confident that such a perspective offers a path toward peace and harmonious coexistence embracing all forms of ideological, religious and philosophical differences.

Today, the world is witnessing the rapid globalization of economic activity, information and the movement of people. Cross-border exchanges and encounters are increasing at an unprecedented rate.

At the same time, however, the world is experiencing cycles of violence and conflict driven by divisions and deepseated animosities predicated on ethnic and cultural differences.

At the heart of these problems is a failure to fully respect human dignity, to understand and communicate with others on that basis. This failure gives rise to the forces of misapprehension and prejudice. Ours is thus an age where there is a critical need for truly creative dialogical processes grounded in respect for the dignity of life. This is vital if we are to transform division into harmony, confrontation into collaboration. WT