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Peace, Culture and Education: The Flowering of a New Humanism—Part 11

Part 3: Kosen-rufu and World Peace—The Flowering of a New Humanism

“The Wisdom for Creating Happiness and Peace” is a three-part series that features key selections from SGI President Ikeda’s collected works, which thus far have been compiled into 150 volumes in Japanese. These selections introduce core concepts expressing the wisdom and universal message of Nichiren Buddhism. Through this series, SGI members throughout the world are able to simultaneously study the SGI president’s thought and philosophy.

Choosing Dialogue

SGI President Ikeda has had exchanges and discussions with numerous thinkers and leaders around the world. In this selection, he explains how he has opened a path to world peace and kosen-rufu through sincere dialogue. Adapted from the essay series “Thoughts on The New Human Revolution,” published in Japanese in the Seikyo Shimbun, on May 31, 2003.

May is the month of my dialogue with Arnold J. Toynbee, one of the 20th century’s most eminent historians. We spoke for more than 40 hours during two visits I made to London—both in May. The first session took place on May 5, 1972, and the last on May 19, the following year.

On the final day of our dialogue, the 84-year-old Dr. Toynbee looked at me, then just 45, with a keen glow in his gentle eyes and voiced the hope that I, with many years ahead of me, would continue to engage the world’s leading thinkers in dialogue. Dialogue, he stressed, is the key to humanity’s future.

Thirty years have passed since then. Responding to the trust Dr. Toynbee placed in me, I have engaged in more than 1,500 dialogue sessions with a wide range of individuals, including Henry Kissinger, Bryan Wilson, Aurelio Peccei, René Huyghe, Anatoli Logunov, Josef Derbolav, Chandra Wickramasinghe, Chang Shuhong and Hazel Henderson.[1]

Conversing freely with such people on the subjects of philosophy, peace, culture and education and working together with them toward publishing those dialogues are among my greatest memories.

Dialogue is my very life.

It is because each of us is different that dialogue enables us to create fresh value and make new discoveries. Dialogue serves as a mirror, enabling us to see others as well as ourselves. It enables us to break through the shell of our ego and expand our state of life.

Of course, in today’s troubled and complex world, dialogue does not automatically lead to understanding. It’s not that simple. What is clear, however, is that there can be no understanding without dialogue. To base one’s positions on assumptions and preconceptions, without even attempting to meet and talk, needlessly furthers mis-understanding and hostility. What untold suffering this kind of arrogance has inflicted on humanity!

Whether in our personal relationships, our interactions with our neighbors and those around us, or in relations between nations, everything starts from meeting, talking and getting to know one another. It’s a matter of having the courage to meet and talk with others.

To choose dialogue is itself a victory for peace and a triumph of our humanity. That is why I have met, as one human being to another, with all kinds of people, transcending differences of nationality, ethnicity, religion, ideology, age, gender and social position. I have also carried out interfaith dialogue for the sake of peace with practitioners of various religions, including Christianity, Islam, Hinduism and Judaism.

My partners in dialogue are incredibly diverse. Among them are leaders of nations, politicians, educators, academics, scientists, economists, peace activists, journalists, writers, poets, artists and astronauts. They also include people who have been imprisoned for their beliefs.

In each of these encounters, I make it a point to find out what the person has dedicated their life to—their life’s purpose or mission, if you like—and to learn from it. Hearing the precious experiences and wisdom of first-rate people can provide an opportunity more valuable than reading mountains of books.

Dialogues are like plays with many acts. There are moments when sparks fly, and moments of sheer delight when beautiful chords of harmony are struck between the participants. Lively dialogue is fulfilling, overflowing with dynamism. That is why I give my all to each encounter.
“Words are seeds.” As this proverb from our neighbor South Korea suggests, the seeds sowed through dialogue will, over time, grow and blossom.

When we talk with someone, we aren’t speaking solely to the person before us. That person has family, friends and many young successors who will carry on their work. A beautiful dialogue in which there is a meeting of hearts is always the starting point for fresh future conversations, the first step to creating an ever growing network of friendship.

The path from conflict to cooperation lies in dialogue. Dialogue is the way to build a bridge leading to peace. I am determined to devote each day of my life to dialogue, confident that future generations will follow in my footsteps along this great path.

An Age of Humanitarian Competition

In this selection, President Ikeda discusses the profound significance of “humanitarian competition,” a visionary idea for peace and creative coexistence that was set forth by founding Soka Gakkai President Tsunesaburo Makiguchi in his work The Geography of Human Life. From a speech delivered at an SGI General Meeting, Tokyo, October 22, 1993.

The main message of The Geography of Human Life is for all human beings to live as global citizens, sharing an awareness that the world is our home, our stage of action. As its title indicates, the book is a great exploration of the links between humanity (human life) and the world (geography).

In this work, President Makiguchi defined four stages of the development of human society. The first three stages are military competition, political competition and economic competition. This has proven to be true. He categorized the world of his day as being in the stage of economic competition, when all things are measured by the criteria of profit and loss. But this, he argued, was not the final stage of human development. According to his analysis, the fourth stage, following that of economic competition, will be one he labeled “humanitarian competition.”

This, he explained, would be a time when the power of humanitarianism, rather than the struggle for military, political or economic supremacy, would be the dominant factor in world affairs.

He really was a man of tremendous vision.

The path of hope for humankind, the great path of Buddhism, lies in locating the means to strengthen the power of our character and humanity, which will take precedence over military might, political power or economic growth.

As President Makiguchi so astutely foresaw, the light of humanism is now beginning to illuminate our world. Humanism is the only way forward for the human race. Let us strive to usher in a brilliant age of humanity through our efforts to promote peace, culture and education based on the principles of Nichiren Buddhism.

To be continued in an upcoming issue.

Translated from the December 2017 issue of the Daibyakurenge, the Soka Gakkai’s monthly study journal.

With President Ikeda’s permission, some minor edits and revisions have been made to the original Japanese, and excerpts of remarks originally in dialogue format have been recast as monologues for ease of reading.

—Selected Excerpts Editorial Committee


  1. Henry Kissinger (1923– , American political scientist and former Secretary of State); Bryan Wilson (1926–2004, British sociologist of religion); Aurelio Peccei (1908–84, co-founder of the global think tank The Club of Rome); René Huyghe (1906–97, French art historian); Anatoli Logunov (1926–2015, Russian physicist and former Moscow State University rector); Josef Derbolav (1912–87, German authority on pedagogy and Greek philosophy); Chandra Wickramasinghe (1939– , Sri Lankan-born British astronomer); Chang Shuhong (1904–94, Chinese painter known as the custodian of the treasures of Dunhuang); Hazel Henderson (1933– , British-born American futurist). ↩︎

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