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Global Perspective

On Being Human

Where Ethics, Medicine and Spirituality Converge René Simard, Guy Bourgeault and Daisaku Ikeda

(L–r) Guy Bourgeault and René Simard. Illustration RickyHadi / Fiverr

Ikeda Sensei has had dialogues with leading figures throughout the world to advance peace. More than 80 of his dialogues have been published as books. This series highlights these dialogues. The following are excerpts from On Being Human (pp. 81–83).

Bodhisattvas Make Stress the Spice of Their Vitality

Guy Bourgeault: One of Dr. Hans Selye’s most important contributions was to shed light on the positive aspects of stress. He argued that stress itself is not a sickness nor does it necessarily lead to sickness. It can enable us to exercise creativity and muster the vitality or energy we need to defend ourselves from exterior menace.

Daisaku Ikeda: Dr. Seyle once described stress as “the spice of life.” You really need to be free from worldly concerns to actually appreciate stress like that. It is healthy, and even necessary, to let go of the pressures of work and … sing in a karaoke bar or relax with some other form of recreation. Fundamentally, however, the important thing is to gather our internal forces enough to make stress a “spice” and to learn to use it creatively.

Bourgeault: The world of human beings is certainly no utopia of universal justice and peace. On the contrary, it is rife with injustice, discord and conflict. We must learn to live with these painful realities.

Ikeda: I held several discussions with the famous French biologist René Dubos, and he said that though it is pleasant to imagine a world free of worry, stress and tension, such a world is no more than the pipedream of the indolent. He added that human beings develop in the face of adversity. This is how our spirits work—it is the destiny of humankind. What you just said reminds me of Dubos’s words.

The most effective way to deal with stress is to constantly struggle to cultivate our minds and forge our personalities, even in the face of danger.

Bourgeault: No matter how absurd or irrational our circumstances, we can and must persevere in efforts to convert war into peace. Like liberty, equality and fraternity, justice and peace constantly elude us. We must nevertheless continue to make sustained efforts and to move, step by step, toward this unattainable goal and achieve at least fragments of peace and justice.

Ikeda: On the basis of his own experience fighting against cancer, Dr. Selye recommends the following in building a constructive life style: 1) Since resentment and anger lower one’s resistance to stress, turn those feelings into respect and sympathy; 2) set goals for yourself; and 3) live for the benefit of others, for in so doing, you yourself will benefit.

The way of life Dr. Selye encourages is exactly what is called the bodhisattva way in Buddhism. Bodhisattvas live for the peace of humankind and to build a just and fair society. By so doing, they transform their indignation into compassion and control greed with wisdom. They enjoy their lives by making stress the spice of their vitality. A passage in the Lotus Sutra reads, “Jewelled trees abound in flowers and fruit where living beings enjoy themselves at ease.”[1]

Bourgeault: Such qualities as vitality, self-control, creativity, wisdom and perseverance are essential to the realization of justice and peace. Again, it is not possible to totally avert war and completely eliminate injustice. But we can change the status quo; in fact, it is our duty to do so. At the very least, we are obligated to improve the realities of this world.

Ikeda: I agree absolutely.

Bourgeault: SGI has been working for years in close collaboration with the major agencies of the United Nations, including UNESCO. As president of SGI, you support the sentiment expressed in the opening of the UNESCO charter: “That since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defenses of peace must be constructed.”

Building justice and peace day by day requires mobilization of energies of self-defense, creativity and clear, warm-hearted inventiveness. Often the effect of the spiritual movements that proliferate today—regardless of whether or not this is the intention—is to demobilize and eliminate responsibility. No doubt, as I have said, injustices and wars are unavoidable. They exist—they scream at us from our television sets. But we can change things. It is our responsibility to do so or at least to work to that end.

Ikeda: True. The way to lasting peace is to make our minds firm citadels of peace even under the worst circumstances. I am convinced that this is the way to build the “human security” advocated by the United Nations.

René Simard

Notable Achievements
Former rector of the University of Montreal.
Professor in pathology and cellular biology.
Notable authority on cancer research.
Recipient of a number of awards, including the Order of Canada and the French National Order of Merit.

Guy Bourgeault

Notable Achievements
Eminent professor of bioethics and pedagogy at the University of Montreal.
Expert on Christian theology.


  1. The Lotus Sutra and Its Opening and Closing Sutras, p. 272. ↩︎

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