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Global Perspective

Dawn After Dark

René Huyghe and Daisaku Ikeda

Illustration by Rickhadi / 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 Dawn After Dark (pp. 148–52).

‘The Buddhist Spirit of Universal Caring’

René Huyghe: Our final recourse must be to think of and work on human nature. Once again, we confront the truth that tomorrow’s task must be to exert ourselves in connection with human nature and the restoration of its inner fullness.

It is necessary here once again to emphasize the regenerating effect art has on sensibility. Art can support the power of love, which is the sole salvation for humanity and the continuous exercise of which art itself implies. If the artist’s work represents the completion of an act of love, transport and giving, the spectator who acquires and attempts to find access to that work of art can communicate with it only by means of an act analogous to love. This is because such an act must be founded in understanding and fusion.

I return to the importance of giving the greatest possible place in education to the awakening and application of the sensitive activities inherent in literature, poetry and art. Each of us is endowed with the faculty of love, which naturally provides equilibrium by counterbalancing aggression. As always, nature furnishes the riposte to its own dangers. Our epoch has discovered the immense role played by antibodies in physiology. Psychology too is gifted with analogous resources. …

Daisaku Ikeda: In relation to the things necessary to achieve peace, you have concisely explained many of the thoughts that I entertain. I certainly agree that enriching the inner human life is of the greatest importance and that we must strive to strengthen the power of love as a counterbalance to aggression. I suspect what you call love is what I mean by respect for the dignity of life and concern for the well-being of all living things.

This is the sense in which Buddhism lays the greatest stress on love. As an illustration of this emphasis, one of the stories about his former lives relates how, as part of his own self-discipline, Shakyamuni once gave his body as food to a starving tigress incapable of feeding her young. The famous Indian King Ashoka, who reigned from 268 BCE until 232 BCE, strove to carry on the Buddha’s teachings by instituting hospitals for the care of wounded animals. The Japanese empress Komyo, a devout Buddhist, is said to have established a hospital for sufferers of leprosy and to have washed the bodies of lepers with her own hands. Nor were these people abnormally fond only of certain special categories like animals and lepers and negligent of ordinary, healthy human beings. They were attempting to apply the Buddhist spirit of universal caring that extends to all living creatures.

But maintaining balance between ceaselessly destructive aggression and the force of love that respects and seeks to protect life is not enough: love must be given preeminence. And this must be done on the widest possible scale. The fiercest murderer gives preeminence to love when he himself or those close to him are in question. Fundamentally, such a murderer is in no way different from national leaders who, while affording first concern to the interests of their own people, unhesitatingly take up arms in belligerence against other races or nations.

Furthermore, people who, while regarding human associates with love and care, experience no conscience pangs at killing non-human life forms are dangerous. This is true because sometimes one race regards other races as subhuman, as Hitler did non-Aryans in general and Jews in particular.

Giving precedence to love over aggression in relation with all forms of life removes the danger of such a mistake. …

Huyghe: No matter from which angle we approach the problems of the world today, we always return to the central theme: rehabilitating and harmonizing the inner life.

Ikeda: That is true. There can be no doubt that the fundamental evil of our times is the shrinking of the subjective as the objective increases and the undervaluing of quality as quantity is overvalued. The source of the problem is to be found in the way human beings have neglected to revolutionize themselves while seeking to revolutionize their surroundings, including other human beings and material conditions. Indeed, civilization to the present can be characterized by its striving to revolutionize the environment.

René Huyghe

(May 3, 1906–February 5, 1997)

Notable Achievements

French art historian and writer on the psychology and philosophy of art.

Risked his life to save artwork from the Louvre from occupying Nazi forces during World War II.

Director of paintings at the Louvre Musuem.

Professor of art at the College of France.

Author of Cézanne, Delacroix ou le combat solitaire and others.

Member of the Académie Française.

From the February 2023 Living Buddhism

Nichiren Daishonin—His Lifelong Vow and Great Compassion

Launching the Sixth Class