Core Ideas & Convictions

For a Peaceful, Flourishing World

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1. Dialogue & Mutual Understanding Are Inseparable, and Needed Now More Than Ever

2. Humanistic Education Is Vital to Global Progress

3. It is Critical to Maintain Faith in People's Potential for Good

4. Respect for Human Dignity & Reverence for the Sanctity of Life Provide a Baseline Ethical Standard

5. The Reform of Self Is Essential to the Reform of Society

6. The Poetic Power of the Imagination Calls Forth Our Highest Potential

7. Awareness of Interdependence Forms the Crux of the 21st Century Worldview

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1. Dialogue & Mutual Understanding Are Inseparable, and Needed Now More Than Ever

Dialogue is among the most powerful tools for nonviolent personal and social change. More than a technique, dialogue is a stance or orientation, evidence of "a humble willingness to learn from others." Further, dialogue represents a commitment to shared understanding at a time in history when large numbers of people—the powerful and the powerless alike—see the process of globalization as so inevitably fraught with violence and misunderstanding that the only reasonable option is to fight and win, be it in the physical world or in the world of ideas. In the aftermath of 9-11, when many looked to armed conflict for solutions, Daisaku Ikeda came to a different conclusion: "It is my firm conviction that efforts to create new systems to prevent and counter global terrorism will be genuinely effective only when the kind of dialogue that addresses and transforms the human spirit is conducted on a global scale."

SUPPORTING IKEDA QUOTES

I firmly believe that the more severe the challenges we face the more crucial it is that we persist in dialogue, because dialogue has the power to break down the walls of mistrust, hatred, and division in the hearts of people everywhere. (2004)
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2. Humanistic Education Is Vital to Global Progress

There is wide agreement on the centrality of education to any efforts at personal and social progress in the decades to come. The difference of opinion is about the nature of the teaching and learning that is needed. The Ikeda Center advocates Soka, or value creating, education, a pedagogical approach developed by Japanese educator Tsunesaburo Makiguchi in the early decades of the 20th century. Soka education resonates strongly with humanistic American pedagogies in the Deweyan tradition, especially in its focus on helping learners discover and develop their unique interests and capacities. In so doing, individuals can maximize the value of their contributions to our world. Further, the emphasis is not on the acquisition of knowledge for knowledge's sake, but rather on the development of wisdom, which orients knowledge for the well being of all.

SUPPORTING IKEDA QUOTES

Experience has shown us that unless ordinary citizens develop their wisdom, they too easily fall prey to the machinations of those who would abuse their power. It is from this that the need for humanistic education arises, the kind of education that enables people to transform themselves and, through that transformation, to change their societies. (2004)
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3. It's Critical to Maintain Faith in People's Potential for Good

Faced with so much cruel and thoughtless human behavior, it is tempting to succumb to cynicism and despair about the ability of individuals to make a positive difference in our world. From this position, one is left with only the option of top down, coercive solutions—i.e., the kinds that rarely, if ever, stick. As a response to widespread despair, faith in human potential for good should not be confused with unthinking optimism; rather, this faith maintains, based on the evidence of actual positive behavior, that humans have the inherent capacity, individually and collectively, to overcome self-imposed limitations and impact the world in creative as opposed to destructive ways. Our faith in the power of dialogue and humanistic education depends on faith in people's potential for good.

SUPPORTING IKEDA QUOTES

In the course of conducting these exchanges [with historian Arnold Toynbee], I have gained a strong confidence in the rich reserves of goodness that are equally the possession of all people, regardless of the civilization into which they were born, or the cultural milieu in which they were formed. (2004)
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4. Respect for Human Dignity & Reverence for the Sanctity of Life Provide a Baseline Ethical Standard

This fundamental standard has far reaching implications. How much damaging behavior depends on a denial of the inviolable integrity of persons and our planet? To name just two examples, widespread reports of torture and stark evidence of environmental catastrophes indicate that human dignity and the sanctity of life do not figure as strongly in our calculations as they must if we are to advance toward creative, sustainable cultures of peace. To respect this standard would require a major recalibration of our systems of interaction with each other and our world. For example, we might acknowlege the limitations of market-based economies in providing for the well being of all people and our planet. We might also question the use of military actions as a strategy for social change. The Ikeda Center supports behaviors that respect and nurture the "Buddha nature," or inherent positive potential, of all people.

SUPPORTING IKEDA QUOTES

The first [connection between Nichiren Buddhism and American Transcendentalism] is a respect for human dignity, a reverence for the mystery and sanctity of life. Both discover limitless possibility and the ultimate value in life itself. Both express belief that all life is endowed with an inherent dignity, that life in all its manifestations is unique, irreplaceable, and worthy of respect. (2004)
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5. The Reform of Self Is Essential to the Reform of Society

This concept resides at the heart of the philosophy of value creation that guides the Center's work. First of all, this philosophy maintains that it is mistaken to wait for difficult external forces to improve before we ouselves take positive steps for the betterment of self and society. Admittedly, there are circumstances where an individual's options are limited, sometimes severely so, but the principle of always looking to create value is a powerful ideal. It also provides a strong point of resonance with the ethical core of the American Renaissance, a philosophical tradition that the Center often looks to for meaningful connections with humanistic Buddhism. Says scholar Ronald A. Bosco: “The most valuable lesson that Thoreau delivers to us today is that all cultural transformation begins with the individual, begins from within.” Daisaku Ikeda concurs that "efforts to improve systems or surroundings will be meaningless unless there is an inner change within people themselves."

SUPPORTING IKEDA QUOTES

For Emerson and Thoreau, any thought of reforming society is based in a philosophy of self-transformation. Emerson stressed that reform must begin from humans themselves, from the inner realm of the human heart. Efforts to improve systems or surroundings will be meaningless unless there is an inner change within people themselves. (2004)
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6. The Poetic Power of the Imagination Calls Forth Our Highest Potential

A key aspect of Daisaku Ikeda's philosophy is his insistence that there is an aesthetic dimension to ethical behavior. This conviction, which resonates with Deweyan thought, runs headlong into the contemporary instinct to seek mechanistic solutions to problems of every kind: Education is best measured by test data; every illness has a chemical solution; environmental problems require an engineering of nature as opposed to a change of behavior. For Ikeda, the problems facing our world, including those relating to what has been called "the clash of civilizations," depend for solutions on "the poetic power of the imagination, that which compels the poet to create portals of hope and discover entranceways for exchange in the massive walls that divide our world." Poetic endeavors, by their very nature, not only express reverence for life and its mysteries but also help us to realize our potential as creative, compassionate, and discerning beings.

SUPPORTING IKEDA QUOTES

The bard’s role is to serve as what my friend Vincent Harding has called the “midwife” who assists people in bringing forth their true humanity. The poet’s special gift of creativity and imagination touches people's lives, inspiring them to fully realize their potential while strengthening their bonds with others. (2009)
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7. Awareness of Interdependence Forms the Crux of the 21st Century Worldview

Pressed to name the one concept that, if widely internalized, would have the greatest positive impact on our world, a strong case can be made for the interdependence of all life, also characterized as interconnection. This concept directly challenges today's prevailing assumption that life is essentially a competitive affair, defined by "the survival of the fittest," both biologically and socially. Scientifically, we can observe the marvelous complexity of mutually supporting life forms that develops within ecosystems over time. The healthiest ecosystems are those manifesting the greatest biodiversity; even the smallest insect can play an absolutely vital role in assuring the health of a system. The spiritual or metaphysical corollary of this truth in Buddhism is found in the doctrine of dependent origination, which holds that "no beings or phenomena exist on their own; they exist or occur because of their relationship with other beings and phenomena." Internalizing this truth, we will be less inclined to believe we can succeed at the expense of other people or the planet that sustains us.

SUPPORTING IKEDA QUOTES

In the context of this sutra [containing the "Parable of the Medicinal Herbs"], the earth and rain indicate the impartial teachings and dharma of Shakyamuni; the plants and trees are like people of unique and varying capacities. This passage can also be read as portraying a world of creative coexistence, where all life-forms, fostered by the compassionate and creative power of the cosmos, receive life and exhibit their unique and particular qualities within a web of interconnection. (2004)
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