Preface to Our World To Make

By Daisaku Ikeda

My esteemed and dear friend Dr. Ved Prakash Nanda is a leader brimming with the timeless spirituality of India, a man as deep and mighty as the flow of the River Ganges.

His family, prominent in Northern India, has produced a prime minister and other distinguished figures. I understand that the name Nanda originates from Ananda. The name of this aristocratic Indian family calls to mind one of the closest disciples of Shakyamuni, the Buddha whom some describe as the “great teacher of humanity.” Ananda was celebrated as having heard more of Shakyamuni’s teachings in person than any other monk. He represents the person of sincere intellect who earnestly pursues learning and seeks the noble path of Buddhism.

On one occasion, a vicious monk insanely jealous of Shakyamuni incited a king to unleash a violent, raging elephant to attack Shakyamuni and his disciples. In that moment of panic, the disciples surrounding Shakyamuni fled for their lives. Only one courageous disciple remained to protect his teacher, refusing to yield even a step. This disciple was said to be Ananda. There are none stronger and more honorable than those who dedicate their lives for the sake of justice. Dr. Nanda has led a life as a great educator with the same sincerity and depth of conviction as Ananda.

Dr. Nanda is from the northwestern part of India that now belongs to Pakistan. A major turning point in his life occurred in 1947, when he was twelve. The Indian people’s long-cherished desire for independence had finally been achieved, but their joy was fleeting as the situation soon turned tragic. The Partition of India created two sovereign states based on religious affiliation: Pakistan, with a predominantly Islamic population, and India, with a primarily Hindu population. So began a massive migration of Hindus from Pakistan to India and of Muslims from India to Pakistan. Widespread arson, looting, and murder accompanied the exodus. The insanity ravaged villages and towns, a hellish tragedy repeated throughout the land.

Dr. Nanda and his family were expelled from their homeland simply because they were followers of Hinduism. Why did they have to leave the place where he had grown up? Why did his neighbors, who had lived together amicably in the past, suddenly start attacking one another? Dr. Nanda said: “At the time, the reasons were incomprehensible to me. Even now, I am at a loss to make sense of it.”

Yet Dr. Nanda transformed his suffering and sorrow into tireless action to advance peace and promote well-being for all humankind. His tragic experience led him to the belief that it is absolutely unpardonable to persecute people in the name of religion, the original aim of which is surely to enrich our goodness and unite us. This was both his pledge and enduring conviction.

After completing his studies at the University of Delhi, Dr. Nanda traveled to the United States to study at Northwestern University and Yale University. He then pursued a career in education and is now John Evans Distinguished University Professor, Thompson G. Marsh Professor of Law, and founding director and director emeritus of the International Legal Studies Program, University of Denver Sturm College of Law.

Dr. Nanda has held many important positions, including president of the World Jurist Association, and has been fully engaged as a scholar of international law. Furthermore, he has played an active role in the movement of international NGOs to defend human rights and work for peace. One of these endeavors was the World Court Project, which sought a ruling from the International Court of Justice on the illegality of using, and threatening the use of, nuclear weapons.

In today’s world, there seems to be no end to the cycle of violence and animosity. Frequent conflicts and terrorist attacks, the suppression of human rights, the widening gap between rich and poor, the destruction of the environment: These are all problems threatening the lives of millions of people worldwide.

In every era, unfortunately, those most victimized are society’s least powerful—ordinary people, especially innocent children. Dr. Nanda has described the present as an “era of mortal struggle for hope,” one in which the entire world strains under the weight of the manifold adversity it bears.

This essential reality is no different from the situation confronting Shakyamuni more than twenty-five hundred years ago. The Sutta Nipata, or Group of Discourses, reads, “Seeing people floundering, like fish (floundering) in little water, seeing them opposed to one another. . . .” (1)

In such a turbulent world, the primary purpose of religion must be to guide people to live together in ways most befitting us as human beings, leading all on the path of hope toward peace and happiness. How, then, can religion contribute to solving our world’s proliferation of problems?

Through our discussions, Dr. Nanda and I drew important insights from the wisdom for achieving the eternal peace and human happiness that is found in the spirit of India, the birthplace of both Buddhism and Hinduism. We authored this dialogue out of the hope that we may share with as many people as possible what we have learned. We have learned much from each other and affirmed that the principles of Buddhism and Hinduism share many points in common, which are what make the spirit of India unique. Among these shared principles are the spirit of nonviolence and compassion, and the Law—or dharma—that are foundational to and inherent in both the universe and humanity. These also include the harmonious coexistence of human beings and nature, and tolerance of others—all essential ideas to a philosophy for creating a peaceful, global civil society.

With this spiritual heritage in mind, we discussed such pressing issues as education, human rights, the environment, the United Nations, and international law, exploring ways to resolve the most difficult challenges facing humankind. This book represents the results of our efforts.

We shine a light on the protagonists of the new era who, through their steady yet unheralded efforts in NGOs and other venues to tackle the world’s many problems, are paving the way for peaceful coexistence in the twenty-first century. The social contributions of these private citizens from around the world stand as a model for the global civil society that we need to create in the future, reminding me of the bodhisattvas—those who strive for the wellbeing of others as they would their own—who appear in the Lotus Sutra. Mahatma Gandhi, who embodied the great spirit of India, said, “True morality consists, not in following the beaten track, but in finding out the true path for ourselves and in fearlessly following it.” (2)

This work contains discussions originally serialized in The Journal of Oriental Studies, combined with additional material and new conversations. I offer my heartfelt appreciation to Dr. Nanda for taking time from his busy schedule to fully engage in our dialogue. My encounters with Dr. Nanda have been a precious treasure, and I am most proud that the completion of this book represents the crystallization of our friendship.

The name Nanda also signifies joy and jubilation. I fondly recall that when I first met Dr. Nanda, we listened intently as the students of Soka University of Japan performed Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy.” They sang, “Sorrow and Poverty, come forth /And rejoice with the Joyful ones.”

Nothing would make me happier than if our dialogue were to encourage and guide young people in even the smallest way as they wisely, intrepidly triumph in creating a joyful future for humankind.

Notes

1. The Group of Discourses (Sutta Nipata), vol. II, trans. K. R. Norman (Oxford: The Pali Text Society, 1995), p. 107.

2. Mahatma Gandhi, All Men Are Brothers: Life and Thoughts of Mahatma Gandhi as Told in His Own Words, ed. Krishna Kripalani (Paris: UNESCO, 1958), p. 174.

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