Preface to Our World To Make

By Ved Nanda

This dialogue had its genesis in my December 1994 journey to Japan, where I had the tremendous privilege to visit Soka University of Japan and speak at length with Soka Gakkai International president Daisaku Ikeda. In President and Mrs. Ikeda’s company, I enjoyed a thrilling performance of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 by students of Soka University and Soka Women’s College. This was not my first time traveling to Japan, but I found myself seeing the country with new eyes.

My friend and colleague Dr. Maria Guajardo Lucero, who has been a member of the Soka Gakkai International for many years, accompanied me on this occasion. Her esteem for President Ikeda and the organization gave a spark to our conversation during our flight to Tokyo.

Even after her glowing advance introduction, what I found during my visit far exceeded my expectations. I certainly could not have fully anticipated the warmth, vision, and wisdom of President Ikeda before having the opportunity to sit and speak with him in person. We talked for quite a while. Since that time, I have come to appreciate just how precious that extended visit was, as I have witnessed the full schedule of President Ikeda and the dizzying demands on his time. This engaging leader of the Soka Gakkai International made a lasting impression on me.

Our connection has grown since then. The University of Denver recognized President Ikeda with one of his many honorary doctorates and hosted the Soka Gakkai International exhibition on the environment (“Seeds of Change: The Earth Charter and Human Potential”); I had the privilege and honor of again visiting Soka University in Tokyo and the Soka schools in Tokyo and Osaka; I have attended and addressed Soka Gakkai International–related seminars and conferences, meeting student and organizational leaders, and have further conversed with President Ikeda on many subjects.

In speaking with him and reading his work, I am astonished by his openness to different viewpoints—how deeply committed he is to dialogue and how passionate he is about the values that I, too, consider my highest priorities: human rights, human welfare, disarmament, interreligious and intercultural dialogue, and the contributions each of us can make toward creating a culture of peace. Having spoken with many Soka Gakkai International leaders and members in my travels in the United States, Japan, India, and several countries in Europe, I am struck by how many lives President Ikeda has touched through his exemplary life, his teaching and his writing, and his educational institutions.

The more I read President Ikeda’s thoughtful works, the more I am impressed with his panoramic, transcendental approach and the depth of his understanding of not only Buddhism, which is of course the focus of his life and mission, but also of other religions and cultures. I especially appreciate his profound understanding of Hinduism and its place in the history of modern India, as Mahatma Gandhi’s movement of nonviolence and civil disobedience shaped it. President Ikeda is equally conversant with the lives and works of many modern Indian spiritual and intellectual leaders, such as Swami Vivekananda, Ramana Maharshi, and Sri Aurobindo.

Having been born a Hindu and continued on this path all my life, I felt compelled in the course of our conversations to consider anew the meaning of Hinduism in my life, as I was drawn into the very process of reflection that the conversations are intended to trigger in readers.

Engaging in this dialogue has been not only a most enjoyable process for me but an uplifting experience as well. Masao Yokota, advisor to the Ikeda Center for Peace, Learning, and Dialogue, and Soka Gakkai International staff members on both sides of the Pacific Ocean have done an amazing job of facilitating the communication between President Ikeda and me.

Throughout the dialogue, while my hectic schedule has forced me to ask the greatest possible leniency from the Soka Gakkai International staff on deadlines, I have been astounded by President Ikeda’s ability to meet the demands he places upon himself. I still do not totally understand how he has accomplished what he has—the wide dissemination of the Buddhist humanism that he cherishes through his books and his exchanges with so many statesmen, religious and spiritual leaders, literary figures, and intellectual giants in the world. This is not to mention his artistic and poetic works and his founding of Soka universities and other Soka schools, as well as research institutes. The millions of people who have learned the Nichiren Buddhist way through the Soka Gakkai International attest, through their unequivocal dedication and commitment, to the value of this visionary way of life.

I feel privileged to have met President Ikeda and consider it my good fortune to have had the opportunity to participate in a small way in this great undertaking for a future based upon mutual respect and the quest for a peaceful world.

 

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