Ikeda Forum

The annual Ikeda Forum for Intercultural Dialogue explores connections between life affirming philosophies deriving from literary, cultural, and educational traditions in the East and West. It is named after Center founder Daisaku Ikeda in honor of his untiring commitment to dialogue as the surest path to peace. This introductory essay explores ways the 2015 Ikeda Forum serves as a window into the Ikeda Center's work and values. This page offers a selection of highlights from each Forum.

2022 Ikeda Forum
Ikeda Forum Explores the Power of Our Stories

The first in-person Ikeda Forum since 2019, and the 18th overall since 2004, was called “Our Stories Matter: Dialogue As a Way of Knowing, Being, and Becoming.” Co-presenters Shirley Tang and Karen Ross, both of the University of Massachusetts Boston, explored the ways "we are storied into being."
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2021 Ikeda Forum
Becoming Wide Awake to Our Wisdom, Courage, and Compassion

The second "virtual" Ikeda Forum for Intercultural Dialogue explored Daisaku Ikeda conception of global citizenship, which advocates for each individual developing their inherent wisdom, courage, and compassion. The main presentation was from Dr. Awad Ibrahim of the University of Ottawa.
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2020 Ikeda Forum
Value Creation: Our Unlimited Power to Face Overwhelming Challenges

The first ever “virtual” Ikeda Forum for Intercultural Dialogue demonstrated the very concept it explored: value creation. More than 300 global citizens from 27 countries joined via Zoom, as five panelists explored the many ways the value creating perspective improves life for ourselves and others.
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2019 Ikeda Forum
Can Dialogue Save the World? Exploring the Power of Human Connections

The 2019 Ikeda Forum was the end result of a several-month-long experiment in intergenerational dialogue. Six Boston-area young professionals reported on what they learned through the process of engaging in sustained dialogue with four scholar-friends of the Ikeda Center. This was the first youth-led Ikeda Forum.
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2018 Ikeda Forum
How Do We Practice Human Rights? A Dialogue on Dignity and Justice in Daily Life

After a break in 2017, the annual Ikeda Forum resumed in 2018 to explore the topic of human rights. A capacity crowd joined scholars Catia Confortini, Jason Goulah, and Elora Chowdhury to define what we really mean when we talk about human rights and how to take actions in support of human rights in daily life.
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2016 Ikeda Forum
Crisis or Opportunity: A Dialogue on Democracy, Inclusion, Community

For the 2016 Ikeda Forum, Ceasar McDowell of MIT lead the gathering in an investigation of ways we can bridge the seemingly unbridgeable expanses that divide us. For dialogue to succeed, he said, we need to create spaces that enable deeper truth to emerge.
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2015 Ikeda Forum
The Practice of Dignity: What It Looks Like Today

The 2015 Ikeda Forum was called "The Practice of Dignity: What It Looks Like Today." Meenakshi Chhabra considered dialogue and dignity, Gail Thomas offered a personal call to action, and Peter Stearns looked at dignity in relation to US foreign policy.
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2014 Ikeda Forum
Dignity of Life: The Heart of Human Rights and Peace Building

The 2014 Ikeda Forum was called "Dignity of Life: The Heart of Human Rights and Peace Building." Charlie Clements, Mari Fitzduff, and Andrea Bartoli shared insights from their respective experiences as human rights and conflict resolution scholars and activists.
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2013 Ikeda Forum
We the People: Who Are We and What Is Our Work?

At the urging of featured speaker Vincent Harding, the tenth annual Ikeda Forum for Intercultural Dialogue, held on November 9, 2013, in Cambridge, became not just a forum devoted to dialogue but also a laboratory devoted to the cultivation of dreams—dreams of freedom and democracy to be precise. The forum, the third in which Dr. Harding has participated, was called “We the People: Who Are We and What Is Our Work?”
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2012 Ikeda Forum
Awakening Our Connections: A Dialogue on Interdependence

This year’s Ikeda Forum examine interdependence, expanding beyond its roots as the Buddhist concept of dependent origination, and highlighting its personal, social, and cross-cultural implications. As with past Ikeda Forums, we will draw inspiration from and compare various influential thinkers and cultural traditions. Please join us as we investigate how an affirmation of the truth of interdependence, if widely internalized and acted upon, would lead to a more peaceful and harmonious world.
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2011 Ikeda Forum
Cultivating the Greater Self

The Ikeda Center's yearlong investigation into the meaning and value of the Buddhist concept of "the greater self" culminated on Saturday, October 22, 2011, with the 8th Annual Ikeda Forum for Intercultural Dialogue. "The greater self of Mahayana Buddhism," writes Center founder Daisaku Ikeda, "is another way of expressing the openness and expansiveness of character that embraces the sufferings of all people as one's own. This self always seeks ways of alleviating the pain, and augmenting the happiness, of others, here, amid the realities of everyday life." This quote, drawn from Mr. Ikeda's 1993 Harvard University lecture, "Mahayana Buddhism and 21st Century Civilization," served as the seminar's core definition of the greater self.
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2010 Ikeda Forum
This Noble Experiment: Developing the Democratic Spirit

On Saturday, November 6, just a few days after millions of Americans had voted in the midterm elections, a capacity crowd gathered at the Ikeda Center in Cambridge, MA, to consider how we might further develop the democratic spirit, a process and goal at once more subtle and ambitious than the casting of ballots. Drawing inspiration from Daisaku Ikeda's remarks on democracy found in his message commemorating the first Commencement ceremony of Soka University of America (2005), the Center's 7th Annual Ikeda Forum for Intercultural Dialogue—called "This Noble Experiment: Developing the Democratic Spirit"—explored democracy not as a form of government but, in Ikeda's words, "as a way of life whose purpose is to enable people to achieve spiritual autonomy, live in mutual respect, and enjoy happiness."
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2009 Ikeda Forum
John Dewey, Daisaku Ikeda, and the Quest for a New Humanism

Undeterred by heavy winds and rains from the perimeter of Hurricane Ida, a capacity crowd gathered at the Ikeda Center on Saturday, November 14, for the 6th Annual Ikeda Forum for Intercultural Dialogue. Their effort was rewarded with a day that featured original insights into ways that ideas and principles in American pragmatism, as articulated by John Dewey, and Mahayana Buddhism, as articulated by Daisaku Ikeda, can point us toward humanistic solutions for the problems of the twenty-first century.
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2008 Ikeda Forum
Living With Mortality: How Our Experiences With Death Change Us

The 5th Annual Ikeda Forum for Intercultural Dialogue took a new look at the cycles of life and death. Held at the Center’s conference facility in Cambridge, Massachusetts, on Sept. 20, 2008, the Forum investigated the “deeper continuity of life and death that we experience as individuals and express as culture,” a concept put forward by founder Daisaku Ikeda in his 1993 Harvard University lecture, “Mahayana Buddhism and Twenty-first Century Civilization.” In that lecture he also issued a challenge to “establish a culture based on an understanding of the relationship of life and death and of life’s essential eternity.” The immensity of this challenge became apparent during the day’s wide ranging dialogue.
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2007 Ikeda Forum
Women and the Power of Friendship

The 4th Ikeda Forum for Intercultural Dialogue took place at the Center's meeting space on Sept. 29, 2007. During his welcome, Center President Masao Yokota said that when the Buddha was asked about the importance of friendship, he replied that friendship is everything. Yokota said that the founder of the Center, Daisaku Ikeda, also has an unconditional regard for friendship and a fundamental trust in people. Virginia Benson then explained that in Ikeda's view, a view shared by her and the Center, the power of friendship is crucial for transforming differences, creating collective wisdom, and discovering mutual beliefs. Turning to the day's program, Benson said that the purpose of the forum would be to explore the dynamics of friendship and social change as experienced by women, past and present.
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2006 Ikeda Forum
Emerson and the Power of Imagination

What can we learn from the thought of Ralph Waldo Emerson about how to live in the world today? How might the imagination help us to envision—and realize—the possibilities for our country? The 3rd Annual Ikeda Forum for Intercultural Dialogue spoke to these essential questions in the fall of 2006 with a two-day seminar and a public forum that attracted over 150 participants. In his opening remarks Masao Yokota [The anecdote also recalled not only] Ikeda’s poetic sensibility rooted in Nature, but a kind of practical affinity with Ralph Waldo Emerson’s way of looking at the world. “We live by our imaginations, by our admirations, by our sentiments,” said Emerson, as if the possibilities of each moment and our interactions with others constantly offer new ways of being in the world.
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2005 Ikeda Forum
‘Talking Back’ to Whitman: Poetry Matters

On October 1, 2005, the Center held the 2nd annual Ikeda Forum for Intercultural Dialogue. In commemoration of the 150th anniversary of Whitman’s masterpiece, Leaves of Grass, the theme of this year’s Forum was “‘Talking Back’ to Whitman: Poetry Matters.” Scholars and poets from Asia and the Americas gathered to listen, learn, and respond to Whitman’s poetic vision. In his welcoming remarks, Center President Masao Yokota said that Daisaku Ikeda, poet, peace activist, and president of Soka Gakkai International (SGI), believes that common spiritual ground and a pathway to peace can be discovered through poetry. He said that “For Dr. Ikeda, the reading and writing of poetry has always been one of the most important ways for him to connect with others.” Ikeda has long been inspired by Walt Whitman; when he founded Soka University in Japan in l971, he proposed that a statue of Whitman be built on the campus.
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2004 Ikeda Forum
Reawakening East-West Connections: Walden and Beyond

Virginia Straus, executive director of the Center, welcomed approximately 140 people to the inaugural Ikeda Forum for Intercultural Dialogue on Friday, October 1, 2004, at the Center's lecture hall in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The Ikeda Forum was developed in close collaboration with Transcendentalist scholars and the Institute of Oriental Philosophy with the goal of tracing points of connection between the life philosophies of American Transcendentalism and Eastern wisdom traditions. A particular emphasis on the ideas of Henry David Thoreau, as conveyed in Walden: A Life in the Woods, led to a focus on two key questions:1) How can we awaken to all the possibilities that lie within the present moment? and 2) How can a profound transformation in just one person lead to social change?
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