Ikeda On Interdependence

This page provides an introductory collection of observations from Daisaku Ikeda on interdependence, dependent origination, and what Mr. Ikeda calls "an ethos of symbiosis." All speeches cited below are from A New Humanism: The University Addresses of Daisaku Ikeda (London: I.B. Tauris, 2010)

Nothing Exists in Isolation

“According to Buddhist thought, universality is a symbiotic order in which humanity, nature, and the cosmos coexist, and microcosm and macrocosm are fused in a single living entity. In Buddhism, the idea of symbiosis is conveyed by the idea of ‘dependent origination.’ Whether in human society or in the realm of nature, nothing exists in isolation; all phenomena are mutually supportive and related, forming a living cosmos. Once this is understood, then we can establish the proper role of reason.” (From “Magnificent Cosmos” a speech delivered at Moscow M.V. Lomonosov State University, May 1994)

“All phenomena in the universe exist within the context of mutually supportive relationships, what Buddhism refers to as ‘dependent origination.’ In this view, nothing exists without meaning and nothing is wasted. Interweaving these ‘threads’ of interdependence, the universe has brought forth and nurtured life, including human life, on this planet.” (From “Homage to the Sagarmatha of Humanism: the Living Lessons of Gautama Buddha,” a speech delivered at Tribhuvan University, Kathmandu, Nepal, November 1995)

“Buddhism locates a vast cosmos deep within human life. This cosmos contains a boundless treasure or goodness, reverently called the ‘Buddha Nature.’ This radiant nature is inherent in all living things. Each inner cosmos is one with the evolving greater external universe. In Buddhist terms, the great universe and the self – the great macrocosm and microcosm – are one. Since the self and all phenomena are one, all things are interrelated. Termed 'dependent origination', this teaching explains that all things weave a single whole in which individuals live in relation to all others. In other words, all beings and phenomena exist or occur because of their relationship with other beings and phenomena, and nothing in either the human or the nonhuman world exists in isolation. All things are mutually related to and interdependent with all other things. They all form a great cosmos maintaining the rhythms of life.” (From Planetary Citizenship, 2004, by Daisaku Ikeda and Hazel Henderson)

Global Ethics and the Ethos of Symbiosis

“The doctrine of causal [or dependent] origination amounts to an ethos of symbiosis – an ethos that ought to be shared by all peoples. In an address delivered to the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, I defined the ethos of symbiosis as ‘a psychological tendency to favor harmony over oppression, unity over division, “we” over “I”; a belief that human beings should live together harmoniously with each other and with nature, support each other and flourish together.’ Only when it is seen by all to be such an ethos will the doctrine of causal origination have the power to serve effectively as a basis for global solidarity.” (From Choose Peace, 1995, by Johan Galtung and Daisaku Ikeda)

“[T]oday’s interdependence involves everyone in the mistakes and failures of others, as well as the success. I speak of the threat of nuclear war. . . . Nuclear weapons have galvanized the whole world into a single community with a single fate. It is patently clear that for better or for worse, we must think of the entire world as unified in some fashion. Otherwise, we will find ourselves incapable of taking any action. We are being prodded toward unity, but the road ahead will not be an easy one.” (From “Crossroads of Civilisation,” a speech delivered at the University of Bucharest, Romania, June 1983)

“The ethos of symbiosis is not bound to the realm of human society alone. It is cosmic, working throughout nature and the universe. The Buddhist belief in the interrelatedness of humanity and nature is expressed by the dictum that ‘mountains and rivers, grasses and trees all attain Buddhahood.’ This spiritual conviction will play an ever more important role as the problems of environmental pollution and destruction, and of dwindling resources grow increasingly serious.” (From “Ethos of Symbiosis,” a speech delivered at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, Beijing, October 1992)

“I agree that commercial and trade interactions must be honest. We grow increasingly dependent on each other and on all things. Under such circumstances, instead of concerning ourselves with the prosperity of a single enterprise or a single nation, we must realize that we live in an age demanding symbiosis and prosperity achieved through cooperation. This idea is indispensible to honest trade. The Buddhist concept of symbiosis, or causal [or dependent] origination, is founded not on individuality but on relationships and mutual dependence. Since all things originate from causation, the phenomenal world is formed on the basis of relationships. In other words, human beings, nonhuman nature, economics, and all living things work in mutual interrelationship to create one living world." (From Choose Peace, 1995, by Johan Galtung and Daisaku Ikeda)

“[L]isten to the words of the philosopher Miguel de Unamuno: ‘The strong person, the one who is primordially strong, can never be an egoist. A person with great power shares that power with others.’ Each in his own way is sharing with us his insight into part of an ethos of symbiosis.” (From “Surmounting Darkness and the Faustian Agony,” a speech delivered by Mr. Hiromasa Ikeda on behalf of his father, Daisaku Ikeda, at the Ateneo de Santander, Spain, June 1995)

The Parable of the Two Reeds

A painter friend of mine who knows Mexico well tells me that when welcoming a guest, it is customary to say, ‘My house is your home, too.’ This is a wonderfully warm and friendly greeting, and it conveys the temper of the country very well. Buddhist scripture contains a parable that has a similar meaning. Long ago, in India, there was a tradition of binding 20 or 30 long, slender reeds together in a bundle. This story, called the ‘parable of two reeds,’ was first employed by Shariputra, a disciple of the Buddha, who was famous for having unparalleled wisdom.

‘Let us suppose that there are two bundles of reeds’, Shariputra said. As long as the two are leaning against each other, they can stand up. In the same way, because there is a ‘this’, there can be a ‘that’, and because there is a ‘that’, there can be a ‘this’. But, if we take away one of the bundles of reeds, the other will fall over. In the same way, if we take away ‘this’, ‘that’ cannot continue to exist; and if we take away ‘that’, ‘this’ cannot exist.

Here we have a lesson in interdependence: people cannot exist in isolation; they depend upon each other for help. The Mexican greeting to welcome guests – ‘my house is your home, too’ – embodies the same wise understanding of human interdependence.” (From “The Mexican Poetic Spirit,” a speech delivered at the University of Guadalajara, March 1981)



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