Document Sample
					                                  THE BUDDHIST PERSPECTIVE OF

                                          THE SOKA GAKKAI

                      C.R. Young, Eric Hauber, Mary Worthington, and Gerry Hall

 Eric Hauber is Vice President for Academic Affairs, Soka University of America, Aliso Viejo Campus
 (California); Gerry Hall is Vice General Director of Soka Gakkai International USA in Santa Monica,
       California. Mary Worthington and C.R. Young are members of Soka Gakkai International.


Order in society has been a central topic of discussion in Buddhism throughout its twenty-five-hundred-
year history. Shakyamuni, the historical Buddha, first addressed the issue when he was confronted by the
inescapable human sufferings outside his castle walls -- where he encountered birth, aging, sickness and
death. This led him to give up his princely life and journey far and wide in a relentless quest to understand
not only what was behind people's sufferings, but the means by which their suffering could be overcome.
Following his "awakening," the peripatetic Buddha spent the next fifty years sharing the essence of his

Buddhist Humanism. In a discussion about the Buddhist perspective on world order it is instructive to
examine Shakyamuni's nature as a person. One scholar observed that "he was a man who taught neither in
terms of any strict or compelling logic nor in those of impassioned dogma, who commanded no vast
system of philosophy capable of overturning mountains; rather he was a man who, in almost astonishingly
plain and unaffected language, employing anecdotes and analogies that could be comprehended by
anyone, sought to awaken in each individual the spirit that dwells in the inner being of all people." In
other words, Shakyamuni was first and last a human being who wished to reach out to all people.

This suggests a universal humanistic aspect underlying the Buddhist perspective on world order. From the
community that surrounded his castle, Shakyamuni's message spread throughout Northern India and has
since spanned the seven continents. The essence of his message from the first day of his journey until now
has been consistent. Nichiren, the 13th-century Buddhist reformer whose teachings animate the activities
of Soka Gakkai International USA, wrote of Shakyamuni in a letter to one of his followers, "The real
meaning of Lord Shakyamuni Buddha's appearance in this world lay in his behavior as a human being."

The Soka Gakkai International. The Nichiren school of Mahayana Buddhism constitutes the religious and
philosophical foundation of the Soka Gakkai International (SGI), a global network of lay practitioners.
Based on the principles of humanism and respect for the sanctity of life as they find expression in these
teachings, the SGI is pursuing a program of activities in the fields of peace, education, and culture. The
SGI is principally involved in public information -- education in the most inclusive sense of the word.
This tradition reaches back to the beginning of the organization in the 1930s, when membership was
drawn primarily from among educators, and to the first President, Tsunesaburo Makiguchi, who
succeeded in bringing the sometimes difficult philosophy of Buddhism to bear on the problems of
creating value and happiness amid the stringent realities of daily life in Japan at that time.

Makiguchi criticized the interventionist path his nation had embarked upon in the 30s and was outraged
by the attempt of his government to impinge upon religious freedom by imposing Shintoism as a national
religion. As the government restricted one after another of the people's freedoms, Makiguchi continued to
organize community-based discussion meetings where religious and moral convictions were openly
expressed. He firmly resisted the increasing pressure to compromise his beliefs and lend support to the
war effort. As the Japanese historian Ienaga Saburo wrote, "Military expansion abroad required repression
at home . . . controls on intellectual and political activity were tightened again and again until civil rights
virtually ceased to exist." Stringent controls were placed on journalism and all publication. The 1928
imperial edict known as the Peace Preservation Law was amended in 1941 to allow continuous preventive
detention of political activists, which allowed prisoners to be detained indefinitely, until they recanted any
beliefs not in concert with the aims of the militarist government. In 1943, Makiguchi and other leaders of
his organization were arrested as prisoners of conscience. Under the draconian law they were held as
"thought criminals."

In less than 18 months, Makiguchi was dead from malnutrition and the privations of prison life. He was
73 years old. His closest disciple, Josei Toda, survived the ordeal and was released from prison on July 3,
1945, just weeks before the world's first use of nuclear weapons. Toda walked out of his prison cell into
the horror of war-torn Japan. He immediately set about rebuilding the organization. His dream was to see
a world in which justice and humane values would be accorded universal respect. The Soka Gakkai's
remarkable early growth stemmed from its commitment to help relieve people's suffering in the postwar
chaos. In 1957 Toda reinforced the Soka Gakkai's pacifist stance by taking a strong public position
against the proliferation or use of nuclear weapons.

On May 3, 1960, Daisaku Ikeda became the SGI's third president. Within six months he established
organizations in the United States and South America. In 1961 organizations were established in nine
European countries. The SGI's growth over the next thirty years was astonishing; by the mid 1990s there
were organizations in 128 countries and territories throughout the world.

In 1991, after a nearly sixty-year relationship, friction between the conservative Nichiren Shoshu
priesthood and the more forward-looking SGI led to a parting of ways. While complex in its history, this
extraordinary event was essentially the result of the SGI's refusal to accept the claimed superiority of
priests to lay believers and to submit to demands for absolute obedience to the clergy. British sociologist
Bryan Wilson writes of the event, "The priesthood was characteristically authoritarian, status-conscious,
and hierarchic; the lay organization was populist, egalitarian, and unwilling to concede the sort of status
differences which were endemic in conceptions of priesthood."

Since the SGI's separation from the priesthood, the organization has entered a new era of outreach,
striving to become an even more broadly based humanistic and democratic organization, dedicated to
finding peaceful solutions to some of humanity's most pressing problems.
In 1995, the SGI adopted a Charter to give voice to the organization's philosophical tenets and to offer
guidelines for future actions. The Charter set out a number of purposes and principles that can be
summarized as follows:

       contribute to peace and to the culture and education of our communities;

       embrace an unconditional respect for the sanctity of human life;

       cultivate the virtues of wisdom and compassion;

       respect and protect the freedom of religious expression;

       promote tolerance and respect for human rights;

       pursue nonviolent social change through inner reformation and dialogue.

As an organization, the SGI shares a profound commitment to the values of peace in society and the
welfare of humankind by promoting culture and education and opposing all forms of violence. Members
believe that peace starts from within, based on the Buddhist view that all people inherently possess the
limitless ability to create value in society and achieve harmony among themselves and with their
environment. Culture, therefore, is the lively expression of this uniquely human potential, while education
is an essential vehicle for its development. As John Dewey argued, creating value is a process of seeing in
what is, that which would be better.

Self-Reformation. The SGI's philosophy is rooted in the idea of a self-directed "human revolution," a
process of inner transformation focused by the understanding that each action has an influence that
extends beyond its immediate context to affect the vast and complex web of life. Nichiren's teachings
assert that all people, regardless of social or personal circumstances, possess the potential to develop lives
of value and creativity -- to attain an enlightened state of life. Buddhism further teaches that in the final
analysis, lasting peace can only be realized by challenging and overcoming the inner impulse toward
hatred and violence that exists within us all -- what Buddhism calls "the fundamental darkness of life." It
is this dynamic process of self-reformation -- from fear to confidence, from destruction to creativity, from
hatred to compassion -- and the resulting rejuvenation of human society that forms the core of SGI's
perspective on world order. In describing this process of inner reformation and its role in creating a
peaceful world, SGI President Ikeda wrote: "The movement that we advocate for a human revolution does
not stop at a change of personality, but extends to a change in the most basic attitudes and perceptions
about the nature of life itself; it is a change of the entire human being. I know and believe as the firmest
article of faith that the human revolution of a single person can change the fate of a nation, our world and
all humanity."

For the Nichiren Buddhist, the ultimate goal of world peace is more active than contemplative. That
sentiment is engraved in words Nichiren wrote over 700 years ago: "You must not only persevere
yourself; you must also teach others." Through undergoing our human revolution, we awaken to the
responsibility we each have for our own circumstances and for our environment. Our inner transformation
will lead us to take the actions that bring about personal fulfillment as we contribute to the development
of society. The Buddhist belief in the strict laws of cause and effect mean that service to others is more
than optimistic altruism; it is rather a kind of enlightened self-interest, a true understanding that "what
goes around, comes around."

1. Working Toward a Shared Global Ethic

Values and Principles

It is clear that Buddhist principles support a pacifistic and humanistic worldview. Nichiren Buddhists are
committed to creating harmony -- in our families, communities, and nations, and on the planet. Nearly
fifty years ago, Ashley Montagu wrote, "The problem of modern man is the problem of human relations."
He said, "Personal, community, national, and international problems are first, fundamentally, and finally
problems of human relations." As the Buddha realized 2500 years ago, and Montagu articulated nearly
five decades ago, we are linked to a common destiny.

In a speech given at Columbia University in 1996, Daisaku Ikeda, looking beyond the limits of the nation-
state to new horizons of human community, articulated conditions for global citizenship. They are, he
said, "the wisdom to perceive the interconnectedness of all life and living. The courage not to fear or deny
difference; but to respect and strive to understand people of different cultures, and to grow from
encounters with them"; and "the compassion to maintain an imaginative empathy that reaches beyond
one's immediate surroundings and extends to those suffering in distant places." He went on to suggest that
the all-encompassing interrelatedness that forms the core of the Buddhist worldview can provide a basis
for the concrete realization of these qualities of wisdom, courage, and compassion.

1a. Peace and Security

Ikeda's components of global citizenship are based on the Buddhist worldview of dependent origination, a
concept of interrelatedness in which nothing, whether in the realm of human society or of nature, exists in
isolation. In that sense, as he explained in a dialogue with the international peace researcher, Johan
Galtung, all phenomena in the universe, including the self, come into and go out of being as a
consequence of mutual dependence. Advocates of this philosophy do not allow themselves to be obsessed
by materialism nor by the supposed special excellence of any given class, race, or nation. A true Buddhist,
Ikeda said, "transcends individual, racial, and national egoism. Realizing that all things are connected and
interlinked, the Buddhist disregards discriminatory barriers."

Buddhism strives to create a world characterized by understanding of dependent origination and by the
essential nature of all things as latent potentiality. In terms of human society, this means a world of
mutual assistance and support, a world in which all people respect all others as being endowed with
fundamentally important missions. In such a world of altruistic compassion, all-pervasive mutual
relationships mean that working for the happiness of the other person is tantamount to working for one's
own happiness.

Going beyond interpersonal human relations, the wisdom of the teachings of dependent origination and
universal latent potentialities extends to relations between human and nonhuman nature everywhere.
Enlightenment to this wisdom gives birth to a sense of the solidarity of all things as emanations of
universal life. This in turn inspires trust, compassion, and nonviolence and eliminates violence, war, and
economic destruction, which work to sever the threads of solidarity in universal life.

Astronauts often note that when viewed from space, the earth shows no geographic boundaries. What was
formed after the Big Bang was a whole planet. It took humans to draw the lines and boundaries. The
mayhem and destruction and toll on human life to protect boundaries -- social, economic, and geographic
-- is one of humankind's greatest tragedies.

Reflecting on such myopia, the United Nations Development Program in its 1994 Human Development
Report argues that for too long security has been related "more to nation-states than to people." The East
and West were locked in an ideological struggle. Developing states have struggled to protect their national
identities from external threats. "Forgotten were the legitimate concerns of ordinary people who sought
security in their daily lives. For many of them, security symbolized protection from the threat of disease,
hunger, unemployment, crime, social conflict, political repression, and environmental hazards." These
conflicts are within nations, not between them. As the UNDP Report says, "the idea of human security,
though simple, is likely to revolutionize society in the twenty-first century." The report looks at four
characteristics of human security:

1. Human security is a universal concern that is relevant to people everywhere, in rich nations and poor.

2. The components of human security are interdependent. When the security of people is endangered
anywhere in the world, all nations are likely to get involved.

3. Human security is easier to ensure through early prevention than later intervention.
4. Human security is people-centered. It is concerned with people who live and breathe in a society, how
freely they exercise their many choices, how much access they have to market and social opportunities,
and whether they live in conflict or in peace.

The UNDP Report is given added dimension when we examine statistics such as these: 1.3 billion people
in developing countries live in poverty; 200 million people live below the poverty line in industrial
countries; 1.3 billion people in developing countries do not have access to safe water; 900 million adults
worldwide are illiterate; 800 million people in developing countries have inadequate food supplies, 500
million of this number are chronically malnourished, and 175 million are under the age of five; 500
million urban dwellers worldwide are homeless or do not have adequate housing; 100 million young
people are homeless. Between 15 million and 20 million people die annually because of starvation or
disease aggravated by malnutrition; 10 million people die each year because of substandard housing,
unsafe water, or poor sanitation in densely populated cities.

Soft Power

The Nichiren Buddhist perspective on mitigating such folly can be characterized by what Harvard
University professor Joseph Nye and others have called "soft power." "Hard power" -- military
superiority, political authority, economic imperatives, and the voracious appetite of a market sensibility --
is among the ways that artificial boundaries are kept intact. As we approach a new millennium, there is
also a remarkable increase in the importance of such "soft power" factors as knowledge and information,
culture and ideas.

"Soft power" incorporates the vision of using technology to facilitate exchange among ordinary people. It
is now possible to have a global dialogue among "virtual communities" that span the globe with no
relationship to geographic divisions. More than how we communicate, however, what we communicate is
crucial. In Building a Global Civic Culture, Elise Boulding notes that we have a plethora of images of war
and disaster. What we must now do is create images of peace. As Boulding says, the capacity to imagine
how events could be otherwise than they are "is a hallmark of freedom and power of human beings."


There is a story which helps to illuminate the age-old Buddhist tradition of dialogue as a means to resolve
conflict. It seems that the ancient Indian state of Magadha was bent upon the conquest of its neighboring
state of Vajji. Shakyamuni met with the leader of Magadha and, by discussing with him the principles by
which nations prosper or decline rather than by scolding him, was able to dissuade him from his planned
invasion. In discussing this incident, Daisaku Ikeda said that "it is interesting to note the parallels with
contemporary efforts to establish security not through military might, but through the promotion of
democracy, social development, and human rights."

In a 1993 speech at Harvard University, Ikeda asked, "Why was Shakyamuni able to employ language
with such freedom and to such effect? What made him such a peerless master of dialogue? I believe,"
Ikeda says, "that his fluency was due to the expansiveness of his enlightened state, utterly free of all
dogma, prejudice, and attachment."

Unfortunately, many attempts at dialogue become intersecting monologues. Poet Gloria Anzaldúa writes,
"We need guidelines for how to come to know one another, talk to one another, listen to one another. We
don't know how to listen. Everybody seems to be listening, but what they're really doing is rehearsing
what to say next, when the other person shuts up and they can jump in with their agenda, their 'I did this, I
did that, this was my experience.'"

In his 1993 Harvard speech, Ikeda found the following quote attributed to Shakyamuni illustrative: "I
perceived a single, invisible arrow piercing the hearts of the people." That arrow, according to Ikeda,
"symbolizes a prejudicial mindset, an unreasoning emphasis on individual differences." Nearly 3000 years
ago, the Buddha realized that the underlying cause of conflict was attachment to differences such as those
of ethnicity and nationality.

SGI Exhibitions

In recent years, the SGI has created and co-sponsored a series of exhibitions designed to promote such
dialogue and educate audiences throughout the world. The "Nuclear Arms: Threat to our World"
exhibition, sponsored by the United Nations Department of Public Information with the support of the
Soka Gakkai International and the municipalities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, opened at UN Headquarters
in 1982. It has since traveled to cities around the world. The exhibition was designed to promote the
disarmament movement on a global scale by raising public awareness of the nuclear threat to humankind.
As with all SGI exhibitions, it is part of an ongoing effort to heighten public awareness of the pressing
issues of our complex and conflict-ridden era on a global scale, and to demonstrate that it is ultimately the
informed individual who has the power and responsibility to affect society.

In 1989 the "War and Peace" exhibition premiered at UN Headquarters and has since been viewed by
thousands worldwide. It was co-sponsored by the SGI and the Independent Bureau for Humanitarian
Issues, International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, in cooperation with the UN
Department of Disarmament Affairs. The exhibit addresses the history of warfare in the 20th century and
such issues as nuclear weapons, the refugee crisis, and the destruction of the environment -- global
dilemmas which humanity must resolve for the sake of future generations.

In 1995, "The Courage to Remember -- Anne Frank and the Holocaust," an exhibit organized by the
Simon Wiesenthal Center, the Soka Gakkai Peace Committee, and Soka University (Japan) opened in
Japan. The exhibition challenges viewers on two levels: to find the courage to face up to the memory of
the atrocities and cruelties of World War II, and to remember the courage of those who resisted. By
focusing on the Holocaust, the apogee of 20th-century brutality and horror, the exhibit forces us to
appreciate the defiance of those who refused to turn a blind eye, those who refused to obey orders, and
those who, like Anne Frank and her family, endured years of hardship without ever giving up hope.
1b. Economic and Social Justice

While the belief in equality and the sanctity of human life is central to the practice, Nichiren Buddhism
neither proscribes nor advocates a particular lifestyle nor does it insist that people live according to any
particular social structure. It dictates neither behavior or morals. These are things the individual must
decide. Nichiren Buddhism elucidates a philosophy and a practice by which people can elevate the state
of their inner selves. Buddhism and society are connected by individuals. Quite naturally, the effects of
Buddhist practice are revealed within individual human life. The Nichiren Buddhist is moved to take
action for peace and justice based on inner-generated energy, believing that consensus and harmony are
the inevitable outcomes of enlightened attitudes and behavior.

Daisaku Ikeda once said that a person possessed of a spirit of justice would never fail to recognize the
inherent contradiction in economic activity that is destined to make those segments of society that are
wealthy even more so, while further impoverishing those that are poor. A just person, he argued, clearly
recognizes the extreme dangers of economic growth that keeps thriving at the expense of the global
environment and the delicate ecological balance of nature. A true sense of fairness must be a universal
spirit that manifests itself on this higher plane.

Members of the SGI believe that internal belief systems, the "tenets that you hold in your heart," are
responsible for the environment in which we find ourselves. In 1260, Nichiren, one of history's foremost
scholars of Mahayana Buddhism, wrote the "Rissho Ankoku Ron," a treatise that has been called the
beginning and end of Nichiren Buddhism. It was submitted to the most important figure in Japan at the
time, the retired regent Hojo Tokiyori.

Just as when Shakyamuni left home 2000 years before in a quest that led to his enlightenment, Nichiren
also was motivated by the suffering he saw around him. Japan at the time was being ravaged by an
unprecedented series of natural disasters, including devastating earthquakes, severe droughts, famine, and
pestilence. Nichiren felt compelled to clarify the cause of these disasters in the context of Buddhist
principles. The results of his research were detailed in his treatise, whose title has been translated as
"Establishment of the Legitimate Teaching for the Protection of the Country." The components of the title
mean, in part, to establish righteousness and to secure the peace of the land; the title also suggests that
before anything can be changed, the inner self, on the one hand, and one's relationship to the environment,
on the other, must undergo reformation. This teaching helps to clarify, for SGI members, the profound
relationship between people's religious and philosophical beliefs and the realization of a peaceful society.

The Oneness of Life and Environment

Underlying this call for personal transformation is the Buddhist principle that a revolution within life
always manifests itself in the environment. We live in the context of a dynamic relationship with the
environment, both immediate and global. That is why the Buddhist, understanding that no environment
exists apart from living things, must take responsibility for the condition of that environment. It is, after
all, a mirror image of his or her internal life.
The principle of the oneness of life and the environment is reflected in the "Ecology and Human Life"
exhibition developed by the SGI-USA Culture Department and co-sponsored by a number of federal,
state, and community organizations. The exhibition, currently traveling throughout the United States,
explores the environmental crisis and encourages a shift in consciousness toward a recognition of our
interconnectedness with others and the natural world.

1c. Human Rights

If you realize that, as you are, you embody the three properties of Buddhahood, without needing to change
your identity, just as a cherry needs only be a cherry, a plum needs only be a plum, a peach needs only be
a peach, and a damson needs only be a damson . . .

Seven hundred years ago, Nichiren used the analogy of the cherry, plum, peach, and damson to articulate
the unique personality of each and every living being, and to express the truth that each precious life is
indeed irreplaceable. This should not, however, suggest the notion of an autonomous individual isolated
from the larger universe. In fact, as Professor Sallie B. King recently said, "this idea does not fit the
Buddhist worldview. To a Buddhist," she continued, "Western emphasis on the individual enshrines
something that does not exist and will never exist. Moreover, such an idea abets the human tendency
towards egomania." She goes on to say that "the notion of rights brings with it a larger problem for the
Buddhist. Given that, in Buddhism, the most basic reality of life is our mutual interdependence and
interconnectedness, it is unnatural and unproductive in the extreme to construct a worldview that draws
lines between individuals and groups, pitting one against the other. One should expect nothing good or
viable to emerge from this kind of construction."

For the Buddhist, human rights begins with the concept, mentioned earlier, of dependent origination: an
ethos of symbiosis shared with all people. As Ikeda mentioned in his published discussion with Johan
Galtung, the ethos of symbiosis is a psychological tendency to favor harmony over opposition, unity over
division, "we" over "I." It is a belief that human beings should live together harmoniously with each other
and with nature, support each other, and flourish together. On another occasion Ikeda said, "The
Buddhism of Nichiren is by no means a religion for the sake of religion or for the sake of power or
authority. It is not a religion for the sake of any specific race or nation. It is a religion for the sake of
humanity, the human race, and human rights."

As this discussion suggests, social change cannot be legislated. Brian Holly, an initiator of courses in the
Philosophy of Buddhism at the University of Pittsburgh, discusses ethics in a similar context in a paper,
"Bodhisattva Virtues and the Global Ethic," delivered to the 1996 Conference of the Society for Buddhist-
Christian Studies. Holly criticized the tendency in Western philosophy to concentrate on "rule-based
ethics" that, he suggests, are usually behind attempts to legislate social change. He pointed to traditional
categories that concern themselves "with ethics conceived of a set of rules for conduct, categorizing
various actions as moral or immoral according to whether or not they follow various rules." Holly finds
congruence with "virtue-oriented ethics" as articulated by Plato and Aristotle. Professor Nicholas Gier
summarized the distinction when he defined virtue ethics as "an ethics of aspiration and excellence which
exhorts us to be 'this kind of person,' as opposed to a rule ethics of obedience, duty and obligation,
exhorting us to follow this rule."

Sallie King says, "Every human being is an incipient Buddha possessing inherent and immeasurable
value, and thus, every human should be protected and treated in such a way that her or his incipient
Buddhahood may be nurtured. Therefore, the human focus of a human rights agenda is highly

In 1993 the SGI's exhibit "Toward the Century of Humanity: An Overview of Human Rights in Today's
World" opened at the UN office in Geneva. The event, organized in support of the UN Center for Human
Rights, presented an overview of the evolution of human rights over time while highlighting areas
requiring continued attention and improvement. The SGI believes humankind must develop a deeper
understanding of the inherent dignity of life -- expressed through the protection and promotion of basic
human liberties -- as the world struggles to resolve the daunting array of crises it faces, from conflicts
based on ethnic, religious, political, and economic differences to AIDS, famine, poverty, and
environmental destruction.

1d. Ecological Sustainability

It is difficult to discuss the environment without examining the attendant problems of poverty and
overpopulation. All three impact ecological sustainability and constitute a global dilemma of staggering
proportions. Consider, to choose just one example, that twenty percent of the global population living in
industrialized nations accounts for eighty percent of all energy consumption. The Buddhist perspective
suggests that all people, no matter where they live, must be mindful of the fact that all humankind must
live with the natural environment. The environment must never be damaged simply to satisfy any one
person or one state or one nation's self-serving aims.

The SGI participates in a variety of educational efforts to address these urgent issues. The SGI-Brazil's
Amazon Ecological Research Center sponsors programs to foster rainforest conservation. In addition, the
SGI has held a number of ecologically focused exhibitions. An exhibit on the environment was held
concurrently with the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992. Another exhibit, held in Japan last year,
focused on environmental destruction as it relates to abnormal weather, acid rain, depletion of the ozone
layer, and desertification resulting from overdevelopment of land. For several years before the exhibit,
Soka Gakkai members studied their local environment and worked as volunteers to protect it and to
recycle resources. Their experiences were recorded in photographs and videos and were a part of the
exhibition. This exhibit, as well as similar ones shown in South America and the United States, are
designed to make visitors acutely aware of the widespread destruction of the global environment.

The SGI-USA's exhibit, "Ecology and Human Life," continues its fifteen-city tour of the United States. In
each city where the exhibition is shown, the local SGI organization develops relationships with
cooperating organizations and agencies and develops an exhibit section on local issues. A children's art
display and educational seminars and presentations are also organized in each venue.
Soka Gakkai members began fundraising activities for Asian and African refugees in the 1970s, focusing
specifically on Vietnam and West Africa. Similar activities have been carried out ever since. The money
raised each year has been donated to the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees and other UN
institutions to provide medical supplies and food and to contribute to educational programs. In 1993, the
"Friendship Through Knowledge" Project, sponsored by the SGI-USA Youth Peace Conference,
undertook a monumental project that resulted in the donation of some 20,000 volumes of literary works
and textbooks to libraries, schools and literary association in Africa, including two Ghanaian universities.

When Cambodia held its first-ever democratic elections in 1993, SGI members collected some 300,000
radios in response to a UN request to provide a means by which the Cambodian public could be kept
informed of election activity.

1e. Cultural Identity and Integrity

As noted earlier, one of the central tenets of Buddhism is that universal value must be sought within the
life of the individual. In the passage quoted earlier, when Nichiren referred to the cherry, plum, peach, and
damson, he was inspiring appreciation for the unique brilliance of one's own character. No need, suggests
Nichiren's analogy, to aspire to be a cherry or a plum; simply be the best peach you can be. Daisaku
Ikeda, in referring to this analogy during a lecture at the East-West Center at the University of Hawaii,
said, "[this] concept of 'revealing one's intrinsic nature' indicates the prime mission of Buddhism is to
enable each and all to blossom to the fullest of our potential. The fulfillment of the individual, however,
cannot be realized in conflict with or at the expense of others, but only through active appreciation of
uniqueness and difference, for these are the varied hues that together weave the flower gardens of life."

In response to the 1992 civil unrest in Los Angeles, Ikeda wrote a poem that eloquently elaborates on this
Buddhist principle:

Buddhism describes

the connective threads of

"dependent origination."

Nothing in this world exists alone;

everything comes into being and continues

in response to causes and conditions.

Parent and child.

Husband and wife.
Friends. Races.

Humanity and nature.

This profound understanding

of coexistence, of symbiosis --

here is the source of resolution for

the most pressing and fundamental issues

that confront humankind

in the chaotic last years of this century.

The Buddhist scriptures include

the parable of "Two Bundles of Reeds,"

aptly demonstrating this relation

of dependent origination.

Only by supporting each other

can the two bundles stand straight --

if one is removed, the other must fall.

Because this exists, so does that;

Because that exists, so does this.

2. Working Toward Global Governance

2a. Global Civic Society

Mikhail Gorbachev, former president of the Soviet Union, says the future of human society depends on
our ability to find a new paradigm "that will integrate all the achievements of the human mind and human
action, irrespective of which ideology or political movement can be credited with them." Such a
paradigm, he continues, must be "based on the common values that humankind developed over many
centuries." It must be, finally, a search for synthesis, for what is common to and unites people, countries,
and nations, rather than what divides them.
Elise Boulding calls for our engagement in a "civic culture," which represents the patterning of "how we
share a common space, common resources, and the common opportunities and manage interdependence
in that 'company of strangers' which constitutes The Public." This spirit of civic culture is congruent with
the Buddhist belief in respect for the individual. Democracy's success, in fact, hinges on whether people
can recognize that all lives are equally sacred.

Nichiren offers pointed insight into the relationship between the basic negative tendencies within human
life and the most pressing external threats to peace and security. In the 13th century he wrote, "In a
country where the three poisons [of greed, anger, and stupidity] prevail to such a degree, how can there be
peace and stability? . . . Famine occurs as a result of greed, pestilence as a result of stupidity, and warfare
as a result of anger." Commenting on that passage, Daisaku Ikeda said, "The wisdom of Buddhism
enables us to break the confines of the 'lesser self,' the private and isolated self held prisoner to its own
desires, passions, and hatreds. It further enables us to contextualize the deep-rooted psychology of
collective identity as we expand our lives, with overflowing exuberance, toward the 'greater self,' which is
coexistent with the living essence of the universe."

2a. Global Structures and Systems

In 1995, Our Global Neighborhood, the report of the Commission on Global Governance, explored the
notion of developing a global ethic that could respond to the needs of civil society. The Boston Research
Center for the 21st Century, an SGI-affiliated peace research institute dedicated to fostering dialogue
among scholars and activists, was inspired by the Commission's vision that we the people, not just
governments, have a crucial stake in the issues and challenges we all face at this important time. The
Boston Research Center's publication, A People's Response to Our Global Neighborhood, is a
groundbreaking collection of dialogues between scholars, diplomats, peace activists, students, and
engaged citizens about a UN renaissance focused on the recommendations of Our Global Neighborhood.

In order to encourage the greatest possible participation, the Boston Research Center held a series of four
public forums on United Nations reform and the role of civil society in establishing peace and security in
the world. To present and discuss the report's recommendations, the Center hosted three forums in
Cambridge and a full-day conference at Columbia University in New York. Speakers included Barber
Conable, former head of the World Bank; Helen Caldicott, co-founder of Physicians for Social
Responsibility; Olara Otunnu, former president of the UN Security Council and now President of the
International Peace Academy; Anthony Lewis, New York Times columnist; Nancy Roof, UN
representative for the Center for Psychology and Social Change; and Robert Meagher, Professor Emeritus
of International Law at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy.

Betty Reardon, founder and director of the Peace Education Program at Teachers College, Columbia
University, wrote in the foreword to the book, "A People's Response is an invitation to accept
responsibility for the human future." It answers the clarion call of the Commission's report: "a call to
action on many fronts, but essentially for better global governance -- better management of survival,
better ways of sharing diversity, better ways of living together in the global neighborhood that is our
human homeland."

There is, as is noted earlier, no "Buddhist system;" no set of rules that will insure the implementation of a
global ethic. There is, however, a long Buddhist history of reliance on open-hearted dialogue and respect
for human dignity. It is this tradition that leads to such initiatives as A People's Response to Our Global

2c. Local Initiatives

Buddhist principles find expression throughout the SGI in a network of grassroots activities. Through
monthly neighborhood discussion groups, youth activities, educational seminars, exhibitions, and
conferences, members address the urgent issues facing the individual and humanity as a whole. The heart
of the SGI's movement is the discussion meeting, a forum in which people of all ages and races, from
widely differing social backgrounds, can talk together about their experiences in daily life based on the
practice of Nichiren Buddhism. For many Americans, for example, the experience of meeting regularly
with people to whom they might normally never even talk, let alone discuss anything as profound as the
meaning of life, is one which gradually expands tolerance and respect for others. It is at the neighborhood
discussion meeting that many members first learn, not as a theory, but as reality, that all people possess

Daisaku Ikeda once said that without discussion meetings there would be no SGI. The reason for this, he
said, is that it is a venue that allows participants to build within themselves an inner fortress strong
enough to inspire them to achieve their own reformation and growth. Neighborhood groups, usually
meeting in a member's home, are the foundation of the organization. Members build family-like
relationships, support and care for one another, and encourage engagement on a larger scale, both within
the organization and in society. In 1995, for instance, as a participant in UN 50th anniversary activities,
SGI-USA members prepared UN-related educational materials to distribute to the 1,700 neighborhood
discussion meetings across the United States.

2d. Balancing Tensions

The concept of soka, or "value creation," traces its roots to the philosophical tenets of Makiguchi, who
held that the creation of value goes hand in hand with what it means to be a human being. According to
scholar Dayle Bethel, Makiguchi believed that human beings, though unable to create material, could
indeed create value; and that it is the creation of value that gives meaning to human life. Makiguchi
further elaborated his philosophy in terms of human happiness. "The highest and ultimate object of life,"
he held, "is happiness, and the goal of life is none but the attainment and creation of value, which is in
itself happiness . . . A happy life signifies nothing but the state of existence in which one can gain and
create value in full."
Makiguchi insisted that his theory of value creation could not be comprehended without a correct
knowledge of value. His theory amends the traditional platonic values -- truth, goodness, and beauty -- by
substituting "benefit" for "truth." The reason for this, he said, is that truth and value are entirely different
concepts. Truth reveals that which is; value connotes a subject-object relationship. Makiguchi defines
beauty as that which "is perceived to be an emotional and temporary value, derived through one or more
of the five senses, that concerns only a part of man's life." Gain or benefit is an individual value related to
the whole of life. It has to do with the relationship between an individual and an object that contributes to
the maintenance and development of one's life. Goodness, however, is a social value related to the life of
the group. It refers to the personal conduct that contributes to the formation and development of a human-
centered society. Goodness is public gain. It can be defined as that which moves us in the direction of
harmonious coexistence, empathy, and solidarity with others.

Makiguchi believed, Bethel says, that the person who understands the difference between truth and value
and the distinctions among the various elements of value will seek a harmonious balance between the
pursuit of the values of gain and good. The development of people possessing these capabilities is a
central task of education, according to Makiguchi's view.

For Makiguchi, a life of major good meant a life based on the teachings of Nichiren. Value-creation
requires people to lead lives directed toward goodness, transcending the pursuit of life-based knowledge
and utility. Hence it involves social ethics. Makiguchi once wrote, "The community . . . is the world in
miniature. If we encourage children to observe directly the complex relations between people and the
land, between nature and society, they will grasp the realities of their homes, their school, the town,
village, or city, and will be able to understand the wider world." Daily life is filled with opportunities for
each of us to develop ourselves and those around us. Each of our interactions with others -- dialogue,
exchange, and participation -- is an invaluable chance to create value.

Makiguchi's emphasis on social responsibility has a direct link to contemporary SGI activities in the
realms of education, peace, and culture. The SGI has in its philosophical foundation the concept of the
ethically responsible person. The importance of life-based knowledge is coupled with the ethical
responsibility of the individual in a democratic society. These concepts are intrinsically connected to
freedom, human rights, and reason.

2e. Religious Resources for Global Governance

Education, says Daisaku Ikeda, is a uniquely human privilege. It is the source of inspiration that enables
us to become fully and truly human, to fulfill a constructive mission in life with composure and
confidence. Education, he says, must be the propelling force for an eternally unfolding humanitarian

The SGI has continued to regard education as a lifelong pursuit of self-awareness and development.
Education nurtures the ability to think critically, make informed choices, and appreciate life in all its
2e(1). Schools and Institutions of Higher Education

Following Makiguchi's pedagogical vision, the first Soka Schools were founded in 1968 in Kodaira,
Tokyo. Today there is a network of kindergartens and elementary, junior, and senior high schools in
Japan. During the 1990s, Soka kindergartens opened in Hong Kong, Singapore, and Malaysia.

The Soka school system emphasizes close interactions between faculty and students, encouraging students
to grasp knowledge in a holistic manner and to develop into people with a broad and embracing outlook
on life. The schools also promote cultural exchange with foreign countries. In 1971, Daisaku Ikeda
founded Soka University, a liberal arts college and graduate school for seven thousand students in the
Tokyo suburb of Hachioji.

The type of education provided by Soka schools is informed by a Buddhist approach to humanistic
education, which means placing primary importance on the dignity and worth of the individual and
believing in the individual's capacity for enlightenment. This translates into a system-wide focus on
cultivating character, wisdom, and creativity in the students amid a spirit of equality and mutual learning
with the teachers.

The Soka educational approach combats the common tendency among educators to overemphasize
acquisition of knowledge at the expense of moral and ethical training. Philosophically, this system views
the ultimate purpose of education as "the formation of the individual human being, not only by sharpening
and improving one's intellectual potentials and providing one with a rich store of information, but also by
inculcating ethical and moral standards."

Respect for the natural environment, appreciation for diverse cultures and traditions, and the development
of a global outlook are also given special emphasis. The curriculum includes no religious instruction and
admission is open to all qualified students without regard to religious affiliation. An independent survey
published in 1992 ranked Soka University as the third best private university in Japan in terms of student

In 1987, the first Soka University of America (SUA) campus opened as a language center in Calabasas,
near Los Angeles, California. The principal campus is being constructed in Aliso Viejo, between Los
Angeles and San Diego. Upon completion, SUA will be a center for community cultural activities, music,
athletics, and performing and visual arts. The university's Pacific Basin Research Center (PBRC), a joint
research program conducted by SUA and Harvard University, is currently housed at Harvard. The PBRC
awards post-doctoral fellowships to researchers studying public policy in the Pacific Rim.

The University's three pillars are peace, human rights, and the dignity of life. Its fundamental purpose is
the fostering of human beings endowed with knowledge, wisdom, and exemplary character. Soka
University of America envisages itself as a student-centered, international institution that will place prime
importance upon humanistic values, exemplified through free and open dialogue, the sharing of rigorous
academic endeavors, and the valuing of differences through nurturing diverse creative arts and culture.
2e(2). Research Institutions

In an effort to bridge what is often viewed as an impossible gulf between Western and Eastern thought,
the Institute of Oriental Philosophy (IOP) was established at Soka University in Tokyo in 1962. The
nonprofit organization is dedicated to making Asia's rich philosophical heritage accessible to people
throughout the world. It conducts independent research into topics such as Buddhism, Buddhist thought,
comparative religion, and the interrelations between religion and science and religion and society. IOP
also has offices in India, Hong Kong, and the United Kingdom.

The Toda Institute for Global Peace and Policy Research was founded in 1996 as an independent,
nonpartisan, nonprofit institute for research into peace issues which aims to facilitate the exchange of
information and cooperation among theorists, policymakers, and activists.

The Boston Research Center for the 21st Century was founded in 1993 to foster thoroughgoing dialogue
among scholars and proponents of the world's major cultural, philosophical and religious traditions for the
sake of peace. The center works to pool the wisdom of an evolving network of globally-minded citizens
and scholars to help construct the shared philosophical underpinnings essential to a twenty-first century
free of war. Among the center's issues of focus are common values, intercultural and interreligious
understanding, civil society, human rights, and global governance.

2e(4). Publications and Media Materials

While appealing to the wide interests of a global readership, the variety of SGI publications have as a
common objective to share new visions of humanity facing the realities of personal and social issues in
today's and tomorrow's world. Committed to inspire, inform, and educate both its membership and the
wider public audience, SGI publications offer perspectives on the Buddhist experience, dialogues on
shared global values, proposals for peace, children's literature, and social commentary.

Many of the SGI's constituent organizations publish newspapers or periodicals that serve as educational
tools for members to explore the interaction between basic Buddhist concepts and the issues facing
contemporary society. In the United States such publications include the weekly World Tribune, and the
monthly study magazine, Living Buddhism.

In addition to these periodicals, a number of Mr. Ikeda's dialogues with leading Western thinkers have
been published, including those with Arnold Toynbee, Bryan Wilson, André Malraux, Norman Cousins,
Linus Pauling, Josef Derbolav, and Johan Galtung. Since 1993 the SGI-USA's Culture Department has
published a series of booklets by American scholars related to the wisdom of Buddhism and directed
toward the problems we find in society, with titles ranging from Confronting Chaos: A New
Understanding of Ourselves and Our World, to Resources for Stress Resistance: Parallels in Psychology
and Buddhism. Both the SGI and the SGI-USA maintain websites with comprehensive information about
both organizations and their affiliates.
2e(6). Professional Associations

The Min-On Concert Association, founded in 1963, has become a well-respected presence in the field of
international cultural exchange. The association's mission is to develop and deepen mutual understanding
and international friendship by promoting musical and cultural exchanges on a global level. Min-On
promotes the annual Tokyo International Music Competition, commissions original work, runs a
voluminous music library, and organizes free concerts for schools.

The Tokyo Fuji Art Museum sponsored one of the first major exhibitions of Western art in South Korea.
Founded in 1983 under the motto "a museum creating bridges around the world," it has undertaken a
prolific program of collaboration with museums all over the world.

3. Collaborating with the United Nations and its Specialized Agencies

Since the early 1980s, the SGI and the Soka Gakkai have played an active role in the United Nations as
nongovernmental organizations (NGOs). Both organizations have participated in and supported UN
activities from disarmament to humanitarian relief, human rights, voter education, and environmental
protection. In 1981, the Soka Gakkai registered as an NGO with the UN Department of Public
Information (UNDPI) and with the office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). In
1983, it registered as an NGO in consultative status with the Economic and the Social Council (ECOSOC)
and in 1989 formal relations were established with the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural
Organization (UNESCO).

The Soka Gakkai was actively supporting the United Nations long before this official involvement began.
In 1975, young Soka Gakkai members in Japan collected 10 million signatures and presented them to UN
headquarters in support of the total eradication of nuclear weapons. Also since 1975, fundraising activities
for Asian and African refugees have been carried out by the Soka Gakkai on an almost yearly basis.
Recognizing the efforts of the SGI in this regard, the United Nations bestowed its highest honor, the UN
Peace Award, on Daisaku Ikeda in 1983. In 1988, he was honored with the UN Special Commendation
for Outstanding NGOs; in 1989, he received the UNHCR's Humanitarian Award.

The SGI-USA is also a member of the United Nations Association-USA's Council of Organizations,
which consists of over 140 NGOs who share the common goals of making the American public more
knowledgeable about global issues, educating the public about the UN, and strengthening the UN system.

4. Developing Multireligious Initiatives

The SGI believes the efficacy of dialogue in fostering peace must extend not only to governmental and
academic circles, but to religious groups within and outside of the Buddhist pantheon. There are no
boundaries to the power of dialogue in creating peace, especially dialogue among those with opposing
views. The Boston Research Center has been particularly active in this important area. For example, the
Center worked with the Jain Mission at the United Nations in developing the conference at Columbia
University mentioned earlier in this paper. Luncheon seminars held at the Center have brought together in
lively conversation scholars and practitioners of diverse religious and cultural backgrounds. The Center
has collaborated in holding citizen education conferences about the UN with other Boston area groups,
including the Bahá'í community.

Virginia Straus, Executive Director of the Boston Research Center, has observed that one of the pitfalls of
interreligious dialogue is that in talking across traditions, one can fall into generalizations that don't hold
for the entire tradition. She added that, even for a particular religious practice, it is an audacious enterprise
for a person to expect to represent all the wisdom of that practice and speak for it.

That caveat notwithstanding, Ms. Straus observed that the dialogue that the SGI promotes relating to a
shared search for truth and humanism is "explicitly aimed at developing mutual understanding and
empathy among practitioners of different religions." At the time of Ms. Straus' paper (1997), the SGI-
USA had engaged in interfaith events in Boston with other Buddhist groups, in Los Angeles with local
interfaith councils, and in Florida with the International Conference of Christians and Jews.

In addition to the activities of the Center, new collaborative initiatives are developing throughout the SGI.
The SGI-USA, for example, has been sending representatives on a regular basis to the annual meetings of
the American Academy of Religion and the Society for Buddhist-Christian Studies. On a local level, SGI-
USA groups have participated in a variety of interfaith activities.


In this paper we have attempted to outline the philosophy and activities of the SGI in addressing the
Buddhist perspective on world order. Clearly, this is a larger task than can be accomplished in one paper,
or in one conference, but we are honored by the opportunity to engage in the discussion. In a recent peace
proposal, Daisaku Ikeda writes, "Now, more than ever, we require vision backed by a solid philosophy,
and we have to work to realize that vision through actions rooted in a strong and dynamic optimism. We
must never abandon confidence that no matter what difficulties arise, humankind has the capacity to
overcome and to forge ahead."

It is this hopeful vision that we have joined together to seek. We believe this vision will emerge through a
process of dialogue that is broad and open and actively embraces all perspectives. A weakness of
gatherings such as these is that we spend too much time and energy preaching to the already converted.
We suggest that our contacts and interaction with "ordinary people" must also be expanded and deepened.

We believe that dialogue is an essential vehicle for democratization and for bringing the voices of the
people to our deliberations. At a recent Boston Research Center-sponsored conference on the UN and the
World's Religions, Harvey Cox issued a heartfelt appeal for the practitioners of the many religions
represented at the conference. He urged us to make a further effort to engage what he termed the "non-
dialogic" elements of our respective traditions. Many of us have constituencies close to home with whom
we despair of dialogue and whom, therefore, we neglect to engage. It is probable that our immediate
surroundings hold ample opportunities to extend the process of dialogue.
In order for a new vision of world order to emerge, it is essential that we stop thinking in the old
paradigms and unquestioningly moving along the old continuums. In pursuits such as diplomacy and war,
for instance, language serves as a substitute or a prelude to violence. From a Buddhist perspective, we
believe that there must be a qualitative transformation in all things, including the process of dialogue. It
will accomplish nothing to bring the people's voice to a deliberation if it serves to amplify a cacophony of
sectarian hate. We suggest that our shared vision of a worldwide civil society be imagined as a human
global neighborhood, characterized by the civility of its discourse.