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. Introduction 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 enlightenment. 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." Dialogue 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 appropriate." 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 Neighborhood. 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 Buddhahood. 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 quest. 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 diversity. 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 satisfaction. 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. Closing 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.