Our 20th Anniversay is a great time to talk about where we've come from, how we got here, and where we hope to go. The essay on this page is also found in our About section, which we encourage you to explore. In the coming weeks we will post a timeline of major milestones in this section, as well as an essay reflecting on our journey — our mission, achievements, and aspirations. Please join us throughout 2013 and beyond!
In September 1993, Daisaku Ikeda delivered a lecture titled “Mahayana Buddhism and Twenty-first Century Civilization” at Harvard University. He highlighted the contributions Mahayana Buddhism can make to the peaceful evolution of humanity. Soon after, he established the Boston Research Center for the 21st Century (BRC) in Cambridge as a tangible commitment to the spirit behind his talk — the spirit to engage diverse voices in contributing value to humanity. In 2009, the BRC changed its name to the Ikeda Center for Peace, Learning, and Dialogue, which more clearly expresses the core objectives of the work.
Four frameworks guided the Center’s initial dialogues, seminars, and publications (1993-2001): human rights, nonviolence, economic justice, and environmental ethics — each of which was investigated for a two-year period. Next, the Center’s focus shifted to a three-part emphasis (2001-2007) on the Earth Charter, women’s leadership, and education for global citizenship. To celebrate its fifteenth anniversary year, in 2008 the Center began exploring what Ikeda and others call “new humanism” — exemplified by the Center’s theme for 2008, “Understanding Death, Appreciating Life,” and by the 2009 theme, "Humanizing Our Lives, Humanizing Our World," and by the 2010 theme, "Developing the Democratic Spirit."
The human element defines every aspect of the Center’s work and history. The story of the Center is the story of its friends, such as the late Elise Boulding, whose ongoing presence at Center events as both discussant and audience participant was a steady source of insight and optimism. Several professors from nearby Harvard University have been generous with their time and their perspectives: Harvey Cox, Tu Weiming, Nur Yalman, and Nobel laureate Amartya Sen have all made stimulating contributions to the Center. The Women’s Lecture Series has brought innovative leaders such as Gloria White-Hammond and Congresswoman Barbara Lee into the Center’s orbit. Dozens more of similar stature — leaders of heart and mind — have participated in Center seminars and dialogues, or contributed to Center publications.
Reflecting on the core values of the Center, Virginia Benson (Executive Director from 1993 - 2009; now Senior Research Fellow) highlights “the opportunity to engage in dialogue with the remarkable people that we’ve been able to attract to the Center — scholars and activists and people of all ages and from various cultural backgrounds who have inspiring life experiences to share. Even in large groups, when we have a major conference, there have been moments of true dialogue, of true understanding. You go through a lot of preparation for a large conference to make people feel comfortable ... and sometimes you get this crescendo when it seems like everybody in the room is just getting it. I love that. This experience gives me hope that the whole world could move in this direction — toward a profound sense of interconnectedness, of harmony with the other.”
You can investigate the ideas and contributions of the many Center guests and speakers at our Thinkers & Themes page.