Ikeda's Four Foundations of Dialogue

On Wednesday, February 27, the School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution (S-CAR) at George Mason University (GMU) hosted a book launch panel discussion event for Peacebuilding Through Dialogue, which the Ikeda Center developed and published in collaboration with George Mason University Press. The panel featured three contributors to the volume that live in the D.C. area: lead editor Peter Stearns, Provost Emeritus and University Professor at GMU; Susan Allen, Associate Professor at S-CAR and Director of its Center for Peacemaking Practice; and Mark Farr, President of the Sustained Dialogue Institute. The Dean of S-CAR, Kevin Avruch, moderated, and Kevin Maher and Mitch Bogen of the Ikeda Center offered some opening remarks. Bogen's comments focused on four ideas emphasized by Center founder Daisaku Ikeda that illuminate the foundations of successful dialogue. The first two of these are included in Mr. Ikeda's fine foreword to the volume. This excerpt from Bogen's comments has been modified for this website presentation.

Ikeda's Four Foundational Ideas for Successful Dialogue

The first foundational idea addresses the grave mistake of pre-judging and categorizing people in ways that close off opportunities for growth, understanding, and peace. Mr. Ikeda explains his perspective in this elegant passage from his foreword.

"In order to achieve mutually enriching, deeply connecting dialogue, we need to overcome the divisions within our own hearts that make us unconsciously categorize people and rank their value on that basis. We need to be aware of the danger of categorizing people into such simplistic binaries as good and bad, us and them, and friend and foe. Such an approach is one of the deep drivers of conflict."

The second has to do with the prospect and nature of change. A strength of Buddhism is its resistance to the notion of any of us having a fixed identity. In the Lotus Sutra it is proposed that there are ten inner worlds, ranging from hunger and anger to learning and realization all the way up to Buddhahood. Any of these realms, writes Mr. Ikeda, “can become manifest at any time through interaction with our surroundings.” Thus, in Buddhism, nothing is permanent, and the nature of our engagements with others and our environment can be a determining factor in what emerges at any point. In his foreword, Mr. Ikeda states:

"Ultimately, the teaching of the mutual possession of the ten worlds encourages us to see others in ourselves, ourselves in others, and to perceive our deeper connections and unity. It is an appreciation of human life as inherently diverse and mutable; it embodies an unwavering faith in the limitless potential and dignity of all people. I am confident that such a perspective offers a path toward peace and harmonious coexistence embracing all forms of ideological, religious, philosophical differences."

The third explores the question of Idealism and Realism. Certainly all of us involved in peacebuilding work are motivated by strong ideals, but we also suspect that so-called “realistic” solutions based on coercion never actually succeed in bringing about lasting peace. Mr. Ikeda often frames the issue like this: Though engaging in open-hearted and open-minded dialogue may seem to be what he calls “the long way around,” it is, in fact, in the final analysis, the most authentically realistic way to create the necessary foundation for a peace that is more than the temporary absence of violence.

The fourth point, closely related to the third, has to do with a central concept of Mr. Ikeda’s, called “human revolution.” Section Two of Peacebuilding Through Dialogue, which looks at the connections between personal and interpersonal transformation, explores the processes involved in human revolution – namely, the blending and the interdependence of inner and outer peace-oriented change. Mr. Ikeda has described the powerful ramifications of this inner-outer transformation with these words: “A great human revolution in just a single individual will enable a change in the destiny of all humankind.”

Taken together, these ideas represent some of the most essential frames of mind that help us to do two vital things: They inspire us to believe in the possibility and power of dialogue and they prepare us to be participants in successful peacebuilding dialogue when the opportunity arises.

[Posted 3-1-19]

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