The annual Ikeda Forum for Intercultural Dialogue, launched in 2004, is the Center’s signature event. It is named after Center founder Daisaku Ikeda in honor of his untiring commitment to dialogue as the surest path to peace. The forum brings scholars from diverse disciplines and backgrounds together to explore key ideas from Daisaku Ikeda’s philosophy of Buddhist humanism.
Specifically, it builds on Ikeda’s call for our organization to be “a bridge between civilizations,” providing the opportunity to explore what we hope will become the key elements of a global ethic capable of uniting humanity, with an emphasis on the principles that lead in the direction of human and global flourishing. Indeed, in his message on the occasion of the first gathering, Mr. Ikeda expressed his hope that the forum will help us learn “to stand on the common ground of our shared humanity. The gaze that is deeply focused on the universal dimension of humanity generates a natural, expansive empathy for the dynamic diversity of life itself.”
Everyone that has spoken at or participated in an Ikeda Forum is a treasured friend of the Center. But a special note of appreciation is warranted for the contributions of the historian of social change Vincent Harding, who spoke at three Forums. His final appearance was at the 2013 forum, which he titled “We the People: Who Are We and What Is Our Work?” During that event he urged us to conceive of America as a “laboratory” for the creation of a multiracial democracy. In describing what he meant by “laboratory,” he may as well have been describing the spirit of dialogue guiding the Ikeda Forum. The word ‘laboratory,’ he explained, is “a word of hope, a word of possibility, and a word of some humility.” Even more, the word reminds us that “our task is still with us, and we are with the task.”
Key Thoughts from Daisaku Ikeda’s Message to the Inaugural Forum, 2004
“How can we break out of and transform this vicious circle? How can we halt the spiraling violence that is the outgrowth of misunderstanding and prejudice, hatred and confrontation? How can we forge connections between people and realize a civilization of creative coexistence that will embrace the whole of humankind? While there are many ways in which this can and must be approached, I wish to stress the importance of dialogue across differences of culture, ethnicity, and religion. For what is common to the ills that afflict us is the rejection of dialogue, and I firmly believe that the more severe the challenges we face the more crucial it is that we persist in dialogue because dialogue has the power to break down the walls of mistrust, hatred, and division in the hearts of people everywhere.
“We must recognize the long-term nature of the effort required and we must maintain faith in the potential for good that resides in all people. Rooted in this faith, we must address this potential and make it manifest through the quiet yet essential spiritual endeavor of inter-civilizational dialogue carried across the full spectrum of perspectives and on a multiplicity of levels.
“It is my firm conviction that efforts to create new systems to prevent and counter global terrorism will be genuinely effective only when the kind of dialogue that addresses and transforms the human spirit is conducted on a global scale.”
When we conduct open dialogue with an open heart, people find that their diversity is respected and dialogue among civilizations bears ever richer fruit.
Daisaku Ikeda, message to 1st Annual Ikeda Forum for Intercultural Dialogue
Photos by Marilyn Humphries