If we dig deep enough within the great earth of each person’s life, we find flowing there the same underground channels of empathy and compassion. This source gives rise to an immense range of human diversity, in which each of us is endowed equally with a unique role and purpose in this symphony of life. Our struggle to return to this source is thus central to bringing about a genuine renaissance for all people.
The bard’s role is to serve as what my friend Vincent Harding has called the “midwife” who assists people in bringing forth their true humanity. The poet’s special gift of creativity and imagination touches people’s lives, inspiring them to fully realize their potential while strengthening their bonds with others.
I hope that our gathering today can also become such an oasis of creative insight, deepening our sense of mutual connection — much as Thoreau experienced when he communed with nature at Walden Pond or in his friendship with Emerson, with whom he shared wide-ranging dialogue. I offer my thoughts with similar sentiments, a member of your audience today in spirit.
This celebration, I understand, is the first official event of the Ikeda Center for Peace, Learning, and Dialogue, following its inauguration on July 3.
As the Boston Research Center for the 21st Century (1993–2009), the Center diligently engaged in the task that I first proposed in my Harvard address of 1993: promoting open dialogue among civilizations, dialogue expressing the openness of the ennobled spirit. At the same time, the Center has worked hard to broaden the circle of empathy, founded on humanistic principles, that transcends all divisions.
My heartfelt appreciation to Virginia Benson, former Executive Director, and Masao Yokota, former President, as well as to each and every member of the BRC staff for your many years of invaluable service.
My lasting gratitude also goes to all the friends of the BRC. Your support over the course of the Center’s development has far exceeded our fondest expectations. Please continue to extend to the new Center your counsel and cooperation in the coming years.
I hold the highest expectations for the Ikeda Center, which begins a new phase under Richard Yoshimachi, who has assumed the position of President and Executive Director. As for the institution naming itself after me, I am immensely humbled and honored by your decision. Please be assured that my complete support will continue.
I identify deeply with the Center’s choice of peace, learning, and dialogue as its foundational pursuits.
Our objective must be the realization of peace for all people and to support the harmony and progress of global civil society. The way to achieve this, I believe, is, again, through the dialogue of spiritual openness. The key to such dialogue is devoting our very lives to listening and learning from those different from us. This humble willingness to learn is profoundly meaningful, invariably fostering deep, empathetic connections. Not only does this resonance enable us to understand others on a deeper level, it acts as a mighty impetus for our true self — our greater self — to flower within us.
People empowered by their greater self experience an untrammeled sense of freedom. Such people can see themselves for who they truly are, without needing to hide behind any veil of self-deceit. They naturally become adept in self-culture, mastering the art of communion with oneself at the depths of one’s being.
In Creating Waldens, Professor Bosco points out that Thoreau is regarded as a “master prophet of self-culture” in America and that Walden offers a guiding set of principles for developing oneself. He goes on to explain how important it is for each of us to seek and discover our very own “Walden Pond.”
Professor Myerson shares his insights on the significance of Thoreau’s time at Walden Pond, describing it as a “special test of nature’s genius and divinity as well as of his own.” Indeed, only by tirelessly challenging ourselves to create new Waldens within can we discern the profound, overarching principles that govern the universe and our own beings, enabling us to lead deeper, more meaningful existences.
My hope is that the Ikeda Center for Peace, Learning, and Dialogue will lead the effort to create such spiritual sanctuaries of life-affirming dialogue, where we can heal the wounds of the alienated lesser self and open pathways to our true self, the greater self, with its unlimited capacity for empathy. From such Waldens, I am confident that a mighty river of peace will flow — a flood of respect and reverence for the inherent dignity of humanity.
With that thought, I will close my message of congratulations. Please accept my deepest appreciation and gratitude.
President, Soka Gakkai International
Founder, Ikeda Center for Peace, Learning, and Dialogue