Global Citizenship

Perspectives on Conviction Seven: On Interdependence

Dialogue session

In 2013 we helped to celebrate our 20th anniversary by gathering perspectives from diverse scholar-friends on our seven core convictions, which are all drawn from Daisaku Ikeda’s messages of guidance to us. Taken together, the perspectives of our contributors reveal the richness of the principles that guide us.  Here are thoughts on Conviction Seven: “Interdependence Forms the Crux of the 21st Century Worldview.”


From Stephen Gould, former Assistant Professor at Lesley University, where he directed the Educational Leadership Program

Each of the Ikeda Center “Core Convictions” stands alone and each one is important and powerful in its own right. However, I prefer to internalize these seven convictions as a cohesive, interdependent whole, because together they are greater than the sum of their parts. I wonder what the world could be like if all individuals chose to live by these seven core convictions. Would human nature change or do these core ideas represent human nature before we lost our way?

“What a wonderful world it would be,” if we committed to understanding some essential things: interdependence versus competition; dialogue rather than war; respect and support as opposed to castigation and marginalization; imagination rather than replication; the embrace of the potential in others for good rather than the creation of protective walls of mistrust; reform of self before focusing on others. As a humanist educator, I reflect on these core convictions regularly and try to shape my behavior accordingly. I try to be the change I want to see. I find consolation that there are others whose behavior is also guided by these convictions. Committed to these convictions as individuals and as a community we can make the world a better place.


From John Berthrong, former Associate Dean for Academic and Administrative Affairs and Associate Professor of Comparative Theology at the Boston University School of Theology

The Ikeda Center’s seventh core conviction focuses on a principle found in almost all Buddhist and Confucian worldviews, namely the belief in the interdependence of all the things and events of the world. Although not a Buddhist, I have always been struck by the immensely rewarding appeal of the conviction of interdependence. Moreover, as a student of Chinese philosophy and contemporary Western process philosophy, I have been taught by these traditions of the wisdom of the Buddhist insight into the interconnections that constitute our world. There are times when we all yearn for this insight to become actualized in the international relations of a world of seemingly endless conflict.

Harmony does not demand complete uniformity.

John Berthrong

As we all know China has dramatically opened to the world over the past three decades. I have been struck by one turn of phrase I have read and heard over and over again in the various conferences I attend frequently now in China. It is classic quote from the Analects of Confucius (Kongzi). It reads he er butong 和 而 不同, and can be translated or paraphrased as “harmony without uniformity.” It is an insight that expresses a number of themes that vary with the occasion, whether academic or diplomatic. First and foremost it articulates Kongzi’s conviction that we can seek a just and peaceful harmony between and among human beings without a strict demand for any kind of essential uniformity controlling a flourishing human society. The philosophical point, that harmony does not demand complete uniformity, is something Buddhism also understands so well through its doctrine of dependent origination.

Many of my Chinese colleagues believe that this is a critical insight for personal, professional, economic, political and international relations in the twenty-first century. I believe they are correct. The world would be so much more amicable place if we were to believe in harmony without uniformity. Even more, the world would be a much more peaceful place if we could find ways to operationalize this hallowed Buddhist and Confucian insight.

I have had the pleasure of working with the staff and programs of the Ikeda Center even before it moved into its wonderful current home. One thing has always struck me about all the publications, programs and events of the Ikeda Center: they all embody Master Kong’s insight. The Ikeda Center has encouraged a multitude of dialogues that have embodied a profound sense of harmony without any kind of restrictive uniformity. In fact, of there is one word I would use to describe the Ikeda Center it is dialogical. The Center encourages conversation as a necessary means and ideal that needs to be practiced in the complicated and conflicted world of the twenty-first century. The Ikeda Center’s vision of a harmony without uniformity has been embodied in programs about art, public policy, philosophy, gender relations, ecology, international relations and a host of other topics all aimed at increasing the chance for a twenty-first century dedicated to the peace and freedom of all people, and in fact, the whole creation. The Ikeda Center is a wonderful example of how the vision of the humane harmony of just interdependence can be fostered by committed people from around the world.


From Lou Marinoff, Professor and Chair of Philosophy at The City College of New York, founding president of the American Philosophical Practitioners Association, and author of the bestseller Plato Not Prozac!

As a corollary of Shakyamuni’s Second Noble Truth (which identifies suffering as the result of ignorance of truths such as impermanence) the doctrine of the interdependence of all phenomena has been known for a long time, especially by Buddhists. Globalization, however, has made this doctrine palpable to billions of people. The transcendence of global economic forces over local political ones has obliged us all to understand that no-one exists in isolation. That we are all connected economically and technologically can further compassionate causes, but can also be exploited by unscrupulous ones (such as predatory capitalism). It follows that globalization must include a component that teaches and implements the ethics of interconnectedness. This is vital to the morally wholesome evolution of the global village.