Thoughts on Dialogue from the Dialogue Path Press Collection

Dialogue group during the 2023 Ikeda Forum

Dialogue session at the 2023 Ikeda Forum

Our Dialogue Path Press books features Daisaku Ikeda in conversation with a wide range of scholars and thought leaders on how to realize peace, coexistence, and personal and social flourishing in the 21st century. While each book is an exemplar of the practice of dialogue, during the course of their discussions they often would address the meaning and value of dialogue itself. We have gathered many of their insights here. For more detail on the titles and authors referenced please visit our book page. 

Quotes on Dialogue from the Dialogue Path Press Collection

Creating Waldens: An East-West Conversation on the American Renaissance (2009)

Daisaku Ikeda: Dialogue is also, in a way, painstaking work. It may not always lead to immediate solutions, but it stimulates the mind and the spirit in ways that tap into the source of human wisdom. Repeated dialogue points out the path humanity needs to travel. (pp. 3)


Ronald Bosco: Your kind invitation to us to engage in these conversations has provided us with occasions to put into practice both Emerson and Thoreau’s devotion to the art, Emerson said, of conversation or-to use a term that seems more appropriate here and reflects an SGI ideal that you have devoted your life to promoting-dialogue. It is in exchanges such as these that people truly meet. Here, people share ideas and ideals, and by listening to the words and considering the thoughts of others, they appreciate that there are many valid ways of understanding their place in the world. (pp. 172)

Learn more about Creating Waldens

Into Full Flower: Making Peace Cultures Happen (2010)

Elise Boulding: Dialogue among different religions that share the same goals is vital. By getting to know one another, we can increase our strength to practice our own faiths. Interfaith cooperation must be a key aspect of social and spiritual movements.

Daisaku Ikeda: Person-to-person dialogue with a sense of humility must be made basic to all intercultural and interreligious ex- change. In June 1991, shortly after the reunification of Germany, I met with Richard von Weizsäcker, philosopher and then president of the Federal Republic of Germany, who was at that time struggling to demolish the invisible wall that still separated the peoples of East and West Germany. He impressed on me that mutual respect and direct contact, free of all condescension, were indispensable to this monumental undertaking. Conducted steadily, repeatedly, and tenaciously, one-on-one dialogue based on respect can advance the development of a global society of peace and harmonious coexistence. (pp. 16)

Learn more about Into Full Flower

Inner Philosopher: Conversations on Philosophy’s Transformative Power (2012)

Lou Marinoff: We should relate to other people as human equals. We should engage them in dialogue as inquirers, seeking to learn about their dis-ease, aspiring to understand but not to judge them, instilling in them the confidence to remedy and not to wrong themselves, valuing and appealing to their most salutary inner qualities. Any dialogue conducted on this basis will almost certainly be helpful and not harmful to all parties. In such a dialogue, we should eschew the hierarchical nature of relationships based on social standings or professional positions. (pp. 99-100)


Daisaku Ikeda: The foundation of dialogue should be respect, empathy, and heartfelt, compassionate love for one’s fellow human beings. Religion, like dialogue, is not a solitary activity. It should be a realm in which people protect and support one another, talking about their problems and encouraging one another.

Lou Marinoff: Dialogue plays a consistent healing role, whether in counseling sessions or larger group settings. (pp. 102)


Daisaku Ikeda: Dialogue, by creating the reflective space you describe, is an opportunity for drawing out a person’s positive mental functions and sharing them. It also brings the negative mental tendencies to the surface, into the light of day, where they can be consciously examined. This process enables people to perceive their situation with greater objectivity and to interpret the main cause of their suffering more constructively, empowering them to resolve and eliminate suffering. Such humane dialogue has never been as lacking as it is today—not only in medicine but in the home, the workplace, and the community as well. At the foundation of good dialogue are the very positive mental functions that are then shared and reinforced in that reflective space. That’s why a harmonizing, unifying force characterized by compassion, empathy, and mutual respect emerges in that space. This is what our society today needs most of all. (pp. 103-104)


Lou Marinoff: The problem is that the power of words can be utilized for ill as well as for good. All too often, language is abused to demonize, denigrate, or devalue others, all of which produce disunity. By contrast, dialogue can utilize the gift of language to harmonize, uplift, and value others, all of which produce unity. Not every person is an orator, poet, or musician, yet every person can engage in dialogue, thus utilizing the gift of language to help unite humanity. A dialogue is like a dance with words. When people dance together, they experience unity. (pp. 105)


Daisaku Ikeda: Dialogue really is to take action with the voice. With our voices, we praise, encourage, correct, heal, cheer up, and impart the energy of courage and hope. It is a dynamic exchange between one human being and another, one mind and another—always, it goes without saying, based on good will. Buddhism teaches that “the voice carries out the work of the Buddha.” In other words, the voice awakens people to their inner enlightenment. That’s how important the voice is regarded in Buddhism. The power of the voice of truth, brimming with formidable life force, is the Buddha in action, imparting peace of mind and stirring courage. The motivating force behind dialogue should be a commitment to the absolute value of the individual. Through dialogue, we reinforce one another’s positive mental states, deepen mutual understanding, and forge bonds of trust. (pp. 105)

Learn more about The Inner Philosopher

America Will Be! Conversations on Hope, Freedom, and Democracy (2013)

Daisaku Ikeda: As human beings, we share our past, exist together in the present, and aspire to create a common future. And we come to know that, as we have our own precious stories, other people likewise have their own valuable stories. The foundation of mutual understanding that emerges through dialogue is the lifeblood that animates democracy. To develop a close, understanding community, we need opportunities for intimate, mutually inspiring dialogue that enables each person to share the story of his or her life. (pp. 28)


Vincent Harding: Hearing many different stories helps us to understand our origins, where we’ve come from. But on a more poetic level, these stories help us to understand how we are connected to one another. It is this thought that makes us understand that we are all parts of one whole-there is no real separation. (pp. 29)

Learn more about America Will Be!

The Art of True Relations: Conversations on the Poetic Heart of Human Possibility (2014)

Sarah Wider: Willingness to listen is essential to justice. No wonder it is one of the precious elements in the treasure tower. I appreciate your instruction in this profound aspect of Buddhist philosophy… Too often, where words could celebrate and realize the richness of possibility in human communities, they become barriers and even weapons. When we fail to learn who the person we are conversing with truly is, we run the risk of creating divisions or of silencing another. In contrast, your words build bridges of encouragement, so that others might cross into the realm of open exchange where all freely share their creativity, their way of living poetry in this world. Here is the spirit of dialogue embodied and indeed the spirit of democracy. (pp. 132)


Sarah Wider: Conversation and dialogue are elemental to human beings. We don’t live well or fully if we cannot share our thoughts and feelings with others. Inquiry, examination, and collaboration are central to this sharing. (pp. 157)


Daisaku Ikeda: Buddhism stresses the importance of true dialogue as a meeting of minds, presenting its teachings in the form of dialogues between a mentor and disciple. And you emphasize the importance of consideration and respect in dialogue. These are values consonant with the four methods employed by bodhisattvas in Mahayana Buddhism. These four methods are qualities conducive to creating ideal interpersonal relations. The first is selfless almsgiving, including spiritual nourishment, courage, and other nonmaterial support. The second is loving speech, or speaking in a kindly manner. The third is altruistic action, taking action to benefit others. And the fourth is shared efforts - working together with others. By practicing these four kinds of conduct, one respects the other person, improves the relationship, promotes mutual growth, and uplifts both parties. (pp. 159)

Learn more about The Art of True Relations

Abandoning dialogue is tantamount to abandoning our trust in humanity.

Daisaku Ikeda

Living As Learning: John Dewey in the 21st Century (2014)

Daisaku Ikeda: Conversation, dialogue, is indeed the essence of democracy. Without openhearted dialogue, the human spirit stops growing and withers away. Without intellectual and spiritual exchange, society rigidifies and grinds to a halt. Dewey clearly pointed out the path to the unfettered development of humanity and society. (pp. 1)


Jim Garrison: Dewey is famous for saying, in Experience and Nature, that of all affairs, “communication is the most wonderful,” for when it occurs, “all natural events are subject to reconsideration and revision.” He believed that to have a mind is to possess meaning, and that meaning arises through linguistic communication. Such communication implies two or more social beings reaching agreement in action regarding some third object or person. We literally owe our minds and selves to our ability to incorporate others’ attitudes toward the world. This is why good communication is critical to well-being. (pp. 173-174)


Jim Garrison: We must engage in dialogue if we are to transform disharmony (conflict, evil, etc.) into harmony (peace, good, etc.) but that means recognizing creative possibilities. It is important that participants in dialogues across differences strive to understand one another’s beliefs, values, and ways of life sympathetically. However, substantial understanding is often not possible. Nonetheless, the novel meaning we create together sometimes forms mutual understanding, or at least constitutes a willingness to continue. It is important to retain a certain amount of respectful playfulness, by which I mean everything from cheerful banter and simply enjoying one another’s company to exploring possibilities, all the while constantly respecting one another’s difference. (pp. 188)


Daisaku Ikeda: Abandoning dialogue is tantamount to abandoning our trust in humanity. All that remains then is the logic of force. Violence and force breed hatred and retaliation, from which arises more violence, permanently preventing peacebuilding. Dewey’s philosophy is founded on trust in human nature. For this reason, it has sometimes been criticized as too optimistic. But history has shown that the logic of force cannot bring true peace and coexistence. In this context, Jane Addams’s and Northern Ireland’s peace stand as radiant models of hope. This is why I go on loudly proclaiming courageous dialogue as true human victory. (pp. 191)

Learn more about Living As Learning

Our World To Make: Hinduism, Buddhism, and the Rise of Global Civil Society (2015)

Ved Nanda: In ancient India, there was a rich tradition of debates and dialogues with sages and seers sitting as referees and judges to decide who won and who lost. There was no persecution and no revenge. Usually, those who lost would just accept the loss. They would think to themselves: “Oh, I have not been on the mark. I need to study more, I need to think more. Maybe my ideas are not sound. I’ll have to think things through and maybe accept the ideas that are better, for me and for society.”

Daisaku Ikeda: They were magnanimous and humbly sought the truth, then. Open dialogue is key to the spiritual development of society, and a climate of free and open public exchange is essential. (pp. 37)


Daisaku Ikeda: The objective of dialogue is not to present and push one’s own views but to strive to understand the other party’s perspective and engage in an open, honest dialogue. I would venture to say, at the risk of being misunderstood, that the true value of dialogue lies more in its process than its results. This is because the process of dialogue itself provides an inspiring forum for human beings and civilizations to participate in lively interactions that foster self-restraint and humanitarian competition. (pp. 185)


Ved Nanda: And yet how clear it is that what generally prevails today is an implosion of non-listening and non-dialogue. While harmony can be achieved through thoughtful dialogue and language, problems can also be enflamed and exacerbated through thoughtless dialogue and language.

Daisaku Ikeda: This is why I believe that our age cries out for dialogue among civilizations based on shared responsibility for the future that transcends national, cultural, religious, and ethnic differences. (pp. 185)


Daisaku Ikeda: In any case, sages and learned individuals exhibit a deep, comprehensive understanding of others and their ideas, inspired by their genuine trust of and warm concern for others. They share a love and respect for humanity. And this love for humanity is certainly not blind. It is rather a rigorous effort to inspire individuals to struggle against their flaws and inner demons, and strive together to achieve the highest good. No one can responsibly assume the task of opening new vistas for humanity’s future if the dialogue they engage in is bereft of such stern love and compassion. (pp. 187)

Learn More About Our World To Make

Knowing Our Worth: Conversations and Energy and Sustainability (2016)

Daisaku Ikeda: Dialogue is an expression of our humanity. Dialogue is a communion of souls and a light illuminating the future. (pp. 1)

Learn more about Knowing Our Worth

Shaping A New Society: Conversations on Economics, Education, and Peace (2017)

Daisaku Ikeda: I believe that engaging in dialogue with individuals of exceptional insight and achievement, and leaving a record of their thoughts, is an invaluable, fruitful endeavor in life. (pp. 7)


Daisaku Ikeda: Dialogue is a crucial form of interactive learning for life in general. As I mentioned earlier, one-on-one dialogue was the method through which I studied with my mentor in my twenties. (pp. 38)

Learn more about Shaping a new society

Peace, Justice, and The Poetic Mind: Conversations on the Path of Nonviolence (2018)

Stuart Rees: It is my unchangeable belief that even though dialogue is sometimes accompanied by seemingly insurmountable difficulties and obstacles, any other path must end in failure and resignation. (pp. 3)


Stuart Rees: It is my belief that the following two elements are necessary if dialogue is to successfully connect people’s hearts. The first is the desire to truly understand the “life biography” of the person with whom you are in dialogue, and the second is humor and compassion. (pp. 6)

Learn more about Peace, Justice, and the Poetic Mind