Global Citizenship

What Do We Mean By Interdependence?

Participants engage in dialogue at the 2019 Ikeda Forum

Ikeda Forum breakout group discussion

It’s a simple idea with vast implications. Known in Western society as interdependence, the concept has been known for millennia in Buddhism as “dependent origination.” Because of the light it sheds on all manner of living relations, Ikeda returns time and again to it in his writings, speeches, and dialogues.

For example, in his 2004 dialogue with Hazel Henderson, he observed that “all beings and phenomena exist or occur because of their relationship with other beings and phenomena, and nothing in either the human or nonhuman world exists in isolation. All things are mutually related to and interdependent with all other things.” Frequently Ikeda illustrates by sharing the Buddhist parable of the two bundles of reeds, in which each can only stand by leaning on the other. If one is taken away, the other falls, implying, says Ikeda, that “because there is a ‘that’, there can be a ’this’.”

Consciousness of interdependence, of our “intricate web of causation and connection,” has ethical implications. At the level of a general ethos or orientation, what this means for Ikeda is that “more than objective awareness, we must achieve a state of compassion transcending distinctions between self and other.” Practically speaking, Ikeda frequently encourages us to make common cause across our differences in a range of areas, including nuclear abolition and the mitigation of climate dangers. Ultimately, for Ikeda, the reality of interdependence calls for us to develop a dialogical approach to relations, since it is as a mode of interaction it is devoted to bringing about the best in the other and to finding solutions to our problems that honor and draw strength from the rich diversity of society and life itself.