Part 3: Kosen-rufu and World Peace
Chapter 31: The Great Path to World Peace [31.28]

31.28 The Wisdom for Interfaith Dialogue

Throughout the novel The New Human Revolution, the protagonist Shin’ichi Yamamoto (whose character represents President Ikeda) speaks of the importance of dialogue, including dialogue among religions.

[In response to the following question from a youth: “In recent years, you have engaged in dialogue with individuals from various fields and countries around the world. Your dialogue partners have espoused ideologies ranging from communism and socialism to free-market democracy and subscribed to a broad range of religious affiliations. Following these encounters, many express their respect and deep trust in you. Are there any particular areas we need to pay attention to when trying to create empathy and friendship with people holding different ideologies and values?”]

“It’s only to be expected that other people are different from you in many ways. However, those differences are what make them who they are. They make our world rich and diverse—like a garden filled with all kinds of beautiful flowers. We need to accept and respect those differences and learn from one another—that should be your starting point. It is crucial to respect everyone as a human being, no matter what their religious affiliation.

“We are all different. Humanity is diverse. But at the same time, we have something in common that transcends those differences: we are all human beings living on this planet Earth. And as human beings, we all seek happiness and long for peace, doing our best to survive while grappling with the existential issues of birth, aging, sickness, and death.

“Based on that shared reality, we should be able to arrive at a shared conviction: Life is precious, and all have the right to live, the right to happiness. That is why war, which brings death and misery, is utterly unacceptable.

“The teaching of Nichiren Buddhism that all living beings are originally and inherently Buddhas is the basis for the conviction that life is precious. This led Mr. Toda, as a Buddhist, to articulate the ideal of a global family and to make his Declaration Calling for the Abolition of Nuclear Weapons.”

Shin’ichi’s purpose in engaging in dialogue was to affirm this shared human conviction with those he spoke with and forge a consensus for peace. He wished to build a network of people—transcending national, ethnic, and religious differences—dedicated to protecting the dignity of life.

He believed in human goodness. He was certain that by conversing frankly and sincerely, people could come to understand, empathize with, and trust one another.

He added: “People are tied down by all sorts of obligations and commitments, including national interests and positions. The question is, can we go beyond these and take action for the sake of values universal to all human beings? Can we transform suspicion into trust? Dialogue is the work of inspiring and awakening people on the deepest level to make this possible. That is why dialogue requires patience, perseverance, wisdom, and conviction.

“Dialogue also enables us to engage with people of different personalities, philosophies, and beliefs, thereby absorbing new information, wisdom, and ideas. Dialogue is the direct path to elevating ourselves as human beings.”

From The New Human Revolution, vol. 21, “People’s Diplomacy” chapter.


[In response to a youth accompanying Shin’ichi on his first trip to Europe, who had expressed concern that propagating Nichiren Buddhism in such places as Europe and the Middle East—with their established traditions of Christianity and Islam and history of religious wars—was likely to spark conflict and opposition]

“Everyone who travels overseas seems to worry about this. I heard a similar concern expressed by a young person who accompanied me on my trip to India.

“The main cause of religious wars is people losing sight of the fact that religion should exist for the sake of people and their happiness. They allow that fundamental relationship to be reversed, believing instead that people exist only to further the interests of religion. Nothing is more irreligious than persecuting and killing others because they do not share your religious beliefs.

“Religion must always be for people’s well-being, and respect for human life must be its top priority. We must never discriminate against others because of their religion. The essential spirit of Buddhism and the eternal and unchanging principle of the Soka Gakkai is to afford the highest respect to all people, regardless of their religion. The purpose of Buddhism and the true path of humanity is to bring peace and happiness to all.

“I had a good friend who became a Christian. He was a member of the reading group several of us formed right after World War II, when I lived in Morigasaki. We read many works of literature and philosophy together. He encountered a serious problem, which led him to begin practicing Christianity—just before I joined the Soka Gakkai. Later we both moved and lost touch, but I still pray for his happiness to this day. True friendship never fades.

“If we could meet again, I would like to talk about life and share Buddhism with him. Sharing Buddhism starts from friendship. Real dialogue takes place only when you genuinely respect and care about another person.”

[In response to a member’s concern that the general public in Japan tends to regard Nichiren Buddhism as an intolerant religion that carries out aggressive propagation]

“Yes, some indeed regard Nichiren Buddhism that way, but the Daishonin’s actions and spirit—taking on the people’s sufferings as his own and being willing to give his life for their sake—are the embodiment of great compassion, not intolerance. If the Daishonin can be called intolerant in any sense, it is his intolerance of the authorities and religious leaders allied with the government who acted against the people’s welfare. On the other hand, his tolerance and acceptance of ordinary citizens were unsurpassed.

“He also affirmed the significance of sutras other than the Lotus Sutra, as evidenced by his frequently quoting them in his writings. Of course, he strongly criticized other Buddhist schools of his day for mistaking partial or provisional teachings for the supreme teaching and essence of Buddhism. We must bear in mind the historical circumstances in which the Daishonin was propagating his teachings.”

[In response to a question about whether a time might come when propagating Nichiren Buddhism by the method of shakubuku1 becomes unnecessary because of the specific circumstances of the age]

“No. The fundamental spirit of shakubuku—sharing the correct teaching for others’ happiness—will never change.

“Today in Japan, our members are striving with all their might to create a great groundswell of propagation. It is only natural, therefore, that they refute erroneous Buddhist teachings when necessary.

“In particular, after World War II, a rash of new religions arose in Japan. Many Japanese joined them without fully comprehending the consequences of the beliefs they taught, only to later find themselves miserable. That is why it is crucial today to clarify the differences among the teachings of various religions and encourage people to develop a critical awareness of religious claims.

“The means of carrying this out will vary depending on the country and the times, however. For example, in the Daishonin’s day, Buddhism was the predominant religion in Japan, but the correct teaching had been lost or ignored. Erroneous views that slandered the Law prevailed, so the Daishonin advocated shakubuku, or ‘strict refutation,’ as the best practice. But in a land unaware of Buddhism, he taught, the method of shoju, or ‘gentle persuasion,’ should be adopted.

Shoju is a practice of recognizing and accepting the differences between the teachings of the country’s prevailing religion and Buddhism, and gradually leading people to the Buddhist teachings.”

[In response to a question about how to respond to established religions, for example Christianity in Europe]

“The most important thing is to initiate dialogue. We mustn’t use the religious affiliations of others as an excuse not to do so. That would be cowardly.

“Even though their beliefs or views may differ from ours, people of genuine religious faith will care deeply about attaining world peace and the happiness of all humanity. That spirit has much in common with Buddhism. What’s important is drawing forth that inner goodness and finding common ground as fellow human beings so that each of us, in our unique capacity, can contribute to peace and happiness.

“It may be true that, from one perspective, we can view human history as a history of religious wars. For that very reason, dialogue among followers of different religions is crucial for building a new era of peace, and it will surely become even more crucial in the future.

“We have to open dialogues between Buddhism and Christianity, Buddhism and Judaism, Buddhism and Islam. Though our beliefs may differ, we all surely share the common desire for peace and human happiness. We are all ultimately human beings, and this offers a key for uniting humanity. With that awareness, instead of engaging in wars with other faiths, religions can engage in a ‘competition of goodness.’

“A ‘competition of goodness’ means competing to find ways to promote peace and happiness for all—or as Mr. Makiguchi called it, ‘humanitarian competition’ to promote our own and others’ happiness. For example, religions could compete to produce the most people of outstanding character contributing to world peace, or to inspire the most hope and courage, among many other possibilities.

“We have to steadily prove the effectiveness of our efforts for peace and the welfare of humanity as we shape and respond to the times. We must perpetuate this trend until the day we put a complete end to conflict and hostility arising from religious differences. I regard this, ultimately, as the Soka Gakkai’s great historical mission.”

From The New Human Revolution, vol. 5, “Joy” chapter.


[In response to a youth’s concern about the difficulty of dialogue with followers of Islam, who believe in an omnipotent, monotheistic deity]

“Why have you decided it will be difficult? How can you know until you try? You mustn’t be a prisoner to your assumptions.

“Engaging in dialogue with people of the Islamic faith doesn’t mean you have to discuss religious doctrines. Instead, you can start with topics that concern everyone as fellow human beings—for example, culture, education, or how best to work for peace from a humanitarian perspective. People around the world share the same desire for peace and cultural development. As you speak freely and openly about such topics, you’ll gradually find yourselves able to discuss more specifically religious themes. In any case, the purpose of dialogue is to find ways to enable all people to become happy and to build a peaceful world.

“In addition, Islam places a high value on writing, an aspect they have in common with the Daishonin’s Buddhism. Islam, Judaism, and Christianity all believe in an all-powerful creator. We can identify similarities between this and our view of the Mystic Law as the principle underlying and pervading the universe. We might use that as a starting point for dialogue. I believe that through ongoing dialogue, followers of Islam will discover many things we share in common and attain a better understanding and appreciation of Buddhism.

“Mr. Toda often used to say that if the religious founders Shakyamuni, Jesus, and Muhammad were to gather in a room for a conference, they would quickly understand one another.

“In business, for example, top executives can easily understand one another and reach agreements quickly. That is because they share similar concerns and a sense of responsibility.

“Similarly, the founders of the world’s great religions, though living at different times and under differing circumstances, all wished and fought for the people’s happiness, despite often terrible personal cost and sacrifices. They were all reformers of their age, wise, courageous, and committed.

“If they could talk to one another, they would no doubt grasp the profundity of Buddhism and quickly arrive at a consensus about what humanity needed in the future and what should be done.

“Unfortunately, such a meeting is not possible, so people today have no choice but to return to the spirit of their religion’s founders, who dedicated their lives to people’s happiness, and engage in dialogue with one another.”

From The New Human Revolution, vol. 6, “Treasure Land” chapter.

The Wisdom for Creating Happiness and Peace brings together selections from President Ikeda’s works on key themes.

  • *1Shakubuku: A method of expounding Buddhism by refuting another’s attachment to erroneous teachings and thus leading that person to the correct teaching. The term “shakubuku” is used in contrast to “shoju,” which means to lead another gradually to the correct teaching in accord with that person’s capacity. These two kinds of practice are described in the Shrimala Sutra, T’ien-t’ai’s Great Concentration and Insight, and other works. In Nichiren Buddhism, the term “shakubuku” is also often used synonymously with propagating or sharing the Mystic Law.