Part 3: Kosen-rufu and World Peace
Chapter 31: The Great Path to World Peace [31.5]

31.5 The Century of Life

In his numerous dialogues, President Ikeda has consistently spoken of a Buddhist humanism. Here, talking with American professor of theology Lawrence E. Sullivan, he discusses the mission of religion in the 21st century.

Human endeavors should be undertaken with the human being in mind and contribute to human happiness.

And if we are starting and ending with the human being, we find that thought, philosophy, and, ultimately, religion are what influence people on the most fundamental level, making us who we are.

Politics, economics, culture, and education—we can liken all these to the cherry and maple trees and the lilies and roses whose forms rise from the fertile earth to enrich people’s hearts. The question, then, is whether the earth from which they grow has been properly cultivated. Is it healthy? Does it have a rich life force? If not, the beautiful flowering plants and trees will not take root and grow.

That earth is the people, the life of the people. A religion that gives direction to people’s lives can also be likened to the earth. When the earth is healthy and sound, flowers bloom in rich profusion. The significance of the SGI movement lies in enabling the blossoming of human potential and the flourishing of peace, culture, and education based on Buddhism.

Only when we have as our foundation a religion that can answer the fundamental questions of human existence—What is life? What does it mean to be human? How should I live my life?—will we realize a brilliant flowering in our daily lives, as well as in culture, politics, and economics.


The motivation for scientific or economic progress must always be to benefit humanity, to enhance life.

Knowing ourselves and understanding others ultimately comes down to understanding what it means to be human, what is life itself, what is human dignity. And in our quest to understand the human condition, we cannot overlook what Buddhism calls the “four sufferings.” These are the sufferings of birth, aging, sickness, and death. Without confronting these fundamental sufferings, any effort to pursue happiness is as ephemeral as a castle built on sand or a rootless plant floating on the water.

Buddhism also describes another four kinds of suffering—the suffering of having to part from those one loves, the suffering of having to meet with those one hates, the suffering of being unable to obtain what one desires, and the suffering arising from the five components1 that constitute one’s body and mind. These are grouped together with the four fundamental sufferings to make the “eight sufferings.”

From time immemorial, humanity has sought to resolve these sufferings. Only a religion teaching the fundamental Law of life can respond to them. Now is the time to share the means for their resolution with all humankind.

To make the 21st century a century of hope for humanity, we need to return to the basics—to what it means to be a human being—and from there build a sound foundation for human happiness. This is how to address the questions of life and death and make the 21st century a century of life, something I have advocated for many years.

From a dialogue with Lawrence E. Sullivan, director of Harvard University’s Center for the Study of World Religions, Tokyo, March 27, 1993.

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

  • *1Five components: Also, five components of life. They consist of form, perception, conception, volition, and consciousness. Buddhism holds that these constituent elements unite temporarily to form an individual living being. Together they also constitute one of the three realms of existence, the other two being the realm of living beings and the realm of the environment.