Part 1: Happiness; Chapter 6: The Principle of “Cherry, Plum, Peach, and Damson” [6.10]

6.10 The Wisdom for Fostering the Positive Potential in All People

In a peace proposal commemorating the 23rd SGI Day in 1998, President Ikeda discusses the Buddhist principle of cherry, plum, peach, and damson as a source for creating new value, transcending all differences to build a world of harmony and peaceful coexistence.

Education does not mean coercing people to fit one rigid and unvaried mold; this is mere ideological indoctrination. Rather, it represents the most effective means of fostering the positive potential inherent in all people—self-restraint, empathy for others and the unique personality and character of each person. To do this, education must be a personal, even spiritual encounter and interaction between human beings, between teacher and learner.

The teachings of Buddhism employ the analogy of flowering fruit trees—cherry, plum, peach, and damson—each blossoming and bearing fruit in its own unique way, to express the value of diversity. Each living thing, in other words, has a distinct character, individuality, and purpose in this world. Accordingly, people should develop their own unique capabilities as they work to build a world of cooperation where all people acknowledge both their differences and their fundamental equality, a world where a rich diversity of peoples and cultures is nourished, each enjoying respect and harmony.

The late Dr. David L. Norton, the respected American philosopher who was well versed in the educational philosophy of Tsunesaburo Makiguchi, shared his view of the Buddhist model of diversity in a 1991 address:

“For the reorganized world that must come, our responsibility as educators is to cultivate in our students a sensibility of respect and appreciation of cultures, beliefs, and practices that differ from their own. This can only be done on the basis of the recognition that other cultures, beliefs, and practices embody aspects of truth and goodness, as the blossoms of the cherry tree, the sour plum, the sweet plum, and the pear tree each embody beauty in a distinctive aspect. To achieve this means that our students must abandon the supposition that the beliefs and practices with which they are most familiar have a monopoly on truth and goodness. This supposition is called parochialism, or narrow-mindedness when it is the innocent result of ignorance, but it breeds the aggressive absolutism of the ‘closed society’ mentality.”1

Soon after World War II, as the East–West ideological confrontation escalated, second Soka Gakkai president Josei Toda spoke of the underlying unity of the human race, calling for the realization of a “global family.” His appeal grew from the same roots as what today is called “world citizenship” and sought to transcend the constraints of self-centered and bigoted nationalism. There are, of course, those who believe a clash of civilizations to be unavoidable. My view is that such a clash would not occur between civilizations, but between the savage elements that lurk within each civilization. If people from different cultural traditions are willing to work over time to build tolerant and enduring links, rather than indulging in the temptation to dominate and forcibly influence others, the very nature of culture is such that humanity will be enriched by their interaction, and their differences will give birth to new values.

The role of religion must be to provide the wisdom which can propel the effort toward mutual development and improvement. In this connection, Buddhism teaches that one meaning of myo (mystic) is “to open” (cf. WND-1, 145). The constant seeking after improvement and growth, the desire to open up latent potentialities, is a special characteristic of human life. What is urgently sought today is religion that responds to this desire for growth and fulfillment.

The sad historical reality, however, is one of endless strife, bloodshed, and tragedy originating from religion and religious differences. As Nichiren wrote, “The true path [of life] lies in the affairs of this world” (WND-1, 1126). I interpret this as meaning that if we are to avoid repeating the errors of the past, religions must give first priority to serving the needs of real people in their daily lives and finding solutions to the problems facing human society. In this way, they must provide the spiritual basis for peaceful competition.

A hopeful future can be opened up by overcoming what Toda criticized as narrow self-centeredness and by promoting the humanitarian competition that Makiguchi advocated, the shared work of value-creation among people committed to living together as global neighbors. Indeed, this is the core objective of the SGI’s movement of what we call “human revolution.”

From a peace proposal commemorating the 23rd SGI Day, January 26, 1998.

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

  • *1“Human Education for World Citizenship” (address to the Education Division of the Soka Gakkai in Osaka, October 22, 1991).