“When we have a genuine sense that, no matter how difficult our present circumstances, we are not alone––that we are vitally connected with others and with the world––we will, without fail, rise up to the challenge of living again.”
This comprehensive work is a biography, a scholarly analysis and a historic context for peace activity in Japan. Urbain has managed to compress the prolific work of one person´s lifetime into this complex and well–documented volume.
Daisaku Ikeda founded a secular Buddhist movement in 1975, Soka Gakkai International, which has extended beyond its home base in Japan to include 12 million members. Soka Gakkai International is essentially a religious organization, however, based on an interpretation of Buddhist principles to promote peace work and research through “education, culture politics and the media.”
Urbain devotes most of his book to the long and active life of Ikeda in the service of these goals. He organized many conferences, lectured widely at home and abroad, worked hard for peace issues, including a better Japanese relationship with China and a reconciliation of Japan and Korea and the unification of Korea. He tirelessly promoted the abolition of nuclear weapons. He established many schools and two universities based on peace principles in Japan and abroad. ´Global Citizenship´ to him meant a shared universality of humanness and that each of us has a common responsibility for care – a integral part of the quest for peace.
Urbain includes excerpts from Ikeda´s conversations and discussions with well–known world thinkers and politicians many other peace researchers and theorists, including Johann Galtung, Elise Boulding, Arnold Toynbee and Zhou Enlai. Not an activist in the sense this reviewer understands, but Ikeda provided a framework and ideas for those more inclined to grassroots activism. He inspired others, much as his mentor, Josei Toda, inspired him, to combine the quest for a truly global citizenship with ongoing personal transformation. Ikeda considered both essential and indivisible in the quest for peace.
Ikeda considered dialogue important and thus there is an abundant collection of his recorded dialogues with these other thinkers; he believed that, “people and societies that are open to dialogue do not stagnate but grow and develop” and that, “the key to dialogue is respect for the other person, a willingness to listen, and a readiness to learn from them.”
After documenting many of Ikeda´s ideas and lengthy discussions and disagreements with his colleagues, Urbain writes of his subject, “…finding peaceful solutions to conflicts is not the only priority of his philosophy. The emphasis is on leading a fulfilling and meaningful life, contributing to the welfare of others, and to prosperity of humanity in general.”
This is a thoughtful work, with much history and philosophy unfamiliar to many outside Japan. In the end, I found I could not accept some of what Ikeda professes but I closed the book with a strong sense of connectedness and I agree with him that this connectedness is what makes us human and bestows meaning in life. Peace thinkers who seek to find different perspectives and a wealth of commitment will gain much from this interesting book.