Back to listMar 25, 2012

Institute of Oriental Philosophy Celebrates 50th Anniversary With Conference and Lotus Sutra Exhibition

Seminar participantsSeminar participants in front of the statue of Tagore at Soka University of Japan

Celebrating the 50th anniversary of its founding, the Institute of Oriental Philosophy (IOP) held its 27th annual conference in conjunction with the opening of the exhibition "Lotus Sutra--A Message of Peace and Harmonious Coexistence" at Soka University of Japan in Hachioji City, Tokyo.

The conference, which was held at Soka University from March 24-25, was titled "Global Civilization and the Mission of Buddhism." Twenty guest speakers attended, including scholars from throughout Japan and overseas, including noted Buddhist scholars Dr. Lokesh Chandra and Professor Nirmala Sharma from the International Academy of Indian Culture. 

At the beginning of the symposium, Dr. Yoichi Kawada, director of IOP, spoke about the IOP's mission as promoting academic exchange and dialogue among civilizations. He also read a message sent by SGI President Daisaku Ikeda, founder of IOP, which stated that the message of the dignity of life in Mahayana Buddhism has the ability to alleviate human suffering.

Dr. ChandraDr. Chandra speaking at Soka University of Japan (March 24)

On March 24, Professor Nirmala Sharma spoke about her research on the values of the Lotus Sutra and how first Soka Gakkai president Tsunesaburo Makiguchi and second president Josei Toda were revolutionary in integrating the philosophy of value with everyday life. Professor Sharma said that this new approach offered new perspectives on the Lotus Sutra which are pertinent to the needs of modern-day society. She also stressed that it is Mr. Ikeda who helped propagate the teachings and philosophy of the two presidents and the Lotus Sutra's teachings in an effort to promote peace, compassion and soft power in society.

Dr. Lokesh Chandra, the director of the International Academy of Indian Culture, Life Trustee of the Jawaharlal Nehru Memorial Fund, vice president of the Indian Council for Cultural Relations, chairman of the Indian Council of Historical Research and general director of Tagore International University, gave a special lecture titled "Three Jewels of Lotus Sutra--India, China and Japan." He said that the heart of the Lotus Sutra is about developing deep empathy and stressed that the sutra aims to help alleviate the sufferings of all beings. Dr. Chandra also commented that Mr. Ikeda has helped make the teachings of the Lotus Sutra accessible to ordinary people through the use of modern-day terminology and that he conveys the value of human beings without dogma or fundamentalism.

The opening of the Lotus Sutra exhibition held at Soka University on March 24 was attended by some 150 guests, including Dr. Chandra, Professor Mushirul Hasan, director-general of the National Archives of India, and Kyuzo Kato, Emeritus Professor of the National Museum of Ethnology in Japan.

Lotus Sutra manuscriptsParticipants viewing Lotus Sutra manuscripts

On exhibit were some 150 items including reproductions of Lotus Sutra manuscripts in Sanskrit, Khotan Saka, Uighur, Chinese, Tangut, Tibetan and Mongolian. Buddhist cultural and artistic works depicting flying Apsaras--celestial nymphs--from the Dunhuang Mogao Caves were also on display.

The exhibition also included a video on the seven parables of the Lotus Sutra and the life of Kumārajīva. A famous facsimile of the Gilgit Lotus Sutra Manuscripts which were likely transcribed between 6th and 7th Century and discovered after 1,300 years in Kashmir's Gilgit region was also on display. These manuscripts, written on white birch bark, are considered to be among the oldest extant Buddhist manuscripts.

Dr. Chandra commented that the exhibition has the power to encourage and awaken people to live a constructive life.

To date, the exhibition has been shown in eight countries and territories such as Brazil, Hong Kong, India, Nepal and the United Kingdom. It will be shown at SUJ until May 6.

[Adapted from articles in the March 25-26, 2012, issues of the Seikyo Shimbun, Soka Gakkai, Japan; photos courtesy of Seikyo Shimbun]