SGI Participates in Fourth World Public Forum Dialogue of Civilizations in Rhodes, Greece
The World Public Forum (WPF) held its fourth general meeting of "Dialogue of Civilizations" in Rhodes, Greece, from September 27 through October 1, 2006. Representatives of SGI and the Institute of Oriental Philosophy (IOP), an affiliate organization, joined over 600 scholars and researchers from 62 countries, at WPF's invitation. The forum's overall objective was a constructive exchange of views and collaborative search for a common ground on civilizational development, socio-cultural integration, transcontinental migrations, spiritual dialogue in society, and youth education. WPF is a consultative body uniting representatives of governments, various cultural and spiritual traditions, business sectors, scholars and activists, who strive to contribute to dialogue among civilizations. WFP aims to support the creation of effective and democratic instruments for solving global problems and realizing positive changes in the structure of modern society. Its founders are Vladimir Yakunin, first deputy railway minister of Russia; Jagdish Kapur, World Affairs journal publisher; and Greek shipping magnate Nikolau Papanikolau. Past programs have covered topics such as development of culture, children's education and interfaith dialogue.
On opening day, sponsors gave welcome speeches. On the second, SGI was among the participating organizations that gave presentations. Soka Gakkai Vice President Kosaku Eto introduced the Soka Gakkai's history and its development into the present worldwide Soka Gakkai International, whose activities focus on advancing peace, culture and education.
On the third day, "Dialogue of Civilizations" featured eight panel discussions on the following topics:
- Political aspects of inter-civilization interaction
- Problems and prospects of a global economy
- Dialogue among religions for the sake of peace
- Social aftermath of global migration
- Socio-cultural integration of civilizations (the Central Asian experience)
- Role of the Internet and global media
- Intercultural dialogue: traditions, forms, practice
- The Middle East: imperatives of modernization and multi-optional development
Participating in the interfaith dialogues, IOP Director Yoichi Kawada spoke on "Buddhist Perspective of Peace--Toward Interfaith Dialogue." He stated that "santi," or "peace," elucidated by Buddhism means to have "peace of mind," which develops from conquering the "three poisons" of "greed," "anger," and "foolishness," so called because they pollute people's lives and prevent them from turning their hearts and minds to goodness. Dr. Kawada stated that, moreover, Mahayana Buddhism teaches that regardless of one's present condition, every person has the potential to manifest the life condition of "Buddha," or that every person can awaken to the fundamental truth about life, tap vast reserves of courage, compassion, wisdom, creativity and life force and manifest a "mind of goodness." The more one is able to solidify a "mind of goodness," the more he or she overcomes attachment to earthly desires and develops a "mind of peace." The Buddhist perspective of peace is to further realize "peace in society," based on a "mind of peace." Dr. Kawada explained that Mahayana Buddhism calls those thus engaged, developing their lives while living in society, "bodhisattvas."
In today's world, along with direct violence in the form of wars and conflicts, there are oppressive forces such as discrimination, prejudice and disparity among humanity, ethnic groups, religions and cultures, lurking in every corner of society, such as politics, economics and the media; in other words, "structural violence." Bodhisattvas work to conquer "direct violence" and "structural violence" and realize "peace in society." Humanity's destruction of the ecosystem is also creating global problems of alarming proportions. Bodhisattvas likewise work to establish humanity's harmonious coexistence with the natural environment, toward creating "peace of the ecosystem."
In this way, the Buddhist view of peace means expanding and developing one's inner "mind of peace" into actions as a Bodhisattva that create "peace in society" and "peace of the ecosystem."
Dr. Kawada introduced that in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in the U.S., SGI President Daisaku Ikeda presented his view as a Buddhist on this tragic event in an essay he contributed to From the Ashes, A Spiritual Response to the Attack on America. In it he appeals for humanity to break the chains of hatred and reprisal that have resulted in a history of war and violence. Mr. Ikeda also stated that to triumph over the impulse toward hatred, he encourages people to promote development of a "mind of goodness," that is compassion, a spirit of nonviolence, and creativity, as promulgated by a Buddhist view of peace, through "civilizational dialogues," and in particular, "interfaith dialogue." Dr. Kawada then presented four points on how to promote "interfaith dialogue," based on the movement advanced by the SGI. First, religions should return to the original spirit of their founders--to relieve people's suffering and create a peaceful society. Second, religions should endeavor to discover commonalities and develop mutual understanding. Third, religions should endeavor to learn from other religions and creatively reform the tenets of their own religion. Fourth, to adopt "peace" as a principle aim of "interfaith dialogue," encompassing "mind of peace," "peace of society," and "peace of the ecosystem."
At the same panel discussion, IOP researcher Mitsuru Eguchi spoke on the altruistic philosophy and practice of Buddhism in which one works for the happiness for oneself and others, beginning with positive inner transformation that leads to developing wisdom and compassion for others' happiness.