Peace and Disarmament

Back to listOct 13, 2012

A Dialogue on Interdependence

Ceasar McDowell and Ved NandaDr. Ceasar McDowell (left) and Dr. Ved Nanda at the Ikeda Forum

The ninth annual Ikeda Forum for Intercultural Dialogue, held on October 13, 2012, at the Ikeda Center for Peace, Learning, and Dialogue in Cambridge, Mass., USA, was themed "Awakening Our Connections: A Dialogue on Interdependence."

The event drew speakers who each explored the Buddhist concept of dependent origination and considered the ways the theme played out in their seemingly disparate yet actually complementary fields of endeavor.

Ikeda Center founder Daisaku Ikeda's many lectures and works on Buddhist humanism and global ethics center on the concept of interdependence. Among those that inspired this event was an excerpt from his 1991 lecture at Harvard University called "The Age of Soft Power":

"All things are linked in an intricate web of causation and connection, and nothing, whether in the realm of human affairs or natural phenomena, can exist or occur solely of its own accord . . . More than objective awareness, we must achieve a state of compassion transcending distinctions between self and other. We need to feel the compassionate energy that beats within the depths of all people’s subjective lives, where the individual and the universal are merged."

Though science propounds that almost everything in our environment is the result of symbiotic interdependencies, society persists with the myth of the self-made man, said Dr. Stephen Gould, of Lesley University's department of educational leadership. Commenting on "the realm of human affairs," Dr. Gould noted that interdependence is core to America's democratic experiment, citing these words of Thomas Jefferson: "To be free is to be bound together. To look out for oneself means attending to others."

Tanya Henderson, public policy director at Women's Action for New Directions, presented on the importance of global initiatives, such as U.N. Security Council Resolution 1325, to include women in all considerations of the cost of war as well as in post-conflict efforts to create peace.

In the afternoon session, Dr. Ceasar McDowell, professor of the Practice of Community Development at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, suggested that when considering any collective course of action, we should always think how we can incorporate the most marginalized people in our visions of social well-being.

During his remarks, Dr. Ved Nanda, professor of international law at Sturm College of Law, University of Denver, reminded everyone that interdependence has become the defining issue of global society, characterized as it is by ever-intensifying connections among our transportation, finance, technology and information revolutions.

During the concluding question-and-answer session, one participant asked which characteristics or skills are best suited to bringing about progress in an interdependent world. In response, Ms. Henderson paraphrased an idea from Mr. Ikeda that has inspired all her work: Engaging in true dialogue for peace means the desire to know another's heart and the courage to have your own heart be known. 

[Adapted from a report from the Ikeda Center; photos courtesy of Ikeda Center]