Human Rights in the Twenty-first Century
with Austregésilo de Athayde
Born of their struggles to uphold human rights this dialogue represents the coming together of two kindred spirits, Austregésilo de Athayde (1898-1993) and Daisaku Ikeda. Athayde was president of the Brazilian Academy of Letters and, as Brazilian representative to the United Nations, a decisive voice in drafting the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948. Finding that Buddhist principles can enrich the human rights movement, they aim to convey a "new humanism" which encapsulates the spirit of the declaration, the supreme value of the human being.
Ikeda pinpoints the heart of this "new humanism" as the "firm belief in the absolute equality" of all people based on the universal dignity or Buddhahood inherent within in all life. From the recognition that all people share a common humanity, a sense of brotherhood replaces obsession with such differences as nationality, ideology and culture. Athayde writes that the impetus for resolving the most difficult obstacle in drafting the universal declaration—diversity of opinion—was "enthusiasm" for their "shared humanity."
The second tenant is the utilization of "non-violent, compassionate dialogue" to unite people who are in opposition and effect change. The co-authors cite the achievements of Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr. and Nelson Mandela as proof that non-violent means are a powerful alternative to war and aggression.
The Bodhisattva way, the third tenant, is rooted in belief in the dignity within all people. Ikeda states it "combines the interests of self and of others" and calls for individuals to accept and constantly strive to manifest their own Buddhahood through compassionate action for the happiness and general well being of others.
Athayde and Ikeda designate Shakyamuni, whose life and philosophy was the first clear statement of the importance of individual human rights, as the inspiration for the human rights movement. Crystallized in their new humanism, they define "equality, liberty and brotherhood" as the "sacred rights of all human beings" and characterize the path to a universal culture of human rights as synonymous with the spiritual evolution of humanity. Athayde and Ikeda advocate an inspiring model of behavior for both individuals and human rights activists in the creation of peace for the 21st century.
Human Rights in the Twenty-first Century is also available in Japanese and Portuguese.