Moral Lessons of the Twentieth Century: Gorbachev and Ikeda on Buddhism and Communism
with Mikhail Gorbachev
Contemporaries culturally worlds apart, Mikhail S. Gorbachev and Daisaku Ikeda take up the ambitious challenge of resolving the paradoxes of the 20th century into an acuity of vision for the 21st century. Their dialogue bears witness to the political upheavals that transformed the geography of the world, with a critical view on the gravity of human and environmental costs as well as the fraying of moral and spiritual values.
The two first met in 1990, when Gorbachev was still president of the Soviet Union, continuing their exchanges through meetings and correspondences until their meeting in 1994, when they discussed the compilation of their dialogue that would become the present book. In the course of their exchanges is an in-depth discussion of perestroika—the project to radically "restructure" Soviet society and that arguably brought an end to the Cold War—and its implications for a common philosophy of humanism.
Gorbachev grew up in the Russian Orthodox culture and was the last secretary general of the Communist Party in the former Soviet Union. Ikeda grew up in the Japanese Buddhist culture and leads one of the largest lay Buddhist movements, Soka Gakkai International. They draw on the thoughts of various philosophers—from Socrates to Berdyaev—and religious figures—from Pope John Paul II to Nichiren—to aid in interpreting the shifting cultural landscape since the breakdown of the USSR.
Born of personal experience as well as leadership in their respective spheres, their observations are frank and compelling about the need for a new humanism that stimulates, in Gorbachev’s words, the “cultivation of conscience, moral self-control, and self-restriction” and ensures, in Ikeda’s words, “that the twenty-first century is devoted to the principle of the sanctity of life.”
In their Postscripts to the dialogue, both urge for continuing dialogue and debate in pursuit of values that bridge culture and time.
First published in Japanese in 1996, the present English edition has been translated into German, Russian, Italian, French, Korean, Chinese (simplified and traditional) and Icelandic to date.