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February 7, 2019

English Edition of Clements-Ikeda Dialogue Published

Dr. Clements being greeted by Mr. Ikeda (Tokyo, July 1996)

Dr. Clements being greeted by Mr. Ikeda (Tokyo, July 1996)

NEW YORK, USA: A dialogue between peace scholar Dr. Kevin P. Clements and Daisaku Ikeda titled Toward a Century of Peace: A Dialogue on the Role of Civil Society in Peacebuilding was recently published by Routledge, the world's leading academic publisher in the humanities and social sciences. The two explore an array of topics including peacebuilding, nuclear abolition, education for global citizenship, conflict resolution, the refugee problem, human rights, natural disaster recovery and the role of women, youth and civil society in peacebuilding.

In addition to serving as director of the Toda Peace Institute, Dr. Clements is the foundation chair and director of the National Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies at the University of Otago, New Zealand. As a leading authority in the areas of peacebuilding and conflict transformation, he has been an adviser to the New Zealand, Australian, British, Swedish and Dutch governments on conflict prevention, arms control, defense and regional security issues.

The discussions here are wide-ranging, informed by the authors’ broad interests as well as their expertise. In a discussion on re-humanizing society, for example, in response to Mr. Ikeda’s point that all human beings “possess a rich and powerful inner spirituality,” the recognition of which is vital to the challenge of building a peaceful global society, Dr. Clements points out that research in neurology has shown that human beings’ brains are “hard-wired” for empathy and social interaction. We have an innate propensity to respond to the suffering of others. Human beings, “wish to secure our own prosperity and security, our sense of safety, and that is made possible through human relationships based on trust.” In this regard, he finds it surprising that very few universities directly teach the importance of empathy, love, compassion and tolerance—“the things we need to live our lives properly.”

Clements-Ikeda dialogue published by Routledge

English edition of the dialogue between Dr. Clements and Mr. Ikeda published by Routledge

A discussion about an experiment at a particular university to elicit compassionate responses from students leads to the conclusion that the hurried pace of life in developed societies fosters alienation and mitigates against empathy. Hence, “the importance of controlling time rather than have it control our own lives.” Dr. Clements:

“People today, especially in the developed nations, need to find a way to slow down the processes of government, the economy, and society. Instead of always being pressed for time to the point that they overlook the important things in life, they need to create the time for themselves to act with courage and compassion, for the sake of peace.”

Empathy, Mr. Ikeda affirms, is the basis of Buddhist compassion. Rather than mere pity, it is a spirit of profound concern that wells up from the depths of one’s being, “a desire to share the suffering and pain and support one another.” Further,

“In true compassion, there is no ‘superior’ or ‘inferior,’ nor is it a one-way street. The relationship between self and the other engendered by this irrepressible urge, the vibrant connection established between the life of the person directly experiencing the suffering and the one who shares that suffering, is the key to restoring the shining worth and dignity of life.”

Mr. Ikeda and Dr. Clements first met in July 1996 in Tokyo, Japan, where the two discussed, among other things, the power of ordinary people in peacebuilding. The idea of publishing a dialogue grew out of discussions that continued through subsequent correspondence. A Japanese edition of the dialogue was published in 2016.

[Adapted from an article in the February 7, 2019, issue of the Seikyo Shimbun, Soka Gakkai, Japan]