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“When individuals feel valued and respected, peace is a natural outcome”, teaches Bharat Soka Gakkai


Against the backdrop of mounting violence worldwide, Buddhist organisation Soka Gakkai International’s (SGI) Indian arm Bharat Soka Gakkai (BSG) is holding a symposium entitled ‘Universal Respect for Human Dignity: The Great Path to Peace’, which is based on SGI President Daisaku Ikeda’s 2016 peace proposal. Vishesh Gupta, Chairperson – Bharat Soka Gakkai speaks to Ketan Tanna about spreading peace in the world and more.

The title of the seminar is “Universal Respect for Human Dignity: The Great Path to Peace”. Can you elaborate on this theme? How does it actually help peace?

Universal Respect for Human Dignity: The Great Path to Peace is the title of Soka Gakkai International (SGI) President Ikeda’s 2016 Peace Proposal. Every year President Ikeda formulates a peace proposal that looks at contemporary problems and focusses on issues that are barriers to peace. Going beyond simply diagnosing these problems, President Ikeda puts forward concrete, workable solutions. The current Peace Proposal also deals with very crucial issues but in each case when defining solutions, President Ikeda urges us to look beyond a collective approach, to care for the dignity of each individual, and make sure to “leave no one behind”. This emphasis on a people-first approach ensures that the individual will always be the prime point from which issues are viewed. When individuals feel valued and respected, peace is a natural outcome.

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President Ikeda’s is of the firm conviction that dialogue is essential if we are to build a peaceful world. However, how does one have a dialogue with a closed mind or a closed way of thinking?

As President Ikeda points out in the current Proposal, differences in people’s mental or spiritual state cause them to see the same things in different ways and we often avoid interaction with those who see things differently. In such cases, what he urges us to do is to is to believe that each person has something to contribute and to try and recognise and appreciate this.  Society has seen a lessening of our capacity to appreciate others. So President Ikeda says, “I believe the surest way to change this is by carefully attending to the stories of each other’s lives through one-to-one dialogue”.

With so much of mayhem across globe, cynicism overrides peace despite the best effort. How does tackle this dichotomy?

Cynicism primarily stems from a sense of hopelessness, a feeling that there is a dead end where nothing will work. This approach will lead to nowhere and we should not give in to defeat. There are numerous instances where individuals have stood up, taken responsibility and effected change. Bharat Soka Gakkai (BSG) had mounted an exhibition focussing on three stalwarts of peace – Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King and Daisaku Ikeda. Here we see individuals who refusing to succumb to the prevailing atmosphere of violence, stood up and fought for peace and were very successful. So, even at an individual level, we can through positive and peaceful interactions with those around us and our communities create waves of peace. Each effort, however small, is significant and does make a difference.

India has been a peace loving country since centuries and yet the quantum of violence is increasing? How do we address this issue?

One, of course is through peaceful behaviour ourselves that provides an example of how people should behave. The other is looking beyond the incidents of violence as law and order problems and analysing the root cause of why violence exists. As President Ikeda has shown through instances in numerous peace proposals, if we attack the root cause, instances of violence will diminish. Extreme poverty, hunger, deprivation, social divides that lead to people being marginalised and isolated lead to frustration that manifests itself in instances of violence. We need to tackle these first.

Humanitarian aid and human rights protection, ecological integrity and disaster risk reduction are three focus areas and are desirable for the path of human dignity and peace. Can you elaborate?

All three are pressing concerns today and affect human lives very deeply. The refugee crisis is at an alarming level and there are increasing concerns about the spread of social instability and increase in government outlays on humanitarian assistance. The primary concern is however how to deal with the human agony in such situations. Of equal concern is the effect of climate change and global warming – a largely man-made affair. This and the havoc wrought by natural disasters have led not only to lives being lost but also an enormous emotional cost. The scale at which all three affect human lives is huge and great care must be exercised in ways to mitigate the problems. President Ikeda urges us to “build back better” so people’s lives are better than before.

The symposium will be held on August 27, 2016 starting at 3.30 PM at YB Chavan Centre, Mumbai. Entry by invitation only.