Panel participants pose for memento portrait
It was an historical symposium that took place in the month of September at the Lehman Theater, Pawley Arts Center at Miami Dade College, North Campus. This was a collaboration between Miami Dade College's North Campus and the Soka Gakkai International-USA (SGI-USA). Dr. Michael J. Lenaghan of the Social Science Department headed the panel consisting of a consortium of distinguished panelists of varying backgrounds. The discussion was on"Transforming Cultures of Violence to Cultures of Peace: Thinking Globally, Acting Locally and Being the Change We Seek in Others: Five Views. The panelists included Dr. Lenaghan and the following:
Yoshiko Yamada, Student Representative, SGI
Shaikh Mulana Shafayat Mohamed Darul Uloom Learning Center, Pembroke Pines, Florida; Rabbi Leonid Feldman Temple Beth-El, West Palm Beach, Florida; Yvrose Beauregard, MD Yvonne Learning Center, Little Haiti, Miami, Florida ; Benjamin Carrillo, Youth Director,Soka Gakkai International-USA, Weston, Florida;Yoshiko Yamada, Student Representative, Soka Gakkai International-USA, Weston, Florida
The SGI-USA has been a proponet of World Peace for generations. The discussion centered around the 2009 Peace Proposal, one of those submitted to the United Nations, each year by Daisaku Ikeda, President of the SGI-International which has members in 192 countries. This interfaith symposium is indicative of its ongoing commitment to unity and World Peace. Various organizations have emerged to collaborate with SGI for this cause effort including Morehouse College and Mohandas Gandhi Institute for Non-Violence for the Gandhi, King Ikeda Peace Exhibit and now Miami Dade Community College. Miami Buddhist Youth, Yoshiko Yamada, Student Representative, and Benjamin Carillo, Youth Director both of SGI-USA stepped up to the call for the youth to take responsibility for the future. They are also part of a world wide Buddhist youth initiative called "Rock the Era". Each panel participant shared their views on peace at a time when we need to focus more effort, especially on the heels of statistical reports of accelerating violence among the youth in America. The participants on this panel were are all of significantly differing religious backgrounds and ethnicity, yet chose to dialogue in harmony, setting a microcosmic example of World Peace in action.
Yoshiko Yamada, an impressive young student from Japan, is earning her doctorate at Florida International University (FIU). Yoshiko contributed this moving personal statement to the panel discussion based on the 2009 Peace Proposal:
In January, Dr. Daisaku Ikeda published his thirty-forth peace proposal, titled “Toward Humanitarian Competition: A New Current in History.” In this proposal, closely examining today’s society and economy, he warns about the widespread tendency to abstract human beings and earnestly seeks for the rise of humanism.
As suggested in his proposal, the so-called “spirit of abstraction” is exactly what underlies any type of justification of fighting war, the molding of ‘enemy’, and the egoism of society that allows it to sacrifice others and its surrounding nature, because abstraction creates the condition where people can be ignorant of happiness and suffering of “others” and even cherish resentment against them. So, he proposes to look at the concrete realities of human lives, their challenges to get over their difficulties, and the efforts they make in their lives. Only from this point can we start to direct our thoughts to the larger dimension of society and take action toward world peace while developing mutual understanding and a network of human solidarity.
To put it differently, this is about our sensitivity to our surroundings and our capacity to think somewhat big or global; to think of the happenings in the distant lands as the issues not ‘out there’ but ‘here,’ and not ‘theirs’ but ‘ours.’ But, why is Daisaku Ikeda so passionate about peace? What drives him to keep acting toward peace? His earnest desire for peace and hatred of war come from his conviction as a Buddhist that each individual possesses limitless potential. In Buddhism, and particularly in the Lotus Sutra, it is taught that regardless of age, sex, and nationality, etc. each person has a so-called ‘Buddha nature’ and has the capacity to bring it forth in his/her life. Indeed, in our Buddhism, “attaining enlightenment is not about embarking on some inconceivably long journey to become a resplendent godlike Buddha; it is about accomplishing a transformation in the depth of one’s being.”[i] In other words, because it teaches the unlimited potential of human beings, Buddhism tells about our capacity to perform a fundamental inner revolution, or “human revolution.”
This awareness of one’s potential or Buddha nature is critical in Dr. Ikeda’s lifelong efforts toward peace and the happiness of humankind. War is the total negation of humanity. Peace cannot be achieved without a perspective which is aware of the absolute dignity and significance of life itself. That is why Dr. Ikeda repeatedly mentions the importance of humanism while examining a fundamental cause of global issues, that is, the ignorance of the dignity and value of human beings.
Some of you may think it should be the responsibility of national governments or international organizations such as the United Nations to solve global issues. Indeed, they should truly take the initiative in promoting peace, poverty reduction, and so on. But, what Dr. Ikeda urges in this proposal is more than that, because these national and international efforts should be sustained by the fundamental and internal transformation of our mindset.
[i] Daisaku Ikeda (2007) Lectures on Attaining Buddhahood in This Lifetime (Soka Gakkai Malaysia: Kuala Lumpur), p.12.
Following the symposium attendees were invited to participate in a graphics art exhibit in the vestibule of the Lehman Theater