New Horizons in Eastern Humanism
In New Horizons in Eastern Humanism: Buddhism, Confucianism and the Quest for Global Peace, Tu Weiming, professor of Chinese history and philosophy and of Confucian studies at Harvard University since 1981, and Daisaku Ikeda engage in what they term a “dialogue between civilizations.” Such dialogue is the very antidote they prescribe for the ills of the modern world and the creation of peace in the wake of the erosion of both our cultural and spiritual roots caused by rapid globalization.
From different ideological backgrounds, Tu–who also headed the Harvard-Yenching Institute from 1996 to 2008–and Ikeda respectively offer the wisdom of Confucianism, which has guided and shaped the soul of China, and Buddhism. In their wide-ranging discourse, they delve into topics such as Sino-Japanese-U.S. relations, the role of the world’s religions in promoting human happiness and the transformation of society through dialogue and education. Drawing on the Confucian concept of the unity of Heaven and humanity and the corresponding Buddhist concept of the oneness of the self and the universe, the authors envisage the emergence of a global dialogical civilization which has as its starting point the inner transformation of the individual. Such a transformation is rooted in the recognition of human dignity in all people, the Confucian notion of ren or humaneness, and inherent Buddhahood manifested as compassion. The practice of both lies in our treatment of and relationship with others and is implicit in the path of investigation and mutual learning that is dialogue.
In a world marked and divided by its diversity, the authors depict dialogue as, in Tu’s words “an enriching, enabling way to learn to be human.” It is not enough merely to recognize and tolerate the existence of other individuals and ways of living; we must be ready to admire our differences and to make the other person’s civilization part of ourselves, thus expanding the horizons of our own civilization. The “magnificent challenge” of dialogue says Ikeda “is not to alter others but to change the self.” The cumulative effect of individuals repeatedly and persistently engaging in such dialogue is the very foundation on which a century of peace can be built and which, the authors assert, is within our powers to construct.
The authors’ belief in the power of dialogue to unite people in their differences, far from being theoretical, comes from firsthand experience. In 2001, Tu was involved in the UN Year of Dialogue Among Civilizations and invited to be part of its Group of Eminent Persons, a gathering of 18 representatives from various parts of the world who joined forces across civilizations to prepare various programs promoting the concept of inter-civilizational dialogue, culminating in a book on the issue of dialogue focusing on the perception of diversity. Ikeda has engaged in numerous dialogues with leaders and scholars from around the world, many of which have been published.
Tu Weiming and Daisaku Ikeda first met in Hawaii, when the former attended a lecture delivered by the latter at the East-West Center in 1995.