Search For A New Humanity
Two men representative of East and West embarked in 1982 on what would become a dialogue continuing over a five-year period, evaluating the influences of philosophy and religion on the human condition in their respective cultures. Search for a New Humanity presents their insights and conclusions about human potential amidst the then emerging crises now faced in the twenty-first century.
The exchanges between educationalist and philosopher Josef Derbolav and Daisaku Ikeda are engagingly ordered, examining ways sweeping currents of modernity have revealed “the nature and value of humanity and of life,” then piecing together streams of intellectual history and their influence on daily living and actual practice.
In the section on the origins of humanism, they squarely deal with the social consequences throughout history of religious as well as philosophical imperatives to rein in and control what is base or “evil” in humanity.
“All the evidence,” according to Derbolav, “signifies only that man’s imperfection is by no means specifically Western, but runs through all religious and cultural worlds.” To which Ikeda responds, “I believe that, to achieve the goal of making man happier and better, humanistic disciplines must both recognize the good and severely examine the evil of humanity.” Derbolav raises the point that education empowers one to “place the claims and demands of ego in relative terms.”
The authors take a civilizational view of Christian and Buddhist societies, how the two traditions can lead not only to moral insight but to moral improvement and therefore the betterment of humanity. Ikeda makes the case for dialogue between Buddhism and Christianity not merely as contrasting partners but as “variant currents of life” principally converging to learn together and from each other toward self-reflective aims.
The discourse then turns to the Buddhist doctrine of cause and effect and the Western ethic of happiness and misfortune, and how the two approaches treat the connection between human nature and moral activity.
Together the coauthors take on theory, principles and ethics, belief and practice as context and root of culture from antiquity through the centuries. On the politics of modern war, Derbolav comments that “means have grown incommensurately more important than goals, with the result that humankind is in danger of losing self-control.”
Peering outward from self-control and self-improvement to human relations within communities of life and environment as a whole is a defining element of the “new humanity” sought in this dialogue. Derbolav states: “No generation has ever been in such great need of self-control as the present one,” and Ikeda stresses: “… we must remember that the fate of one part of the universal whole is inseparable from the fate of all other parts.”
The interweaving processes and path of their search require, as summarized in Derbolav’s closing words: “… relentless analysis of our current situation of life and faith, and examination and elucidation of all the problems arising for human beings, who must not only reflect on their technical creations and spiritual achievements, but also preserve open access to the saving experience of religion.”