Saturday, 10 December 2011

Peaceful World

“Peace is not the absence of war. The surest way to peace is by fostering people of character. It lies in sowing and nurturing the seed of peace – the desire within each individual to respect and embrace other human beings. It’s about fostering self-motivated, empowered individuals who will confront the forces that lead nations to war” - Daisaku Ikeda 
The ultimate aim of the SGI is the establishment of a peaceful world. Towards that end, the SGI actively promotes peace as a Non-Government Organization (NGO), affiliated with United Nations. As a broad-based grassroots movement spanning 190 countries, the SGI’s activities typically focus on public education and awareness building on the themes of peace, humanitarian relief, environment protection and human rights.

Since the early 1980s, the SGI has sponsored exhibitions that have toured the world with a focus on nuclear disarmament, war and peace, children’s art and sustainable living.

Beginning in 1997, the SGI has become an active partner in the international movement to promote the “Earth Charter” as a set of ethics and values for sustainable living.

In India, Bharat Soka Gakkai, has taken the following initiatives in the realm of peace. 
Symposiums on President Ikeda’s Peace Proposal 
Every year since 1983, Dr Ikeda presents a peace proposal that offers practical, workable solutions to questions of human security and world peace, ased on Buddhist ideals and philosophy. The peace proposals are Dr Ikeda's endeavour to work with the UN - which he refers to as "the congress of humanity" - in order to realise the goals of peace, culture and education. 
BSG has organized symposia on these peace proposals  since 2004 as a part of its ongoing effort to engage with peace activists and foster a culture of peace, a climate of mutual respect and trust. 

Earth Charter and I
(A symposium in consonance with Buddhist principles)
As a run-up to the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) in 2002, the BSG’s Women and Youth Peace Committees organised a symposium entitled ’Countdown to WSSD: The Earth Charter and I’, in New Delhi. 
Rescuing Heritage
Believing in a holistic view of peace, the BSG strongly supports the protection of the environment and heritage. Its members have furthered initiatives to abolish the use of plastic, encouraged recycling of garbage and adoption of rainwater-harvesting techniques. The BSG Youth Peace Committee has, with the assistance of the Archaeological Survey of India, the Delhi Development Authority and the Municipal Corporation of Delhi, restored the environs of the Ashokan Edict near Srinivaspuri in Delhi.
Another Way of Seeing Things
To further promote dialogue and a culture of peace, the Education Division has been screening this film — adapted from an essay by the same name written by Dr Ikeda — in public schools and colleges in Delhi. The film has also been translated in Hindi so that in penetrate the masses. It was also shown on Television by Doordarshan.

World is Yours to Change
Is the world yours to change? Dr Daisaku Ikeda, President of Soka Gakkai International , seems to believe so. A Buddhist thinker and philosopher, Ikeda believes that when ordinary people -- you and I -- alter modes of thinking and behaviour, a larger social transformation will automatically follow.

Prof K R Narayanan, the former President of India, released the Hindi-English edition of the path-breaking book, The World is Yours to Change. Published in India by Samskriti, the original edition is a Japanese-English version brought out by the reputed Asahi Press of Japan. 
Building a Century of Peace
In July 2001, the young women of BSG organised a symposium titled, ‘Building a Century of Peace: The Role of Young Women’. Dr Kiran Bedi, Joint Commissioner of Police, Delhi, and Ms Lata Vaidyanathan, principal of Modern School, Delhi, participated in a discussion that centred on Dr Ikeda’s book, For the Sake of Peace. A key message in the book is that peace is not extraneous to our lives and that establishing it is the responsibility of every individual.

Seminar on Josei Toda’s Crusade Against Nuclearisation
The Seminar on “Josei Toda’s Crusade Against Nuclearisation,” held in March 2000 at Gandhi Smriti New Delhi was jointly organized by G. Ramachandran Institute of Non-Violence and Social Change, Gandhi Smriti and Darshan Samiti, Institute of Oriental Philosophy and BSG.
The speaker were - Prof. Panda , Registrar , Delhi University, Prof. Lokesh Chandra ,eminent scholar, Prof. Ravinder Kumar former Director Nehru Museum, Prof. Takagi from Soka University ,Tokyo and Dr. Radhakrishnan.

Manifesto 2000
A UNESCO initiative, Manifesto 2000 aims at raising awareness and motivating individuals to adopt a culture of peace by signing a pledge to: respect all life, reject violence, listen to understand, to share with others, preserve the planet and rediscover solidarity. BSG contributed to this peace effort by collecting over 100,000 signatures in support of the values of Manifesto 2000.
Humanitarian Activities
The humanistic movement of SGI seeks to alleviate all forms of suffering. BSG members too have been actively engaged in organising emergency relief activities nationwide. 
  • In 1998, BSG collected and delivered supplies to the Gujarat Cyclone victims in co-operation with UNICEF.
  • Similar support was given to the victims of the Orissa Cyclone during December 1999-January 2000. 
  • Support was lent to the victims of the Rajasthan Drought and BSG members delivered emergency supplies to the Chamoli Earthquake victims in 2000. Members and local citizens collected 15 tonnes of food, clothing, medicines and blankets, which were distributed in the affected villages of Chamoli. 
  • In February 2001, following the massive Gujarat earthquake, BSG responded with prompt relief efforts, organised by the Women’s and Youth Peace Committees. Essential items were identified, collected and distributed by over 20 volunteers in 10 devastated villages that had not yet been provided relief. Over 2,500 ‘family packages’ were given to more than 15,000 villagers. 
  • Responding to the devastation caused by the Tsunami in December 2004, BSG members at very short notice contributed Rs 500,000 to the Prime Minister’s Relief Fund.
  • When Mumbai was washed over with Floods in August 2005, Mumbai members of BSG went all out to provide basic necessities to people who were affected the most.
Bharat Soka Gakkai (BSG) is the Indian affiliate of the Soka Gakkai International (SGI), a global association of grassroots organisations that seeks to promote the values of peace and respect for all people. Over 12 million SGI members in 190 countries and territories are engaged in their ‘human revolution’, drawing inspiration from the humanistic life philosophy of the Japanese Buddhist sage, Nichiren Daishonin (1222-1282).

At the core of the SGI’s movement for peace is the ideal of education for global citizenship. Through a wide range of activities, the SGI seeks to foster awareness of the social and environmental responsibilities we all share for the future of our planet. This is education in the broadest sense of the word, and it is not limited to classrooms or to any particular age group. 
And through cultural exchanges and direct interactions with people, the SGI organisations seek to advance the search for common values such as tolerance and coexistence despite differences and to strengthen our sense of common humanity.

Established as a registered society in January 1986, and working in consonance with the guiding principles of the SGI, BSG too has sought to create an environment of peace through cultural, educational and community-related activities. What sets these initiatives apart is the humanistic spirit of ‘reaching out’ through ‘heart-to-heart’ dialogue, as practised by the founding president of SGI, Dr Daisaku Ikeda.
Soka Gakkai International (SGI) is a lay Buddhist association with more than 12 million members in 190 countries and territories worldwide. The SGI movement has its roots in the teachings of Nichiren, a Buddhist monk, who lived in the 13th century Japan. Based on the message of the Lotus Sutra, considered the highest teaching of Shakyamuni Buddha, the historic founder of Buddhism, Nichiren’s teachings assert that each individual, regardless of race, gender, capacity or social standing, has to power to overcome life’s inevitable challenges, and to positively influence their community, society and the world.

Nichiren’s Buddhism promotes individual empowerment, at the same time stresses the connection between one’s own happiness and the happiness of others. It teaches that the greatest personal satisfaction and fulfillment in file is realized by working for the happiness of others.

As lay believers and "engaged Buddhists," SGI members strive in their everyday lives to develop the ability to live with confidence, to create value in any circumstances and to contribute to the well-being of friends, family and community.

The core philosophy of the SGI can be summed up by the concept of “Human Revolution”. This is the idea that the self- motivated inner change of even a single individual positively affects the larger web of life.

These values are expressed in the SGI Charter, which embodies the ideal of – World Citizenship, the spirit of tolerance and the safeguarding of fundamental Human Rights. SGI members strive to realize these values through the active promotion of PeaceCultural and Educational activities.
 On August 25, 2008 Bharat Soka Gakkai (BSG) and the Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts (IGNCA) organised a seminar: "Harmonising Religion, Creating Peace” based on Dr Daisaku Ikeda's 2008 Peace Proposal submitted to the United Nations.

The seminar was a big success with an overwhelming response and participation of over 400 members and guests. There was a general consensus about one particular aspect - a change inside would produce a change outside. Various eminent speakers articulated this aspect, sighting examples from their own line of work, personal and professional experience.

Delivering the welcome address, Joint Secretary, IGNCA Ms Aditi Mehta congratulated the BSG for organising such a relevant topic for discussion in this current political scenario. She said "I couldn't have thought of any other issue. The IGNCA and BSG share a very strong fellow feeling underlying Ikeda's values of humanism." 

Chairing the symposium, Former Attorney General for India, Mr Soli J. Sorabjee pointed out that even 60 years after the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, India is far short of its goal and that violence and conflict find root in the glaring social and economic disparities between the haves and the have-nots. ‘In India people are beginning to loose faith in the courts, there is a need for each human to be a peaceful judge of himself to make the country peaceful and positive’, said Sorabjee stressing the need for increased tolerance and spiritual self discipline. 
Delivering the keynote address, Dr V.N. Rajshekharan Pillai, Vice Chancellor of IGNOU, opined "I sincerely believe that the threat to peace all over the world has been caused by deprivation of one kind or the other." As an educationist, he spoke about how "value-based education can be the key to peace," Prof Pillai spoke of the need to prioritise literacy and education, and presented statistics that reflected the abysmal performance of India in both these spheres. He also spoke extensively on the need for value based and contextual education and how important it is “to review the content of education in relation to our understanding of the context of society”. Dr Pillai also shared the startling statistics related to universal education, access to primary education and the gap in university education that points to the need for greater outlays and reform in the sector. Dr Pillai stressed the need for contextual education so that students can actually apply the information and knowledge to their daily lives.
Social activist and famous policewoman, Dr Kiran Bedi illustrated the behavioural change brought about by spirituality as experienced in police training and by the inmates of Tihar Jail based on the Vipassana system. Dr Bedi was awarded the Ramon Magsaysay Award in 1994 for her prison reform policies implemented in Tihar Jail, one of the largest prison complexes in the world with around 10,000 inmates. Dr Bedi stressed on the need for "powering yourself to empower others." She declared, "Religion comes into play only after one is born. Everybody feels that my God is great. And peace will come. It needs to be believed. We also yearn for peace but do we yearn for it collectively?" 
She emphasised Dr Ikeda’s thought that ‘it is necessary that the vicious cycle of intergenerational poverty and poor living conditions is broken in the developing nations through policies that are more people-friendly and humanistic. The Vipasanna sessions in Tihar Jail are still conducted regularly though it has been over 15 years since it was initiated. Dr Bedi shared the moving anecdote of the Norwegian under trial in Tihar who confessed to his crime and accepted the judgement handed out by the court. Thanks to the coverage by media he was able to get a pardon from the President and now supports other inmates by sending clothes and other aids regularly to Tihar Jail. 

In the closing address, Dr KK Chakravarty, Member-Secretary IGNCA co-related the work that is being done by the BSG and IGNCA. Dr KK Chakravarty, emphasised on the importance of dialogue and contextual relevance of organisations that are working towards peace and culture He talked about how IGNCA had initiated "self-policing" and was able to re-orient itself in the process. Voicing the need for tremendous inner change, he said, “To heal the planet, we need to heal ourselves. Re-invention of knowledge is an imperative.” 
Delivering the vote of thanks, Ms Naveena Reddi, Director General, Bharat Soka Gakkai, reiterated the message of the seminar: that we all need to take up the challenge of the humanization of religion. The determination to respect all people that forms the bedrock of humanism brings us to see that differences of ideology, culture and ethnicity should be treated as flexible, fluid concepts that need to be constantly renegotiated so as to best serve human needs. People and not abstract principles are the protagonists of destiny.

She concluded with the unforgettable words of two champions:
Kim Ku, the champion of Korean independence who wanted his country to become the most beautiful country, not the richest or strongest said: What humankind today lacks is neither force of arms nor economic strength…We have already achieved a great deal in the natural sciences, making it fully possible for all people to live happily. The fundamental reason that humankind is miserable at present is the lack of humanity and justice, the lack of a spirit of compassion, the lack of love. If such a spirit could be developed, it would be possible, with the material resources existing at present, for all people on the planet to lead fulfilled lives.

Jose Marti, the champion of Cuban independence who proclaimed: All people have something immense and majestic and commonly shared, something vaster than the sky, larger than the earth, brighter than the stars and deeper than the sea- the human spirit.

The seminar was well covered in both the electronic and print media with Aaj Tak carrying a report on it on the night of 25th itself. Main newspapers like Pioneer, Hindu, Punjab Kesari and Rajasthan Patrika, Times of India- East Delhi plus also reported on the event.
“Education at its best, is a process of liberation from prejudice which frees the human heart from its violent passions. It is through education that young people can be delivered from powerlessness, from the burden of mistrust directed against themselves. And those who have learned to trust in themselves are then naturally able to believe in the latent capacities of others” - Daisaku Ikeda
Why Education –

In an effort to implement Soka Gakkai founder, Tsunesaburo Makiguchi’s philosophy of Soka, or “Value Creating” education, Dr. Ikeda has founded, schools and educational institutions worldwide, giving concrete expression to his conviction that education is humanitys most important undertaking.

Soka Education is based on a belief in the infinite potential of the individual. Rooted in a profound respect for human life, it seeks to nurture courageous people of wisdom, who can contribute to the realization of a peaceful world.

Soka School System has been established in Japan, Hong Kong, Singapre, Malaysia and Brazil. Soka Universities are established in Japan in 1971 and in USA in 2001, with the objective of fostering global citizens.
Tsunami Longterm Relief
Responding to the urgent need of children affected by the devastating Tsunami of December 2004, the MS Swaminathan Research Foundation (MSSRF) and the Bharat Soka Gakkai (BSG) signed an MOU recently towards collaborating on a three-year programme to provide educational and nutritional support to these orphaned children. 

Encouraging the reading habit amongst children in MCD schools
A seminar on the role of storytelling was held by BSG’s Education Division in collaboration with National Book Trust (NBT) so as to refocus on this age-old highly interactive tradition. Responding to the aridity of an increasingly virtual world, this was done primarily to rekindle a love for books and also to reintroduce this traditional warm person-to-person method of imparting knowledge. 
Picture Books Catalogue
A unique catalogue of over 1,000 picture books for children in 20 Indian languages (titled ‘Picture Books in Indian languages — A Catalogue’) was compiled by the Education Division in 2001, and made available to schools and libraries nationwide. With details on each book, this catalogue is an invaluable resource for both parents and educators. These picture books were acquired for an international picture book exhibition (Read Me A Story), organised by SGI in 2002. The aim of this exhibition is to showcase the cultural diversity of different regions and countries through classical, traditional, modern and experimental picture books. 

For street and slum children
BSG’s most significant contribution is in reaching out to the vulnerable and the marginalised. The Youth Peace Committee’s initiatives to improve the lives of street and slum children associated with the NGOs Disha and Butterflies is one such. BSG members have also acted as scribes for blind children — bringing cheer and support to those who lead their lives in total darkness.
Soka Ikeda College for Women
The Soka Ikeda College of Arts and Science for Women is in the city of Chennai (formerly Madras) in southern India. Established through the efforts of the Indian poet and educator Dr. Sethu Kumanan, the college is presently housed at the Sethu Bhaskara Matriculation Higher Secondary School. 

The Challenges of the New Millennium and the Role of Education
A symposium on ``The Challenges of the New Millennium and the Role of Education’’ was organised by Gandhi Smriti & Darshan Samiti, and Bharat Soka Gakkai, at the India International Centre on October 25 1998. The symposium was divided into four sessions --- Agony of the Individual, Changing Value Systems, Brilliance of Experiments and Chaos to Cosmos. The participants comprised a distinguished array of academicians, Gandhians and sociologists included. 
Soka Ikeda College for Women Opens in India
On August 13, the Soka Ikeda College of Arts and Science for Women opened in the city of Chennai (formerly Madras) in southern India. Established through the efforts of the Indian poet and educator Dr. Sethu Kumanan, the college is presently housed at the Sethu Bhaskara Matriculation Higher Secondary School, where Dr. Kumanan is the managing trustee. 
A new campus is under construction and will be completed in 2001. At the request of Dr. Kumanan, who is the college chairman, Mr. and Mrs. Ikeda were respectively named the college’s honorary founder and honorary principal. Officially accredited by Tamil Nadu State, the Soka Ikeda College of Arts and Science for Women is attached to the University of Madras, one of India’s most prestigious centers of higher education. The Indian university, which was founded in 1857, has more than 120 colleges and a student body of some 110,000. Its newest college, the Soka Ikeda College, has five departments—computer science, mathematics, biochemistry, commercial science, and business administration; and graduates will receive diplomas from Madras University.
Addressing members of the first matriculating class, Dr. Kumanan announced the college’s three guidelines: “Be a person of compassion and wisdom who serves humanity,” “Be a person of courage and justice who contributes to society,” and “Be a person of principle and commitment who works for peace.” The educator also explained that he had named the school after Mr. Ikeda because it was the SGI leader who had inspired him to undertake this project. 

In 1998, Dr. Kumanan also constructed a new classroom building named the Dr. Ikeda Block at the Sethu Bhaskara Secondary School, and in 1999, he established the Dr. Ikeda School to provide free board and tuition for children without guardians. 
Following greetings by Soka Ikeda College Principal Padmasani Kannan, Sethu Bhaskaran, the college president and founder of the Sethu Valliammal Educational Trust, pledged his support to ensure that the school can provide the best possible education to its students. He also gave a progress report on the new campus that is being built in the suburbs of Chennai. 
Dr. S. Mohan, a former Indian Supreme Court justice and the vice president of the World Poetry Society, declared the school open. And the kuthuvilakku lamp-lighting ceremony, an Indian tradition, was officiated by Dr. S. Lakshmi, former vice-chancellor of Mother Teresa Women’s University. 
Next, Bharat (India) Soka Gakkai Vice Secretary Akashi Ouchi read a message from SGI President Ikeda, in which the SGI leader talked about the key role that women play in the construction of spiritual civilization, and expressed his hopes for the school’s development. Mr. Ikeda also presented the college with a statue of Mahatma Gandhi and a bronze plaque inscribed with the school emblem. 
Congratulatory remarks were delivered by Gandhi Smriti and Darshan Samiti Director Dr. N. Radhakrishnan, World Poetry Society President Dr. Krishna Srinivas and others. The event, which included performances of classical music and dance, was also attended by officials representing many local high schools and colleges.