The lush green campus of IIT Madras was an appropriate setting on 1 December 2012 to mark the 40th anniversary of the dialogue between Arnold. J. Toynbee and SGI President Daisaku Ikeda, the two world thinkers and promoters of ecological sustainability and peace.The audience included members of the Indian academia, the media and several students from IIT and the Soka Ikeda College for Arts and Science for Women.
The audience was first shown a short film Towards the Century of Humanity, that includes glimpses from the dialogue that took place in London between Toynbee and SGI President Ikeda.
The speakers — Devdas Menon, Department of Civil Engineering, IIT-Madras; Justice Prabha Sridevan (Retd), Chairperson, Intellectual Property Appellate Board; and B. S. Raghavan, IAS (Retd) — were very appreciative of the depth, foresightedness and broadmindedness of Toynbee and SGI President Ikeda. Prof. Menon found the dialogue very insightful, emphasizing the role of ethics in a human being’s life. He said the primary focus of today’s educational institutions on grades is taking us away from crucial issues. The fast-paced modern life, he commented, was overwhelming people. People need to “choose life and not let life choose them.”
Justice Sridevan extensively quoted from the book on the issue of death penalty, an issue she herself has written about. She was struck by the idea expressed in Choose Life that while we talk about the abolition of death penalty we must also talk about abolition of war, “for in a war an unwilling person is forced to commit murders”. She said: “We should abolish war in the same breath that they say we should abolish death penalty.”
In the keynote address given by Mr Raghavan, he praised the Soka Gakkai movement’s efforts for peace. He said the world is going through a crisis, a crisis of character and of identity brought on by human beings themselves. He considered the role of Soka Gakkai, “a simple and humanistic organization” crucial in reminding us to reinforce eternal values that uphold and sustain life.
Mr Raghavan stated that Toynbee and SGI President Ikeda had discussed 40 years ago the defects of democracy in a practical way. The problems still persist, he said, simply because we have not changed from within. The external world had undergone a transformation but not the one within.