Prominent Malaysian Activist Chandra Muzaffar Lectures on the Toynbee-Ikeda Dialogue

23 Sep 2012

On September 23, Dr Chandra Muzaffar, president of International Movement for a Just World (JUST) and prominent Malaysian social scientist and activist, delivered a lecture titled "Impressions of the Toynbee-Ikeda Dialogue and its Significance in the 21st Century". He delivered the lecture at the auditorium of Wisma Kebudayaan SGM. This lecture is one of SGM's activities in the Month of Peace. This year also marks the 40th anniversary since SGI President Ikeda and Dr Arnold Toynbee first began their dialogue. The chairperson of this lecture is Prof Dr Christopher Boey, SGM Deputy President and Deputy Dean of the Faculty of Medicine, University of Malaya.

Dr Chandra Muzaffar first read the dialogue between eminent British historian Arnold Toynbee and SGI President Daisaku Ikeda, titled Choose Life, not long after it was published in 1976. The book made a deep impression on him and he has used ideas and points of discussion found in the book in some of his works, in particular in an essay titled "Spiritual Vision of the Human Being." Dr Chandra also paid tribute to SGI President Ikeda's dialogues, praising them as gems, and praising also Mr Ikeda's breadth of knowledge, insights and foresight on various issues.

For the purpose of this lecture, Dr Chandra chose to focus on three discussion areas: international politics, war and peace, and the role of religion in contemporary society. Dr Chandra praised the two interlocutors for their deep understanding of the times they lived in. In particular, he talked about how the interlocutors spoke perceptively about the rise of East Asia.

On war and peace, he spoke about Mr Ikeda's deep-seated commitment to peace, in particular his activism for the abolition of nuclear weapons, and Nichiren's pacifism. In the dialogue, Mr Ikeda had spoken about the total abolition of war, noting that one cannot abolish the death penalty without abolishing war. Dr Chandra noted that many nations today that have abolished the death penalty have no qualms about going to war.

He also praised Mr Ikeda's central tenet of the reverence for life as a fundamental pillar of peace. Quoting Mr Ikeda's words in the dialogue, "As a religious man, I am deeply conscious of the paramount, irreplaceable value of human life", Dr Chandra said it is vital that we make the 21st century a century of peace as it followed the most violent century in human history, the 20th. He also said that the SGI president's annual SGI Day Peace Proposal is a significant effort in promoting peace, though not widely-published by the mainstream media.

Speaking on the role of religion, he spoke on the interlocutors' discussion on the rise and fall of civilisations vis-á-vis religion. He concurred with their view that religion is the wellspring of civilisations, and that a spiritual and moral transformation is needed to save humanity from the crises it faced. The various problems we face today is caused by humanity's failure to see how interconnected we all are. Dr Chandra also agreed that the solution to humanity's problems lies in the insights provided by the religions of the world. Since the 1980s, there has been resurgence in religion, and new ways of understanding world religions have emerged.

He also called upon civil society organisations to be more inclusive, put more emphasis on interconnectedness and be more expressive of our common humanity.

A lively question-and-answer session followed with members of the audience asking questions on various issues such as energy security in a multi-polar world, the rise of China, global hegemony and international trade issues.

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