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On Being Human

Daisaku Ikeda
René Simard
Guy Bourgeault


René Simard

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1My first encounter with President Ikeda was back in the spring of 1990: we met as part of an exchange between Soka University and the University of Montreal, on the occasion of the signing of a letter of agreement between the two institutions. The Soka Gakkai International of Canada had given me the opportunity to read a thoughtful book by President Ikeda entitled Life: An Enigma, a Precious Jewel, and I was struck by the author s bold and profound analysis of the origin of life and the diversity of species, and intrigued by the new dimension oriental philosophy offers to the laws of evolution.

2When Mr. Ikeda and I met, we had a lengthy discussion on the effect that recent advances in molecular biology and genetics would have on accepted explanations for the origin of life and on the answers to such fundamental questions as, Where do we come from? Who are we? and Where are we going? We talked about the differences between harmony (normal growth and development) and chaos (malignant growth and cancer development). We agreed on the social responsibility of scientists and the importance of higher education. Mr. Ikeda, the founder of Soka University, and I compared the content and organization of educational programmes, agreed on the value of student exchanges, and discussed the need to internationalize our institutions. Later, when I visited Soka University, its campus and facilities impressed me greatly.

3We discovered that we have a great deal in common, even though our cultural and scientific backgrounds are different. Mr. Ikeda impressed me both as a human being who cares about people suffering from illness, stress, and environmental degradation, and as an open-minded philosopher steeped in culture. We came to the conclusion that an encounter between a philosopher and a biologist could produce an interesting dialogue. For one thing, biology is making many discoveries that are opening up new ethical frontiers, requiring enlightened social management. For another, philosophy is the root of all disciplines. The universities of the world recognize its supremacy by calling their most elevated degree that of doctor of philosophy—Philosophiae Doctor.

4We also decided that input from an eminent scholar with top credentials in bioethics and education would add another appealing dimension to our dialogue. Therefore, we invited Professor Guy Bourgeault of the Université de Montréal to join us. His contribution proved invaluable.

5President Ikeda insisted that we avoid scientific jargon and use easily understandable language in our discussions. Certain scientific details are inevitable in a work of this kind, but the reader can rest assured that they are broached in entirely accessible terms.

6This book deals with health, disease, bioethics, and education, focusing on the problems of cancer and aids. At last our work has come to fruition, in spite of distances separating the authors, language differences, and heavy workloads. The editor has lightened our task considerably. We are greatly indebted to him for his constant encouragement and attentiveness.

© Presses de l’Université de Montréal, 2002

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