I read an interesting article in my Living Buddhism magazine yesterday that featured a dialogue between SGI President Ikeda and the British historian Arnold Toynbee. The dialogue was an excerpt from the book Choose Life: A Dialogue. In this article Ikeda state’s that “As mankind has made technological progress, its standards of morality have tended to decline,” and that “higher standards of behavior have been actually achieved in practice only by a tiny minority.”
I’ve never really thought about our society’s progress, or any other society’s progress from this perspective. This dialogue took place between Daisaku Ikeda and Arnold Toynbee in the early 1970s, and I find the points they make even more relevant today. It seems that most people tend to think of progress in terms of wealth, or how much money one makes. Technological and scientific advancements are expected, and used to demonstrate the advancement of civilizations. But where does that leave us if we don’t have the wisdom and compassion to control our so-called “power”, our new technologies and breakthrough scientific discoveries?
We need a new definition of progress. A definition that places priority on exemplary human behavior, where anger is channelled productively and tolerance is valued. Progress is providing students with a quality education, cultivating the arts in schools and communities, and much more. Wealth can no longer be considered an individual’s, or even a society’s hallmark of success. Alternatively, we should be developing a new set of values that contributes to the happiness of all.