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The Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus
In-depth critical analysis of the forces shaping the Asia-Pacific...and the world.

The Asia-Pacific Journal, Vol. 11, Issue 24, No. 3, June 16, 2014.

Introductory Note:This is the first of a two part series describing the wartime roles of two of Japan’s best-known 20th century Zen masters, Sawaki Kōdō (1880-1965) and Nakajima Genjō (1915-2000). Beginning with the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-5, followed by the Asia-Pacific War of 1937-45, these masters left a record not only of their battlefield experiences but, more importantly, the relationship they saw between their Buddhist faith and war. Additionally, each was affiliated with one of Japan’s two main Zen sects, i.e., Sawaki was a Sōtō Zen priest while Nakajima was a priest in the Rinzai Zen sect. Finally, Sawaki served as a soldier in the Imperial Army during the Russo-Japanese War, while Nakajima was a sailor in the Imperial Navy during the Asia-Pacific War.

Part I focuses on Sawaki Kōdō. Part II covers Nakajima Genjō.

Zen Masters on the Battlefield (Part I)  戦場の禅師(上)

Brian Daizen Victoria

Any fool learns from his mistakes. The wise man learns from the mistakes of others. -- Otto von Bismarck.

Introduction

A cursory glance at the writings of Zen scholars like D.T. Suzuki, with his proffered “unity of Zen and the sword,” suggests that at least in medieval Japan there is no reason to be surprised at the presence of Zen masters on the battlefield. A closer reading, however, reveals this was not the case. That is to say, Zen masters like the famous Takuan Sōhō (1573–1645) served as spiritual advisors to the samurai class, not as warriors themselves. The closest that Zen masters came to engaging in warfare are figures like Yamamoto Jōchō (1659-1719), author of the Bushidō classic, Hagakure (Hidden under the Leaves), or Suzuki Shōsan (1579–1655) who urged his disciples to develop a warrior's fortitude. Both of these latter Zen masters had earlier been samurai and entered the priesthood only after retirement, i.e., upon reaching an age when they were no longer fit for battle.

Takuan Sōhō with samurai disciple

To some extent, this is not surprising, for according to the traditional Vinaya rules governing the conduct of Buddhist clerics, even going to a battlefield was forbidden, much less intentionally killing someone on it. Thus, a Zen master on the battlefield ought to an oxymoron.1 Nevertheless, it is fair to say that in Japan the restrictions of the Vinaya code have, for many centuries, been honored more in the breach than in reality.

This is especially the case when it comes to clerics involved in violence, for as early as the tenth century we see the emergence of priests who engaged in warfare, commonly referred to as “priest-warriors” (sōhei), a pan-sectarian phenomenon emerging from within the Tendai sect. Priest-warriors not only used violence to defend their sectarian institutions but also launched attacks on rivals, both secular and religious, in order to maintain if not expand the wealth and power of their sect.

In 1571 priest-warriors entered into a period of decline when the warlord Oda Nobunaga, in his quest to reunify Japan, ordered his army of 30,000 to kill the Tendai-affiliated priest-warriors located on Mt. Hiei outside of Kyoto. Somewhere between 1,500 to as many as 4,000 are estimated to have been slain. The remaining priest-warriors, now mostly affiliated with the Shin (True Pure Land) sect, were killed by Tokugawa Ieyasu. Tokugawa defeated the last of them and took control of the entire country in 1603.

Priest-warrior

It was not until the Meiji Restoration of 1868 that it once again became possible for Buddhist monks, regardless of sect, to become “warriors.” This time, however, it was the newly established government that provided the impetus, making priests subject to military conscription like any other imperial subject. That said, it was possible for Buddhist priests to volunteer to become non-combatant military chaplains and, as far as the Zen school is concerned, it is here we find our first Zen master on the modern battlefield, i.e., Rinzai Zen Master Shaku Sōen (1859-1919).

Inasmuch as I have previously written extensively about Shaku’s role in the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-5, I will not repeat that here.2 Nevertheless, it is notable that while Shaku did not engage in warfare, he nevertheless described his motivation for going to the battlefield as follows:

I wished to have my faith tested by going through the greatest horrors of life, but I also wished to inspire if I could, our valiant soldiers with the ennobling thoughts of the Buddha so as to enable them to die on the battlefield with the confidence that task in which they are engaged is great and noble. I wished to convince them of the truths that this war is not a mere slaughter of their fellow human-beings, but that they are combating an evil and that, at the same time, corporeal annihilation really means a rebirth of the soul, not in heaven, indeed, but here among ourselves. I did my best to impress these ideas upon the soldiers’ hearts.3

Shaku Sōen

On the one hand, Shaku seeks to differentiate Buddhist belief concerning “a rebirth of the soul” from its Christian counterpart. On the other hand, he invokes Christian “just war theory” in the form of “combating an evil” to justify Japan’s ultimately successful attempt to ensure Japanese, not Russian, control of the Korean peninsula.

Sōtō Zen Master Sawaki Kōdō

Unlike Shaku, Sawaki Kōdō (1880-1965) was a Zen priest who actually fought in the Russo-Japanese War. As noted above, this is not surprising inasmuch as Zen monks of military age were treated as any other draft-age Japanese male. After some initial failed attempts, Sawaki took his vows as a Sōtō Zen priest at age eighteen followed by two years of Zen training. At the age of 21, however, he enlisted in the Imperial Army where he served in the Thirty-third Infantry Regiment.

After completing an initial three-year enlistment Sawaki left the service but was immediately recalled due to possible war with Imperial Russia. Following the outbreak of the Russo-Japanese War in February 1904, Sawaki, aged 25, was sent to northern China to fight Russians in the summer of that year. However, he was seriously wounded with a shot through the neck on August 31, 1904 and nearly died. The severity of his wound required him to be sent back to Japan for treatment and, upon recovery, he once again returned to the battlefield in January 1905. In January 1906, aged 27, Sawaki was discharged from the military. He had served for six years and risen through the ranks to become a non-commissioned officer and squad leader. Upon leaving military service, Sawaki immediately resumed his Zen training.

In Recollections of Sawaki Kōdō (Sawaki Kōdō Kikigaki), a book first written in 1950, Sakai Tokugen (1912-96), one of Sawaki’s closest disciples, records Sawaki’s description of his battlefield experience as follows:

Sawaki Kōdō

It was at the battle Baolisi temple on June 14-15, [1904]. By comparison with contemporary warfare, fighting in those days was an elegant affair. You just shot one bullet at a time, bang, bang. There was no rough and tumble about it. That is to say, there was no raking machine-gun fire spraying bullets everywhere or big guys you had to take down. Nor were there any atomic bombs that destroyed everything and killed everyone.

Nevertheless, during the Russo-Japanese War my comrades and I gorged ourselves on killing people. Especially at the battle of Baolisi temple, I chased our enemies into a hole where I was able to pick them off very efficiently. Because of this, my company commander requested that I be given a letter of commendation, but it wasn’t issued. The commander was deeply disappointed and apologized to me over and over again for not having succeeded, saying: “It was because I wrote the request so poorly that I couldn’t get one for you.”4

 

In the same book Sawaki recalled the following conversation among his comrades, providing what is perhaps the first modern reference to the effectiveness of Zen training on the battlefield. Unlike centuries past, the reference does not concern a warrior who had received Zen training, but rather a Zen priest who finds himself on the battlefield. Note that even ordinary soldiers recognized the efficacy of Zen training in battle:

Everyone was asking, “Who the hell is that guy?”

“Oh, he’s just a Zen priest.”

“I see. Just what you’d expect from a Zen priest, a man with guts!”

Saying this, they were very impressed. I also thought I was something special. Looking back at it, I was very conceited.5

Before continuing, let me briefly interrupt the narrative at this point to describe a phenomenon that has happened so often in the past, most especially when describing D.T. Suzuki’s war-related activities. I refer to the fact that present-day disciples of wartime Zen masters and scholars immediately spring to their master’s defense, Sawaki in this instance, charging that translations like the above are either incorrect or, at the very least, taken out of context. That is exactly what happened with regard to the above exchange, especially with regard to the sentence: “My comrades and I gorged ourselves on killing people.”

Readers interested in this question are invited to read a detailed discussion of this and related translation issues in Appendix I of this article. Suffice it to say at this point, these translation-related issues are far more important, at least to the disciples involved, than they might appear to be to the disinterested reader.

The reason for this is that the Zen sect claims the Buddha Dharma is transmitted through enlightened masters to their enlightened disciples. Thus, if the assumption is made that ‘enlightenment’ entails a rejection of violence, should any of the disciples’ Dharma predecessors have invoked Buddhist teachings in support of aggressive warfare, then the very authenticity of both the masters’ and their disciples’ enlightenment would be thrown into question. This in turn would bring into question the disciples’ authority or qualification to teach the “true Buddha Dharma” to others. This issue, too, will be discussed further in Appendix I.

Returning to Sawaki, in later years he described what he learned from his battlefield experience as follows:

Following the end of the fighting I had the opportunity to quietly reflect on my own conduct. I realized then that while as a daredevil I had been second to none, this was nothing more than the greatness of Mori no Ishimatsu, Kunisada Chūji, and other outlaws and champions of the underdog. However, as a disciple of Zen Master Dōgen, I still didn’t measure up. . . . I had been like those who in the act of laying down their lives sought something in return. . . . That is to say, I had been like those who so wanted to become famous, or awarded a posthumous military decoration, that they were ready to lay down their very life to get one. Such an attitude has nothing to do with [Buddhist] liberation from life and death.

Such fellows have simply replaced one thing with another, exchanged one burden for another. They sought honor and fame for themselves through laying down their lives. This is nothing other than the substitution of one thing for another. Even had they succeeded in acquiring these things, one wonders whether they would have been satisfied. In any event, this is what we identify in Buddhism as being endlessly entrapped in the world of desire.

What can be said is that liberation from birth and death does not consist of discarding one’s physical life, but rather, of discarding desire. There are various kinds of desire, including the desire for fame as well as the desire for wealth. Discarding desire, however, means giving up all forms of desire. Religion exists in the renunciation of all forms of desire. This is where the way is to be found. This is where enlightenment is encountered. . . .

Expressed in terms of our Japanese military, it denotes a realm in which wherever the flag of our military goes there is no ordeal too great to endure, nor enemy numbers too numerous [to overcome]. I call this invoking the power of the military flag. Discarding one’s body beneath the military flag is true selflessness.6

While at the beginning of the above quote it may appear that Sawaki is criticizing his participation in the Russo-Japanese war, a closer reading reveals that this is not the case. That is to say, Sawaki’s regret is not for having killed large numbers of the enemy, but, instead, he criticizes himself for having sought ”honor and fame” in the process, proof that he remained trapped in the world of desire, i.e., in an unenlightened state. Thus, it was not the killing of his fellow human beings that bothered him, but his failure to kill the enemy (and die himself if need be) with a totally selfless spirit.

In adopting this attitude, he was very close to the opinion expressed by the samurai turned Zen priest Yamamoto Jōchō in his book, Hagakure. Yamamoto believed that becoming one with death in one's thoughts, even in life, was the highest attainment of purity and focus. He felt that a resolution to die gives rise to a higher state of life, infused with a beauty and grace beyond the reach of those concerned with self-preservation. Note, however, Yamamoto was not the first to assert what some scholars have identified as longstanding East Asian (and possibly earlier) Buddhist ‘values’.

Furthermore, when Sawaki talked of “invoking the power of the military flag” it is important to realize that he was employing terminology normally associated with the bodhisattva of compassion, Avalokiteshvara. In the well-known Kannon-gyō (Avalokiteshvara Sutra) the idea is repeatedly advanced that one can be rescued from a multitude of disasters and calamities if one but “invokes the power of Avalokiteshvara” (nenpi Kannon-riki).

What Sawaki did in the last paragraph of the preceding quote was to replace Avalokiteshvara with a unit’s military flag, an object made sacrosanct by virtue of the fact that the emperor, as a divine being (arahito-gami), had bestowed it on the unit. Thus, to invoke the power of the military flag was tantamount to invoking the invincible power of the divine emperor thereby ensuring victory. That said, this particular phraseology is unique to Sawaki and reveals just how thoroughly he conflated his Zen Buddhist faith with the emperor and Imperial military.

In this connection, it is noteworthy that one of the today’s leading Sōtō Zen sect scholars, Hakamaya Noriaki, also directed his attention to Sawaki’s claim:

When one becomes aware of Sawaki Kōdō’s [wartime] call to “Invoke the power of the emperor; invoke the power of the military banner,” it is enough to send shivers down your spine. . . . Not only was Sawaki not a Buddhist, but he also took up arms against [Sōtō Zen Master] Dōgen himself.7 

This is very strong criticism coming from a Sōtō Zen scholar in that even today this sect continues, on the whole, to regard Sawaki as one of its greatest “scholar-priests” (gakusō) of the 20th century. While Hakamaya clearly has his own normative perspective on this issue, at least he cannot easily be accused of being unable to understand exactly what Sawaki’s war-related statements meant.

Although Sawaki never fought again, his support for the unity of Zen and war continued unabated. This is attested to by any number of his words and deeds during and prior to the Asia-Pacific War. For example, in early 1937 Sawaki was a professor of Buddhist Studies at Sōtō Zen sect-affiliated Komazawa University in Tokyo. Although Japan would not begin its full-scale invasion of China until July of that year, students were becoming worried about their futures as they sensed full-scale war approaching. At this juncture Sawaki addressed an assembly of Komazawa students preparing for the Sōtō Zen priesthood as follows:

There is at present no need for you students to be perplexed by questions concerning the relationship of religion to the state. Instead you should continue to practice zazen and devote yourself wholeheartedly to the Buddha Dharma. Should you fail to do this, and, instead, start to waver in your practice, when it comes time to defend your country in the future you are unlikely to be able to do so zealously.8

As this quotation makes clear, Sawaki saw no conflict between devotion to the Buddha Dharma and defense of one’s country, even when, as in this case, that “defense” meant the unprovoked, full-scale invasion of a neighboring country. In fact, it appears that Sawaki regarded dedication to Zen training as the basis for a similar dedication to military service.

In any event, following Japan’s invasion of China proper in July 1937, the Japanese government issued a call for a “Movement for the Total Spiritual Mobilization of the People” (Kokumin Seishin Sōdōin Undō), the chief goal of which was “the enhancement of the Spirit of Japan (Yamato-damashii).” Underlying this call was the government’s realization that the successful prosecution of a war fought in the 20th century, i.e., “total war,” would require the incorporation of all segments of society, civilian as well as military, into the war effort. Of special concern was the elimination of any values that conflicted with the ideological mindset necessary to create a unified citizenry. Toward this goal all allegedly subversive Western thought had to be eliminated, first and foremost communism and socialism but extending to liberal democratic ideals as well.

Zen was seen as an important method of mobilizing the people in that, having long incorporated and propagated Confucian social ethics, it affirmed a hierarchical social order wedded to an attitude of unthinking, unquestioning and “selfless” loyalty to one’s superiors, most especially, in post-Meiji Japan, the emperor. As Sōtō Zen master Yasutani Haku’un explained: “In the event one wishes to exalt the Spirit of Japan, it is imperative to utilize Japanese Buddhism. The reason for this is that as far as a nutrient for cultivation of the Spirit of Japan is concerned, I believe there is absolutely nothing superior to Japanese Buddhism.”9

For his part, Sawaki, together with his disciples, responded to the Japanese government’s call by creating a lay-oriented Zen training center attached to the Sōtō Zen temple of Daichūji in Tochigi prefecture. Just how closely associated this effort was with the government is demonstrated by the fact that one of the major financial contributors to the center’s establishment was Prince Konoe Fumimarō (1891-1945), the prime minister who had authorized the full-scale invasion of China in July 1937. Konoe made a contribution of 1,000 yen to the training center, a substantial amount of money in prewar days.

The training center commenced operation in October 1940 when Sawaki was sixty-one years of age. As his close disciple Sakai Tokugen noted, Sawaki frequently injected the government’s wartime slogans into the Dharma talks he gave at Daichūji:

In Sawaki’s lectures on Zen Master Dōgen’s writings, you will find such phrases as “the eight corners of the world under one roof” and “the way of the gods” scattered throughout. At that time we all truly believed in such things as “one hundred million [citizens] of one mind” and “self-annihilation for the sake of one’s country.” We were consumed with the thought of repaying the debt of gratitude we owed the state, and we incessantly feared for the destiny our nation.10

With regard to his Shinto-related comment, it should be noted that Sawaki also said: “As far as the national polity of our country is concerned, the ‘way of the gods’ is the same as ‘original enlightenment’ [in Buddhism].”11

The training center at Daichūji continued in operation until the fall of 1944 when it closed in order to accommodate children being evacuated from the cities due to Allied bombing. In spite of the danger, Sawaki returned to live in Tokyo at a Komazawa university-affiliated student dormitory. However, due to the worsening war situation, this dormitory was closed in March 1945. Sawaki then accepted an invitation to live at the home of the former Superintendent-General of the Metropolitan Police, Maruyama Tsurukichi.

Maruyama extended this invitation because of Sawaki’s longtime cooperation with Japanese police officials, part of whose wartime job was to apprehend and imprison anyone suspected of being opposed to the government and its war effort. From 1938 onwards Sawaki found time to give talks to those “thought offenders” (shisō-han) who had been freed from prison following disavowal of their previous anti-war views but were still under police supervision. He also went into prisons holding such offenders in order to convince them to cooperate with the prosecution of the war.

Sawaki was viewed as being particularly good at this kind of work not least because his own poverty-stricken childhood had contributed to a down-to-earth attitude and an ability to identify with offenders. For example, he typically began his talks with a description of his own one-month imprisonment at age eighteen when he had been mistakenly arrested as a pickpocket. Furthermore, in describing his military service Sawaki downplayed his heroism by saying: “Although I was decorated with the ‘Order of the Golden Kite’ for my meritorious deeds during the Russo-Japanese War, it was just a question of being in the right place at the right time - a time when a lot of killing was going on. I was lucky - that’s all.”12

Sawaki’s contribution to the war effort did not stop with the above. From December 23, 1939 onwards, he served on a government commission charged with promoting the martial arts among Japanese school children as part of their preparation for military service. It was only natural for Sawaki to serve on this commission, for he had long believed that “the unity of body and mind as taught in Zen was identical with the ultimate stage of the martial arts.”13 Sawaki had come to this conclusion during his late teens when he practiced both kendō (swordsmanship) and jūdō while in training at Shūshinji temple in Kumamoto prefecture.

Further, on November 22, 1941 Kōdō was appointed to serve on a government commission devoted to enhancing the physical strength of all citizens. This and related contributions led the Japanese government’s Bureau of Decorations to award a “Medal of Honor” in the form of a silver cup to Sawaki for “promoting the public interest” on November 3, 1943.

Significantly, Sawaki’s war support was not limited to Japan alone. On three separate occasions in 1941 and 1942 he traveled to the Japanese puppet state of Manchukuo (Manchuria) in northern China to promote the morale of Japanese military and civilian personnel stationed there. Sawaki’s dedication led him, in May 1942, to board a truck bound for a remote rural area of Manchukuo to deliver a lecture to some three thousand armed Japanese colonists undergoing their annual military training.

While no detailed records remain of Sawaki’s talks in Manchukuo, their tone if not their content can readily be inferred from the following 1942 article that appeared in the Buddhist magazine Daihōrin. Entitled “On the True Meaning of the Zen Precepts,” Sawaki wrote:

The Lotus Sutra states that "the Three Worlds [of desire, form, and formlessness] are my existence and all sentient beings therein are my children." From this point of view, everything, friend and foe included, are my children. Superior officers are my existence as are my subordinates. The same can be said of both Japan and the world. Given this, it is just to punish those who disturb the public order. Whether one kills, or does not kill, the precept forbidding killing [is preserved]. It is the precept forbidding killing that wields the sword. It is this precept that throws the bomb. It is for this reason that you must seek to study and practice this precept.14 [Italics mine.]

The idea Sawaki advanced here concerning killing was a popular position advocated by Zen exponents, including D.T. Suzuki. In his now classic Zen and Japanese Culture, Suzuki wrote:

Zen Master Dōgen

The sword is generally associated with killing, and most of us wonder how it can come into connection with Zen, which is a school of Buddhism teaching the gospel of love and mercy. The fact is that the art of swordsmanship distinguishes between the sword that kills and the sword that gives life. The one that is used by a technician cannot go any further than killing, for he never appeals to the sword unless he intends to kill. The case is altogether different with the one who is compelled to lift the sword. For it is really not he but the sword itself that does the killing. He had no desire to do harm to anybody, but the enemy appears and makes himself a victim. It is though the sword performs automatically its function of justice, which is the function of mercy. . . . When the sword is expected to play this sort of role in human life, it is no more a weapon of self-defense or an instrument of killing, and the swordsman turns into an artist of the first grade, engaged in producing a work of genuine originality.15

In Sawaki’s case it is “the precept forbidding killing that wields the sword” while Suzuki maintains it is “the sword itself that does the killing.” In both cases, Sawaki and Suzuki ask us to believe that acts of violence are performed independently of the individual’s will. Were their assertions true, it follows that there could be no question of personal choice or intention, let alone moral responsibility, for one’s deadly acts, all cornerstones of Buddhist practice. This point will be revisited in Appendix I.

Be that as it may, by May 1944 Sawaki went so far as to claim that it was Zen Master Dōgen, the 13th century founder of the Sōtō Zen sect in Japan, who had first taught the proper mental attitude for the imperial military. Sawaki wrote:

Zen master Dōgen said that we should discard our self. He taught that we should quietly engage in practice having forgotten our Self. Dōgen expressed this in the chapter entitled “Life and Death” of the Shōbōgenzō [A Treasury of the Essence of the True Dharma] as follows: “Simply discard body and mind and cast yourself into the realm of the Buddha. The Buddha will then serve as your guide, and if you follow the guidance given, you will free yourself from life and death, and become a Buddha, without any need to exert yourself either physically or mentally.” Expressed in different words, this means that the orders of one’s superiors are to be obeyed, regardless of content. It is in doing this that you immediately become faithful retainers of the emperor and perfect soldiers.16

Inasmuch as Kōdō was already sixty-five years old when he wrote these words, one must, if nothing else, admire him for his longstanding commitment to employing Zen in the creation of the selfless “perfect soldier.”

Finally, Sawaki noted that Zen monasteries and the military “truly resemble each other closely.” Among other things, this was because both required communal life styles. Sawaki continued:

The first thing required in communal life is to discard the self. . . . In battle those who have been living together communally can work together very bravely at the front. . . . Today the state requires that we all follow a communal life style wherever we are, thus repaying the debt of gratitude we owe the state. The spirit of Zen monastic life does not belong to Zen priests alone but must be learned by all the people.17

Conclusion

Taken as a whole, there can be no doubt that Sawaki Kōdō was a fervent supporter of Japan’s wartime effort, constantly employing his understanding of Zen to promote “selfless” and unquestioning allegiance to the emperor and the state. His expressions of support for the Asia-Pacific War had particular strength as they were based on his own earlier wartime experiences. In other words, he truly knew what he was talking about.

Furthermore, he was also a very seasoned and knowledgeable Zen practitioner. True, he was still a neophyte Zen priest when he had actually fought on the battlefield during the Russo-Japanese War, but by the time of the Asia-Pacific War more than thirty years later he was already highly respected as an authentic Zen master. Thus, he was able to blend his own combat experiences into his “Dharma talks” producing a powerful narrative for those young Zen priests and other war-age laymen who looked to him for guidance.

This said, it would be mistaken to view Sawaki as more extreme in his support of the Asia-Pacific War than his Zen contemporaries. The equally distinguished Sōtō Zen master, Harada Sōgaku (1871-1961), for example, wrote the following in November 1939:

D. T. Suzuki

[If ordered to] march: tramp, tramp, or shoot: bang, bang. This is the manifestation of the highest wisdom [of Enlightenment]. The unity of Zen and war of which I speak extends to the farthest reaches of the holy war [now underway]. Verse: I bow my head to the floor to those whose nobility is without equal.18

Similarly when we now read with great skepticism, if not disbelief, Sawaki’s assertion that “it is this precept [forbidding killing] that throws the bomb,” let us not forget that other wartime Zen masters, e.g., Yasutani Haku’un (1885–1973), also twisted the basic Buddhist precept of not killing into a war-affirming creed. Yasutani wrote:

Harada Sōgaku

At this point the following question arises: What should the attitude of disciples of the Buddha, as Mahāyāna Bodhisattvas, be toward the first precept that forbids the taking of life? For example, what should be done in the case in which, in order to remove various evil influences and benefit society, it becomes necessary to deprive birds, insects, fish, etc. of their lives, or, on a larger scale, to sentence extremely evil and brutal persons to death, or for the nation to engage in total war?

Those who understand the spirit of the Mahāyāna precepts should be able to answer this question immediately. That is to say, of course one should kill, killing as many as possible. One should, fighting hard, kill everyone in the enemy army. The reason for this is that in order to carry [Buddhist] compassion and filial obedience through to perfection it is necessary to assist good and punish evil. However, in killing [the enemy] one should swallow one’s tears, bearing in mind the truth of killing yet not killing.

Failing to kill an evil man who ought to be killed, or destroying an enemy army that ought to be destroyed, would be to betray compassion and filial obedience, to break the precept forbidding the taking of life. This is a special characteristic of the Mahāyāna precepts.19

Yasutani Haku'un

As can be seen in these quotations, wartime Zen masters were aware of the contradiction between the precept that proscribed killing and their fervent support of Japan’s war effort. While each master had his own idiosyncratic method of addressing this contradiction, they nevertheless shared a common conclusion, i.e., killing mass numbers of one’s fellow human beings, aka the “enemy,” was not a violation of this precept but rather fully in accord with it.

If there is anything surprising about Sawaki’s fervent wartime support it is something he shares with many other wartime Zen masters, i.e., his success in distancing himself from his wartime record in the postwar era. In the first instance this was made possible by the long-held, Confucian-derived tradition within Japanese Zen dictating that one’s master cannot be criticized, at least publicly. Coupled with this is the almost unbelievable naïveté exhibited by those early postwar Westerners and their successors who failed to question the wartime roles of those masters under whom they trained.

In Sawaki’s case, most of the Westerners who studied in his “Dharma lineage” studied with one of his disciples, e.g., Uchiyama Kōshō (1912-1998) at Antaiji temple in Kyoto or Deshimaru Taisen (1914-1982), founder of theAssociation Zen Internationale in France. A few Westerners studied with Nishijima Gudō Wafu (1919-2014), a layman who trained under Sawaki during the war years, beginning in 1940, before later entering the priesthood in the postwar era.

Uchiyama Kōshō

Deshimaru Taisen

Nishijima Gudō Wafu

Unsurprisingly, neither Uchiyama, Deshimaru nor Nishijima revealed the details of Sawaki’s wartime record to their students. On the contrary, following the publication of my book Zen at War, Nishijima defended Sawaki from the charge of war collaboration as follows:

Some American man wrote the book which criticizes Master Kōdō Sawaki in the war so strongly. But I think the book includes some kind of exaggeration. And meeting Master Kōdō Sawaki-rōshi directly, he was not so affirmative to the war, but at the same time he was thinking to do his duty as a man in Japan. So in such a situation I think his attitude is not so extremely right or left. And he is usually keeping the Middle Way as a Buddhist monk. I think such a situation is true.20

In light of claims like this, it is hardly surprising that Westerners who venerate Sawaki as one of their Dharma ancestors, some of whom are now Zen teachers in their own right, refuse to accept the idea that Sawaki might once have twisted Buddhist doctrine and practice into a fervently war-affirming creed. Of course, if one adopts a Critical Buddhist perspective, it was less a question of Sawaki having ‘twisted’ Buddhist doctrine than it is of his adoption (albeit in an extreme form) of certain aspects of (Mahayana) Buddhism that had been around for centuries, if not millennia. Be that as it may, Sawaki’s wartime record is clear, reminding us that we forget Bismarck’s admonition at our peril: “The wise man learns from the mistakes of others.”

Appendix I

The most sustained critique of my description of Sawaki war-related statements has been made by Muhō Nölke, a German-born, Sōtō Zen priest, who is currently the ninth abbot of Antaiji, a temple with which Sawaki was closely identified, having served as its fifth abbot. Thus, within the Zen tradition Sawaki becomes Nölke’s “great, great grandfather in the Dharma” and is, moreover, the best known of Nölke’s predecessors. In e-mail exchanges we had during the summer of 2007 (later posted on his temple website at the beginning of 2008) Nölke took issue with my presentation of Sawaki’s war-related writings.

Nölke explained why he felt the need to criticize my presentation as follows: “The reason why your presentation of Sawaki Kodo concerns me (and that is why I write this e-mail), is simply that I am translating his books and practicing in his lineage. So if it should be true that he was a war monger or a zen fascist, as he is called by some, and that this is somehow expressed in his teaching, it would be a great problem for me.”21

Despite his concern, Nölke admitted that he had not read the book in which I described Sawaki’s wartime record, i.e. Zen at War. He wrote: “I know that I shouldn't be demanding any of your time by asking questions about a book which I haven't read myself so far. I only know about quotes which appear on the internet, especially in discussion forums, from time to time.”22

Apart from internet discussion forums, Nölke used information supplied to him by Matsuoka Yukako, one of Sawaki’s postwar lay disciples. Based on these sources, Nölke first asserted that Sakai Tokugen, the author whom I quoted in Zen at War, had not accurately conveyed Sawaki’s words. In particular, Nölke questioned the validity of the two paragraph long passage previously quoted in the main text that begins with the statement: “It was at the battle Baolisi temple on June 14-15, [1904]. . .” He wrote:

This quote seems to be from Sakai Tokugen's biography of Sawaki Kodo, which - as you know for sure - was not written or dictated by Sawaki himself, but by Sakai using the first person, thus creating the impression of an auto-biography. Only the first printing was published under Sawaki's name, all later editions mention Sakai as the author. Sakai mentions and apologizes for this in his forword [sic] in later editions. What I find interesting about this forword [sic] and the one by Tanaka Yoneki is, that while Tanaka claims that Sakai used notes by Uchiyama Kosho, Sakai makes the point that he didn't use those notes because they were full of mistakes. He also admits that his own version of Sawaki's life was contradicted by some after the publication of the book, but says that this was only about "nuiances" [sic]. This means, to say the least, that Sakai's version of Sawaki's life is not the only one, it is not generally accepted by everyone, nor is it directly out of Sawaki's mouth. Thus, the quote above is not by Sawaki, but by Sakai writing in a way that HE THINKS Sawaki would have talked.23

The key question raised by this quotation is whether Sakai’s description of Sawaki’s battlefield experiences is accurate or, as Nölke charges, was Sakai just writing “in a way that HE THINKS Sawaki would have talked.” The answer to this question is contained in the Preface Sakai wrote for the 1984 paperback edition of his book Sawaki Kōdō Kikigaki. Describing how the book first came to be written, i.e., in 1950, Sakai stated: “Everything included in the book is not only what I but anyone who had trained under the master [Sawaki] for many years had heard. Nevertheless, when it came to putting it down on paper, I checked each point with the master to make sure it was all correct.”24

It is noteworthy that Sakai was one of Sawaki’s longest and closest disciples. Additionally, Sakai, a Ph.D., was not only a professor of Buddhist Studies at Sōtō-Zen affiliated Komazawa University but, as a “scholar-priest” (gakusō), was entrusted with providing guidance in Zen meditation to all of the university’s neophyte priests over many years. I say this based on my own personal experience of having received meditation instruction from him during my graduate studies at Komazawa. By 1998 Sakai’s book on Sawaki had gone through some twenty-one printings. While it is impossible to verify the accuracy of Sakai’s book, its contents certainly concur with Sawaki’s own wartime writing, suggesting that Sakai did not write his book simply “in a way that HE THINKS Sawaki would have talked.”

Nölke’s criticism did not stop here. He went on to introduce evidence from a second book, this one carrying Sawaki’s name, that contained a passage similar yet somewhat different from that contained in Sakai’s book. This passage was included on page 414 of the first edition of Shōdōka o Kataru (Commentary on the “Song of Enlightenment”) published in 1940. Nölke translates the relevant passage as follows:

i [sic] went to the russo-japanese war and killed people until i had my fill/enough of it/my stomach was full [hara-ippai, "gorged" - in the German version of "Zen at War," they have an expression that means "we just couldn't get enough of", which is quite wrong, as "hara-ippai" means the point where one has enough], but if you think about it soberly/normally/in peace [heijo], this is a serious matter [taihen]. today the newspaper writes about the extermination of the enemy or how we clean [sosha] them away with machine gun fire. that almost sounds like everyday household cleaning [soji]. they fire their machine gun and call it "cleaning away the remains of the enemy". imagine that would happen in the midst of the ginza: people getting "cleaned" as if you were shooting animals! it would be a serious affair. compared with today the former war was old fashioned [furyu]. We shot only one bullet at a time. That was not so gross like shooting your machine gun as if you were spreading water with a watering can, or throwing big bombs, or poison gas. i also once killed enemies at the battlefield of Baolisi, chasing them into a hole, and i was never punished for it. i even received monthly payments as a veteran [onkyu] after i came back from the war. that means that you do not always get punished for killing a person. it depends on the regulations of the time if you get punished or not. but these regulations are made by men. [sic for the entire passage]25

Having supplied this translation, Nölke comments on it as follows:

Now I do not know what you make out of this, but at least I do not hear a Zen fascist boast about his deeds here, but rather a quite courageous criticism of unhuman [sic] ways to fight a war. In this context, the quote above hardly serves as proof for any support that Sawaki showed for the war. Also, there are many sources that say that Sawaki Roshi [Zen master] thought about the "onkyu" he received after the Russo-Japanese war as "dirty money" and wouldn't use it for his personal life, but rather to print Buddhist texts or support students of Buddhism, which is surprising, as even today many think that this war was an honourable war that saved Japan's independence against the threat of Western imperialism.26

In examining the passage in question, it is clear that the opening words are quite close to Sakai’s version as quoted in the main text of this article. However, the two passages diverge quickly and the latter passage does provide some additional insight into Sawaki’s wartime thinking. That said, and as the reader might suspect, I am not entirely satisfied with Nölke’s translation. However, before introducing my own translation, let me provide the relevant passage in Japanese, something that Nölke thoughtfully included for those readers familiar with Japanese:

私などは日露戦争に行って腹いっぱい人殺しをして来たが、これが平常だったら大変な話だ。此の頃新聞に、どこそこの敵を殲滅したとか、機銃の掃射をしたとかよく出ている。まるで掃除でもしているような気がする。残敵掃射などといって機関銃でシュウッとやるのである。これを銀座の真ん中で遊んでいる奴を、動物掃射などと云うようなことをやったら大変なことになる。昔の戦争は、今からかんがえるとよほど風流なもので、一発一発パンパンと弾を射ったものだ。如露で水を撒くように機関銃でバラバラやったり、大きいヤツをドカンドカンと落としたり、毒瓦斯で一ぺんにやったり、そんなに荒っぽくはなかった。私も得利寺で敵を落とし穴に追い込んで殺したことがあったが、それでも罰を食わなかった。その上に恩給を貰ってしまった。それだから人を殺したらいつでも罰になるとはきまっていない。罰にするとかしないとかは其の規定によるのだ。この規定は人間がこしらえるのである。27

My own translation of this passage reads as follows:

My comrades (nado) and I participated in the Russo-Japanese War and gorged ourselves on killing people. If we had done this under normal conditions (heijō) there would have been a big fuss (taihen na hanashi). These days, newspapers often talk about exterminating the enemy here and there or raking them with machinegun fire. It sounds just like they’re describing some kind of cleaning.

Newspapers talk about such things as mowing down the remaining enemy using a machinegun to spray them with. If this were done to fellows relaxing in the heart of [Tokyo’s] Ginza area, i.e., strafing them as if they were animals or something, it would be a big deal. Looking back at it now, wars in the past were, to a considerable degree, an elegant (fūryū) affair. You just shot one bullet at a time, bang, bang. There were no machineguns spraying bullets about or big guys you had to take down with a bang. Nor was there poison gas that took care of everything. There wasn’t anything rough and tumble about it like that.

While at [the battle of] Baolisi temple I, too, chased the enemy into a hole and killed them, but I was not punished. Moreover, I received a pension. For that reason just because you kill someone doesn’t mean that you will always be punished. Whether you are punished or not depends on [society’s] rules, rules created by human beings.

Reflecting on this passage, the first question that comes to mind is why Sawaki saw fit to discuss his battlefield experiences in his commentary in the first place? That is to say, the “Song of Enlightenment” (Ch. Zhèngdào gē, J. Shōdōka) is a Zen discourse written some time in the first half of the 8th century C.E., traditionally attributed to Yongjia Xuanjue. The first commentaries on it appeared as early as the 11th century during the Song Dynasty. This discourse deals with the methods of and attitudes towards daily Zen practice and, unsurprisingly for a Zen text, emphasizes practice over sutra study. It is most certainly not a text that requires a discussion of one’s battlefield exploits.

The answer to this question is, of course, a universal one, i.e., clerics of all religions constantly seek to make the ancients texts of their faith relevant to the conditions faced by their modern day adherents. In this case, i.e., 1940, Sawaki’s readers were in the fourth year of a full-scale Japanese invasion of China albeit not yet at war with the US and its allies. Given this, Sawaki may well have felt he had a duty to make teachings relevant to the events of his day. Nevertheless, this certainly didn’t require him to teach such things as “Discarding one’s body beneath the military flag is true selflessness,” etc.

Second, when the two versions of Sawaki’s recollection of his battlefield experiences are compared, it is clear that the differences between them are, at most, a question of tone not substance. That is to say, the second version contains less of what, for lack of a better term, may be considered “bravado.” For example, in the latter version Sawaki does not refer to the conceited attitude he had about his military prowess at the time. However, given the ongoing wartime situation they were then in, not to mention his subsequent remarks as recorded above, it would not be surprising if Sawaki had, on multiple occasions, referred to his battlefield experiences exactly as Sakai records him having done.

A second question Nölke fails to address is the utter lack of reference to Buddhism or Zen in this latter passage other than, ironically, the area where the battle took place, i.e., Baolisi, the Chinese characters of which [得利寺] clearly indicate that it was a Buddhist temple. Instead of any mention of Buddhism, the second version focuses on a series of comparisons, beginning with a comparison of the consequences of killing large numbers of people during “normal conditions,” i.e., peacetime, when such actions are proscribed, versus killing them during war when they are not only encouraged but rewarded, rewarded in the form of a military pension for having done so. Many observers, both before and after Sawaki, have long remarked on this incongruity.

Sawaki makes a second comparison between the “elegant” (fūryū) manner he killed the enemy during the Russo-Japanese War, i.e., one at a time, versus the much more mechanized and massive way they were being killed in the current war with China. Yet, apart from what might be deemed his “common-sense” observations of this fact, there is no suggestion of Sawaki’s opposition to war with China let alone any dissonance he may have felt between his Buddhist faith and the vow he had taken, and long since broken, to abstain from killing. At most, some of his words might be considered a lament concerning the extent to which killing had become mechanized and mass killing commonplace.

Finally, and not least, is the question of the multiple disparities between Nölke’s translation of this passage and my own. For the most part these disparities are minor in nature but with one important exception, i.e., the translation of the term hara-ippai (lit. stomach-full) to describe the manner in which Sawaki killed Russian soldiers. The exact same term is found in both the passage quoted in Sakai’s book as well as the second passage.

Nölke claimed this term should be translated as follows: “. . . killed people until i had my fill/enough of it/my stomach was full” and further: “ . . . ‘hara-ippai’ means the point where one has enough.” On the other hand, I translated this term as: “. . . gorged ourselves on killing people.” It is a relatively minor yet stark difference. Why?

In order to answer this question, let us first examine the translation of this key term according to the authoritative 5th edition of Kenkyūsha’s New Japanese-English Dictionary. Here we find hara-ippai defined as follows:

(omouzonbun) to one's heart's content, as in the following examples:

(hara-ippai taberu) eat one's fill; eat heartily; gorge oneself [be gorged] with 《meat》

(manpuku suru) have a full stomach; be full

(hara-ippai nomu) drink one's fill.

(hara-ippai no) a bellyful of《food》

Based on these meanings it can be seen that “gorged oneself” is certainly one possible translation. On the other hand, at least in theory it can also be translated as “to eat one’s fill” and therefore, in this case, as “to kill one’s fill.” This latter translation is certainly closer in spirit to Nölke’s translation, i.e., “. . . killed people until i had my fill/enough of it/my stomach was full.” Needless to say, Nölke’s translation is clearly less emotive in character than use of the word “gorge.” This difference is important to Nölke because this and additional evidence allows him to claim that “. . . at least I do not hear a Zen fascist boast about his deeds here.”

Needless to say, I have never charged Sawaki with having been a “Zen fascist” even while identifying him as a strong supporter of Japan’s 20th century wars. That said, the question remains why I selected the more emotive word “gorge” over the less emotive words, “fill” or “enough”? The answer is simple - context. As the reader will recall from the relevant passage in the main text, Sawaki’s comrades on the battlefield were so impressed with his martial prowess that Sawaki stated: “I also thought I was something special. Looking back at it, I was very conceited (ii ki na mono de atta).”

Was Sawaki boasting about his having killed many Russians? Yes, at least in the words Sakai attributed to him the context reveals that at the time he clearly was. Thus the more emotive word “gorged” better fits in the tenor of the passage, certainly in Sakai’s version. It can be argued that even in the second version this is the case since “gorge” serves to strengthen the contrast Sawaki was making between killing in wartime and peacetime.

Be that as it may, if we were to judge Sawaki’s wartime record solely on the basis of either the first or second versions of his battlefield recollections as presented here, it would be impossible to claim they reflect the words of someone who invoked his Buddhist faith in fervent support of Japanese militarism. Yet, as repeatedly demonstrated in the main text, these are far from the only war-related statements Sawaki made. In particular, Sawaki’s subsequent written assertions that “It is the precept forbidding killing that wields the sword. It is this precept that throws the bomb” are literally some of his most explosive if not damning of his wartime statements. Thus it is not surprising that Nölke would address this issue as well. He wrote:

It seems to me that there are roughly three different approaches to the precepts:

1) The orthodox or common-sense appoach [sic] to the precept as forbidding certain actions. You can either "keep" or "break" the precepts. In some traditions you can stay "clean" by excusing yourself from the percept (by disrobing etc) for the time you want to practice the action that is forbidden, i.e. have sex, kill people during war time [sic] etc.

2) The precepts as stating a "universal law". This seems to be the Mahayana interpretation that many Japanese Buddhist [sic] were and are still using. When Sawaki talks about the precept throwing a bomb, he is using this interpretion [sic]. Here you can not "break" the precept at all, because it is universal. You cannot kill universal life. Thus the precept becomes a tautology.

3) The percept as contradiction or koan, as Hisamatsu Shinichi's basic koan: What will you do when there is nothing at all you can do (and doing nothing at all is not an option either)? So it is not possible to "keep" the precept in the first place, but the function of the precept is to keep you aware of the contradiction of your life, and humble. It prevents the illusion "I am right, because I don't do wrong."

I tend to interpret the precepts in the third way, although I am aware that both the second and third interpretation make one volnurable [sic] to the temptation of not taking responsibility for one's actions.28

Before addressing the key question this quotation raises, it is noteworthy that Nölke recognized that “both the second and third interpretation make one volnurable [vulnerable] to the temptation of not taking responsibility for one's actions.” The reader will recall that this is the same point the author made in the main text regarding Sawaki and D.T. Suzuki’s related assertions. It is indeed a serious question, and one cannot help but ask whether this “way of thinking” contributed to the Japanese people’s postwar inability (or unwillingness) even today, on the whole, to accept responsibility for the massive wartime damage done by Japan to the people of Asia, especially China and Korea?

What is truly breathtaking about Nölke’s explanation of Sawaki’s bomb-throwing precept is his claim that “you can not ‘break’ the precept at all, because it is universal. You cannot kill universal life.” While this statement could easily lead to an extended philosophical discussion, the essential element is far simpler than that, i.e., how would the wartime readers of his words have understood what he said? Would they have become critical of Japan’s war effort in any way? Would they have recognized any conflict, or even incongruity, between the vow they had taken as Buddhist clerics and laypersons not to kill versus their duty as imperial subjects to obey the emperor’s command to fight a war launched in his name?

In fact, Sakai informs us that they did not. As quoted above:

In Sawaki’s lectures on Zen Master Dōgen’s writings, you will find such phrases as “the eight corners of the world under one roof” and “the way of the [Shintō] gods” scattered throughout. At that time we all truly believed in such things as “one hundred million [citizens] of one mind” and “self-annihilation for the sake of one’s country.” We were consumed with the thought of repaying the debt of gratitude we owed the state, and we incessantly feared for the destiny our nation.

Thus, whether one looks at Sawaki’s own battlefield experiences or those whom he instructed during the subsequent Asia-Pacific War, nothing he said or wrote interfered the least with the killing expected of his disciples once they became soldiers. After all, their master had done likewise if not yet on such a large scale. Any other explanation, aka excuse, falls into the category the Japanese so accurately describe as herikutsu, i.e., sophistry.

I will not impose on my readers with a further discussion of Nölke’s criticisms other than to note the entire correspondence between the two of us is available here.

In concluding this section, let me note that Nölke is not alone in criticizing my description of the wartime records of well-known Zen figures, most especially D.T. Suzuki. Readers interested in this broader question are invited to read the critiques of my previous work by the Shin (True Pure Land) Buddhist priest Kemmyō Taira Satō in the following two articles published in The Eastern Buddhist:

1.“D.T. Suzuki and the Question of War,” available on the Web here.

2. “Brian Victoria and the Question of Scholarship,” available on the Web here.

The results of my own further research on D.T. Suzuki’s wartime record are available on the website of The Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus:

  1. “Zen as a Cult of Death in the Wartime Writings of D.T. Suzuki”
  1. “D.T. Suzuki, Zen and the Nazis”
  1. “A Zen Nazi in Wartime Japan: Count Dürckheim and his Sources—D.T. Suzuki, Yasutani Haku’un and Eugen Herrigel”

Needless to say, well-reasoned and researched academic debate is always to be welcomed in the academy. That said, this author cannot help but note that Zen practitioners spend many, many hours seated on padded quilts or round cushions interrogating both the nature of “self” and “reality.” Yet, when it comes to interrogating the historical record of their own masters, and those in their Dharma lineage, all too often, especially in Japan but also in the West, practitioners resolutely refuse to face the facts. Given the stakes involved for them as noted above, this is, at a human level, all too understandable. The result is that they employ the classic ruse of “shoot the messenger” rather than seriously examining the message and its implications.

Buddha Shakyamuni is recorded as having said in Verse 228 of the Dhammapada: “There never has been, there never will be, nor is there now, anyone who is always blamed or always praised.” Thus, to truly accept and benefit from the undoubted good of many of Sawaki’s teachings, as with other wartime Zen figures, it is also necessary to acknowledge his war-affirming ‘dark side’, i.e., his deadly ignorance if you will. To do otherwise risks turning Sawaki, et al. into yet more ‘sacred cows.’ And in that case, as Mark Twain so aptly noted, “Sacred cows make the best hamburger!”29

This is the first in a two part series.

See also

Brian Daizen Victoria, “Zen Masters on the Battlefield” (Part II, forthcoming)

Brian Daizen Victoria holds an M.A. in Buddhist Studies from Sōtō Zen sect-affiliated Komazawa University in Tokyo, and a Ph.D. from the Department of Religious Studies at Temple University. In addition to a 2nd, enlarged edition of Zen At War (Rowman & Littlefield), major writings include Zen War Stories (RoutledgeCurzon); an autobiographical work in Japanese entitled Gaijin de ari, Zen bozu de ari (As a Foreigner, As a Zen Priest); Zen Master Dōgen, coauthored with Prof. Yokoi Yūhō of Aichi-gakuin University (Weatherhill); and a translation of The Zen Life by Sato Koji (Weatherhill). He is currently a Visiting Research Fellow at the International Research Center for Japanese Studies (Nichibunken) in Kyoto. A documentary on Zen and War featuring his work is available here http://clearviewproduct.com/zenandwar.aspx.

Recommended citation: Brian Daizen Victoria, "Zen Masters on the Battlefield (Part I)", The Asia-Pacific Journal, Vol. 11, Issue 24, No. 3, June 16, 2014.

Sources (Part I)

Hakamaya, Noriaki. Hihan Bukkyō. Tokyo: Daizō Shuppan, 1990.

Nölke, Muhō. “Lotus in the fire,” January/February 2008, available on the Web here (accessed April 15, 2014).

Sakai Tokugen. Sawaki Kōdō Kikigaki. Tokyo: Kōdansha Gakujutsu Bunkō, 1984.

Sawaki Kōdō. “Shōji o Akirameru Kata” (The Method of Clarifying Life and Death). Daihōrin, May 1944.

_____.“Zenkai Hongi o Kataru” (On the True Meaning of the Zen Precepts) (Part 9). Daihōrin, January 1942.

Suzuki, D.T. Zen and Japanese Culture. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1959.

Tanaka, Tadao. Sawaki Kōdō – Kono Koshin no Hito (Sawaki Kōdō – Heart of an Ancient Man), 2 vol. Tokyo: Daihōrin-kaku, 1995.

Victoria, Brian. Zen at War, 2nd ed. Boulder, CO: Rowman & Littlefield, 2004.

_____. Zen War Stories. London: RoutledgeCurzon, 2003.

Warner, Brad. “Gudo Nishijima Roshi: Japanese Buddhism in W.W. II,” available on the Web here (accessed April 29, 2014).

Notes

1 A complete list of the 227 basic rules of conduct included in the traditional Code of Discipline (Pali: Bhikku Pāțimokkha) is available on the Web here.

2 For a more detailed discussion of Shaku’s war-related thinking, see Victoria, Zen at War, pp. 25-29.

3 Ibid., p. 26.

4 Sakai, Sawaki Kōdō Kikigaki, pp. 99-100.

5 Ibid., p. 99.

6 Sawaki, “Shōji o Akirameru Kata” (The Method of Clarifying Life and Death) in the May 1944 issue of Daihōrin, pp. 5-7.”

7 Hakamaya, Hihan Bukkyō, p. 297.

8 Quoted in Tanaka, Sawaki Kōdō– Kono Koshin no Hito, v. 2, p. 462.

9 Quoted in Victoria, Zen War Stories, p. 70.

10 Quoted in Tanaka, Sawaki Kōdō–Kono Koshin no Hito, v. 2, p. 455.

11 Ibid., p. 458.

12 Ibid., p. 172. While nothing more is known about the circumstances that led to Sawaki being awarded this decoration, it was typically awarded to a soldier upon his return to Japan from the battlefield in recognition of his bravery, leadership or command in battle.

13 Ibid., p. 341.

14 Sawaki, “Zenkai Hongi o Kataru” (On the True Meaning of the Zen Precepts) (Part 9), in the January 1942 issue of Daihōrin, p. 107.

15 Suzuki, Zen and Japanese Culture, p. 145.

16 Sawaki, “Shōji o Akirameru Kata” (The Method of Clarifying Life and Death) in the May 1944 issue of Daihōrin, p. 6.

17 Quoted in Victoria, Zen at War, p. 186.

18 Quoted in Victoria, Zen at War, p. 137.

19 Quoted in Victoria, Zen War Stories, pp. 71-72.

20 Warner, “Gudo Nishijima Roshi: Japanese Buddhism in W.W. II,” available on the Web here.

21 Quoted in Muhō Nölke’s newsletter, “Lotus in the fire,” January/February 2008, available on the Web here.

22 Ibid.

23 Ibid.

24 Sakai, Sawaki Kōdō Kikigaki, p. 3.

25 Quoted in Muhō Nölke’s newsletter, “Lotus in the fire,” January/February 2008, available on the Web here.

26 Ibid.

27 Ibid.

28 Ibid.

29 Twain is quoted, for instance, at: http://quotations.about.com/od/marktwainquotes/a/twainsult.htm

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Comments
Jundo Cohen
06/23/2014
Hi Brian, I see that you are up to your usual modus operandi. You post a picture of my Teacher, Gudo Wafu Nishijima, as if he were a "Zen Master on the Battlefield", but all you have about him in the article is a quotation from him recalling that Kodo Sawaki Roshi was rather critical of the war. Why would you put his picture up except to tar someone for people who will not read the whole article? Gassho, Jundo Cohen
Brian Victoria
06/24/2014
Dear Jundo, The reason I included a photo of Nishijima Gudō Wafu is that he identifies himself in the quotation included in the article as a lay disciple of Sawaki Kōdō during the war years. Hence, as a direct observer, his understanding of Sawaki's wartime views is very relevant to this article. Additionally, Nishijima offers what is essentially a defense of Sawaki's wartime record. Thus, given that I am critical of Sawaki's wartime record, I believe, if anything, I have fulfilled the academic's responsibility to present all viewpoints, including those that differ from his own, with the hope that readers will feel more confident in reaching their own conclusions. Finally, as for the photograph in question, it is only one of three related photos, placed side by side, of Sawaki's main clerical and lay disciples who, given their ages, would almost certainly have been aware of Sawaki's wartime writings and teachings. Nishijima was not singled out among these three, all of whom have accompanying photos, other than to quote his defense of Sawaki. Sincerely, Brian Victoria
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Authors: For all articles by the author, click on author's name.   Brian Victoria