Zen at War - PREFACE TO THE SECOND EDITION
"Finally, as I did in the first edition, let me close by acknowledging that this book, together with its companion volume, Zen War Stories, represents no more than the first steps in coming to an understanding of the relationship between (Zen) Buddhism and warfare. Nevertheless, in a world where religious-supported, if not religious-inspired, violence remains all too prevalent, even first steps are to be valued, for they at least begin to address the scourge that resides in all of the world's major faiths—that there can be, under certain circumstances, something "sacred" or "holy" about war. And further, they address the belief that the duty of religious practitioners is to answer the call to war of their nation's leaders, no matter how destructive the ensuing acts of war may be. In the aftermath of the terrorist attacks of September 11, Islam now appears to be the main if not sole source of religious fanaticism. It is important to recognize, however, that religion-inspired brutality knows no sectarian label. In 1906, for example, General Leonard Wood sent the following cable to President Teddy Roosevelt celebrating his victory over Filipino Muslims still resisting American colonial control: "The enemy numbered six hundred— including women and children—and we abolished them utterly, leaving not even a baby alive to cry for its dead mother. This is incomparably the greatest victory that was ever achieved by the Christian soldiers of the United States." In reply, Roosevelt praised the general's "brilliant feat of arms" and the excellent way he had "upheld the honor of the American flag" (quoted in Mark Twain's Religion by William E. Phipps, p. 208)."
Zen at War
PREFACE TO THE SECOND EDITION
On the occasion of the publication of the second edition of Zen at War, I would like to share with readers some of the positive developments that have occurred since the book's initial release in 1997. I refer, first of all, to European interest in the book as reflected in the publication of German, French, Italian, and Polish editions. Clearly there is broad interest in the West regarding Zen's relationship to Japanese militarism.
Equally if not more significant was the publication in 2001 of a Japanese edition titled Zen to Senso (Zen at War). This edition contributed to the fact that two major branches of the Rinzai Zen sect, that is, Myoshinji and Tenryuji, admitted and apologized for the first time for their past support of Japanese militarism. In that sense, the book you are about to read is not simply a book about religious history but also one that has made history.
Specifically, on September 27, 2001, the Myoshinji General Assembly, meeting in Kyoto, issued a proclamation containing the following passage:
As we reflect on the recent events in the U.S.A., we recognize that in the past our country engaged in hostilities, calling it a "holy war," and inflicting great pain and damage to various countries. Even though it was national policy at the time, it is truly regrettable that our sect, in the midst of wartime passions, was unable to maintain a resolute anti-war stance and ended up cooperating with the war effort. In light of this we wish to confess our past transgressions and critically reflect on our conduct. A follow-up statement by branch administrators on October 19, 2001, said:
It was the publication of the book Zen to Senso etc. that provided the opportunity for us to address the issue of our war responsibility. It is truly a matter of regret that our sect has for so long been unable to seriously grapple with this issue. Still, due to the General Assembly's adoption of its recent "Proclamation," we have been able to take the first step in addressing this issue. This is a very significant development.
Myoshinji is the largest branch of the Rinzai Zen sect, with more than 3,400 affiliated temples and 1.6 million adherents. The smaller Tenryuji branch issued a similar statement earlier in 2001, again citing this book as a catalyst. Kubota Jiun, current head of the Sanbo-kyodan, also apologized in the spring of 2001 for the wartime "errant words and actions" of Zen Master Yasutani Haku'un (introduced in chapter 10 of this book and more thoroughly in chapters of Zen War Stories).
As for the Soto Zen sect, little has changed since its groundbreaking admission of war responsibility in a January 1993 statement of repentance, introduced in chapter 10. Although a handful of Soto Zen— related scholars have continued to pursue this issue, notably Hakamaya Noriaki and Matsumoto Shiro of Komazawa University, their research has focused on highly contentious doctrinal issues having little effect on the sect as a whole. Nevertheless, in December 2005 Tanaka Shinkai, abbot of the Soto Zen monastery of Flokyoji in Fukui prefecture, praised Zen at War as being like a graphic depiction of the carnage at the scene of a horrendous car accident. "If we hope to prevent its reoccurrence:' he stated, "we must not flinch from exploring just how and why this accident occurred:' Tanaka went on to pledge that his temple, itself founded by a Chinese monk in the 13th century, would henceforth hold unprecedented memorial services for the victims of Japanese militarism.
This edition contains a new chapter titled "Was It Buddhism?" which places Zen's collaboration with Japanese militarism in the context of the 2,500-year-long relationship of Buddhism to the state and war. This additional chapter addresses the plaintive cry of one incredulous reader on the Internet who asked, "What the hell went wrong?"
Yet, if it can be said that something "went wrong" in prewar and wartime Zen, it is important to realize that it will take more than apologies, no matter how heartfelt, to make it "right" again. The fact is that Zen leaders who supported Japanese militarism did so on the grounds that Japanese aggression expressed the very essence of the Buddha Dharma and even enlightenment itself. Thus, until and unless their assumptions are closely examined and challenged, there is no guarantee that Zen's future, whether in the East or West, will not once again include support for the mass destruction of human life that is modern warfare.
Regrettably, many Western Zen leaders continue to either evade or rationalize the connection of their own Dharma lineage to Japan's past aggression. For example, in the fall 1999 issue of the Buddhist magazine tricycle, one well-known U.S. Zen master, Bernie Glassman, had the following to say about Yasutani Haku'un's wartime militarist and anti-Semitic pronouncements:
So if your definition of enlightenment is that there's no anti- Semitism in the state of enlightenment. If your definition of enlightenment is that there's no nationalism, or militarism, or bigotry in the state of enlightenment, you better change your definition of enlightenment. For the state of enlightenment is maha, the circle with no inside and no outside, not even a circle, just the pulsating of life everywhere.
In response to this assertion, David Brazier, English Buddhist and author of The New Buddhism (2002) wrote:
Glassman is willing to say that if your definition of enlightenment does not allow for anti-Semitism within enlightenment then your definition is not big enough. For Glassman, himself Jewish, to say such a thing is, in one sense, big-hearted. I acknowledge Glassman's big heart. Nonetheless, I assert that he is wrong. My definition of enlightenment does not have room for anti-Semitism. I do not think that the Buddha's definition of enlightenment had room for anything similar either. The Buddha had compassion for bigots, but he did not think they were enlightened.
Expanding on this theme, Brazier went on to assert that the non- dualism of Glassman's "circle with no inside and no outside" is in fact not even Buddhist in origin. "The Non-Dual. . . is essentially a Taoist rather than a Buddhist idea:' he wrote.
Needless to say, it is beyond the scope of either this book, or its more recent companion, Zen War Stories (2003), to resolve the claims and counterclaims raised above. Nevertheless, it can be readily observed that their resolution goes straight to heart of the nature of enlightenment itself. As such, this and the related issues contained in this book deal with the very essence of the Buddhist faith. Sooner or later, every serious Buddhist practitioner must attempt to resolve them, if only for him- or herself.
Finally, as I did in the first edition, let me close by acknowledging that this book, together with its companion volume, Zen War Stories, represents no more than the first steps in coming to an understanding of the relationship between (Zen) Buddhism and warfare. Nevertheless, in a world where religious-supported, if not religious-inspired, violence remains all too prevalent, even first steps are to be valued, for they at least begin to address the scourge that resides in all of the world's major faiths—that there can be, under certain circumstances, something "sacred" or "holy" about war. And further, they address the belief that the duty of religious practitioners is to answer the call to war of their nation's leaders, no matter how destructive the ensuing acts of war may be.
In the aftermath of the terrorist attacks of September 11, Islam now appears to be the main if not sole source of religious fanaticism. It is important to recognize, however, that religion-inspired brutality knows no sectarian label. In 1906, for example, General Leonard Wood sent the following cable to President Teddy Roosevelt celebrating his victory over Filipino Muslims still resisting American colonial control: "The enemy numbered six hundred— including women and children—and we abolished them utterly, leaving not even a baby alive to cry for its dead mother. This is incomparably the greatest victory that was ever achieved by the Christian soldiers of the United States." In reply, Roosevelt praised the general's "brilliant feat of arms" and the excellent way he had "upheld the honor of the American flag" (quoted in Mark Twain's Religion by William E. Phipps, p. 208).
As much as the adherents of the world's faiths may wish to deny it, when it comes to the relationship of religion to violence, it is, as Hemingway has so poignantly stated, a question of "ask not for the whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee?'
In the spring of 1970 I was called into the room of Zen Master Niwa Rempo (1905—93), then the chief abbot of Eiheiji Betsuin temple in Tokyo. He informed me that since I was a SOtO Zen priest and a graduate student in Buddhist Studies at SOtO Zen sect—affiliated Komazawa University, it was not appropriate for me to be active in the anti-Vietnam war movement in Japan. While he acknowledged that my protests were both nonviolent and legal, he stated that "Zen priests don't get involved in politics?' And then he added, "If you fail to heed my words, you will be deprived of your priestly status?'
Although I did not stop my antiwar activities, I was not ousted from this sect. In fact, I went on to become a fully ordained priest, which I remain to this day. This was very much due to the understanding and protection extended to me by my late master, the Venerable Yokoi Kakudo, a professor of Buddhist Studies at Komazawa as well as a Soto Zen master. Niwa Rempo went on to become the seventy-seventh chief abbot of Eiheiji, one of the Soto Zen sect's two head monasteries. We never met again.
This became one of the defining events in my life, the catalyst for a twenty-five-year search for the answers to the questions what is and what should be the relationship of the Zen Buddhist priest to society and its members, to the state, to warfare, and to politics and social activism. In looking for the answers to these questions I came across the writings of Professor Ichikawa Hakugen, a Rinzai Zen sect- affiliated priest and scholar then teaching at Hanazono University in Kyoto. Reading the work of a man who had gone from staunch supporter to severe critic of Japanese militarism, I felt as if I had fallen down the proverbial rabbit hole to join Alice in her adventures through Wonderland.
The ideas and people I encountered in this subterranean realm of Buddhism were the exact inverse of those on the surface. Down below, warfare and killing were described as manifestations of Buddhist compassion. The "selflessness" of Zen meant absolute and unquestioning submission to the will and dictates of the emperor. And the purpose of religion was to preserve the state and punish any country or person who dared interfere with its right of self- aggrandizement.
Disturbing as such sentiments were, I was even more disturbed to learn who was making them. Ichikawa quoted at length, for example, from D. 11 Suzuki's writings on war. With his oft-pictured gentle and sagacious appearance of later years, Suzuki is revered among many in the West as a true man of Zen. Yet he wrote that "religion should, first of all, seek to preserve the existence of the state:' followed by the assertion that the Chinese were "unruly heathens" whom Japan should punish "in the name of religion?' Zen master Harada Sogaku, highly praised in the English writings of Philip Kapleau, Maezumi Taizan, and others, was also quoted by Hakugen.
Ichikawa demonstrated that statements such as these had been made over and over again by both lay and clerical Zen leaders during the war years and before. I could not help wondering how it had all come about, especially in light of Rempo's adamant assertion that "Zen priests don't get involved in politics?' Did the wartime deaths of millions upon millions of Japanese and non-Japanese alike have nothing to do with politics? Could the pro-war statements made by Suzuki, Harada, and many other Zen leaders be fairly described as "nonpolitical"?
This book represents a first attempt to grapple with these complex and difficult questions. Its focus is on the history of institutional Buddhism, particularly Zen, in one country, Japan, during the period from 1868 to 1945. I chose this period not because I see it as representative of the historical relationship between Zen Buddhism and warfare, but, on the contrary, precisely because it is not. In this I have been deeply influenced by a passage from William James's The Varieties of Religious Experience: "We learn more about a thing when we view it under a microscope, as it were, or in its most exaggerated form. This is as true of religious phenomena as of any other kind of fact. The only cases likely to be profitable enough to repay our attention will therefore be cases where the religious spirit is unmistakable and extreme."
There can be no question that the relationships which existed between Zen Buddhism and warfare, between Zen Buddhism and the state, were in their most exaggerated form during the period in question. Likewise, for better or worse, the religious spirit was unmistakable and extreme. It is precisely for these reasons, then, that this period can serve as a useful prism through which to examine the broader issues, which remain constant even when the circumstances encompassing them are extreme. In fact, it is possible to argue that the real value of the social ethics of any religion, Buddhism included, ought to be their application to those extreme situadons in which secular ethical systems are apt to lose their authority. What test of faith or awareness is there for the fair-weather believer?
Although I focus on the years from 1868 to 1945, looking at this period in isolation from its historical antecedents suggests that a phenomenon such as Zen's endorsement of Japanese militarism can be explained solely by the events of the Meiji period and thereafter. Indeed, some present-day observers have adopted this viewpoint and maintain that this phenomenon was no more than a momentary aberration of modern Japanese Zen or its leaders. More informed commentators such as Ichikawa Hakugen, however, make it clear that the unity of Zen and the sword has deep roots in Zen Buddhist doctrine and history. Regrettably, space limitations preclude me from introducing more than a small fraction of this larger history in the present study.
In an attempt to show at least some of the complexity of the Zen Buddhist response to Japan's military actions, I have included sections on Zen Buddhist war resisters as well as collaborators. On whichever side of the fence these Buddhists placed themselves, their motivations were far more complex than can be presented in a single volume. Nor, of course, can their lives and accomplishments be evaluated solely on the basis of their positions regarding the relationship of Zen to the state and warfare. A holistic evaluation of these leaders, however, is not the subject of this book.
Shri Mataji: "This is where Buddha's Buddhism had ended up."
Because they talk well people believe. What have they given you? Somebody says they have given us the Knowledge? All right, what Knowledge? What Knowledge have they given you? Knowledge is all mental — what they've got in their awareness where you have to evolve?”
Shri Mataji Nirmala Devi
The New Age Has Started, Houston, USA
October 6, 1981
"Now what's your religion?" they say, "I'm Buddhist". "What Buddhist - Dinayan, Ganayan, Ambaja?" "I am Zen" - this, that, all kinds of Buddhism is there. Is impossible to understand really where is Buddhism there. So what do these do? One will shave their hair. One will shave their moustache. Another one will wear this kind of a dress. This is the only difference between from one to another. But the common point is that they are all cheats, they all can deceive you, they can tell lies without feeling funny. They are very sly, very cunning and suicidal. They can be very violent and the only desire they have is to kill everybody who comes across. This is where Buddha's Buddhism had ended up."
Shri Mataji Nirmala Devi
23 July 1988, San Diego, U.S.A
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