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Recommended Reading  

Zen War Stories

by Brian Victoria
2003, RoutledgeCurzon
ISBN 0700715819
272 pages.

From dust jacket
Following the critically acclaimed Zen at War (Weatherhill Publishers, 1997), Victoria now explores the intimate and supportive relationship between Japanese institutional Buddhism and militarism during the Second World War. He reveals for the first time, based on the wartime writings of the Japanese military itself, that the Zen school’s view of life and death was deliberately incorporated into the military’s programme of ‘spiritual education’ so as to develop a fanatical military spirit in both soldiers and civilians. Furthermore, it is revealed that D.T. Suzuki, the most famous exponent of Zen in the West, was a wartime exponent of this Zen-inspired viewpoint which enabled Japanese soldiers to leave for the battlefield already resigned to death. Victoria demonstrates how even champions of Japan’s new religions strove to inculcate service to the state and loyalty to the emperor in generations of pre-war Japanese school children. The book also examines the relationship to Buddhism of Japan’s seven class-A war criminals, hung by the Tokyo War Crimes Tribunal. A highly controversial study, this book will be of interest not only to those studying the history of the period, but also to anyone concerned with the perennial question of the ‘proper’ relationship between religion and state.

Brian Daizen Victoria is a senior Lecturer at the Center for Asian Studies, the University of Adelaide.

“Zen Holy War?” review by Josh Baran

Available commercially. Learn more about Brian Victoria.


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