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Recommended Reading  

Zen at War

by Bri­an Vic­to­ria
1998, Weath­er­hill
ISBN 0834804050
227 pages.

From dust jack­et
Zen at War offers a pen­e­trat­ing look at the close rela­tion­ship that exist­ed between Zen Bud­dhism and Japan­ese mil­i­tarism pri­or to World War II. Using the actu­al words of lead­ing Japan­ese Zen mas­ters and schol­ars, the author shows that Zen served as a pow­er­ful spir­i­tu­al and ide­o­log­i­cal foun­da­tion for the fanat­ic and sui­ci­dal spir­it dis­played by the impe­r­i­al Japan­ese mil­i­tary. At the same time, the author tells the dra­mat­ic and trag­ic sto­ries of the hand­ful of Bud­dhist orga­ni­za­tions and indi­vid­u­als that dared to oppose Japan’s march to war. He fol­lows this his­to­ry up to the recent apolo­gies of sev­er­al Zen sects for their sup­port of the war, and the reemer­gence of what he calls cor­po­rate Zen in post­war Japan.

From the back cov­er
Zen at War is a stun­ning con­tri­bu­tion to our under­stand­ing of Japan­ese mil­i­tarism and the broad­er issue of war respon­si­bil­i­ty as it con­tin­ues to be addressed (and ignored) in con­tem­po­rary Japan. Bri­an Vic­to­ri­a’s great sen­si­tiv­i­ty to the per­ver­sion and betray­al of Bud­dhis­m’s teach­ings about com­pas­sion and non-vio­lence makes his indict­ment of the role played by Impe­r­i­al Way Bud­dhists in pro­mot­ing ultra­na­tion­al­ism and aggres­sion all the more strik­ing and all the more sad­den­ing.
Pro­fes­sor John W. Dow­er, Har­vard Uni­ver­si­ty Author of War With­out Mer­cy: Race and Pow­er in the Pacif­ic War

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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