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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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