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Gudo Nishijima Roshi: Japanese Buddhism in World War II

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Uploaded on Feb 23, 2009

Gudo Nishijima Roshi gives his opinion about Japanese Buddhism and its support of the war effort during World War II. He agrees with Brian Victoria, author of "Zen at War," that many Japanese Buddhists supported Japan's nationalism during the war. But he strongly denies Victoria's assertion that his teacher Kodo Sawaki was among them. The exaggerations that Nishijima Roshi refers to here are given in great detail on this webpage: http://antaiji.dogen-zen.de/eng/20080...

To me, the most telling of these is when Victoria quotes Sawaki as saying, "We gorged ourselves on killing" when Sawaki served in the Japanese Army during the Russo-Japanese war. The phrase Sawaki actually used was "hara ippai." In my eleven years in Japan I never once heard anyone use the phrase "hara ippai" (literally: full stomach) in a positive context unless perhaps when speaking of actual eating. When used metaphorically as Sawaki was clearly doing it means "fed up." The quote should have been rendered "We got fed up with killing."

Other quotations that Victoria used to demonstrate Sawaki's supposed war-mongering are equally dubiously translated. Conversely, one can find many other quotations by Sawaki from outside Victoria's book in which he clearly denounces war.

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