Episode 154 – Zen at War

This week: what happens when Buddhists go to war? We’ll explore the relationship between the Japanese Empire and the Zen Buddhist establishment.

Listen to the episode here.


Victoria, Brian. Zen at War

Victoria, Brian. Zen War Stories.

An excellent NYT article on Zen and war guilt.


Suzuki Daisetsu’s work would help popularize Buddhism in the US. However, his support for the Japanese Empire is less well-known than his later work (or his love of adorable kittens).
Yasutani Hakuun promoted Japanese militarism (as well as anti-semitism) during the Second World War, and went on the record saying that Japan had to smash the US “for the peace of Asia.” After the war, he went on several speaking tours in the United States.
Kaiten Nukariya’s Zen: The Religion of the Samurai helped popularize the idea of a link between Zen, the samurai class, and warfare.
Sugimoto Goro, the posterboy of the Zen office.
Buddhist monks practice military drill in the 1930s under the gaze of an army officer. By the 1930s, Buddhism had effectively been militarized to support Japan’s wars abroad.