Mid Term Paper

Mid Term Paper - Heidi Macht REL 300 February 15, 2010...

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Heidi Macht REL 300 February 15, 2010 Paper 1 Zen at War Zen Buddhism is a beautiful and elegant religious following that first emerged in China around 15 centuries ago and was known as Ch’an Buddhism and was later adopted into areas of Japan and got the name changed to Zen Buddhism. Zen Buddhism is the art and skill of letting one’s mind be overwhelmed in a total state of meditation. The overall purpose of Zen is to allow the face to face transmission of the dharma outside the sutras. A more broad purpose of Zen is the intellectual discipline of entering a state of deep meditation and to be able to have the realization of absolute selflessness. You would think with guidelines like this that Zen masters of Japan wouldn’t aid and support an imperialistic war effort to gain complete control over Asia, however that is what Brian Daizen Victoria uncovers and explains in War of Zen . Victoria’s book, War of Zen , examines the relationship between Zen Buddhism and the Japanese militarism and how leaders of the Japanese military used the Zen teachings as guidelines for war tactics and training used in World War II. Victoria spent 7 years studying in Japan where he grew to love the culture as well as the Zen Buddhism religion. Originally from Nebraska, Victoria went to Japan as a Methodist missionary with the hopes that he could come to this country and convert others, however he was profoundly interested
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and drawn to Buddhism but more specifically Zen Buddhism due to its anti-war history which had a very pronounced affect on Western religions. After a few visits to Eihei-ji in Fukui Prefecture and became an officially ordained priest in the S t ō ō sect in 1964. To give some background to Zen Buddhism, its historical reference is in the name ‘Zen’ which means meditation. Zen teaches that enlightenment is achieved through the profound realization that one is already enlightened. A person can have this feeling of enlightenment over a period of time or in a flash of insight. The emphasis of someone getting this awakening lies in the person’s own actions and their own efforts, and deities, disciples and scriptures can only offer limited help. Through these strong values and ideals held up by the religion, Victoria decided to go on a personal quest to find out “what is and what should be the relationship of a Zen Buddhist priest to society and its members, to the state, to warfare, and to politics and social activism” (p. 9). To begin this self-guided religious journey he read many Zen scholars scriptures and works and came to find a very off-putting message by a highly looked upon scholars of Victoria’s, D.T. Suzuki, who claimed that he supported Japan’s role in the war in China and the Pacific. This excerpt from the book shows his surprise and almost anger in this discovery, “The ideas and people I encountered in this subterranean world of Buddhism were the exact inverse of those on the surface. Down below, warfare and killing were described as manifestations of Buddhist compassion. The “selflessness” of Zen meant absolute
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and unquestioning submission to the will and dictates of the emperor. And the purpose of
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This note was uploaded on 03/24/2011 for the course REL 300 taught by Professor Darbyorcutt during the Spring '09 term at N.C. State.

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Mid Term Paper - Heidi Macht REL 300 February 15, 2010...

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