Filed in Zen (Chan), Koans, History

Yasutani Roshi: The Hardest Koan

Brian Victoria uncovers the wartime anti-Semitism of one of America’s most seminal Zen masters. Responses to this material from: Robert Aitken, Bernie Glassman, Bodhin Kjolhede, and Lawrence Shainberg

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A look at the nationalism, militarism, and anti-Semitism of the Zen master whose teachings (through The Three Pillars of Zen and numerous disciples) place him among the most influential voices in the transmission of Japanese Zen to the West.


Brian Victoria Responds

The connection between Yasutani’s ideological stance and that of Japanese militarism is all too apparent. Yasutani in fact goes even further than the Japanese government of his day by asserting that his emperor-worshipping, pro-war, imperialistic, and anti-Semitic sentiments are nothing less than the “true Buddha Dharma.” In so doing it is no exaggeration to say that Yasutani had, consciously or not, completely subordinated himself to the state. That is to say, he not only rendered unto Caesar what was Caesar’s, but proffered the entirety of the Buddhist faith as well. Not only that, he urged all of the Japanese people to do the same.

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