Shin Buddhism's role in Japanese Militarism

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Shin Buddhism's role in Japanese Militarism

Post by doublerepukken » Tue Oct 03, 2017 4:02 am

Hey all,

Curious for any sources related to how Jodo Shinshu/Jodo Shu played into Japanese politics during WW2, if at all. I have read some where that they both turned into "emperor worship" but I think the source was mistaking Jodo Shinshu/Jodo Shu with Shinto (I could be wrong though). I know several Zen priests were big supporters of the war effort, so I'm assuming both traditions were involved. Any sources would be helpful.

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Re: Shin Buddhism's role in Japanese Militarism

Post by Wayfarer » Tue Oct 03, 2017 7:18 am

You didn't mention Brian Victoria's book, Zen at War, which was published about 20 years ago, and has often been discussed here. I don't know if it discusses Shin Buddhism, as distinct from Zen, in the Imperial Japanese war effort, but if you haven't looked at it, it might have some references.
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Re: Shin Buddhism's role in Japanese Militarism

Post by kirtu » Tue Oct 03, 2017 9:26 am

Wayfarer wrote:
Tue Oct 03, 2017 7:18 am
You didn't mention Brian Victoria's book, Zen at War, which was published about 20 years ago, and has often been discussed here. I don't know if it discusses Shin Buddhism, as distinct from Zen, in the Imperial Japanese war effort, but if you haven't looked at it, it might have some references.
Victoria's book does discuss Shin Buddhism. The major opposition to the war came from a handful of Shin and Jodo Shin individuals as well as Nichidatsu Fuji and is also claimed by Sokai Gakai as an organization. The person regarded as the main opposition to the aggressive Japanese war was a layman from the Pure Land tradition and was executed during the war. There was some Zen opposition but this was muted.

However as organizations all the major religions organizations were enthusiastic supporters of aggressive imperialistic war.

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Re: Shin Buddhism's role in Japanese Militarism

Post by Admin_PC » Tue Oct 03, 2017 4:18 pm

With Shin Buddhism, it goes back to Rennyo. He established it as the official position of Hongwanji to embrace the rules of the state. This was around the time of the Ikko-Ikki and I think it may have been damage control.
Misunderstandings of Master Rennyo by Eiken Kobai wrote:ATTITUDE TOWARDS THOSE IN AUTHORITY

Some individuals criticize Master Rennyo by asserting that he ingratiated himself with those in authority while the Venerable Master Shinran’s position was anti-authority. They further assert that Master Rennyo incorporated the thought of “the two truths of the absolute and the conventional” which is not found in the Venerable Master Shinran’s thinking, into the Jodo-Shinshu teaching.

According to such persons, although the Venerable Master Shinran indicated that there is a distinction between “absolute truth” (the way to Enlightenment through birth in the Pure Land) and “conventional truth” (the secular or moral path), they are actually the same. These scholars say that Master Rennyo erroneously divided the secular or moral path into two:
· “king’s law is primary”
· “take the secular path”

“The king’s law is primary” urges making the laws of the land the basis for living your life. “Take the secular path” urges following the conventional ways of making a living, and is solely concerned about ingratiating yourself with those in authority, but both these positions are very much mistaken.

Both the Venerable Master Shinran and Master Rennyo emphasized the way of transcending the world of life and death, in other words, leaving the world of delusion and moving towards the world of enlightenment (the Pure Land). They were not concerned about political movements and attitudes such as being anti-authority or flattering those in power. Their concerns were not so petty.

What “Making the King’s Law Primary” Refers To:

In Letter 12, Fascicle III, of the “Honorable Letters,” dated 27th day of the 1st month during the 8th year Bummei (1476 AD), is the following passage:

“First of all, make the laws of the state fundamental and follow generally-accepted customs, giving priority to the principles of humanity and justice. Maintain the settled mind of our tradition deep within yourself and conduct yourself so the transmission of the dharma you have received will not be evident to those of other Buddhist denominations.”

This is the attitude that Master Rennyo recommended to his followers. It expresses the attitude of “making the king’s law primary” and “common sense first”.

Further, in the fourth of the six articles of Letter 10, Fascicle III, dated the 15th day of the 7th month during the 7th year of Bummei (1475 AD), and in Letter 11, Fascicle III, dated the 21st day of the 11th month during the same 7th year of Bummei, he wrote:

“Further, (the Venerable Master Shinran) carefully stated that we should observe the principles of humanity, justice, propriety, wisdom and sincerity. He stated that outwardly we should honor the laws of the state but that deep within, we should consider the shinjin of “Buddha-centered power” based on the Primal Vow to be fundamental. And in Article 141 of “Heard and Recorded During Master Rennyo Lifetime” is the passage: “obey the king’s law in your outward actions but cultivate the Buddha’s Law in your heart.”

The reason Master Rennyo urged the principle of “king’s law is primary,” was the sudden increase in the political power of his followers. He made statements such as the above in order to keep his followers from attacking governmental institutions, but some scholars take this position of “king’s law is primary” to be a conspiracy to curry favor with the authorities. Such scholars quote the Venerable Master Shinran’s Postscript to the Chapter on Transformed Land of his “Teaching, Practice, Faith and Attainment” in which he wrote: “The emperor and his ministers, acting against the Dharma and violating righteousness, became enraged and embittered.”

These scholars assert that Master Rennyo’s position is different from the Venerable Master Shinran’s criticism of the Emperor and denial of governmental authority, and that Master Rennyo distorted the Venerable Master Shinran’s teaching as well as the content of the Venerable Master‘s shinjin.

I cannot agree with such criticisms of Master Rennyo.

Although, as just indicated, Master Rennyo expressed the principle of “‘king’s law’ is primary” in several places, in Article 157 of “Heard and Recorded During Rennyo Shonin’s Lifetime,” he expressed the “Buddha’s law is primary” point of view as being, “Make Buddha-dharma the master and worldly matters the guest.”

Further, just half a month before leaving this world, on the 9th day of the 3rd month during the 8th year of Meio (1499 AD), Master Rennyo said the following to his five sons, Jitsunyo, Renko, Rensei, Renjun and Rengo (it is recorded in “Items Agreed Among Brothers”):

“The Buddha is, of course, central in our teaching. The purpose of following the ‘king’s law’ in the secular world is to allow the ‘Buddha’s Law’ to be primary. Unfortunately, many people make the ‘Buddha’s Law’ secondary and the ‘King’s Law’ primary. This should not be allowed.”

Because it was so close to the end of his life, this can be considered Master Rennyo’s last words to his children, and his true intent regarding the “Buddha’s law” and the “king’s law.” As he indicated, “ The purpose of following the ‘king’s law’ in the secular world is to allow the ‘Buddha’s law’ to be primary.” Saying the “king’s law is primary” is only a means to establish the primacy of “Buddha’s Law.” In other words, his purpose was to establish Buddha-dharma as the central focus of our lives.
Unfortunately this misunderstanding led to support of militarism in the era leading up to and including World War 2. As kirtu alluded to, there were some Shin followers who opposed militarism during the war, but it was not widely embraced at an institutional level. In the decades since the war, the major Shin organizations; especially Nishi Hongwanji and Higashi Honganji Otani-ha, have made statements of formal regret over their support of Japanese militarism and have pledged to do better.

In the 80s and 90s Shin Priests brought lawsuits against the government over visits to the Yasukuni Shrine - a shrine dedicated to war heroes and an homage to Japanese militarism. Reference.
月影の いたらぬ里は なけれども 眺むる人の 心にぞすむ

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