Notification on the Imperial-Way Buddhism

Case 40-2018: Japan & Prime Minister Shinzo Abe

Notification on the Imperial-Way Buddhism


On March 10, 2018, an International Notification to Japanese Sanghas is written due to the False Buddhism that was practiced in Japan during its imperialist era, when several schools and Buddhist lineages adhered to the Japanese government in its crusade or holy war against the rest of the nations of the world, even collaborating with Nazism in the framework of the Second World War. Several schools and lineages, including Soto and Rinzai, would not only have supported the genocidal war and crimes against humanity carried out by the Japanese government, but would also have assisted in the commission of such crimes, revalidating them ethically and spiritually, in the same way that in the contemporary world Ashin Wirathu and the State Sangha Maha Nayaka Committee have supported the genocide of Myanmar.

Although after the Second World War all Zen schools entered into a generalized amnesia about the Truth of their active complicity with war, in 1992 the Soto Zen lineage issued a Communiqué of Repentance for its active cooperation in militarism, and other Buddhist schools have followed the same example since then. However, the condition of enlightened master has never been cancelled for those people who in the name of Buddhism participated in those crimes against peace. In this way, the International Buddhist Ethics Committee considers it is fundamental to impugn the ethical and spiritual condition of masters who, obsessed with nationalism, have committed crimes through supporting war, since they introduced a perverse and bizarre nihilism within the Spirituality, so that the Buddhist master degree of the following individuals is de facto nullified because of having totally perverted the pacifist doctrine of Siddhartha Gautama:

  • Zen Master Sawaki Kodo of the Soto lineage, for being a soldier and actively supporting militarism, nationalism, imperialism, Japanese violent invasions to other countries, worshiping the Japanese emperor, and including receiving a medal of honor for his work in promoting public interests of the Japanese Empire;
  • Zen Master Kumazawa Taizen of the Soto lineage, for calling to kill the enemies as part of the practice;
  • Zen Master Soen Shaku of the Rinzai lineage, for claiming that fighting against Russia was fighting evil and also for considering that the war against enemies of Japan was a compassionate war and an essential part of the spiritual training of Zen Buddhism;
  • Zen Master Nakahara Nantembo of the Rinzai lineage, for assisting in the Japanese war against Russia and also for affirming that there is no practice of enlightened beings that is superior to the practice of compassionately killing;
  • Zen Master Seki Seisetsu of the Rinzai lineage, for promoting the synthesis of Zen and Bushido, teaching that worshiping the emperor is identical to the practice of Mahayana Buddhism, as well as calling for the extermination of the communists;
  • Zen Master Yamamoto of the Rinzai lineage, for training soldiers and for defending the killing of civilians, even claiming that Buddhism allows killing people in the name of maintaining social order;
  • Zen Master Nakajima Genjo of the Rinzai lineage, for actively participating in the Second World War as a soldier, and for carrying out an act of denial of the genocide that took place in China during the massacre of Nanking, where in a few weeks more than 350 thousand people were raped, tortured, killed and beheaded;
  • Zen Master Harada Daiun Sogaku of the Soto and Rinzai lineages, for teaching that the synthesis of Buddhism and War is the manifestation of the supreme wisdom of enlightenment, the king of meditation, considering that the Japanese are a chosen people with the right to control the world through war and death of the enemy;
  • Zen Master Hakuun Yasutani of the Sambo Kyodan lineage, for promoting war, right-wing nationalism, militarism, anti-communism and anti-Semitism, even affirming that not killing the enemy would be betraying compassion;
  • Master Shiio Benkyo of the Jodo lineage, for exposing a defense of Imperial-Way Buddhism as a nationalist cult.

The International Buddhist Ethics Committee affirms that schools and lineages that consider such individuals as enlightened masters or living Buddhas will not only be committing complicity with crimes against humanity and peace, but will also be transmitting a False Buddhism that absolutely betrays the ethical principles and compassionate wisdom founded by Master Siddhartha Gautama. Although the Soto, Rinzai, and Sambo Kyodan lineages have extraordinarily manifested public repentance for their support and complicity with the imperial Japanese militarism of the past, the International Buddhist Ethics Committee affirms that while this is a good first step it would not be sufficient, since restorative justice measures have to be taken in order to repair the damage caused, expelling those who committed international crimes against humanity from the lineage of free and enlightened beings in order to maintain the ethical and spiritual purity of the Way. This means that the kind of apology made by Master Jiun Kubota, of the Zen lineage Sambo Kyodan is a mistake, because he considers that an enlightened master is able to transmit the Dharma and simultaneously have a right-wing ideology in favor of war, discrimination and hatred, without considering that it compromises essentially his spiritual teaching. The International Buddhist Ethics Committee teaches that True Buddhism is a Reconciliation Pathway that contributes to establishing a world of peace, justice, knowledge and ecology, so that any contribution or support to war constitutes a complete betrayal of the Buddhist Path. Indeed, taking refuge in the Buddha-Dharma-Sangha should never be replaced by loyalty to the Ego, the Ideology and the State.

In order for Buddhism to follow the Way of Truth, maintaining itself as an authentic spiritual tradition, the lineages and schools must recognize the fact that a spiritual master who supports Nationalism over Peace will be violating the fundamental ethical principles of Buddhism, thus becoming a false and perverted master, a pseudo-enlightened master. Collaborating with war or with armies is something that intrinsically violates the Buddhist Law, because it associates the Spirituality of the Master Gautama with practices that produce the death of millions of people and that betray the compassionate wisdom of any True Awakening.

On the other hand, some academics stated that such criminal acts of supporting war by Buddhist masters should be understood within the historical cultural framework of great pressure suffered by the spiritual communities (sanghas) during the Meiji Era, when the Shinto cult was reinstated and thousands of Buddhist temples were closed, thousands of statues were destroyed, and Buddhist masters who were critical of the State were persecuted, causing that a large part of the schools survive through the support for the Japanese imperial system. Thus, during the Meiji Era, the Way of Buddhist Zen was replaced by the Imperialist and Militarist State Zen (Kodo Zen), replacing the worship to the Buddha and Dharma with the worship to the Emperor and to the Empire. However, the International Buddhist Ethics Committee confirms that the perversion that occurred in Japanese Buddhism was not born during the Meiji Era, but occurred at the very beginning of the Tokugawa Era (1600-1868), when half a million Buddhist temples were built, keeping complicit silence while the Japanese government committed a holocaust, genocide and total extermination against the Japanese Christian brothers and sisters. In fact, even the Japanese Buddhist temples would have carried out the task of inspecting or evaluating whether the people were Christian. The result of not approving such inspections was the death, which shows that since the seventeenth century the Japanese Buddhism actively participated in genocide, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity, totally exterminating the Japanese Christian people.

The International Buddhist Ethics Committee makes this repudiation against the Japanese Buddhist lineages in order to try that history is not repeated again, because although Japan has abandoned its genocidal militarism of crimes against humanity, however, the Japanese government has adopted an ecocidal capitalism of crimes against nature. Even though the lineages and Buddhist schools of Japan are not directly collaborating in these crimes against non-human beings, they are undoubtedly keeping complicit silence in the face of such barbaric acts. The Buddhist Law requires that apprentices, masters and spiritual communes practice active contemplation, compassionate wisdom and humanitarian ethics, performing acts of support and solidarity to all sentient beings. Therefore, it is confirmed the fact that not only those masters and communities that have practiced Imperial-Way Buddhism are repudiated, but are also repudiated all those who are silent against the ecocidal crimes that Japan is committing against non-human beings that are advanced in emotions and intelligence, such as dolphins and whales. Ergo, the International Buddhist Ethics Committee dictates that all spiritual communes (sanghas) that perform acts of direct support or acts of silence in the face of international crimes will be totally violating Buddhist Law.

Always with spirit of reconciliation (maitri),

Master Maitreya Samyaksambuddha

President and Judge of the International Buddhist Ethics Committee & Buddhist Tribunal on Human Rights


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