Zen Terror: Killing Compassionately?

Religious terrorism is today almost exclusively associated with Islam in the popular mind. Thus, Buddhist terrorism would seem to be an oxymoron. Yet, though little known in the West, there was a major terrorist incident in 1930s Japan tied to the Zen sect of Buddhism. It consisted of a series of three assassinations directly contributing to Japan’s emergence as a totalitarian society, thereby facilitating Japan’s subsequent attack on Pearl Harbor. Popularly known as the “Blood Oath Corps Incident,” Inoue Nisshō, a lay disciple of Rinzai Zen Master Yamamoto Gempō, headed a band of some twenty Zen-trained terrorists.

While exploring the historical significance of this incident, the presentation will focus on the Buddhist justification for these terrorist acts as expressed by band members, especially Onuma Shō, assassin of former Finance Minister Inoue Junnosuke. Onuma testified, “Our goal was not to harm others but to destroy ourselves. We had no thought of simply killing others while surviving ourselves. ... A mind of great compassion was the fundamental spirit of our revolution.” The presentation poses the question of whether a Buddhist can legitimately claim to kill compassionately.

Read presenters' biography

Posted by IAFOR