Soyen Shaku (釈 宗演, 1859 – October 29, 1919, Kamakura, Japan; sometimes written as Soen Shaku or Kogaku So’en Shaku) was the first Zen Buddhist master to teach in the United States. He was a Roshi of the Rinzai school and was abbot of both Kencho-ji and Engaku-ji temples in Kamakura, Japan. Shaku was a disciple of Imakita Kosen.....
Despite his anti-war statements, Soyen served as a chaplain to the Japanese army during the Russo-Japanese War, which he believed to be a just cause. In 1904, the Russian author and pacifist Leo Tolstoy wrote Shaku in the hopes that he would join him in denouncing the war. Shaku refused, concluding that "... as a means of bringing into harmony those things which are incompatible, killing and war are necessary." (quoted in Victoria, 1997) After the war, Shaku would attribute Japan's victory to its samurai culture, which he traced back to the nation's amalgamation of Buddhism, Confucianism, and Shinto.
From: Russo-Japanese War - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
The Russo-Japanese War (Japanese: 日露戦争; Romaji: Nichi-Ro Sensō; Russian: Русско-японская война Russko-yaponskaya voyna; simplified Chinese: 日俄战争; traditional Chinese: 日俄戰爭; pinyin: Rì'é Zhànzhēng, 8 February 1904 – 5 September 1905) was "the first great war of the 20th century" which grew out of the rival imperial ambitions of the Russian Empire and Japanese Empire over Manchuria and Korea. The major theatres of operations were Southern Manchuria, specifically the area around the Liaodong Peninsula and Mukden, the seas around Korea, Japan, and the Yellow Sea.
The Russians sought a warm water port on the Pacific Ocean, for their navy as well as for maritime trade. Vladivostok was only operational during the summer season, but Port Arthur would be operational all year. From the end of the First Sino-Japanese War and 1903, negotiations between Russia and Japan had proved impractical. Japan chose war to maintain dominance in Korea.
The resulting campaigns, in which the Japanese military attained victory over the Russian forces arrayed against them, were unexpected by world observers. As time transpired, these victories would transform the balance of power in East Asia, resulting in a reassessment of Japan's recent entry onto the world stage. The embarrassing string of defeats inflamed the Russian people's dissatisfaction with their inefficient and corrupt Tsarist government, and proved a major cause of the Russian Revolution of 1905.
Casualties and Losses
Russian: 34,000 – 52,623 killed and died of wounds; 9,300 – 18,830 died of disease; overall 43,300 – 71,453
Japanese: 47,400 – 47,152 killed; 11,424 – 11,500 died of wounds; 21,802 – 27,200 died of disease; overall 80,378 – 86,100
From: Soyen Shaku, Zen for Americans: An Address Delivered at a Service Held in Memory of Those Who Died in The Russo-Japanese War
AT THE GOLDEN GATE HALL, NOVEMBER, 1905.
I AM requested here to-night to speak concerning our brethren who fell in the greatest and most sanguinary war of modern times,--the war that only recently was brought to a conclusion. But what shall I say? Shall I eulogize the glory of their death? or shall I depict to you the unimaginable horrors of war? or have I to praise the prowess and success of our Japanese army and navy? or have I to dwell upon the innumerable sufferings of our people at home which have been brought about by the war? I am not, however, an orator in any sense of the word, and am utterly disqualified for the task laid down before me, either to glorify the dead or to denounce war. All that I can do is to look upon the matter from a purely religious viewpoint and to express my own ideas concerning those unfortunate dead who fell in the defense of our fatherland. And, if I can, let me try to make their departed spirits calmly repose where they fell, while I demonstrate to those left behind the fact that the immortality of the soul consists in the realization of noble deeds, and not in the continuation of personality after death, if such a thing be at all possible....
.....Rebirth does not mean the reawakening of the dead. Reincarnation does not mean the resuscitation of a dried-up mummy. The immortality of the soul does not mean the continuation of the individual soul as conceived by most religionists. The spirit is not a thing material and sensual, however ethereally or astrally you may conceive it. It is a transcendental existence, which knows no limiting conditions such as space, time, or causation. Where you feel a noble feeling, where you think a beautiful thought, where you do a self-sacrificing deed, there is the spirit making itself felt in your consciousness.
There is but one great spirit and we individuals are its temporal manifestations. We are eternal when we do the will of the great spirit; we are doomed when we protest against it in our egotism and ignorance. We obey, and we live. We defy, and we are thrown into the fire that quencheth not. Our bodily existences are like the sheaths of the bamboo sprout. For the growth of the plant it is necessary to cast one sheath after another. It is not that the body-sheath is negligible, but that the spirit-plant is more essential and its wholesome growth of paramount importance. Let us, therefore, not absolutely cling to the bodily existence, but, when necessary, sacrifice it for a better thing. For this is the way in which the spirituality of our being asserts itself.
This being the case, war is not necessarily horrible, provided that it is fought for a just and honorable cause, that it is fought for the maintenance and realization of noble ideals, that it is fought for the upholding of humanity and civilization. Many material human bodies may be destroyed, many humane hearts be broken, but from a broader point of view these sacrifices are so many phenixes consumed in the sacred fire of spirituality, which will arise from the smouldering ashes reanimated, ennobled, and glorified. The spirit which dwelt in them and brought them to the altar now assumes another material expression in the form of coming generations. Those fallen in the field are returning to dust in order to nourish vegetation, or, as the Japanese would express it, to fill- the hungry stomach of the wild dog. But this is true only of their particular bodily forms. As to the spirit, it has not gone up to a mythical region which some religious people call heaven. It has not vanished into the air in the fashion of a ghost. Nor is it sitting by the so-called Heavenly Father encircled by a host of angels. We Buddhists are not believers in fiction, superstition, or mythology. We are followers of truth and fact. And what we actually see around us is that the departed spirits are abiding right among ourselves, for we have the most convincing testimony of the fact in our inmost consciousness which deceives not. They descend upon us, they dwell within us; for are we not being moved by their courage, earnestness, self-sacrifice, and love of country? Do we not feel supernaturally inspired and strengthened in our resolution to follow them and to complete the work they have so auspiciously started? Personally and individually, we may grieve over their being no more among us in their material garb, but superpersonally our life is enriched and illuminated by their death.
We understand, therefore, by the immortality of the soul the perpetuation of spiritual life, not individually but supra-individually. The life runs in and through individuals, but it is more than the totality of them. It does not die with their annihilation, it survives them, and wears another garment of bodily existence, making itself ever younger, stronger, and nobler. In this sense, Japanese belief in the ancestral shades is justifiable. They are not really vanished in the haze of bygone ages; they are living in the freshness of youth in our midst, and what we worship is not their ghostly presence but their living spirit. Those who fell in the late war are not really fallen; they are still alive in the minds and hearts of their friends and worshipers. From the world of sense they are forever departed, but they have found their enduring home in the supra-individual realm. Their bones are crumbling in the dust, but their spirit is enkindled in our hearts. This, one of the plainest facts in the world, will be doubted only by those near-sighted, grossly material egoists who refuse to see the significance of human life.
I am by no means trying to cover the horrors and evils of war, for war is certainly hellish. Let us avoid it as much as possible. Let us settle all our international difficulties in a more civilized manner. But if it is unavoidable, let us go into it with heart and soul, with the firm conviction that our spiritual descendants will carry out and accomplish what we have failed personally to achieve. Let, therefore, the dead quietly repose in their last sleep. Nobody will dare stir their glorious ashes. As for us who are left behind, no superfluous words are in place, only we must not disgrace the honor and spirit of the dead who have solemnly bequeathed to us their work to perfect. Mere lamentation not only bears no fruit, it is a product of egoism, and has to be shunned by every enlightened mind and heart.
From: Battle of Nanshan - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
The Battle of Nanshan (南山の戦い, Nanzan no tatakai?) was one of many vicious land battles of the Russo-Japanese War. It took place on 25 May 1904 across a two-mile wide defense line across the narrowest part of the Liáodōng Peninsula, covering the approaches to Port Arthur and on the 116-meter high Nanshan Hill, the present-day Jinzhou District, north of the city center of Dalian, Liaoning, China..... The Russians lost a total of about 1,400 killed, wounded and missing during the battle. Although the Japanese did not win lightly, having at least 4,324 casualties, they could claim victory.
From: Soyen Shaku, Zen for Americans: At The Battle of Nan-Shan Hill
ALL that I can say is, "It beggars description!" Verily, it is the acme of brutality and recklessness conceived in this world of individualization (nâmarûpa). Even the fight between the Asura and Sakrendra, the demons and the angels, witnessed by our Buddha, seems here to sink into insignificance.
As far as my unaided eye can see, nature around me is calm. The Tai-lien Bay to the left and the Kin-chou Bay to the right, both as tranquil as mirrors, and above us and over the Nan-Shan Hill, where directly in our front the Russian fortifications stand, the sky expands in majestic serenity. Nothing suggests the awful carnage which there is enacted. Guns roar, bombs burst, but we do not see whence they come, and their knell only offsets the solemnity of these peaceful surroundings. But when I look through a powerful field-glass, I behold the hillsides strewn with dead and wounded, and soldiers rush onward over these wretches, while the enemies on the hill are madly scrambling, stumbling, and falling. I shudder at the sight.
Still more appalling is a visit to the battlefield after the fight. Yesterday, when I viewed Nan-Shan Hill from a distance, imagination lent enchantment to the spectacle, and at times the cannonade even impressed me with grandeur. But I am now confronting actualities,--actualities whose terror and horror can never be forgotten. From the top of yonder hill, where, under the calm summer sky, nature smiled in beauty, I could form no true conception of the tragedy, which, as I see now, took place here in unparalleled fury and madness. What a strange paradox is this contrast,--a most horrible catastrophe of human life happening in the most delightful surroundings! It makes me meditate again on the doctrine of our teacher.
Buddhism provides us with two entrances through which we can reach the citadel of perfect truth. One is the gate of love (karunâ) and the other the gate of knowledge (prajñâ). The former leads us to the world of particulars and the latter to the realm of the absolute. By knowledge we aspire to reach the summit of spiritual enlightenment; by love we strive to rescue our fellow-creatures from misery and crime. View the vicissitudes of things from the unity and eternity of the religious standpoint, the Dharmadhatu, and everything is one, is on the same plane, and I learn to neglect the worldly distinction made between friend and foe, tragedy and comedy, war and peace, samsâra and nirvâna, passion (kleça) and enlightenment (bodhi). A philosophical calm pervades my soul and I feel the contentment of Nirvâna. For there is nothing, as far as I can see, that does not reflect the glory of Buddha. Even in the midst of this transcendent universality, however, my heart aches with a pain, undefinable yet insuppressible. Love for all sentient beings asserts itself, and that frigid indifference of the intellect gives way.
And why was it necessary that the many horrors of this present war should come to pass? Why had those poor soldiers to sacrifice their lives? In every one of them a warm heart has been beating, and now they are all lying on the ground in piles, stiff and stark like logs.
O Mother Earth! All these my fellow-creatures, it is true, are made of the same stuff of which thou art made. But do not their lives partake of something not of the earth earthy, altogether unlike thyself, and, indeed, more than mere gross matter? Are theirs not precious human souls which can be engaged in the works of peace and enlightenment? Why art thou so gravely dumb, when thou art covered with things priceless that are being dissolved into their primitive elements?
In this world of particulars, the noblest and greatest thing one can achieve is to combat evil and bring it into complete subjection. The moral principle which guided the Buddha throughout his twelve years of preparation and in his forty-eight years of religious wanderings, and which pervades his whole doctrine, however varied it may be when practically applied, is nothing else than the subjugation of evil. To destroy the ninety-eight major and eighty-four thousand minor evils, that are constantly tormenting human souls on this earth, was the guiding thought of the Buddha. Therefore, every follower of the Buddha builds a great boat of love, launches it on the great ocean of birth and death, steers it with the great rudder of faith, and sails forth with a steadfast mind through the whirling tempest of egotistic desires and passions. No Buddhist will ever relax his energy, until every one of his fellow-creatures be safely carried over to the other shore of perfect bliss.
War is an evil and a great one, indeed. But war against evils must be unflinchingly prosecuted till we attain the final aim. In the present hostilities, into which Japan has entered with great reluctance, she pursues no egotistic purpose, but seeks the subjugation of evils hostile to civilization, peace, and enlightenment. She deliberated long before she took up arms, as she was well aware of the magnitude and gravity of the undertaking. But the firm conviction of the justice of her cause has endowed her with an indomitable courage, and she is determined to carry the struggle to the bitter end.
Here is the price we must pay for our ideals--a price paid in streams of blood and by the sacrifice of many thousands of living bodies. However determined may be our resolution to crush evils, our hearts tremble at the sight of this appalling scene.
Alas! How much dearer is the price still going to be? What enormous losses are we going to suffer through the evil thoughts of our enemy, not to speak of the many injuries which our poor enemy himself will have to endure? All these miserable soldiers, individually harmless and innocent of the present war, are doomed to a death not only unnatural, but even inhuman!
Indeed, were it not for the doctrine of love taught by the Buddha, which should elevate every individual creature to the realm of a pure spirituality, we would, in the face of the terrible calamities that now befall us, be left to utter destruction and without any consolation whatever. Were it not for the belief that the bloom of truly spiritual light will, out of these mutilated, disfigured, and decomposing corpses, return with renewed splendor, we would not be able to stand these heart-rending tribulations even for a moment. Were it not for the consolation that these sacrifices are not brought for an egotistic purpose, but are an inevitable step toward the final realization of enlightenment, how could I, poor mortal, bear these experiences of a hell let loose on earth?
The body is but a vessel for something greater than itself. Individuality is but a husk containing something more permanent. Let us, then, though not without losing tenderness of heart, bravely confront our ordeal.
I came here with a double purpose. I wished to have my faith tested by going through the greatest horrors of life, but I also wished to inspire, if I could, our valiant soldiers with the ennobling thoughts of the Buddha, so as to enable them to die on the battlefield with the confidence that the task in which they are engaged is great and noble. I wished to convince them of the truths that this war is not a mere slaughter of their fellow-beings, but that they are combating An evil, and that, at the same time, corporeal annihilation really means a rebirth of soul, not in heaven, indeed, but here among ourselves. I believe I did my best to impress these ideas upon the soldiers' hearts; and my own sentiments I express in the following stanza, one of the many poems composed on the field of battle:
Here, marching on Nan-Shan,
Storming its topmost crest,
Have thousands of brave men
With dragon valor pressed.
Before the foe my heart
Is calmed, composure-blessed,
While belching cannons sing
A lullaby of rest.
From: Soyen Shaku, Zen for Americans: Buddhist View of War
BUDDHIST VIEW OF WAR 1
"THIS triple world 2 is my own possession. All the things therein are my own children. Sentient or non-sentient, animate or inanimate, organic or inorganic, the ten thousand things in this world are no more than the reflections of my own self. They come from the one source. They partake of the one body. Therefore I cannot rest quiet, until every being, even the smallest possible fragment of existence, is settled down in its proper appointment. I do not mind what long eons it will take to finish this gigantic work of salvation. I work at the end of eternity when all beings are peacefully and happily nestled in an infinite loving heart."
This is the position taken by the Buddha, and we, his humble followers, are but to walk in his wake.
Why, then, do we fight at all?
Because we do not find this world as it ought to be. Because there are here so many perverted creatures, so many wayward thoughts, so many ill-directed hearts, due to ignorant subjectivity. For this reason Buddhists are never tired of combating all productions of ignorance, and their fight must be to the bitter end. They will show no quarter. They will mercilessly destroy the very root from which arises the misery of this life. To accomplish this end, they will never be afraid of sacrificing their lives, nor will they tremble before an eternal cycle of transmigration. Corporeal existences come and go, material appearances wear out and are renewed. Again and again they take up the battle at the point where it was left off.
But all the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas never show any ill-will or hatred toward enemies. Enemies--the enemies of all that is good--are indeed wicked, avaricious, shameless, hell-born, and, above all, ignorant. But are they not, too, my own children for all their sins? They are to be pitied and enlightened, not persecuted. Therefore, what is shed by Buddhists is not blood,--which, unfortunately, has stained so many pages in the history of religion,--but tears issuing directly from the fountain-head of lovingkindness.
Zen for Americans Index