Is Zen a Terrorist Religion? (Three Zen-related Terrorist Incidents in 1930s Japan)

Brian Daizen Victoria


This article seeks to answer the question of whether the Zen school of Buddhism in Japan can be considered a terrorist faith. It begins with a brief historical introduction to three major terrorist incidents in 1930s Japan, all of which had a clear connection to the Zen school, including both the Rinzai and Sōtō Zen sects. In chronological order the three incidents are the Blood Oath Corps Incident of 1932; the Aizawa Incident of 1935, and the Young Officers’ Uprising of 1936 (J., Ni Ni Roku Jiken). Following the introduction, the Zen connection to each of these incidents is identified. The conclusion addresses the question of whether Zen, or at least Zen in prewar Japan, may accurately be identified as a terrorist faith.

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