Brian Victoria

Brian Daizen Victoria (born 1939)[1] is an American educator, writer and Buddhist priest in the Sōtō Zen sect.[2] He has published numerous works on the relationship of religion to violence, with a focus on the relationship between Buddhism and Japanese militarism around World War II.


Victoria is a native of Omaha, Nebraska. He graduated in 1961 from Nebraska Wesleyan University in Lincoln, Nebraska. He trained at the Sōtō Zen monastery of Eihei-ji and holds a M.A. in Buddhist Studies from the Sōtō Zen–affiliated Komazawa University in Tokyo. He received his Ph.D. from the Department of Religious Studies at Temple University.[2]

Vietnam eraEdit

Victoria was a war protester during the Vietnam War.[3]


Victoria has taught Japanese language and culture at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, Creighton University, and Bucknell University in the United States and lectured in the Department of Asian Languages and Literatures at the University of Auckland. He was a Senior Lecturer in the Centre in Asian Studies at the University of Adelaide in South Australia.[4] He has also been Yehan Numata Distinguished Visiting Professor, Buddhist Studies at the University of Hawaii-Manoa in Honolulu. From 2005 to 2013, he was a professor of Japanese Studies and director of the Antioch Education Abroad “Japan and Its Buddhist Traditions Program” at Antioch University in Yellow Springs, OH.[2] Since 2013, he a Fellow at Oxford Centre for Buddhist Studies at the University of Oxford and a Visiting Research Fellow at the International Research Center for Japanese Studies in Kyoto.[5]

Zen at WarEdit

First published in 1997, Zen at War is based on the work of Japanese scholars and Victoria's own studies of original Japanese documents. It describes the influence of state policy on Japanese Buddhism before and during WWII and conversely the influence of Zen philosophy on the Japanese military. The book has been hailed as a major contribution to a previously unexamined aspect of Japanese religious history, and criticized for imposing anachronistic values when evaluating the words and deeds of the time.


There are a number of criticisms directed at Victoria's methodology in critiquing a number of individuals. Most prominently in Zen at War, but also in subsequent articles.[6] The criticisms have focused on Victoria's portrayals of D.T. Suzuki, Kodo Sawaki, and Tsunesaburo Makiguchi.[7][8][9][10][11]

Henry Schliff of the University of Colorado, in reviewing the essay compilation Buddhist Warfare, cites the methodology of Victoria's essay, “A Buddhological Critique of 'Soldier-Zen' in Wartime Japan", as the one major flaw in the book:

Rather this essay struck me as incongruous with every other essay in the text in terms of methodology. To use Victoria’s own words, he has “left the realm of ‘objective scholarship’ to pursue a partisan agenda”. True to this claim, the bulk of Victoria’s article traces a trajectory of progressively essentialist language that by implication would invalidate not only the heterodoxical views expressed by Zen militarists during World War II but also nullifies many orthodox systems of Mahāyānist philosophy that developed in Northern India, Nepal, and Tibet...Victoria’s presentation speaks rather as a categorical indictment of the whole of Mahāyāna Buddhism. Analogically, this would be like a Dominican priest arguing that all Catholics regardless of their historical, cultural, or doctrinal orientation had fundamentally misunderstood the concept of the Holy Spirit. The methodological error appears in Victoria’s argument when he attempts to use militant Zen in the context of wartime Japan to illustrate what he sees as pervasive doctrinal errors throughout the history of Mahāyāna Buddhism. This reformist approach noticeably contrasts with the other essays in Buddhist Warfare, which consistently maintains a high level of academic rigor regardless of any subjective biases.[12]



  • 外人であり、禅坊主であり… [A foreigner, and a Zen priest] (in Japanese). San-ichi Shobo. 1971. ASIN B000J9HRNK.
  • (With Yuho Yokoi) Zen Master Dogen: An Introduction with Selected Writings. Weatherhill. 1976. ISBN 978-0834801165.
  • Zen at war (2nd ed.). Lanham e.a.: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc. 2006. ISBN 978-0742539266.
  • Zen War Stories. Routledge. 2012. ISBN 0700715800.



  1. ^ "外人であり、禅坊主であり…". Retrieved 2014-09-30.
  2. ^ a b c "Brian Victoria". Oxford Centre for Buddhist Studies. Archived from the original on 2014-09-29. Retrieved 2014-09-29.
  3. ^ Tsujimura, Shinobu (3 September 2004). "Zen War Stories, by Brian Daizen Victoria". Social Science Japan Journal. 7 (2): 286–289. doi:10.1093/ssjj/jyh032.
  4. ^ "School of Social Sciences: Dr Brian Victoria". Archived from the original on 2005-06-15.
  5. ^ "Visiting Research Fellows". International Research Center for Japanese Studies. Archived from the original on 2014-09-29. Retrieved 2014-09-29.
  6. ^ Metraux, Daniel A. (2004). A Critical Analysis of Brian Victoria's Perspectives on Modern Japanese Buddhist History, Journal of Global Buddhism 5, 66-81
  7. ^ Sato, Kemmyo Taira (2008). "D.T. Suzuki and the Question of War" (PDF). The Eastern Buddhist 39 (1), 61-120. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2014-10-25. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  8. ^ Victoria, Brian Daizen (2010). "The "Negative Side" of D. T. Suzuki's Relationship to War" (PDF). The Eastern Buddhist. 41 (2): 97–138. Archived from the original (PDF) on November 29, 2014.
  9. ^ Sato, Kemmyo Taira (2010). "Brian Victoria and the Question of Scholarship" (PDF). The Eastern Buddhist 41 (2), 139-166. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2014-11-29. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  10. ^ ""Zen at War" Brian Victoria: Throwing Bombs at Kodo" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2015-01-04.
  11. ^ "Critical Comments on Brian Victoria's "Engaged Buddhism: A Skeleton in the Closet?"" (PDF). Journal of Global Buddhism. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2014-07-18.
  12. ^ Schliff, Henry (2011), "A Review of Buddhist Warfare" (PDF), Journal of Buddhist Ethics, 18: 174–175

External linksEdit