Sunday, November 29, 2009

Gudo Nishijima's 90th Birthday

Today is Gudo Nishijima Roshi's 90th birthday. To mark the occasion we asked him to give a talk at our zazen class at the Young Buddhists Association in Tokyo yesterday. He agreed, and asked me what topic I'd like to hear him talk about. Seeing as it was his 90th birthday, I said it’d be nice to hear him talk about his own life.

We arranged to meet at his apartment around noon yesterday, and to take a taxi together to the meeting place. While we were in the taxi, he said he felt very happy to be celebrating his 90th birthday. He said so many things had happened in his life, but now that he had reached 90 he felt really happy.

We reached the Young Buddhists Association with time to spare. Nishijima had time for some tea and rice crackers before his talk. There was a good number of people there, with the room more or less full. During his talk, Nishijima spoke about his family and upbringing and what caused him to become interested in Buddhism. Then we had time for questions. The talk was scheduled to last an hour, but there were plenty of questions, so we ended up running well past the hour.

I made a video recording of Nishijima's talk. In the following clip, he talks about his first teacher, Master Kodo Sawaki.

After the talk we presented Nishijima with some gifts and cards from his students in Tokyo and overseas. He seemed very happy to receive them and thanked everybody.

Later on we held a small birthday party at an Indian restaurant. Now that I think of it, we forgot to arrange a birthday cake. But I don't think Nishijima cared. He seemed very happy.

All the best,



  1. Thanks, Peter.

    Sounds like you all had a great day.

    Regards to all,


  2. Thanks, Peter! Great everything went well!


  3. Wonderful! I'd like to know what criticisms about Sawaki Roshi, that book had mentioned.


  4. Hi Al,

    Nishijima Roshi is likely referring to the book 'Zen at War' where Master Sawaki is portrayed as some sort of blood thirsty militant fascist and thoughtless war criminal.

    You can read an interesting exchange between Muho from Antaiji and the author here:

    Although there is much good information in Zen at War I think the author went a stretch too far and descended into (at the very least) poor academic protocol in his treatment of Master Sawaki (he seems to have accepted a second hand, and quite distorted/manipulated, translation of things that Kodo Sawaki said about his war experience. Muho picks up on this very well in the above link).



  5. p.s.

    Nishijima Roshi discusses the point here also:



  6. Thank you for celebrating, Peter. May he have another 90.

    Gassho, Jundo

  7. Harry,

    Thanks! Ironically I was just reading some of Muho's excellent 'Shit Papers'.

    I'll read the exchange. I actually need to buy that book.

  8. Dear Peter,

    a wonderful idea to see Nishijima talking on his 90th birthday. I enjoyed watching it. Thank's



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