Have you ever picked up a book and expected great things from it and been sorely disappointed?
The Buddhist Swastika And Hitler's Cross is NOT one of those books!
Published by Stone Bridge Press and written by the Reverend Dr. T.K (Kenjitsu) Nakagaki (中垣 顕實), a Buddhist priest, the book explains in exquisite detail what the differences are between Nazi Germany's symbol of hate and racism - the hakenkreuz - and the eastern symbol - the swastika - and how Hitler used it to destroy this Buddhist symbol of "all virtues".
Of course it's not just a symbol of Nazi Germany or of Buddhism.
Take a look at the cover image above.
Hitler's hakenkreuz is always right-facing, placed at an angle, and is encompased in inner white and outter red. At least that's the way Hitler used it.
The Buddhist symbol, is usually found with it being left facing. It is called the gyaku manji (逆卍, lit. "reverse manji")
As a "reverse manji" it implies there is a "forward manji". Sometimes it is right facing, as seen in the photo I took below at a shrine around Mt. Nasu in Tochigi-ken, Japan:
The swastika symbol above is on the face of a large taiko drum. I suppose we can just call this a manji symbol.
But, thanks to this book - The Buddhist Swastika And Hitler's Cross - I have learned that the swastika... the eastern symbol was never called a swastika by Hitler. It was just a hakenkreuz. A hooked cross.
Other cultures also use the swastika in their religions. The Jains and Hindus for example. But there were other usages as well.
Along with an obvious swastika symbol applied to it, there was a certain Boy Scout merit badge. It used the right-facing symbol.
So to did an American Coca-Cola badge.
The swastika was considered a "good luck" symbol.
Yes, the symbol is being used by various Hate Groups around the world - white supremacists and anti-Semetics - but are they using it correctly.
Unless the symbol is placed at an angle to mimic Hitler's Nazi symbol, it's not a hakenkreuz. It's just an eastern symbol of "good luck" and "virtue".
Ah... but I don't do the book justice with such a flippant remark.
The book does tend to beat to death the differences between the Buddhist symbol and Hitler's - but that's okay. It needs a beating. Buddhist philosophy aside, of course.
Nakagaki wants the world to stop fearing the Buddhist swastika - it's the hakenkreuz that deserves the negative attention.
Nakagaki also delves in to Hitler's origin story. Not merely content with writing about the hakenkreuz, the author delves into what the political climate was like in the years before Hitler's rise to power, discussing the anti-semitic writings of composer Richard Wagner and protestant reformation founder Martin Luther - stuff that blew me away.
Wagner was my favourite composer... but after reading this book... now he's not... though I do like the pomposity of his music.
On a lark, on Wednesday evening I decided to write to author Rev. Dr. T. Kenjitsu Nakagaki. I asked a few questions, praised his book and thanked him for teaching me a few things.
He wrote back!
Here’s what he had to say:
“For me, the book is the first step to start more dialogue, awareness and education. I had an interfaith dialogue on the swastika symbol at the Parliament of the Word’s Religions Conference in Toronto the other day. Though we had only 45 minutes, the panel presentation was great.”
Wait… the guy was JUST in Toronto where I now live - and I missed this? Nertz.
I asked about why Hitler decided to tilt the hakenkreuz, but he was unable to find an explanation.
I asked if the term svastika or swastika was a constant in other languages - you know, a borrowed word.
Nakagaki said: “As for what name people name the symbol, each culture and language use it differently. Svastika in India is definitely very ancient as the symbol of the sun. Other cultures may use it differently such as four rivers.”
Along with being a quick read, it's a fascinating read. You will learn something - guaranteed.
If you are going to arm yourself with anything, arm yourself with good knowledge.