Japanese Buddhist T.K. Nakagaki sets out to educate West on swastika of good fortune
The Kyodo News profiles Rev. Dr. T.K. Nakagaki's mission to educate the west on the origins of the Buddhist Swastika. His new book The Buddhist Swastika and Hitler's Cross gracefully explains this ancient symbols origins and how it was misappropriated by the forces of evil.
"When monk Rev. Kenjitsu Nakagaki was honoring Buddha's birthday with a sacred flower ceremony at a shrine in Seattle in 1986, he was met with sharp criticism for the chrysanthemums he arranged in the shape of a counterclockwise swastika.
Nakagaki, then 25, who moved to Seattle from Osaka, Japan, for his first mission the previous year, was unaware neo-Nazis and white supremacists continued to use the Nazi swastika to promote hate. He knew the symbol as "manji," a Chinese character that means "good fortune" in the Japanese language.
"You can't do that in this country," Nakagaki recounted a devoted temple member's words in telling him to remove from the roof of the flower shrine a symbol that is a racial epithet in the United States and Europe.
"After I got that lesson, I decided not to use that particular symbol -- for the past 25 years."
But such episodes in which Nakagaki felt Buddhism was being marginalized piled up. And at a 2009 interfaith workshop, where a hate crimes expert called the swastika "a universal symbol of hate and evil," he made the decision to preserve the emblem's original meaning.
"This narrow and limited perspective is unacceptable for those of us who value and have grown up with the swastika in our religions and culture," said the 57-year-old."