SBP Blog

The Association of Jewish Libraries reviews 'The Buddhist Swastika and Hitler's Cross'

Michael Palmer - Monday, November 11, 2019

"Buddhist priest and scholar Rev. Dr. T. K. Nakagaki delineates the history of the Swastika as both a positive symbol of peace and through the Nazi usage that has come to represent evil and darkness."

Big thanks to Eli Lieberman for his review of T.K. Nakagaki's The Buddhist Swastika and Hitler's Cross: Rescuing a Symbol of Peace from the Forces of Hate for the Association of Jewish Libraries. Here's the full review:

"Nakagaki, T. K. The Buddhist Swastika and Hitler’s Cross: Rescuing a Symbol of Peace from the Forces of Hate. Berkeley, CA: Stone Bridge Press, 2019. 199 pp. $18.95 (9781611720457).

In this book, Buddhist priest and scholar Rev. Dr. T. K. Nakagaki delineates the history of the Swastika as both a positive symbol of peace and through the Nazi usage that has come to represent evil and darkness. As Nakagaki demonstrates, the swastika as understood in Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism, and specifically as it relates to Buddhist history in Japan and elsewhere, is always used to represent auspiciousness and good fortune. He surveys the history of its usage around the world as a historical symbol as well, in European and North America, ranging as far as parts of Africa and elsewhere. This survey is used to show that the symbol has had a positive meaning for far longer than the Nazi association with the symbol.

The Nazi usage was built on earlier Eurocentric usages that utilized the now discredited Aryan invasion theory which was used to explain the linguistic connections between European languages and Sanskrit in history. Nakagaki also separates the positive meaning of the swastika from the Nazi Hakenkruez, the term Hitler himself used to connect the Christian cross to his new meaning of the symbol of the swastika as the pursuit of Aryan victory and antisemitism.

At the end of his analysis of the meaning of the symbol in the 21st century context and its valences in different communities, both positive and negative, Nakagaki suggests example statements for museums and Hindu and Buddhist temples and other cultural centers. These statements explain the usage and history of the swastika in contexts in which the symbol does not stand for hatred, in order to increase peace and understanding. This book is recommended for all libraries, especially those that have strong Holocaust collections and collections on interfaith relations.

Eli Lieberman, Judaica librarian, HUC-JIR New York"

Grab a copy of the book here:


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