This short paper takes a look at the impact both Zen and Stirner’s philosophy could have in the West.  It does not go into extensive detail, but helps prompt  reflection on the similarities between these two philosophies.



This volume explores seven distinct cases of radical Buddhism, providing a comparative overview of the diverse interactions of different types of Buddhism and various forms of political radicalism. Contributors to this special issue focus on Buddhist radicalism as a general phenomenon, but some of them specifically explore movements that were inspired by socialist ideologies in the broadest sense and therefore conceptualize these as examples of specific cases of radicalism. By examining the individuals (monks, scholars, and laypeople) and movements (both inside and outside the sangha) responsible for the creation and promotion of radical Buddhism, this volume deals with an area of Buddhist modernism that has hitherto been neglected in research. The contributions also examine the various ways in which the Buddhadharma and radical ideas were conceptualized as an integral part of the emergence of Asian “modernity,” both in response to and in resistance to Western imperialism and the forces of incipient globalization. By focusing on specific nonwestern conceptions of modernity, the volume allows for a decentering of notions of a “universal” (or purely Western) modernity. Finally, as noted above, by understanding Buddhist socialist movements as “radical,” this volume allows for a broader conception of Buddhist resistance, and puts into question the definition of terms such as “socialist,” “anarchist” and “communist” when used in a non-western and specifically Asian Buddhist context. Covering examples from Theravāda Buddhism (Thailand, Sri Lanka, India) as well as various regions of Mahāyāna Buddhism (China, Korea and Japan), the volume will explore the heterogeneity of these movements, but will also highlight the continuities that mark the connections and conjunctures between Buddhism and radical political theories and practice. While mainly historical in its outlook, the articles will approach the relevant topics and materials from a variety of innovative perspectives, exemplifying a broad range of academic viewpoints and methods; e.g., historical, philosophical, anthropological, textual and cultural.

James Mark Shields


Full Text:


In the early decades of the twentieth century, as Japanese society became engulfed in war and increasing nationalism, the majority of Buddhist leaders and institutions capitulated to the status quo. One notable exception to this trend, however, was the Shinkō Bukkyō Seinen Dōmei (Youth League for Revitalizing Buddhism), founded on 5 April 1931. Led by Nichiren Buddhist layman Seno’o Girō and made up of young social activists who were critical of capitalism, internationalist in outlook, and committed to a pan-sectarian and humanist form of Buddhism that would work for social justice and world peace, the league’s motto was “carry the Buddha on your backs and go out into the streets and villages.” This article analyzes the views of the Youth League for Revitalizing Buddhism as found in the religious writings of Seno’o Girō to situate the movement in its social and philosophical context, and to raise the question of the prospects of “radical Buddhism” in twenty-first century Japan and elsewhere.

James Mark Shields

Full Text:


By the time of the Russo-Japanese War it is fair to say that the clerical and scholarly leaders of Japan’s traditional Buddhist sects were firm supporters of the government’s policies, especially its war policies. But this does not mean that there was no Buddhist resistance to the government. There were, in fact, a few Buddhist priests who not only opposed what they believed to be their government’s increasingly repressive and imperialistic policies but actually sacrificed their lives in the process of doing so.

This chapter will focus on one such group of “radical” Buddhists. Because they were quite small in number, it might be argued that this attention is unwarranted, but few as they were, they had a significant impact on the Buddhist leaders of their time, especially as those leaders continued to formulate their individual and collective responses to Japan’s military expansion abroad and political repression at home.

Brian Victoria


Full Text:

Credit to the creator of

Can purchase the full book here:


The late Meiji period (1868–1912) witnessed the birth of various forms of “progressive”
and “radical” Buddhism both within and beyond traditional Japanese Buddhist institutions. This paper examines several historical precedents for “Buddhist revolution” in East Asian—and particularly Japanese—peasant rebellions of the early modern period. I argue that these rebellions, or at least the received narratives of such, provided significant “root paradigms” for the thought and practice of early Buddhist socialists and radical Buddhists of early twentieth century Japan. Even if these narratives ended in “failure”—as, indeed, they often did—they can be understood as examples of what James White calls “expressionistic action,” in which figures act out of interests or on the basis of principle without concern for “success.” Although White argues that: “Such expressionistic action was not a significant component of popular contention in Tokugawa Japan”—that does not mean that the received tales were not interpreted in such a fashion by later Meiji, Taishō and Shōwa-era sympathizers.

James Mark Shields

Full Text:

Why Anarchists Like Zen?  A Libertarian Reading of Shinran (1173-1263) by Enrique Galvan-Alvarez

Most attempts to formulate a Buddhist anarchism in the West take Zen Buddhism as their reference point, often disregarding other Buddhist traditions and their anarchic/libertarian potential. In response to these early Western formulations I propose an alternative pathway for Buddhist anarchism based on a radically different Buddhist tradition, that of Shinran Shonin (1173–1263). Shinran’s thought can arguably contribute to contemporary Buddhist anarchism some of the elements that it seems to be lacking: a self-critique that is not devoid of social criticism, a deconstruction of Buddhist power and an historical awareness. For this purpose, I will first outline some of the anti-authoritarian traits in Shinran’s writings, which have so far not been read from an explicitly anarchist angle. Then I will look closely at Shinran’s critical view of humanity and human relations through his concept of mappo, drawing out the egalitarian and subversive implications of Buddhist eschatology. In so doing I show how Shinran’s radical re-reading of the Buddhist canon, and the self-understanding it yields, bring into question some important narratives that legitimize and construct the established, politico-religious order.

Full text can be found here


African-American and queer Buddhist teachers Rev. angel Kyodo williams and Lama Rod Owens, with Professor Jasmine Syedullah, have brought their brilliant minds and courageous hearts together in their book Radical Dharma: Talking Race, Love, and Liberation (North Atlantic Books). They have also included the voices of other liberation-minded Buddhist practitioners, engaging them in conversations about what it should mean to practice Buddhism while bearing witness to police killings and mass incarcerations of Black people in the U.S. This combination of intersecting identities, talking in trialogue and in face-to-face conversations with complete strangers, makes Radical Dharma an unusual and fierce read.

Full Article