Talk:John David Provoo
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I knew John Provoo as "Nichijo" between around 1975 and 1993 in Hawaii. I am only now becoming aware of his wartime story from a perspective other than his own. His is very much a "Rashomon" story, where the truth depends on the perspective of the viewer.
Observations from someone who knew John David Provoo (Nichijo Shaka)
I knew John David Provoo (Nichijo Shaka). In 1981, I spent about 4 months living with him at his Buddhist temple/school near Pahoa, Hawaii. I spent a lot of time talking to him and got to know him fairly well. I was the person known as Kyosan. I can prove that I stayed at his school. I have a letter signed by Nichijo stating that I was admitted.
I felt that the original page on John David Provoo was very biased. It said very little about the positive things and focused mainly on the negative things in his life. I added a section at the end which discusses Nichjo's life as a Buddhist priest. That helped balance the article some and I intend to add more material eventually. I don't blame the writers very much, because I realize that most of the printed material available on Nichijo is about the treason charge against him.
Nichijo told me that many Americans don't understand him and I think that is very true. As a POW, he made the best of a bad situation and tried to have a good relationship with the Japanese so that he could influence them in a positive way. He was in a unique position to influence the Japanese and took advantage of that.
During times of war the enemy is often dehumanized and the soldiers come to hate the enemy. But Nichijo was not a typical soldier. Prior to the war he had been living with the Japanese as a monk, and didn't feel the same degree of hostility toward the Japanese as the other Americans. If he did feel hatred for them, or anyone else, that would go against his religious beliefs. Hatred is considered toxic in Buddhism and serious Buddhists such as Nichijo avoid it. He got along better with the Japanese than the other POWs and was able to communicate with them because of his language skills, but that doesn't mean that he sided with the Japanese.
Though Nichijo went to Japan to study Buddhism, that doesn't mean that he adored the Japanese. He went to Japan because Japan was a good place for him to study Buddhism. He was often critical of the Japanese. So when I read news articles that said he was more Japanese than the Japanese it makes me doubt the accuracy of the articles and the POWs who made that claim.
Nichijo had a sense of humor and enjoyed telling the story about how American troops reported seeing him wearing a kimono during the Corregidor surrender to the Japanese (when Nichijo and others were captured and became POWs). It turns out that he was actually wearing his Buddhist monks robe. We laughed at this, but it shows to what extent Nichijo was misunderstood.