Mumon Yamada

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Mumon Yamada
Born16 July 1900
Died24 December 1988 (aged 88)
Senior posting
Based inShofukuji
SuccessorShunan Noritake Shodo Harada

Mumon Yamada (July 16, 1900 – December 24, 1988), or Yamada Mumon (山田 無文), was a Rinzai roshi, calligrapher,[1] and former abbot of Shōfuku-ji in Kobe, Japan.[2] Mumon was also the former head of the Myōshin-ji branch of the Rinzai school of Japan.

His most prominent student (and Dharma heir) is Shodo Harada of Sōgen-ji, an influential master in both Japan and the United States.[2]

Activities relating to Aftermath of World War II[edit]

Mumon, together with Rinzai priest Hisamatsu Shin'ichi, was on the original planning committee for the first Zen-Christian Colloquium started by the Quakers in 1967. The meeting was designed to open dialogue between Christians and Buddhists and establish peace in the wake of damage caused by World War II.[3]

Daizen Victoria writes, "[Yamada Mumon] helped establish the 'Society to Repay the Heroic Spirits [of Dead Soldiers]' (Eirei ni Kotaeru Kai). Yamada asserted that since Japan's fallen soldiers had clearly been involved in a 'holy war,' the government should reinstate financial support for enshrining their "heroic spirits" (eirei) in Yasukuni Jinga, a major Shinto shrine located in the heart of Tokyo."[4]

In a speech he gave on the matter, Mumon said, "Japan destroyed itself in order to grandly give the countries of Asia their independence. I think this is truly an accomplishment worthy of the name 'holy war.' All of this is the result of the meritorious deeds of two million five hundred thousand spirits in our country who were loyal, brave, and without rival. I think the various peoples of Asia who achieved their independence will ceaselessly praise their accomplishments for all eternity."[5]

During the Second World War, while with Seisetsu Roshi, he visited many places of war, and what he saw left him with deep feelings of repentance. In 1967 he went on pilgrimages to various Southeast Asian countries to apologize to and say sutras for the war dead of all religions, and he taught this posture of repentance to his students as well. Although he knew only a few words of English, he taught many students from abroad and established many strong karmic connections. He traveled to the opening of Dai Bosatsu Zendo in New York State, to the San Francisco Zen Center, to the Mount Baldy Zen Center in California, and to Mexico. He made a pilgrimage to India and at Bodhgaya built a Japanese temple. He went to Europe and opened the East West Spiritual Exchange between Catholicism and Buddhism, himself entering and living in nine contemplative monasteries in Europe, experiencing the life of the monks there. His disciples settled all over Europe, strengthening his extensive karmic ties with the West.

Teaching style[edit]

According to G. Victor Sōgen Hori in the book The Faces of Buddhism in America, "Students of Yamada Mumon Rōshi say that outside the sanzen room, he looked and acted like a tiny, wispy, immaterial Taoist hermit, but that inside the sanzen room, he suddenly turned into a lion."[6]


  1. ^ Ford, 116
  2. ^ a b Harada, ix
  3. ^ King, 17
  4. ^ Victoria, 85
  5. ^ Selden, 102-103
  6. ^ Prebish, 68-69


  • Ford, James Ishmael (2006). Zen Master Who?: A Guide to the People and Stories of Zen. Wisdom Publications. ISBN 0-86171-509-8.
  • Harada, Shodo (1993). Morning Dewdrops of the Mind: Teachings of a Contemporary Zen Master. Frog Books. ISBN 1-883319-10-2.
  • King, Sallie B.; Paul O. Ingram (1999). The Sound of Liberating Truth: Buddhist-Christian Dialogues in Honor of Frederick J. Streng. Routledge. ISBN 0-7007-1121-X.
  • Prebish, Charles S.; Kenneth Ken'ichi Tanaka (1998). The Faces of Buddhism in America. University of California Press. ISBN 0-520-21301-7.
  • Selden, Mark; Alvin Y So (2004). War and State Terrorism: The United States, Japan, and the Asia-Pacific in the Long Twentieth Century. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers. ISBN 0-7425-2391-8.
  • Victoria, Daizen (2003). Zen War Stories. Routledge. ISBN 0-7007-1580-0.