Jakucho Setouchi, 99-year-old Buddhist monk, died in New York

Jakucho Setouchi, the 99-year-old monk who wrote a memoir of his “fruitful life” in Japan, died in New York in August, according to the Kyodo News.

Setouchi — who wrote a book titled Always Together: The History of My Life, My Love, and a Discoveries of the Dharma in Japan — spoke little of the abuse he experienced during his three years in Japan, preferring to focus on the challenges of growing up during World War II. “The change is almost like the beginning of man, and I am still working and experiencing as if I’m a small boy again,” he said, according to The Los Angeles Times.

Known as “the only abbot of the time in many ways” — he lived as abbot for more than 50 years, and was the general master of the Soto Buddhist sect — Setouchi was chosen as the leader of the Soto Buddhists in 1939, after the death of his predecessor. He has said he was able to enter a comfortable job after writing a letter to Prime Minister Nobusuke Kishi, then Japan’s prime minister, explaining why Buddhism was a more important institution for Japan than the military. Despite the frailness and difficulty he experienced at the hands of his counterparts at the Zen Council, Setouchi was unfazed. “We are teaching the religion so that people will also develop their personal cultivation,” he once said.

Setouchi was also said to be kind and loving. His one lasting impact was in founding a monastery, which he lived in for decades, where he lived on a $1 a month stipend. According to the Kyodo News, Setouchi died from a heart attack in his apartment in New York, where he had a large open-air shrine.

This story has been updated to include the date of Setouchi’s death.


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