“…The aim of this war is to bring the profound knowledge of Buddha to the world; to liberate all sentient beings from their secular religions. Faith: we are her army,” concluded Lieutenant Shinji Okazaki.
“Killing in the name of altruism? You’ve lost it,” argued Sergeant Yuya Hasebe.
“Better than killing for greed,” added Sergeant Hotaru Endo.
“Whichever way you look at it, it’s killing for prosperity: a bigger wallet, more farms, breeding ground, grand temples, and the list goes on,” replied Sergeant Hasebe.
“But that’s where you’re wrong. It’s not killing, not necessarily. It’s just freeing the mind and soul from the restrictions of the human body. A man’s face, his very skin, the way he speaks, is a vehicle of prejudice that limits spiritual awareness,” said Sergeant Endo.
“Exactly! The great vehicle is a combination of the mind and soul. The body is a utility of segregation that restricts true enlightenment,” agreed Lieutenant Okasaki.
“Then why haven’t you done us all the favor of killing yourself?”
“Because destruction of the body can only come when the soul is prepared,” answered Lieutenant Okasaki.
“So we are the deciding factor of spiritual preparedness?… That concept alone is racist and demented. Religion was created through environmental circumstances, which is exactly why Christianity exists in the west and Buddhism in the east. We all stare up at a different sun.”
“So the Jews are the exception?” said Sergeant Endo to Sergeant Hasebe.
“The sun stares down on them, not the other way around,” showed the Lieutenant.
“Haha I like that. If your body makes it through this war then you have a career as a monk ahead of you, Leiutenant.”
“So what if someone dies before enlightenment is achieved? What does that mean for their soul? Will they simply be condemned so others are given the chance to recognize the religious teachings of a rival nation?” asked Hitomi Chiyoko, entering the fold of the group with an open pack of cigarettes stretched outward.
“It depends on what happens at the moment of their death, Captain,” stared Leiutenant Okasaki. He lit his cigarette and continued, “If they abandon the natural world entirely and allow themselves to see through the eyes of Buddha, which is a privelage provided to all dying men, then salvation is achieved. His energy exists all around us, you just have to abandon false beliefs to recognize it, and that extends past religion to realms of materialism, narcissism and so on.”
“The light at the end of the tunnel,” marveled Sergeant Endo.
“I’m sure the Americans preached that exact concept to the American Indians before they killed them off, Lieutenant,” replied Captain Chiyoko, taking a seat on the edge of the foxhole.
“So you disagree with what we were sent here to do, Captain?” asked Sergeant Hasebe.
“Not at all, Sergeant, but it certainly is not the type of holy war you think it to be. We, men that is,” – he signaled – “are not fighting for the salvation of other men. Something far greater than us is fighting to reclaim our souls,” he said, looking up into the starless night to see if he could catch a glimpse of the faceless caretaker.
“I can’t say you’re incorrect,” said the Lieutenant. “Every war since the construction of language and the labeling of the stars and the planets has been a holy war.”
“You’re a bleak bunch, aren’t you,” scoffed Sergeant Hasebe, before snatching the pack of cigarettes from Captain Chiyoko and lighting another one.
“We were made in god’s image after all,” replied Captain Chiyoko with a sly smile.
“Do you believe in the afterlife, Captain?” asked Sergeant Endo.
“Not necessarily. Well, not in the traditional sense.”
“Are you afraid to die?”
“No… I’m afraid of slavery,” he finally answered. “You see, you cannot have an experience of nothingness, nature contradicts it. Something happens when you die, whether it’s heaven or hell, falling into an everlasting dream, reincarnation, or sharing a glass of sake with Buddha himself. Something happens” – he took a long drag of his cigarette – “you can see it in a person’s eyes when they die.” Then, as if looking into the eyes of the people he killed, he continued, “Slavery… slavery is stagnant.”
“Have you seen peace in their eyes,” asked Sergeant Endo, falling deeper and deeper into Captain Chiyoko’s waking lullaby.
The light of the cigarette illuminated the base of Captain Chiyoko’s face, casting an ominous shadow up to his eyes. He looked like a man who had learned the secrets of life through death. Smoke poured from his mouth, flowing both up and down like he had mastered the complexity of nature, and with a half smile he answered, “Not if they aren’t mindfull of Buddha, Sergeant.”
Laughing, Sergeant Hasebe said, “I bet you’ve heard angels sing too, huh, Captain!”
“My entire childhood was taunted by the songs of an angel, Sergeant Hasebe.”
“Your mother sounds like a lovely woman, Captain,” said the Lieutenant.
“I wouldn’t know, Lieutenant… Be sure to get some rest tonight,” he said, before climbing out of the foxhole and walking away into the night as nothing more than a dimly lit cigarette.
“Hey, Captain, I’d liked to hear one of those songs some day!” screamed Sergeant Hasebe. His words chased after Captain Chiyoko and did not fall on deaf ears.
Captain Chiyoko continued his rounds around the camp, as he made his way back to his foxhole, checking on groups of talkative soldiers, and secluded ones, to offer them Lieutenant Mineichi’s pack of cigarettes. He said very little, mostly encouraging words, but his presence was noted, though it did little to alter his image among the men.
“I saved you one,” said Captain Chiyoko, tossing Lieutenant Mineichi the empty pack of cigarettes.
“Dinner,” replied Lieutenant Mineichi, as he pulled out his lighter.
“Consider it leftovers.”
The night was still, exept for the incessant flurry of mosquitos that feasted on their buffet of fresh meat. A cool air draped down the mountain and slithered out of the jungle, shooing the mosquitos away and pouring drowsiness into the foxholes of Gorudo Company. Captain Chiyoko sat in silence with Lieutenant Mineichi, sharing his pack of cigarettes late into the starless night. The peace was interrupted by the distant rumble of tanks rolling over the rocky terrain in search of death. Tracers illuminated the open plain, soaring to and from the jungle like fallen stars trying to ascend back to their place in the heavens. The clatter of machine guns and the dull boom of mortar fire sang in the night. Many people were facing their moment with Buddha, breathing their final breathes while fumbling for recognition from a nonexistent god. But that is not to say that they did not discover true enlightenment during that nano-second between living and death; that is not to say the angels were not singing for them. “Do you see that?”
“The path to Nirvana. It’s terrifying.”