Sunday, December 23, 2007

Right Mindfulness...


I last posted about two months ago on this blog. Since mid-October I have been transitioning back to the States from Iraq. It's so good to be back!

In my last post I talked about how following Right Action in the Eightfold Path can help one in their job in the military. Being ever mindful is another important part. Right Mindfulness can be simply called "mental discipline" according to the all-knowing Be ever aware of where your mind is at. This is essential when making decisions in a military environment. I try to keep a Buddhist mindset as I can sometimes let emotions or personal needs get in the way of being a professional. The easy path is to lose your cool and to forget what is the right way to think and rationalize. The Buddha would have thought and spoke rationally and calmly. These are not Marine Corps skills. However it will make you more respected in the long run.

Get to know yourself and you can become mindful of how your body is doing physically. One can be in a better state of health when you are aware of just what your state of "self" is.

A lot of what you will read about mindfulness assumes that you are a monk living in a monastery and meditate 10 hours a day. I wish I had that kind of time on my hands! I think with some modification it all can be integrated into daily life.

I think that one's way of talking is largely what defines a person. I'll go over Right Speech the next time I post. Take Care!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Chaps' Dharma Talk: Dazed and Confused!

Hello all!
This past weekend I attended a Christmas Party hosted at the home of one of our Op Ministry Center chaplains. A very nice guy (and a former Marine like myself!), he introduced me to one of his civilian friends in this way:

"This is Chaplain Shin, she's our first Buddhist Chaplain! And...she's the real thing!"
His friend asked, "What do you mean by 'real thing?'" (and by this time I was curious to find out too).
"She's not confused about who she is!"

That was certainly a fascinating insight (to put it neatly), and it left me thinking about what this implied. I was deemed the "real thing" not because I was ordained in Japan, or had a Master's Degree in Buddhism, or because I had an endorsement from the Buddhist Churches of America, but because in our past conversations, I was able to state clearly what I believed, and why I believed as I did...and didn't mumble that I wasn't too sure, or did the "blank stare," I guess! Undoubtedly my chaplain colleague, a devout Christian minister, had met Buddhists before in the service, or rather, persons whom he believed seemed more "confused" rather than a "professing" Buddhist, in his opinion. Now this is an assumption I've encountered among other Christian chaplains and this assumption runs something along the line of: Servicemembers (especially young junior enlisted) who claim to be Buddhist are simply either experimenting with non-Christian religions (this also includes Wicca) out of rebellion against their upbringing in a Christian home (the spiritual equivalent of playing Marilyn Manson in your room, loud), or have rampant curiosity about "Eastern religions" (the result of living away from home for the first time), or are just trying for an "easy out" of their military contract and believe that the act of saying that they are Buddhist will be enough to get it torn up. Interestingly, this doesn't seem to apply to members who are of Asian ethnicity (Buddhism just being a natural part of our ethnic makeup, which is something some academics also believe)!

This is a bit troubling in its way: it implies a belief that there is a certain lack of sincerity, or genuine religious devotion, in American Buddhists, or at least in American Buddhist servicemembers. This is clearly not true for the most part, but I've encountered some of these attitudes myself, so I cannot discard them completely.
This doesn't mean that our chaplains are refusing to facilitate for Buddhists, but it does suggest that they see Buddhists as full of doubt, just going through a phase, and that they are essentially "dazed and confused." Like the Buddhist equivalent of Day One of USMC boot camp!

It shouldn't be a surprise if many Buddhists ARE in fact dazed and confused! As I've pointed out in previous posts, we can find virtually all the different Buddhist traditions that now exist in the world today, here in the USA. We can find them here in California alone! Even more confusing, all these different Buddhist traditions believe and practice different things, the clergy wear different colored robes or no robes at all, and teachers can be Asian, Caucausian, or African-American. Some are strict vegetarians and others eat 100% beef hot dogs. Some meditate for 12 hours a day or more, others reject meditation altogether. Some say that Buddhism is a way of life and not a religion, while others pray for lucky lottery numbers. Some say that Buddhism is an entirely rational philosophy, empirical and scientific, while others pray to Amitabha and Kannon and Ksitigarbha for a better rebirth, and prostrate themselves before images of stone and wood and porcelain. Some Buddhists reject military service, others are dues-paying VFW members. Who WOULDN'T be dazed and confused?

Such apparent contradictions might seem just plain horrific to members of other religions. Instead, we can see this as beautiful. The Buddha said there are 84,000 paths to Enlightenment. Isn't this evidence of the truth of his teachings? Just because there is diversity does not mean that Buddhists don't know what to believe or what to do. Anyone who would describe themselves as Buddhist is, from the very beginning, dazed and confused! We have only just begun to touch the very edge of Lord Buddha's wisdom-compassion. We are working always to lessen our dazed, confused selves.

Education is key: this why we Buddhists must take the time to study for ourselves which path to follow, and take the time to think through what Dharma teachers say and write. Know what you want to learn from Buddha-Dharma. For new Buddhist servicemembers seeking help from a chaplain, be sure that you know what kind of assistance you want: for example, do you want assistance in finding a temple to attend, or just a monk or layperson to speak to? If you are in a personal crisis, do you know if, in that tradition, the clergy have had experience in counseling? Do you want a specific service, like a wedding or memorial service? Do you know what they look like, and what is expected of you? Are you searching for a place to practice sitting meditation, or a place where whole families attend and socialize? Would you be comfortable attending a temple that observes different cultural customs concerning gender, age, social etiquette, etc., and will also expect you to observe them? If you are geuininely seeking conscientious objector status, are you able to clearly explain why to a chaplain? Knowing something of Buddhist practices, cultures, and teachings will help not only you, but also help the chaplain to help you better, and (let's face it) take you seriously.

This is why study is important. Don't read only one book on Buddhism, because not every Buddhist book on the shelf at Borders is necessarily objective, or even accurate. Every author writes with their own agenda in mind, including myself - for example my agenda is pro-military and pro-Jodo Shinshu, obviously! Therefore ensure that your own Dharma study is a study! We can do critical study in Buddhism! Again, remember the teaching of the Buddha to the Kalama clan: put the Dharma into practice for yourselves, and your confusion [over what is a good teaching] will lessen.
Namo Amida Butsu

Friday, December 7, 2007

Chaps' Dharma Talk: Happy Bodhi Day!

Hello all!
December 8th is a day in which some Buddhist traditions (including the Jodo Shinshu tradition) commemorate the awakening to Enlightenment of Sakyamuni Buddha. Our temples usually have a special service around this time (often with good food)! This is a typical time to talk about what the Buddha's Enlightenment means for us. So...what does it mean for us? Does it have anything to do with us, in fact?

Each human being has to consider his or her own path to Enlightenment. The Buddha himself said, that the Tathagatas ("Awakened Ones") only showed the way, that we ourselves must make the effort. So in the centuries from the Buddha's time to now, many, many paths to Enlightenment have been blazed by people inspired by the Buddha's teachings, and his personal example. However, what goes into this "effort"? This is the tricky part! Why are there so many different Buddhist practices? Why do some teachers say you must do meditation, and others say that only faith is required? What about everything in between? What is the more "authentic" Buddhism: Theravada or Mahayana? How can all these be reconciled with what the Buddha taught?

It's easy to become confused, even discouraged, by so much diversity! We can easily stumble into a pothole on the path by encountering contradictions in the teachings, imperfect teachers, bizaare cultural rituals, and what not. We could try to go back to what the Buddha "originally" said, but he never wrote anything down in his own hand, and neither did his disciples - we still have to rely on what the Dharma texts (those that survived to this day anyway) stated that they said and did (so even doing this requires a leap of faith)! How can we be sure that we are on the right path to Enlightenment?

Some people assume that Enlightenment for Buddhists is something that they are trying to reach in their lifetimes, that it is essentially the completion of our religious life ("So, your goal is to become Enlightened?"); this has always sounded problematic to me, as if we are struggling to obtain something wonderful, yet a something which is intangible, rather vague, and always out of reach. Occassionally when I am quizzed on this, I can see the confusion (for lack of a better word) in people's faces, as if they are imagining that Buddhists are just waiting, day by day, to become Enlightened!

In my tradition, we say that the Buddha "awakened" to Enlightenment, rather than "attained" Enlightenment, as it is usually put. I do not beleve that Enlightenment is like a prize to be won, it is not even a goal to be reached. This may sound puzzling, but please think about it: what would an Enlightenment mean to you? Does it represent the climax of many years' study and practice? Would be a constant state of euphoric bliss? Would it enable you to know the past, present, and future, give you special "powers" as if you discovered you were actually Spiderman? Is it the equivalent of "Heaven?" Is it the end of samasara? If people ask you to describe it, what could you say?

Enlightenment can possibly mean many different things to different people. I am sure we can read many treatises discussing it, and discussing around it: Enlightenment has always been described as not possible to describe in the human language. While other aspects of Buddhist practice, such as meditation, can be described very thoroughly, now, even scientifically, Enlightenment itself is something more mysterious, more primordial. The word "Enlightenment" itself (bodhi) may not even be adequate. Yet what Buddha awakened to, we do know, was something that has always existed, and something that was, and is, possible for all people. It is a beneficial something, yet it cannot benefit others without the wisdom and compassion shown by the Buddha's personal example, and without our willingness to hear it. Why did the Buddha not just become Enlightened, and ignore the rest of us (this is called becoming a pratyeka-buddha, or "solitary Buddha")? This must be something that calls for our own personal involvement, to follow the Buddha's example, perhaps not 100% like pretending to live like an ancient Indian, but to put into practice in our own lives the principles of Buddhahood. I think that this is the real effort required by us. It can't be forced upon anyone. It can't do anything for us unless we are, at least, willing to try to hear and understand. How do we know it is any good? The Buddha advised the Kalama clan, who had asked him that very question, to simply put it into practice for themselves and witness its fruits. Some Buddhist practices may help people, others may not be so helpful. There is no "one size fits all" Buddhist practice! Is there a "one size fits all" human being?

Personally, the Buddha's Enlightenment for me is a teaching of hope; as a Jodo Shinshu Buddhist, I am not worried if it does not happen in my lifetime. I don't think most Buddhists anyway are walking around constantly thinking about when they will reach that most mysterious and beautiful possibility of Being. For most of us, it is enough simply being on the path, with fellow travelers, heading towards what we imagine to be an Other Shore, but truly the authentic Awakening must be when we truly appreciate our samsaric existence.
Namo Amida Butsu

Friday, November 30, 2007

Mail to Support a Recovering American Soldier


Walter Reed Army Medical Center officials want to remind those individuals who want to show their appreciation through mail to include packages, letters, and holiday cards addressed to "Any Wounded Soldier" or "A Recovering American Soldier" that Walter Reed cannot accept these packages in support of the decision by then Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Transportation Policy in 2001. This decision was made to ensure the safety and well being of patients and staff at medical centers throughout the Department of Defense.

In addition, the U.S. Postal Service is no longer accepting "Any Service Member" or "A Recovering American Soldier" letters or packages. Mail to "Any Service Member" that is deposited into a collection box will not be delivered.

Instead of sending an "Any Wounded Soldier" letter or package to Walter Reed, please consider making a donation to one of the more than 300 nonprofit organizations dedicated to helping our troops and their families listed on the "America Supports You" website,

Other organizations that offer means of showing your support for our troops or assist wounded servicemembers and their families include:

Friday, November 23, 2007

UK Armed Forces Annual Buddhist Community Conference 2008

Dear all,

I have now fixed the dates for the UK Armed Forces Annual Community Conference and it would be great opportunity for you to meet some of our Buddhists here in the UK and vice versa.

The dates are from the 21-23rd of May 2008 and it will be held at Amport House Hampshire (about 1 hrs 30 minutes from London).

Please pencil it in your diaries and let me know as quickly as possible so that I can book a place for you.

All best wishes!

Yours in Dhamma,


Sunil Kariyakarawana, PhD
Buddhist Chaplain to HM Forces
Wellington Barracks
Birdcage Walk
London SW1E 6HQ

tel. 0044 207 414 3411

Friday, November 16, 2007

2008 Scholarships for Military Children

By Caroline Williams,
FORT LEE, Va. – Applications for the Defense Commissary Agency’s 2008 Scholarships for Military Children Program are available now in commissaries worldwide or online through a link at and at
The program kick-off each year in November coincides with “National Military Family Month,” and the scholarships are a great way for commissaries to get involved with the community and demonstrate support and respect for the contributions of military families.
According to Richard Page, DeCA’s acting director and chief executive officer, the program has awarded more than $5.5 million dollars in scholarships to 3,532 of the best and brightest children of military families since it began in 2001.
“We take enormous pride in the scholarship program,” he said, “because it’s a great opportunity for commissaries to make a difference in the communities they serve. DeCA is committed to education and increasing opportunities for the children of military families.”
With college costs soaring, students and their parents appreciate every available scholarship to help defray the cost, and the scholarships enable many families to afford the tuition and provide an incentive for students to work hard.
The $1,500 scholarships are available to unmarried children under the age of 21 (or 23, if enrolled in school) of military active-duty, retired, and Guard and Reserve service members. Most of the funds are donated by manufacturers, brokers and suppliers that sell groceries in commissaries, and every dollar donated to the program by industry or the general public goes to fund the scholarships. The program is administered by the Fisher House Foundation.
Eligibility is determined using the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System database. Applicants should ensure that they, as well as their sponsor, are enrolled in the DEERS database and have a current ID card. The applicant must be planning to attend, or already attending, an accredited college or university full-time in the fall of 2008, or enrolled in a program of studies designed to transfer directly into a four-year program.
Applicants must submit an essay arguing for or against the following statement: “Every able-bodied citizen should be required to serve a two-year period of time in the military. Why or why not?” Applications must be turned in to a commissary by close of business on Feb. 20, 2008. At least one scholarship will be awarded at every commissary location with qualified applicants.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Veterans Day

For this observance of Veterans Day, please offer your thoughts and prayers for all our Nation's Veterans. Without their courage and sacrifices, we simply would not have the freedom to practice the diverse teachings of Buddha-dharma today. Let us always have gratitude for the people who have served in our Armed Forces, coming from many different backgrounds and religious traditions, so that we may continue to honor the Three Treasures.
Namo Amida Butsu

Monday, November 5, 2007

Chaps' Dharma Talk: Buddhist Prayer

Hello all!

The concept of "prayer" in Buddhism can be a delicate one, ripe for controversy, although it doesn't need to be. Some Buddhists interpret Buddhism as an essentially rationalist philosophy, compatible with science, and see 'prayer' as possibly unnecessary at best or, at worst, misleading. Others actively and regularly pray to the Buddhas and bodhisattvas, and do ask for both spiritual and material benefits. Which is correct?

Before we can answer this question, we should ask ourselves, what does prayer do? What does prayer do for me, and also, what does prayer do for others? Is "prayer" the same for all religions, or do different religions approach it differently?

Prayer, as practiced in the United States, is of course imbued with Christian tradition, so it is difficult to even think of the word, "prayer", without assuming that it involves addressing a speech to a deity (God), and asking for some thing, either spiritual (peace of mind, happiness) or material (health and wealth), for oneself alone, or for others (bless my family, friends, nation, etc). Prayer does not always include the act of requesting; it can be considered as an act of submission or devotion to a deity. Prayer can be very versatile. As a Navy Chaplain, prayer is an essential part of my job: prayers are involved in retirement ceremonies, change of command ceremonies, Evening Prayer (Tattoo) over the 1MC at sea, and so forth. Who can do prayers, and what language is used, can cause enormous controversies! People in America take prayer VERY seriously.

Prayer, in the Buddhist traditions, does exist. We may call it by other names (blessings, mantras) but the essence is similar. Prayer in Buddhism may have begun as a form of "recollection" of the Buddha following his parinirvana; it was a way to "recall to mind" the Buddha and his teachings. Most traditional prayers I have encountered are addressed to the Buddha or to the Bodhisattavas, the Bodhisattva Kannon (Kwan Yin), who manifests Compassion, being a most popular example. Prayers both serve as a way to praise the virtues of the Buddha, and to give us a focus for the directing of merits, to oneself or others. Not all traditional forms of Buddhism emphasize prayer, such as Jodo Shinshu, which discourages it because of the doctrine of Self-Power (jiriki) yet even nembutsu recitation is a verbal method for us to focus on the merits of Amida Buddha and our own potentiality for Buddhahood. In this way, prayer serves the same purpose as having a statue or image of Buddha: we are not "worshipping" the physical images, the same way we are not using "prayer" as a substitute for practice. Prayer is an upaya or "skillful means" towards fully understanding the holistic nature of the Three Treasures: Buddha, Dharma, Sangha. We can call this being respectful of the Buddha, mindful of his Teachings, and actively participating within the human community of Buddhists.

That is why I think it would be improper to declare what is a "right" form of Buddhist prayer, since there are so many different traditions and practices, just as there are different ways to chant or recite the sutras. Are there Buddhists who believe in prayer for material benefits and protection? There are! There are also Buddhists who do not rely on prayer, who may focus primarily on study and meditatiton. Buddhist prayer simply is one Buddhist practice among many, which some may accept and others reject.

For Buddhist Lay Leaders in the military, it is difficult to avoid the concept of prayer, so if you have not practiced this before, don't get hung up on the word itself, and try to understand it as upaya: would there be people who may benefit from hearing a blessing of Buddhist teachings in English? I would recommend that prayers be short and to the point (no one likes a long Evening Tattoo!), inclusive, while remembering that we are not trying to do Christian prayers disguised as Buddhist ones (for example, I do not have a problem with using "Lord" or "World-Honored One" in place of Buddha, but it would be a stretch to use the word "All-Mighty")! We don't have to "ask" or request a favor or privilege, but we can use words that recall us to mindfullness of concepts like peace, honor, courage, vigilance, etc. Certain sutras like the Metta (Loving-Kindness) Sutta can be adapted to a prayer-format.

Buddhist prayer may not be practiceable by everyone, due to its very personal, and emotional nature. You have to be comfortable with the idea of this particular use of language. As in other religions, no one respects an insincere prayer! Practice writing down or verbalizing what you would say, and would want to hear.
Namo Amida Butsu

Thursday, November 1, 2007

USAF Academy Buddhist Chapel Dedication

A place to find peace
By Erin Emery, The Denver Post, Oct 30, 2007

Air Force Academy dedicates Buddhist space in chapel

AIR FORCE ACADEMY, CO (USA) -- With incense burning, a small crowd of shoeless people gathered Monday to dedicate a Buddhist Chapel in the iconic Air Force Academy Cadet Chapel.

The Vast Refuge Dharma Hall Chapel, a 300-square-foot room where a growing number of cadet Buddhists meditate, is believed to be the first space in a federal facility dedicated to Buddhism.

"Cadets are different. Cadets don't fit into one mold, and that includes religion, and I think it is a great way to expand our minds and our hearts and to show that as cadets, we want to prepare ourselves in a holistic way," said cadet Leah Pound, 22, a senior from Parsons, Kan.

Among the academy's 4,500 cadets, 26 consider themselves Buddhists. The academy had established a Sangha, a spiritual community, seven years ago. Three years ago, the Rev. Dai En Hannya Hi Fu Wiley Burch, a graduate of the academy's first Class of 1959, asked that a multipurpose room in the lower level of the cadet chapel be transformed into a Buddhist Chapel.

Despite criticism two years ago that the academy favored evangelical Christianity over other religions, Burch said the academy met his idea with open arms.

"I understood there was a possibility or a place for Buddhism in the military," said Burch. "I understand the culture very well, and I understand the diversity of it. From that place, rather than being hard and coming in against, I came in willing to accept all. That's a Buddhist teaching, not to set yourself up against things so much as to just be, we say, like clouds and like water, just flow."

The $85,000 to construct the space, and an additional $10,000 a year for the next five years to operate the chapel, was provided by The Frederick P. Lenz Foundation for American Buddhism and Friends of Zen. No tax dollars were used on construction.

While many practicing Buddhism are pacifists, Burch said the Buddhist mind-set helps bring compassion to conflicts.

"Without compassion, war is nothing but criminal activity," Burch said. "It is necessary sometimes to take life, but we never take it for granted."

Cadet Melissa Hughes, 22, a senior from Jupiter, Fla., said cadets who practice Buddhism have spent hours talking about their beliefs and war.

"We realize that war is certainly a thing that we don't want to have to do, but sometimes it is absolutely necessary, and it requires compassion for your country, your family, the people that you are protecting. I think Buddhism definitely has a place there," Hughes said.

Noel Trew, 22, a senior from Fort Pierce, Fla., said he considers himself Christian, though he likes the Buddhist mind-set.

"It brings the meditative aspects. It's sit down and see what happens," Trew said. "That's kind of the core behind the practice. ... The core part is sitting down and trying to make your mind be quiet for a little while."

At the academy, with its rigorous academic, military and athletic curriculum, being quiet can be challenging.

"Every once in a while, we'll be sitting there in the meditative state and you'll hear ... bugle calls going off in the background. Our sensei just tells us, take that up and use that as part of the meditation," Trew said.

Monday, October 29, 2007

New Buddhist Chapel at USAF Academy

Buddhist chapel to be opened next Monday
Associated Press, October 26, 2007

AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. (USA) -- The Air Force Academy will dedicate its first Buddhist Chapel on Monday.
Wiley Burch, a Buddhist reverend in the Dai community and 1959 academy graduate, will officiate.

The chapel will be on the lower level of the Cadet Chapel.

Officials say there has been a growing number of Buddhists in the Cadets corps in recent year. --

If anyone has visited this chapel or attended services there, please give us a description!

Saturday, October 27, 2007

San Diego Area Meeting NOV 25 2007

For Buddhists servicemembers in the San Diego/Miramar/Camp Pendleton area, there will be an informal fellowship meeting on November 25th at 1000 at the Murphy Canyon Chapel, 3200 Santo Road, San Diego, CA. I will offer a lecture on the life of Sakyamuni Buddha, and give highlights on papers presented on Buddhism topics at the American Academy of Religion (AAR) meeting. Hope to see you there!

Sunday, October 21, 2007

After Action Report: 3rd Annual Buddhist Spiritual Care Symposium

Hello all!
I was fortunate to be able to attend this year's Buddhist Spiritual Care Symposium at the Insight Meditation Center in Redwood City, CA. This is a gathering of professional chaplains, volunteers and interested persons working outside traditional Buddhist settings (temples and monasteries) in order to provide spiritual care and compassion to people in hospitals, hospices, nursing homes, correctional facilities, and the military. The attendees came from many traditions of Buddhism: Vajrayana, Tibetan, Mahayana, Zen, Vipassana, and Pure Land. We all had the same focus, which was to discuss this new and historic chapter in American Buddhism, and the ways in which we could best understand and perform our roles, and how to adapt a 2500-year-old religion and way of life to 21st-century nontraditional settings.

We began with meditation, followed by an opening Dharma talk by Tom Kilts, a CPE administrator of the Vajrayana tradition, who presented an outstanding lecture and discussion on the forms of authority implicit in chaplaincy work. Following his talk, everyone introduced themselves, and then we had a great vegetarian lunch! After lunch, we had a talk by guest speaker Dr. Dhammaratna Rina Sircar, a Dharma teacher of vast experience in pastoral care. She is originally from Burma; everyone was deeply moved to hear her relate her concern for the welfare of her family in Burma. She led us in a beautiful refuge-taking (Vandana Ti-Sirana), followed by a prayer to the 28 Buddhas. Her message was about her experience in care for elderly patients; she emphasized for us to cultivate tolerance, and especially patience. She concluded her talk by leading us through the Loving-Kindness Meditation. After another short break we had simultaneous breakout sessions on current issues in chaplaincy. We wrapped up around 1630, and concluded with Dedication of Merit to the people of Burma and all those suffering in conflicts throughout the world.

Being at this symposium was a great thing for me personally, I enjoy working with all my other Navy chaplain colleages but it is also good to be around other Buddhists again, with whom I share a common language and a "non-theistic theology" (as Chaplain Kilts put it). This was a very good spiritual "self-care." I also enjoyed meeting other Buddhists working in chaplaincy, hearing their stories, sharing our experiences. I was glad to see that the attendees were a nearly equal mix of men and women working in this field. I also saw my Army friend, Chaplain Somya Malasri, there as well! Therefore, this was the first symposium in which we had representatives from Buddhist military chaplaincy! We were received very well. As excellent as the symposium was, it did remind me of the work we all need to still do, which is gaining acceptance for Buddhist chaplaincy, something that is not yet clearly understood by every Buddhist tradition, or welcomed by other, non-Buddhist chaplains. It is still a work in progress. I encourage anyone interested in Buddhist chaplaincy to pursue this path on many levels, whether as a professional or as a volunteer.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Eightfold Path and You

Hello out there!

In my first post I wanted to elaborate on my thoughts of how to be a Buddhist and in the military. I recently met someone here in Iraq that wanted to study Buddhism. They were sure that a military life and a Buddhist life had to be seperate. After e-mailing Chaplain Shin and pondering it myself, I've had to figure out how to make it work. I'd like to talk about The Eightfold Path and what it means to me. I'll cover the "points" one at a time. This all may sound primitive to the Buddhist scholars out there. I'm pretty new at this and these posts are in no particular order.

Right Action. This means upholding morals and ethics. To break it down Barney style: Do The Right Thing. In the military this is part of basic leadership. One has to set the right example for others to follow. Set higher standards for yourself and live up to them. Treat people with respect and your Karma points will grow by the buckets. All these parts of the Path tie into each other but I think that this is the most outwardly visible. The military and especially Marines are all about action. Right Action can help you succeed in the military and is an essential Buddhist teaching. Doing the right thing will free us from dealing with the consequences of our actions, therefore helping to eliminate suffering from our lives. The good Karma that results is an added benefit. And yes, good Karma can be earned by being in the military!

Next is Right Mindfulness.

Peace be with you!

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Chaps' Dharma Talk - Buddhist Worship Materials

Hello all!
Recently I added a list of "Where to Find Buddhist Materials" to this blog. Often, as solitary Buddhists in the military, we have to look for and purchase our own Buddhist worship materials, versus using materials that are available at a temple. It is a fair bet that your base chapel or chaplain may not have any Buddhist materials available (hopefully this may change in the future, and it doesn't hurt to ask). This talk is to help give guidance for Buddhists interested in performing lay services where they are stationed, or doing solitary practice or meditation.

Most Buddhists utilize some type of worship items during a formal service. Chaplain Somya Malasri and I agree on these basic items:

1) Buddha Statue or Picture
2) Offering Set (plates and cups)
3) Meditation Bell
4) Incense & Burner
5) Fruit and Flower Offerings (or other suitable items but no meats)
6) Candles
7) Meditation Cushion
8) Books (for chanting and or reading)

These items may vary in size and design depending on the form of Buddhism practiced, and obviously some items may not be practical or available in every place and situation. For example, during my shipboard meditation service, I can use the bell, cushions, and incense, but I leave out the rest as I treat meditation as something everyone can participate in, whether they are Buddhist or not. The bell and the smell of the incense provides a calming and relaxing environment in which to have "quiet time" even though it can get quite noisy (as Navy ships are)!

However, for a formal Buddhist worship service, it would be best to have at the minimum a Buddha image and books from which a lay person could read from or chant aloud. If it is possible to have all of the above, then the items should be arranged according to the above picture, with the devotional image at the center. These items should be handled with respect and care; sutra books should not be placed on the floor or on a chair (this is considered disrepectful of the Buddha's words). Not only is this proper etiquette, but also these items are not inexpensive!

In the Japanese Buddhist tradition, many lay Buddhists have their own home altar (o-butsudan or gohonzon), in which these and other items, such as family pictures, are placed in. They come in many different sizes, so it is also possible to find a suitable sized one for your room or home. This provides a "sacred space" in which to sit and practice. It is also possible for you to be creative and design your own altar space.

Of course, there are some places where you may have none of these items, which is also OK: having no worship materials is not a barrier to practicing Buddha-dharma. All that you are required to bring is you yourself!

If anyone has any suggestions on Buddhist materials or stories on how they can be utilized in the field or on base, please share them here!
Namo Amida Butsu

Monday, October 15, 2007

Reminder - San Diego Area Fellowship

For Buddhists stationed in the San Diego/Miramar/Camp Pendleton region, I am planning another get-together and discussion group this Sunday, October 21st at 1000. We will meet at the Murphy Canyon Chapel for 1 hour or so: I will give a lecture on the origins of Buddhism. Also I will be passing on lessons learned from the Buddhist Chaplains Symposium that is scheduled to be held on Oct. 20 in Redwood City (this is an annual meeting of Buddhist chaplains working in various fields of chaplaincy). So there should be some good material available (and snacks).

The Murphy Canyon Chapel is located at 3200 Santo Road, San Diego, 92124. (619) 556-0603.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

A Web Site for Buddhists in the US Air Force!

I just came across this Web site while randomly surfing: The author is active-duty USAF and is working on this site to help Buddhists in the USAF. Check it out!!!

Thursday, October 11, 2007

President Bush to Attend Dalai Lama's Ceremony

Bush to Attend Dalai Lama's Ceremony
The Associated Press
Thursday, October 11, 2007; 5:30 PM

WASHINGTON -- Risking heightened tensions with China, President Bush will attend a ceremony to award Congress' highest civilian honor to the Dalai Lama, the exiled Tibetan Buddhist leader whom Beijing reviles as a separatist.

Bush will go to the Capitol on Wednesday to speak at the presentation of the Congressional Gold Medal, whose recipients have included Mother Teresa, former South African President Nelson Mandela, Pope John Paul II and Ronald and Nancy Reagan. The president also will welcome the Dalai Lama in the White House residence Tuesday.

Beijing expressed its unhappiness about honoring the Dalai Lama, the winner of the 1989 Peace Prize.

"China resolutely opposes the U.S. Congress awarding the Dalai its so-called Congressional Gold Medal, and firmly opposes any country or any person using the Dalai issue to interfere in China's internal affairs," Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao said at a news conference in Beijing.

Liu said China had "presented a representation" to Washington over Congress' move, but gave no details.

In his remarks on Wednesday, Bush will say that "the Dalai Lama is a great spiritual leader whose aim is for the Tibetan people to be able to worship freely and to protect their land, but that they are not seeking independence from China," National Security Council spokesman Gordon Johndroe said. "The leaders of China should get to know the Dalai Lama like we've gotten to know him."

The Dalai Lama will be honored for his "many enduring and outstanding contributions to peace, nonviolence, human rights, and religious understanding."

The Dalai Lama has been based in India since fleeing his Himalayan homeland in 1959 amid a failed uprising against Chinese rule. He remains immensely popular among Tibetans, despite persistent efforts to demonize him by Beijing, which objects vigorously to all overseas visits by the Dalai Lama.

China claims Tibet has been its territory for centuries, but many Tibetans say they were effectively independent for most of that period.

In its announcement, Congress said that the Dalai Lama was "recognized in the United States and throughout the world as a leading figure of moral and religious authority."

It praised him for fighting for democracy, freedom, and Tibet's cultural heritage, saying he promoted peace for Tibet "through a negotiated settlement of the Tibet issue, based on autonomy within the People's Republic of China."

The Dalai Lama insists he wants "real autonomy," not independence for Tibet, but Beijing continues to accuse him of seeking to split the region from China.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Chaps' Dharma Talk - For Halloween: Buddhist Horror Cinema

Hello all!
This Dharma talk will be on a lighter note and can fit in with this month's Halloween observance - horror films with a Buddhist theme. When people think of movies that have a Buddhist theme, usually it is about Buddhism directly, like Little Buddha, Seven Years in Tibet, foreign films like South Korea's Spring, Summer, Winter, Fall...and Spring Again, or movies that could easily fit in with Buddhist concepts, like The Matrix or Groundhog Day. However, I think we can also learn about Buddhism through horror films, especially Asian horror films (sometimes called "J-Horror" as most of them were made in Japan). The kind of Buddhism we can learn from them is not necessarily its deep, philosophical concepts, but about how Buddhism interacted with the popular beliefs, customs, and cultures of the countries that Buddhism penetrated. Learning about these popular folk beliefs is just as important for the study of Dharma as the intellectual part; in many ways, they are still present in the countries we may be stationed in or deployed to. Here are some films (they're available on DVD) to witness this:

Kwaidan - (Japan, 1964) This is a collection of 4 Japanese ghost stories originally written by the American writer Lafcadio Hearn, who lived in Japan in the 1800s and adopted it as his homeland. One of the most famous stories is "Hoichi the Earless" about a blind biwa player haunted by the ghosts of samurai. A Buddhist monk writes the Heart Sutra on Hoichi's body to make him invulnerable to the ghosts, but forgets to write on his ears! This story reflects the belief of the power of Buddhist sutras to ward off evil spirits. Because of the influence of Christianity in the West, crucifixes are believed to ward off vampires and evil spirits - in Buddhism in the East, it is not the image of the deity, but the power of the written word, especially in its Sanskrit mantra form, to protect the believer. You don't hold up a picture or statue of Buddha to ward off evil, you use Chinese characters! It demonstrates the power of the Dharma not residing in the physical person of the Buddha, but in his teachings, and in the value of literacy in premodern society.

Nang Nak - (Thailand, 1999) This is a film about Thailand's most famous ghost, Mae (Nang) Nak. Nang Nak is a young wife who dies in childbirth while her husband, Mak, is away at war. When he returns home, he does not realize that his wife and their baby are dead; Nak kills the local villagers who try to tell him the truth. Eventually Mak learns that his wife and son are dead, and flees to his village temple. Buddhist monks eventually convince Mae Nak to leave the world of the living. In Thailand this movie was bigger than Titanic and the rural setting itself is filmed very beautifully (it's not so much of a horror film as a tragic love story). The scene where the head monk speaks to Nang Nak is reminiscent of the tale of the Buddha and Kisa Gotami, who also refused to accept the reality of death. Many Thais believe Nang Nak was a real person who lived in the 1800s and a shrine to her is in modern Bangkok.

- (Japan, 1960) This is a very bizzare film! and best to be viewed with sake perhaps. "Jigoku" is the Japanese Buddhist word for Hell (Avici). Essentially, the film's characters do bad deeds, die as a result, King Enma (the Buddhist lord of hell, Yama) sentences them, and the second half of the movie is them being graphically tormented in jigoku (in the best way that 1960 special effects could offer). These scenes are essentially copied from medieval Japanese texts and illustrations depicting the torments of hell (especially Genshin's Ojoyoshu), and it's very similar also to the Tibetan depictions in the wheel-of-life mandala. Many Buddhists believed (and still do believe) in the existence of hell realms, but, as the final scene in this film shows, existence in the hell realms, or any other realm, is not permanent but transitory.

Ju-on (Japan, 2003)/The Grudge (US, 2004)- The original Japanese film and the American re-make about a vengeful ghost (onryo) actually touches on Pure Land Buddhism in a roundabout way. The beliefs about people who died angry or unfulfilled was a very fearful idea in medieval Japan, and still in Buddhism, dying angry is one of the worst things that could happen. Pure Land Buddhism - the belief in Amida (Amitabha) Buddha's salvific power to save all beings, manifested through devotional nembutsu recitation - rose in popularity, especially during the 1100s-1200s, a time of social upheaval and violent conflicts: as long as one believed in Amida and had faith through recitation of nembutsu ("I take refuge in Amida Buddha"), one could be spared becoming an angry ghost, even if one died in battle, or suddenly from some illness or misfortune. Pure Land Buddhism was also especially popular with women: many believed that women were especially susceptible to becoming evil spirits, because of their inherently evil karma . It is unappealing to us today but there's a reason why all these Asian horror films have female ghosts!

While we may or may not believe in ghosts or the supernatural, it is important to understand that such beliefs were very real and even vital to Buddhists in the past. Today, these beliefs may continue to exist in some form, even here in the US. Rather than look at these beliefs as "mere susperstition" (and remember, one person's superstition is another person's devotion), try to look at them as how Buddhism affected a particular society's beliefs in the afterlife, about the natural world, or relationships with others (for example the roles monks played in society as teachers and protectors). Therefore, we can not only enjoy the "scary" aspects of these movies (and they are really not that scary!) but we can also learn about how Buddhism was practiced and believed in the lives of everyday people.
Namo amida butsu

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Chaps' Dharma Talk - Being Buddhist in the Military (Part 2)

Hello all!
This is a continuation of my Dharma message on being Buddhist and in the US military. This may (or may not) present us with some unique challenges. First would be how to relate to our fellow servicemembers who belong to religions other than Buddhism and who ask us, or challenge us, about our beliefs. Second is how to explain our profession to other Buddhists. Admittedly, for many Buddhists this is a non-issue - we are right to say, why should I have to justify my choice of profession to others? Some of us may have never confronted this issue. However, for others, they have been on the receiving end of puzzlement, sympathy, or outright hostility when revealed that they wear a uniform, as others insist that serving in the armed forces (or even in law enforcement) is not "Right Livelihood." These attitudes may stem from a variety of sources: a belief that Buddhists should live a strictly pacifist life, that Buddhism is an "alternative" to Western traditions, maybe a personal dislike or ignorance of the military institution and its role in American society or even their own unpleasant experiences in the military. I would like to offer some suggestions as to how to address these attitudes if you are confronted by them. (The point is not to angrily confront and say "you're wrong!" but to counter their own confrontation to you as a military member who happens to be Buddhist).

1) Explain your role in the military - The US has had an AVF (All-Volunteer Force) for several decades now, and it is a fact that very few Americans today have had any experience of military service. Hollywood and the news media rarely give any accurate depictions of military life. Very few people even know what a chaplain is (M*A*S*H went off the air 20 years ago)! Emphasize your honorable service, what you do, and that military people are not all gun-crazed thugs, drunks, or morons! These assumptions are still out there! We are the "first line" in defense of our way of life and our Constitutional freedoms, against enemies foreign and domestic, highly disciplined and trained, and under civilian administration, unlike the militaries of many other countries which abuse their people. Just as we find ourselves having to reassure others that Buddhists are "normal" people (well, sometimes!) we also end up additionally having to reassure other Buddhists that military people are not ogres but their fellow practicers, neighbors, etc.

2) Discuss how the Buddha did not prohibit military service - Buddhism is not a "religion" of "thou shalt" and "thou shalt nots." The Eightfold Path is meant as our guide to an honorable way of life, not as commandments. Military life is not for everyone, obviously, just as many other professions may not fit our personal beliefs and desires. No matter what profession or lifestyle we follow, the Buddha advised us to always consider the karmic consequences and be mindful. Others may cite the precept against killing. Taking the life of any living thing (and this included animal, and even insect and plant life, in many cases) was never considered proper, and we should always follow the precepts when we can (just as devout Christians follow their 10 Commandments). Yet the reality was that conflict could not be totally avoided, neither could complete vegetarianism be practiced. Monastics could follow them much easier than laypersons, but even so, we continue to live in samsara where we cannot follow the precepts 100% 24/7. We simply do not live as monastics. The Buddha's Great Compassion (daihi) ultimately envelops us, no matter who we are or what we do.

3) Avoid "dueling scriptures" - I call this the spectacle of people picking and choosing bits of text to justify their arguments. This is a good idea to keep in mind when thinking of the above. People have used Buddhism to justify all sorts of things (just as they do in other religions) by taking the sutras out of context. I don't believe this is effective. What is an authoritative text for one Buddhist may be not so for a Buddhist of another tradition. Also, the Theravada and Mahayana texts were composed over a wide span of time, and do not always concur with each other.

4) Use examples from history - Buddhists taking up arms and defending their country and families is not a recent aberration, but has been a reality throughout the history of Buddhism. Korean monks took up arms to defend their country from Japanese invaders in the late 1500s, and Japanese-American Buddhists were among the toughest fighters of WWII. And of course there were the Shaolin monks who are the most visible representation of "warrior" Buddhists fighting for justice and righteousness.

5) Find a friendly Sangha - If you constantly experience verbal barbs or the cold shoulder because of your profession, it may be best to look for another temple or center to attend. Even if people in your Sangha may not agree with your job personally, that should not affect how they treat you as a fellow Buddhist and as a human being who desires to hear the Buddha-dharma. It will be very difficult to practice in a negative environment. If there is no other Sangha in your area, consider this blog as a welcome Sangha!

6) Learn from others - Buddhism is not the only religion to deal with this issue. Christians, Wiccans, Muslims, and many others wrestle with this issue. It may be that the more liberal spiritual traditions, like the Unitarian Universalists, are particularly concerned with how to confront this problem. Check out Chaplain Pyle's blog on this site. The essay on this Wiccan site,, could practically mirror the dilemna faced by many Buddhists in America. This can also be a source of interfaith dialogue.

Each one of us made a personal decision to serve in the armed forces, so therefore we must also understand our personal relationship with Buddha-dharma in our lives. We may seek guidance from more-educated and experienced teachers, but eventually we alone are responsible for our decisions. We took an oath to serve honorably, therefore let us use Buddha-dharma to guide us along this karmic path! Whatever path we choose, let us be at peace with it.
Namo amida butsu

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Chaps' Dharma Talk - Being Buddhist in the Military (Part 1)

Hello all!
For this Dharma talk I would like to share some impressions that I have learned while being Buddhist as an enlisted Marine and as a Naval officer, and offer some advice on working with non-Buddhists and also with other Buddhists who may not understand your reasonings for being in the armed forces. I understand that everyone may have had different experiences so please do not take this as "scripture" but following Buddha's advice to the Kalamas, if you can put this into practice for yourselves and make it work, then do so!

In my experience, I think most Buddhists simply are quiet about their religion, and this is understandable. The reality is that we are a minority faith in an overwhelmingly Christian environment. For some, being a Buddhist is an extension of family and cultural traditions, while for others it may be a new and exciting spiritual path. I have experienced a little of both, coming from a Korean Buddhist family background (but never practiced at home) and "converting" to Jodo Shinshu Buddhism, a Japanese Buddhist tradition, and learning its rituals and teachings.
Most Buddhists, including "converts" do not necessarily "shout out" their faith, it is simply part of the personal identity, expressed mostly at home with family or with other Buddhists. There is certainly nothing wrong or unusual about this; many people of other religions behave similarly.

However we may encounter others who discover our Buddhist identity, because we leave Buddhist books out in our barracks room, chant audibly, or otherwise express our Buddhist faith openly. Thus we become obligated to "defend" our Buddhist identity, and I use that word on purpose, because we are interacting with people who may know very little about Buddhism, or have many misconceptions of Buddhism, and may be curious or hostile. Either way, we end up answering questions, and offering information about Buddha-dharma. This is some of what I would recommend in these situations:

1) Explain Buddhism simply - Many people, when inquiring about Buddhism, really are curious about Buddhism and want to know what you believe. They may know only a little already, or have no idea. Don't try to overwhelm them or impress them with your spiritual knowledge. Words like "Namo Amida Butsu" have great import for Shinshu Buddhists, but means nothing to those who have never heard of Pure Land Buddhism (or don't know Japanese). The Buddha always tailored his Dharma messages to the level of his audience - do the same.

2) Refrain from becoming angry or upset - It may be difficult not to get exasperated when people assume (for the millionth time for me I think!) that the entirety of Buddhist practice is "going OM", or rubbing the fat Buddha belly! Or assuming that Buddhists would make bad soldiers ("wouldn't you all just run away?") Take this as your opporuntity to squash the stereotypes and reveal that Buddhists are human beings too! And that it does not get in the way of our jobs; emphasize your professionalism. Remember, you may be the first and only Buddhist that person has encountered. What impression do you want to give? It is like wearing your dress uniform out in public!

3) Find similar grounds - Some need assurance that Buddhism does have a system of morality, and that we do not believe in raping and pillaging at will! All religions and spiritualities believe in some version of the Golden Rule "Do unto others as you would have had done unto yourselves." Find common ground for spirituality.

4) Use chain of command - At some point in our careers we will encounter people who actually do feel frightened and threatened by Buddhism. If you are dealing with a nightmare of a senior leadership, whom you believe is harassing you because of your religious identity (and I worked for a SSGT who believed that all Marines should be forced to be Christians!), always use your chain of command. Also go to your chaplain. They are there to help all servicemembers, not just for people of their own religion. You have a right not to be hassled and prevented from doing your work because of your religion. It is very sad, but there is probably very little you can do to change these peoples' fears (although it does happen); sometimes the best thing you can do is to avoid them; if you can't then look for assistance.

5) Be familiar with religious accommodation - For those of us in the Sea Services, there are guidelines providing for free exercise of religion. Two of these are OPNAVINST 17301.D "Religious Ministry in the Navy" and SECNAVINST 1730.8A "Accomodation of Religious Practices" which provide for free exercise of religion for all naval service members. There are similar instructions for Army and Air Force.

Above all, don't feel that you have to be defensive or "hide" your Buddhist faith unnecessarily. If you don't want to "broadcast" your beliefs, that is fine, if you want to practice openly or become a lay leader for your command, that is also commendable.If you are new to the military and a Buddhist know that there is someone who has gone before you and experienced it! Share your experiences!
Namo amida butsu

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Can a Buddhist Join the Army?

Hello All.....
Can Buddhist Join the Army?.
Ven. K. Sri Dhammananda

You can be a soldier of Truth, but not the aggressor.

One, Sinha, the general of the army, went to the Buddha and said, ‘ I am a soldier, O Blessed One. I am appointed by the King to enforce his laws and to wage his wars. The Buddha teaches infinite love, kindness and compassion for all sufferers: Does the Buddha permit the punishment of the criminal? And also, does the Buddha declare that it is wrong to go to war for the protection of our homes, our wives, our children and our property? Does the Buddha teach the doctrine of complete self-surrender? Should I suffer the evildoer to do what he pleases and yield submissively to him who threatens to take by violence what is my own? Does the Buddha maintain that all strife including warfare waged for a righteous cause should be forbidden?’

The Buddha replied, ‘He who deserves punishment must be punished. And he who is worthy of favor must be favored. Do not do injury to any living being but be just, filled with love and kindness.’ These injunctions are not contradictory because the person who is punished for his crimes will suffer his injury not through the ill-will of the judge but though the evil act itself. His own acts have brought upon him the injury that the executors of the law inflict. When a magistrate punished, he must not harbour hatred in his heart. When a murderer is put to death, he should realize that his punishment is the result of his own act. With his understanding, he will no longer lament his fate but can console his mind. And the Blessed One continued,’ The Buddha teaches that all warfare in which man tries to slay his brothers is lamentable. But he does not teach that those who are involved in war to maintain peace and order, after having exhausted all means to avoid conflict, are blameworthy.

‘Struggle must exist, for all life is a struggle of some kind. But make certain that you do not struggle in the interest of self against truth and justice. He who struggles out of self-interest to make himself great or powerful or rich or famous, will have no reward. But he who struggles for peace and truth will have great reward; even his defeat will be deemed a victory.

‘If a person goes to battle even for a righteous cause, then Sinha, he must be prepared to be slain by his enemies because death is the destiny of warriors. And should his fate overtake him, he has no reason to complain. But if he is victorious his success may be deed great, but no matter how great it is, the wheel of fortune may turn again and bring his life down into the dust. However, if he moderates himself and extinguishes all hated in his heart, if he lifts his down-trodden adversary up and says to him’ Come now and make peace and let us be brothers,’ then he will gain a victory that is not a transient success; for the fruits of that victory will remain forever.

‘Great is a successful general, Sinha, but he who conquers self is the greater victor. This teaching of conquest of self, Singa, is no t taught to destroy the lives of others, but to protect them. The person who has conquered himself is more fit to live, to be successful and to gain victories than is the person who is the slave of self. The person whose mind is free from the illusion of self, will stand and not fall in the battle of life. He whose intentions are righteousness and justice, will meet with no failures. He will be successful in his enterprise and his success will endure. He who harbours love of truth in his heart will live and not suffer, for he has drunk the water of immortality. So struggle courageously and wisely. Then you can be a soldier of truth.’

Aloha All!


My name is Rocco Blais and I was a prospected Buddhist Chaplain for the Military. I was in the U.S. Army as an Expert Infantryman (11 Bravo) with the 25th Infantry Division Schofield Barracks Hawaii in 1996. Shortly after getting Honorably Discharged, I found myself searching for higher meaning because being an "Expert Killer" would not work outside of the Army. So I attending regular meditation classes at the Providence Zen Center in Cumberland, R.I. I found myself working a few jobs but none requiring the combat skills I achieved in the Army. So I joined the U.S. Navy in 2001 as a Cryptologic Technician (CTO) and found myself back in Hawaii at the KRSOC in Kunia Hawaii.

As I did more searching, I found myself at the Tibetan Buddhist Meditation Center in Honolulu. Continuing in the Navy, I worked at JICPAC Pearl Harbor as an Information Technician (IT) sharping my mind as a full time student at Hawaii Pacific University. Earning a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology with a 3.4 GPA I wanted to pursue further mental development within Buddhism, education, and the Military. So I prepared to submit my packet for the Buddhist Chaplain Program. I conversed with representatives from the U.S. Navy, U.S. Army, and U.S. Air Force. I wanted to find which Military branch would find more use for the first Buddhist Chaplain. I was able to contact Jeanette Shin who is the first Buddhist Chaplain in the U.S. Navy Reserve. I was also put in touch with Somya Malasri, who attended the Honolulu Dharma Center, and is a prospected candidate for the U.S. Army Buddhist program (I have lost contact with him but I hope he makes it).

As I searched deeper into the program, I felt that it did not work in my favor. To attend a Theological/Seminary school for a Master of Divinity in Buddhist Studies, there were only two possible colleges. University of the West and University of California at Berkeley were the only choices. Naropa University was my first choice and now they offer an MDiv towards Chaplaincy (after I chanted to them repeadly). With the tuition assistance received from the Military, I felt it would not cover my lifestyle within the program. So I decided I would leave the Military in 2006 to pursue a Master's degree in Education and upon completion of that, I will venture into a doctorate in Tibetan Buddhist Pyschology.

Although my plans did change due to personal reasons, I will continue to support Buddhism in the Military. I must admit it would have seemed contradicting to have a former "Grunt" with an Expert Infantry Badge as a Buddhist Chaplain. However, my view remains the same; this previous experience has lead me to the Noble Eightfold path. To know mindfulness, it was feasible for me to know suffering. I am a proud veteran and I still carry the seed as a Buddhist soldier. Following Buddhist philosophy in the military is long over due. I hope that Buddhist doctorine will create a compassionate atmosphere and resolve issues without the use of force.

Om Mani Padme Hum,
~ Rocco Blais

A Quick Intro

Hello Everyone! My name is Ed Crites and I’m an active duty Technical Sergeant in the USAF. Currently I’m stationed at RAF Mildenhall in the United Kingdom. I wanted to introduce myself as well (you know the Air Force, we always let the Marines go first. Thanks Mark!).

I’ve been in the learning faze of my practice for 5-7 years now. Most of what I’ve learned has come from self-teaching (books, Podcasts, internet articles, etc..). I think it’s great that we finally have a place where we can go to build our practice and our community. I’d like to join in and say “Thank you!” to Lt Shin for reaching out and doing what she to bring the military Buddhist community together.

Thanks again,


San Diego Area Sangha Meeting

For Buddhists stationed in the San Diego/Miramar/Camp Pendleton region, I am planning another get-together and discussion group on Sunday, October 21st at 1000. We will meet at the Murphy Canyon Chapel. I will offer a lecture on the origins of Buddhism. Also I will be passing on lessons learned from the Buddhist Chaplains Symposium that is scheduled to be held on Oct. 20 in Redwood City (this is an annual meeting of Buddhist chaplains working in various fields of chaplaincy).

The Murphy Canyon Chapel is located at 3200 Santo Road, San Diego, 92124. (619) 556-0603.


Dear all,

First of all many thanks for the letting me contribute to your Blog.

As the first ever Buddhist Chaplain in the UK Armed Forces, I wanted to congratulate you on your new Buddhist Military Sangha Blog. It is great to see the dhamma services are slowly being made available to the Military community in the US.

I have now been in the post for 2 years and contrary to what some thought past 2 years I have been able to share the Dhamma and spread nothing but peace amongst the Military Community in the UK. I am the only Buddhist Chaplain to the whole of the three forces here at the moment and the number of Buddhists are increasing as ever. Though Buddhism is not a religion interested in converting others into it, it is our duty to help anyone who become interested in the Buddha Dhamma.

I would like to wish Chaplain Shin and Chaplain Somasri and all your group every sucess in your efforts in discovering dhamma. personnally there is absolutely nothing more enticing than discovering dhamma for me. Therefore it is a great merit to help and support those who are interested in the dhamma through the understanding of Buddha and dhamma.

Best wishes!


Dr. Sunil Kariyakarawana
Buddhist Chaplain to HM Forces
Wellington Barracks
London SW1E 6HQ
Tel. 020 7414 3411

Saturday, September 22, 2007

My first post here!

Greetings everyone! My name is Mark Vanslooten. I am a Marine Staff Sergeant stationed in Camp Pendleton, CA. Usually. Currently I'm at Camp Al Taqaddum in Iraq until November.

I'm new to the Buddhist practice. Only very recently have I been able to say that I'm a Buddhist. I've read books off and on for a few years and was never able to grasp the wealth of Sutras and philosophy I encountered. At Powell's Books in Portland Oregon (shameless plug) I picked up The Idiot's Guide To Understanding Buddhism. It laid out the history, Eightfold Path, Meditation and precepts very clearly. It's a great start for beginners like me.

I came in contact with Chaplain Shin by chance. There's a listing online for Buddhist groups in San Diego County and I e-mailed for info on a military group study. This came at the perfect time for me. The more I studied the more I became confused and conflicted with the military and the Buddhist practice. Chaplain Shin cleared a lot up for me. It really is possible to integrate the two. The discipline that is inherent in the military helps one follow the Eightfold Path. I'd like to share more of my thoughts on this sometime in the future.

When I return to the "world" I'll be looking forward to meeting others on the same path. Peace be with you!

Friday, September 14, 2007

Chaps' Dharma Talk: Henry Steel Olcott - Civil War Veteran & Buddhist Patriot

Today's hoji is about a sadly neglected figure in our American history: Colonel Henry Steel Olcott (1832-1907). He was the first known American citizen to formally convert to the Buddhist faith. Today, Olcott’s name today is more often linked to the Theosophy movement of the late 19th-century, rather than Buddhism, as he was a founding member of that organization (a kind of forerunner of New Age thought); although there was a kind of “vogue” for Buddhism at the turn of the century, it gradually faded away as a popular trend, until “re-discovered” by Westerners in the 1950s and 60s (of course Buddhism was continued to be practiced in America by Japanese-Americans and other Asian immigrants). I will give reasons why I want to discuss Col. Olcott.

It is hard to summarize his life: Henry Steel Olcott was born into a Christian Presbyterian family in New Jersey. He trained as a lawyer, and served in the Union Army during the US Civil War, and may have experienced combat action. Following active service, he also served as a commissioner for the Department of the Navy, acquiring the rank of Colonel, and investigated corruption among contractors (we could use more Olcotts today)! He also took part in the investigations after Abraham Lincoln's assassination. As a young man he developed an interest in spiritualism; spiritualism, or belief in spirit communication, was extremely popular in America prior to the Civil War, an outgrowth of the Second "Great Awakening" of religious devotion. Col. Olcott was a founding figure of Theosophy but also developed a strong interest in Buddhism, particularly in the Theravada tradition. His search for Buddhism led him to Sri Lanka (then called Ceylon and under British colonial rule). There, in 1880, he adopted Buddhism as his religion by taking the precepts in Pali. He campaigned against the aggressive Christian missionaries there who were trying to stamp out Buddhism, and he fought for the civil rights of the Buddhists. He gave lectures throughout the country, and founded Buddhist schools and associations for young people. In order to promote Buddhist identity he helped design the multi-colored Buddhist flag (the colors of the Buddhist flag are the colors said to have been radiated by the Buddha from his Enlightenment), which was later adopted by Buddhists worldwide. (These flags can also be seen at our Jodo Shinshu temples here in America!) He also wrote a “Buddhist Catechism” in 1881, one of the first books in English to promote Buddhism. He also visited Japan, Burma, and India. At his funeral, his coffin was draped with two flags: "Old Glory," and the Buddhist flag. His ashes were scattered in the Ganges River.

It is difficult to judge Col. Olcott's legacy today; he is perhaps more known in Sri Lanka than in his own country, and even now he is mostly thought of in connection with the Theosophy movement, today considered very controversial and strange for some. Col. Olcott also interpreted Buddhism according to his own understanding, which was strongly influenced by Protestant Christianity. Like many new converts to Buddhism, he aggressively sought to understand what was "true" Buddhism as opposed to cultural "superstitions" and believed he could benefit Buddhism by applying Western critical thinking; he even hoped to re-unify Mahayana and Theravada Buddhism, all of which was not accepted by Asian Buddhists.

Yet Col. Olcott was undoubtedly a pioneer of American Buddhism, although most of his work was in Sri Lanka. Especially I believe he also should be considered a pioneer, and even a role model, for Buddhists like ourselves who are in, or have had, military service. His experience during the Civil War must have influenced his later actions: when he heard of the attack on Buddhism by the missionaries, he rushed to the defense of the Buddhists, and also went on the offensive, not by physical force (although Buddhists were physically attacked by mobs of Christians), but by seeking to empower and strengthen Buddhists through education, community, and instilling pride in Buddhist heritage. He certainly was not passive. Col. Olcott was very active for the cause of Buddha-dharma in many countries, but he still respected many other religious traditions, including Islam and Christianity.

Personally, although his Buddhism and mine are different, I see Col. Olcott as a leadership example to follow. To honor his 100th-year centennial, every year on February 17th (his memorial day) I will conduct a memorial service for Col. Olcott. I hope you will also take time to lean about this Buddhist pioneer!

Unfortunately, there are not many resources out there about Col. Olcott.
There are two biographies on his life:
Yankee Beacon of Buddhist Light: Life of Col. Henry S. Olcott by Howard Murphet. This is a a very readable biography of published by The Theosophical Society (which is still around). I found my copy on Ebay.
The White Buddhist: The Asian Odyssey of Henry Steel Olcott by Stephen Prothero. This is an academic biography of Olcott published by an Indian press, and hard to find.
The Web site for the Olcott Centennial can be found here:

Monday, September 10, 2007

Howa - The Tradition of Dharma Talks

Hello all!
One of the things I will begin adding more often (I hope!) will be a series of Dharma talks that hopefully you may find interesting, informative, or at least, to provide a tool with which to uncover the path of Buddha-dharma, which is something we all do, whether we are ordained or laypersons. In the Jodo Shinshu tradition, this is called "howa," literally a Dharma message, and is essentially the equivalent of the Christian-style sermon in our tradition. The howa, in its most orthodox form, is meant to elucidate a point in Jodo Shinshu or Pure Land doctrine, but it is not considered a requirement to have for practice, (or an "empowerment") as in other Buddhist traditions. In America, the howa typically follows after sutra recitation in our temples. Usually, they are quite short, sometimes around 10-20 minutes, which is an accomodation of our American attention span (I've been to Dharma talks in Japan which lasted for over 2 hours)!!! I promise that the howas on this blog will not take 2 hours to read! The Dharma talks I will post personally will not be limited to the Jodo Shinshu tradition, but I will try to make them as accessible as I can. Please read them with an open mind, and with a grain of salt.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

San Diego Area Sangha Meeting

For Buddhists stationed in the San Diego/Miramar/Camp Pendleton region: There will be a get-together and discussion group on Sunday, Sept. 9th at 1000. We will meet at the Murphy Canyon Chapel, then have lunch. This will be an opportunity to meet your fellow Buddhists in the military. One topic of discussion will be "Creating a Buddhist Lay Leader Program."

The Murphy Canyon Chapel is located at 3200 Santo Road, San Diego, 92124.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Post your Lay Groups!

Hello all!
One of the things I'd like to accomplish with this blog is to help Buddhist servicemembers connect with each other. I know many of us Buddhists feel isolated in the military; if we could find each other and share support, this definitely could help with our morale and our positive identification as Buddhists. If you know of a lay Buddhist group at your base or on your ship, or where a Buddhist lay leader is located, please contact me to post on this blog.
There will be a separate section listing which installations to find lay or support groups.
Namo Amida Butsu!

Monday, August 20, 2007

Ullambana in San Diego Area

For servicemembers belonging to the Chinese, Laotian, Cambodian, Thai & Vietnamese Buddhist traditions, there will be an Ullambana Service on AUG 25 at 1000.

The temples participating are: Tinh Xa Van Duc, Nhu Lai Thien Tu, Chua Phat Da, Chua Van Hanh, Tnh Xa Ngoc Minh, Hsi Fang Temple, Wat Sovannakiri, Wat Lao Boupharam, Wat Lao Buddharam, Wat Buddha Paramee, Wat Lao Navaram, Wat Champourukharam, Wat Khammararattanaram & Wat Escondido.

The location is at: Greenwood Memorial Park & Mortuary, 4300 Imperial Ave. SD CA 92113.

For more Info &/or transportation to the cemetery contact Ms. Do Thai Uyen 619-582-1989 or 619-518-8510 or 619-998-5318

Thanks to Mr. Jim Shawvan at SanDiegoBuddhism Yahoo newsgroup for providing the infomation.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Another Article about Chaplain Malasri

This one appears to be from a local paper, The Midweek Market
1st Buddhist Army chaplain candidate at Ft. Carson
Contributed by: Douglas Rule on 8/2/2007
by Michael J. Pach

2nd Lt. Somya Malasri is the Army's first Buddhist chaplain candidate and is visiting Fort Carson this month for Chaplain Initial Military Training.

"If we can sum up (Buddhism), it would be to do only good and to purify one's mind," said Malasri. "The five key precepts are no killing, no stealing, no sexual misconduct, no lying, no drinking alcohol, using drugs nor smoking. Developing your mind is very important in Buddhism. I think the Soldiers have stress in their minds, so I can help them with meditation. I can teach them how to meditate and how to get rid of stress, anger or anxiety."

Malasri was born in Thailand and joined a Buddhist temple at the age of 17. At 21, he became a monk and joined the Army at 35. He accepted an invitation from the Buddhist Churches of America to move to Denver in June 2001 to help with the Buddhist communities there and in Colorado Springs, Salt Lake City and Las Vegas.

While in Salt Lake City, Malasri met a Buddhist Soldier who told him about life in the Army and said there weren't any Buddhist chaplains. Malasri became interested in becoming a chaplain. Another Buddhist Soldier in Las Vegas answered more of his questions about joining the Army.

Before doing so, Malasri had to change his status from monk to minister: monks cannot be Soldiers or wear military or civilian clothing.

Malasri checked out the Army's chaplain candidacy program and visited a recruiter to sign up. After joining almost one year and nine months ago, Malasri was stationed in Hawaii, gaining experience as a specialist. He was accepted into the chaplain candidacy program and is working on his master's degree. This program is equivalent to a master's in divinity in Christianity and requires 72 credit hours.

Being the first Buddhist chaplain candidate means Malasri is breaking new ground and is looking forward to the opportunity to help Soldiers.

"I'm very happy to be the first Buddhist chaplain candidate," said Malasri. "Because I'm the first person, I have to set standards for the Army, so I look for assistance from Buddhist groups and my superiors in my faith. There is a Buddhist chaplain in the Navy and I've met with her many times to talk about how things are going in the Navy and how to do it in the Army. I'm really excited about this."

Malasri will be at Fort Carson for one month and will return to school at the International Academy of Buddhism at the University of the West in Rosemead, Calif. He will go to Fort Jackson, S.C., next summer for more training and then back to school to complete his degree.

Malasri admits that dealing with Soldiers offers extra challenges.

"A lot of people ask if a Buddhist can be a Soldier because the first precept is no killing," said Malasri. "The answer is yes. You can protect yourself or sacrifice yourself to do the righteous thing. You can sacrifice yourself to protect your country because if there's no country, there's no freedom and you cannot practice your religion. In Buddhism, if you go to war and kill others, it's your duty, not your intention to kill other people. If a person dies of your intention, and you have anger, that is wrong in Buddhism. When Soldiers go to war, they don't have any intention to kill others and they don't have hatred in their minds."

According to Malasri, there are about 3,300 Buddhists in the Army and about 80 of them are stationed at Fort Carson. Malasri plans to meet as many of the Buddhist Soldiers on post as he can while he is here and will be setting up a Buddhist service.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Buddhist Chaplain Candidate trains at Fort Carson

Hooah! (is that the Army one?) Chaplain Malasri featured in this article from the Buddhist Channel:

Buddhist chaplain candidate trains at Fort Carson
News First Online, Aug 7, 2007

Fort Carson, CO (USA) -- Lieutenant Somya Malasri isn't your average soldier. He joined the Army at age 35, after spending more than 10 years as a Buddhist monk. Malasri grew up in Thailand, and he is now training to become the first Buddhist chaplain in the Army. A decision that forced him to give up his title as a monk. "I had to change my status to 'minister' because a Buddhist monk cannot be a soldier."

Malasri moved to the United States in 2001. He never considered joining the Army or becoming a chaplain until he talked to a couple Buddhist soldiers. They talked to him about their frustrations; the Army didn't have any Buddhist chaplains, although there are about 3,300 Buddhist soldiers in the service. That is when Malasri decided to try and become the Army's first.

"I can serve more soldiers in the Army, because I love soldiers and I love to help others," he said. As part of his schooling, Malasri was brought to Fort Carson to learn from Captain Lisa Northway, a Pentecostal chaplain. For the next two weeks, Malasri will be attending services and learning first-hand the daily duties a chaplain performs. Captain Northway says, "I think it would be very encouraging for some of those same (Buddhist) soldiers to know there is a actually a chaplain of their particular faith group."

Lieutenant Malasri may talk with a strong accent, and he practices a religion that may be foreign to some, but he says it's those differences that make him an American. "I want to serve Buddhism and I want to serve soldiers. I want to serve the nation. Even though I'm from Thailand, I am American citizen. I want to do something for our nation." Malasri's chaplain training is scheduled to last two-and-a-half years.

Monday, August 6, 2007

O-Bon: Festival of Joy!

I attended the Obon Festivals at the Vista and San Diego Buddhist Temples (picture above) this summer. I had a very good time! Although I don't regularly attend their services, I enjoy going to the festivals whenever I can. Obon is my favorite Buddhist festival! Often it's held in conjunction with the temple bazaar, which means lots of shaved ice, chicken teriyaki, and red bean jam buns! Yum! Also there is the traditional circle dancing around a yagura, a center stage. Many of the dances are very old, and the movements mime the work that was common to Japanese laborers over a century ago, such as coal-mining (I wonder, if a hundred years from now, there will be a "Cell-phone talk-and-drive Uta"? Or "Blackberry Ondo"?) Very few are "experts" at dancing, but it is all part of the fun! Obon is often called "The Festival of Joy."

O-bon is also known as the "festival of the dead." This is when many Japanese and Japanese-American Buddhists traditionally celebrate the memories of their ancestors. In Japanese culture, the spirits of the dead are said to return during the summer months to visit their relatives still on earth. At the end of Obon, they dutifully depart, until next year's festival, symbolized by the floating lanterns placed in streams and rivers. Obon has its roots in the Ullambana Sutra, a Buddhist scripture which tells the story of the Buddha's disciple, Maudgalyayana (in Japanese, Mokuren), who saved his mother from the Hell Realms. To save her, he asked the Sangha to make gifts of food and water. In joy at his success, he and the villagers danced for joy, which is said to be the origin of the Obon dance. Ullambana is also celebrated in other countries influenced by Buddhism. In turn, the Obon festival may also have incorporated elements of native ancestor veneration.

Obon, rather than being a sad and grim reminder of people who have died, is one of the best festivals in the Buddhist calendar. Family members come together to eat together, dance together, and renew friendships; also, non-Japanese and non-Buddhists attend from the local community and participate in the dancing! Obon is more than a religious event, it is also a celebration of community and culture. Obon is joyous!

Obon reminds us of one of the truths of Buddha-Dharma: all things are without a permanent self. Our physical bodies will inevitably decay and die. Obon also teaches us another of the great truths: we are all interconnected. When we celebrate Obon, we celebrate our families, friends, and our communities. We recall the dead and express gratitude for their lives. They are never far from us.

A fundamental aspect of military life is also to never forget our fallen comrades. We also commemorate them with memorial services, the table set for the POW/MIA in galleys and chow halls, and in many other ways. We may have known them personally; others we never met at all. This does not lessen our gratitude for their sacrifices. As with Obon, we never met our ancestors! But we are no less respectful and grateful for their sacrifices, who have made us what we are today. During this Obon season, let us commemorate our ancestors, related to us through blood: by genetics and by service.

Friday, August 3, 2007

Scholarships for OIF/OEF Veterans

The Horatio Alger Association of Distinguished Americans is offering scholarships to combat veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan.

It offers a scholarship of up to $1,250 per year for person pursuing a BA/BS degree. You must have an honorable service record and a 2.0 GPA.
The deadline for applying is September 28, 2007.

Contact: or

"Buddhist Monks Appointed In British Gurkhas"

Here is an interesting news story I found on the Buddhist Channel from "across the pond"...

Buddhist monks appointed in British-Gurkhas
By Ang Chhiring Sherpa, Kantipur Online, Aug 2, 2007
KATHMANDU, Nepal -- For the first time in the almost two hundred year old history of the British-Gurkhas, Buddhist monks will now also carry out religious rites for Gurkha soldiers and their family members. Earlier, only Hindu priests were appointed for religious purposes.

Followers of Buddhism within the elite army complained that they were unable to conduct and follow their religious rites in the absence of Buddhist monks. "The British government finally agreed to meet our demands," Chairman of Buddhist Community Center, UK Kaji Sherpa said over the phone. "We had demanded five Buddhist monks," he added.

However, the British government has only agreed to appoint 3 Buddhist monks. The center has asked for an additional two monks.

Taking the move as a positive one, albeit long overdue, British-Gurkha Army Association's member Pronjon Rai said, "This is the result of the pressure and struggle of the British-Gurkhas consisting of a majority of indigenous communities."

The tradition of appointing Hindu priests for traditional festivals and to conduct religious rites in the Hindu temples and Buddhist monasteries within the British-Gurkha camps is a long and ancient one.

According to former British-Gurkha soldiers, the British government was reluctant to appoint Buddhist monks due to the fact that Nepal was a Hindu state earlier.

Around 70 percent of the British-Gurkhas are Buddhists.

News link:,4589,0,0,1,0

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Buddhist Chaplaincy in the US Armed Forces

Here is a picture of myself (on left), Ven. Aroon Seeda (middle) and 2ndLT Somya Malasri, our only Buddhist chaplain for the US Army. This picture was taken at the Operational Ministry Center (OMC) at Naval Station San Diego.

I'd like to present a short history of Buddhist military chaplaincy.
The Buddhist Churches of America (BCA), the continental North American district of the Nishi (West) Hongwanji sect of Jodo Shinshu Buddhism and the oldest Buddhist organization in the United States, is presently the ONLY endorser for Buddhist chaplains for the US military. All US military chaplains must belong to a national denominational body which can vet that their chaplains are ordained and have a postgraduate degree.

Although Buddhist military chaplaincy is a relatively new institution, it actually had its origins during World War II, when many Japanese-Americans joined the US Army, out of patriotism and the hope of freeing their relatives unjustly placed in the internment camps due to racial discrimination and economic jealousies. At the time, only Christian and Jewish chaplains were permitted in the US military. The Buddhist Missions of North America (the precursor of the BCA) petitioned the then-War Department to commission a Buddhist chaplain, but this request was denied, as Buddhism was not recognized as a legitimate religion, and was confused with State Shinto, the religion of wartime Japan. Therefore, Christian chaplains (who were Caucasians and Japanese-Americans) served these troops in famous battalions like the 442nd (the most decorated unit in US Army history) and the Military Intelligence Service (MIS). It is estimated that approximately half of these troops were of Buddhist faith.

Buddhists continued to serve in the military following the end of World War II, although they were still not permitted their own chaplain, or even to put the religious designation, "Buddhist," on their dog tags (this policy has since changed). Finally, in 1987, through lobbying by WWII and Korean War Buddhist Veterans, and Rev. Haruo Yamaoka, then the Abbot (Socho) of the Buddhist Churches of America, the BCA was granted endorser status. However, there were no candidates for military chaplaincy until 2004, when I was commissioned as a LTJG in the US Navy Reserves.

2ndLT Somya Malasri, a Buddhist of Thai background, is the first US Army Buddhist Chaplain. He is also endorsed by BCA. He is ordained in the Theravadin tradition. He is currently a seminarian at the University of the West.

To become a military chaplain, there are certain requirements the candidate must fulfill. A postgraduate degree is essential, for example an M.A. The candidate also has to have an endorsement from a recognized endorser, and be ordained in their tradition. There are also age limits and physical fitness standards which may vary from branch to branch. Basic requirements may be found at the National Conference to the Armed Forces Web site which is linked to this site.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Why a Buddhist Military Sangha

Welcome to this blog for a Buddhist Military Sangha! At this time, there is very little up, but I am hoping that this public forum will work towards several goals:

- Provide a welcoming and positive forum for Buddhists currently serving or who have served in the military to communicate and support one another.
- Recognize and promote honorable military service as in accord with the Eightfold Path's Right Livelihood.
- Correct misconceptions about Buddhists serving in the military.
- Help Buddhists unfamiliar with the military understand the jobs of their relatives and friends who are serving or who have served, and who love and respect the military profession.
- Help Buddhist Sanghas learn how to support and understand Buddhist military members, veterans, and their families.
- Represent the important of religious pluralism and diversity in today's military population, and by extension in American society.

Although I am Jodo Shinshu Buddhist, this forum is not limited to Jodo Shinshu Buddhism, but is open to all Buddhists of every tradition, because that is the reality of Buddhists serving in today's military. I envision this blog also as a nonpolitical forum. As a Navy chaplain, I encounter Buddhists from a wide variety of Buddhist traditions and cultures, and also I have met Buddhists who have been ostracized because of their profession. We need a space where we can communicate without fear of criticism or hostility because of our profession or our particular form of Buddhist practice. This may be an idealistic hope, but I encourage your feedback!

Thursday, July 26, 2007


Welcome to the Buddhist Military Sangha! My name is LT Jeanette Shin, I am an active-duty US Navy Chaplain of Buddhist faith, stationed in San Diego, California. My Dharma name is Yuinen ("Only Take Refuge in Amida Buddha"). My hope is for this blog is to connect Buddhist Military Members (Active, Reserve, Retired) of all Buddhist traditions with one another, and learn of Buddhist resources in their area. More information on the Sangha to follow...
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