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.