Saturday, July 4, 2009

hello to all

Hello all,

This being my first post as a chaplain candidate in the ARNG, I thought I would introduce myself and then ask an open question.

I come from a smaller order within Shingon (Japanese Vajrayana) Buddhism, and have been a Buddhist for a little over six years. I am currently attending U-West to obtain my M-Div., and(currently) a member of the Wisconsin Army National Guard as a 56E (chaplain cnadidate). I am also currently attending Ch-BOLC, after which I will be properly ascessioned and drilling with the CA Guard.

The question that I wanted to ask, and try to open to discussion is this. All chaplains have a sort of kit bag (sometimes lovingly called the chaplain's "magic bag"). I am wondering, for all of our Buddhists out there, what you would suggest, from your tradition, that would be useful, necessary and fit in a bag that has to be hand-carried in places like a FOB in say, the 'box?

NOTE: this is not a place to discuss doctrine, only to say what you would like to see in a kit bag if I have to go out and do a field service or provide ministry in theater.

In gassho,
Christopher Mohr,


SlowZen said...

This is an interesting challenge because the traditions of Buddhism are so diverse and different traditions would likely have different must haves.

From my tradition, I would say that the must haves would be a portable shrine, a hand bell, Wooden clappers, A smallish rin gong, and a wooden fish. You could probably leave the Kyosaku at home.

I am fairly sure these items are common throughout the traditions that have been transmitted through Japan, Korea and China but there are many other traditions out there.

I would be interested in seeing what others have to say on this issue.

Jeanette Yuinen Shin said...

Welcome to the blog 2ndLT Mohr!

As to the discussion of the box, since we usually don't have very big boxes, I imagine that the kind of service you can provide out in the field may be limited to the form of Buddhist practice you are actually qualified to perform There are so many forms of Buddhist ritual, you shouldn't be expected to be able perform them all, or have all the material that is needed. Since you are Shingonshu, you should have in your kit what you would need to perform a Shingonshu service, and even that would be limited also since you cannot cram the entire onaijin in there! You may just be able to have the basics, whether that is incense, service book, an image, etc. Since I am Jodoshinshu, I would have what I would need to do a Shinshu service, especially the myogo, the calligraphic inscription of "Namo Amida Butsu." If meditation is part of your tradition, that is even better, since all you would need is a place to sit!

Christopher Mohr said...

I know it's a tall challenge, but it is important. My understanding is that these kits are small, packed, and come standard issue, and so I am looking to see what would be best for all Buddhists in the Army to carry. Some things, like the onaijin or the shakujo are out already, simply due to size. Though I would seriously like to have a shakujo , I can see all manner of tactical problems with carrying one.

From my own tradition, we make and some of us carry a small "mini-altar" containing a mini-bell with striker, incense holder, water/rice or small offering holder and a Buddha image. It's about 1.5 x 4 x 6" in size, and should work nicely, but I don't know what other items should be enclosed. That was why I asked.

I had my own first practice field service just this week. It's hard to keep up the volume with full body armor and a helmet on, and it would have been nice to have some sort of kit to help out - no bell or anything, and one of me preaching Buddhism in 20 minutes to an entire platoon of Christians. It went pretty well, actually.

Christopher Mohr said...

thank you for your comments, ma'am. I will take those into consideration as I work with Somya, Tommy, and (if I can get in contact with him) Chaplain Dyer.

Arun said...

For Theravada Buddhists, I’m not sure if there’s anything necessary to bring. There’s an esoteric tradition, where a string is blessed and tied around the wrist. I can imagine that there are some Buddhists on the web who’d tell me that this string-blessing thing isn’t really Buddhist, but it’s certainly a blessing tradition that’s widely understood among a good many Theravada Buddhists, quite portable and even meaningful on an individual level.

Jeanette Yuinen Shin said...

Yes, I know about the string blessing - when I was in Phuket, Thailand I received a multicolored string from the monk on duty at the Big Buddha statue they were building on the mountain there. I still wear it now on my left wrist!

Jeanette Yuinen Shin said...

And one more point we should also be considering is how to obtain the Buddhist materials we use. You all probably know that some of our ritual items aren't cheap(!), and we can't exactly order them the same way Christian chaplains can order items for their own kits (for example, grape juice or communion wine, rosaries, etc.), since we don't usethe same supplier. As far as I know, no Buddhist items are listed for chaplain supplies on any government supply sites. I hope this will be discussed in the future, and that we can find a way to resolve this if it should become a major difficulty.

Chavong said...

Hi, I am a new buddhist. But as far as I understand, there is not a need to bring too many things, esp out in the field. What you need most importantly across the various traditions will be

1) A Buddha statue or image

2) A simple prayer booklet (Containing the bare minimum like a) Refuge taking, Precepts, etc
b) and maybe a simple sutra/mantra (depending on your tradition, the language you are using, e.g. heart sutra, mangala sutra, mani mantra etc, short and sweet)
c) and finally, merit dedication.

3) Incense and an incense pot(but if for tactical reason it is not advisable for incense to be lighted, then its ok).

Its my 3 cents worth. I hope it will be useful

Chavong said...

To follow up on this issue, if you like to include a basic Buddhist Introduction Book, I think you may also like to take a look at his book,titled "Be a Lamp Upon Yourself". It is from this Singapore Buddhist Monastery call "Kong Meng San Phor Kar See" a.k.a "Bright Hill Temple" (

The link to the e-book will be:

There are other e-books available at:

Jeanette Yuinen Shin said...

Thank you for your input, Chavong!

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