Friday, May 28, 2010

Memorial Day 2010

This year’s Vesak observance, the remembrance of Lord Buddha’s Birth, Enlightenment, and Parinirvana, occurs closely to our Memorial Day observance. On both occasions, this is a time for the remembrance of deeds that provided for our Emancipation from suffering. The Buddha’s final victory over Mara, and our military veterans who gave the “last full measure” so that we may have freedom today.

The Buddha showed us the Way to liberation, that liberation from suffering was in fact possible, and available regardless of our karmic circumstances or our social caste; our veterans have sacrificed so that we also are liberated from slavery and oppressive government. We continue to honor and remember the Buddha for His Great Compassion for us. We must not only remember what he accomplished, but work to pass on his teachings.

American Buddhists have fought in the wars of this nation, and Buddhist families have lost sons and daughters in our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. They have also given the “last full measure,” no different from any other citizen of this Nation. Do not forget those who have given so much for us. Take time during your Memorial Day vacation, or during your memorial services this Sunday, to remember those who have served.

Namo Amida Butsu

Friday, May 21, 2010

UWest Commencement Release

Here is UWest's news release on their recent commencment:

ROSEMEAD, Calif. – MAY 11, 2010 – University of the West, the only accredited Buddhist university in Los Angeles County, will graduate on Saturday May 15 a former Buddhist monk from Thailand who will use his training to become the second Buddhist chaplain in the U.S. Army ranks.
First Lieutenant Somya Malasri, 39, of Rosemead, seemed an unlikely candidate for the U.S. Army in 2001, when he arrived in the United States garbed in a saffron robe, the traditional attire of a Buddhist monk. Originally from a small village in Buriram Province, Thailand, Malasri had been a Buddhist monk since he was 17 years old.
The U.S. military has been actively trying to recruit Buddhist chaplains since World War II, said Rev. Danny Fisher, program coordinator for the M.Div. in Buddhist Chaplaincy at UWest.

“At this point, there have only ever been two Buddhist chaplains in the U.S. military,” Fisher said. “Both are on active duty now.”

One of the two is also a UWest student; Jeanette Shin is earning her Ph.D. in Buddhist Studies at UWest and is currently a Buddhist chaplain in the Navy. The other is Thomas Dyer, who is in the Army and became the Army’s first ever Buddhist chaplain, about a year ahead of Malasri, Fisher said.

The US Army currently has an estimated 3,300 soldiers claiming a Buddhist affiliation. It wasn’t until Malasri met some U.S. soldiers who were Buddhist that he realized their need for chaplains. So Malasri “disrobed” to join active service in the Army.

After graduation this month, Malasri expects to be deployed, although he is not yet sure where.
“I’m very happy and also at the same time I don’t know what to expect in the Army,” Malasri said. “When I adjust to everything it’ll be OK. I’m really happy.”

In 2007, Malasri became the first Buddhist chaplain candidate for the Army. He would have become the first chaplain, however Dyer, a chaplain from a Christian background converted to Buddhism, making Malasri the likely second Buddhist chaplain ever in the Army. He will become a full chaplain by the end of 2010, Malasri said.
Malasri did achieve a first by becoming the first student to graduate from UWest’s M.Div. in Buddhist Chaplaincy program. The M.Div. in Buddhist Chaplaincy program at UWest is one of only three accredited Buddhist chaplaincy training programs in the United States.

“Graduating our first chaplain is a joyous way to cap off the first year of the program's existence,” Rev. Fisher said. “In addition, Somya, who has done so much training already as a former Theravada Buddhist monk and chaplain candidate in the U.S. Army, has set a wonderful example for his fellow students.”
“I learned a lot from the program,” Malasri said. “For example, I learned how to be a good facilitator, how to be a good counselor.”

“To have more Buddhist chaplains in the military is important because servicemen and women have been needing and asking for them for a long time now,” Rev. Fisher said.
University of the West is a Buddhist-founded campus open to all students and located in the Eastern suburbs of Los Angeles County

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Bravo Zulu!

Here's another wonderful pic of our Dharma friend Rev. Danny Fisher and new University of the West graduate Rev. Somya Malasri! Check out the 2010 UWest commencement photos at their site!

Introducing 2ndLt Christopher A. Mohr

Again thanks to Chaplain Dyer, we have this wonderful picture of Chaplain Candidate Christopher Mohr leading a Dharma service. 2LT Mohr completed his CH-BOLC officer basic course on April 2009. He is currently working on his graduate degree in Religious Studies. He is also serving with HHC 1-185 AR BN California Army National Guard. 2LT Mohr is projected to graduate from his masters program in the fall of 2011and become the fourth Buddhist Chaplain to come on active duty.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Introducing 2ndLt Tommy Nguyen

Thanks to 1stLt Thomas Dyer, our U.S. Army Chaplain of Buddhist faith (currently in theater in Iraq), for this wonderful picture of Chaplain Candidate Rev. Tommy Nguyen. Rev. Nguyen was commissioned as an Army Chaplain Candidate for the Buddhist faith. He is currently attending the University of the West in Southern California and upon his graduation he will go into Active Duty as a Buddhist Chaplain.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Congratulations Rev. Malasri!

Congratulations to Rev. Somya Malasri who will graduate this month from the University of the West in Rosemead, California. Soon he will become an active-duty chaplain of Buddhist faith for the U.S. Army. His bio in his own words below:

My name is Somya Malasri, a Buddhist minister. My denomination is Theravada Buddhism. I was born on September 11, 1970 in Buriram Province, Thailand. I joined a Buddhist temple as a novice, when I was seventeen. I went to study Buddha's teachings and meditation in southern Thailand for four years. I was ordained as a Buddhist monk in Southern Thailand on June 1, 1991, when I was twenty one years old. I moved to Bangkok for further education and resided at Wat Bodhinimit Temple. I enrolled at Mahachulalongkorn Buddhist University in 1996 and graduated in 2000.
In 2001, I was invited by the Thai Buddhist Sangha Council in the United States (the council of Thai monks) to teach Buddhism and Thai culture to Thai Buddhist communities. I served Thai Buddhist communities in Denver and Colorado Springs, Colorado; Layton, Utah; and Las Vegas, Nevada. While I was at a Layton Buddhist temple in Utah, I met with a Buddhist soldier. He came to the temple to get a blessing before deploying to Iraq. This was the first time that I considered to be a Buddhist chaplain. In 2004, I met with another Buddhist soldier who just finished his basic training. He came to the temple where I lived in Las Vegas and told me that he did not see any Buddhist chaplain while he was in basic training. I then checked with a chaplain recruiter, the recruiter told me in positive.
With the intention to help soldiers in the U.S. Army, I disrobed and joined the Army as an enlisted personnel in 2005. The reason I joined as an enlisted soldier first because I wanted to gain basic knowledge of military. I was also waiting for an endorsing document from Buddhist Church of America. My first duty station was at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii. I received the endorsing paper from the Buddhist Church of America in May 2006. In November 2006, I was commissioned as a second lieutenant and became a Buddhist chaplain candidate in the Army.
I am currently doing my Masters of Divinity in Buddhist Chaplaincy at University of the West in Rosemead, California. I will graduate on May 15, 2010. I am ready to serve as a chaplain and hope to accession as a chaplain in August 2010.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Okinawa Zazen Group

USMC GySgt Jordan Fountain, a command-sponsored lay leader and author of SlowZen and Ashura Dharma blogs, is hosting Zazen at his home at Camp Shields, Okinawa. Interested persons can contact him via Facebook or on his blog Asura Dharma.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Vesak at Kandahar

Recently I was invited to conduct a Buddhist service at the Kandahar air base for a small group of Buddhists there. This was a reminder of the diversity of the traditions of Buddhism represented in our armed forces. Among our small group meeting for the first time, we had Jodo Shinshu, SGI-USA (one Navy Corpsman was a 27-year member!), Shinnyo'en, Zen, and also those still exploring different schools of Buddhist thought and practice. We discussed the life of the Buddha, and the challenges of being an openly professing Buddhist in the military. There was also discussion about the future of Buddhist Chaplaincy in the armed forces. A very positive discussion!

Hopefully this service will serve as the nucleus of future Buddhist fellowship at Kandahar, which is a major installation in southern Afghanistan. If anyone stationed at Kandahar would like to be participate in Buddhist meetings there, please contact the CMC there, at DSN 841-7594.
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