Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Buddhist Chaplain Helps US, Australian forces 'Chill Out' During Talisman Sabre 2011

From the DVIDS web site:

Story by Sara Csurilla
Photo by Sara Csurilla

Chaplain (Capt.) Somya Malasri, one of two active-duty Buddhist chaplains in the U.S. Armed Forces, leads members from the U.S. Armed Forces and Australian Defence Force in meditation during a Buddhist service at Camp Rocky during Talisman Sabre 2011. TS11 is an exercise designed to train U.S. and Australian forces to plan and conduct combined task force operations to improve combat readiness and interoperability on a variety of missions from conventional conflict to peacekeeping and humanitarian efforts.

ROCKHAMPTON, Australia - Sit on the ground, cross your legs, sit up straight, gently rest your hands on your knees, close your eyes, relax…and just breathe.

That’s what one may hear walking past the chaplain’s tent early on a Sunday morning at Camp Rocky during Talisman Sabre 2011.

Chaplain (Capt.) Somya Malasri, one of two active-duty Buddhist chaplains in the U.S. Armed Forces, has been holding Buddhist services every Sunday; and gatherings on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, to provide guidance on meditation.

“We meditate to cultivate our minds, just like we eat to nourish our bodies,” Malasri explains before leading the group meditation during the service.

Malasari traveled with his unit, the 57th Transportation Battalion from Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., but was born in Thailand.
In Thailand, Malasri joined a Theravada Buddhist temple when he was 17 years old and was ordained as a monk at the age of 21. After receiving his bachelor’s degree, and teaching others about Buddhist philosophy and history, Malasri performed missionary work in China and India and eventually the United States..

While working at a temple in Las Vegas, Malasri met an American soldier who told him there were no Buddhist Chaplains in the Army. With more than 5000 people in the military practicing Buddhism, Malasri decided to fill the void.

Taking off the robes of a monk, he donned the uniform of a soldier and enlisted as a cook in the U.S. Army. After a several years of learning what it was to be a soldier, Malasri applied to become a chaplain and, with an endorsement from the Buddhist Churches of America, was accepted,

A chaplain for 10 months now, Malasri is spreading the teachings and philosophies of Buddha to soldiers on multiple continents.
“I’m really enjoying my time here in Australia,” he said. “I think the Buddhist service can be really good for the soldiers because it’s not necessarily about religion. It’s about relaxing, reflecting on life, and letting go of worries or suffering of any sort.”

Although Malasri is accustomed to holding services in a chapel at his home base, his service here in a small military tent at Camp Rocky still attracts a crowd.

“This is the first time I’ve meditated in boots,” said Col. Murray Hayes, a dentist with the Australian Army, 1st Health Support Battalion. “Despite being in an incongruent environment, it was very rewarding.”

During each of his services, the chaplain likes to give a quote for the day.

“This too shall pass,” said Malasri, during his Sunday service. “This is what I wanted people to take away from today’s service. I want people to be more positive. If we continue to hold onto bad experiences it only causes suffering.”

Malasri said his number one goal as a chaplain is to raise morale and give people an outlet to talk, no matter what country he’s in.
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Buddhist Military Sangha by Jeanette Shin is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.
Based on a work at buddhistmilitarysangha.blogspot.com.
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