Monday, June 18, 2012

What Do You See In This Photo?

This photo was taken on June 17, 2012, in Manchester, England. I met the monk on HH the Dalai Lama's left (Hungtrampa Tsewang Rigzin Samdrup) in Afghanistan! These soldiers are Gurkhas, Nepalese who have a long tradition of serving in the UK Armed Forces. They are mostly of Hindu and Buddhist affiliations.

Originally posted on Facebook, this photo is creating quite a stir! Many are delighted and surprised to see HH visit and speak with soldiers; others are surprised but also disturbed and confused as to why a person of such presumably "superior" spiritual development would even speak to military people.

One might view this photo and think of a dualism: war and peace, nonviolence and violence, military and civilians. All the ways we could possibly isolate and separate ourselves. In our ordinary understanding, these dualisms do not mix. But in Buddha-dharma, there is no distinction. Clearly, HH sees only human beings here, and it is the human beings who are the ones receptive to the Buddha-dharma. Would this photo cause a similar stir if, instead of men dressed in military uniforms, these people were dressed in prison garb, or gym clothes, or cheerleading outfits? (the last might be interesting for a photo!) Of if these people were all black, or LGBT, or Arabic? We might consider it charming if HH meets with celebrities, but here it is different. Why is that so?

Angulimala the killer was granted the opportunity to hear the Dharma directly from the Buddha. Although Angulimala was not a soldier (an important distinction), he was also considered by many to be unworthy of the Dharma, and people asked the Buddha to shun him, but the Buddha dared to approach such a frightening individual. The Buddha was not frightened and he taught the Dharma to Angulimala. The Buddha also taught the warriors of his time, and all kinds of people in all kinds of professions.

Whether you agree or not with the military profession, should not all beings be offered the opportunity to hear the Dharma, and each individual to then make his or her choice to follow it or not, to the best of their ability, in whatever circumstances karma has placed them?  When I look at this photo, I see only a Dharma teacher visiting people who are willing to listen to the Dharma. How can that ever be a disturbing sight?

Namo Amida Butsu!

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

Buddhists are pacifists? ;-)

Debra Saturday said...

"Whether you agree or not with the military profession, should not all beings be offered the opportunity to hear the Dharma, and each individual to then make his or her choice to follow it or not, to the best of their ability, in whatever circumstances karma has placed them? When I look at this photo, I see only a Dharma teacher visiting people who are willing to listen to the Dharma. How can that ever be a disturbing sight?"

Thank you...you have summed this up well. It is about the Dharma. I am happy these people were in a place they could hear the Dharma.

Miguel said...

Wonderful post.

Michael Keating said...

wonderful to see
in india and nepal, bhutan its common for lamas to teach to the armed forces , I knew a teacher from drepung that would give classes to 200 soldiers at a time
we shouldnt discriminate against soldiers, these are our protectors, if we have no military we have no religious freedom

Michael Keating said...

wonderful to see
in india and nepal, bhutan its common for lamas to teach to the armed forces , I knew a teacher from drepung that would give classes to 200 soldiers at a time
we shouldnt discriminate against soldiers, these are our protectors, if we have no military we have no religious freedom

Renata said...

Great post. I agree wholeheartedly with what Michael said. Soldiers often have a huge weight on their shoulders, putting themselves in harm's way to protect the rest of us. How can other people of faith even think of denying soldiers the benefits of learning the dharma, if that is what they need and choose?

Todd Fletcher said...

As a practicing Buddhist, and a retired member of our armed forces, I find comfort in this photo, as too many people assume that to be in the military and be a Buddhist is somehow mutually exclusive. After a recent teaching with my Khenpo, I had an interview with him, and asked him if I could pursue a chaplaincy in the military. He was wonderfully supportive and enthusiastic about the idea. I have some other projects to finish before I explore this further, but his support has filled me with renewed hope that we may be able to support our Dharma brothers and sisters, while they are far from their home Sanghas. May it be so.

Creative Commons License
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.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at http://buddhistmilitarysangha.blogspot.com/.