Monday, July 30, 2007

Why a Buddhist Military Sangha

Welcome to this blog for a Buddhist Military Sangha! At this time, there is very little up, but I am hoping that this public forum will work towards several goals:

- Provide a welcoming and positive forum for Buddhists currently serving or who have served in the military to communicate and support one another.
- Recognize and promote honorable military service as in accord with the Eightfold Path's Right Livelihood.
- Correct misconceptions about Buddhists serving in the military.
- Help Buddhists unfamiliar with the military understand the jobs of their relatives and friends who are serving or who have served, and who love and respect the military profession.
- Help Buddhist Sanghas learn how to support and understand Buddhist military members, veterans, and their families.
- Represent the important of religious pluralism and diversity in today's military population, and by extension in American society.

Although I am Jodo Shinshu Buddhist, this forum is not limited to Jodo Shinshu Buddhism, but is open to all Buddhists of every tradition, because that is the reality of Buddhists serving in today's military. I envision this blog also as a nonpolitical forum. As a Navy chaplain, I encounter Buddhists from a wide variety of Buddhist traditions and cultures, and also I have met Buddhists who have been ostracized because of their profession. We need a space where we can communicate without fear of criticism or hostility because of our profession or our particular form of Buddhist practice. This may be an idealistic hope, but I encourage your feedback!


EGRSBaker said...

Chaplain Shin,

This is a great idea. I have two questions, if I may.

First, how do you reconcile Buddhism with being in the military? The short answer for me is, "Right motivation." I am interested in your insight, and anyone else's.

Second, how do you recommend Sailors find a quiet place to meditate on some of the smaller ships? I know that being a junior enlisted Sailor does not allow one much privacy or alone time outside of one's rack. Officers tend to have it far better in that regard, being able to retreat into a stateroom of just a few individuals instead of 180 of one's closest companions. I imagine that other junior servicemembers experience the same issues. Any thoughts?



Jeanette Yuinen Shin said...

Hi Greg!

Thanks for your comment. For myself personally, I do not see any contradiction with being Buddhist and serving in the military. Ultimately, I view it as defending our religious freedoms, especially our freedom to practice Buddhism without fear of reprisals or oppression. Even in historically "Buddhist" nations, freedom to practice Buddhism has not always been guaranteed, even today. I believe it is important for Buddhists to support our nation, and work to ensure these freedoms will not be eroded.

As a chaplain aboard a cruiser (USS Mobile Bay), I understand how difficult it is to find a quiet place to meditate! There are no really quiet places aboard small ships like cruisers or destroyers. We do not have any space set aside specifically as a "chapel" space (for example, services are usually conducted in the LMRC, which is our library and computer room). When we are underway, I do evening meditation in my office (which I share with the career counselor), so at least I am able to shut the door. If you have a chaplain aboard your ship, ask him/her if there is a space that you could use temporarily for meditation, which could be wherever they use for a chapel or for service. Even outside on the focsle may be more quiet (unless there is bad weather)! However, we're never going to be able to have total quiet and privacy. We may be able to learn some lessons from the "forest monks" of the Theravada tradition, who recommended practicing meditation in dangerous places like forests and remote cemetaries (which for them really was dangerous, with wild animals around). Meditation does not have to be in outwardly peaceful settings; it is to develop the mind so that the mind is peaceful no matter where you physically are. And our ships are naturally dangerous places! I would also be interested to hear of anyone else's experiences with meditation on ships, or also, if they have had any difficulties with their chaplains in facilitating for their practice.

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
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at