Friday, November 30, 2007

Mail to Support a Recovering American Soldier


Walter Reed Army Medical Center officials want to remind those individuals who want to show their appreciation through mail to include packages, letters, and holiday cards addressed to "Any Wounded Soldier" or "A Recovering American Soldier" that Walter Reed cannot accept these packages in support of the decision by then Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Transportation Policy in 2001. This decision was made to ensure the safety and well being of patients and staff at medical centers throughout the Department of Defense.

In addition, the U.S. Postal Service is no longer accepting "Any Service Member" or "A Recovering American Soldier" letters or packages. Mail to "Any Service Member" that is deposited into a collection box will not be delivered.

Instead of sending an "Any Wounded Soldier" letter or package to Walter Reed, please consider making a donation to one of the more than 300 nonprofit organizations dedicated to helping our troops and their families listed on the "America Supports You" website,

Other organizations that offer means of showing your support for our troops or assist wounded servicemembers and their families include:

Friday, November 23, 2007

UK Armed Forces Annual Buddhist Community Conference 2008

Dear all,

I have now fixed the dates for the UK Armed Forces Annual Community Conference and it would be great opportunity for you to meet some of our Buddhists here in the UK and vice versa.

The dates are from the 21-23rd of May 2008 and it will be held at Amport House Hampshire (about 1 hrs 30 minutes from London).

Please pencil it in your diaries and let me know as quickly as possible so that I can book a place for you.

All best wishes!

Yours in Dhamma,


Sunil Kariyakarawana, PhD
Buddhist Chaplain to HM Forces
Wellington Barracks
Birdcage Walk
London SW1E 6HQ

tel. 0044 207 414 3411

Friday, November 16, 2007

2008 Scholarships for Military Children

By Caroline Williams,
FORT LEE, Va. – Applications for the Defense Commissary Agency’s 2008 Scholarships for Military Children Program are available now in commissaries worldwide or online through a link at and at
The program kick-off each year in November coincides with “National Military Family Month,” and the scholarships are a great way for commissaries to get involved with the community and demonstrate support and respect for the contributions of military families.
According to Richard Page, DeCA’s acting director and chief executive officer, the program has awarded more than $5.5 million dollars in scholarships to 3,532 of the best and brightest children of military families since it began in 2001.
“We take enormous pride in the scholarship program,” he said, “because it’s a great opportunity for commissaries to make a difference in the communities they serve. DeCA is committed to education and increasing opportunities for the children of military families.”
With college costs soaring, students and their parents appreciate every available scholarship to help defray the cost, and the scholarships enable many families to afford the tuition and provide an incentive for students to work hard.
The $1,500 scholarships are available to unmarried children under the age of 21 (or 23, if enrolled in school) of military active-duty, retired, and Guard and Reserve service members. Most of the funds are donated by manufacturers, brokers and suppliers that sell groceries in commissaries, and every dollar donated to the program by industry or the general public goes to fund the scholarships. The program is administered by the Fisher House Foundation.
Eligibility is determined using the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System database. Applicants should ensure that they, as well as their sponsor, are enrolled in the DEERS database and have a current ID card. The applicant must be planning to attend, or already attending, an accredited college or university full-time in the fall of 2008, or enrolled in a program of studies designed to transfer directly into a four-year program.
Applicants must submit an essay arguing for or against the following statement: “Every able-bodied citizen should be required to serve a two-year period of time in the military. Why or why not?” Applications must be turned in to a commissary by close of business on Feb. 20, 2008. At least one scholarship will be awarded at every commissary location with qualified applicants.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Veterans Day

For this observance of Veterans Day, please offer your thoughts and prayers for all our Nation's Veterans. Without their courage and sacrifices, we simply would not have the freedom to practice the diverse teachings of Buddha-dharma today. Let us always have gratitude for the people who have served in our Armed Forces, coming from many different backgrounds and religious traditions, so that we may continue to honor the Three Treasures.
Namo Amida Butsu

Monday, November 5, 2007

Chaps' Dharma Talk: Buddhist Prayer

Hello all!

The concept of "prayer" in Buddhism can be a delicate one, ripe for controversy, although it doesn't need to be. Some Buddhists interpret Buddhism as an essentially rationalist philosophy, compatible with science, and see 'prayer' as possibly unnecessary at best or, at worst, misleading. Others actively and regularly pray to the Buddhas and bodhisattvas, and do ask for both spiritual and material benefits. Which is correct?

Before we can answer this question, we should ask ourselves, what does prayer do? What does prayer do for me, and also, what does prayer do for others? Is "prayer" the same for all religions, or do different religions approach it differently?

Prayer, as practiced in the United States, is of course imbued with Christian tradition, so it is difficult to even think of the word, "prayer", without assuming that it involves addressing a speech to a deity (God), and asking for some thing, either spiritual (peace of mind, happiness) or material (health and wealth), for oneself alone, or for others (bless my family, friends, nation, etc). Prayer does not always include the act of requesting; it can be considered as an act of submission or devotion to a deity. Prayer can be very versatile. As a Navy Chaplain, prayer is an essential part of my job: prayers are involved in retirement ceremonies, change of command ceremonies, Evening Prayer (Tattoo) over the 1MC at sea, and so forth. Who can do prayers, and what language is used, can cause enormous controversies! People in America take prayer VERY seriously.

Prayer, in the Buddhist traditions, does exist. We may call it by other names (blessings, mantras) but the essence is similar. Prayer in Buddhism may have begun as a form of "recollection" of the Buddha following his parinirvana; it was a way to "recall to mind" the Buddha and his teachings. Most traditional prayers I have encountered are addressed to the Buddha or to the Bodhisattavas, the Bodhisattva Kannon (Kwan Yin), who manifests Compassion, being a most popular example. Prayers both serve as a way to praise the virtues of the Buddha, and to give us a focus for the directing of merits, to oneself or others. Not all traditional forms of Buddhism emphasize prayer, such as Jodo Shinshu, which discourages it because of the doctrine of Self-Power (jiriki) yet even nembutsu recitation is a verbal method for us to focus on the merits of Amida Buddha and our own potentiality for Buddhahood. In this way, prayer serves the same purpose as having a statue or image of Buddha: we are not "worshipping" the physical images, the same way we are not using "prayer" as a substitute for practice. Prayer is an upaya or "skillful means" towards fully understanding the holistic nature of the Three Treasures: Buddha, Dharma, Sangha. We can call this being respectful of the Buddha, mindful of his Teachings, and actively participating within the human community of Buddhists.

That is why I think it would be improper to declare what is a "right" form of Buddhist prayer, since there are so many different traditions and practices, just as there are different ways to chant or recite the sutras. Are there Buddhists who believe in prayer for material benefits and protection? There are! There are also Buddhists who do not rely on prayer, who may focus primarily on study and meditatiton. Buddhist prayer simply is one Buddhist practice among many, which some may accept and others reject.

For Buddhist Lay Leaders in the military, it is difficult to avoid the concept of prayer, so if you have not practiced this before, don't get hung up on the word itself, and try to understand it as upaya: would there be people who may benefit from hearing a blessing of Buddhist teachings in English? I would recommend that prayers be short and to the point (no one likes a long Evening Tattoo!), inclusive, while remembering that we are not trying to do Christian prayers disguised as Buddhist ones (for example, I do not have a problem with using "Lord" or "World-Honored One" in place of Buddha, but it would be a stretch to use the word "All-Mighty")! We don't have to "ask" or request a favor or privilege, but we can use words that recall us to mindfullness of concepts like peace, honor, courage, vigilance, etc. Certain sutras like the Metta (Loving-Kindness) Sutta can be adapted to a prayer-format.

Buddhist prayer may not be practiceable by everyone, due to its very personal, and emotional nature. You have to be comfortable with the idea of this particular use of language. As in other religions, no one respects an insincere prayer! Practice writing down or verbalizing what you would say, and would want to hear.
Namo Amida Butsu

Thursday, November 1, 2007

USAF Academy Buddhist Chapel Dedication

A place to find peace
By Erin Emery, The Denver Post, Oct 30, 2007

Air Force Academy dedicates Buddhist space in chapel

AIR FORCE ACADEMY, CO (USA) -- With incense burning, a small crowd of shoeless people gathered Monday to dedicate a Buddhist Chapel in the iconic Air Force Academy Cadet Chapel.

The Vast Refuge Dharma Hall Chapel, a 300-square-foot room where a growing number of cadet Buddhists meditate, is believed to be the first space in a federal facility dedicated to Buddhism.

"Cadets are different. Cadets don't fit into one mold, and that includes religion, and I think it is a great way to expand our minds and our hearts and to show that as cadets, we want to prepare ourselves in a holistic way," said cadet Leah Pound, 22, a senior from Parsons, Kan.

Among the academy's 4,500 cadets, 26 consider themselves Buddhists. The academy had established a Sangha, a spiritual community, seven years ago. Three years ago, the Rev. Dai En Hannya Hi Fu Wiley Burch, a graduate of the academy's first Class of 1959, asked that a multipurpose room in the lower level of the cadet chapel be transformed into a Buddhist Chapel.

Despite criticism two years ago that the academy favored evangelical Christianity over other religions, Burch said the academy met his idea with open arms.

"I understood there was a possibility or a place for Buddhism in the military," said Burch. "I understand the culture very well, and I understand the diversity of it. From that place, rather than being hard and coming in against, I came in willing to accept all. That's a Buddhist teaching, not to set yourself up against things so much as to just be, we say, like clouds and like water, just flow."

The $85,000 to construct the space, and an additional $10,000 a year for the next five years to operate the chapel, was provided by The Frederick P. Lenz Foundation for American Buddhism and Friends of Zen. No tax dollars were used on construction.

While many practicing Buddhism are pacifists, Burch said the Buddhist mind-set helps bring compassion to conflicts.

"Without compassion, war is nothing but criminal activity," Burch said. "It is necessary sometimes to take life, but we never take it for granted."

Cadet Melissa Hughes, 22, a senior from Jupiter, Fla., said cadets who practice Buddhism have spent hours talking about their beliefs and war.

"We realize that war is certainly a thing that we don't want to have to do, but sometimes it is absolutely necessary, and it requires compassion for your country, your family, the people that you are protecting. I think Buddhism definitely has a place there," Hughes said.

Noel Trew, 22, a senior from Fort Pierce, Fla., said he considers himself Christian, though he likes the Buddhist mind-set.

"It brings the meditative aspects. It's sit down and see what happens," Trew said. "That's kind of the core behind the practice. ... The core part is sitting down and trying to make your mind be quiet for a little while."

At the academy, with its rigorous academic, military and athletic curriculum, being quiet can be challenging.

"Every once in a while, we'll be sitting there in the meditative state and you'll hear ... bugle calls going off in the background. Our sensei just tells us, take that up and use that as part of the meditation," Trew said.
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