Sunday, November 29, 2009

Veterans Meditation Initiative

UPDATE: This event was postponed from the date below. Ms. Baranay communicated to me that this event will be rescheduled.

Via Rev. Danny Fisher's Blog, via Mahasangha News:

Dear Sangha,

Perhaps you or a family member are a veteran of the armed services? Or perhaps you or a family member are currently serving in the military?

Tentatively scheduled for December 14 – Monday – in New York City – will be the launch of the Veterans Meditation Initiative.

Acharya Spiegel has graciously accepted the role of dharma leader and will therefore give the opening talk.

Paulette Graf – long time sangha member and teacher, Naropa graduate and Instructor of Mindfulness Stress Based Reduction has graciously agreed to coordinate the NY team and keep the forming groups of Veterans who meditate organized.

Patrick Gualtieri – Vietnam Veteran and President of the United War Veterans Council and producer of the largest Veteran’s Day Parade in the US in NYC has graciously agreed to bring to VMI, the veterans and active military through his connections.

At the moment we are working with the curriculum that will follow the opening talk and run for approximately 6 weeks. This is not yet formalized. However, the plan is to have a talk by Acharya Spiegel every 2 months, acting as a gateway to VMI and then 6 week classes to follow.

Several MIs/teachers in the NY area and sangha have expressed an interest in joining VMI and are helping to launch this vision. I recently met with 3 Vietnam Vets and the father of an active military person who are members of Shambhala. They have agreed to meet and show their support of meditation by coming to this first talk. We are expecting 200 veterans, family and active military to attend.

Please email me privately if you are interested and I will send you specifics.

Yours in the vision of turning the flower outward,
Christine Baranay

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Ekoji Dharma School Dana Project for Our Troops

The Ekoji Buddhist Temple Dharma School (a Jodo Shinshu temple in Fairfax County, Virginia) has made some great drawings and letters thanking our servicemembers! Thank YOU for your dana and support, we place our hands together in gassho.
Namo Amida Butsu

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Veterans Day

For this Veterans Day I'd like to share an interesting account of the first US Marine burial in Japan, which occurred during Commodore Perry's visit in 1854. The event is actually an account of possibly the first interfaith Christian-Buddhist service of this kind:

"The flags of every vessel in the squadron were hoisted at half mast as the boats pushed off. The body was borne to a very picturesque spot at the foot of a hill, at a short distance from the village of Yoku-hama. The chaplain, Mr. Jones, was robed in his clerical gown, and on landing was received in the most courteous manner by some of the Japanese authorities, who showed none of their supposed repugnance to the Christian religion and its ministers...The place chosen for the burial was near a Japanese place of internment, with stone idols and sculpted headstones, and as the procession came up a Buddhist priest, in robes of richly embroidered silk, was observed already on the ground.

Mr. Jones read the service of the Protestant Episcopal church, and while he was officiating the Buddhist priest sat near by on a mat, with an altar before him, on which was a collection of scraps of paper, some rice, a gong, a vessel containing saki, and some burning incense. The service having been read, the body lowered, and the earth thrown in, the party retired from the grave. The Buddhist priest then commenced the peculiar ceremonies of his religion, beating his gong, telling his rosary of glass and wooden beads, muttering his prayers, and keeping alive the burning incense. He was still going through his strange forumlary when the Americans moved away..."
[Source: History of the Chaplain Corps , Part I, NAVEDTRA 14281]

Especially on this day, but on all days, we should be mindful of those who have gone before us, and who are still volunteering to serve. As chaplains we can also learn much from past examples of interfaith cooperation, and continue our determination to serve.

Chaplain Jones also recorded one of the epitaphs made for a servicemember interred in Japan, and I would like to close with it here, as it is still very much meaningful:

Sleeping on a foreign shore,
Rest, sailor, rest! thy trials o'er;
Thy shipmates leave this token here,
That some, perchance, may drop a tear
For one that braved so long the blast
And served the country to the last.

Namu Amida Butsu

Monday, November 2, 2009

First Chaplains School Graduation at Fort Jackson

Update: Nov. 12, 2009. Found an even more detailed article about the Ft. Jackson Chaplains School graduation:
NAVY.MIL 10 NOV 09) ... Steve Vanderwerff

COLUMBIA, S.C. (NNS) -- The Naval Chaplaincy School and Center (NCSC), part of the newly established Armed Forces Chaplaincy Center (AFCC), graduated 29 chaplains and chaplain candidates Nov. 6 during a ceremony at Fort Jackson in Columbia, S.C.
The chaplains are the first to graduate since mid-August when the Naval Chaplains School relocated from Newport, R.I., to Columbia as a result of the Base Realignment and Closure Commission's 2005 decision to co-locate all of the military ministry training at Fort Jackson.
The Naval Chaplains School became the Naval Chaplaincy School and Center to reflect the training of Navy chaplains and religious program specialist (RPs) in the same location,
"I'm totally excited about this crop of chaplains going to the fleet," said Capt. Michael W. Langston, NCSC's commanding officer. "They come with a variety of ministry experience. They're excited about the opportunity to minister to the fleet. More than anything else they're mature and they're bright, they have a servant's heart, and want to go out and take care of the needs of our men and women in uniform."
NCSC, the U.S. Army Chaplain Center and School (USACHCS), and the U.S. Air Force Chaplain Service Institute (AFCSI) are co-located in Fort Jackson to form the AFCC. It is the aim of the AFCC to foster closer cooperation among the chaplain corps and make use of shared instruction and training.
More than 200 guests attended the ceremony, including Col. Steven Keith, commandant of AFCSI, and Chet Lanious, USACHCS' director of the Center for World Religions. Officials from the various faith groups that endorsed the graduating chaplains, and friends and family members of the new chaplains were also in attendance.
Navy Chief of Chaplains, Rear Adm. Robert F. Burt, served as guest speaker.
"Today, our country is engaged in several conflicts and missions around the world", said Burt. "The likelihood that you will find yourself in an area of hostilities is very real. We don't ask you to pull triggers, launch missiles, or throw grenades…but we will ask you to take care of our warriors who are in the fight."
The graduates began their journey in August in Newport at the Officers Development School for five weeks of naval indoctrination. In late September they arrived in Fort Jackson for the Basic Chaplain Course. During their seven weeks of training, chaplains were introduced to the schools newly developed curriculum, learning quickly how to adapt their civilian ministry skills to the military culture. They received first-hand knowledge from veteran chaplains who have served in combat.
"Lessons learned from combat is new to the curriculum," said NSCS Instructor Lt. Cmdr. Bruce Crouterfield. "The biggest lesson we have learned in combat, which we probably knew on an intuitive level, and something that has proved it's self over and over again, and even more so now, is that the chaplain is a symbolic reminder of the presence of God, even in combat. We can share that story now, like we've never been able to before."
Currently, NCSC is operating out of a temporary facility they refurbished. NSCS will remain in the refurbished building until they move into a newly built state-of-art "green" building in December. When they move into their new building, they will be connected to the other service chaplain schools that will also be housed in their own buildings.
Similar to AFFC's aim to foster closer cooperation among the Chaplain Corps, it is NCSC's intent to enhance its religious ministry team by having its chaplains and RPs train in the same location. The school will officially begin training RPs, the enlisted support Sailors for Navy chaplains, in January 2010. Until recently, RPs received their training at Naval Technical Training Center in Meridian, Miss.
"One can't do what one needs to do without the other," said Crouterfield. "In today's environment not only is the RP supporting the chaplain in terms of ministry, but the RP is an enlisted service member, so there is a connection with their colleagues. RP's have their ear to the deck plate. They can facilitate and move these young men and women toward the chaplain if there is a need.
"One of the key things in combat is the RP becomes the force protection for the chaplain. As a team, the chaplain can do the ministry while the RP is facilitating and providing the force protection, so that team concept is vital to us being able to accomplish the mission."
Like the chaplains before them who were taught in Newport, the chaplains graduating from NCSC in Fort Jackson will continue to serve the spiritual needs of those serving in the fleet through-out the world.
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