Friday, August 26, 2011

Royal Thai Armed Forces Chaplains Visit USS George Washington

[From the official US 7th Fleet Web site. Chaplains of the Royal Thai Armed Forces are Buddhist]

LAEM CHABANG, Thailand - The nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS George Washington (CVN 73) hosted 20 Thai military chaplains to participate in a "ministry at sea" workshop Aug. 7.

LAEM CHABANG, Thailand (Aug. 7, 2011) - Cmdr. Brian Haley, command chaplain aboard the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS George Washington (CVN 73), center right, holds a discussion about conducting religious ministry services while at sea to Royal Thai Armed Forces chaplains who visited the ship. George Washington hosted 20 Thai chaplains, including Royal Thai Army Col. Chainat Yatchimplee, director of chaplains for the Royal Thai Armed Forces, Royal Thai Navy Capt. Manoon Channuan, director of chaplains for the Royal Thai Navy, and Capt. Phil Gwaltney, command chaplain, U.S. Pacific Fleet, to discuss what U.S. Navy chaplains do for their Sailors while conducting religious ministries at sea. George Washington is currently making a port visit to Thailand as an opportunity to strengthen ties with the partner nation. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class William Pittman)

The Thai chaplains, from all branches of the Royal Thai Armed Forces, came aboard George Washington to participate in the workshop with chaplains from George Washington, Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 5, Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 15 and the guided-missile cruiser USS Cowpens (CG 63).

"We are hosting this visit aboard George Washington for multiple reasons, but key among them is to continue to foster our relationship with the Royal Thai Armed Forces," said Capt. Phil Gwaltney, command chaplain, U.S. Pacific Fleet. "That's why we're hosting this workshop, to discuss everything that U.S. Navy chaplains do for our Sailors, so the Thai navy can begin to see some new opportunities for their chaplains to be supporting their Sailors and families."

Nearly a dozen Navy chaplains participated in the event.

"This is the largest collection of U.S. Navy chaplains that we've had [in Thailand] recently so we used the opportunity to bring the chaplains from the carrier, cruiser, DESRON and air wing together with the Thai chaplains," said Gwaltney. "This gave us the chance to introduce ourselves to each other and to have a discussion about the numerous opportunities this presents us."

Thai chaplains that attended included Royal Thai Army Col. Chainat Yatchimplee, director of chaplains for the Royal Thai Armed Forces, and Royal Thai Navy Capt. Manoon Channuan, director of chaplains for the Royal Thai Navy.

"This meeting is a very good opportunity for Thai chaplains and U.S. chaplains to join together to achieve a common goal," said Yatchimplee. "This makes me very happy and very proud in our chosen occupation as chaplains and I hope the liaison between us will go to new heights and provide many opportunities to work together."

Upon arriving aboard the carrier, George Washington's command chaplain, Cmdr. Brian Haley led the guests on a tour of the ship, highlighting the flight deck, hangar bay, forecastle, library and chapel. The tour ended with an exchange of gifts from both sides.

"One of the Pacific Fleet commander's goals is for all elements of our forces to develop as much interoperability as possible," said Gwaltney. "For chaplains, that really means that when there is a future disaster, can our chaplaincies from the Royal Thai Navy and the U.S. Navy work together to help mitigate the effects of that disaster and to help support the recovery in the event of a natural disaster. So the more we do together, whether it be community service projects or religious exchanges, the more we get comfortable and we find opportunities to work together."

George Washington is currently making a port visit to Thailand as an opportunity to strengthen ties with the partner nation. Port visits increase mutual understanding through positive interaction events such as tours of the ship, receptions and sports and community service projects. This supports regional cooperation on common concerns which are of the utmost importance to continued progress.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Buddhist Study Available at Wheeler Chapel, Hawaii

For those stationed at or near Wheeler Army Airfield, Hawai'i:

Wheeler Chapel offers variety to residentsJuly 7, 2011

By Master Sgt. Stephen Chinen, Chaplain Assistant, 3302nd Mobilization Support Battalion

WHEELER ARMY AIRFIELD, Hawaii -- The Wheeler Chapel celebrates its 43rd anniversary this year.

Built in 1968, at a cost of $366,000, the chapel recently experienced a serendipitous sequence of events, bridging the chapel’s early years and the present.

It was 1970, when U.S. Navy Sailor Mike Cimorosi got married in the new Wheeler Chapel. Fast-forward four decades, he and his wife are now celebrating their 41st wedding anniversary.

Living in Delaware, the couple emailed the chapel assistant asking for any current pictures of Wheeler Chapel. They didn’t expect to ever return to Hawaii again and wanted some pictures to help them celebrate their wedding anniversary.

Luckily, a promotion had recently taken place in the chapel, and it was photographed. Photos were sent to the Cimorosis, who were so elated and grateful.

This example is just one illustration of how Wheeler Chapel continues to be an important part of the Schofield Barracks community and the garrison Chaplain’s Office.

Another recent event that has bridged the past and present is the “Brown Bags Buddhism” discussion group, which is an introduction to Buddhism facilitated by Rev. Kevin Kuniyuki, resident minister of the Wahiawa Hongwanji Mission.

Buddhism has been practiced in the U.S. for nearly 150 years. Those interested in learning more about Buddhism attended the recent discussion group.

The next open discussion at Wheeler Chapel is July 14, 11 a.m.-1 p.m. Others will be held at the Main Post Chapel Annex on the fourth Sunday of every month at 1 p.m. Everyone is invited to attend the discussion group and to bring a lunch and questions.

Wheeler Chapel also offers Bible studies, choir rehearsals and other religious activities, including a Catholic Mass every Saturday at 5 p.m., and a Lutheran/Episcopalian Sunday service at 9 a.m.
Unit trainings and other nonreligious activities also often occur in the chapel’s Fellowship Hall.

(For more information or questions about Wheeler Chapel events and services, call (808) 655-9307.)

Service members, Station Residents Find Peace Through Zen Meditation, Buddhist Scripture

[From the Web site] Thanks to CH. Malasri for the link!

5/12/2011 By Lance Cpl. Jennifer J. Pirante, Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni

MARINE CORPS AIR STATION IWAKUNI, Japan — Japan is abundant in cultural experiences and historical sites, which may be new to many service members and station residents. It might be difficult to experience them all in just one two-year tour, but not far from Iwakuni is a spiritual journey waiting to be discovered by those who have yet to experience it.

Approximately 20 service members and station residents spent their Sunday morning exploring the rich culture of Japanese Buddhism during an Information, Tours and Travel trip to the Kofukuji Temple in the Onomichi area of Hiroshima.

The Kofukuji Temple, which belongs to the Rinzai school of Zen, is located at the foot of an island in the Seto-inland Sea, muralled in the background by mountains, green forests and ancient pagodas. The Kojoji Temple, a famous three-tiered pagoda also towers over the village.

Many museums are also scattered among the area, filled with folklore and historical artifacts, which paint a picture of a time when Setoda seaport was once a vital shipping port for the commerce of salt.

The Kofukuji temple is just a short quartermile walk from the seaport. Its surroundings are decorated with citrus grapefruit and orange trees. They could be smelled along the path. Upon arrival, stone lanterns, culptures and shrines stood carefully placed in the yard, aged with time.

As the group walked up the pathway, beneath an archway to the entrance of the temple, Tadahisa Teshima, a Buddhist monk dressed in a black robe, welcomed and invited everyone to remove their shoes. His Buddhist name was Joshun, he said.

Before meditation, it is common to burn incense and, in Buddhism, it is an avid part of the ritual, Teshima explained. Participants lined up and lit a stick of incense before taking a seat on two pieces of cushion d├ęcor to experience the art of Zazen, the practice of sitting meditation.

“Practicing Buddhism requires a lot of discipline,” said Teshima. “It requires a lot of concentration.”

Once settled, Teshima instructed everyone to fold the top cushion in half and sit comfortably, spine extended with hands and legs folded with careful posture. The meditation was divided into two sessions, each 10 minutes with a break in between the two.

“It was very relaxing,” said Lance Cpl. Crystal Weaver, Headquarters and Headquarters Squadron administrative specialist. “I was able to relieve a lot of stress by just being able to focus on one thing instead of so many.”

For those who experience trouble clearing their mind and finding inner peace, the Buddhist culture provides a few methods to help remedy this inner conflict. During meditation, Teshima rang a sharp, sustaining bell, or Dorje, which is meant to symbolize the “thunderbolt of enlightenment.” It serves as an abrupt change in human consciousness and is designed to help the meditator focus, Teshima said.

The bell rang four times at 2-and-a-halfminute intervals during each 10-minute session. The seemingly gentle monk also walked around with a flat wooden stick called keisaku. Upon silent request, meditators received three whacks, intended to remedy sleepiness or lapses of concentration.

“The meditation was hard,” said Seaman Annabel Rendon, H&HS logistics specialist. “One-on-one time with yourself takes a lot of discipline to be in Zen, but I could hear birds in the background, which helped me relax.”

After the meditation session, the group practiced the art of Buddhist scripture writing. Given a piece of paper and a calligraphy marker, the group had 20 minutes to practice their best Kanji while tracing the most popular of Buddhist scriptures, The Heart Sutra. The scripture is made of 14 Shlokas, or verses, composed of 32 syllables.

Making a handwritten copy of a sutra is called “Shayko.” The Heart Sutra is simple and important to the Buddhist religion, said Teshima. The purpose is to copy each character with deep and careful concentration during each stroke. Buddhist scripture is significant to the Buddhist religion, but in order to train with proper discipline, it becomes a way of life.

“You’re training all the time,” said Teshima. “You must always pay attention to yourself and what you are doing. You need to throw away your ego so you can follow the teachings, but that doesn’t mean you have to lose our personality.”

As a monk, Teshima said his schedule is very busy. He wakes up every day at 4 a.m. to complete chores and clean around the temple. His day is filled with frequent meditation sessions and a dedication to the discipline of the Buddhist religion. Everything he does, from the way he approaches life to the way he eats his meals, is done purposefully and with care.

The group got a taste of Teshima’s way of life when they were treated to a small-portioned vegetarian lunch. Meal setting is strategically prepared by horizontally aligning three bowls, sequential in size. Hot white rice was scooped and served in the largest bowl. Everyone treated themselves to miso soup, which was poured into the medium-sized bowl and in the smallest bowl, everyone was served two slices of pickles, one of which was to be saved for later.

Everyone was instructed to join their hands in a sort of prayer as the monk calmly begged for alms on behalf of the group.

“First, let us reflect on our own work and the effort of those who brought us this food,” Teshima began to chant.

In Buddhist religion, meals such as this are eaten in complete silence. Meals are a time to consciously reflect on the food nourishing the body. At the end of the meal, it was time to clean the bowls. To do this, everyone was instructed to pour warm water into the biggest bowls. A small portion of this water was then poured into the smallest and middle-sized bowl. The slice of pickle, which had been set aside prior, was used the clean the bowls one by one. It is also Buddhist tradition to eat the remaining slice of pickle, drink the water and dry the bowls with cloth. Nothing is wasted. Nothing is spared.

“I was very surprised by the attention to detail,” said Rendon. “I loved it. This is the best thing I have done in Japan so far.”

“We thought it would be a good idea for people to expereince something different,” said Taka Takeda, ITT tour guide. “We thought this would be a really good one because a lot of people want to know what being a Buddhist monk is like.”

ITT has many trips slated for service members and station residents to take advantage of and explore more cultural expereinces throughout Japan including an overnight trip to the Beppu Onsen hot springs May 29.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Buddhist Services at Joint Base Balad, Iraq

Buddhist services at Joint Base Balad, Iraq, will begin this month. First service will be AUG 13 2011. Sponsored by 77th Special Troops Battalion, Chaplain (1LT) Bermudes.

Thanks to Gregory Melartin for the news!
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