Tuesday, December 18, 2012

4000 British Troops to Visit Bodh Gaya and Sarnath

by Giridhar Jha, MAIL TODAY, December 10, 2012

Patna, India -- The British Army will send about 4,000 of its troops, who are followers of Buddhism, in a group of 100-150 people to spend a week at Bodh Gaya and Sarnath to seek peace after their prolonged involvement in the war zones in different countries such as Afghanistan and Iraq. They will all meditate under the famous tree at Bodh Gaya, where Lord Buddha had attained enlightenment in 6th century B.C.

Mahabodhi tree has been declared a world heritage site by the Unesco in 2002.

"The British soldiers will start arriving in Bodh Gaya from early next year," Bihar's minister for tourism Sunil Kumar Pintu told Mail Today on Monday. "They will arrive in separate groups of about 100-150 people and meditate under the holy tree. They will continue to arrive here throughout the next year."

Pintu said that the troops will spend six days in Bodh Gaya and one day at Sarnath in Uttar Pradesh.
The minister said that the tourism department of the Bihar government had entered into an agreement with an international travel agency, to facilitate the trips during the World Tourism Mart held in London last month.
"Bihar had taken part in the World Tourism Mart for the first time which was held in London between November 5-8 this year," he said. "It was during that tourism fair that the officials of the British army got in touch with us through the travel agency. We had three rounds of talks in this regard."

Pintu said that the exact dates of the British troops had not yet been finalised yet. He stated that the state government would take care of the security of the British soldiers and facilitate their smooth stay in holy south Bihar town. "We will provide our wholehearted support to the British soldiers troops who want to meditate under the Mahabodhi tree," he said.
The tourism minister said that the British Army had about 4,000 troops who were followers of Buddhism. "Since Bodh Gaya happens to be the holiest of the holy places for the Buddhists, the British army has decided to arrange the trips for its soldiers," he added.

Stating that he had discussed the details of the trip with the British army officials, Pintu said that most of the British troops coming to Bihar had been deployed in the different countries such as Afghanistan and Iraq in recent times. "The visit to Bodh Gaya and Sarnath is aimed at providing them peace and helping them distress them after their experiences in those countries."

He said that it was for the first time that such a visit has been organised.

Sushil Kumar Singh, managing director of the travel agency, said that his agency had signed an agreement in this regard with the British Army in London month. He said that Dr Sunil Karyakara, a Buddhist chaplain with the British army, had been made the coordinator for the trips. "We have entered into agreement with the British army to bring the stressed soldiers to various places on the Buddhist circuit," he said. "But they would spend most of the time at Bodh Gaya."
Singh said that the exact dates of the first round of the soldiers' visit had not been finalised but they would start arriving from early next year. "We will hold a meeting with the British army officials in January to chalk out the final itinerary in which Bihar tourism department officials will also be involved," he said. "The trips would continue in future as well."
Bihar has witnessed remarkable rise in the number of tourists from the foreign countries in recent years. Last year, the number of international tourists visiting Bihar was 8.70 lakh which was ten times more than what it used to be a decade ago. This year, 8.40 lakh had already visited the state till August and their number was expected to cross 10 lakh by the end of the year.

From the Buddhist Channel Web Site: http://www.buddhistchannel.tv/index.php?id=3,11226,0,0,1,0

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Battle-weary British troops find comfort in Buddhism

[From the Buddhist Channel. About UK Armed Forces but very relevant]

By Ian Drury, Sunday Times (Sri Lanka), Oct 21, 2012

London, UK -- Buddhism is experiencing an extraordinary upswing in popularity in the armed forces. Since 2005, the number of servicemen and women practising the religion has risen from 200 to 3,800. Around 2,800 are Gurkhas, whose home nation Nepal has pockets of Buddhism.
But the other 1,000 are British, with many converting since they joined the military. According to spiritual leaders, the reason behind the phenomenon is that Buddhism allows service personnel to escape the stresses and strains of military life.
Sunil Kariyakarawana, the Buddhist chaplain for the armed forces, said: ‘Buddhism has a different perspective about things.
‘The military is a very stressful place. People go to war, that is one factor, and have to fight.
‘Personnel see a lot of suffering in theatre. People are finding that Buddhism can help with these mental agonies.
‘It is laid back and they can practise their own way.’
Dr Sunil said Buddha, who lived 2,500 years ago, never ruled out force: ‘Sometimes you have to choose war as the least bad option.’
Lieutenant Colonel Peter Straddings, who heads up cultural diversity for the Army, said the society was ‘hugely important’.
He said: ‘British society today is hugely different from the Army I joined 25 years ago. Approximately 25 per cent of young people are no longer white Anglo-Saxon Protestants.
‘They are the future. They are the people who represented the country at the Olympics, at football and they are the people we need for the Army, Navy and Royal Air Force of the future.’
In 2005, Buddhist, Hindu, Muslim and Sikh chaplains were appointed by the armed forces for the first time.
The appointments reflect the increase in ethnic minority recruitment to the Army, Navy and RAF in recent years.

Saturday, September 1, 2012


Since I'm working on some old projects, I'd like to see what the blogosphere thinks of a couple of them.
I have previously alluded to a set of running cadences that is in the works. I have this strange concept of incorporating the physical training into spiritual fitness, and at the same time making our physical training more spiritually-minded. I'd love to hear ideas that allow us to incorporate our practice in more aspects of our lives.

There has been in my mind an idea for some time, based on my interactions with Venerable Zhen Guan (2LT, chaplain candidate) the idea of a television series (sit-com) titled, "The Monk and the Soldier". Basically, it revolves around a Soldier helping a monk learn physical fitness and the often comedic adventures that that has entailed. i'm wondering what our community might think about such a show?

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

A Book Recommendation

Throughout the course of the last couple of weeks, I've been fighting some sort of stomach bug that finally got the best of me. As a result, I've been on quarters for the past two days. Since one can only sleep so many hours out of the day, I decided to pick up where I left off reading Sakyong Mipham's "Running with the Mind of Meditation".

As military members, we are most likely all running as part of our physical fitness requirements, and as Buddhists we are all probably engaged in a meditation practice. This book, although quite short (less than 200 pages) wonderfully outlines the correlation between the stages in mental development as you practice meditation, and the stages in which you develop your body as you train by running. As the leader of the Shambhala tradition the Sakyong draws heavily from the Tiger, Lion, Garuda, Dragon concept, but the underlying messages of appreciation, cultivation, and progression will not be lost on the practitioner of any Buddhist tradition. I'd recommend it to those who are not Buddhist, and non runners as well, since these concepts can be applied to any activity in which you choose to engage.

In these two short days, this book has had a profound effect me. I share this with you all in hopes that you too may share in its' delight.  Here is the link:  http://runningmind.org/ 

Ki Ki So So!

- Veronica

Monday, August 27, 2012

Praise and Blame: the Worldly Truth

Recently, there was a young man came to my office and complained about his boss. This man got very angry toward his supervisor because his boss blamed very hardly on him for what he said that he did not make any mistake. This young man was crying and complaining that it's not right to get blamed for what he hasn't done any wrong. I listened to him quietly and gave some advices. One of the advise I gave was that there is no one who is absent from praise or blame. This is the worldly truth. If we accept this truth, there will be no suffering out of this matter. This reminds me of the Dhammapada (the Path of Truth) verse 228:
There never was
There never will be
Nor does there exist
A person who is wholly blamed or praised
Censure, blame and criticism are things no one wants to hear but all are unavoidable at one time or the other. Even a perfect person such as Buddha and etc. could not avoid this worldly truth. Ordinary people must go through adverse criticism on a daily basis. As an inevitable worldly truth, we must learn how to deal with it wisely. Not knowing how to deal with it, we are bound to suffering unnecessarily.
In the Dhammapada, it is advised that if anyone gives you criticism, censure or blame, you should thank him for his time pointing out your flaws to you. If what he points out is true, you should make amends. If not, you should generate loving-kindness toward him. Anyone who often gets angry when berated, censured or criticized should turn his way of thinking around and adopt a positive thought.
We should learn to think positively that censure (including criticism) has more worth than praise, as it makes us see our own flaws, faults, failings and failure, thus showing us the way to self-improvement. If what they criticize is not true, we should remain indifferent, as we are not what they say we are. What we are is the result of our own actions. We should adopt the attitude that a person is not good because of what he says, not a thief because of what he says but we are who we are and word of mouth cannot change that.
Those who are censured, blamed or criticized, if viewed positively, are fortunate and important. If we are not important enough, who will care enough to waste their time and energy to criticize us? The well-known thinker Dale Carnegie must have been well aware of the truth of the matter because whenever he was censured, blamed or criticized, he kept reminding himself that;
“Nobody kicks a dead dog.”

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Zen and Pain Management


As a cognitive neuroscientist and Soto Zen Buddhist, I find these studies fascinating (see link). Does anyone have any experiences (on and off of the cushion) relevant to pain they would like to share? Personally, I find that my threshold for discomfort in my hips and feet while sitting in zazen for long periods has increased. I believe that zazen has invaluable potential if applied to our soldiers as a means for managing physical and psychological discomfort (and the interaction of the two).

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Buddhist Military Sangha Invites New Authors!

Because I no longer have time (or Right Concentration) to update this blog regularly, and I will be EASing out of the Navy next year, I'd like to open this blog up to new contributors. If you'd like to be listed as a contributor/author, contact the contributors below and let us know! We'd be happy to add you on. We welcome all content, your service stories, reviews, questions, discussions, information, Dharma teachings, etc., in keeping with the spirit of this blog: positive Buddha-Dharma and support and care for all our servicemembers wherever and whomever they are.

Find us on Facebook! http://www.facebook.com/groups/106564922724906/

Namo Amida Butsu!

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!

Friday, June 1, 2012

Article on Vesak Day at Ft. Lewis-McChord

Story by Sgt. Sarah Enos   

JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. — Many people from different denominations in the Buddhist religion came together as one, in celebration of Vesak Day at the Joint Base Lewis-McChord North Chapel May 26.

According to the Buddha Dharma Education Association, approximately 300 million people around the world, predominately in Southeast Asia, strive to follow a moral and mindful life.

Traditionally, Vesak Day is celebrated on the first full moon of May as it is also the same day of Buddha’s birth, enlightenment and passing away.

“I normally experience Vesak in a temple,” said Phramaha Artid Payuntgvong, a monk from the Washington Buddhavanaram Temple in Auburn. “So this is a little bit different than tradition for me.”

Attendees bowed to the six monks from the Washington Buddhavanaram Temple as they passed them while entering the building. This was a way to show respect to the Triple Gems, the Buddha [the founder], the Dharma [his teachings], and the Sangha [the community of practicing monks and nuns].

“I would like to be more like them and follow in their footsteps,” said Chairat Noppakovat, an admin officer, Madigan Healthcare System.

Capt. Somya Malasri, a Buddhist chaplain with the 593rd Special Troops Battalion, began the service by speaking about having a wholehearted commitment to what is wholesome.

He said that Buddhist should try to reach harmony with society by abstaining from killing or harming, abstaining from stealing, abstaining from sexual misconduct, abstaining from telling lies and abstaining from toxins such as alcohol or drugs.

“Buddha will show us the path, but we have to walk it ourself,” Malasri said.

Malasri lit two candles as a way to symbolize dispelling darkness. He also lit three incense sticks to represent compassion, wisdom and purity.

The monks chanted by heart buddhist teachings over 1,000 years old.

“I believe that the chanting is a powerful way to radiate loving kindness and blessings to everyone in attendance to the service,” Malasri said.

Following the chanting, Chaplain Malasri encouraged everyone to sit up straight, cross their legs, close their eyes, relax and mediate. The room became quiet.

“Mediation is key to knowing Buddha,” Payuntgvong said. “You will feel peacefulness surround you.”

“I’ve been in service for 11 years and have been trying to find a Buddhist place where I can meditate,” said Staff Sgt. Aroon Urrutia, a supply sergeant, 593rd Sustainment Brigade. “I am glad that mediation is also offered during lunch at Madigan on Thursdays.”

After the mediation, everyone in attendence was invited to form a line behind the monks to bathe the Buddha statue.

“Water is a symbol of our heart,” Payuntgvong said. “When we bathe Buddha we try to make our minds pure like water. This is a way to show deep respect to Buddha.”

Volunteers setup a buffett comprising of vegetarian eggrolls, fried rice, fried noodles, chicken, pizza, soda and water.

The attendees enjoyed refreshments, sat to eat and watched the dancing and singing performances on the stage.

Malasri said that the Thai dances are performed during ceremonies to show respect to Buddha and the religion.

“I enjoyed todays events,” said Sgt. Phodaothong Sysourath, an aircraft armament/electronic/avionic systems repairer with the 4-6 Air Reconnaissance Squadron. “It brought me back to when my parents took me to the temple as a kid.”

Depending on the Indian Lunar calandar, Vesak Day will be celebrated here annually in May to practice mutual understanding and harmony between the different denominations in the Buddhism religion.

Read more: http://www.dvidshub.net/news/89295/buddhist-celebrate-vesak-day?fb_ref=.T8lPcJJtSJA.like&fb_source=timeline#.T8lQgO05s4l#ixzz1waVFItLu

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Memorial Day 2012

For this year's Memorial Day, let us be mindful of our veterans of the current and past wars, of those especially who are without shelter, let us aid them whenever and wherever we can.   May we always be mindful of their existence, and contemplate the meaning of their endeavors for us. May we never disparage them. May we work towards a peaceful world where all may have shelter.

"May the Buddhas rest on your head, the Dharma on your eyes, and the Sangha, the abode of all virtues, on your shoulders.

May all those great teachers ever protect you who are dwelling in the center of the Buddha's House on this earth."
- Jinapanjara

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

New Year's Service at Joint Base Lewis-McChord

For those of you in the area: Chaplain Malasri hosts Buddhist New Year Service at Joint Base Lewis-McChord Washington, March 31st 2012.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

New Buddhist Chaplain Candidate

Today Venerable Zhen Guan commissioned as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army Chaplain Candidate program. Venerable Zhen Guan is a monk originally from mainland China and a first year student in the MDIV program. Chaplain (1LT) Christoper Mohr, a December 2011 graduate of the program, administered the oath. Chaplain Candidate (Ens.) Aroon Seeda, current student, held the Vimalakirti Sutra upon which Ven. Zhen Guan swore his oath. Chaplain Candidates (2LTs) Songkran Waiyaka and Niphon Sukuan stood at attention while the oath was administered. Students, friends, and staff looked on to support Ven. Zhen Guan in his aspiration to be of service to the men and women of the U.S. Army.

Thanks to UWEST Buddhist Chaplaincy Club for the info!

(We still need a USAF Buddhist Chaplain Candidate!)

Friday, February 3, 2012

Facebook Buddhist Pages

There are two pages on Facebook, that I am currently aware of, that specifically focus on Buddhists serving in our U.S. Armed Forces:

"Buddhists in the Armed Forces" (an open group)

"U.S. Military Buddhists" (a Facebook page)

These are great ways to connect with your fellow Buddhist servicemember, learn about Dharma groups or temples in your location, and having your questions answered about Buddhism and military life. There are many more of us out there than you may assume!

Monday, January 16, 2012

Buddhist New Year at Joint Base Lewis-McChord

From Chaplain Malasri: Joint Base Lewis-McChord Buddhist community will celebrate traditional Buddhist New Year 2555 at North Fort Chapel, JBLM, WA on 31 March 2012. There are many activities including Sutra chanting, Dhamma talk, meditation, Bath the Buddha statue, delicious lunch, traditional dances from Thai, laos, Cambodian, Burmese, plus demonstration of Thai Boxing and more.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Army's first Buddhist chaplain serving 11th Engineer Battalion

Great article on Chaplain Dyer! From the Official U.S. Army Homepage.

December 15, 2011

By Vince Little

Chaplain (Capt.) Thomas Dyer engages in Zen-posture meditation Dec. 5 at Sightseeing Road Chapel.

The Bayonet
Fort Benning home page
FORT BENNING, Ga. -- Capt. Thomas Dyer took something of a unique passageway into the Buddhist faith. But he doesn't want to be stereotyped in his role as an Army chaplain.

Assigned to the 11th Engineer Battalion since August, Dyer said the unit ministry is his top focus, even as he works to provide spiritual guidance and counseling to a growing number of Buddhists in the ranks. It's unknown exactly how many Soldiers and Families practice the religion at Fort Benning, but he leads a weekly service for about 200 people -- mostly trainees -- every Sunday at the Regimental Chapel on Sand Hill.

"We don't really know yet, and it's difficult to get the data," he said of the post statistics. "Soldiers practicing Buddhism have to identify themselves. Many times, they don't. A lot of times, they're not really aware they have a chaplain representing them. One thing we have to do is get them aware.
"(But) the first thing I want to accomplish is making sure the battalion ministry is very solid. My first responsibility is to the battalion. … I wanted to avoid becoming known as 'the Buddhist chaplain.' I didn't want the 11th Engineers to lose their chaplain, even to a great cause of serving the Buddhist community."

Dyer became the Army's first Buddhist chaplain in 2008 when he was accessioned through the Tennessee National Guard. Last year, a second-generation Thai joined him in the chaplain corps.
In the early 1990s, the Army endorsed both the Islamic and Buddhist faiths, creating positions for chaplains, he said. The branch got its first Muslim chaplain in 1996, but the Buddhist slot went unfilled for another dozen years.

From Baptist pastor to Buddhist

Dyer's military career began in the Marine Corps Reserve, where he served from 1984 to 1990. He got out to earn bachelor's and master's degrees in college. Dyer later spent four years as a Southern Baptist pastor before beginning his new spiritual journey, around the same time he entered the National Guard.

"I came to Buddhism in 2003," he said. "At the time, I was looking for a little more depth than what I was experiencing, so I looked to the Christian Mystics for help."

Dyer said he began practicing a form of Christian meditation a year earlier and felt very comfortable with it, for reasons that escaped him -- until an experience one day expanded his mind.

"I really didn't understand what happened, but I knew it had forever changed me," he recalled. "I realized I had to leave the church. This experience, it was almost like an egg cracking, and an eagle came out of the egg. You realized there was some greater potential that you didn't know before."

The chaplain further explored what happened to him and soon discovered Zen Buddhism, he said. It allowed him to reflect back what had transpired in his own mind.

"Buddhism has traditionally been a pacifist religion," he said. "Over the years, as it's grown and gone into different segments of society, people learned it was not practical. There has to be some interaction as Buddhists begin to participate in larger roles of society."

Finding 'relevance' in Iraq

Dyer has deployed once. In 2010, he went to Iraq with the Tennessee National Guard. It was downrange he learned about the nuances and nature of his position and duties, he said.

"The challenge, of course, was that you're so new," he said. "You're sort of treated as an anomaly, something strange and out of place. It's kind of like a phone booth in the middle of the desert. It doesn't make sense initially."

At first, mild resistance came from those accustomed to the traditional faiths of Christianity and Judaism, he said. There simply wasn't much familiarity with the Buddhist religion.

Dyer said many troops didn't recognize the patch on his camouflage uniform, or even realize he was a chaplain.

"What we discovered in Iraq was that Buddhists are a hidden people group," he said. "Many didn't realize how many were in the Army. For me, it became grounds to demonstrate not just your right to be a chaplain, but your relevance as a chaplain. Once the Buddhists were coming out of the woodwork, it became a little more clear that I was more of an asset than an anomaly."

Numerous Christian chaplains began contacting Dyer about performing services for Buddhists in their units. So he spent a large amount of time hopping around to different forward operating bases in the country.

"It was very wonderful to experience that aspect of it," he said. "When I was invited to a FOB to hold a service, it might be the only Buddhist service some Soldiers would get during the whole 12-month deployment."

Balance at Fort Benning

Dyer said he's committed to keeping the 11th Engineer Battalion's ministry on solid ground. Ensuring Buddhist Soldiers can exercise their First Amendment rights in an Army setting -- perhaps for the first time -- and accommodating requests to counsel personnel in units across post are his other top priorities.

The Sand Hill service starts at 8 a.m. every Sunday. Dyer and the installation chaplain are now gathering research and data on the number of Buddhists at Fort Benning in an effort to determine whether it's the best location for the community. After the New Year, an officially sanctioned Buddhist service will be established, he said.

Dyer said every Soldier not only has the right to practice their chosen religion, but it also has impact on health and wellness, resiliency and qualify of life.

"Faith has such an important role for our Soldiers to be able to come into the serene and beautiful environment of a Buddhist service that's meaningful to them," he said. "It provides a quality role in their military service. I want to provide that to a group of Soldiers who have never had that before."

But balancing Buddhist ideals with Army duties can be conflicting for some, the chaplain said.

"Buddhist Soldiers have to deal with issues of livelihood: How do I view myself as a Buddhist and a Soldier who carries a weapon?" he said. "I have developed procedures that help them see themselves as a force for good in the world, protecting what's beautiful and right. It allows them to promote happiness and reduce suffering in the world. I try to teach those things to Buddhist Soldiers."
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