A Military Chaplain’s Response

This post is a bit late here—LT Jeanette Shin responds to Rev Senauke’s musings on Buddhist military chaplains, which I blogged about here.

The concerns expressed by Rev. Senauke and others that the presence of Buddhist chaplains might deter commanding officers from taking C.O. claims seriously, can, in fact, be seen as a positive development on several fronts. […] For those individuals believing that all they have to do is claim to be “Buddhist” and that will get them out the gate, the fact of Buddhist chaplains in the military now makes this belief untenable. It may reduce the bogus applications, in any case. There is NO one religion that can release someone from service just by adherence, especially in the era of the all-volunteer force.

I certainly hope that the increased visibility of Buddhists in the military will spread a greater sense of respect and understanding for Buddhists in uniform—not just from within the armed forces, but also from within our own Buddhist community.

Buddhifying the Military

At the Upaya Zen Center Newsletter, Rev. Alan Senauke responds to a sticky question posed to him regarding the Buddhist chapel at the Air Force Academy (via LT Jeanette Shin at Buddhist Military Sangha):

I’m of course concerned about its impact on CO [conscientious objector] clients for whom Buddhism is their route to their beliefs against participation in war in any form. The more deeply Buddhism becomes entrenched in military life, the harder it is for that to be the accepted religious source of a CO applicant’s beliefs. It is already such an uphill battle for Christians – I can see that happening how for those who articulate Buddhist values or beliefs in support of their CO applications. “Soldier, the Air Force has a Buddhist Chaplain and a Buddhist Chapel. How can you sit here and say to me that Buddhism is against participation in war in any form?”

Check out his full response. Earlier this year there was some heated back-and-forth on a coupleof posts on the issue of Buddhism and the military. I don’t think it’s wrong to disagree with the notion of Buddhists serving in the military—but I will speak out loud and clear against those who would have the community turn our backs on our own.

A Piece of Buddhism that Can Fit in a Bag

I was uniquely touched by Lt Christopher Mohr’s debut post and question on Buddhist Military Sangha.

All chaplains have a sort of kit bag (sometimes lovingly called the chaplain’s “magic bag”). I am wondering, for all of our Buddhists out there, what you would suggest, from your tradition, that would be useful, necessary and fit in a bag that has to be hand-carried in places like a FOB in say, the ‘box’?

What a wonderful open question that speaks directly to the diversity and interconnectedness of our community. I hope you can give Lt Mohr some suggestions from your tradition. I’ve got to give this one a good think. (Happy Independence Day, United Statesians!)

Military ≠ Buddhism

In response to an article on two Washington educators who spent four days in San Diego as participants in the Marine Corps Educators Workshop, two commentators suggested a “Buddhist boot camp” would be more suitable for our educators.

Gregor Samsa: Wow. Rather than glorify a program probably intended to amp teachers up to be better recruiters in high schools for the military, to convince kids that their future interests are best served as being cannon fodder for the loathsome and evil Military-Industrial Complex, why don’t we send teachers to buddhist camps and meditation education programs where they can open their closed minds to a world without gun and grenade slinging hate bots, a world without the need to dominate others at the point of a gun. Sorry. Not impressed.

I often get torked by comparisons where the military and Buddhism are presented as two ends of some spectrum. That says a lot about how little people understand of both. Besides, I’d like to see Gregor Samsa go to boot camp and a 12 day meditation retreat, and tell me which one was tougher.