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Buddhists in the United States military

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Insignia of Buddhist chaplains of the United States Air Force[1]
Insignia of Buddhist chaplains of the United States Air Force[1]

Buddhists make up a small percentage of the United States military, with a 2009 article stating that only 5,287 of 1.4 million military personnel identified themselves as Buddhists.[2]

As Buddhism is a generally pacifistic religion, people have commented on the apparent discord between the religion and military service; a Buddhist program leader at the United States Air Force Academy stated in an interview: "The questions of Buddhism are the questions of life and death. So, where else would you want Buddhism than right there where those questions are most vivid?"[2]

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Transcription

The first of the five precepts is "refrain from killing". Does that mean Buddhists cannot serve in the military? Before he became the Buddha, Siddhartha Gautama received military training and there is even a story about his skills in archery. But what did he have to say about military service after he achieved enlightenment? Buddha once gave a sermon, during which he said that killing a living being or destroying a village would make one an outcast. Buddhist scriptures list several occupations that are to be avoided. First on the list is "business related to weapons". As a result, many Buddhists believe it is wrong to serve in the military. But some Buddhists do enlist. Even the United States military has Buddhist chaplains. Of course, not every person who enlists in the military bears arms. Some serve as cooks, medics, or in other noncombatant roles. What about the famous Shaolin monks? Their kung fu fighting is seen in many movies. In times past, they also fought in some battles. When Buddhism made its way into China, some of the people influenced by Buddhist teachings were from military backgrounds. The two seemingly contradictory philosophies melded. The question of Buddhist soldiers has made the news in recent years with some Buddhists in Burma taking up arms against religious minorities in that country. Obviously, there are a range of beliefs about this among Buddhists. What do you think? Share your experiences and thoughts below. To learn more about Buddhism, subscribe to Buddha Bits and like us on Facebook.

Contents

History

Among the earliest Buddhists to serve in number in the US military were the Nisei Japanese Americans. A 1944 service for 50 soldiers at Fort Snelling is believed to be the first Buddhist service ever delivered in an army installation in the United States.[3] A majority of Nisei troops were Buddhist, one estimate states half the Nisei troops of the 442nd Infantry Regiment and the Military Intelligence Service,[4] and many Nisei linguists serving in the MIS had studied Japanese at Buddhist-run schools in the United States.[5] However, Nisei units such as the 442nd were only permitted Christian chaplains; Assistant Secretary of Defense John J. McCloy feared that negative American perceptions of Buddhists would compromise the reputation of the unit.[6]

Following World War II, the denotation "B" for Buddhist became an allowed option on American dog-tags.[5]

Chaplains

In 1990, the American military first resolved to make plans for inclusion of Buddhists chaplains in the armed forces; in August of that year Institute of Heraldry produced a rank insignia, based on the dharmachakra emblem.[7]

The first Buddhist chaplain in the United States Department of Defense was Lieutenant Junior Grade Jeanette Gracie Shin, commissioned in 2004. Shin, a former enlisted Marine, graduated with a Master of Arts degree in Buddhist Studies from the Graduate Theological Union/Institute of Buddhist Studies located in Berkeley, California.[8] The first Buddhist chaplain in the United States Army was former Southern Baptist Thomas Dyer, appointed in 2008.[9] Buddhist chaplains are endorsed by the Buddhist Churches of America.[10]

Chapel

Buddhist chapel USAF Academy.jpg

As of 2009, there was only one official dedicated Buddhist chapel in the United States military, located in the basement of the United States Air Force Academy Cadet Chapel, which also houses Catholic, Protestant, and Jewish chapels. The Buddhist chapel was constructed in 2005, and a 2009 report stated that at the chapel's Wednesday services "about half of the 18 pillows on the floor are usually occupied."[2]

References

  1. ^ Selected : Emblems : Occupational Badges : Buddhist Chaplain Archived August 25, 2011, at the Wayback Machine.. AF.mil
  2. ^ a b c Jeff Brady. Military Buddhist Chapel Represents Tolerance. National Public Radio, October 13, 2009
  3. ^ James C. McNaughton. Nisei linguists: Japanese Americans in the Military Intelligence Service During World War II (Paperbound). Government Printing Office. pp. 304–. ISBN 978-0-16-086705-7. 
  4. ^ Peter Manseau (27 January 2015). One Nation, Under Gods: A New American History. Little, Brown. pp. 334–. ISBN 978-0-316-24223-3. 
  5. ^ a b Duncan Ryuken Williams; Tomoe Moriya (25 March 2010). Issei Buddhism in the Americas. University of Illinois Press. pp. 16–. ISBN 978-0-252-09289-3. 
  6. ^ Greg Robinson (20 August 2013). A Tragedy of Democracy: Japanese Confinement in North America. Columbia University Press. pp. 271–. ISBN 978-0-231-52012-6. 
  7. ^ William K. Emerson (1996). Encyclopedia of United States Army Insignia and Uniforms. University of Oklahoma Press. pp. 269–. ISBN 978-0-8061-2622-7. 
  8. ^ U.S. Navy Commissions Military's First Buddhist Chaplain. United States Navy story number NNS040723-10, Release Date: 7/23/2004
  9. ^ Anne Loveland (30 July 2014). Change and Conflict in the U.S. Army Chaplain Corps since 1945. University of Tennessee Press. pp. 174–. ISBN 978-1-62190-079-5. 
  10. ^ Cheryl A Giles; Willa B Miller (24 November 2012). The Arts of Contemplative Care: Pioneering Voices in Buddhist Chaplaincy and Pastoral Work. Wisdom Publications. pp. 133–. ISBN 978-1-61429-037-7. 

External links

This page was last edited on 3 September 2018, at 23:44
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