Buddhist Chaplain Celebrates Vesak
As noted previously, Chaplain (Capt) Somya Malasri recently celebrated the Buddhist Vesak at Joint Base Lewis-McChord. Chaplain Malasri is reportedly the only active duty Buddhist Chaplain in the US Army. (Buddhist Chaplain (Lt) Thomas Dyer is in the Army National Guard.)
Like Chaplains of other faiths, Malasri’s presence provides a unique support for members in the military of his faith:
Part of [Chaplain’s Malasri’s] service to others includes providing weekly Buddhist services on base. Spc. Lawrence Ross…attends regularly.
“(It gives me) a sense of belonging, where a group can connect without any animosity of judging,” he said.
Ross, who became a Buddhist in 2008, says that it has helped him become a better Soldier and that having a Buddhist presence on base helps people see another side of the Army.
“It’s not all about kicking down doors and killing people,” he said. “It’s all about helping people. Bottom line.”
Malasri has an interesting take on the apparent contradiction of a Buddhist Chaplain/Soldier — a religion stereotypically “peaceful.”
He says he gets asked a lot how he balances being a leader of a famously peaceful religion and being in the armed services. For him, even the least aggressive of people must be able to defend themselves, their property and their rights.
“If you don’t have a Soldier, you don’t have freedom to practice your own religion,” he said.
He also gives an insight into the unique relativism of some eastern religions, as compared to faith systems which claim an ultimate truth (including all three Abrahamic faiths):
“We cannot have only one religion,” he explained. “For example, we have five fingers. They’re all different (but they all work together).”