Buddhists Celebrate Vesak at Fort Lewis

As has become a local tradition, military Buddhists at Fort Lewis recently came together to celebrate Vesak, which coincides with Buddha’s birthday.  They were led by US Army Chaplain (Capt) Somya Malasri.

[Chaplain Malasri] 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.

While it is somewhat easier for these troops because their local chaplain is Buddhist, the US military goes out of its way to protect the religious exercise of its troops, even for those of minority religions.  If a chaplain of a particular faith is not available, military chaplains can help find the spiritual resources necessary for a member of the military.

At Fort Lewis, the chaplain is even able to offer services during the week:

“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… “I am glad that mediation is also offered during lunch at Madigan on Thursdays.”

Interestingly, “positive” articles that show the exercise of religious freedom in the US military rarely get as much publicity as others.  This Buddhist celebration, for example, hardly fits the narrative of Christians coercing others to their worldview, or of Jews in the military creating “propaganda” for America’s Islamic enemies, as some claim the military is wont to do.

As has been noted before, the Taliban hardly has a friendly relationship with Buddhism, either, though it is unlikely anyone will be claiming these Buddhists are endangering their fellow troops as their Jewish and Christian comrades have.

Also at the Buddhist Military Sangha.