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Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Buddhism for Returning Veterans of War


 UPDATE: According to Claire Michalewicz, with "Shambhala Sunspace" the British military is not sending 4,000 of its soldiers to Bodh Gaya, as was reported in "The Daily Mail" news publication.  "It’s completely untrue,” an army spokeswoman told me, explaining that the Ministry of Defence had no official plans to send troops to Bodh Gaya, the religious site in India where Gautama Buddha is said to have achieved enlightenment. A Buddhist army chaplain is arranging a pilgrimage there for up to 20 soldiers next year, but they’ll be paying for the trip themselves.
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.
JAMES: War is hell, as they say. There are never any winners. All lose something when war is waged, even the survivors. Physically, they might have survived and kept their limbs but mentally they have been traumatized and scarred for life. Modern medicine has never been better at fixing broken bodies but the mind is harder to heal. A lot of mentally traumatized people find that there are gaps in the kind of psychiatric care available. Yes, medications help but they aren't a cure-all.

This is where spirituality can make the difference. Buddha was often described as "the great physician" since his teachings can bring such mental relief from suffering. The Buddha diagnosed the sickness of human suffering through a four-part experiment called the "Four Noble Truths." He then diagnosed the remedy as regular meditation following Dr. Buddha's "Eight-fold Path" to realize the cure (enlightenment). Thus, in many ways, Buddha was one of humanity's first psychiatrists.

I haven't been to war, thankfully, but I do struggle with my own mental illnesses (schizoaffective disorder and PTSD). I can't say it enough, meditation is another medication in my regiment. And, the side-effects are all positive unlike the medications I need. Still, the best success I've found in dealing with my psychiatric issues is the trisection of three things: mediation, medication and therapy.

It is no surprise then, that a lot of veterans of war find relief in Buddhism, so I think it's perfect that these British soldiers are visiting Bodh Gaya for some mental rehabilitation. Too often we focus on the physical wounds and not, treat the mental wounds of war. Thus, the silent epidemic of U.S. veterans of war committing suicide. The tragedy is compounded by a society tainted by the poison of delusion. The delusion of believing that psychiatric disorders are simply the behavioral "weaknesses" of "weak people" rather than true diseases. Why commit to such denial? Our collective egos would rather blame the victim, or, deny the problem exists, than enact the changes to our way of living, and thinking, needed to combat the epidemic of suicide, and other psychiatric crises.

In years past, the testosterone-fueled pride, within the military, saw psychiatric trauma as "weakness". So, It warms my heart to know that the British military is embracing the demand for mental healing, within their ranks. I rejoice that they are helping these wounded heroes find the healing they deserve. It is my sincerest hope, and wish, that these wounded heroes can benefit from the solace and healing that is at the heart of Buddhism.

PHOTO: Thomas Dyer, the first Buddhist chaplain in the United States military.

~i bow to the buddha within all~

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4 comments:

Adela Iglesias said...

So, so inspiring. Thank you!! (I'm a Mexican Buddhist practitioner with my own personal isuues -meditation & therapy & medication when needed have saved my life- and your take on this sphere as well as on the more global one warms my heart...)

Dr. Nick said...

http://shambhalasun.com/sunspace/?p=30392

Hanzze B said...

There is a great sutta, which might be interesting in this relation in general:

A poignant story of a lay person whose welfare was of special concern to Ven. Sariputta, this discourse teaches two lessons in heedfulness. If you're engaging in wrong livelihood, don't expect to escape the karmic consequences even if you're doing it to fulfil your duties to your family, parents, or friends. Don't be satisfied with mundane levels of attainment in meditation when there is still more to be done.

To Dhana├▒jani read here:
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/mn/mn.097.than.html

Mary John said...

A beautiful piece...straight from the heart :-)
Good work

Thanks,


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