Staying Buddhist in the Military

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Re: Staying Buddhist in the Military

Postby gavesako » Wed Jun 02, 2010 3:20 pm

...What’s the difference between mindfulness and right mindfulness? Is there such a thing as wrong mindfulness? A sniper hiding in the grass, waiting to shoot his enemy, may be quietly aware of whatever arises with each passing moment. But because he is intent on killing, he is practicing wrong mindfulness. In fact, what he’s practicing is bare attention without an ethical component. Generally speaking, right mindfulness has to be integrated with sampajanna - again, introspection involving clear comprehension—and it is only when these two work together that right mindfulness can fulfill its intended purpose. Specifically, in the practice of the Four Applications of Mindfulness, right mindfulness has to occur in the context of the full Noble Eightfold Path: For example, it must be guided by right view, motivated by right intention, grounded in ethics, and be cultivated in conjunction with right effort. Without right view or right intention, one could be practicing bare attention without its ever developing into right mindfulness. So bare attention doesn’t by any means capture the complete significance of vipassana, but represents only the initial phase in the meditative development of right mindfulness.

http://www.tricycle.com/a-mindful-balan ... fer=dharma
Bhikkhu Gavesako
Kiṃkusalagavesī anuttaraṃ santivarapadaṃ pariyesamāno... (MN 26)

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Re: Staying Buddhist in the Military

Postby Dhammakid » Wed Jun 02, 2010 8:19 pm

Hello virtual sangha,
I want to first apologize for being absent after so many helpful and informative posts. Please know that I am not ignoring you all, and that I greatly value and appreciate your advice. This is such a dynamic conversation and I hope it continues even after I leave for boot camp. (Update: I swear into the USMC Delayed Entry Program tomorrow morning. I will receive my boot camp start date, as well as get to declare my top 3 military occupational specialities [MOS]).

I'll try to address all of the many concerns brought up in this one post.

First, to Venerable Gavesako:
Thank you, Venerable, for the reminder that right mindfulness must be grounded in right intention and right view. Mindfulness without the moral component is definitely bare attention, and I should not fool myself into thinking that I am making progress on the path without acting morally.

Choosing an MOS in the military:
All branches of the US Armed Forces allow a recruit to declare their top choices for military occupational specialty. There is never a gaurantee one will receive their top choice (or even one of their top three choices). Recruiters, if they are responsible and honest, make every effort to specify which MOS are open and which are closed (due to over-crowding and/or what the military needs most from you). For instance, my first choice is military firefighter, but all indications from recruiters in the Marines, Army and Air Force indicate that the firefighter MOS is crowded and I will most likely not get it. I have been strongly recommended to consider military intelligence since my ASVAB scores (Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery exam, the standardized test that informs the military of which MOS' you are qualified) are quite high. I have also been recommended for the Marine Corps Embassy Security Group since I have a strong desire to travel the world and experience different cultures, but do not have a desire for combat. Furthermore, I have been recommended to not make a career out of the military (that is, stay active for 20 years), but instead work in military intelligence and/or embassy security, retire after a couple of tours, and then work for the FBI, CIA, NSA, FEMA or Homeland Security. All of those are possibilities for the future, but they are all dependent on if I can receive the MOS I desire. Again, there are no promises, especially in the Marine Corps where "every Marine is a rifleman" and you will be sent to combat if they need you. This is something I have had on mind for quite some time and I am fully aware of this potential.

My intentions for joining:
My intention for joining the military is complicated, but it mostly involves securing my financial and occupational future after having made some very bad decisions that put them in jeopardy. I have been struggling in the job market for quite some time now, and there just aren't a lot of opportunities out there for me, especially here in Georgia. Many employers have simply ignored my applications and resume submissions, so it's been hard to find a job making enough money to pay off my debt in a reasonable time period. Coupled with my lack of a college degree, you can see how this has been hard on me.

But I don't want to blame the job market or the economy or politicians for my problems. It's my fault - I didn't do well enough in school to graduate on time, and because of that I lost my scholarship. So I had to drop out due to financial hardship. I couldn't pay for college without that scholarship. Then I quit a decent job due to some disillusioned desire to live as a revolutionary off the grid, and ended up back with my parents, where I am today. I have been trying to rehabilitate my career path, but it's been near impossible.

The military offers me a chance to immediately start a career with a salary, benefits and the real prospect of continuing a career after enlistment. Rather than spending everyday submitting applications that may or may not be read by civilian employers, and wondering how I'm going to pay bills and eat, the military offers me the chance not to have to worry about those things. There is the very real prospect of experiencing combat and violence, yes. That's true. But my plan is to make my skills valuable to the military so they will give me what I want and need. I want to show them that military intelligence or embassy security (or firefighting if it becomes available in the future) are the right MOS' for me, and that combat is not. I'm not sure how I'm going to do that, but that's why I have mentors to help me.

I'm happy to see there are teachings from the Buddha specifically geared towards soldiers. I will read and dissect them and take them to heart as much I can.

Real Sangha vs. Virtual Sangha
I have never received a face-to-face teaching from an ordained Buddhist monk, although I have sat with a former monk and several teachers trained by monks. I have been practicing for a few years now, and virtual sanghas have been my main source of learning. I am tremendously grateful and indebted to ES and DW for all they have taught me and continue to teach me. Most likely, I will not have access to a F2F sangha for a few years while enlisted, depending on where I am stationed. So I will continue to rely on DW and others as a source of teachings, learning and community. Hopefully I can get in touch with the growing military sangha through the links provided here as well as contact information given to me from friends.

I would love to sit with an actual sangha, but it doesn't seem likely that it's possible, at least not for a while. So the virtual sangha will continue to be my home.

To Annapurna,
Thank you so much for your heartfelt concern for my well-being and peace of mind, as well as your desire to help me continue a fruitful practice no matter what decision I ultimately make. I do not take your desire to dissuade me from enlisting as "disobedience," especially since I was not and am not in a position to enforce rules, laws or guidelines as to the responses and behavior of my fellow DW members. I simply made a suggestion, but you don't have to feel obligated to follow it, especially if you've made it clear that you are generally concerned for my welfare.

I do want to reiterate, however, that I am not looking for reasons not to join. I already know all the reasons not to join and I contemplate them every second of every day. The vast majority of my family is telling me to join; the vast majority of my friends are completely against it. I am being pulled in every direction right now by the people I love, so you can imagine my confusion and frustration. If I decide to back out now, after having already qualified for the mental, physical and academic requirements (as well as swearing in tomorrow morning), my parents will be very very upset, and will question my ability to make and keep decisions as well as my commitment to securing my financial and occupational future. However, if I continue with my plan to enlist, I will alienate myself from many close friends. My confusion right now is palpable.

In any case, I am taking this day-to-day and leaving all my options open. I will go with my heart in the end. I will listen to my conscious as well as my intellect and hopefully I make the right decision. If this time next year or three years from now I feel it was a bad decision, I will not re-enlist and will start over again.

And just so we're clear: I'm not making this decision because of my family's military tradition. My decision to join the Marines specifically is because my twin and cousin are Marines and they offer guidance for me, but my decision to join the military in general is for many different reasons.

Daily Practice while enlisted:
Some helpful advice on this topic has been given. I think Goofaholix is right when he says that the more "religious" of the practices will be hard to do on a daily basis due to living in close proximity with many other people who are unfamiliar or opposed to such practices. Mindfulness will be my main practice (as it always is I suppose) and I will make every effort to stay in touch with fellow practitioners and teachers. Once I am settled in my own apartment on a base (or off-base) and have a bit more freedom on a daily basis, I will try to acquire Buddhist reading material to help with practice.

I hope this post helps clarify some things as well as inform the rest of this discussion. Thank you again to everyone for contributing and please keep the advice and suggestions coming. I am taking them all to heart.

:anjali:
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Re: Staying Buddhist in the Military

Postby bodom » Wed Jun 02, 2010 8:43 pm

Best Wishes Kourtney!

:anjali:
The heart of the path is SO simple. No need for long explanations. Give up clinging to love and hate, just rest with things as they are. That is all I do in my own practice. Do not try to become anything. Do not make yourself into anything. Do not be a meditator. Do not become enlightened. When you sit, let it be. When you walk, let it be. Grasp at nothing. Resist nothing. Of course, there are dozens of meditation techniques to develop samadhi and many kinds of vipassana. But it all comes back to this - just let it all be. Step over here where it is cool, out of the battle. - Ajahn Chah
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Re: Staying Buddhist in the Military

Postby Annapurna » Wed Jun 02, 2010 9:13 pm

Dhammakid wrote:To Annapurna,
Thank you so much for your heartfelt concern for my well-being and peace of mind, as well as your desire to help me continue a fruitful practice no matter what decision I ultimately make. I do not take your desire to dissuade me from enlisting as "disobedience," especially since I was not and am not in a position to enforce rules, laws or guidelines as to the responses and behavior of my fellow DW members. I simply made a suggestion, but you don't have to feel obligated to follow it, especially if you've made it clear that you are generally concerned for my welfare.

I do want to reiterate, however, that I am not looking for reasons not to join. I already know all the reasons not to join and I contemplate them every second of every day. The vast majority of my family is telling me to join; the vast majority of my friends are completely against it. I am being pulled in every direction right now by the people I love, so you can imagine my confusion and frustration. If I decide to back out now, after having already qualified for the mental, physical and academic requirements (as well as swearing in tomorrow morning), my parents will be very very upset, and will question my ability to make and keep decisions as well as my commitment to securing my financial and occupational future. However, if I continue with my plan to enlist, I will alienate myself from many close friends. My confusion right now is palpable.

In any case, I am taking this day-to-day and leaving all my options open. I will go with my heart in the end. I will listen to my conscious as well as my intellect and hopefully I make the right decision. If this time next year or three years from now I feel it was a bad decision, I will not re-enlist and will start over again.

And just so we're clear: I'm not making this decision because of my family's military tradition. My decision to join the Marines specifically is because my twin and cousin are Marines and they offer guidance for me, but my decision to join the military in general is for many different reasons.

I hope this post helps clarify some things as well as inform the rest of this discussion. Thank you again to everyone for contributing and please keep the advice and suggestions coming. I am taking them all to heart.

:anjali:
Dhammakid


Dhammakid, yes, I said everything I said out of concern for your wellbeing.

Thank you for taking the time and making this effort to explain and to answer all the questions that arose.

Something you said caught my eye particularly, because i recognized myself in you:

If I decide to back out now, after having already qualified for the mental, physical and academic requirements (as well as swearing in tomorrow morning), my parents will be very very upset, and will question my ability to make and keep decisions as well as my commitment to securing my financial and occupational future. However, if I continue with my plan to enlist, I will alienate myself from many close friends. My confusion right now is palpable.


I understand this feeling only too well, been there, done that.

Quit 2 jobs in a row, and then went to university instead...everybody criticized me harshly!

I met a West Point Graduate. We got engaged.

And then he left for the States.....and I was supposed to follow him....after a few weeks.


But then, about a week before my flight was due, I simply didn't want to go anymore, I had evil premonitions, but was afraid to cancel all our plans, everything was planned, and everybody relied on me, and I didn't want to get scolded again: "You're unreliable". My image would be ruined forever...

I wanted to stay right where I was, go to University, and see my old parents and my friends every weekend.

But I thought I would disappoint everybody in the USA, only my parents would have been delighted, because of course they didn't want their daughter so far away.

The night before the flight was pure torture because I wanted to cancel so badly, but felt I couldn't.

"What will they be thinking of me???"

I didn't know how to contact the folks who would pick me up at JFK Airport in New York.

It didn't occur to me to call the Airport, and have them informed I can't come.

I was so under pressure I couldn't think straight.

When I departed, my father cried! And I still see him before me, shaking, sobbing..

Will have to add here, that my Dad was always a bit clairvoyant, and my bro and me have a bit of that too, and my feeling was bad, so bad, I should have listened to my inner voice, my gut feeling.

Anyhow, my trip was a nightmare, until I flew home, and almost didn't make it back home alive...

Which brings me back to why I am writing this, Kourtney.

Listen to your inner voice, don't worry about what others may be thinking, ok?


So close, no matter how far
Couldn't be much more from the heart
Forever trusting who we are
and nothing else matters

Never opened myself this way
Life is ours, we live it our way
All these words I don't just say
and nothing else matters


I wish you the Best. :hug:

Take care, always.

Anna
http://www.schmuckzauberei.blogspot.com/
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Re: Staying Buddhist in the Military

Postby Wind » Thu Jun 03, 2010 1:38 am

Wish you the best, Dhammakid. Keep us posted. :smile:
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Re: Staying Buddhist in the Military

Postby Dhammakid » Fri Jun 04, 2010 2:06 pm

Anna: Thank you for sharing your story. It's quite inspirational and offers me a lot of perspective into my own situation. I will most definitely listen to my inner voice in making this decision.

To all: Thanks for the kind words. An update: I swore the oath of enlistment yesterday at the entrance processing site. I am now officially a part of the Marine Corps Delayed Entry Program and will ship out to boot camp 1 November. That could be moved to an earlier date if I do well on the initial strength test and the physical fitness tests I will be taking over the next few months. I will keep you all updated, and I will also post my boot camp address so we can write each other if you so choose.

Thanks.

:anjali:
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Re: Staying Buddhist in the Military

Postby Tex » Fri Jun 04, 2010 2:20 pm

Best wishes to you, Kourtney.

:anjali:
"The serene and peaceful mind is the true epitome of human achievement."-- Ajahn Chah, Living Dhamma

"To reach beyond fear and danger we must sharpen and widen our vision. We have to pierce through the deceptions that lull us into a comfortable complacency, to take a straight look down into the depths of our existence, without turning away uneasily or running after distractions." -- Bhikkhu Bodhi
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Re: Staying Buddhist in the Military

Postby PeterB » Fri Jun 04, 2010 3:04 pm

Seconded. Keep in touch when you can.

:anjali:
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Re: Staying Buddhist in the Military

Postby upstreambound » Thu Jul 15, 2010 10:44 pm

Hi Dhammakid
I have read alot of the posts here and can only add one thing: that you might need to mentally prepare yourself for a moment when 'the unexpected' happens (eg in a time of war maybe) and you are ordered by a superior to fire at an enemy. If you decide early on what you will do in that eventuality, you will not be uncertain and thus prone to act impulsively. If you wish to be a Buddhist you need to not kill, especially not to take human life, so I guess you might have to mentally prepare yourself to have to disobey that order if it ever should come (and in a time of war it might!).
Best of luck, and hope you can find a niche in the military that is in accordance with Dhamma,
andrew. :)
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Re: Staying Buddhist in the Military

Postby PeterB » Fri Jul 16, 2010 5:52 pm

upstreambound wrote:Hi Dhammakid
I have read alot of the posts here and can only add one thing: that you might need to mentally prepare yourself for a moment when 'the unexpected' happens (eg in a time of war maybe) and you are ordered by a superior to fire at an enemy. If you decide early on what you will do in that eventuality, you will not be uncertain and thus prone to act impulsively. If you wish to be a Buddhist you need to not kill, especially not to take human life, so I guess you might have to mentally prepare yourself to have to disobey that order if it ever should come (and in a time of war it might!).
Best of luck, and hope you can find a niche in the military that is in accordance with Dhamma,
andrew. :)

That's utterly ridiculous. The man has already pledges himself to join up after considerable reflection. The kammic implications of putting his comrades at risk by disobeying orders simply muddies a picture already fraught with complex issues.
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Re: Staying Buddhist in the Military

Postby Annapurna » Fri Jul 16, 2010 6:23 pm

Peter, you know I appreciate your posts greatly, but here I think upstreambound has a point....

I also understand your point, don't get me wrong!

*sigh*

This is indeed a very complex issue.
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Re: Staying Buddhist in the Military

Postby Terasi » Sun Jul 18, 2010 12:06 pm

Dhammakid wrote:But my plan is to make my skills valuable to the military so they will give me what I want and need. I want to show them that military intelligence or embassy security (or firefighting if it becomes available in the future) are the right MOS' for me, and that combat is not.


Hi, I am new here, you don't know me. But I like your words up there, it shows spirit and perseverance. (Question: Is this what is called Viriya? Or does Viriya not apply to everyday life, but only to some teachings?). I am also new in Buddhism so forgive me if I sound like a kid learning to draw, but I want to share with you something I just read a couple hours ago and knocked straight into my heart. I just read this on Ajahn Brahm's book a couple hours ago, I am sure as a senior, you'd have read this ... sorry if so... :tongue:

A young man travelled to Thailand just to ask Ajahn Chah some questions. Unfortunately when he got there, Ajahn Chah was surrounded by many people who arrived earlier than him, thus it seemed that he wouldn't get any chance to talk to Ajahn. After waiting for some time, he was despondent and walked away. He then saw some monks sweeping leaves, so he picked up a broom and started to sweep too. Suddenly someone patted his shoulder, it was Ajahn Chah's himself! A translator-monk told him Ajahn said "If you are going to sweep, give it everything you got!".

So as you've made the decision, which is good (I think, given your situation), then give it everything you got. Make it so that the army will give you what you want and need. Hope the best for you!
:anjali:

I am gonna give it everything I got here too.
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Re: Staying Buddhist in the Military

Postby bodom » Sun Jul 18, 2010 1:36 pm

Excellent. Thank you for the story Terasi.

:anjali:
The heart of the path is SO simple. No need for long explanations. Give up clinging to love and hate, just rest with things as they are. That is all I do in my own practice. Do not try to become anything. Do not make yourself into anything. Do not be a meditator. Do not become enlightened. When you sit, let it be. When you walk, let it be. Grasp at nothing. Resist nothing. Of course, there are dozens of meditation techniques to develop samadhi and many kinds of vipassana. But it all comes back to this - just let it all be. Step over here where it is cool, out of the battle. - Ajahn Chah
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Re: Staying Buddhist in the Military

Postby Annapurna » Sun Jul 18, 2010 1:50 pm

Inspiring, indeed! Thank you!
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Re: Staying Buddhist in the Military

Postby Dhammakid » Mon Jul 26, 2010 7:57 pm

It's great to still see this discussion going, and I greatly appreciate the advice and encouragement. Thank you.

I particularly like the idea of a) preparing mentally for situations so that I will be prepared for them (as much as I can anyway) and b) doing the best I can with whatever situation I find myself in. I think those two bits of advice work hand-in-hand and are quite important for me to remember as I embark on this journey.

:anjali:
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Re: Staying Buddhist in the Military

Postby PeterB » Tue Jul 27, 2010 9:37 am

Keep in touch Dhammakid and stay well.

:anjali:
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