From European Son.
In Trevor Legett’s excellent Zen and the Ways, he reproduces an ink painting of a tiger washing himself at the bottom of a waterfall that is crashing down onto his back. The tiger is smiling. It’s intended as an illustration of the Zen master who is not crushed by the worldly events that crash down upon us, but, instead, is unmoved by them.
Few of us possess such internal strength, of course. But spirituality has always been especially integral to the martial arts, whether for the individual practitioner or an entire army.
We can leave aside religion and war, whether the Crusades, the teaching of Arjuno by Krishna on the battlefield (according to Hindu teaching), as well as Islam’s notion of Jihad (which is both a military and a personal, internal pursuit — the so called lesser and greater Jihads).
The samurai — who adopted Zen Buddhism for their religion — practiced meditation daily. And the Buddhist Shaolin Monastery — or Shaolin Temple — is, ultimately, the origin of most Kung fu styles. Many traditional martial arts will encourage their students to practice meditation, and some will even incorporate it into their lessons.
The US army got its first Buddhist champlain in 2008, when Capt. Thomas Dyer was assigned to the Tennessee National Guard. “Buddhist Soldiers have to deal with issues of livelihood: How do I view myself as a Buddhist and a Soldier who carries a weapon?” says Dyer, who was once a Southern Baptist pastor. “I have developed procedures that help them see themselves as a force for good in the world, protecting what’s beautiful and right. It allows them to promote happiness and reduce suffering in the world. I try to teach those things to Buddhist Soldiers.”
Dyer says that most Buddhists in the US army kept quiet about their faith. But, even if they’re not practicing meditation during their times in the combat zones, once they return home many soldiers are discovering that it can have beneficial effects.
Troops are taking up yoga and meditation to help them cope with post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Sometimes reluctantly. One veteran who’s studying at the Heights School of Yoga, told Chron.com, ”I was a little hesitant. Yoga, it’s got a kind of effeminate ring to it to a lot of combat troopers, but it’s really not. I’m 6-foot-2 and 235 pounds, and I’m breaking a sweat.”
According to Chron.com, at Fort Hood the Comprehensive Soldier Fitness Center also offers yoga, meditation, Tai Chi, and massage. ”The whole idea of Comprehensive Soldier Fitness Center is to take care of the mind body and soul, and that’s to build up resilience, both in our families and our soldiers, so they can endure the many deployments that they’ve been on,” says the center’s director, Chris Haug. “So we call that strong mind, strong bodies.”
“[T]here is mounting evidence that its practice provides… read more.