I was speaking with a fellow minister of my order and I asked him what work he was doing. He is working as an Army Chaplain and he replied “I am reminding an infantry company to remain mindful and to bring the spiritual into their training. It’s an uphill battle.”
Of course, he is a very bright minister and could surely make things work successfully. However, it reminded me of a story of the Buddha and some exercises I used to use with people who might be open to the benefits of Buddhism, but not necessarily have any interest in the faith of Buddhism.
I wrote to my friend —
“Have the company commander do the following exercise (I used to have my Navy journalists do this before a test). Give them a mental task that they just learned and have them repeat five steps or recall five aspects of the task. Then give them a similar mental task, but have them do a one minute breathing exercise before the test. They should see a 15-20% increase in performance.
“Now you have a measure of success that comes from mindfulness and concentration. Imagine how you can apply that to deployments. Imagine how a regularly encouraged sitting meditation reduces stress in the battlefield. Work with the company medic and I can send you the PTSD literature that shows those who have a regular meditation practice are more resilient to battle fatigue.
“Don’t come to the military from a position of faith and spirituality but from stress, suicide reduction, and increased productivity.”
There is a story of the Buddha, whose cousin wanted his son to become a monk, but the son wanted the love a girl. The Buddha explained to him that if he worked very hard with the monks he would show him how to use his skills to make any woman fall in love with him. The son worked hard for a year. The other monks mocked him for his lustful motivations. At the end of the year, the son was a nearly enlightened monk.
The Buddha asked him if he wanted to seek out women and the young man, who had liberated himself from such fetters replied “No Lord.” The Buddha explained to the other monks that this young monk had used his motivation to achieve great attainment. At this point the other monks could see beyond their prejudice and see it too.