A Response to Buddhist-Based Training in the Corps
This is my response to recently proposed Buddhist-based training in the Corps. While Christ is being involuntary separated from the Marines, the Buddha is expanding his sphere of influence in the military’s latest pilot project to address rising numbers of suicides and cases of PTSD. If Christ is retired as the military’s longest ranking spiritual mentor, he will be replaced by a new General, and the Buddha is looking to get his star.
(Stop here, and read this AP article on NYDailyNews.com: “U.S. Marine Corps members learn mindfulness meditation and yoga in pilot program to help reduce stress.”)
Forces have been at work to stifle the influence of the Christian faith in the U.S. military for some time. So-called defenders of military religious freedom are on a mission to out any service member attempting to live in accordance with a Christian worldview. But recognized or not, everyone has a worldview. And recognized or not, every worldview is religious.
A Buddhist-Inspired Concept
Designed by former U.S. Army Captain Elizabeth Stanley, a technique called Mindfulness-Based Mind Fitness Training is planning to infiltrate the ranks. It is supposed to calm the brain and stemmed from positive results Captain Stanley noticed from yoga and meditation to treat her PTSD.1
This type of study is about analyzing and changing the way a person feels and involves exercises such as staring at your boots, breathing, and sitting quietly. They want to look at blood, spit, and pictures of the brain to determine results. But the brain was not designed to be evaluated via litmus, and there is more to a person than their mind. They have a spirit.
Jeffery Bearor, the executive deputy of the Marine Corps training and education command at its headquarters in Quantico, VA is trying to get ahead of the criticism to come:
“Some people might say these are Eastern-based religious practices but this goes way beyond that. This is not tied to any religious practice. This is about mental preparation to better handle stress.”
I can only respond with a phrase I learned in high school: I fear thou protest too much. Let there be no mistake: mindfulness-based training has a spiritual component, but one that can never be acknowledged if it stands any chance of being implemented.
If yoga, mindfulness, and meditation can be forced upon young Marines because they are merely Buddhist-based behavior, then there should be no problem forcing Marines to take communion on Sunday, since it is only Christian-based behavior.
Yoga can make people feel good, but so can looking at pornography. Could the feel-good effects of yoga be based on something other than it’s advertised mechanisms? Might men practice yoga for their health in the same way they read Playboy for the articles? There’s a difference between an act feeling good for you and being good for you. Ask anyone who smokes crack.
Collect all the data you want on a Marine staring at their boots and living in the moment. But I have a better suggestion. After they are done emptying their mind, begin filling it with the Buddhist philosophy on which mindfulness is based. Tell them that all suffering stems from desires. Tell them the only way to eliminate their suffering is to eliminate their desires.Then ask them if they still desire to serve their country.
After that, draw their blood and photograph their brain. It won’t be a pretty picture.
The Desire to Eliminate Desire
At its core, Buddhism is a self-defeating philosophy. It requires the desire to eliminate all desire. The practice is being advertised as lacking ties to any religion and likened to doing push-ups for the brain. Push-ups for the brain are good only until it realizes the suffering caused by its desire to be stronger.
This test will never work as it is currently designed. In order for any mindfulness-based practices to be endorsed by government agencies, it must be severed from its Buddhism. Whenever you separate philosophy from a practice, you destroy the meaning of the practice.
For too long, the military has pursued an effective fighting force at the expense of mental health. But the purpose of a military is not to keep good people well, it is to make bad people dead. Since the close of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the military has made strides to put their broken soldiers back together again. Advancing toward Buddhism-Based Training is a step in the wrong direction.
No Ultimate Meaning or Purpose
God is not a necessary part of Buddhist theology. For many, it is an atheistic religion. This life is all you get. Nothing comes after. A freshman in philosophy can tell you what follows: no ultimate meaning or purpose for anything or anyone.
Maybe you are excited by being merely a random co-location of atoms with the illusion of love and free will. Maybe the illusion is enough for you to charge the hill, to lay down your life for your brother.
I know of another practice that is not tied to any religion: prayer.
Prayer is my meditation. PT is my yoga. My mind is full of thoughts based on Biblical principles capable of helping not just me, but my brothers and sisters when they are hurting.
Why are we struggling to defeat Islamic terrorists? Because we either fail to understand, or refuse to acknowledge the reality of their worldview. Our efforts to help Marines will fail too if we refuse to address the underlying spiritual problems which ultimately consume the mind.
Give me not the illusion of liberty, but true freedom in Christ. And yes, give me death at Your appointed time. With Christianity, it is not the end, but the beginning of eternity where things are not as they are, but as they were always meant to be.
Knowing that makes life worth living.
1 AP, “U.S. Marines learn to meditate in stress-reduction program,” Daily News, Accessed January 23, 2015, http://m.nydailynews.com/life-style/health/u-s-marines-learn-meditate-stress-reduction-program-article-1.1245698
About Jason B. Ladd
Jason is an author, speaker, Marine, and father of seven. He has flown the F/A-18 Hornet as a Marine Aviation Weapons and Tactics Squadron 1 (MAWTS-1) Instructor Pilot and the F-16 as an Instructor Pilot. His award-winning book One of the Few: A Marine Fighter Pilot’s Reconnaissance of the Christian Worldview has been optioned for film adaptation. He is represented by Julie Gwinn of The Seymour Agency.