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    Recruits Celebrate Buddha's Birthday at Special RTC Service



    Story by Susan Martin 

    U.S. Navy Recruit Training Command

    By Susan Martin, Recruit Training Command Public Affairs

    Great Lakes, IL. (NNS) -- For the first time at Recruit Training Command, Buddhist recruits had the opportunity to attend a special service in honor of Buddha’s Birthday on May 12.

    Buddha’s birthday is a holiday traditionally celebrated in most of East Asia to commemorate the birth of Prince Siddhartha Gautama, later the Gautama Buddha and founder of Buddhism. It is also celebrated in South and Southeast Asia as Vesak, which also acknowledges the enlightenment and death of the Buddha.

    “We’ve never celebrated Buddha’s birthday here at RTC so this was the first special service for the celebration,” said Lt. Piyaratana Hingulwala, Buddhist Chaplain, RTC. “I’m the Buddhist chaplain and RTC has never had one before. There’s a few Navy wide, but I’m the only one at RTC.”

    The service included a PowerPoint presentation with information regarding Vesak, the name of this month in India.

    “We did meditation, talked about loving kindness and how we can spread our love, peace and happiness to others,” said Hingulwala. “We also talked about gratitude because it was also Mother’s Day. I told the recruits they could think about their mothers today, whether you like her or not, as this is a good time to say good words. I saw some recruits crying because they miss their mothers on this special day.”

    Many of the recruits who attended the Vesak birthday service have been baptized as Buddhists. During regular Sunday Buddhist services, recruits are welcome to attend as they are allowed to attend any service of their choice no matter their faith.

    “We have all kinds of recruits from different faiths checking out the regular service, but for the Vesak birthday service the recruits were mainly Buddhists. I think we had almost 50 recruits attending,” said Hingulwala. “Most of them said they miss this celebration, including one recruit from Cambodia and he was born into Buddhism.”

    Hingulwala, who has been stationed at RTC for 10 months, shares his experience with his practice as a Buddhist monk when speaking to the recruits during the regular service, of which there may be an average of 150 recruits who have questions regarding Buddhism. A volunteer assists Hingulwala with the special services as there are many different recruits coming from a variety of Buddhism countries.

    “Having a Buddhist chaplain as part of ‘ship’s company’ at RTC, and to be able to have him offer weekly services as well as Vesak as a part of our Command Religious Program, is another tremendous means by which recruits have access to diverse sources of strength and resilience,” said Cmdr. Beth Stallinga, RTC command chaplain. “It was especially satisfying to see these recruits enjoy a familiar celebration in the midst of their strenuous training; they showed obvious pride in their tradition and joy that its inclusion is important to the Navy.”

    For those curious recruits, attending the Buddhist services helps keep them centered during the rigorous training.

    “They say when they come to the service it’s more peaceful and they specifically like the chanting and meditation and they relax with that,” said Hingulwala. “Most of them are Christians but they are looking for something different. Buddhism is not a religion. I call it a practice.”

    In an effort to help increase the recruits’ motivation, Hingulwala is in the processing of creating a small leaflet filled with special Buddhism scriptures and special words to give to the recruits.

    “No matter what our faith background is we can practice talk about loving kindness, joyfulness, happiness, peace and gratitude and all kind thoughts and words,” said Hingulwala.

    Boot camp is approximately eight weeks and all enlistees into the U.S. Navy begin their careers at the command. Training includes physical fitness, seamanship, firearms, firefighting and shipboard damage control along with lessons in Navy heritage and core values, teamwork and discipline. More than 35,000 recruits are trained annually at RTC and begin their Navy careers.



    Date Taken: 05.12.2019
    Date Posted: 12.31.2019 15:41
    Story ID: 358017
    Location: GREAT LAKES, IL, US 

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