Early Buddhist Kit (2015)
by Chaplain Christopher Mohr (for The Chaplain Kit)
Back in 2010-2011, an email was sent out requesting input for what should be included in a portable chaplain kit for Buddhist chaplains. I didn’t hear anything more from that e-mail so I began building my own kit, at my own expense, and experimenting with different bags that would house the sacred items I carried, figuring out which items were truly needed for conducting a service, and also which would fit.
In 2012, the three Buddhist chaplains at that time were again contacted by Natick, and told they were putting together a prototype Buddhist chaplain kit. I helped with that effort as best I could, as did Chaplain (CPT) Malasri, one of my peers. They also received some assistance from the Buddhist Churches of America (BCA). We were eventually told in 2013 that the DLA would not be able to produce these kits due to the expense. The prototypes, however, did eventually get finalized using items straight off the shelf of the BCA’s bookstore.
I received my prototype in 2013 just as the chaplain in charge of producing the Buddhist chaplain kits for the DLA was PCSing. It made it into my hands as a “DLA no longer needs these items, so we are sending them to Chaplain Mohr for use in ministry to Soldiers…” item. At the time I received it, I was in the Wisconsin Army National Guard, and used the items in that kit on occasion at drill or Annual Training, and they generally worked out quite well, but the kit was too big to carry around the field and did not come with any sort of carrier or bag.
That kit worked well enough as a chapel kit, but was in no way equivalent to the portable kits most chaplains are issued upon graduating the Chaplain Basic Officer Leader Course. 2014 pretty much came and went with no further signs of the kits ever getting made, and I was still working on my own as I prepared to enter Active Duty. Then I deployed with an Armor Battalion to Camp Buehring, Kuwait in the latter part of 2015. Chaplain Malasri, coincidentally, also deployed there, but on a separate mission with the Combat Support Hospital. While in Kuwait, I began again in earnest to put a semi-universal kit together that would be acceptable to most or all Buddhist denominations from which a chaplain might eventually come and for whom I expected to conduct services.
Knowing that Chaplain Malasri would probably also need one, I built three total kits (blessed with the additional pay one gets when they’re deployed). One was for my use, one for his, and a spare in case mine should become a casualty of operations. The above photo is of the full contents of each kit next to the bag I eventually settled on. As a side note, it is the same bag that I started with and the one recommended and used by my supervising chaplain while I was still a chaplain candidate.
After all that trial and error, I still ended up where I started and now I recommend it to all of my peers in the Chaplain Corps. It is cheap, durable, readily available, and neither too big nor too small. That same bag is with two of the kits in the above photo. The third bears my last attempt at a larger bag, to house a slightly larger Buddha statue, which ended up sitting in my office the whole deployment as it was too bulky to carry around.
Here is a list of the contents I have in my kit (as in the photo):
- 1x Buddha statue (6″ tall), with cloth to place it on. The cloth is a gesture of respect dating to the Buddha himself.
- 1x Stole. These are handmade, and I have been gifting one to each new Buddhist chaplain who accessions.
- 1x LED candle, used in services when a wax candle is not appropriate
- 1x Incense holder, 30 sticks of incense, and lighter)
- 1x Bell, with striker
- 1x Powdered incense for ritual cleansing when water is not available, with container
- 1x mala (a type of Buddhist rosary)
- 1x Flashlight for night time services
- 1x 4×6″ mini-photo album (to cover chanting guide and sermon in case of inclement weather)
- 1x challenge coin (my own personal one, not unit funded)
- 1x copy of the Constitution and Declaration of Independence
- 1x copy of various scriptures, including Gideon Bible, to operate in a multi-faith environment
- 1x notebook with pen for building a script for an impromptu service (as requested), etc.
More photos of Chaplain Mohr’s Buddhist Chaplain Kit can be seen on the Current Issue page under “Chaplain Kits.”