Born a prince, he had everything most people ever wanted — wealth, power and prestige. He had it all, yet, still unsatisfied with his life. He left everything behind and set out to find his purpose. About 2,000 years ago, Siddhartha Gautama traveled the world to find the purpose of life. At the age of 29, he established Buddhism, which is still in practice to this day.
Navy Lt. Jeanette G. Shin, the only Buddhist chaplain for the Navy and Marine Corps, is now assigned to 1st Maintenance Battalion, 1st Marine Logistics Group, to share this knowledge and practice the religion with service members.
“Buddhism has been around for a long time,” said Shin, from Midwest City, Okla. “[It wasn't] until the ’50s and ’60s that the American began to be more interested in Buddhism.”
Shin said she was raised a Buddhist, but it wasn’t until her teenage years that she started to practice it. Growing up, she wanted to be a scientist. But being a military brat, she joined the service instead. She enlisted to become a communications operator for the Marine Corps instead of going into the Air Force like her father because she wanted to do something different.
After leaving the service, Shin went to school at George Mason University in Virginia, where she earned her bachelor’s degree in Philosophy and Religious Studies.
After college, Shin attended the Buddhist Seminary in California, where she took her education to the next level and received a master’s degree in Philosophy and Religious Studies. Her goal was to become a minister, but the plan changed when America went to war in Iraq.
“I’ve been a chaplain since 2004,” Shin said. “Since we’re at war, I thought I should go back to the military. With my background and knowledge, I thought I should become a chaplain. That way I can help our service members prepare for the war, not just physically, but spiritually.”
Buddhism can be practiced in many different ways, Shin explained. “Some people find their peace of mind and gain calmness by studying scriptures; some practice Buddhism by simply showing respect to their elders. Most, however, find their way through meditation.”
A public service is usually set up in a room with incense, some prayer beads and a service book, Shin said. “Meditation is a time to reflect on the things you’ve done.”
Practicing Buddhism helps service members to relax, let go of their stresses and aspire to spiritual enlightenment.
“Buddhism is about knowing who you are,” Shin said. “It emphasizes ethical behavior, something every Marine knows and aspires.”
Working with service members, Shin helps them to relax, meditate and enlighten them with the history of the religion. One can find out more information about Buddhism and its services by contacting the chaplain’s office at 1st Maintenance Battalion at 760-725-4001.