Class Teaches Diversity, Warrior Spirit
July 1, 2005
by JO3 Matt Jarvis
It's not often that Naval Academy classrooms are visited by a monk, but it did happen recently.
Midns. 2/C Johannes Schonberg and Dan Friedman invited a Shaolin monk to their "Code of the Warrior" military ethics class taught by Dr. Shannon French of the leadership, ethics and law department.
Shi Yan Ming, founder of the USA Shaolin Temple in New York and teacher of authentic Shaolin martial arts and Chan Buddhism, accepted the midshipmen's invitation.
Schonberg didn't know what to expect when he invited the monk to his class, but he was interested in furthering his education by learning about the philosophies of other people.
In French's course midshipmen explore the ideals and ethical systems that have guided warriors' behavior from a variety of cultures, both past and present.
They examine the values, warrior philosophies and traditions of the ancient Greeks, Romans, Vikings, Celts, medieval knights, African tribesmen, Native Americans, Chinese warrior monks and Japanese samurai and trace the development of their warriors' code through the 20th and 21st centuries.
"When we open our minds to other cultures, we can gain new perspectives that help us to understand ourselves," said French. "No one human has all the answers. But if we talk to each other and share our ideas, we can approach wisdom."
Ming gave a martial arts demonstration and talked about meditation, helping others, discipline, and working hard to accomplish goals.
"Shi Yan Ming reminded the mids of the history of the Shaolin monks and taught them about the Chan (Zen) form of Buddhism," said French. "Ming emphasized that life brings us many things - the sweet, the sour, the spicy, and the bitter - and we must learn to appreciate all of it. Life is a gift, in all its forms. (He) also talked about the importance of discipline and commitment. We never know what we can do until we push ourselves to our utmost limits."
"This was a valuable lesson toward education and service to others," said Schonberg. "Being able to communicate and connect with people of all levels of all cultures will help students at the Naval Academy to become better officers in the future."
French said Shi Yan Ming's presentation was very relevant to the course. One of the key issues examined in the class is how the experience of combat can damage the warrior's character and cause a loss of humanity. There are many ways that warriors throughout history have fought against this, and one of them is by learning to appreciate other cultures and to respect life in all its forms.
"You can hold onto your humanity if you both honor your enemy and honor yourself," said French. "Ming's presentation highlights these same ideas. I thought it was a terrific presentation. I don't think the mids in my class will forget meeting Shi Yan Ming, and I think we were all inspired by his open mind and open heart."
"It was a great experience overall, getting an opportunity to work with someone like that," said Schonberg.
For more information, visit www.usashaolintemple.org