Thursday, April 7, 2011

Brazilian Military Police Go Zen

On one of the recent posts around the buddhist blogosphere related to issues around the term "Western Buddhism" was a comment from a practitioner from South America who felt the concerns of Buddhists in Central and South America are almost never considered under the "Western" rubric. This is quite true.

Awhile ago, I did a few posts on Buddhism in Latin America. This one, which shows the parallels between Brazilian and North American Buddhism, is worth considering in light of the following article I just found:

The government of Espírito Santo, a state located in the southeast of Brazil, is experimenting with a new training routine for some of its military police officers. Instead of learning about new combat techniques, policemen are developing interpersonal relationship skills, emotional balance and discipline in a Zen Buddhist monastery, located 70km from the state capital, Vitória.

Accustomed to the rigid vertical hierarchy of the military, the participants are immediately confronted with the horizontal dynamics of the monks. Everyone, commanders and subordinates, are subject to exactly the same routine, with the same tasks. They start their day practicing meditation, in silence, a radical shift from the traditional morning environment of police headquarters. After meditation, they carry on a number of activities, which range from the creation of ikebana flower arrangements, ceramics, tai chi chuan and even participating in a tea ceremony.

The officers who have gone through the training say that they feel more prepared to deal with their duties in a non-violent way.

Personally, this seems pretty amazing to me. I have long been arguing that one way to really change human reliance on violence to solve difficult conflicts would be to make a major shift in how groups like the military, police, and other law enforcement folks are trained. The more folks trained in non-violent tactics the better. And I can also imagine that one of the benefits of the Brazilian program is that you'll have more officers that understand their own tendencies and triggers, which makes it less likely that they'll flip out and go for their guns the moment things get tense.

And who knows. Perhaps some of those officers have been getting "hooked" on Zen practice, and are continuing on after the training period is over.

1 comment:

Scott Xian-Liao said...

Thanks very much for posting this :) As a law enforcement officer myself and a Buddhist, I've also found my practice to be extremely helpful in dealing with people. Even more so in healing after a crisis.

With gratitude