Raleigh Man Looks to Help End Soldiers’ Suffering as Army’s First Buddhist Chaplain
For Thomas Dyer, there was fire and brimstone. “There was the idea that there’s an angry God and somehow you could really make Him mad.”
Dyer grew up fearing God. He was a Cumberland Presbyterian, then a Baptist. He had hoped religious conviction would lead to contentment. He attended seminary and preached as a Southern Baptist minister.
That seems like a lifetime ago as Dyer, 43, sits on a cushion in the shrine room of the Pema Karpo Meditation Center in Raleigh. Six statues of various Buddhas are positioned against the walls. His teacher, a Tibetan monk who founded the temple, listens as Dyer explains his exodus from the pulpit in search of nirvana.
“The question that arose in my mind is, ‘Why is there so much suffering?’ Christianity did not have a satisfactory answer. I wanted to be happy. The idea that we have to live with suffering until we die just did not make sense to me — the idea that God wants you to suffer so you can then enjoy heaven.” Dyer kept asking, “Is this all there is to life?” As a Christian, he had been interested in mysticism. That led to meditation. Dyer studied Buddhism, then visited the temple near his home in Raleigh. Right away, he says, “It was like, ‘Whoa, I’m home.'”