THE ARTS OF CONTEMPLATIVE CARE: PIONEERING VOICES IN BUDDHIST CHAPLAINCY AND PASTORAL WORK
Edited by Cheryl A. Giles and Willa B. Miller
Wisdom Publications, 2012
$34.95; 368 pages
BUDDHIST CARE FOR THE DYING AND BEREAVED
Edited by Jonathan S. Watts and Yoshiharu Tomatsu
Wisdom publications, 2012
$22.95; 312 pages
Reviewed by Frank Ostaseski
Once during a Mountain Seat ceremony at San Francisco Zen Center, a student asked the incoming abbot, “What can the dharma teach me about serving others?”
The abbot answered, “What others? Serve yourself!”
“How,” the student persisted, “can I serve myself?”
The new abbot responded, “Take care of others.”
True service is always mutually beneficial. When we care for others, we are also nurturing ourselves. This understanding fundamentally shifts the way we provide care.
Now two new collections from Wisdom Publications—Buddhist Care for the Dying and Bereaved and The Arts of Contemplative Care—offer working models of how to confront and transform the way we address suffering in the world today, models born from adaptations and interpretations of core Buddhist teachings. The contributors remind us that caring for one another is a natural expression of both our dharma practice and of simple human kindness. They encourage us to develop our capacity to embrace another’s suffering as our own, and their words and work will inspire anyone seeking to express dharma practice in the direct service of others.
Both books make substantial contributions to the wide field of contemplative care, defined in The Arts of Contemplative Care as care “informed by…consistent contemplative or meditation practice.” They help us appreciate service as a spiritual practice integral to Buddhist wisdom teachings. Through their stories, we can see how modern-day practitioners are expressing that ancient wisdom by reclaiming the vocation of embodied social action.
Excerpted from the Spring 2013 issue of Buddhadharma: The Practitioner's Quarterly, available on newsstands and by subscription.
Frank Ostaseski is the founder of the Metta institute, cofounder of the Zen Hospice Project, and a coordinating teacher for a new multiyear training program at spirit rock Meditation Center called Heavenly Messengers: awakening through illness, aging, and Death (discussed in the Forum on page 50).
Photo by A. Jesse Jiryu Davis