Summer is here. Upon its invitation, trees are singing with flourishing branches and luxuriant leaves, and flowers blooming in radiant shapes and splendid colors. Streams flow with merry vitality, and birds chirp with melodious grace, infusing everything with vibrant life. Every living creature is a tiny but complete universe, blessed with the potential to attain Buddhahood as one’s original self is replete with Buddha nature springing from joyous responses to dharma. I wish you all replete with dharma joy.
Time flies. Eight months have passed since the founding of TACBS. During this period, progress in the operation and development of our association continues to be made as we complete one task and move on to challenge another.
The first task is the confirmation of our association’s emblem. As introduced in the first issue of TACBS Bulletin, our emblem is composed of a stethoscope and a string of prayer beads to signify the unification of clinical medicine and Buddhism. Both symbols interweave into the guiding gesture of Amitabhah Buddha in the Trinity of Western Paradise. The Chinese and English names of the association encircle the emblem with one at the bottom spreading like a lotus and the other on the top shining like a guarding halo. In an effort to simulate the Western Pure Land of Ultimate Bliss, the TACBS emblem endeavors to convey the association’s missions of training clinical Buddhist chaplains and fostering spiritual cares and related researches indigenous to the culture of Taiwan.
After the emblem came the English name of the association. Dedicating to an emerging field that requires extensive and active researches to win academic recognition, our association builds its core around the training of professional clinical Buddhist chaplains. Therefore, upon its founding, the association first considered to coin the term “clinical Buddhology” for its English name. “Buddhology,” however, is a word absent in virtually all major English dictionaries. We then opted for the much more familiar “Buddhist” and had the English name of our association translated as “Taiwan Association of Clinical Buddhist Study.” Later, thanks to the suggestion from Master Hui-Min, the singular “Study” was expanded into the plural “Studies.” Hence the formal English name: Taiwan Association of Clinical Buddhist Studies. TACBS strives to gather palliative care team members interested in studying Buddha dharma to work with clinical Buddhist chaplains for spiritual care and life education. The association is also established to facilitate ongoing academic and research exchanges between clinical Buddhist chaplains and experts in palliative care and other related fields. Moreover, members from monasteries, meditation centers, and other Buddhist and spiritual care organizations are warmly welcomed to explore with us the benefits of Buddhist wisdom in hospice/palliative care and to further cement our faith in Buddha dharma by understanding and practicing its clinical applications.
Following the settlement on the issues of association emblem and English name, we placed the next priority on hosting consensus-building seminars. The central missions of TACBS include the integration of modern medicine and Buddhist researches, the development of clinical Buddhist studies, and the promotion of hospice/palliative care and life education. It is therefore of great importance for anyone interested in learning about clinical Buddhist studies and helping us fulfill the missions to build up a consensus as the driving force for further participations. Three consensus-building seminars were accordingly held respectively in Taipei, Hsinchu, and Kaohsiung during the first half of 2008. Experts in various allied fields and with experiences of working with clinical Buddhist chaplains were invited to comment on the roles of clinical Buddhist studies from their professional perspectives, including medicine, nursing, psychology, and sociology. The first seminar in particular had the guest speakers experience the Buddhist single-mindedness, i.e. the very basis for sensing and responding to spirituality; during the process, many participants were moved to tears and eager to learn more about the connections between their touched feeling and spiritual care. In the Hsinchu and Kaohsiung seminars, many masters participating in the seminar for the first time were so convinced of the significance of clinical Buddhist study on terminally ill patients that they suggested the association to host related courses and support groups at their monasteries or Buddhist institutes.
We had further organized a fellowship meeting of clinical Buddhist chaplains. As mentioned earlier in my previous greeting, “evolving around the center of clinical Buddhist chaplains, TACBS dedicates itself to providing spiritual care for terminally ill patients and offers itself as a platform that benefits patients and their families through the integration of core Buddhist wisdom with contemporary medicine, helping thereby to render Buddhist spiritual care an essential link in modern healthcare and to honor the ultimate wisdom of Buddha dharma in delivering all sentient beings from sufferings.” Buddhist chaplains who play the central role in the development of clinical Buddhist studies need to cultivate a profound understanding of core professional theories. Accordingly, our first fellowship meeting was devoted to discussing the “Clinical Buddhist Spiritual Treatment Models” and exploring the deeper implications of “Modern Medicine from the Viewpoints of 12 Dependent Originations.”
The Four Noble Truths of Buddhist teaching (The Nature of Suffering, Suffering’s Origin, Suffering’s Cessation, and the Path Leading to the Cessation of Suffering) echo the SOAP treatment model in clinical medicine that examines the nature and origin of the problem (Life means suffering, and the origin of suffering lies in attachment) so as to identify the goal of medical efforts (Cessation of suffering is attainable and leads to Nirvana) from the four aspects of Subject, Object, Assessment, and Plan.
The Nirvana as a state of purified existence and eternal bliss (the goals of our lifelong endeavors) poses a sharp contrast to this world of ours that is marked with suffering, emptiness, sadness, uncertainty, evanescence, old age, and death as deduced from the cyclic twelve links of dependent originations. How can we develop a clear understanding of the nature of suffering so as to transcend the circle of attachment, loss, sadness, and suffering? Clinical applications of the 12 links of dependent originations can liberate us from this circle.
Clinical applications of the 12 links of dependent originations can be conducted either by convenient method or by ultimate approach. Taking for example the sadness expected to rise out of our fear of losing a loved one. The sense of loss and sadness triggered by the fear of losing a loved one springs from the “becoming” link. In terms of convenient application, “becoming” finds its cause in “clinging” which in turn is rooted in “craving.” Craving without becoming “gives birth” to the cessation of suffering. Helping our loved one embrace a good death can therefore relieve our sadness. In terms of ultimate application, since all the suffering, sadness and worries caused by old age or death originate from “ignorance,” the best and ultimate solution is to shatter ignorance. For people able to overcome ignorance, life is complete only when our loved ones are alive around us is an obscuring myth. Once the myth is exposed, sadness can be turned into blessing. The teaching of 12 dependent originations goes beyond the focus of modern medicine on the causes of diseases to tackle with the spiritual issues modern medicine is unable to solve. This is exactly where the professionalism of clinical Buddhist chaplains lies. For applying these ideas and teachings to establish guidelines for clinical spiritual care and for enriching and refining related clinical experiences, more people are invited to join our clinical Buddhist studies.
The website of Taiwan Association of Clinical Buddhist Studies can now be easily located online using either Google or Yahoo search. So are information about the activities organized or sponsored by our association, such as TACBA seminars, joint cultivation meetings, study groups, visiting groups, and our participation in the series of lectures on palliative care organized by Yuan Tung Humanity Care Association and Torch of Wisdom Monthly. All these are platforms for learning Buddha dharma and the matters of life and death built up by the joint efforts of our staff members. We will continue introducing more activities and encourage your active participation to help bring the wisdom about life and death inherent in the clinical Buddhist studies out of the hospital into the lives of everyone, and may those coming into contact with Budda dharma obtain the supreme wisdom of anuttara-sammā-sambodhi.
Journey toward clinical Buddhist studies begins right here right now as we embark on the cultivation of Buddha dharma.