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Buddhadharma : Summer 2017
74 buddhadharma: the practitioner’s quarterly summer 2017 a thousand hands: a guidebook to caring for your buddhist community edited by nathan Jishin michon and daniel clarkson Fisher sumeru press, 2016 383 pages; $34.95 hospice, the military, universities, and prisons, professional Buddhist chap- lains and practitioners in Western psy- chotherapeutic professions have gained experience, knowledge, and skills in addressing such suffering, and it’s find- ing its way back into Buddhist commu- nities. To that end, A Thousand Hands, edited by Nathan Jishin Michon and Daniel Clarkson Fisher, serves as a reference book, a resource for Ameri- can Buddhist communities wanting to identify key issues, support individuals, and care for the sangha as a whole. The contributors—from a variety of back- grounds, including Buddhist chaplaincy, journalism, social work, psychology, marriage and family therapy, philoso- phy, and political activism—share their experiences specifically in service of Buddhist communities. While the editors acknowledge that it’s impossible to include every human challenge in one book, their list of fifty topics is impressive: addiction, personal finance, bipolar disorder, cancer, domes- tic violence, managing team projects, grief, hospice, intrafaith considerations, and many more. In the chapter titled “Ministry of Presence,” interfaith chap- lain and intercultural counselor Micka Moto-Sanchez explores the connection between the Buddhist practices of mind- fulness and compassion with the practice of being present for those in the midst of a deep emotional crisis. Moto-Sanchez recalls an instance in which, as a new provide a space for them to talk about their feelings, especially their suicidal feelings. If suicidal feelings and inten- tions are present, sanghas can encour- age a depressed member to seek medical treatment, call a suicide hotline, or per- haps even take up mindfulness-based cognitive therapy. The sangha’s primary role, though, is to remain present when depressive isolating thoughts and behav- iors begin to take hold. Though on very different topics, Moto-Sanchez’s and Cossitt’s essays demonstrate how sanghas can cultivate right action—and right nonaction— toward people who are in a deep emo- tional crisis or depression; they offer a language and framework for sangha members to refrain from shaming peo- ple who have not realized the happiness that Buddhism seems to promise—from blaming them, in short, for not being Buddhist enough. A Thousand Hands will be helpful not only for sanghas but also for mas- ter of divinity programs. As interest continues to grow in Buddhist spiritual care, and as the profession evolves over time, there will undoubtedly be future editions. Other topics to explore could include adjustment disorder (because many Buddhist practices are inspired by the narrative of Siddhartha Gautama’s six-year adjustment between being a Shakya clansman in the Kshatriya caste to a mendicant spiritual teacher), the noble eightfold path as cognitive behav- ioral therapy, and Buddhism’s efficacy for people who have not yet struggled with emotional and mental challenges and illnesses. The tools for helping oth- ers are as many and as varied as the suf- ferings humans face. Suffering is not as simple as one-two- three; it cannot be reduced to old age, illness, and death. Suffering is complex, affecting both body and mind, as well as how we relate to those aspects of self as we adjust to changes; it is individual and collective, universal and particular. Our task, as Buddhists, is to address it all. revieWs chaplain intern, she was called to attend to grieving parents whose child had died shortly after being born. Instead of see- ing her sole responsibility as easing their grief, she took her role as a Christian to be that of a conduit of “transcendent power and grace.” Later reflecting on the experience, Moto-Sanchez realized that she was not there just to be a con- duit but also to create a new dynamic with and for the grieving family; she came to understand that her presence and particular being mattered. In sangha situations in which people are grieving the loss of loved ones, other people may engage in loving-kindness and compas- sion meditation to be “conduits” for the dharma, unwittingly withholding actual spiritual care in the belief that they can somehow erase another per- son’s pain. Knowing one’s intentions for the encounter, having no heroic agenda, and being authentically compassionate are key to providing nurturing spiritual care within the sangha. Many practitioners would say that Buddhism offers the promise of hap- piness. But where does that leave a practitioner suffering from clinical depression? Chaplain Alan Cossitt’s chapter outlines how to help people facing depression get appropriate medi- cal treatment beyond Buddhist practices and should be required reading for any- one in a leadership or supporting role in a sangha. Cossitt, whose biography mentions his own struggles navigat- ing depression and Buddhist practice, skillfully unpacks what constitutes depression according to the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, explaining the dif- ference between depression and sadness and how to make appropriate referrals for medical treatment, especially when the depression is so severe that it gives rise to suicidal thoughts and intentions. He suggests that if sangha members are depressed, the community should skill- fully help them accept how they feel, try not to let them isolate themselves, and