The Way to Cold Mountain Part 3

In the role of the chaplain, we have to be able to find ways to meet the client at their own level so that the client will be in a comfortable enough state to continue to express their feelings.  This reminds me of Vimalakirti—the way he helps people is by meeting them in their own environment.  He would even meet his clients at the bars or at the brothels.  I also remember watching The Gloria Tapes for one of my previous classes where the therapist would begin to smoke cigarettes with Gloria in order to be welcomed into Gloria’s comfort zone so she could express her feelings and thoughts.  Just like in the poem, if my mind cannot match with the client’s mind, then the cold mountain is nowhere to be found.  I think this concept is probably core to the role of the chaplain itself.

In Zen or Chan practice, the aim is to match our mind to the Buddha’s mind; or ignite our Buddha-Nature to have the same frequency as the Buddha.  To reach that level of frequency requires melting ice and disbursing fog, which can be compared to our constant application of the six perfections.  Thich Nhat Hanh in his text The Heart of the Buddha’s Teaching calls these perfections the six steps to happiness because with this practice one can cross over, which is what the meaning of the Sanskrit word paramita means, to the state of liberation[1].  These practices can most definitely be applied when interacting with others in chaplaincy work.

The practice of Dana includes the practice of giving time and effort to be present for the client.  Throughout my time I have been reminded again and again to be present for others.  I have also discovered that now that almost everyone I know carries some form of a smart phone or a similar communication’s device, everybody likes to look down on their phones and not want to communicate as much with the physical world.  Everyone also likes to be productive and multi-task looking at their phone and doing other work at the same time, but if I am working with a client, I want to respect the client by giving him/her my full attention.  Thich Nhat Hanh says, “The greatest gift we can offer anyone is our true presence.”[2]  My understanding is that not only do we have to be physically present for the client but mentally present as well.  I also learned that that kind of practice is a key element in practicing the ministry of presence in chaplaincy.

Precepts: We cannot advise and fix but we can guide them to their own answer; especially when looking at the Bodhisattva Precepts (which I also uphold), I have to benefit beings and help them give rise to Bodhicitta, but I cannot really put it all on a plate and expect them to take it, like what Venerable Master Sheng Yen of Dharma Drum Mountain mentioned before that it builds up later without having to be attached to the fact that you have to build on it.[3]  In close relation to Patience I understand it as not trying to rush everything to a result that everybody may not be happy with, just as I mentioned with the Cold Mountain piece, Buddha Nature does not have a speed limit.  With that mindset I think the remaining perfections can fall into place.

[1] Thich, Nhat Hanh. The Heart of the Buddha’s Teaching. New York, NY: Broadway Books, 1998.

[2] Thich, 111.

[3] Shengyen. The Bodhisattva precepts: directions to Buddhahood. Taipei: Dharma Drum Mountain, 2005. Accessed December 5, 2017. http://chancenter.org/cmc/wp-content/uploads/2010/09/TheSixParamitas.pdf.

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