Thich Minh Thien, Abbot of Budding Dharma
Bodhisattvas In Our Midst
About two months ago, I ignored a call from a number I did not recognize; my usual modus operandi regarding incoming calls. The caller did leave a voicemail indicating that he was calling from Medical City Arlington. I immediately called back, fearing that someone I knew had been admitted.
The gentleman who had called stated he was on the chaplain team at the hospital and was wondering if I might consider joining the volunteer group of chaplains providing ministry there. I was somewhat surprised because my experience as an ordained Buddhist minister was that unlike Christian, Jewish or Muslim ministers, Buddhists are sort of an unknown commodity. I did check that this gentleman knew I was one of those oddities. He acknowledged he did. He explained that some months ago, the paid chaplain position at the hospital retired and since that time, no one was coordinating the efforts of the team and therefore patient visitation had fallen by the wayside. He hoped to include someone from the Buddhist path on this team.
I thanked him for his consideration and agreed to meet at the hospital to discuss further. We met, had lunch and I agreed to join the volunteer team and could commit to two days per week. This hospital is a Level II Trauma Center and is rather large. My first challenges were just finding my way around and understanding where I should and should not go. My second challenge and one that I hoped to conquer, was how to best serve the myriad of patients having many, many differing spiritual paths, mostly connected to a deity concept. I am still working on that.
What I did see up close and personal was the awful suffering people were experiencing regarding their own health challenges. I also observed the loving caregivers charged with trying to return these patients to health. Each and every one that I have encountered as I do what I call, “my rounds” are angels in human form or in the Buddhist philosophy, true Bodhisattvas. Their professional skills are amazing to watch as they monitor and apply the treatments prescribed. Seeing their attitudes and high level of personal care and interaction with which they deliver these skills is heartfelt and sincere. I have yet to observe anyone being indifferent or uncaring. They not only have to deal with the fears and concerns of patients but also those of family and friends present. You can actually feel the love with which they deliver their expertise.
You might be thinking that this is all just part of their job and you would be correct. I come from a service industry and I can assure you that the frontline people I used to work with also had pressures. Assigning seats on an aircraft or checking bags however were not life and death issues. And, if I could have had the same attitudes from my agents and flight attendants that I am witnessing from these hospital workers, we would have easily been the number one airline year after year. I know there must be a “Nightmare Nurse” out there somewhere, but I have yet to experience one.
These angels are not the only Bodhisattvas out in the world. For example, we have teachers and caregivers who also are putting the welfare of our children and elders ahead of their own safety concerns. Many of those “essential workers” that we hear so much about during this pandemic are also walking the path of a Bodhisattva.
Every day when we do a review of all those to whom we can offer gratitude, please remember to include all these Bodhisattvas in our midst.
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa