A Thousand Hands: A Guide to Caring for Your Buddhist Community

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We are pleased to announce the upcoming autumn publication of A Thousand Hands: A Guide to Caring for Your Buddhist Community, edited by Nathan Jishin Michon and Daniel Clarkson Fisher.

Nathan Jishin Michon is a PhD student at Graduate Theological Union, studying Buddhist caregiving. He is ordained as both an interfaith minister and a Buddhist minister and primarily practices in both the Thai forest and Shingon traditions. He previously worked for three years as an editor for Fo Guang Shan, earned his MDiv at University of the West, and MA in Comparative Religion at Western Michigan University. Nathan also trained in Peace and Conflict Studies at the European Peace University in Austria and interned at related organizations, such as Peace Action Training and Research Institute of Romania (PATRIR) and Peace Revolution in Thailand.

Daniel Clarkson Fisher is a writer whose work has appeared in outlets that include AlterNet, Religion Dispatches, Tricycle: The Buddhist Review, Patheos, Shambhala Sun, Inquiring Mind, Turning Wheel Media, andBuddhadharma: The Practitioner’s Quarterly. He established and served as the first chair of the Master of Divinity in Buddhist Chaplaincy program at University of the West. In addition, he has served as adjunct faculty for Antioch Education Abroad’s Buddhist Studies program in Bodh Gaya, India, and Adjunct Faculty in Chaplaincy at Hartford Seminary. A dedicated environmental educator, he was trained and certified as a Climate Reality Leader by Former U.S. Vice President Al Gore and the Climate Reality Project in 2012, and completed the Aldo Leopold Foundation’s Land Ethic Leader Program in 2014. He now lives in Canada with his wife Stephanie Lyn, who contributed two chapters to this volume. Visit him online at danielclarksonfisher.com.

Here are some details about A Thousand Hands: A Guide to Caring for Your Buddhist Community, from the introduction and the table of contents…

Avalokitesvara is a great bodhisattva from the Mahayana tradition who embodies the ideals of compassionate interaction. The East Asian translation of the name ‘Guan Yin’ (Jp. Kannon; Kr. Kuaneum) reflects this compassion as the characters translate roughly to “one who perceives the cries [of the world].” In one of the many forms in which she is represented, Guan Yin is shown with one thousand eyes and one thousand arms, so that she/he may not only see and be aware of all the forms of suffering in the world, but also have the means to skillfully help in a way that fits each individual’s needs.

This book arose from a yearning to work towards that goal among monastics and other leaders in Buddhist communities. In our experience at University of West—about as diverse a Buddhist environment as one can find, with ordained and lay students from numerous countries and traditions filling the classrooms and walking the hallways—we often encountered people who asked what was taught in all those M.Div. classes. When hearing about some of the chaplaincy training, nearly all of them either told a story of how they could have used such training or described how they really wished such aspects were included as a part of Buddhist monastic/leadership training in general.

As a Buddhist community leader—or even a concerned community member—we may have read many sutras, practiced thousands of hours of meditation, or become well versed in Buddhist philosophy, but that does not prepare us for every situation we will face. It is very natural that people turn to a spiritual or religious tradition in times of trouble, and when such a person comes our hearts may fill with compassion and want to do whatever we can to ease their suffering. However, our beautifully diverse world also brings forth a countless array of problematic situations. One individual may struggle with clinical depression. Another might have serious financial hardships. Or maybe we are wondering how to best get the children and youth in our community more involved. Christian training in the West includes many of these aspects and there are plenty of books from Christian perspectives which help accentuate that knowledge in various ways. However, conversations with Buddhists in the West show that both such training and resources are often lacking.

Of course, this book will not provide all the answers you need for every situation. It is simply one guidebook; it is a beginning, created from many of the issues we heard people struggling with in their communities, inspired by the compassion of so many wonderful hearts caring for others around them. This book simply aims to provide some brief clips of guidance on how to handle issues, necessary background information, practical tips on what you can do, and information about further resources. There were so many topics to include and cover. We could not make this book encompass everything. There are also issues we hoped to include but for various reasons did not make it into the present work (e.g., sleep disorders, chronic pain, creating a social media presence for your community, crisis caregiving, creating and managing youth groups, etc,). It is our hope that this volume will not be the one and only resource, but the just the beginning.

Because this is a guidebook, it is not a linear narrative. Though there is some arrangement and order, we as the editors do not necessarily intend for this book to be read cover-to-cover in one sitting. Some parts of the book are intended to be useful if particular needs arise in helping someone with a particular issue. Others are for helping readers to develop personal skills to better deal with some of their community’s needs. Still other chapters are meant to assist readers before certain needs arise. For example, some people might think, “No one in our sangha is deaf. Why would we need to have materials for deaf people at our temple/dharma center?” But it may be that a deaf person or persons have come to your temple/dharma center in the past, found they did not feel included, and left. Or they might in the future. Therefore, the chapter on accessibility can be useful for checking your center’s accommodations even if you do not currently have someone you know of with an issue. We also took into account that, in comparison to Christian communities, immigrants and Asian Americans make up a very significant portion of the Buddhist population. We received some suggestions for chapters that could speak more specifically to needs in these communities that were not already addressed in other areas of the volume. Some of these topics include acculturation and young adult Asian American identities.

We should also note that content in this book related to physical or mental health is intended for the reader’s general knowledge and in no way replaces expert, professional advice or treatment. You should not use information in this book to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease—your own or another’s; always refer to a medical or psychological professional.
This book is intended largely for Buddhists in the West and directed towards those in North America (particularly the United States) more than anywhere else. This is not to say others can’t gain from reading the chapters that follow. The majority of the information is widely applicable. However, there were some practical considerations of time and space for this volume and certain chapters require aspects of legal knowledge that may only apply within the US or the US and Canada. For instance, when dealing with individuals who have a mental disorder, you may be required to refer out to a psychotherapist rather than deal with it yourself. But those laws are not universal. Those in other countries can check into their own local laws on the matter, but we did not require authors to research legal requirements in countries outside of North America.

This book is divided into three sections. The first deals primarily with ways to help one’s self—ways to help develop one’s capacity to be present in an effective way to help others in need, whether that is through listening more effectively or better organizing a group’s money in order to keep a temple or organization stable. The second section is more about helping individuals with particular issues, such as cancer, divorce, anger, financial troubles, and depression. The third section contains chapters with broader community themes like group facilitation, leading projects, creating family programs, and volunteering. Not all chapters fit smoothly within one category, but this provided at least a solid basic matrix by which to organize this diverse range of themes. With the extraordinary diversity of Buddhist religions and tradition, all with various and varying needs, our organizing logic will not necessarily work best for everyone. Every choice we faced in organizing this book had inherent strengths and weaknesses, depending on the perspective from which we tried to view it. At the end of the day, as we said earlier, this is a beginning; the English-speaking Buddhist world could stand to have many more volumes like this one, presenting many different perspectives and experiences. In fact, we look forward to the day when there is a book like this for all one thousand of Avalokitesvara’s arms.

I – Working with Ourselves

1. Ministry of Presence and Self-Care, Micka Moto-Sanchez
2. Listening, Willa Miller
3. Nonviolent Communication, Jesse Wiens
4. Understanding Our Own Power and Privilege, Mushim Patricia Ikeda
5. Creating and Managing Budgets, Ven. Jue Qian
6. Practical Theology, Monica Sanford

II – Working with Others

7. Sickness and Hospital Visitation, Tina Jitsujo Gauthier
8. AIDS and STDs, Noel Alumit
9. Cancer, Michael Speca & Linda Carlson
10. Hospice, Ven. Phramaha Pradooshai Pornarai & Morgan Zo Callahan
11. Alzheimers and Other Dementias, Deniz Ahmadinia & Corrine Barner
12. Older Parent Care and Degenerative Diseases, Katherine Walker
13. Grief and Bereavement, Tenzin Kacho
14. Balancing Personal Finances, Mark Michon
15. Depression, Alan Cossitt
16. Suicide Intervention, Duane Bidwell
17. Family Systems, by Jesse Masterson
18. Military Families, Raymond McDonald
19. Trauma and PTSD, Daniella Dahmen-Wagner
20. Multigenerational Trauma, George Lee
21. ADHD, Mark Ragsdale
22. Autism, Mark Ragsdale
23. Anger Management, Ven. Haemin
24. Anxiety Disorders, Joshua Wyner
25. Bipolar Disorder, Aubree Mendel
26. Schizophrenia, Aubree Mendel
27. Eating Disorders, Jean Kristeller & Donald Altman
28. Addictions and Substance Abuse, Tom Moritz
29. Sex Addiction, Kate Spina
30. Prisoners/Parolees, Daniel Clarkson Fisher
31. Domestic Violence, Ouyporn Khuankaew
32. Abuse, Amy Demyan & Stephanie Goldsmith
33. Sexual Assault, Dawn Haney
34. Divorce, Stephanie Lyn
35. Acculturation, George Lee
36. Young Adult Asian American Identities, Chenxing Han

III – Working with Communities

37. Facilitating Groups, Leila Bruno
38. Storytelling, Jesse Masterson
39. Engaging and Managing Team Projects, Ven. Jue Wei
40. Dharma Programs for Families with Children, Sumi Loundon Kim
41. Conflict, Nathan Jishin Michon
42. Clergy Misconduct, Katy Butler
43. Gender, Stephanie Lyn & Daniel Clarkson Fisher
44. Race, Katie Loncke
45. Sexuality, Victor Gabriel
46. Poverty, Daniel Clarkson Fisher
47. Accessibility/Disabilities, Stefan Carmien
48. Interfaith Considerations, Nathan Jishin Michon
49. Intrafaith Considerations, Bill Aiken
50. Community Outreach & Service Programs, Joshua Eaton

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