Friday, September 14, 2007

Difficult decisions

This Trust often gets requests for help, support and advice that give rise to difficult decisions. The Trust has defined charitable aims, set out in its founding charter. Broad in one sense of allowing for natural growth and diversification, the core 'business' of the Trust is that of supplying spiritual support for seriously ill, dying and bereaved people (notionally Buddhists), but in practice anyone who seeks help from a Buddhist perspective.

It is through this rather restrictive 'lens' that requests have to be examined. The Trust doesn't and can't offer a panacea for all ills, indeed it is hard-pressed enough to fulfil its supplementary objectives of teaching, promoting and developing the principles of hospice, and of encouraging personal openness to death and dying in the midst of life: "Hospice in the Heart".

So Paul King's combined invitation and enquiry posed a dilemma for me, as one of the Trust's representatives and a first-line of response via the website. Paul was tasked by the Five Buddha Shrine (in Las Vegas) to arrange an visit by Master Yu Tianjian, leading exponent of esoteric Hanmi (Chinese) Buddhism, to the United Kingdom in September of this year. An outline itinerary and background information is shown here. Paul thought that, as a hospice, we might know of individuals who might wish to avail themselves of opportunities for healing that Master Yu might bring. Paul offered attestations from people who had declared themselves healed in his presence, and Paul's reverence for, and faith in the Master was compelling. Paul affirms that he, Master Yu, comes with the most exalted recommendations and testimonials to his spiritual authority. Paul, as "his only English disciple", wishes fervently that others might experience, as he has experienced, the transforming power of the dharma as expressed by this "living Buddha".

I explained the Trust's un-afffiliated and disinterested stance re the many and various expressions of Buddhism, the so-called "many Buddhisms". We don't act for or on behalf of any sect or tradition, nor do we seek spiritual direction from a particular teacher or Master. In the eyes of many Buddhists this exposes a serious weakness in the Trust's legitimacy, but that is a non-healing wound we are willing to bear. I also explained that I could not, in conscience, exploit the vulnerability of individuals by holding out to them or their friends hopes of healing from any self-advertising source, however sincerely held his disciples' beliefs, or firmly established his own claims to esoteric powers.

Paul is a busy man, and our debate had to be curtailed for that reason. This post is a respectful compromise that I am sure, or at least I hope, Paul and Master Yu will acknowledge as fair both to their vocation and mission, and to the principles that guide our work. The links above are provided by Paul, and any further enquiries should be addressed to him via those. It goes without saying, I'm sure, that we wish Paul, Master Yu Tianjian and his retinue, and all who meet them, a safe and successful visit to our shores, and our best wishes for their endeavours while they are here.

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