- Black and Buddhist: What Buddhism Can Teach Us About Race, Resilience, Transformation, and Freedom ed. by Pamela Ayo Yetunde and Cheryl Giles, and: Buddhist-Christian Dialogue, U.S. Law, and Womanist Theology for Transgender Spiritual Care by Pamela Ayo Yetunde
Pamela Ayo Yetunde and Cheryl Giles offer a variety of Black Buddhist voices in their co-edited volume, Black and Buddhist: What Buddhism Can Teach Us About Race, Resilience, Transformation, and Freedom. Yetunde extends this work in her single author volume, Buddhist-Christian Dialogue, U.S. Law, and Womanist Theology for Transgender Spiritual Care. In this review essay, I, first, will give brief information about the two authors and turn to each work, looking at key themes and insights they offer us about African American Buddhist practice, in general, and about pastoral care and chaplaincy. Finally, I would like to suggest the importance of these two works.
the work of two lives
Pamela Ayo Yetunde has emerged as an innovative voice in Black Buddhist Studies. Dr. Yetunde is a Buddhist chaplain, having trained at the Sati Center for Buddhist Studies, and pastoral counselor who has been active in hospice work, having founded the Zen Caregiving Project; she also co-founded the Center of the Heart and the Audre: Spiritual Care for Women with Cancer. She is a professor at United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities and a faculty member at the Upaya Institute and Zen Center and a Community Dharma Leader in the Insight Meditation tradition. [End Page 327] She has written for Buddhadharma, Lion's Roar, and Tricycle: The Buddhist Review. In addition, she has a law degree and has written a book about women and finance. With other practitioners, she founded the Buddhist Justice Reporter: The George Floyd Trials (www.buddhistjustice.com). Yetunde brings all this to her intersectional work on Black Buddhists and on Buddhism and pastoral care, and her work is trailblazing, opening up conversations around race, gender, and religion in the books under review and in her 2018 work, Object Relations, Buddhism, and Relationality in Womanist Practical Theology, which includes interviews of African American lesbian Buddhist practitioners in the Theravada Insight Meditation tradition.
Dr. Cheryl A. Giles is the Francis Greenwood Peabody Senior Lecture on Pastoral Care and Counseling at Harvard University. She is a member of the Buddhist Ministry Initiative. Her books include the co-edited pioneering work, The Arts of Contemplative Care: Pioneering Voices in Buddhist Chaplaincy and Pastoral Work, which gathered voices from a variety of Buddhist lineages to explore contemplative care in hospital chaplaincy, prison ministry, college and military chaplaincy, and end-of-life care. Her Buddhist-Christian writings include "Self-Care for the Beloved Community" in The Christian Century (2016), which asks important questions about compassionate leadership and the preparation and resources needed for the work.1 Her work focuses on adolescent psychology, healthcare and African Americans, and contemplative care—providing spiritual, emotional, and pastoral support in a way that is informed by a "personal, consistent contemplative, or mediation practice"2—at the end of life. A practitioner of Tibetan meditation, she is a member of the Natural Dharma Fellowship.
In "Beyond the Color Line: Cultivating Fearlessness in Contemplative Care" in The Arts of Contemplative Care, Giles confronting the racism present in Buddhism and, therefore, in care, asks us to cultivate fearlessness and to bring this to our meditation, to our work, and to our interactions.
None of us will ever be perfect nor can we expect to live without fear. But we can aspire to be open to the unfolding present moment. We can help in this small way to make a real impact: we can vow to practice fearlessness every day for ourselves and others to alleviate suffering. We can stay true to a strong intention while opening to our own vulnerability and that of...