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Caregiving: Buddhist Chaplaincy and the Art of Becoming a Bodhisattva

Residential Program
Dates: Jun 03, 2022 - Jun 08, 2022

Instructor(s): Cheryl Giles, Chris Berlin

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Course Description:

This retreat will explore how Buddhist chaplains and professional caregivers can be more fully supported in their care for self and others from within Buddhist teachings and practices. 

The six paramitas of the Bodhisattva model—generosity, discipline, patience, joyful enthusiasm, wisdom, and meditation—offer chaplains a model of caregiving for ourselves and others. During this retreat we will look closely at how we naturally move towards caring for people and away from them when we feel discomfort. Reflecting together on Śāntideva’s Introduction to the Way of the Bodhisattva, we will explore the wisdom of being present, seeing clearly, and acting wisely to free ourselves from the pain and ignorance of habitual patterns in order to help others do the same. 

In this retreat, we will emphasize three primary areas: (1) exploring Buddhism as a tradition of skillful caregiving; (2) applying dharma principles to diversity, intersecting aspects of the care seeker, and equity in caregiving settings; and (3) deepening mindfulness and contemplative practices to support self-care, resilience, and confidence in the Dharma. 

In the spirit of creativity, we will have small group conversations and music, along with dharma talks. In preparation for our discussion, participants are encouraged to read Black and Buddhist: What Buddhism Can Teach Us About Race, Resilience, Transformation, and Freedom (ed. by Yetunde and Giles).

Noble Silence:
Noble silence will begin with the opening talk on the first evening and continue through the closing session.

Experience Level:
Suitable for beginning and experienced practitioners.


Because this retreat can only accommodate thirty-two participants, there is an application process to ensure an inclusive, equitable, and diverse community. BIPOC and LGBTQ(IA+) folks are encouraged to join us.

Cancellation Policy:
During the pandemic, there is a cancellation fee of $50 for all residential programs longer than two nights and $25 for weekend programs.

Covid-19 Safety Protocol:
Please review our Covid-19 Safety Protocols here: https://www.buddhistinquiry.org/covid-19/.

As we work to become a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive community, we invite feedback/suggestions you may have regarding ways that we can make participation in the program more accessible and welcoming. Please email us at contact@buddhistinquiry.org.
    About the Instructor(s):
  • Cheryl Giles is the Francis Greenwood Peabody Senior Lecturer on Pastoral Care and Counseling and a licensed clinical psychologist  who has been a member of the Harvard faculty since 1997. Professor Giles teaches courses on spiritual care, trauma and resilience for caregivers, and compassionate care of the dying. Her primary research interests are identifying the role of risk and resilience in developing healthy adolescents and exploring how Buddhist Chaplains can be a spiritual ally in relieving the suffering of those who cope with health care disparities and other forms of oppression. Professor Giles is the co-editor with Pamela Ayo Yetunde of Black and Buddhist: What Buddhism Can Teach Us about Race, Resilience, Transformation, and Freedom (Shambala, 2020).

  • Chris Berlin is an instructor in spiritual counseling, chaplaincy, Buddhist ministry, resilience, and contemplative practices at both Harvard Divinity School and the Harvard Extension School. He has worked as a full-time clinical chaplain at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, where he frequently taught mindfulness to both patients and medical clinicians. He is a lay teacher in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition and offers regular meditation classes, workshops and retreats in New England.