Buddhist thought and nursing: a hermeneutic exploration

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In this paper I lay out the ground for a creative dialogue between Buddhist thought and contemporary nursing. I start from the observation that in tracing an arc from the existential human experience of suffering to finding compassionate responses to suffering in everyday practice Buddhist thought already appears to present significant affinities with nursing as a practice discipline. I discuss some of the complexities of entering into a cross‐cultural dialogue, which is already well under way in the working out of Western forms of Buddhism, and which is beginning to be reflected in nursing literature. I introduce philosophical hermeneutics as a useful framework for elaborating an open and constructive exchange. I then discuss key Mahayana Buddhist concepts of emptiness and two truths that lead to a dynamic and open way of understanding reality and responding in the world. I turn to examples of original texts to give a flavour of the varied and distinctive forms of literature in the Buddhist tradition. This is intended partly to keep the reader alert to cultural difference (from a Western standpoint, that is) while exploring the creative potential of Buddhist thought. Hermeneutics again provides a framework for interpretation. This paper establishes a philosophical ground for a critical and creative dialogue between Buddhist thought and nursing.

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1466-769X.2011.00502.x

Affiliations: 1: PhD Candidate 2: Associate Professor 3: Professor, Faculty of Nursing, University of Calgary, Calgary, AB, Canada

Publication date: April 1, 2012

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