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Tibetan Monks Bring Fresh Perspective to Healthcare Students

Posted by Marc Costanzo Tuesday, Sep. 15, 2015

Geshe Lama Phuntsho - Buddhist monkNebraska Methodist College students sat transfixed. Their teacher for the day lectured not about science but about the healing power of compassion.

He explained that the best medication in the world would be ineffective if the healer didn’t have good intentions in providing it, how the power of meditation can get an individual through the toughest days and how a person can only reach their fullest potential if they’re driven by generosity toward others.

Not your typical lecture, because this wasn’t your typical healthcare teacher. This lecturer was a monk from the Gaden Shartse Phukhang Monastery in Southern India.

Students from a variety of different disciplines gathered to listen to Geshe Lama Phuntsho describe the lifestyle of his monastery and the ways that nurses and healthcare practitioners can learn from the very same teachings they subscribe to on a daily basis. And what they learned will prove to be incredibly helpful on their career paths.

Buddhist Teachings at a Methodist College?

As a Methodist College, we support the teachings of Christianity and strive to emphasize the importance of holism in the healthcare setting. You might then be wondering how to reconcile this with the appearance of a group of Buddhist monks at the college.

Here’s the thing: as far as teachings go, Geshe Lama Phuntsho and his brethren instilled valuable lessons that any healthcare student, whether they’re from a Methodist college or anywhere else, can put into practice throughout their careers.

He addressed what are known as the 6 Perfections: Ethics, Patience, Effort (Joyful Perseverance), Concentration, Wisdom and Generosity. What’s particularly interesting is how closely these align with the values of the college: caring, excellence, holism, learning and respect. When you get down to brass tacks, NMC truly believes as an institution that why you help people is just as important as how you help people, and that came across greatly during yesterday’s lecture.

Geshe Lama Phuntsho describes the different types of motivation that tend to drive each and every one of us. On the less noble end of the spectrum, you have selfishness: you’re doing something because you believe it will benefit you in some kind of material way. Not the nicest goal, but certainly something that most of us have succumbed to at some point in our lives.

On the positive end of the spectrum you have the drive to benefit others, which, when applied as a motivation to your actions as a nurse or healthcare worker, can truly help you achieve some sort of enlightenment. If even a single ounce of generosity drives your actions, then even when you get physically tired (and any nurse who has worked a 12-hour overnight shift can attest that this will happen), you will remain mentally strong.

Another thing that Geshe Lama Phuntsho addressed was the power of meditation. A daily regimen, he said, has the power to cure and bring one into touch with the higher motivation of generosity. Replace “meditation” with “prayer” or “reflection” or whatever you subscribe to in your own belief system, and his words should hit the mark.

Healing Oneself Through The Healing Of Others

Patience. Empathy. Gratitude. All things we take for granted but all things that we can put into action to make others, and in turn ourselves, feel better.

Most anyone in a healthcare setting will agree that helping others just feels good. Kaelen, a student just beginning her journey in the healthcare world, was one of many who listened to yesterday’s lecture and Q&A. She not only enjoyed the chance to learn about different cultures but appreciated the idea that the values of inner peace and compassion could be applied throughout her career.

Experiences like this don‘t come along often, but when they do, we hope that students walk away with invaluable information that they wouldn’t otherwise receive during their normal classes. Ultimately, it will be these memories that inform and enrich their careers in the healthcare field.

The monks of Gaden Shartse Phukhang Monastery have been in Omaha as a part of their Sacred Arts of Tibet Tour. In addition to visiting Nebraska Methodist College, they have been creating Sand Mandalas at the Omaha Healing Arts Center. You can learn more about their work and their tour by visiting

Topics: patient care, student life, campus life

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