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Burnie's Buddhist hospital chaplain also committed to fire fighting

20/03/201507:33(Xem: 4058)
Burnie's Buddhist hospital chaplain also committed to fire fighting

Burnie's Buddhist hospital chaplain also committed to fire fighting

Posted 

Buddhist priest Alan Piercey is a hospital chaplain in Burnie, a fireman with his local brigade in Penguin and a one-time purveyor of chocolate.

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AUDIO: Sifu, Buddhist hospital chaplain and fireman(ABC News)

He is known to the people on the North West coast by a number of different names, the most often used borrowed from a popular animated movie.

"My ordained name is Venerable Shih Jingang (pronounced Cher Gin Gun)," he said.

"Most people around the North West Regional Hospital in Burnie just know me as Sifu.

"And if you ask any five-year-old, they'll know exactly who Sifu is: a character from Kung Fu Panda. I believe it's a cartoon."

It's opened more doors than closed them. In the Buddhist community we sometimes call it the Dalai Lama effect

Sifu

Then there are the good men, women and children of the Penguin Fire Brigade, who know Sifu as Alan Piercey, although they sometimes just call him respectfully, "Monk".

Alan has been a retained volunteer firefighter for fifteen years and has headed off to a number of major bushfire campaigns in other parts of Tasmania.

Between ceremonial cushions and meditation bells on the mantelpiece in his Penguin home are trophies including the Penguin brigade's Senior Firefighter of the Year 2013.

"Sometimes I'll be meditating with a group here when my pager goes off. It has happened," he said, this trademark smile unfaltering.

"Sometimes in the middle of the bushfire season I just have to run!"

Alan Piercey fireman

Sifu, as he prefers, has been a Buddhist since he was a child living at Richmond, just outside Sydney.

When he was seven years-old, his mother started to take him to aged-care homes to sit and talk with the elderly residents.

"One of the most beautiful experiences I had was sitting with an elderly woman who, while she held my hand - and she had the most beautiful smile on her face – died peacefully," he said.

"That memory has stayed with me.

"My life has always been involved with chaplaincy in one way or another, where I've sat a lot and listened to people's stories."

These days Sifu is part of the chaplaincy team at the North West Regional Hospital, a job that requires its practitioners to act as a chaplain to all, regardless of religious beliefs or lack thereof.

He said that occasionally he encounters people who are uncomfortable talking to a smiling man in flowing brown robes.

More often there is a great curiosity about what he has to offer.

"It's opened more doors than closed them," Sifu said.

"In the Buddhist community we sometimes call it the Dalai Lama effect.

"There's an image many Buddhists have of being nice, friendly people.

"And I'd agree with one of the things [Buddha] says which is quite universal and that is 'my religion is kindness'."

When Sifu trained for the chaplaincy he was told that he was the only non-Christian chaplain to become qualified for hospital chaplaincy in Northern Tasmania.

There are many different branches of Buddhist teaching across the world and Sifu has been ordained by an order which blends Ch'an (or Zen) and Pure Land Buddhism, two of the major Buddhist forms in China.

As so often happens today, he researched his options via the internet and established a Skype relationship with his teachers before requesting full teachings and to eventually be ordained in that tradition.

"My abbot came out here to Tasmania and I was ordained in Gutteridge Gardens in Wynyard," he said.

Alan Piercey at home

"People automatically assume you are a monk and there have been periods of monastic living for me along the way.

"Because I have a teaching role it is more correct to call me a priest. I go out into the world.

"In my case it's being a retained volunteer firefighter and, over the last few years, it's being involved in chaplaincy."

Part of Alan's role is to raise funds for different charities and to support himself in the role of Buddhist teacher.

He sells Buddhist meditation bells and other items which facilitate the practice of Buddhism.

For a period he also sold chocolate, which served as a personal test of the Buddhist principle of eliminating craving.

"It was a wonderful way of fundraising and also keeping me on the road," he said laughing.

"You can become attached to anything – certain people I know would regard chocolate as a form of instant bliss.

"But it's a very temporary bliss."


http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-02-20/burnies-buddhist-hospital-chaplain-committed-to-fire-fighting/6149590


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