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Lions Roar : November 2017
Death Is Here Now: Koshin Paley Ellison & Robert Chodo Campbell DIDN’T KNOW WHAT TO DO. I was at the New York Zen Center for Contemplative Care to talk with Koshin Paley Ellison and Robert Chodo Campbell about their Buddhist approach to end-of-life care. But they were dealing with death right in front of me. “One of my dear friends is dying right now,” Koshin had just informed me, with tears in his eyes. “Oh... I’m so sorry. We can reschedule if this is a bad time?” I offered, wishing I knew the right words to say. This made them both smile, and Chodo reached for my hand. “Lindsay, isn’t this story on death and dying?” he said gently. “Yes,” I replied, terrified of the emotion so present in that moment. “Well, welcome to it,” Chodo stated. “Here it is, right now, in this room.” Their beloved friend, the Buddhist teacher Michael Stone, was in a coma and was expected to die, which he would three days later. The two Zen priests, along with many others in the Buddhist world, were in deep sorrow about losing him. Yet as I spent the day with Koshin and Chodo, we went through many states of being. We cried. Chodo sang show tunes. They showed me their “bling”—new rings from their wedding in June. We sat in silence after they told the stories behind the photographs on their altar. We ate excellent dump- lings. Yet during each experience, Koshin’s phone would ding with a text about Michael, and we were reminded that death was in the room with us. “Death is the most important spiritual teach- ing,” said Chodo. “It wakes us up. If we are truly Buddhist Wisdom for People Who Are Dying— and Those Who Love Them BY LINDSAY KYTE Zen practice helps Koshin Paley Ellison (c) and Robert Chodo Campbell (r) stay with whatever unfolds as they care for those who are dying. Here they share a laugh with Ronald Getter. PHOTOBYNICOLECRAINE How Will You Die? I LION’S ROAR | NOVEMBER 2017 53