Buddhist Spiritual Direction

"Spiritual direction is encompassed in the Buddhist student-teacher relationship; the connection between spiritual director and spiritual directee is most reminiscent of the ‘spiritual friend’ relationship—known in ancient Pali as kalyanamitta.

This sacred friendship is one in which there is a depth of connection and commitment—a joining together through empathy and wisdom. In “Buddhist” spiritual direction, the spiritual director, in mindful presence, shares in a heartfelt way, the feelings expressed by the spiritual directee—meeting the spiritual directee’s inherent goodness—the sacred still place within.

Through empathy and wisdom, the spiritual director skillfully leads the spiritual directee to know his or her inherent goodness, inspiring the spiritual directee to envision and meet his or her true potential. Mindfulness practices are often introduced as tools to enhance clear seeing and ease of well-being."

Karin J. Miles, MA, spiritual director and mentor, Interfaith Spiritual Center, Portland, Oregon, USA


"Buddhism is a philosophy, a religion, or a set of ethical principles, depending on one's belief. Buddhism in Thailand might be taught, experienced, or expressed (practiced) differently than Buddhism in some of the 'new schools' of Buddhism found throughout the world. The basic, fundamental, or 'old school' Buddhism is based on the Buddha's teachings, meditation, and a dharma teacher. The old school is non-theistic (not to be confused with atheistic). Some of the new schools of Buddhism are based on chanting mantras or the names of deities, and are somewhat theistic.

Spiritual direction, then, differs from one tradition to the next, or there are overlapping practices. There are dharma teachers, spiritual friends, and ministers. Buddhist practitioners may meditate, learn from teachers, chant, or pray. It is through meditation that the 'five spiritual faculties' are cultivated: faith, effort, mindfulness, concentration, and wisdom. Through chanting mantras, one's mind can become fixed on a certain spiritual quality or spiritual law. Through learning from a dharma teacher (at a retreat or otherwise), one can explore and apply direction toward a spiritual life that is less theoretical, and more personal. With spiritual friends, one can find ongoing support for the spiritual lifestyle one has chosen to live."

Pamela Ayo Yetunde is a hospital chaplain and a graduate of the Sati Center for Buddhist Studies Chaplaincy Training Program