Online Program

From chronically ill buddhist nuns to “happiness promoters”: Learning locally and applying globally

Monday, November 4, 2013 : 12:30 p.m. - 12:50 p.m.

Sunny Wijesinghe, MS, MPH, RN, PhD, School of Nursing, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, NM
Shihan Wijesinghe, Bsc London, England, IBM Colombo Sri Lanka, Piliyandala, Sri Lanka
This study focused on the role of Buddhist spiritual practice in the lives and health of Sri Lankan Buddhist nuns with a chronic illness. The significance of this study to nursing was to provide a way of knowing as to how aspects of coping in one socio-culture can be applied globally. This ethnography followed the iterative and recursive linguistic approach of Spradley (1979, 1980). Forty five Sri Lankan Buddhist nuns with chronic illness were selected through a snow-ball sampling strategy. Twenty secondary informants were identified to shed light on the topic from health care, lay-Buddhist, and Buddhist-scholar perspective. Participant observation and semi-structured interviews were used to explore cultural domains, and clarify each domain with taxonomies. These steps facilitated uncovering cultural themes. The repeating cultural theme was responsibility: Nuns' responsibilities varied from those to the Buddha, social circle, and to herself. Nuns shaped their spiritual practices to fulfill their responsibilities. Their health was mediated by the priority of responsibilities and the strength of their social links. Coping behavior shown by the nuns were either “health- seeking” or adaptive. Integrating the viewpoints of the secondary informants indicated that behaviors witnessed in this study reached beyond Buddhist circles to be compared with those of existing theories such as Salutogeneis (Antonovsky, 1979) and happiness promotion (Seligman et al, 2000). Buddhist spiritual practice influenced positive coping within the context of a sense of purpose and social resources against a backdrop of impermanence in life. These findings have strong implications for nursing research in positive psychology.

Learning Areas:

Diversity and culture
Public health or related nursing
Public health or related public policy
Public health or related research
Social and behavioral sciences

Learning Objectives:
Describe how chronic illness affects daily activities of these nuns Compare medical remedies and spiritual devices they use to cope with symptoms Identify what factors facilitate living with a chronic illness for these women Discuss how lessons learned from the study can be applied globally

Keyword(s): Coping, International

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I have been the principal investigator in several overseas research projects involving chronic illness such as diabetes in the developing world. I have already presented (podium and poster) my research on 8 national and international research conferences.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.