This conversation will consider Seng Kan Cheung, a contemporary Chinese American religious healer who uses qigong, reiki, and Buddhist spells. He shares these practices and exchanges healing with a community of relatives, friends, students, and patients in the New York City area. Breathing is involuntary, yet can also be voluntarily controlled. Agency in his healing is difficult to determine because he experiences involuntary movements that trigger during the practice of qigong, application of acupressure on patients, and encounters with Buddhist temples in New York and Japan.
Questions for reflection
1. How do you define health? Did you consider mainly physical, mental, and emotional factors? What about communal, social, or spiritual health? How can we understand health differently if the focus moves from individuals (or parts of the mind-body) towards the family as a unit, or larger social units?
2. What is the difference between disease, illness, and sickness? Do you find the distinction proposed by some researchers to be helpful?
3. What is the relationship between health and religion, in and out of the Buddhist context? Where did people turn for healing before the widespread professionalization of medical doctors or if they could not afford doctors?
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Kin Cheung is Assistant Professor of East and South Asian Religions at Moravian University. Kin researches various aspects of contemporary Buddhism. He has published on Buddhist meditation and healing, practical implications of Buddhist ethics, and Buddhist institutions’ involvement in China’s stock market. His PhD dissertation examines how meditation changes the senses of self, using both scientific studies of meditation’s effects on the brain and Chan/Zen Buddhist descriptions. Kin’s next major project is a contemporary case study of a Chinese American religious healer. Kin is a strong proponent of religious literacy. Regardless of personal identification with a religious group, the study of religion promotes understanding of human experience.