RPCV Author Madeline Ko-I Bastis, Editor, Artist and Buddhist Priest (Ethiopia)
Madeline A.Bastis from Jamaica, New York, joined Ethiopia One (1962-64) after graduating with a B.A. in art from the Catholic College Marymount Manhatten in New York City. She also worked part-time while in college for a print and lithographing company and in college was art editor of the school literary magazine and active in stage and set designing for student shows.
In Ethiopia, she taught English and had an art club at Medhame Alem Secondary School in Harar. After the Peace Corps she was an editor of art books for Harcourt Brace and then had a landscaping business in the Hamptons.
Then her life changed. “Like many people,” said Madeline, “I began my meditation practice when I didn’t know what else to do. There was a spiritual and emotional emptiness in my life.” After taking a simple adult education class in meditation, she started to see miraculous results. My physical energy soared, I slept more soundly and seemed more able to concentrate on work. As she got deeper into the practice of meditation, Bastis wanted to share her discoveries with others. Eventually, she became a Buddhist hospital Chaplain and a Zen priest.
Working with cancer, AIDS, psychiatric, and Alzheimer’s patients, with battered women, caregivers, inmates, with people with addictions, as well as so-called normal people. In her work, she has found that the most difficult thing for people to do is to grant forgiveness. Some people cannot ask for forgiveness, others cannot forgive one another. And some don’t realize how harsh they are to themselves when they cannot forgive the one person they have to live with daily — themselves.
Based on her new religion, she wrote two books.
Peaceful Dwelling: Meditations for Healing and Living, published in 2000
Rev. Bastis has written a great deal of the book in the first-person plural, conveying the feeling that she is with you as you read the book. Each chapter also contains commonly asked questions with answers that are comprehensible to even the beginning meditator, making the book extremely user-friendly.
Heart of Forgiveness: A Practical Path to Healing, published in 2003.
Heart of Forgiveness helps readers reflect on what forgiveness really means and how it can heal their lives and relationships. Ko-i Bastis explores the difficult emotions that keep us from forgiving and offers tools to help us overcome them.
MADELINE KOI BASTIS, 1940 — 2007
Madeline Ko-I Bastis was an ordained Buddhist priest and hospital chaplain. She worked with cancer, AIDS, psychiatric, and Alzheimer’s patients, with battered women, caregivers, inmates, with people with addictions, as well as so-called normal people. She passed away in 2007.
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I was in Ethiopia One with Madeline but did not know her well. I identify with these words of hers: “she has found that the most difficult thing for people to do is to grant forgiveness. Some people cannot ask for forgiveness, others cannot forgive one another.” Most of my life I have been part of ‘progressive Christianity.’ Although I don’t know a lot about Buddhism I suspect that had I lived in the East instead of the West I could easily have become a Buddhist. Instead I have been part of a group associated with the Westar Institute (www.westarinstitute.org) for more than twenty years. Ethiopia One and the Peace Corps was a life-changing experience for me. I try to keep in touch with others. Shalom, Ray