Paul van Gogh (1978) is a Buddhist Spiritual Caregiver at the Ministry of Defence. For years Paul worked in psychiatry and care for the disabled. He first studied religious studies and then did the official training to become a Buddhist chaplain. He worked for the judiciary for three years before he started working for the Ministry of Defence.
The conversation with Joost van den Heuvel Rijnders is about the work of a spiritual counselor. 'My work is about the slow questions of life. At Defense we create a free space, every question is welcome. In the delusion of the day, we offer a space to stand still, without questioning judgment and to be able to listen without judgment. People often already have all the answers themselves, intrinsic wisdom is present in everyone. As long as you are quiet and dare to look, you will know what to do'.
As a Buddhist chaplain, Paul does not carry a weapon, he is 'not combatant'. 'I did learn to march, read maps, slept in the mud and dealt with sleep deprivation. During the final exercise an appeal was made to my resilience'.
Does it hurt to work as a Buddhist for an organization that uses legitimate violence? “I mainly felt chafing because I thought I had to feel it. However, we are there for the human side of the military. Offering a free space, a listening ear, and making things negotiable reduces suffering. That is, of course, a very Buddhist principle." Paul also hopes to be able to introduce Buddhist meditation to Defense. “The courage to run into a building is one thing, the courage to enter your own temple is another. That takes a different kind of courage. The first form is about hard forces. What we work with in Buddhism are soft forces, they may be stronger than those other forces in the end'.