Buddhist candidates for chaplaincy must have a solid background in Buddhist dharma and practice and the endorsement of their spiritual tradition. Buddhist chaplaincy training typically includes graduate-level study in Buddhist philosophy, comparative religions, psychology, sociology and counseling. Such training is now available in the U.S. from a few well-established sanghas and several colleges offering a Masters of Divinity degree that emphasize Buddhist principles.
The BuddhistChaplainsNetwork.org, based in Pleasant Hill, CA gives a good description of the role of a Buddhist chaplain and the present state of Buddhist chaplaincy in the U.S. http://buddhistchaplainsnetwork.org/ For those chaplains who wish to get board certification and employment in a healthcare setting, additional studies and clinical training in Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) are also needed. Board certification is available through the Association for Clinical Pastoral Education. Emory Healthcare has a well-established Clinical Pastoral Education program that incorporates some care techniques derived from Buddhist principles, but does not currently have a Buddhist Chaplaincy track. https://www.emoryhealthcare.org/spiritual-health/cpe.html.
In the U.S. there are now several Buddhist Masters of Divinity programs:
- Naropa University of Boulder, CO –http://www.naropa.edu/academics/masters/divinity/index.php
- University of the West of Los Angeles, CA http://www.uwest.edu/academics/graduate-programs/buddhist-chaplaincy/
- Harvard Divinity School of Cambridge, MA https://chaplains.harvard.edu/filter_by/buddhist-chaplaincy
- Institute of Buddhist Studies of Berkeley, CA – http://www.shin-ibs.edu/academics/certificate-programs/buddhist-chaplaincy/
- Maitripa of Portland, OR – https://maitripa.org/master-divinity-degree/
There are also a growing number of U.S. dharma centers which provide in-depth Buddhist chaplaincy training, but do not award divinity degrees:
- Upaya Zen Center of Santa Fe, NM – https://www.upaya.org/social-action/chaplaincy/
- Sati Center for Buddhist Studies of Redwood City, CA – http://www.sati.org/buddhist-chaplaincy-training-program/
- Jewel Heart of Ann Arbor MI – http://www.jewelheart.org/jewel-heart-chaplaincy/
The international Rigpa Spiritual Care Programme, based in County Cork Ireland, also offers workshops and courses (including regular web-based instruction) for chaplains, hospice workers and volunteers, health care workers, and others. Although non-denominational, this training incorporates Buddhist principles—including those described by Sogyal Rinpoche, in “The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying”. http://www.spcare.org/en/
Buddhist chaplains appear to be very rare in the Atlanta area. One of them is Cheri Tiernan, who has recently been working at Emory Hospital in pursuit of board certification as a clinical chaplain. Cheri is an active member of the Shambhala Meditation Center of Atlanta and a Certified Teacher for Emory University’s Cognitively-Based Compassion Training (CBCT) program. She has also been a spiritual-care intern at Hospice Atlanta and has been involved with Compassionate Atlanta.