|Department of Buddhist Chaplaincy|
University of the West offers one of only four accredited Master of Divinity programs specifically for Buddhists in the United States. The Buddhist Chaplaincy Department was founded as a division of Religious Studies in 2009 and became a separate department in 2012. The department offers one degree, the Master of Divinity (MDiv) in Buddhist Chaplaincy. The faculty, all of whom are engaged in the practice of Buddhist chaplaincy, specialize in preparing Buddhist practitioners for hands-on work in chaplaincy in interfaith settings, such as hospitals, hospices, police departments, prisons, and the military. The department collaborates closely with the Business Administration, Psychology, and Religious Studies departments. Religious Studies courses make up approximately half the coursework for chaplaincy students.
Philosophy & Objectives
Spiritual Formation in Buddhist Chaplaincy is seen as the development of ethics, contemplative practice, and wisdom. The department is ecumenical, welcoming Buddhists from every branch of Buddhism as well as religious others. (Not all students identify as Buddhist or only Buddhist.) Students are encouraged to engage in spiritual reflection and formation from within their own faith tradition and to share those reflections with their classmates. In addition, students learn about other faiths, such as Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Jainism, and Sikhism, to be of service to a wide variety of people in need.
The department upholds the standards of professional chaplaincy set forth by the Association of Professional Chaplains (APC) and encourages all students to complete Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) or other clinical practicum experiences appropriate to their future work setting. These professional standards and trainings ensure that students gain hands-on experience in spiritual care and are ready to enter the world as professional Buddhist chaplains upon graduation.
Buddhist chaplaincy students are held to the highest standards of personal and professional conduct/ethics. By engaging in the study of interfaith chaplaincy and/or Buddhist ministry, students place themselves into a role of leadership within the campus community. The campus community therefore sees chaplaincy students as models of spiritual leadership. Honoring the expression of differing opinions is not only a hallmark of good education, but also an activity of interfaith work. Showing respect to others in ways informed by Buddhist wisdom and practices are strong values of the university. Therefore we refrain from any conduct that would hurt, deride, or belittle another, and engage in conduct that builds character, compassion, and community. Students found engaging in misconduct incongruent with the values, laws, and bylaws of the university, city, or state will be suspended for a specified period of time, or at minimum, asked to take a single semester leave of absence for mental health purposes.
Often faculty are asked to write a letter of recommendation for students making application for ordination. These letters reflect not only on the student’s academic progress, but also on the student’s general process of spiritual formation. Matters of individual conduct, participation in community life, and maturity in the academic setting are addressed in these letters.