The Path to Chaplaincy

There are many ways to offer spiritual care to those in need, and many ways to get there. Most chaplains and spiritual care providers are inspired and motivated by their own passions, life experiences, and karma. Some people offer spiritual care as a professional chaplain and make a modest living at it, others volunteer or create specialized programs to alleviate suffering in a variety of settings.

Professional chaplains are employed in the military and prisons, in healthcare and education, and recently, in the corporate and industry sectors. Volunteer chaplains serve in a myriad of settings, and Buddhist chaplains often volunteer as meditation teachers in prisons, jails and other institutions, as well as hospitals that have one-person or non-existent Spiritual Care departments.

Typically, chaplains have skills in the following areas:

Personal Competence
  • self-knowledge of strengths, limitations, hindrances & habits
  • cultivation of chaplain identity and functioning
  • integration of emotional impact of regular contact with crises
  • engagement of the action/reflection method of learning
Interpersonal Competence
  • establishing spiritual care relationships
  • empathetic listening & attending
  • use of self & Boundaries
  • interpersonal dynamics
  • cultural Competence:
  • creating and leading rituals
  • making a spiritual assessment & care plan
  • ethics of conduct
Religious & Spiritual Competence
  • making use of religious heritage
  • leadership skills
  • meaning making/Spiritual direction
  • religious directives
  • multifaith knowledge & interaction

A Road Map

Click here for an explanation created by our friends at the Buddhist Chaplain Network

Places to Learn

For those wishing to train as a chaplain (either professionally or as a volunteer, and those in discernment) the following organizations offer curriculum in Buddhist spiritual care. Some are introductory, others are the whole education enchilada. All are appropriate for volunteer chaplaincy, many are appropriate for professional chaplaincy.

Sati Center for Buddhist Studies

Chaplaincy Institute for Interfaith Studies

New York Zen Center for Contemplative Care

Institute of Buddhist Studies

University of the West Buddhist Master of Divinity Program

Naropa University Master of Divinity Degree

Wise Words

“Always be mindful of the kindness and not the faults of others.”


Our community
includes people who:

  • serve in healthcare, education and military settings
  • bring Buddhist meditation to people in jails and prisons
  • apply Buddhist teachings in social justice work
  • study and/or teach Buddhist spiritual care
  • wish to understand the work of Buddhist chaplains
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Let us introduce ... you to some Buddhist chaplains who provide spiritual care in a variety of settings.

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