Education options for Buddhist Chaplaincy/Pastoral Counseling


Great. :slightly_smiling_face: I’ll be watching the live streaming :grinning:
Have a lovely evening :dharmawheel:


Well, this is very good news. Australia is a long ways away, but hoping that the programs will be, at least in part, online. I registered a membership with the Spiritual Care Association ( SCA - Learning Center ) , and will take one of their online CPE courses in 2020, but I’d 110 percent welcome the chance to do this training through BSWA.


The BSWA CARE GROUP at Dhammaloka news:
Leo Tolstoy’s short story (often quoted by Ajahn Brahm) asks, “The Three Questions”:

  1. What is the most important time? (NOW)
  2. Who are the most important people? (WHOEVER YOU’RE WITH)
  3. What is the most important thing to do? (TO CARE)
    This beloved homily has been adopted by the proposed new BSWA CARE Group into their
    name and as their main aim and objective. Composed of a diverse group of Buddhist
    volunteers from professional backgrounds including, Psychology, Social Work, Nursing and
    Health Education, they are in the process of developing a listening and befriending service
    that will include telephone support lines and meeting rooms to help BSWA members, their
    families and supporters.
    The President of BSWA, Dennis Sheppard was a former Director of the Samaritans,
    managing their Crisis Support and suicide prevention helpline, spending over 22 years with
    them. Along with his many years of meditation practise and a wealth of life experience, he
    leads the group towards gaining good structures and supervision for the proposed service
    (with due diligence) to roll out a pilot program in March 2020.
    Located at the Dhammaloka centre in Nollamara the group hopes to train volunteers in
    ways of offering emotional support to people in need (for those suffering from loneliness,
    despair, anxiety or depression) with a service that is private, confidential and judgement
    free. A triage system will encourage cases in need of further referral to access other
    qualified services. This community welfare programme sometimes called “Engaged
    Buddhism“, can only enhance what is presently offered at Dhammaloka Buddhist Centre; a
    well-established and valuable community resource. All members will receive more
    information and an invitation to join the group if interested, very soon.
    A fund-raising drive is underway to help cover the costs of two weekend-long Training
    Retreats at Jhana Grove in February, the setting up of office space with appropriate
    telephone and computer equipment, and meeting rooms (eventually with toilet access). If
    you would like to donate to this cause, please give to the Dhammaloka Running Costs
    account with a credit card or under PayPal’s “Add a note” section, write: “BSWA Care”. You
    can simply scan the code with your smartphone below, or go to the Dhammaloka Running cost page.


Thanks, Bill. A donation made to “BSWA CARE Group,” and I hope others here can join in me in supporting this wonderful startup at Dhammaloka centre in Nollamara .


Sorry, Dennis was indisposed and didn’t attend.


@Bill Thanks for the written outline :slight_smile:

It looks like they are recruiting lay Buddhists with relevant professional qualifications, and providing targeted top-up training as well. A Great initiative and program, but this is a bit different from what I have previously understood chaplaincy to be.



@Bill, is there a link to the page that describes the BSWA CARE Group? Despite my searches of the BSWA sites and Google, I could not find the link. Thanks in advance


I’m pretty sure it just got sent out via email news to members. Unfortunately I deleted mine… oops…
This was it in entirety though.


Thanks, Viveka. I’m actually a Life member of BSWA (never stepped foot yet in OZ…) and maybe I need to see how to get on the member email list…

In any case, I don’t want to be a bother, and I’m guessing more info will come out in 2020 about the project. Thanks, @Viveka for your response, and have a good weekend.



I found the information sheet on the BSWA CARE group on the email, and luckily they had a PDF attachment and so here is the information on the group. It doesn’t seem to have too much more information, but here is the most we have.
CARE_GROUP3_at_Dhammaloka.pdf (193.6 KB)


Thanks, Ken. Much appreciated.


I spent some time this morning with the following video, from Boston College, with the speaker being Melissa Kelly, an author and academic (Christianity- based) focusing on grief and the study of the science of death (Thanatology).

There is such a minimal presence (at least that I can find) in the pastoral care field that focuses on a EBT and/or Buddhist approach to pastoral care and counseling. The Dhamma seems so particularly well suited to addressing issues of human flourishing, as well as issues of human suffering. Our practice focuses on meditation and mindfulness of death, of impermanence, of suffering, and yet I find so few Buddhist voices in associations like

In this video, a pastoral care expert discusses how pastoral care can be expanded to include preventative care, as well as expanding the scope of this care to include fields such as domestic violence and, (it can be argued), the fear and grief being experienced over climate catastrophe, wealth inequality, homelessness, food insecurity, and with hopelessness and suicide risk in adolescents and young adults. I liked her approach, that the field of pastoral care should embrace not just the grief that comes after a tragedy or loss, but is part of the counsel and care that surrounds the issues as and before they develop.

I am glad we have this posting thread here on SC, and welcome more thoughts in this regard. It woudl be good to hear more voices from EBT Buddhists as to the nexus between the Dhamma and the issues presented in what is a largely western Judeo-Christian field of pastoral care and counseling.

Edit: One of the quotes from Dr. Kelly’s book is this: “When we are oriented to this reality, we feel tethered in an ultimate sense to a loving, cherished God who holds us in our brokenness, and our coping efforts will help us to feel that life has meaning, even in brokenness, because God’s love holds it all”

Isn’t it true, or possible, that the Dhamma gives us better, more realistic, and healthier approaches to the impermanence and dukkha in life? Isn’t it possible that a Dhammic approach in pastoral care provides to all suffering a more healthy, more stable approach to dealing with suffering?

I don’t fault ( at least as is the case in the US) the overwhelming psychological dependence on the crutch of a personal and caring “God.” I just see that the Buddha offered something so much healthier, so much better, and it would be interesting to see how the Dhamma fits into the emerging and important field of chaplaincy, pastoral care, and pastoral counseling.


This evening, I attended an inaugural event celebrating those who have survived cancer. Before the walk started, there was some music and a few speakers. One of the speakers was a Christian minister of some kind, the sound system was struggling and I couldn’t catch her introduction. Her prayer was exactly what I would have expected. Thanking god for standing by the survivors and their families in their time of need. It really peeled back all the layers of philosophical-izing that had come to contaminate my practice in recent years. There’s such variety in human need, while at the same time it does all come from the same place. If we are to put ourselves, as Buddhists, forward as chaplains, I believe we need to meet the people where they are. Celebrate or commiserate with them in the way they do. Using whatever tools available to ease their way. If the dhamma is part of that, great!

Where I think there is much space for dhamma to have impact in the chaplaincy/pastoral care area is on the larger, organisation level. There is the potential for influencing the way care is offered. This is not a fully formed idea, so I can’t expand on it more, yet. When I can, you’ll all be the first to know. :slightly_smiling_face:


Hello all,

In Western Australia, Murdoch University offers a Grad. Dip. in Chaplaincy which I completed last year. The units are quite theistic but I was able to substitute three of the less relevant (to me) units for counselling units. My experience was that the course at the Uni had little practical content except for the Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) component (the “Pastoral Practicum” of the course outline referenced above). I did my CPE at Royal Perth Hospital and I found it very beneficial and practical.

Throughout the Grad Dip and the CPE I was the only Buddhist. For the CPE this was a useful dynamic to have in the group both for myself and my four other fellow trainees. At the Uni they tried hard to accommodate me but the units are part of a Masters of Divinity and therefore more suited to someone aspiring for the clergy.

In any case, I made the most of the opportunity and am now a qualified Buddhist chaplain … a bit of a rarity but it is my hope that the need for non-christian chaplains is more widely recognised. (Some companies such as Fortesque Mining Group recognise the need for non-christian chaplains and have a very progressive chaplaincy program)

It is good to see the BSWA responding to the spiritual/emotional needs of the community with plans for their own chaplaincy program. I would like to be part of that noble enterprise.


Such a great comment, @Nadine. I do understand that part of the chaplaincy/CPE training is this ability to meet people where and how they are with their beliefs, and to ride that wave with them. Part of what might make this vocation interesting is the interfaith possibilities, and working with good people of different faith traditions yet all focused on acting with compassion and wisdom.


@666tomanderson I believe Denis Shepherd (pres) has put out an invitation for those interested to contact him. Just ring the office.

Sadhu! for your aspirations :pray:


How many credit hours of course work is this? The accrediting body in the US requires 72 credits of Graduate school plus the CPE on-site training. Since most of the options are through Divinity schools, I wonder if there would be enough leeway to sub classes like you did?

This morning I poked around at some hospital CPE programs in my area. The staff chaplains are virtually all white, Protestant males. Many went to the same grad programs. This is in an area of my state that has a fair amount of diversity, but there’s very little indication of it in the web info on their programs, in any case.


Thanks @Viveka, I’ve contacted Dennis offering to be involved.

@Nadine … I’m not sure how the “credit hours of course work” relates to the structure of courses here in Oz. Murdoch Uni uses a system of credit points with each unit of a course generally being worth 3 credit points and the whole Grad. Dip. Chap. is worth 24 credit points.

In practical terms, 4 units (or 12 credit points) is a full-time endeavour so you’re looking at 2 years full time IF the units are available in the semester that suits you etc.

The CPE is the last unit to complete and you have to go through a lengthy application process and interview to even get on the intake that suits you. (and it currently costs around Aus $2,000). Acceptance into a course of CPE is also not to be taken for granted - for example, I had a friend in a couple of my units who was not accepted.

The Uni guidelines suggest that you need to allow about 10 hours per week per unit as well as the contact time of a 2 hour tutorial each week. It’s quite a commitment and, without arranging to swap units, the content is very theistic and, with the exception of CPE, largely not practical.

The core units are
Introduction to Theology (Dodged a bullet by swapping that one!)
Spirituality (A worthwhile unit as it covered multi faiths)
Pastoral Practicum (The CPE component)
Understanding Religion in Australian Society
Ethics (Very theoretical - no real life applications of ethics)

Electives: (Must choose 3 of the following).
Old Testament and its World
New Testament and its World
Turning Points in Church History
Emerging Christian Theology: The Creeds (100-500 CE)

:meditation: :anjal:


Thanks for that Tom :slight_smile: In order to do this, do you already need an undergrad degree of some kind? Keep us updated every now and again, it would be great to hear how it all goes :slight_smile: :sunflower::pray::dharmawheel::sunflower:

@Nadine, I know there are some differences between US and AUS higher education. We mostly follow along the English system. Also, if there is no scope to be a Chaplain in your neck of the woods, you could perhaps try ‘general’ volunteering (which I’m sure you’ve thought of…). My sister runs the volunteer department of a major cancer research hospital. There are all kinds of volunteers, doing all kinds of interesting work, it is a wonderful and inspirational thing, and it’s never clear who gets the most out of the interactions :slight_smile: :blush: :sparkling_heart:


In this inaugural episode of Spiritual Care Today, we have a show in two parts. In 2019, AAPC (the American Association of Pastoral Counselors) consolidated with ACPE (the Association for Clinical Pastoral Education). Part One features an interview with Teri Canzoneri, former President of AAPC, and Amy Greene, Chair of ACPE, who both discuss the consolidation as well as the relationship between chaplaincy and pastoral counseling, or spiritually-integrated psychotherapy. Part Two features a group discussion with former leaders of AAPC who answer the question: what is pastoral counseling?