Monday, August 18, 2008

WASC approves new University of the West Buddhist Chaplaincy Program

[Encouraging news here for those who want to pursue Buddhist chaplaincy education!]

WASC approves new University of the West Buddhist chaplaincy program
Los Angeles Chronicle, August 14, 2008

ROSEMEAD, CA (USA) -- University of the West President Dr. Allen Huang announced on Thursday the interim approval of its Buddhist Chaplaincy Program by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges.
UWest will immediately begin recruiting students to the three-year program for the training of chaplains, who would work at hospitals, prisons and in other distressing environments for the spiritual care of suffering individuals. UWest has set a target date of spring semester 2009 for the start of the program, however no official start date has been set.

"This highly anticipated program will be affordable and above excellence in quality," Huang said. "We are working diligently to make University of the West the preeminent location for the academic study of Buddhism."

Huang said there is a high demand for an affordable Buddhist chaplaincy program that is accredited.

"The development of the Inter-Faith Master of Divinity program at UWest is the product of intense collaboration with hospital-based clinical pastoral education programs, Christian and Buddhist denominations and eminent theologians from the United States and abroad," said Dr. Kyle Matsumoto Burch, as Assistant Dean of Enrollment at UWest, formerly of San Francisco Theological School and the Graduate Theological Union, Berkeley. "We are looking forward to a new way of meeting the ministry needs of a new generation."

University of the West is now one of three American schools offering an accredited Buddhist chaplaincy program.

"The significance of WASC approval means other institutions are far more likely to recognized the program, and employers as well," said Dr. Ken Locke, Chair of UWest´s Department of Religious Studies. "Anybody can give out degrees. Accreditation affirms that our peers in the world of academic learning and professional training have recognized us."

It took professor Locke nearly two years to develop the Buddhist chaplaincy program and guide it through the accreditation process. He was assisted by Danny Fisher, a well-known Buddhist chaplain who played a crucial role in developing the class and training curriculum.

"One of the obstacles for Buddhists seeking certification as professional chaplains is the lack of accredited graduate training programs," Fisher said. "The program here at UWest is important because it helps to solve this problem and encourage the professional development of Buddhist chaplains."

Students in the chaplaincy program will be required to live on UWest´s campus for two years. "A two year on-campus residency requirement is vital for chaplaincy training," Locke said. "Since an indispensible part of being an effective chaplain is good interpersonal skills, this residency requirement will allow UWest to evaluate and help students develop these skills."

The academic side of the program will focus on developing an understanding of Buddhism, comparative religious study, psychology and some management skills. The training side focuses on communication, counseling, meditation and spiritual exploration," Locke said.

Interestingly, the program grants a Master of Divinity degree, even though the concept of God is not necessarily central to Buddhism. Locke explained. However, University of the West backed away from calling the degree a Doctorate of Buddhist Studies. "If we called it a DBS no one would know what it is. ´M.Div.´ immediately tells everyone you´ve studied chaplaincy."

University of the West is was founded in 1991 and accredited by WASC in 2006. It is one of three accredited Buddhist universities in the United States and the only one of the three offering a Master´s in Business Administration degree. It´s current enrollment is approximately 260 students. UWest is located at 1409 N. Walnut Grove Ave., Rosemead, CA 91770.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

An Appeal for Stones from Iraq

Hello, I'm a student of His Holiness the 17th Karmapa of the Tibetan Buddhism's Karma Kagyu School. Considered by most to be the second most important Tibetan Buddhist leader after the Dalai Lama, His Holiness is a progressive Buddhist teacher who express his compassion toward all sentient beings and the world by incorporate in His teachings issues like global warning, renewable energy, and vegetarianism. Every year His Holiness will conduct the Kagyu Monlam Chenmo, a prayer and blessing ceremony, in order to spread the seeds of loving kindness and pure motivation, to activate their power, and hence bring about genuine peace, love, happiness and well-being in the world.

Early next year, a special ceremony will be conducted during the Kagyu Monlam, in which a Stone Altar will be constructed using small stones collected from every country in the world. This is a way in which His Holiness will establish a physical connection with our planet while bring blessing and merit to everyone in the world. Although many countries have already contributed to this Stone Altar Project, we would really like to have a few stones from Iraq. If there are any Buddhist soldiers stationed in Iraq reading this, we would like to ask for your help in sending us a few small Iraqi stones; even a single stone would be considered auspicious. Please e-mail if you're interest in more details. Thanks!

Recent Time article on His Holiness the 17th Karmapa:,8599,1807103,00.html

Details on the Monlam Stone Altar Project:

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Airman Initiates Buddhist Group

[Great article today on the Buddhist Channel Web site! Also great to see a chaplain facilitating for this group!]
Airman initiates Buddism group
By Gabriel Monte: CNJ Online, Aug 12 2008

Clovis, NM (USA) -- Tech. Sgt. Chris Porter said he is often asked how he resolves being a Buddhist and being in the military.

Tech. Sgt. Christ Porter, right, and his wife Marisila, left, run a Buddhism discussion group at the Cannon Air Force Base chapel. Chris Porter said he and his wife are new to Buddhism having formally adopted the religion in June.

Though Porter works as a bioenvironmental engineer at Cannon Air Force Base, he said he believes the use of force is acceptable as long as his motivation is rooted in compassion and love. Buddhist philosophy emphasizes pacifism and self control.

Porter and his wife, Marilisa, run a Buddhism discussion group at Cannon to invite other base personnel to share their experiences with Buddhism, according to Porter.

“We felt like we were the only Buddhists in Clovis,” he said.

The weekly discussion group has met five times and Porter said attendance has been one or two people. He said he also receives phone inquiries.

David Porter, who grew up Methodist, said he and his wife became Buddhists after learning about the religion for years.

“I was just drawn to it, started studying and reading about it and liked what I read,” he said.

David Porter said since adopting the Buddhist lifestyle, which includes meditation, he is calmer.

“I always have a better day when I mediate in the morning,” he said. “My interactions with people are a little bit better.”

Porter’s wife Marilisa, who was raised as a Catholic, said her temper has subsided since practicing Buddhism.

The Porters attended an event at the University of New Mexico in June where a Buddhist teacher was speaking. At the end of the event Porter said the teacher held a ceremony for people who wanted to join the religion.

Capt. Eusebia Rios, a base chaplain, said the Air Force provides venues, either on base or in town, for airmen of all religions.

“This is our goal: Where there is a religious or spiritual need, we want to accommodate that,” she said.

She said airmen who want to conduct services on base for a particular religion can make a request to a base chaplain.

The Buddhism discussion group will meet at 7 p.m. Monday at the Cannon chapel.

Information: 784-2912 or 784-2507.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Requirements to Become a Buddhist Chaplain in the US Armed Forces

I've gotten many inquiries from individuals inquiring to the process of becoming a chaplain of Buddhist faith in the U.S. military. I'd like to post some basic requirements here, that are based on military requirements (which also can be found here: Hopefully you will be able to get good information!

•Bachelors and Masters Degrees
Most Buddhist clergy are not required to have academic degrees to be ordained; however, this is a must for ALL United States military chaplains. A bachelors degree typically involves 120 semester hours or 180 quarter hours and a graduate degree 72 credit hours in an accredited institution. Not less than 36 hours must be in theological/ministry and related studies, consistent with the respective religious tradition of the applicant (Buddhism in this case). A graduate degree in Buddhist Studies would be highly recommended.
• Ordination
Together with the graduate degree requirement, this is also a potential obstacle for many applicants. Ordination means recognition that you are considered clergy in your particular Buddhist tradition. This does not include lay teacher status. The number of years you have practiced Buddha-dharma as a layperson also cannot be considered as qualifying for ordained status. You MUST be ordained AS a clergyperson. A big plus is at least two years' experience in a religious environment, as a temple minister, or monastic, for example. The US Armed Forces cannot ordain people, and the Buddhist Churches of America cannot ordain in the Jodo Shinshu tradition solely for purposes of chaplaincy. It is UP TO YOU to find a track to ordination.
• Endorsement from the Buddhist Churches of America
The Buddhist Churches of America is the ONLY recognized endorser for Buddhist U.S. military chaplains. An official form known as a DD2088 - Statement of Ecclesiastical Endorsement - is signed by our abbot. Without this signed endorsement, you cannot become a military chaplain. Receiving a signed DD2088 is dependent on whether you can demonstrate completion of a Master’s Degree program and provide proof of ordination from an authentic Buddhist tradition. A personal interview will also be required.
• US Citizenship, Security Background Check, and Age Limits
These are requirements of all service branches (Army, Navy, and Air Force). The age limit is usually in the early forties by the time of commissioning, but there may be age waivers on a case-by-case basis. This may be determined by the branch of service, and your chaplain recruiter.
• Physical Condition
The military is a very demanding physical and mental environment. You will have to pass a physical exam as part of your chaplain application package. There are yearly physical tests you will have to pass (runs, pushups, situps, pull-ups), and the expectation is that you will physically exercise frequently on your own, and with your command, as a group (even in the Air Force)! Also, you will definitely be going on overseas deployments, which may involve living aboard a naval warship, or living in the field for months on end. If you have any physical conditions that cannot permit you to do this, military chaplaincy may not be a good choice for you.
• Ability to Work in the Deparment of Defense(DoD)Directed Religious Accommodation Environment
What this means is that all military chaplains by necessity work in an interfaith environment, and may not discriminate or proselytize (although unfortunately these are certainly known to happen). What "ability to work" means is that you will very frequently encounter and work with non-Buddhists: can you work with Christians every day, even having a Christian – or Jewish or Muslim - chaplain as your boss? As a chaplain, you will definitely counsel people of other faiths, or no religious affiliation. Most people will look at you as a spiritual person, a chaplain, whether they are Christian or Wiccan (which there are many of in the military). This also means encountering Buddhists from traditions different from your own, even ones you may personally disagree with. However, your purpose as a chaplain is to provide for the free exercise of religion - it is not to convince a Soka Gakkai Buddhist that his/her teaching is false and that Theravada Buddhism is the real deal, or vice versa, for example. You may have disagreements but you may not try to convert or proselytize yourself, anymore than it is ethical for Christian chaplains to try to convert the Buddhists in their command. Military chaplaincy is genuine interfaith work. In addition, being a military chaplain means working IN a military environment, not outside of it. Living in a military environment 24/7 means participating in the culture and camaraderie of military life, as well as dealing with the annoying illogicities that also are part of military life! As a military officer also, you support the mission of your command.

Again, these requirements are NOT established by the Buddhist Churches of America, but by the Department of Defense. There aren't any special exemptions for Buddhists; these are guidelines that Christian, Jewish, and Muslim chaplain applicants also have to follow. For anyone who meets these requirements and would like to apply to become a chaplain, the first step would be to contact a chaplain recruiter, which can be done by going to one of these sites.

Navy/Marines/Coast Guard:
Air Force:
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Buddhist Military Sangha by Jeanette Shin is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.
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