I have received several requests for information on how to become a chaplain of Buddhist faith for the U.S. Armed Forces. Here are the guidelines by the Buddhist Churches of America, which is currently the only endorser for Buddhist military chaplains:
Requirements for chaplaincy include (Endorsement must certify):
1. Ecclesiastical endorsement from your Buddhist faith group. This endorsement must come from your superior (ecclesiastical head of your organization) and must certify that you are an ordained member of the clergy in your denomination or faith group.
2. that you are qualified spiritually, morally, intellectually, and emotionally to serve as a Chaplain in the U.S. Armed Forces
3. that you are sensitive to religious pluralism and are able to provide for the free exercise of religion by all military personnel, their family members, and civilians who work for the military.
4. that you possess a baccalaureate degree of not less than 120 semester hours
5. that you possess a master’s degree in divinity or a graduate degree in theological studies (in the related religion), which includes at least 72 hours.
6. that you are a U.S. citizen or permanent resident
7. that you are able to receive a favorable background check
8. that you are able to pass a physical examination
These are the guidelines that BCA follows as set forth by the U.S. Department of Defense.
In addition to the above, a candidate must also be able to exhibit a favorable and positive working relationship with the Buddhist organization to which he/she belongs. The Buddhist organization must also be a legitimate and recognized organization here in the United States. Legitimacy and recognition must be substantiated through the submission of documentation such as the organization’s Bylaws and organization structure.
For additional guidance, contact the Institute of Buddhist Studies (IBS) in Berkeley, California. The IBS has established a chaplaincy program as part of their curriculum (but a candidate does not have to be a graduate of this particular program).
Institute of Buddhist Studies
2140 Durant Avenue
Berkeley, CA 94704-1589
Tel: (510) 809-1444
Also, anyone can directly contact the Buddhist Churches of America National Headquarters: www.buddhistchurhcesofamerica.org
Namu Amida Butsu