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Buddhist Chaplaincy Program Curriculum

The Association of Professional Chaplains (APC) has outlined a set of requirements for certification as a professional chaplain. One of these is an educational requirement, specifically a three year (72 unit) graduate theological degree (or its equivalent). The chaplaincy education requirement covers nine core subject areas – sacred literature, ritual/liturgy, religious history, comparative religion, pastoral care and counseling, theology/philosophy, religious education, institutional organization and administration, and spiritual formation.

The Institute of Buddhist Studies’ Chaplaincy program meets all these requirements and provides both breadth and depth of understanding of the Buddhist tradition – its philosophy, psychology, and practices - as well a substantive education in pastoral care and counseling drawn from multiple sources. It is only from a sound intellectual foundation that the effective application of Buddhist teachings to the world of Buddhist and interfaith chaplaincy can be made. Right view is both the beginning and end of the path.

This program is offered jointly with the Graduate Theological Union or can be take solely at IBS. (Please see the catalogue for details.)

IBS Program Course Requirements

Sacred Literature

Students must complete 2 courses, one in each of the following categories. (Specific course offerings vary.)

  • Early Buddhist Literature
  • Mahayana Buddhist Literature


Students must complete 1 course in this category.

A course in Buddhist ritual (HR 1570) is offered at IBS . Courses offered at other GTU schools may also fulfill this requirement.

Religious History

Students must complete 3 required courses in this category.

  • South Asian Traditions
  • East Asian Traditions
  • Buddhism in the West

Comparative Religion

Students must complete 1 course in this category.

GTU member schools offer classes each semester that fulfill this requirement.

Pastoral Care and Counseling

Students must complete a total of 5 courses in this category.

  • Buddhist Pastoral Care and Counseling
  • Aspects of Buddhist Psychology I
  • Aspects of Buddhist Psychology II

2 Additional Courses:

Additional courses are offered at IBS, other GTU schools, or the Sati Center for Buddhist Chaplaincy Training. The Sati Center program is a year long program that includes skills training and volunteer opportunities. Students are strongly encouraged to apply for this training. Separate application is made for admission to the program.

Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) can also be applied to this requirement. However, please note, CPE units applied toward your graduate education requirements cannot also be applied to the separate Association of Professional Chaplain (APC) CPE requirement for certification.


Students must complete 3 required courses in this category.

  • Buddhist Ethics
  • Methods of Study in Buddhism
  • Introduction to Shin Buddhist Thought

Religious Education

Students must complete 1 course in this category, Issues in Buddhist Ministry.

Institutional Organization and Administration

Students must complete 1 course in this category, Organizations and Institutions (or a comparable course at another GTU school).

Spiritual Formation

Students must complete 1 course in this category. Students are encouraged to take a course in a Buddhist tradition other than their own. Specific course offerings vary.

  • Theravada Buddhist Meditation
  • Zen Buddhist Meditation
  • Tibetan Contemplative Traditions

The remaining 12 units of course work can be taken in a wider range of areas at either IBS or another GTU school.


Students are required to complete 6 thesis units.

Language Requirement

Proficiency in a modern foreign language is required – Spanish is preferred. Please see the GTU MA handbook for details on how to fulfill this requirement.

*Note: GTU Common MA students must take 2 classes at a GTU school other than IBS.