UWest’s Chaplaincy Program: A Path to Enlightenment

Published : Thursday, February 5, 2015 | 11:12 AM

University of the West is a modern multidisciplinary institution with strong Buddhist roots. Established by Venerable Master Hsing Yun of Fo Guang Shan, one of the largest Buddhist organizations in the world, UWest facilitates cultural understanding and appreciation between East and West.

A key—and definitely unique—feature of the university is its chaplaincy program, which provides students with the knowledge and skills to develop and excel as professional chaplains. The world has seen a growing demand for Buddhist chaplains, and UWest provides the ideal learning environment for these aspiring practitioners.

“The program trains students to become chaplains. Chaplains are the people who offer spiritual care in hospitals, prisons or in the military and in communities,” said Rev. Dr. Victor Gabriel, chair of the Buddhist Chaplaincy Program. “The students come here for three years and they have various classes in interfaith chaplaincy work, and all together they must complete 72 units, which are 24 classes.”

The chaplaincy program covers nine core educational areas specified by the Association of Professional Chaplains (APC): Ritual & Liturgy, Comparative Religions, Religious Education, Pastoral Care & Counseling, Spiritual Formation, Religious History, Institutional Organization & Administration, Sacred Literature, and Theology & Philosophy.

Each student is trained to become a scholar, a practitioner, and a spiritual caregiver. Buddhism classes go hand in hand with meditation sessions and spiritual counseling.

“Once they earn that degree, then they will go on to their clinical training. While at University of the West, they study religions from a Western academic, historical, scientific background,” Rev. Gabriel added.

University of the West has cemented its reputation as a one-of-a-kind learning institution that capitalizes on Eastern and Western learning and puts high value on character, compassion, and community. Said Rev. Gabriel, “We have Buddhist monks and nuns, and then we also have Buddhist laypeople. We have Buddhists represented from the traditions in Japan, Korea, China, Vietnam, Thailand, and Sri Lanka. It’s quite a big group.”

“In America, I don’t think there’s another program for Buddhist chaplaincy that attracts such a diverse range of students,” Rev. Gabriel said. University of the West is located at 1409 Walnut Grove Avenue, Rosemead, CA. For more information, call (626) 571-8811 or visit www.uwest.edu.

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