New Zealand’s three qualified Buddhist chaplains and 24 apprentice Buddhist chaplains are resourceful people who have received training in listening skills and who can facilitate emotional comfort, support a troubled person’s own Buddhist practices and help the person use their own beliefs to investigate their concerns.
They may be engaged by hospitals, hospices, nursing homes or privately, where they will endeavour to address an individual’s spiritual needs while fostering a peaceful environment and maintaining strict confidentiality.
In 2013, New Zealand Buddhist Council and Amitabha Hospice started training the first intake of applicants in the first of a three-stage process that was intended to produce this country’s first locally-trained cohort of Buddhist chaplains. The intention is that Buddhist chaplains will be trained to accompany people through difficult times, working in hospitals, hospices, schools, prisons and other facilities.
Now that the first cohort of students has completed level 1 and been accepted as apprentice Buddhist chaplains, they are required to complete a number of hours of supervised spiritual support in the community and an assignment before being able to undertake level 2 training. Level 1 training enables people to work in medical situations, but not in schools or prisons which are covered in the following two levels.
After completing level 2 training, they will have more requirements to complete before they will be able to take the level 3 course, and only after successfully completing that will someone become a fully qualified NZ Buddhist chaplain.
For 2,400 years, Buddhist practitioners have contemplated sickness, old age and death in order to understand anguish and find an end to it, valuing transitions such as sickness, old age, death as opportunities for insight and spiritual growth.
By supporting a person suffering in a difficult situation with skilful inquiry, guided meditation and/or prayers, the total pain (physical, mental, emotional and spiritual) a person experiences is skilfully and compassionately addressed. With the help of a spiritual friend, the person is better able to find the inner resources to deal with what is happening to her or to him, moment by moment.
If you are interested in becoming a Buddhist chaplain, send an email to Ecie Hursthouse. The names and contact details of apprentice Buddhist chaplains as well as the experienced Buddhist chaplains who supervise the apprentices and who were some of the tutors of the Level 1 Buddhist Chaplaincy course, can be found on the NZ Buddhist Council website here.