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A Certificate in Hindu Spiritual Care has been developed by Chinmaya International Foundation (CIF) to train Spiritual Care Providers, or Chaplains, to address the spiritual and emotional needs of individuals of Hindu faith, in various settings, such as hospitals and hospices, schools and universities, communities, the military, corporations or interfaith settings within India and within the global Hindu diaspora.

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Certificate in Hindu Spiritual Care 

A 24-credit Certificate in Hindu Spiritual Care (CHSC) has been developed by Chinmaya International Foundation (CIF) to train Hindu Spiritual Care Providers, or Chaplains, to address the spiritual and emotional needs of individuals of Hindu faith in various settings, such as hospitals and hospices, schools and universities, communities, the military, corporations, or interfaith settings within India and within the global Hindu diaspora. 

The primary objective of the Certificate programme is to provide a thorough training in Hindu Chaplaincy in preparation or enhancement of serving as a Chaplain or Spiritual Care Provider, in India or abroad.                    

On conclusion of the courses, students will receive a transcript and a “Certificate of Completion” for each course, itemizing the course content, faculty, and grade received. These courses can be taken by letter grade, pass/fail, or audit. Once all 24 credits have been completed with a passing grade, the student will receive a Certificate in Hindu Spiritual Care (CHSC).

Courses Offered

Five core courses form the major component of the Certificate, along with three other courses, totalling 24 credits. The courses will provide a strong foundation in Hinduism and Vedanta, and a practical application of the precepts and principles in the provision of Hindu spiritual care. These courses will also consolidate one’s own Sadhana. For Course Information and Schedule, click on the tab at the right.

Course Timing and Duration

The Certificate can be completed part-time within 18 months, beginning January 2024, and finishing by July 2025. The five core courses will be taught on Saturday mornings, ET (USA Eastern Time) and Wednesday evenings ET. The other courses can be taken at the students’ convenience.

The First Semester begins in January 2024.

The Introduction to Spiritual Care course will begin on Saturday, 27 January 2024, meeting weekly on Zoom from 10:00 AM – 1 PM ET, for 20 weeks. This course will be taught by Dr. Madhu Sharma and Dr. Ramesh Pattni.

The Advanced Vedanta and Rites & Rituals course will begin on Wednesday, January 31, 2024. It will meet weekly on Zoom from 5:00-7:00 pm ET for 18 weeks. This course will be taught by Swami Shivatmananda. It will include a video component. See Course Information for details.

Programme Eligibility

  • At least a Bachelor's degree in any field
  • A good Hindu spiritual foundation and practice and a keen interest in Hindu Spiritual Care
  • A spiritual guide/elder who can recommend them as well as continue to support them as they render spiritual care services
  • A written essay describing how the applicant’s personal goals align with the vision of the programme, and how the applicant meets the prerequisites

Programme Objectives

  • The primary objective of the courses is to train students in Hindu Spiritual Care otherwise called Hindu Chaplaincy.
  • To introduce the discipline of Spiritual Care Provision .
  • To introduce various concepts of philosophy and psychology ingrained in Hindu classical literature to help individuals facing distress or loss of any nature.

Programme Outcomes

On completion of these courses, the graduates will gain:

  • Competency in Spiritual Care Provision.
  • Good knowledge of the foundational principles of the Hindu religion.
  • Ability to understand, observe and apply various concepts of the Spiritual Care helping relationship in diverse settings.

Medium of teaching: English

Date of commencement: 27 JANUARY 2024

How to Apply?

The course will have a limited number of seats and the admission will be based on the applicants’ essays and recommendation letters.

Interested participants can fill and submit the online Application Form. 

Step 1: Complete the preliminary online Application Form. Please note that there is no “save” feature, so be sure to complete the entire application before submitting. 

Step 2:  You will receive an email with more information to be filled in, and an essay to be uploaded. 

Step 3: Send the ‘Recommendation Form’ to your spiritual guide.

Step 4:  We will communicate to you on your selection based on your essay and recommendation.

Step 5: If selected, we will communicate the payment information to you to do the needful.

Last date for sending in the completed Application Form is 30 November 2023.

Selection Process

Your Spiritual Guide/Leader/Elder is required to complete this Recommendation Form and return it by email to spiritualcare@chinfo.org by 30 November 2023. Please download the document, save it as “[Your name] Recommendation Letter,” and email to your Spiritual Leader/Elder. In your email to him/her, provide your answers to questions 1 and 2.

Send an essay of 500 to 750 words detailing the following:

            1) Your personal history and interest in Spiritual Care 

            2) Significant and important persons or events that have impacted your personal growth and                                 spiritual development 

            3) Statement on the need for Hindu Chaplains/Spiritual Care Providers in your community and                          how you wish to contribute.

Courses Instructed by Visiting Scholars at CIF

Dr. Madhu V. Sharma (PhD, MSW)

Dr. Madhu Vedak Sharma is a retired Hindu Chaplain from Duke University in Durham, North Caroline, USA, after serving the students and faculty there for nine years. She is also a volunteer Campus Hindu Minister at NC State University in Raleigh, and at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, NC. She is a former President of the Triangle Interfaith Organization in Raleigh, and a former Board member of the Hindu Society of North Carolina.read more....

Dr. Sharma was born in India, raised in Africa, and has spent all her adult life in the USA. She holds a BS in Chemical Engineering, NC State University, a Masters in Social Work from the University of Iowa, and a Ph.D. in Hinduism from the Hindu University of America. She had two decades of successful engineering and management careers at two Fortune 500 companies, managed her international business, and has teaching experiences at Duke University, Indiana University, and St Ambrose University. As an Executive Coach, she has coached physicians, executives, and clergy.

Having been raised with a spiritual and religious upbringing in a priest’s family, Dr Sharma has studied Hindu scriptures and visited numerous major temples and religious sites in India during her pilgrimage. A frequent speaker at conferences, she has facilitated sessions with religious luminaries at the World Parliament of Religions in Spain and has presented at many conferences including the World Hindu Congress in New Delhi and the Annual Hindu Mandir Executives’ Conferences in Fairfax and Atlanta.

Dr. Sharma is the author of two books related to Hindu Spiritual Care, Anxiety and Vedic Wisdom, and Dharmic Advisor – A Modern Way. In her free time, she is an avid golfer.

Dr. Ramesh Pattni (DPhil Oxford, OBE)

Dr Ramesh Pattni is a psychologist and a Hindu theologian whose research is in the intersection of these traditions. He has a deep interest in presenting the psychological concepts, tools, and techniques of the ancient traditions in today’s world for mental well-being. He obtained a doctorate from the University of Oxford, Faculty of Theology and Religion, in ‘Yoga Psychology’ based on his research into Patanjali’s text on Classical Yoga – the Yogasūtra and Western Positive Psychology, comparing the phenomenology of Flow and altered states of consciousness experienced in the meditation of Samadhi. He also has three master’s degrees in psychology, psychology of religion, and study of religion.read more....

After successfully running a family business in Kenya for 23 years, Dr. Pattni decided to go back to his passion of learning and teaching. He completed his Oxford doctorate in 2015 and now is completing another doctorate in Existential counselling and psychotherapy at NSPC in London. He has lectured extensively and conducted workshops and retreats on diverse subjects over the past two decades in Yoga and the Non-Dual (Advaita Vedanta) traditions. He holds or has held many public positions, including Vice President of Chinmaya Mission UK, Vice President of Hindu Forum of Britain and Co- Chair of the Hindu Christian Forum, Trustee of Interfaith Network and continues to serve the wider community in the UK. For his voluntary work in interfaith relations and community services, such as Hindu chaplaincy, in the UK, he was bestowed an OBE (Order of the British Empire) in the New Year’s Honours 2020 by Her Majesty the Queen.

Swami Shivatmananda

Swami Shivatmananda is a senior Swamin of the Chinmaya Mission, serving in the following Centres in the USA: Los Angeles, Austin and San Antonio. Swamiji is an experienced Hindu Chaplain who has been invited to provide spiritual care in a Texas penitentiary, an air force base, and university campuses. His effectiveness with death-row prisoners garnered acclaim and many requests to provide spiritual care. He is uniquely positioned to apply Vedanta teachings to the spiritual care context.read more....

In his youth, Swamiji graduated from the University of California at Davis with a degree in Electrical Engineering. Upon completing his degree, he worked as an environmental chemist and as an electrical engineer for more than 10 years in Northern California. In 2002 Swamiji left his profession to attend Chinmaya Mission’s Sandeepany Sadhanalaya (Mumbai) two-year residential Vedanta Course. He studied under the guidance of Swami Tejomayananda and the tutelage of Swami Ishwarananda.

Upon completing the Course, Swamiji taught Vedanta in Chinmaya Mission Los Angeles for more than four years, after which he was assigned to run the Austin and San Antonio, Texas, Chinmaya centers, teaching Vedanta and guiding the educational and Bala Vihar classes. In 2015 Swami Shivatmananda was initiated into sannyasa by Swami Tejomayananda. He is fluent in Gujarati, Hindi, English, and Sanskrit.

Spiritual Care Programme Director

For queries about the courses, you may email the Programme Director, Smt. Vilasini Balakrishnan, MS (Pastoral Counseling), LMHC (Licensed Mental Health Counselor), at spiritualcare@chinfo.org. Vilasini Balakrishnan is a Chinmaya Mission West Board Director (USA) and graduate of Sandeepany Sadhanalaya (1978).


A Spiritual Care Provider, another name for a chaplain, is a person who works to meet the spiritual needs of people in settings such as hospitals, hospices, universities and schools, the military, prisons, religious congregations, and other organizations. Spiritual Care Providers are trained to help people with any spiritual need and/or facing some form of distress, or loss. A Spiritual Care Provider receives education and training in skilfully providing these services.

There are many ways to serve as a Spiritual Care Provider, or Chaplain. He or she can be volunteer or employed in any setting. The training for chaplains is not regulated and is therefore quite varied. The foundation is one’s own spiritual study and practice of one’s own lived experience of the religious tradition. The clinical training in chaplaincy can be done through courses and/or through clinical pastoral education (CPE), which is an internship usually in a hospital setting. Board-certified chaplains (BCC) through the Association of Professional Chaplains meet the highest professional standards in the United States: this includes graduate chaplaincy and theological education, clinical pastoral education (CPE), and a firm grounding in one’s spiritual practice and tradition.

Hindu Spiritual Care Providers are guided in their work by Hindu teachings and practices. They are skilled in meeting the needs of Hindus and other faiths as well, with compassion and sensitivity.

To build a foundation for their chaplaincy service, the education of a Hindu Chaplain includes central Hindu teachings, relevant aspects of spiritual care literature, contributions from contemporary psychology, an exploration of the role of ritual and devotional practices, and how to serve people of different faiths, among others. The study is accompanied by a thoughtful inquiry into how these teachings are applied to a Spiritual Care Provider’s work within various settings. Practical exercises in spiritual care provision are included in the programme. The courses in Hindu Spiritual Care offered at the Chinmaya International Foundation provide a rich exposure to the practice and theory of chaplaincy in a Hindu context and prepare the students to serve in a variety of venues.

Many Spiritual Care Providers serve as volunteers, others as professional chaplains, offering their spiritual support within hospitals, universities, hospices, the military, as well as to members of their own community.

Chaplains can be representatives of their faith and guest speakers at interfaith programs, schools, government, or military functions, and so on.

In the United States and Europe, chaplains are hired as professionals by hospitals and universities and the military. Trained Hindu chaplains are in high demand now due to their scarcity. There are also many opportunities to serve as volunteers in one’s local hospital, hospice, university, correctional institutions, and interfaith events. Each individual will have to pursue and create opportunities to serve as a Spiritual Care Provider in his or her community.

Within India, the greatest scope for Hindu Spiritual Care presently is serving patients in hospitals and supporting college students on campus. Serving one’s own spiritual community by visiting people who are ill or bereaved, as well as helping families celebrate special occasions, are all functions a chaplain can undertake.

Spiritual Caregiving is as ancient as Hinduism. Spiritual Caregiving has always been provided in the past and even today by kulagurus, swamins, temple priests, wise grandfathers and grandmothers, compassionate aunties and uncles, and often one’s own parents and mentors. The word ‘chaplain,’ however, has been widely used in the west and is relatively new to India. The name is gradually changing over in the US and Canada to Spiritual Care Provider, as the terms are almost synonymous, without the connotations of any particular religious tradition.

Instead of relying on the natural talents of wise mentors, people with seva bhava and love for the Divine can enhance their natural talents by studying with others who have walked the path and paved the way to develop those natural talents. With such study, people can enhance their natural skills and be more effective Spiritual Caregivers. This is the purpose of Hindu Spiritual Care courses at CIF.

The first requisite is to have a strong spiritual practice and foundation in any of the Hindu Sampradayas. Spiritual Care Providers are emissaries of their spiritual faith, taking spiritual nurturing into their community. To join the CIF Certificate programme, a candidate needs to be endorsed by a spiritual guide, guru, or elder of any Hindu Sampradaya. The spiritual guide or organization should affirm the candidate’s spiritual maturity and temperament to serve others in need.

The next criterion is to have a love of serving people. Some chaplains say that their work is to bring Divine Presence into the room, to help people find their connection to that Presence. Some chaplains say that their work is to bring unconditional acceptance and comfort to people.

Spiritual Care Providers do not need to be Sannyasins, or renunciates. They can be householders as well. But they should have a strong Sadhana and some experience in the paths of Jnana Yoga, Bhakti Yoga, and Karma Yoga. One’s own lived experience of the Hindu traditions can indeed be a great foundation for providing spiritual care for others.

There is no one formula for becoming a chaplain. Ultimately, only you can know if pursuing chaplaincy is the right choice. While there are many volunteer, career, and spiritual experiences that may inform your choice and prepare you to become a chaplaincy candidate, most if not all chaplains feel “called” to this work. Beyond an interest or curiosity, a calling is often an intuition or yearning to serve in this way.

Students take the CIF chaplaincy courses with a variety of plans and goals. CIF’s students are trained to serve in many environments. Some may find opportunities in which to volunteer right away, some may continue their training by taking the clinical training of CPEs in a nearby hospital. Some may enter the military, and some may find jobs in their government departments. Each journey is unique.

Chaplaincy, or Spiritual Care, is not a regulated or licensed profession in the US. Many people without specific training are hired as chaplains. The Association of Professional Chaplains (APC) recognizes the highest standards through its Board-Certified Chaplains (BCC), requiring 48-72 hours of graduate work in the field of religious studies and chaplaincy, as well as 4 units of Clinical Pastoral Education, or CPE.

The Certificate offered at CIF provides a strong introduction and foundation for spiritual caregiving within the context of the Hindu faith. These courses should qualify for 24 “equivalency” credits with APC.

Even just a few of the CIF courses may be sufficient to be hired as a Hindu chaplain or admitted as a volunteer chaplain.

When applying for a position, applicants may need to be endorsed by a spiritual community.

Clinical Pastoral Education is the main process by which Chaplains gain clinical experience usually in a hospital or hospice setting. One unit of CPE is about three months of internship with six hours of weekly supervision, group discussions, and didactic training by a Certified Educator.

CIF does not offer CPE training and recommends that you check with your local hospital. Many hospitals offer non-denominational CPE training.

Yes, chaplains are Spiritual Care Providers and need endorsement from a faith group. In Hinduism, any Hindu Sampradaya can train and endorse Sadhakas for chaplaincy. Endorsement ensures that the chaplain is being held accountable by an organized spiritual guide or community, has access to support and guidance, and is professionally qualified to represent his or her spiritual community. The CIF courses require a confidential recommendation form to be completed by one’s spiritual guide/leader/guru and sent to CIF.

When applying for a position, applicants may need to be endorsed by a spiritual community. Chinmaya Mission West has been the endorser of Hindu Chaplains in the US for many years and is the sole Hindu endorser recognized by the US Department of Defense and military. For more information, visit https://chinmayamissionwest.com/hindu-chaplaincy-for-us-military/

In the United States, NAHCA, or the North American Hindu Chaplains Association, supports volunteer and professional spiritual care providers who are informed by Hindu teachings and practices. NAHCA and Chinmaya Mission West work together to support and further the field of Hindu Chaplaincy in the US.

Yes! If you have questions and/or would like to schedule a meeting, please feel free to contact CIF’s Spiritual Care Programme Director, Smt. Vilasini Balakrishnan, at spiritualcare@chinfo.org

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