Two courses in Hindu Spiritual Care have 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. The primary objective of the two courses is to provide an introduction to 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 “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.
Two courses in Hindu Spiritual Care have 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.
The primary objective of the two courses is to provide an introduction to 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 “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.
Course Timings and Duration
The Introduction to Spiritual Care course will begin on Wednesday, January 26, and be conducted online live on Wednesdays at 4:00-7:00 pm EST [2:30-5:30 am IST]. The semester will have a one week break and conclude on June 15, 2022. The course will be taught by Dr. Madhu Sharma and Shama Mehta, BCC.
The Hindu Spiritual Care course will begin on Saturday, 22nd January, 2022, conducted live online every Saturday from 12:30-3:30 pm EST [11:00 pm – 2:00 am IST]. The semester will conclude on June 4, 2022. This course will be taught by Dr. P. Ramakrishnan.
Classes can be viewed synchronously (live) or asynchronously (later).
To apply for this Programme the applicant must have the following:
At least a Bachelor's degree in any field
A strong spiritual foundation and practice
Keen interest in Hindu Chaplaincy/Spiritual Care
The primary objective of the courses is to train students in Hindu Chaplaincy, otherwise called Hindu Spiritual Care
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.
On completion of these courses, the graduates will gain:
Competency in Spiritual Care Provision
Good knowledge on the foundation principles of the Hindu religion
Ability to understand, observe and apply various concepts of the Spiritual Care helping relationship
There are two courses which will provide an introduction to Spiritual Care and some prominent concepts in Hinduism, which are the necessary requirements for Hindu Chaplaincy.
1. Introduction to Spiritual Care
This course offers students an opportunity to explore Spiritual Care Provision (Chaplaincy) as either a volunteer or as a professional and gain familiarity with its core competencies: formation, professional competence, and reflection. Read more
2. Hindu Spiritual Care
This course will complement the previous course by focusing on Hindu teachings that inform chaplaincy. The learners of this course will get an opportunity to understand the concepts of and related aspects, as well as their applications in the chaplaincy relationship. Read more
Medium of Teaching: English
Date of Commencement: 26th January, 2022
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 application form.
Step 1: Complete the 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 guru/spiritual leader/elder.
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 5th January, 2022
Your Spiritual Guru/Leader/Elder is required to complete this Recommendation Form and return it by email to firstname.lastname@example.org by January 5, 2022 latest. 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 about 500 to 750 words detailing the following:
1) Your personal history and interest in Chaplaincy/Spiritual Care
2) Significant and important persons or events that have impacted your personal growth and spiritual development
3) Statement on need for Hindu Chaplains/Spiritual Care Providers in the spiritual tradition to which the applicant belongs and how you wish to contribute.
Courses Facilitated by Visiting Scholars at CIF
Madhu V. Sharma
Dr. Madhu Vedak Sharma is a retired Hindu Chaplain from Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, USA, after serving the students and faculty there for ten 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
Parameshwaran Ramakrishnan is a physician, a psychiatrist, and a clinical chaplain (Spiritual Care provider) in the United States of America. His clinical, academic and research interests are focused on developing an evidence-based “Spirituality” as an academic curricular subject in medical school programs. Read more
Ms. Shama Mehta, MA, BCC, was born in India and now calls southeastern Michigan home. A lifelong practicing Hindu, Shama is a board-certified chaplain (BCC) through the Association of Professional Chaplains (APC) and has worked as a staff chaplain at a large hospital in Michigan for over seven years. She is also a qualified medical interpreter. Born into a Shaivite sampradaya, her personal perspective and practice of Hinduism is Advaita Vedanta – Non-Duality. She holds a Master of Arts in Pastoral Ministry (Interfaith Chaplaincy) from the Ecumenical Theological Seminary. Shama represents Hinduism on local interfaith panels and speaks on a variety of topics as they relate to Hinduism.
Shama also serves as the Vice Chair of North American Hindu Chaplains Association (NAHCA).
Spiritual Care Programme Director
For queries about the courses, you may email the Programme Director, Vilasini Balakrishnan, MS (Pastoral Counseling), LMHC, Chinmaya Mission West Board Director (USA), at email@example.com
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 facing any kind of spiritual needs, distress, or loss. A Spiritual Care Provider receives education and training in skillfully providing these services.
There are many ways to serve as a Spiritual Care Provider, or Chaplain. He or she can be volunteer or employed. The training for chaplains is not regulated and is therefore quite varied. The foundation is one’s own spiritual practice and study of 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 hospital settings. 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 a 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.
In order to build a foundation for 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. 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 congregation and 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 or weddings, are all functions a chaplain can undertake.
Actually, Spiritual Caregiving is as ancient as Hinduism. Spiritual Caregiving has always been provided in the past and even today by kulagurus, swamins, wise grandfathers and grandmothers, compassionate aunties and uncles, and often one’s own parents and mentors. The word “chaplain” however has been widely used more in the west and is relatively new to India. The name is gradually changing over in the US and Canada to Spiritual Care, as the terms are virtually synonymous.
Instead of relying on the natural talents of wise mentors, people with seva bhav 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 Courses, a candidate needs to be endorsed by a spiritual leader, guru, or elder of any Hindu Sampradaya. The spiritual 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, or Chaplains, do not need to be Sannyasins. They can be lay householders as well. But they should have a strong Sadhana and some experience in the paths of Jnana Yoga, Bhakti Yoga, and Karma Yoga.
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 most 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 enter the military, and some find jobs in their government departments. Each journey is unique.
Chaplaincy, or Spiritual Care, is not a regulated or licensed profession. 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 courses offered at CIF provide a strong introduction and foundation for spiritual caregiving within the context of the Hindu faith. These two courses will qualify for 8 “equivalency” credits with APC.
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.
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 recommendation form to be completed by your spiritual elder/leader/guru and sent to CIF.
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 are partnering 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 at firstname.lastname@example.org