International Buddhist Psychotherapy and Chaplaincy Working Group

3rd Round 2021-22


After a decade of researching, documenting, and promoting the work of suicide prevention Buddhist priests in Japan, we at the International Buddhist Exchange Center (IBEC) @ Kodosan held an international conference in Yokohama on this issue in conjunction with Ryukoku University in Kyoto in 2017. A group of some 20 internationals and 30 Japanese gathered for a week, shared a wide number of case studies, and engaged in lengthy discussions on the issues. The full conference report is available here in English & Japanese. In 2019, we held a second round of these discussions in Bangkok at the headquarters of the International Network of Engaged Buddhists (INEB) on the wider themes of Buddhist psychology and psycho-therapy. A smaller more intimate meeting of 30 people in total meant there was more focus on discussion as well as some small workshops on methods, especially amongst the large number of monastics at the meeting. Again a full meeting report is available here in English & Japanese. The COVID pandemic obviously shut down many of our plans for further face-to-face interaction for 2020, but it has been remarkable to see how many new relationships from these two meetings have spawned new initiatives and meetings over the past few years, especially in India and Japan.

From this foundation, we would like to move forward in 2021-22 with a 3rd Round of explorations on these issues with a basic set of questions as follows:

  • What are the contributions Buddhist teachings, Buddhist teachers, and Buddhist institutions can make to contribute to psycho-spiritual health during this very difficult era?
  • While clinical and health care institutions may be important places of encounter in some countries, especially the United States, they are not as readily accessible for Buddhist chaplains and volunteers in other countries, especially Japan. Therefore we would like to see how this work can be done in a variety of settings, such as within the family, the community, and the temple, as well as a variety of situations, such as during natural disaster, as suicide prevention, as end-of-life care and grieving, for students and young adults, etc.
  • How can the ideas from the above two areas help to form a training system for not only professional chaplains but also volunteers, rank-and-file ordained persons, and engaged lay persons? INEB, which serves as a general umbrella for this work, has expressed interest in supporting such training sessions for candidates from a wide range of countries.

In terms of the process of this 3rd round, we will develop a series of intimate, private zoom webinars over the next 6 months – 1 year amongst a group of 13 persons who are largely alumni from the first two meetings. From this foundation, and with some hope that 2022 will see a decline in COVID and the ability for some travel, we would like to be able to hold a 3rd conference with a level of dynamic interaction and workshops.

General Goals (to be further clarified by the group)

  • to deepen our understandings and practices in our field of work through high-level mutual interaction (which will include not only discussion but sharing of contemplative practices during sessions)
  • to develop a sangha of high-level practitioners that can support each other as we confront challenges in our own work
  • to clarify and reinforce Buddhist concepts and practices being used in mainstream society and the psycho-spiritual care movement that are becoming diluted and taken out of context
  • to promote Buddhist chaplaincy in Asia (with the support INEB)
  • to deepen Buddhist chaplaincy in the West as Buddhism is not firmly planted there

Schedule: 8 Monthly Zoom Sessions of 2-2.5 hours each beginning October 2021

  • #1 October 22 (Friday) 21:00/9:00 pm Japan Standard Time: Personal Introductions, Sharing of Interests and Concerns, Setting of Themes and Schedule

List of Themes and Interests

  • Inter-Mindfulness or Relational Mindfulness Practice including certain aspects of Vipassana. Instead of merely guided mindfulness practice, learning how to interactively participate in the process of exploring posture, sensation, perception, interior and exterior environments, gaining awareness of embodied feelings, and interactions during practice making it more collaborative, relational, and intimate. 
  • Further developing other Buddhist contemplative practices: paramitas, self-liberating awareness, etc.
  • Family Systems Therapy (especially in the era of COVID)
  • Caring for Carers: supporting medical and psychological caregivers suffering extreme burnout in this time as well as supporting each other
  • Self-regulation & Self-care and Restoration
  • Youth: Young people are an especially vulnerable group in this era
  • Grief & Bereavement: COVID has taken many lives quickly and in isolated medical environments further exacerbating grief.
  • Training Buddhist chaplains & the continual spiritual character development of the caregiver
  • Contextualizing Buddhist chaplaincy to local cultural, economic, and political environments

Participant Profiles

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