Concepts & Practices in Chaplaincy: 3-day Workshop for Buddhist Caregivers

sponsored by the International Buddhist Psychotherapy and Chaplaincy Working Group & the International Network of Engaged Buddhists (INEB)

Wongansit Ashram, Thailand

September 29 – October 1, 2023


“Chaplaincy” is an English word that has evolved in recent decades to refer to religious professionals of any spiritual tradition who have been trained to meet the specific needs of those suffering in modern institutions, such as hospitals, prisons, the military, and so forth. Chaplains serve as compassionate listeners and guides for those suffering and bring peace and meaning to their difficulties.  This approach often requires a retraining of skills that are different from the more traditional religious roles as preacher and teacher of truth.

Buddhist chaplaincy has become particularly relevant and increasingly popular in recent years because the practice of meditation and mindfulness serves as an important tool in the transformation from preacher to deep listener. Meditation practice inspires and empowers the chaplain to transform the dharma they have learned in their minds into compassionate care in their hearts. It also helps to develop a powerful embodied presence to walk alongside and bear witness to the suffering of others.

This three-day workshop will present the principles of Buddhist chaplaincy and also offer certain key skills and practices to enable committed practitioners (ordained or lay) to serve as caregivers for those experiencing the wide variety of suffering in today’s society. Much of this suffering appears as depression, mental ill health, and suicidal ideation, yet emerges from trauma associated with study & work stress, gender and sexual identity, family trauma, social violence, tragic accidents, etc. The workshop will be led by a team from the International Buddhist Psychotherapy and Chaplaincy Working Group who have extensive experience in teaching and training Buddhist chaplains.

The International Buddhist Psychotherapy and Chaplaincy Working Group is a group of Buddhist chaplains, Buddhist based psychotherapists, and Buddhist activists engaged in a wide varierty of mental health issues. It evolved from the work of the International Buddhist Exchange Center (IBEC) @ Kodosan in Yokohama, Japan, which in 2006 began to work with Japanese Buddhist priests on suicide prevention. In 2017, IBEC and its partners in Japan began creating international events for Buddhists in both Asia and the West to pursue a deeper understanding of mental health issues through the creative encounter between Buddhism and psychotherapy. A major part of this group exploration has been the sharing of various practices and techniques to support not only those in suffering but those who care for the suffering.


The number of participants will be capped at forty persons, with a priority given to those from South and Southeast Asian, as well as a strong emphasis on gender balance. Participants do not have to be ordained monks or nuns but should be committed lay Buddhist practitioners. Participants should also already demonstrate a level commitment and activity to working in the field of compassionate care and chaplaincy.

Fees & Registration:

Fees for the program including food and lodging at the Wongsanit Ashram (photos above) are US$300. However, applicants may apply for reduced fees based on need. Private individuals with no organizational affiliation will also be considered for a reduction in costs. Please contact below and decribe: 1) your standing as a Buddhist practitioner (ordained, lay, level of training) and 2) your experience and/or goals as a caregiver.

Jonathan Watts – Coordinator

The International Buddhist Psychotherapy and Chaplaincy Working Group

International Buddhist Exchange Center (IBEC) @ Kodosan

Yokohama, Japan



Dexter Bohn – Communications Coordinator

International Network of Engaged Buddhists

Bangkok, Siam (Thailand)




Elaine Yuen (U.S.A.) was Associate Professor of Religious Studies and Chair of the Master of Divinity Program at Naropa University in Boulder, Colorado where she taught courses on spirituality and ritual, Buddhism, and pastoral care. She continues to present programs exploring the interfaces between Buddhism, meditation, creativity, and contemplative care-giving. Dr. Yuen is cross-trained as a social science researcher and is particularly interested in the relationship between meditation and the creative process. A Senior Teacher in the Shambhala Buddhist tradition, founded by Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche in the early 1970’s, she explores contemporary life through many activities as a teacher, parent, and artist. Elaine presented and attended the 1st Round conference in Japan in 2017.  

Jinji Eika Willingham (U.S.A.) is a clinical psychotherapist and Buddhist chaplain in private practice, and works with young adults, couples & parents, and family systems experiencing complex/systemic trauma/PTSD and impaired relationships, as well as anxiety, depression, serious illness, and loss.  She formerly worked for five years as hospital chaplain at the South Austin Medical Center to support patients and their families, as well as medical caregivers, and developed a  mindfulness program for medical staff. She is a Zen practitioner, studied Buddhist Chaplaincy at Upaya Zen Center in Sante Fe, NM, and receiving jukai from Roshi Joan Halifax in 2017. She is also a member of Plum Blossom Sangha in Austin, where she resides, and received the Precepts from Thich Nhat Hanh in 2009.  She has a B.A. and M.A. in Intellectual History, is a Ph.D. Candidate in English at UCLA, and has an M.A. in Counseling Psychology. She presented and attended the 1st Round conference in Japan in 2017. 

Nida Shaikh is a Mental Health Practitioner from Pune, India practicing for the last 9 years. She runs a Mental Health and Therapy space called Manah Center for Mental Well Being and plays the role of a Founder, Director and Senior Therapist at the same. She holds a Masters in Clinical Psychology and a Post Graduate Diploma in Applied Mahayana and Buddhist Psychology and Ethics from University of Pune. Over the 9 years, Nida has worked majorly with the addict population along with populations struggling with stress, anxiety, depression, mood and personality disorders, Schizophrenia, relationship related challenges. She has conducted various corporate workshops aimed at team-work, leadership skills, employee performance enhancement through mindfulness, developing a healthy work-life balance, stress management and anger management. Other than direct client interaction Nida loves to train and mentor budding psychologists and undergraduate psychology students while running a project called Living With Metta.

Rev. Gustav Ericsson (Sweden) is a Christian priest in the Lutheran Church of Sweden. After being ordained in 2010, he served as a hospital priest at the regional University Hospital of Umea in northern Sweden and at a hospice for palliative care. He is especially trained in pastoral counseling for crisis and grief, and one of his main interests is the meeting of meditation practice with pastoral care. He has practiced and studied Zen since the mid 1990’s and in 2004 received Dharma transmission from Japanese Soto Zen teacher Gudo Nishijima Roshi. Since 2010, he has also served as a counseling priest with the Lutheran Church’s national suicide prevention hotline, which is available by telephone through the national emergency number as well as chat rooms and mailbox online. Gustav presented and attended the 1st Round conference in Japan in 2017.

Jonathan Watts (U.S.A./Japan) graduated from Princeton University with a B.A. in Religious Studies and also a minor in Political Science. He immediately moved to Asia and spent three years working in the INEB Secretariat in Bangkok, while studying and practicing at the forest monastery of Buddhadasa Bhikkhu. In 1993, he moved to Japan and spent the decade coordinating the INEB Think Sangha, an engaged Buddhist “think tank” working on a variety of social issues. In 1999, he joined the Jodo Pure Land denomination research institute and edited and co-wrote Buddhist Care for the Dying and Bereaved with Rev. Yoshiharu Tomatsu. In 2006, he joined Kodo Kyodan’s International Buddhist Exchange Center (IBEC) from which he has been involved in a wide variety of engaged Buddhist issues in Japan–which will be the focus on a new major publication. At this time, he also joined the Rinbutsuken Institute of Engaged Buddhism under Rev. Jin Hitoshi which developed Japan’s first Buddhist chaplaincy training program in 2012.

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