The Rinsho Buddhism Chaplaincy Training Program

Organized by the Rinbutsuken Institute for Socially Engaged Buddhism
under the Zenseikyo Foundation & Buddhist Council for Youth and Child Welfare

To confront the suffering in contemporary society

For a Buddhist to engage

Practical experience and specialized knowledge is also needed

This is the Rinsho Buddhist Chaplain

Recently in Japan, we have developed the concept of Rinsho Buddhism. The direct English translation of this word rinsho is “clinical” and has with it the image of hospice work for end of life care. However, at our recently formed Rinsho Buddhism Institute, we have translated rinsho more loosely as Engaged Buddhism. Thus the name for our institute in English is the Rinbutsuken Institute for Engaged Buddhism (rin refers to rinsho, butsu to Buddhism, and ken to institute). Rinsho has the meaning of engaging in the personal domain as well as the social aspects of the four core causes of suffering (dukkha): birth, aging, sickness, and death.

The experiences of supporting the traumatized in Northeast Japan after the events of 3/11 have made clear the need for much more highly trained Buddhist priests to work beyond the confines of performing funerals and memorial services or even tea parties and cafés for interacting with victims. When traumatized people shift into the deeper psychological issues of PTSD, most Buddhist priests do not have the training to engage with them. Beyond the 3/11 disaster, there are the chronic psychological problems of Japanese society – such as suicide and individual isolation – which urgently need the engagement of qualified religious professionals.

Through the influence of progressive Christians promoting Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE), some Buddhists have also sought to develop various kinds of training programs in counseling, hospice care, and other therapeutic skills over the past decade. Zenseikyo’s long time experience in working with traumatized children and then its activities supporting the victims of the 3/11 disaster has led us to commit full time to the work of cultivating Buddhist chaplains, or what we prefer to call rinsho-bukkyo-shi, which can be translated as “Buddhist clinicians” or even “engaged Buddhists”. While we hope to attract fully ordained Buddhist priests to the program, we are also making registration open to lay Buddhists from various backgrounds.

As Zenseikyo is an ecumenical organization, we have wide networks of religious professionals, not just Buddhists, from within Japan and overseas whom we are recruiting to support us in developing this work. In this way, we are developing a systematic Buddhist chaplain training program based on the best practices of innovative foreign programs, while seeking to develop a particular model that fits indigenous Japanese Buddhist culture and society. The Rinsho Buddhist Chaplain Training Program consist of the following 3 components:

Level One (Knowledge & Study): A 10-part lecture series consisting of 15 hours of instruction co-hosted by the Tokyo University Young Buddhist Association. This lecture series will introduce participants to the fundamental concepts of Rinsho Buddhism, socially engaged Buddhism, and chaplaincy. Assembling experts from a variety of fields, it will also expose students to practical work in the related fields of terminal care, suicide, youth problems like bullying and shut-ins (hikikomori), criminal behavior and reform, poverty, community decline, and, of course, disaster related trauma. This program will be a required preliminary for chaplains-in-training who must attend at least 8 lectures and submit a written report at the end.

2013 Series (1st)
2014 Series (2nd)
2018-19 Series (5th)
2019-2020 Series (6th)

2020-2021 (7th)

Level Two (Understanding): Beginning in the Autumn of 2013, a series of advanced workshop seminars for chaplains-in-training covering a total of at least 30 hours of instruction. Fields of training will cover: deep listening skills, Attitudinal Healing, role-play, counseling, cognitive and behavioral therapy, interpersonal psychotherapy, etc.

Level Three (Residency): Upon the completion of the two above learning modules, chaplains-in-training will begin a 100 hour residency with one of the many organizations in our network; for example Buddhist organizations working on suicide prevention and supporting the homeless; non-profit organizations working on issues presented in the Level One lectures; and other public or private organizations like hospitals and hospices open to using religious professionals.

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