Buddhist Chaplaincy in the United States: Theory-Praxis Relationship in Formation and Profession


  • Ven. Guan Zhen International Center of Chinese Buddhist Culture and Education, USA


Buddhist Chaplaincy, Practical Theology, Buddhology, Shepherding, Ox Herding


This article gives an overview of the emergence of Buddhist Chaplaincy in the US. It analyzes the concept, profession and formation of this chaplaincy using the theory-praxis model. Current available academic research literature related to this chaplaincy is also summarized and analyzed. This article puts forward potential challenges that Buddhist chaplaincy faces today in the US. It seeks possible practical and functional approaches for present and future development of Buddhist chaplaincy. Differences between practical theology and Buddhology based on the concepts of “shepherding” and “ox herding” are compared and explored. Insights on the theory-praxis model of Buddhist chaplaincy today in the US are depicted in a practical formula.


Board of Chaplaincy Certification Inc. BCCI Certification Graduate Education Equivalency Worksheet. Accessed November 27, 2019. http://bcci.professionalchaplains.org/content.asp?pl=19&contentid=19.

Bowden, John. Everything is Politics but Politics is Not Everything. Grand Rapdis: Eerdmans Publ., 1986.

Brekke, Torkel and Vladimir Tokhonoved. Military Chaplaincy in an Era of Religious Pluralism: Military-Religious Nexus in Asia, Europe, and USA. New Delhi: Oxford, 2017.

Browning, Don S. Practical Theology: The Emerging Field in Theology, Church, and World. New York: Harper & Row, Publ, 1983.

Bunting, Ian D. “Practical theology and pastoral training.” Evangelical Review of Theology 4 (1980), 116-122.

Campbell, Alastair V. “Is practical theology possible?.” Scottish Journal of Theology 25 (1972): 217-227.

Chaplaincy Innovation Lab. Buddhist Chaplaincy. Accessed November 27, 2019. https://chaplaincyinnovation.org/resources/faith-tradition/buddhist-chaplaincy.

Clinebell, Howard and Bridget C. McKeever. Basic Types of Pastoral Care and Counseling. TN: Abingdon, 2011.

Clinebell, Howard J. Basic Types of Pastoral Care & Counseling: Resources for the Ministry of Healing and Growth. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1984.

Fisher, Danny. Benefit Beings!: The Buddhist Guide to Professional Chaplaincy. America: Off the Cushion Books, 2013.

Fowler, James W. Faith Development and Pastoral Care. Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1987.

Giles, Cheryl A. and Willa B. Miller. The Arts of Contemplative Care: Pioneering Voices in Buddhist Chaplaincy and Pastoral Work. Boston: Wisdom Publications, 2012.

Gill, Robin. “The future of practical theology.” Theological Investigations 56 (1997), 17- 22.

Graham, Elaine L., Heather Walton, and Frances Ward. Theological Reflection: Methods. London: SCM Press, 2005.

Harvard Divinity School. Buddhist Ministry Initiative. Accessed November 27, 2019. https://hds.harvard.edu/academics/buddhist-ministry-initiative.

New York Zen Center for Contemplative Care. Professional Chaplaincy Training (CPE). Accessed November 27, 2019. https://zencare.org/contemplative-care-training-program/professional-cpe-buddhist-chaplaincy-training.

Osmer, Richard. “Practical theology: A current international perspective.” HTS Theologies Studies/ Theological Studies 67 (2011), 1.

Paget, Naomi K. and Janet R. McCormack. The work of the chaplain. PA: Judson Press, 2006.

Stanford, Monica. Kalyanamitra: A Model for Buddhist Spiritual Care. ON: Sumeru Press, 2021.

The Holy Bible. The Acts of the Apostles. Accessed November 27, 2019. http://triggs.djvu.org/djvu-editions.com/BIBLES/DRV/Download.pdf.

________. The Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ, According to St. John. Accessed November 27, 2019. http://triggs.djvu.org/djvu-editions.com/BIBLES/DRV/Download.pdf.

Todd, Andrew. Responding to diversity: Chaplaincy in a multi-faith context. London: SPCK, 2011.

University of the West. Department of Buddhist Chaplaincy. Accessed November 27, 2019. https://www.uwest.edu/academics/graduate-programs/buddhist-chaplaincy.

Upaya Institute and Zen Center. Prison Outreach Program. Accessed November 27, 2019. https://www.upaya.org/social-action/prison-outreach.

Woodward, James, Stephen Pattison, and John Patton, The Blackwell Reader in Pastoral and Practical Theology. Oxford: Blackwell Publishers, 2000.

Zhang, Guoying S., “Serving Humanity in Transition: Chinese Buddhism and Spiritual Care in the United States.” Global Buddhistdoor 8 (2021).

Zhen, Guan. “Practice Norms of Buddhist Chaplains in the United States: Code of Ethics, Legal Obligations, Competences and Boundaries.” Journal of Buddhist Studies 2 (2020): 316-327.




How to Cite

Zhen, V. G. . (2022). Buddhist Chaplaincy in the United States: Theory-Praxis Relationship in Formation and Profession. Journal of International Buddhist Studies, 13(1), 44–59. Retrieved from https://so09.tci-thaijo.org/index.php/jibs/article/view/2580