As I have mentioned in earlier posts, I work as a chaplain in a healthcare setting. Just as many other professions that fall under the healthcare category, there is a process of becoming Board Certified for a Chaplain.
Depending on your faith, there are a few professional organizations through which one can become certified. If you’re Catholic, then you may be choose to go through National Association of Catholic Chaplains. If you’re Jewish, you may go through National Association of Jewish Chaplains. Most other Christian denominations and other faiths may choose to go through the Association of Professional Chaplains.
Here’s the thing : There is probably only one Board Certified Chaplain (that we know of) who identifies as a Hindu in all of the United States of America! Think about it!
So, my goal is to become Board Certified through APC.
There are 4 major requirements to be eligible to write papers and qualify to even appear in front a certifying committee for APC:
- Successfully complete 4 units of Clinical Pastoral Education with an accredited program. – I have successfully finished my 4 units of CPE
- Be endorsed and provide an endorsement letter from the faith to which one belongs.– I received a letter of endorsement letter from Hindu Religious Endorsing Body (HREB) as part of the Hindu American Chaplaincy initiative by Hindu Mandirs’ Executive Conference and Hindu American Foundation.
- To complete 2000 hours of actual chaplaincy work after finishing 4 units of CPE. – In progress
- To have a Master’s of Divinity or a Doctorate in Ministry. – This degree has to be within your own faith tradition. <– This is the biggest obstacle I’ve been facing.
I mean, ever since I started my CPE training, I have been looking for a place to study Hinduism at a Master’s level. I have not been able to find a particular place where I could just sign up and finish my master’s level education in Hindu studies. I have been stunned about the lack of postgraduate level of Hindu Studies in the USA.
The challenge is not to learn about one’s faith intelligently, but to really study and apply to the field of chaplaincy and of course to one’s own life. In the Hindu tradition, throughout the ages, we have been taught in ashrams and gurukulams. The down side of this – It is not considered ‘accredited’ in the academic world. It has been so frustrating at times that I’ve literally broken down in tears.
Being Hindu all your life does not count academically. As my search continued, I knew I could not just sit around and not study the Hindu Dharma.I have been taking Hindu education wherever I can find it. I started to ensure I studied deliberately from organizations such as the Chinmaya Mission and Arsha Vidya Gurukulam. While I was not able to physically be at these organizations, I was able to do a lot of Vedanta study through recorded lectures and of course, YouTube. I did reach out to the teachers to ensure they are aware of my path and I found them to be extremely helpful and supportive. I also took all the online courses in Hinduism offered at Oxford Center for Hindu Studies – University of Oxford.
I had not worked for pay in the last 3 years. It was not that I was not applying for chaplaincy positions in the area but the lack of a Master’s degree and in most cases just the sheer lack of knowledge about someone of a Hindu faith has been a major hurdle in getting employed.
Currently, I am in talks with a local seminary where I can transfer all these credits and wrap up a Master’s degree through them.
To me, it’s extremely unfortunate and sad that there are not many academic organizations that one could study Hindu Scriptures in a way that teaches you to apply these dharmic principles to daily life.Most recently, I’ve been told that starting Fall 2015 the Graduate Theological Union will be offering an MA in Hindu Studies. That’s a step forward. Even then, there is SO much that needs to be done to make the study of Hindu Dharma a solid presence in the world of theological education.
As for me, the journey continues.
Until next time,
The highest education is that which does not merely give us information but makes our life in harmony with all existence. – Rabindranath Tagore