Buddhist Caregivers to Gather for 3-Day Chaplaincy Workshop

The Buddhist Channel, 2 September 2023

Bangkok, Thailand -- In a bid to address the growing need for compassionate caregivers in modern institutions, a three-day workshop for Buddhist chaplains is set to take place, offering insights into the evolving role of chaplaincy in today's society. The workshop is sponsored by the International Buddhist Psychotherapy and Chaplaincy Working Group & the International Network of Engaged Buddhists (INEB). It runs from September 29 – October 1, 2023 and will be held at Wongansit Ashram, Thailand.

Wongansit Ashram, Thailand, host venue of the 3-Day Chaplaincy Workshop from September 29 – October 1, 2023

The term "Chaplaincy" has evolved to encompass religious professionals from various spiritual backgrounds who are specially trained to cater to the needs of individuals facing challenges in institutions like hospitals, prisons, and the military. These chaplains serve as empathetic listeners and guides, offering solace and purpose during times of distress. Their approach often necessitates a shift in skills away from traditional religious roles like preaching and teaching.

Buddhist chaplaincy has gained prominence in recent years due to its focus on meditation and mindfulness as tools for transforming chaplains into deep listeners. Meditation not only inspires and empowers chaplains to translate their knowledge into compassionate care but also helps them develop a profound presence to accompany and bear witness to the suffering of others.

The three-day workshop will delve into the principles of Buddhist chaplaincy, equipping dedicated practitioners—whether ordained or lay—with essential skills to care for individuals grappling with a range of contemporary challenges. These challenges often manifest as depression, mental health issues, and suicidal thoughts, stemming from stress related to work and study, gender and sexual identity, family trauma, social violence, and tragic accidents, among others. Leading this workshop is a team from the International Buddhist Psychotherapy and Chaplaincy Working Group, bringing extensive experience in training Buddhist chaplains.

The International Buddhist Psychotherapy and Chaplaincy Working Group comprises Buddhist chaplains, Buddhist-based psychotherapists, and Buddhist activists who engage with a wide spectrum of mental health concerns. It traces its roots to the International Buddhist Exchange Center (IBEC) @ Kodosan in Yokohama, Japan, where it began its work on suicide prevention with Japanese Buddhist priests in 2006. In 2017, IBEC and its partners in Japan initiated international events aimed at fostering a deeper understanding of mental health issues by combining Buddhism and psychotherapy. A significant aspect of this collaborative exploration has been the sharing of diverse practices and techniques to support both those in suffering and those providing care.

Participation in the workshop is limited to forty individuals, with a focus on South and Southeast Asian representation and a commitment to gender balance. While participants need not be ordained monks or nuns, they should be dedicated lay Buddhist practitioners with a demonstrated commitment to and involvement in compassionate care and chaplaincy.

For those interested in supporting the program, the opportunity to sponsor participants from marginalized communities, such as Buddhist nuns in the Himalayan regions or lay peace workers in Myanmar, is available. Donations of just US$300 per person can be made through the International Network of Engaged Buddhists website, with contributors asked to specify "sponsorship for Buddhist chaplaincy workshop" in the comments section.

Fees for the program, inclusive of food and lodging at the serene Wongsanit Ashram, stand at US$300. However, applicants facing financial constraints are encouraged to apply for reduced fees. Individuals without organizational affiliations will also be considered for fee reductions. To apply, potential participants are requested to provide details about their Buddhist practice (ordination status, lay practitioner, training level) and their experience and aspirations as caregivers.

As the demand for compassionate caregivers continues to rise, this workshop promises to equip Buddhist chaplains with the skills and knowledge necessary to provide support and solace to those in need across a diverse array of challenges in today's society.

For more information and to register for the workshop, please contact International Buddhist Exchange Center (IBEC) @ Kodosan, email: wattsj@jneb.net.
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