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Buddhist Ministry Initiative

From Chinese Buddhist Encyclopedia
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With the support of a generous gift from the Robert H. N. Ho Family Foundation, Harvard Divinity School has expanded its offerings in ministerial training to include an eight-year pilot project in the study of Buddhist ministry.

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The Buddhist Ministry Initiative at Harvard Divinity School—the first of its kind at a divinity school within a research university—trains future Buddhist religious professionals in terms appropriate to modern, global conditions. Drawing on the strengths of Harvard's unique faculty resources in the academic study of religion and Buddhist studies, the Buddhist Ministry Initiative coordinates a range of courses on the history, thought, and practice of Buddhism, in Buddhist languages, and in Buddhist arts of ministry. The initiative also supports the field education of Buddhist ministry students in hospitals and other sites of pastoral care, and offers the insights of Buddhist textual traditions and practices to students from all religious traditions who study ministry at HDS.

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Regular faculty members and visiting lecturers from Buddhist communities teach courses on pastoral care and counseling, preaching and worship, spiritual formation, social activism, leadership, and denominational polity, highlighting the application of Buddhist principles to socially engaged action in the world. Students in the program also have the opportunity to choose from the many courses offered more broadly at HDS and other Schools at Harvard for their arts of ministry requirements, in such areas as psychology and counseling, education, conflict resolution, community organizing, and leadership development. HDS courses of particular interest to students of Buddhist ministry include courses in the Buddhist studies MTS/ThM area of focus and MDiv arts of ministry courses.


Students preparing for ministry from a Buddhist perspective utilize their master of divinity degree education in support of a wide range of career paths, including community religious leadership; interfaith hospital, hospice, and university chaplaincy; community development and activism; nonprofit management; academic scholarship; and secondary education. The program instills a rich understanding of global issues pertaining to Buddhism and other spiritual traditions and allows for specialized study according to individual interests and aspirations.

As part of the Buddhist Ministry Initiative's efforts to build connections to Buddhist ministerial movements in Asia, the initiative offers a limited number of special scholarships to Asian students trained in Buddhist traditions and history to attend HDS for one year as a Robert H. N. Ho Family Foundation Scholar. The initiative also offers funding to HDS students to participate in learning experiences in Asia related to Buddhist ministry.

The Buddhist Ministry Initiative offers the annual Robert H. N. Ho Family Foundation Buddhist Ministry Lecture Series, open to the public, and collaborates with Buddhist and other groups across the university and in the community to foster knowledge of Buddhist ministry. See upcoming events on the HDS Public Events Calendar.
Buddhist Field Education Placements

Buddhist ministry students have the opportunity to complete their field education requirements in a variety of settings, such as hospitals, dharma centers, nonprofits, social service organizations, schools, and universities.
International Conference on Buddhist Ministry

The Buddhist Ministry Initiative will convene an international conference every three years to connect leaders in Buddhist organizations who are engaged in ministerial and educational initiatives relating to Buddhism in the modern world. This conference will invite Buddhist clergy and ministers from both Asia and the United States and serve to forge lasting relationships among such movements across the world. The first conference is being planned for fall 2014.