Get Equipped for a Vocation in Hindu Spiritual Care

Certificate in Hindu Spiritual Care

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Certificate programme on Hindu Spiritual Care has been conceived by Chinmaya Vishwavidyapeeth (CVV), Deemed to be University, Ernakulam, to train Spiritual Care providers, to address the spiritual and emotional needs of individuals of Hindu faith in various settings, such as hospitals and hospices, schools and universities, communities, the military, corporations or interfaith settings within India and within the global Hindu diaspora. 

The primary objective of the Certificate programme is to provide basic training in Hindu spiritual care in preparation for serving as a volunteer spiritual caregiver. The programme will be of six to eight months duration with 180 hours of instruction and 120 hours of fieldwork.

Selection Process

 The applicant will be selected based on the following:

  • A letter of recommendation from one’s Guru or recognised leader/elder in the spiritual organisation/Sampradaya/group to which the applicant belongs. 
  • An essay of about 1000 to 1500 words detailing the following:
    • his/her personal history and interest in Spiritual Care Provision
    • significant and important persons or events with which the applicant is associated with that have impacted or continue to impact his/her personal growth and spiritual development
    • statement on the need for professional spiritual caregivers in the spiritual tradition to which the applicant belongs to 
    • personal moments of deepening/ differing and any profound spiritual experiences
Programme Objectives
  • The primary objective of the Certificate programme is to train students in Hindu Spiritual Care
  • To introduce the discipline of Spiritual Care Provision 
  • To introduce various concepts of Philosophy, Psychology, Guidance and counselling that are ingrained in Hindu classical literature
  • To enable the students to have a strong grounding and understanding of the basic tenets of the Hindu psyche and society as a whole 
Programme Outcome

On completion of this course, the graduates will get:

  • Competency in Spiritual Care Provision
  • Good knowledge of the foundation principles of the Hindu religion
  • Ability to understand, observe and apply various concepts of the helping relationship, while understanding that spiritual caregivers do not provide counselling or psychotherapy in any manner
  • Ability to evaluate traditional knowledge and relate it to contemporary socio-cultural scenarios
Courses Offered

There are two core courses and one elective course that constitute this programme. These courses enable students to get an introduction to Spiritual caregiving. The elective courses provide further studies in Hindu theology or provide an introduction to the major concepts in psychology of Hinduism.

The core courses offered under this programme are –

Introduction to Chaplaincy: 60 hours

This course offers students an opportunity to explore Spiritual Care Provision as either a volunteer or as a professional and gain familiarity with its core competencies: formation, professional competence, and reflection. 

Hinduism-Informed Chaplaincy: 60 hours
This course is the second Core course. It will complement the previous course by focusing on Hindu teachings that inform chaplaincy. The learners of this course will get an opportunity to understand the concepts of and related aspects, as well as their applications in the chaplaincy relationship.

Elective courses: 60 hours

Elective courses are intended to give students the necessary grounding in the key foundations mainly in the fields of ethics, philosophy and psychology. Any one course from the following can be taken as an elective course.

Itihasa: A multidimensional Exploration 

This course aims to impart indigenous knowledge to all its students in certain key spheres of life. In this course, students will be introduced to the Indian ‘epics’ Ramayana and Mahabharata and will get a chance to find out why the characters, stories and morals narrated in these epics still influence our lives.

Dharma and Niti: Indic Perspectives on Human Organisation 

This course aims to impart indigenous knowledge to all its students in certain key spheres of life. In this course, students will be introduced to native accounts of justice, morality, social organisation as reflected in certain shastras the chaturdashavidyasthanam.

Indian Concepts and Theories in Psychology 

This course provides a fundamental understanding of the Indian psychological concepts and theories on consciousness, mind, health and well-being. From the vast repository of psychological ideas, a few of these have been selected to ground the concepts and theories with the available research evidence in contemporary psychological science. The course aims to provide an indigenous gaze to the mainstream psychology concepts, principles and theories.

Field work

The students are required to complete the required activities under Seva. They are required to submit a report on their interactions and their experiential learning. The details of the field activity for participants in this programme are given below:

Seva: 90 hours

It consists of various activities that help the students to enhance their spiritual well-being. The evaluation is based on the reports submitted based on the interactions. The activities include the below, and the hours should be well documented and total 90 hours. [At least four of the below should be included.]

  • Shodhanaprakara 

This includes activities like maintaining decorum of auspicious places such as a temple or ashram or spiritual centre

  • Pooja Prakara

Practicing basic poojas like Ganapati pooja, Saraswati pooja, Guru paduka pooja etc which are fundamental for most of the Hindu traditions. [Instructional videos will be provided for the students to practice.]

  • Stotra chanting

Stotras are inherent features of any Hindu tradition. Chanting stotras makes oneself closer to the Paramatma. Students will be taught the basics of stotra chanting through instructional videos

  • Satsangs with spiritual leaders (in-person or via the internet)

Satsang and shravana (deep listening to scriptures) are important facets of spiritual formation and prepare a report on their experiences and learnings from satsangs with spiritual leaders.

Seva such as the below will deepen the students’ application of spiritual caregiving skills.

  • teaching children/youth in Bala Vihars
  • leading Vedanta Study Groups 
  • leading pujas or spiritual programmes
  • giving talks on Hindu topics

Spiritual Care visits to Hindu friends or patients in hospitals or homes

Project Report: 30 hours

The students are mandated to submit a paper with a minimum of 20 pages typed and double spaced. The project work will include concept notes, self-reflection, past and present experiences, deeper insights and new learnings in Hinduism. The paper will be evaluated through Viva voce. Plagiarism is strictly prohibited. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Who is a Spiritual Caregiver?

A spiritual caregiver is a person who works to meet the spiritual needs of people in institutional settings including hospitals, hospices, the military, schools, prisons, businesses, congregations, and other organisations. They are available to any person in distress, loss or spiritual questioning. A spiritual caregiver receives substantial education and training in skilfully providing this service.

There are many ways to serve as a spiritual caregiver. They can be volunteers or paid. Paid spiritual caregivers can be board certified, trained in a certificate programme, or uncertified. However, board certified chaplains (BCC) by APC meet the highest professional standards in the United States: this includes graduate theological education, clinical pastoral education (CPE), and a firm grounding in a spiritual practice and tradition. The Certificate in Hindu Spiritual Care offered at Chinmaya Vishwavidyapeeth (CVV) meets partial requirements for board certification by the Association of Professional Chaplains.

What is a Hindu Spiritual Caregiver?

Hindu spiritual caregivers are sustained and guided in their work by Hindu teachings and practice. They are skilled in meeting the needs of Hindus and those with an affinity for Hindu teachings, and are equally able to serve people of another faith.

In order to build a foundation for spiritual care service, the education of a Hindu spiritual caregiver includes central Hindu teachings, relevant aspects of pastoral care literature, contributions from contemporary psychology, an exploration of the role of ritual and devotional practices, among others. Their education also includes basic teachings of how to serve people of different faith traditions. All study is accompanied by a thoughtful inquiry into how these teachings are applied to a chaplain’s work within various settings.

What is the career potential for a Hindu Spiritual Caregiver?

Many spiritual caregivers serve as volunteers, others as professional chaplains, offering their spiritual support within hospitals, universities, hospices, the military, as well as to members of their own congregation and community.

They can be representatives of their faith or guest speakers at interfaith programmes, schools, government or military functions, and so on.

In the United States and Europe, chaplains are hired as professionals by hospitals and universities and the military. Trained Hindu spiritual caregivers are in high demand now due to their scarcity. There are also many opportunities to serve as volunteers in one’s local hospital, hospice, university, correctional institutions, and interfaith events. Each individual will have to pursue and create opportunities to serve as a spiritual caregiver in his or her community.

Within the US and Europe, chaplains of all faiths are in increasing demand and are either hired or engaged as volunteers. Within India, the greatest scope for Hindu spiritual caregivers presently is serving patients in hospitals and supporting college students on campus. Serving one’s own spiritual community by visiting people who are ill or bereaved, as well as helping families celebrate special occasions or weddings, are all functions a spiritual caregiver can undertake.

Is spiritual care new to Hinduism?

Actually, spiritual caregiving is as ancient as Hinduism. Spiritual Caregiving has always been provided in the past and even today by kulagurus, swamins, wise grandfathers and grandmothers, compassionate aunties and uncles, and perhaps your own parents and mentors. The word ‘chaplain’ however has been widely used more in the west and is relatively new to India.

Instead of relying on the natural talents of wise mentors, people with seva bhav and love for God can enhance their natural talents by studying with others who have walked the path and paved the way to develop those natural talents. With such study, people can enhance their natural skills and be more effective Spiritual Caregivers. This is the purpose of spiritual care studies at CVV.

Who can become a Hindu Spiritual Caregiver? 

The first requisite is to have a strong spiritual practice and foundation in any of the Hindu sampradayas. Spiritual caregivers are emissaries of their spiritual faith, taking spiritual nurturing into their community. To join the CVV Certificate programme, a candidate needs to be endorsed by a spiritual organisation of any Hindu sampradaya. The spiritual organisation should affirm the candidate’s spiritual maturity and temperament to serve others in need.

The next criterion is to have a love of serving people. Some spiritual caregivers say that their work is to bring Divine Presence into the room, to help people find their connection to their Higher Self or Bhagavan. Some say that their work is to bring unconditional acceptance and comfort to people.

They do not need to be initiated into sannyasa or the priesthood. They can be lay householders as well. But they should have a strong sadhana and some experience in the paths of Jnana Yoga, Bhakti Yoga, and/or Karma Yoga.

There is no one formula for becoming a spiritual caregiver. Ultimately, only you can know if pursuing it is the right choice. While there are many voluntary, career, and spiritual experiences that may inform your choice and prepare you to become a spiritual caregiver candidate, most if not all feel ‘called’ to this work. Beyond an interest or curiosity, a calling is often a voice, intuition or yearning to serve in this way.

Students enter the CVV spiritual care programme with a variety of plans and goals. CVV’s students are trained to serve in all environments. Some find environments in which to serve, some take the clinical training of CPE. Some enter the military, and some become APC Board-certified chaplains. Each journey is unique.

How do you get certified to be a spiritual caregiver?

This Certificate programme offers a Certificate in Spiritual Care. This is not the same as Board Certification. Board certification of Hindu spiritual caregivers is not offered at this time in India. In the US, The Association of Professional Chaplains (APC) offers board-certification (BCC) for spiritual caregivers of all religions. This Certificate programme fulfils part of the requirements.

Is the CVV Certificate in Hindu Spiritual Care recognised by the APC?

Yes, degrees and certificates offered by CVV are accredited in India by the University Grants Commission (UGC), which in turn is accredited by CHEA International (Council of Higher Education Accreditation). APC accepts coursework from CHEA or CHEA international-approved universities.

The Certificate in Hindu Spiritual Care offered by CVV earns 20 credits. This will count towards the 72-credits needed for Board Certification by APC.

Do spiritual caregivers need to be endorsed by a religious organisation?

Yes, spiritual caregivers are Spiritual Care Providers and need an endorsement from a faith group. In Hinduism, any Hindu sampradaya can train and endorse sadhakas for spiritual care. Endorsement ensures that the person is held accountable by an organised spiritual community, has access to support and guidance, and is professionally qualified to represent his or her spiritual community.

In the case of Hindu spiritual caregivers, this would be any Hindu religious organisation. 

Although it is not necessary to be involved with an endorsing body to be a student at CVV, potential students wishing to become board-certified spiritual caregivers who are not affiliated with a Hindu group are encouraged to establish a relationship with an organised Hindu community as soon as possible.

I’m interested in becoming a military chaplain or a prison chaplain in the United States. Is CVV right for me? Am I qualified?

If you are interested in military chaplaincy, you are best served by talking to a military recruiter. Endorsement by a religious body approved by the Department of Defense is required. Currently, the only Hindu organisation approved by the Department of Defense is Chinmaya Mission West.

For further information, contact chaplaincy@chinmayamission.org.

Requirements for prison spiritual caregivers vary from state to state, and federal prisons have specific requirements. Please check with the Department of Corrections in your state for information on serving in state prisons and the Federal Bureau of Prisons for information on serving in the federal prison system.

What is Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE)? Does CVV provide clinical pastoral education (CPE)?

Clinical Pastoral Education is provided by sites approved by APC. One unit of CPE completed at an approved site can be counted as academic credit towards the graduate degree. Most students complete CPE requirements in a year-long program after completing their graduate education. However, this is not always the case. Finding the right site and the right professional course for you is a discernment process that is a part of your graduate education experience.

Since CVV does not administer CPE, we recommend that you contact North American Hindu Chaplains Association who will guide you.

Do I need to be affiliated with a specific Hindu tradition to apply?

No, individuals from all traditions and sampradayas within Hinduism are invited to apply. However, you will need to be endorsed by some Hindu faith group to be admitted into the programme.

Can I do this programme part-time?

No, the Certificate programme must be completed within six to eight months, as required by the University Grants Commission (UGC).

Do you have a non-residency/online degree option for Hindu Spiritual Care programme?

At the moment the programme is offered on campus and there are no online options.

Can I contact CVV for further information and questions?

Yes! If you have questions and/or would like to schedule a meeting, please feel free to write to us at admissions@cvv.ac.in.

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