Introductory Note for Prospective Buddhist Prison Chaplains

Thank you for your interest in our work. Here are a few more details that may be useful to you in reaching a decision to join our team of chaplains.

Our requirements are first of all that you enter into the work whole-heartedly and are prepared to devote a certain amount of time and trouble to it. We feel strongly that a good example and a high standard of personal behaviour and practice is important, and so we require all our chaplains to undertake as a minimum standard, a serious practice of the Five Precepts. With alcohol and drug abuse playing such an enormous part in criminal activity, we insist that all Buddhist prison chaplains abstain completely from alcohol and drugs.

Chaplaincy candidates should also be meditators with a fair experience. As to doctrine, it’s obviously important to have a grasp of basic principles such as the Four Noble Truths, the Noble Eightfold Path, Karma and Rebirth, Dana, Loving-Kindness and Compassion, etc. It’s also important to be reasonably conversant with Buddhist schools, traditions and methods of meditation other than your own. It is likely that you will encounter a variety of Buddhist interests amongst those you meet in prison and you must be prepared to do your best to nourish and direct those interests. Proselytising and promotion of one’s own school or variety of Buddhism over another is not acceptable.

It should be noted that Buddhists are rare in certain types of prison (as for instance, Young Offender Institutions) which, nevertheless, still need to be covered. Also, prisoners are shifting from prison to prison, at times with some frequency, so there may be lulls when there is no one to visit in even the busiest of prisons.

We require everyone to commit themselves to at least two training sessions a year for the first three years and at least one a year thereafter. Training Workshops are held at The Forest Hermitage at quarterly intervals through the year. These are extremely useful events when you will have the chance to learn from one another, support each other, gain from the seminar on some points of Buddhist teaching and practice, and pick up on developments in the Prisons – especially those that affect the chaplaincy. They also include talks and advice on prison matters like security awareness. Especially, these are times when aspects of the work are discussed and experiences are shared. With so many changes in the air, now is a time when, more than ever, we must stick together and pull together.

You will be subject to a rigorous and intrusive security clearance for which you will have to furnish proof of identity and address. This will need to be renewed every five years.

Finally, we at ANGULIMALA are here to help and back you up, answer queries and give advice. Further induction material will be sent to you on appointment and will include a list of Buddhist chaplains and their telephone numbers. And both Rev. Saido and I are usually easily contacted by phone or email for support or advice

Ven. Ajahn Khemadhammo OBE

Spiritual Director