About the Program
The Master of Divinity degree prepares students for professional work in the fields of pastoral care, chaplaincy, community development, and dharma teaching. This 72-credit, three-year program is firmly grounded in Buddhist philosophy and meditation practice, while emphasizing an interreligious approach to individual and community care. This training is then applied in hands-on internship work, to develop individuals who can actively manifest wisdom and compassion in the world. The program breaks new ground in preparing Buddhist-inspired students to serve their communities in leadership capacities.
The MDiv degree prepares students through four streams of learning: theological study—an in-depth understanding of the basic Buddhist texts and doctrines in historical and present-day contexts; community—devoted to the insights and tools for fostering “engaged” communities; interfaith pastoral care—the ability to serve the spiritual and human needs of a diverse community in ministerial/ chaplaincy roles while embodying the principles and practices of one’s primary tradition; and practice and meditation—the spiritual practice of sitting meditation from the Buddhist tradition.
Clinical Pastoral Education or fieldwork placements based on individual student interests provide a context for integrating all four streams of learning and applying them to real-world needs, while initiating the process of lifetime learning through the students' work.
Tibetan Tradition Emphasis
Tibetan Tradition Emphasis presents the systematic foundational courses of the traditional educational system of a Tibetan monastic college (shedra). These courses are based on the Western-style classes and materials developed at Nitartha Institute since 1995 when it was founded by The Dzogchen Ponlop, Rinpoche. These courses present all Three Turnings of the Wheel of Dharma. (See www.nitarthainstitute.org for information on how the materials and teaching methods for these classes have been developed, as well as for information on the programs and publications of Nitartha Institute itself.)
Mindfulness Instructor Training
Students train as mindfulness meditation instructors and are able to apply their skills in teaching and guiding contemplative practice in diverse contexts.
The three approaches of contemplative education at Naropa form a cornerstone for all of our graduate and undergraduate programs. In the Masters of Divinity program, contemplative education includes not only the practices of a range of religious traditions but also the way in which classes are taught.
The MDiv curriculum reflects the three pillars of contemplative education: rigorous academic study (third-person learning), cohort-based relational training and field educational experiences (second-person training), and development in personal contemplative practice (first-person training).
MDiv students receive an academic grounding in the three turnings of Indo-Tibetan Buddhism as well as intensive training in the practice of mindfulness meditation and contemplation. At the same time, elective courses allow them to explore other rich contemplative traditions found in Christianity, Judaism, and Islam. Personal discernment allows students to integrate their academic, experiential, and personal work.
While the MDiv degree program requires students to engage in contemplative practices, there is no presumption about how the students identify themselves within a specific religious tradition. Many of our students are interested in exploring multiple beliefs and practices. Ultimately it is up to them as to how this is integrated into their personal development and career.
Jamil Scott, MDiv, '14
Unitarian Universalist Church of Fresno, CA
The Rev. M. Jamil Scott serves as the Director of Lifespan Religious Education at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Fresno where he develops faith-based programs for 400+ youth and adults. He regularly teaches courses on Engaged Buddhism and Unitarian Universalism at the UU Church of Fresno, as well as conducting worship services and preaching.
Jamil is the 2014 Fahs Collaborative contemplative education research fellow with the Unitarian Universalist Seminary, Meadville Lombard Theological School. In his research he is developing a youth-led action-based contemplative practice community within the Unitarian Universalist faith.
In response to the attention given to police violence against Black men in America, Rev. Jamil has been working with Lama Tsultrim Allione and Chandra Easton in the creation and facilitation of a program to bring the teachings of Machig Labdron to the problem of American racism. The program is called Compassionately Awake to Privilege and Oppression, and is currently being hosted by the Tara Mandala Bay Area Sangha in Berkeley, CA. Jamil has started training with Lama Tsultrim Allione to teach the Feeding Your Demons practice to communities in crisis and persons of color.
Jamil is active in faith-based social justice work with the organizing group Faith in Community of Fresno and very recently the Buddhist Peace Fellowship of Oakland, CA. He was ordained as a Buddhist minister by the International Order of Buddhist Ministers in 2014.
Gregory William Rouillard, MS, MDIV, '13
Co-founder, President & Director of Family HEART Camp
Gregory Rouillard is a Naropa Master of Divinity graduate who since 2008 has followed a transformative path from a twenty-year career as a U.S. Marine officer to embracing a new life of service as a community impresario and spiritual entrepreneur. His three years at Naropa formed an intense and thorough crucible for this transformation, infusing him with the confidence to wholeheartedly take his seat as an embodied leader, mentor, and companion of those who long for the experience of authentic community.
When searching for a descriptive title for his work, Gregory discovered the term impresario, from the 18th century Italian impresa, “to undertake.” He considers himself a community impresario, “one who undertakes community.” One vehicle for this undertaking is the Circle Sigma System, an integrated organizational model of Gregory’s design that provides businesses, nonprofits and communities with workable systems for effective aim realization through collaboration, shared power, and meaningful relationships. The component models of Sociocracy, Nonviolent Communication (NVC), and Restorative Circles provide dependable tools to transform organizational structure, decision making, communication and conflict engagement while maintaining or improving organizational effectiveness.
Gregory is also the co-founder, president, and director of Family HEART Camp, a nonprofit national network of summer camps for families and individuals. These camps provide a week-long immersion in compassionate community based in the principles and practices of NVC. He is also co-founder and partner in the Seven Principles Project, an entrepreneurial ministry aimed at offering NVC to Unitarian Universalist (UU) congregations as a spiritual practice for living the seven UU principles every day and cultivating the ideals of Beloved Community.
While Gregory lives with his family in a cohousing community near Boulder, he also travels extensively to offer his work to the world. His dearest dream is to own and operate a rural retreat center where people can come together for extended periods of time to experience meaningful community and explore the question, “how do we live together?”
- To formulate a theological identity informed by: a. an in-depth knowledge of the teachings of Buddhism in its cultural and historical context; b. an understanding of multiple religious traditions and practices; and c. ability and practices of interreligious dialogue, and contemporary spiritual/religious phenomena
- To explore and understand meditative practices - The student will theoretically and experientially explore meditative and contemplative practices in Buddhism and other traditions, and thereby understand the integral part they play in their respective traditions
- To develop chaplaincy skills -The student will develop chaplaincy skills grounded in theological identity and contemplative practice
- To develop, reflect and integrate diverse cultures, religions into a personal journey
- The student will develop a personal spiritual journey that is sensitive to cultural context, religious pluralism, and community diversity