Psychedelic Chaplaincy

Master of Divinity graduate Daniel Rajunov seeks to bridge the worlds of the natural and the technological, the sacred and the mundane 

Working as a chaplain at a prestigious hospital in New York City, Master of Divinity graduate Daniel Rajunov credits Naropa with not only preparing him for this very difficult healing work, but also fundamentally changing the way he thinks about life and death. 

Part of Rajunov’s research during his residency is centered on the emerging field of Psychedelic Chaplaincy. “I’m collecting data-driven evidence to explore the effects of spiritual guidance for people with depression and PTSD who are undergoing clinical trials of pharmacological substances, such as Psilocybin, MDMA, and Ketamine,” he explains.  

At Naropa, the value of ritual was emphasized, and he hopes to bring the sacredness of ceremony into the clinical setting in a way that honors the indigenous sources. 

One of the most valuable aspects of the MDiv program was its emphasis on interreligious care.

It opened up my sense of faith and familiarized me with the beauty of different faith traditions,” Rajunov says, “and I learned how to relate to people of different beliefs and how to take accountability for my power and privilege to serve diverse populations.” 

The MDiv program’s grounding in Buddhist philosophy and meditation helped prepare him for whatever he encounters in his daily work as a chaplain. “I learned how to be ok with not-ok and how to listen to the suffering of others, how to relate with it, how to validate it, without trying to fix it,” he says. “Buddhist mindfulness practices introduced me to different intense psychological states and taught me how to work and relate with my own mind from a place of friendliness. I learned about the importance of not-knowing and sitting with uncertainty and groundlessness.”

Rajunov’s dream is to contribute to the medical/psychological/psychiatric field by further establishing his career in psychedelic research in a hospital or other clinical setting. In his view, society desperately needs more heartfelt skilled practitioners. “My Naropa education inspired me to live a life that’s oriented towards the bodhisattva ideal,” he says, “bringing benefit to all by being of service to others, not for personal gain, but to help improve the difficult world we live in.” 

Leave a Comment