Kalyāṇamitra: A Model for Buddhist Spiritual Care,  Volume 1
Kalyāṇamitra: A Model for Buddhist Spiritual Care,  Volume 1
Kalyāṇamitra: A Model for Buddhist Spiritual Care,  Volume 1

Kalyāṇamitra: A Model for Buddhist Spiritual Care, Volume 1

Regular price $34.95

Kalyāṇamitra: A Model for Buddhist Spiritual Care,  Volume 1

Rev. Dr. Monica Sanford

ISBN 978-1-896559-45-2 (pbk) (Volume 1)

188 pages, 8x10, with bibliography and index

Kalyāṇamitra: A Model for Buddhist Spiritual Care is the book Buddhist chaplains have been waiting for. Rev. Dr. Monica Sanford presents research and analysis into the professional practice of Buddhist spiritual care based on the work of actual chaplains in hospitals and hospices, the military, prisons, and colleges. Just like their Christian counterparts, Buddhist chaplains provide spiritual care to distressed people from a variety of religious backgrounds, including people who aren’t religious at all, but still need a caring companion in times of crisis. Kalyāṇamitra is one of less than a dozen books about this young, but growing profession, and the first to present a comprehensive theory for Buddhist spiritual care.

Chapter 1 describes what a Buddhist chaplain is, including definitions of terms and vivid stories that paint the picture of the work they do. A personal narrative from Rev. Dr. Sanford outlines the process of personal and spiritual formation Buddhists experience as they learn to both be and do the work of a chaplain. The chapter concludes with an introduction to the practice of reflection, sometimes called “theological reflection,” an essential skill for putting one’s spiritual and religious knowledge to work in an interreligious and intercultural world.

Chapter 2 describes what Buddhist chaplains do, starting with a careful summary of the sources of Dharma that guide a Buddhist chaplain’s practice. Rev. Dr. Sanford reviews texts from Theravada, Mahayana, and Vajrayana sources – both ancient and modern – in a cogent and accessible way, ensuring that this work is valuable to Buddhists of any background. The chapter also describes the role of traditional teachers and sanghas in the support and formation of Buddhist chaplains. It furthers the training in reflection begun in chapter 1, before diving into a careful description of each of the contexts in which Buddhist chaplains work – healthcare, the military, prisons, and colleges and universities. It concludes with an analysis, based on data derived from Rev. Dr. Sanford’s unique study of chaplains in the field, of how to determine the effectiveness of spiritual care provided to those in need.

Now that readers have a good sense of who Buddhist chaplains are and what they do, Chapter 3 presents the first comprehensive theory of Buddhist chaplaincy – the Three Prajñās Framework for Spiritual Care. Rev. Dr. Sanford presents the Framework both evocatively, in the form of a sutta or scripture, and through the data she painstakingly collected from thirteen practicing Buddhist chaplains and analyzed over many months. She clearly breaks down the Framework into four developmental stages that describe the lifelong spiritual formation of Buddhist chaplains. Then she further breaks down each stage into a three-part heuristic that can guide the professional work of chaplains in any setting. The final stage – kalyāṇamitra or spiritual friendship – serves as a model for modern Buddhist spiritual care.

Chapter 4 presents the kalyāṇamitra model in full, including detailed review of Theravada, Mahayana, and Vajrayana literature on the topic. Rev. Dr. Sanford presents the first model for Buddhist chaplaincy suitable for Buddhists from any tradition or culture. She is also forthright about the implications, applications, and limitations of this model and her research as a whole. The final reflection invites readers to join in the work of defining the profession of Buddhist chaplaincy as an ongoing project for the benefit of all.

These four chapters comprise Volume 1 of the book, to be published in January 2021. Volume 2 will follow a few months after.

Kalyanamitra, Volume 2, focuses on the development of pragmatic skills throughout the education, training, and internship of new Buddhist chaplains, as well as an overview of professional issues facing Buddhist chaplains in North America. Skills covered in this volume include listening and responding, empathy and compassion, ritual and prayer, presence, interreligious and culturally competent care, power, privilege, and oppression in care, spiritual assessment, and reflection. The final skill – reflection – assists the reader to integrate their personal and professional practice to become a wise and compassionate Buddhist chaplain. The volume concludes by charting a path for the further development of the field of Buddhist chaplains in North America.

Volume 2 builds on the theoretical framework and model presented in Volume 1 by placing the skills within their context and advancing a plan for the integration of the framework and model in Buddhist chaplaincy pedagogy.


Rev. Dr. Sanford received a B.S. in Design from the University of Nebraska – Lincoln, a M.Div. in Buddhist Chaplaincy, and a Ph.D. in Practical Theology (spiritual care and counseling) from Claremont School of Theology, making her one of only a handful of Buddhist chaplains who are also fully trained “practical theologians.” She is the only one currently conducting, publishing, and presenting field research on the work of Buddhist chaplains in interreligious settings in North America. Rev. Dr. Sanford is also one of only two Buddhist chaplains to lead a religious life program at a college or university, making her a rare scholar-practitioner.

Rev. Dr. Sanford has contributed chapters to various Buddhist and interreligious anthologies, co-authored the article on “Buddhist Chaplaincy” for the Oxford Research Encyclopedia (with Rev. Dr. Nathan Jishin Michon). She has now literally written the book on Buddhist chaplaincy – the first one to present a comprehensive theory of the profession suitable to Buddhists of all traditions and cultures. She regularly presents at international conferences on these topics. She is on the advisory board of the Journal of Interreligious Studies and a member of the Buddhist Ministry Working Group. Her current research project is “Mapping Buddhist Chaplains in North America,” in collaboration with Harvard Divinity School, Brandies University, and others.

She teaches at the Harvard Divinity School.


Reading Sanford's Kalyanamitra: A Model for Buddhist Spiritual Care is like reading an ancestor's dream for their descendants.  Those who have been writing about Buddhist spiritual care for the past few decades will be impressed by how Sanford integrates those writings. Those who geek out on Buddhism will appreciate Sanford's use of scripture, interpretation, and research methodologies.  Early professional Buddhist chaplains will rejoice at how Kalyanamitra reveals what we do and how we do it.  For practicing Buddhists who have felt the vocation of spiritual care without all the fancy academic jargon, this book, which has that jargon, academically validates what you have felt in your heart-mind.  This is a must-read textbook!

Pamela Ayo Yetunde, J.D., Th.D.
Co-Founder, Center of the Heart
Buddhist-Christian Dialogue, U.S. Law, and Womanist Theology
for Transgender Spiritual Care (Palgrave Macmillan, 2020)


An invaluable, inspiring, and groundbreaking guide to the emerging field of Buddhist chaplaincy and spiritual care, Kalyanamitra: A Model for Buddhist Spiritual Care, provides us with a map, a way, a path to follow as we respond to the world in need. Rich, nuanced, and deeply rooted in Buddhist teachings, I will return to this book again and again.

Daijaku Kinst PhD
Noboru and Yaeko Hanyu Professor of Buddhist Chaplaincy
Director, Buddhist Chaplaincy Program
Director, Certificate in Soto Zen Studies
Institute of Buddhist Studies
Core Doctoral Faculty
Graduate Theological Union
Sanford's fresh and clarifying voice offers the profession of chaplaincy two gifts: first, a warm, wise, and accessible overview of chaplaincy in general and second, a comprehensive theory of Buddhist spiritual care in particular. No one interested in Buddhist chaplaincy can afford to ignore this groundbreaking text. It makes new and explicit links between Buddhist traditions, the caring practices of thirteen Buddhist chaplains in a variety of clinical settings, and existing spiritual care literature. Sanford rightly places spiritual and theological reflection at the center of chaplaincy, writing in ways that illustrate, evoke, and cultivate the personal qualities needed for the work of spiritual care. Each chapter includes abundant reflection questions appropriate for the formation of effective chaplains across spiritual-religious traditions. Non-sectarian, readable, and learned, this book promises to enrich conversations, shape training programs, clarify fuzzy concepts, and expand how we perceive spiritual care. Highly recommended.
Duane Bidwell
Professor of Practical Theology, Spiritual Care, and Counseling
Accreditation Liaison Officer
Claremont School of Theology at Willamette University


Rev. Dr. Sanford openly states in her introduction that "This book is intended for those considering a career in Buddhist chaplaincy...It is precisely this kind of work that I hungered for and did not find in my own training as a Buddhist chaplain, which began in 2010, before a single book on the topic had been published." I certainly agree that this would have been a fantastic volume for me to have in my own chaplaincy studies, and I think this should be a foundational text for any beginning Buddhist chaplaincy student or someone contemplating whether they'd like to enter the field. This volume includes key basic information about the history and background of different types of Buddhist chaplaincy fields available in North America and critical theoretical background through which Buddhists can approach the field. It also provides reflection questions for burgeoning chaplains to consider to help themselves develop their own spiritual formation as a Buddhist chaplain. However, I also think the audience could be far broader. Already established Buddhist chaplains may find the contents a valuable reflection of resources and theory for the field. Moreover, chaplains from other traditions hoping to learn more about Buddhism can gain insight into how Buddhists approach the subject. This is a deeply needed text for our times which is sure to be referenced for years to come.
Nathan Jishin Michon
Co-editor, A Thousand Hands: A Guide to Caring for Your Buddhist Community


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