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Why do I need a Bhakt Shastri certificate in order to enroll in Karuna Care Education?

Karuna Care Education is a Practical Theology program aimed at helping you integrate the essential values and precepts of Vaishnava philosophy into your ministry as a compassionate care provider. Having a solid understanding of the Vaishnava philosophy is foundational to learning the art and science of practicing it in diverse contexts.

May I enroll in the Karuna Care Education program without volunteering at a site where I can practice my caregiving skills, such as a hospital, hospice, prison, or other such place?

No. Because the main focus of Karuna Care Education is to allow you to integrate your study of compassionate caregiving skills into real-time encounters with suffering people, you will not be able to meet the expectations of the program without the ongoing practicum experience.

If I withdraw from the Karuna Care Education program, will I receive a full refund of my tuition?

We hope all students who are accepted will complete the full 12-week course, even though it may be difficult some days. Please see Karuna Care Education’s refund policy under “Fees.”

What exactly does the Karuna Care Education enable me to do once I’m certified?

The Karuna Care Education certificate qualifies you to apply for an Endorsement Certificate from the ISKCON Communications. Most institutions require a religious minister to submit an Endorsement Letter from their Religious organization demonstrating they are an exemplary member of their congregation before allowing them to volunteer or be hired to as a pastoral care provider within their institution. In North America, most Christian (Catholic and Protestant), and Jewish clergy persons are required to take two semesters of pastoral care training as part of their Masters of Divinity degree. Karuna Care Education provides a small part of an equivalency certificate they will need should they desire to pursue credentialing as a Board Certified Professional Chaplain with the Association of Professional Chaplains (www.professionalchaplains.org).
Karuna Care Education also prepares second-initiated Vaishnavas to provide care and counseling to ISKCON congregational members experiencing life challenges, e.g., terminal illness, the death of a loved one, grief; interpersonal and intrapersonal conflicts; crisis; and a variety of losses, etc. Karuna Care Counselors will serve the members of ISKCON communities as assistants to their local temple President and GBC.

Is the Karuna Care Education certificate recognized as a professional Counseling degree?

No. The Karuna Care Education certificate is evidence that a person has acquired basic pastoral caregiving skills that will enable them to offer a compassionate listening presence to those experiencing crisis. In order for a person to be recognized as a “professional” chaplain or counselor, they will need to take additional education, certification and licensing at a credible academic institution. This will include taking one to four units of Clinical Pastoral Education (www.acpe.edu).

Will a Karuna Care Education certificate enable me to get a job in counseling, or is it mostly for volunteer work?

That will depend on each particular institution. Being an ordained clergy person who is endorsed by their religious organization to provide pastoral care outside its institution are sometimes hired by an institution to minister to a particular religious or ethnic population or to be an interfaith minister there. Increasingly, institutions e.g., hospitals, require an ordained clergyperson to have taken between one and four Units of Clinical Pastoral Education and a Masters of Divinity degree before they will hire them. Still, many institutions will hire an ordained clergy persons to provide pastoral care and raise salary after they become board certified.

Will the Karuna Care Education certificate be counted as academic credit by the national Association of Professional Chaplains in North America?

Yes. Karuna Care Education provides three graduate level academic hours (300 clock hours) towards Master of Divinity equivalent degree for Vaishnavas. In order to be Board Certified by the national Association for Professional Chaplains, a candidate is required to have 72 academic credit hours (7200 clock hours) of graduate level theological education. The Association of Professional Chaplains will accept up to 48 academic hours (4800 clock hours) of ISKCON Vaishnava in-house education completed through any ISKCON workshops, classes, seminars, trainings taught by ISKCON gurus, teachers and leaders, etc., provided they receive from their instructors a certificate or letter of completion that indicates the course’s clock hours, instructor’s name, topic, date, location and its relevance to an ordained pastor’s ministry (theology, deity worship, initiation, scripture study, public relations, congregational development, religious history, organizational management, etc). This may include Bhakti Shastri, Bhakti Vaibhava, Grhastha Vision Team workshops, ISKCON Communications workshops, and courses provided by VIHE, Oxford University online Hindu Studies program, Radhadesh courses, Hindu University courses etc. ISKCON Vaishnavas will compile a portfolio of all their in-house ISKCON education and supplement it with courses outside ISKCON on topics such as Comparative Religions, Ethics, etc., in order to fulfill the required 72 credit hours of education.

Will someone be there to support me after I graduate from the Karuna Care Education program?

Yes. The Director of Karuna Care Education program will be available for regular zoom conferencing sessions where alumni can inquire, discuss, debrief, and learn how to hone their competence as a Karuna Care Counselor. Karuna Care Education also plans to provide a yearly conference for Karuna Care students and alumni as continuing education for Karuna Care Counselors.

If I decide to continue on in this education, what might come next?

If I decide to continue on in this education, what might come next? Answer: Graduates from Karuna Care Education may seek employment or volunteer as a pastoral care provider in an institution that does not require them to be Board Certified or have formal Clinical Pastoral Education. Vaishnavas interested in becoming a Board Certified Professional Chaplain will need to either; 1) attend a recognized Theological Seminary and earn a graduate level theological degree, e.g., M.Div., or; 2) create a portfolio containing the Vaishnava M.Div equivalent that includes 48 credit hours (4800 clock hours) of Vaishnava education supplemented by 32 credit hours (3200 clock hours) of additional academic requirements from outside the ISKCON.
In addition to this education requirement, Vaishnavas who wish to become Board Certified by the Association of Professional Chaplains must complete four Units (semesters) of ACPE certified Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) (www.acpe.edu). Each unit of CPE takes 12-13 weeks to complete. Acquiring CPE education will make a person more credible and competitive in seeking viable employment as a pastoral care provider in select institutions.

Do I need a college degree to offer pastoral care ministry in a hospital, prison, hospice, etc?

Not necessarily. Most institutions require a person to have an ordination certificate and endorsement letter from their religious institution’s administration and a resume demonstrating they have some prior education and experience in pastoral care and counseling. Karuna Care Education certificate will demonstrate this prior education.

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