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The three lotuses : knowledge, ethics, and compassion as a framework for the education of Buddhist clergy in the West

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Scoville-Pope, Bryan




Doctor of Buddhist Ministry


Gauthier, Jitsujo
Sasaki, Hiroshi
Gabriel, Victor


This study provides a framework for the education and training of Western Buddhist clergy revolving around Knowledge, Ethics, and Compassion with a view to preparing clergy for effective Buddhist ministry in the Western world. These three foci of education are here called the Three Lotuses. In order to share resources, such as a central library, and to be inclusive of multiple Buddhist traditions, I am ultimately proposing not one seminary, but a collective of seminaries (loosely modeled on the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, CA) all utilizing this Three Lotuses model.

Knowledge includes knowledge of the Dharma, or teachings of the Buddha, with specific courses developed according to each individual tradition participating in the collective. Knowledge also includes ritual practices and meditation appropriate to each tradition. Without knowledge of the Dharma and the practices associated with one’s tradition, one cannot engage in any kind of truly Buddhist ministry. The second half of this chapter focuses on mundane areas of knowledge, such as psychology, law, building congregations, and fundraising. Without these practical areas of knowledge and skillsets, building and running Buddhist communities is made much more difficult and leaves the teacher and congregation vulnerable to confusion and mismanagement.

Chapter III focuses on ethics and begins by addressing both the traditional training and its limitations. These limitations have contributed to a number of scandals in various Buddhist communities revolving around sex and violence. This chapter relies on contributions from psychology to establish training and suggestions for policies for Buddhist communities in order to prevent or at least significantly reduce the chances of such problems from arising in the future. This chapter also explores forms of ethics, including literal, relational, and intrinsic ethics or the ethics of emptiness, the last of which may be unique to Buddhism. Other areas of ethics addressed in this chapter include the ethics of privilege and oppression and issues with various forms of violence.

Finally, Chapter IV focuses on compassion. The first half of the chapter explores the role of compassion in Buddhist traditions and the bodhisattva path and then the inner cultivation of compassion. Practices such as Tibetan tonglen and visualization of oneself as the bodhisattva of compassion, Korean visualization and ritual practices, and loving-kindness meditation from the Theravāda tradition which is similar to meditations on compassion are introduced as examples of the kinds of practices seminary students may participate in. The second half of the chapter explores compassionate action in the world. This section looks at engaged Buddhism through such organizations as the Tzu Chi Foundation in Taiwan, Sarvōdaya Śramadāna in Sri Lanka, Lotus Outreach International in Cambodia and India, and the Buddhist Peace Fellowship in the U.S. Clinical Pastoral Education is also explored as a model for students to engage in this training in a reflective manner that will help them further develop skills in counseling and spiritual leadership necessary for effective Buddhist ministry.

The concluding chapter also briefly explores the necessity of engaging in this training in a residential environment. This aspect of the training is supported by research on the outcomes of residential substance abuse treatment centers vs. non-residential programs and shows that residential programs are far better at helping individuals in their efforts to change behavior. Given that a large part of Buddhist monastic training revolves around moral restraint – retraining the mind in withdrawing from the objects of its attachment – the parallels are apparent.

Degree Granter

University of the West



Library Holding