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A buddhist approach to addressing suffering

The New York Zen Center (NYZC) collaborates with University of the West (UWest) in offering the Master of Arts in Buddhist Spiritual Care (MABSC), a 36-credit degree for individuals seeking a deeper understanding of how Buddhist philosophy, history, and teaching intersect with social and community engagement and are applicable to the contemporary world.

Program Details

The Master of Arts in Buddhist Spiritual Care (MABSC) is designed to nurture a Buddhist approach to addressing human suffering that can be applied in one’s professional and personal life to facilitate the healing of individuals and communities. The program also furthers the clinical practices of social workers, psychotherapists, spiritual directors, religious teachers, leaders, and practitioners and specializes in preparing participants for hands-on work in chaplaincy in diverse, interfaith settings, such as hospitals, hospices, police departments, prisons, universities, and the military. 


Students who graduate with an MABSC degree will be able to:


  • Demonstrate an understanding of theory and praxis of Buddhist spiritual formation.
  • Analyze how different expressions of Buddhist tenets and texts interact with theories and practices of Buddhist Spiritual Care and Counseling skills.
  • Apply history as well as the teachings and tenets of Humanistic/Engaged Buddhism to reflection on contemporary life.
  • Demonstrate skills necessary to integrate Buddhist sacred texts, frameworks, and ethics into a Humanistic/Engaged Buddhist work.


The program welcomes Buddhists from every branch of Buddhism as well as those of other religious denominations (not all students identify as Buddhist or only Buddhist). Students are encouraged to engage in spiritual reflection and formation from within their own faith tradition and to share those reflections with their peers. In addition, students learn about other faiths, to be of service to a wide variety of people in need.

Students may choose to complete the degree online or in-person, with the exception of the required five-day residential Foundations in Contemplative Care graduation retreat. If intending to complete the MABSC degree via distance learning, NYZC’s course transfer credits must be applied to specific courses in the MABSC degree. See Curriculum Design for details. 

The MABSC program is designed to be completed in two years on a full-time basis. Although students can extend their time to graduation if a part-time engagement is needed, courses are designed to be taken in a prescribed sequence.


Twelve (12) credits are completed through the New York Zen Center (NYZC). Students begin the first year of the program with the nine-month required course, Foundations in Contemplative Care (6 credit hours), offered in September each year on a hybrid platform with required 100 clinical hours and an in person 5-day retreat in May in New York. 


Students elect two additional courses (3 credit hours each) from NYZC’s Soto Zen Buddhist Studies offerings. Eligible courses include Zen Precepts Study, any Mahayana Sutra classes, Zen Texts, and Zen History. Learn more about these courses here. 


Twenty-four (24) credit hours are completed through UWest. Please review the UWest MABSC Catalog for the course outline ( 


If choosing to complete the degree online, NYZC credits must be substituted as follows: 

  • Foundations in Contemplative Care fulfills UWest MDIV510 Communication Skills for Chaplaincy and MDIV645 Spiritual Care & Counseling
  • Soto Zen Buddhist Studies first course fulfills UWest REL636 Buddhist Texts in Translation or REL645 Regional Buddhist Traditions
  • Soto Zen Buddhist Studies second course fulfills UWest REL641 Topics in Buddhist Studies or MDIV670 Spiritual Leadership or BMIN620 Engaged Compassion


It is the student’s responsibility to plan out their course of study. NYZC’s staff and UWest‘s academic advisor are available for support.

Graduates of NYZC’s Foundations in Contemplative Care program are eligible for streamlined admission to UWest’s Master of Arts in Buddhist Spiritual Care (MABSC). Full application process is required for all others.  


Learn more & apply to Foundations »


Streamlined admission and application for MABSC includes: 


  • The undergraduate gpa requirement is waived for NYZC Foundations graduates for admission to the MABSC. General applicants to the MABSC program are required to have earned a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university, or an equivalent degree issued by a recognized international institution with a cumulative gpa of 3.00 or higher. 
  • NYZC Foundations graduates submit only two official transcripts: NYZC’s transcript showing completion of the NYZC Foundations in Contemplative Care Program, and the transcript from the institution that awarded their bachelor’s degree. Additional transcripts may be submitted, but are not required for admission to the program. General applicants are required to submit official transcripts from all colleges and universities previously attended. 
  • The Application Statement of Purpose is waived for NYZC Foundations graduates. When filling out the application, NYZC Foundations graduates may type “New York Zen Center for Contemplative Care Chaplaincy Training Program Student” in the field used to type the statement of purpose. 
  • Applicants who are NYZC Foundations graduates submit only the NYZC recommendation; additional recommendations are waived. General applicants are asked for three recommendations. 
  • The Application Interview is waived for NYZC Foundations graduates. Application to UWest’s MABSC program is completed online through UWest.

Take the first step

Applying to Foundations in Contemplative Care, a nine-month transformational training for integrating spiritual practice with care, is the first step. Each cohort starts in September and the 2024–2025 application period is now open. Learn more about Foundations below or contact us to speak with an NYZC staff member who can assist you in planning your coursework.

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