Note: This Degree does not, nor is it intended to mean that the holder is qualified to apply for the job of a Religious Chaplain. ​If Chaplaincy is your goal, see our Chaplaincy Endorsement page.


The M.Div. in Buddhist Ministry is a professional degree open to anyone, usually with a wish to become a Five Mountain Zen Order Priest (Note: Monks are only accepted on a case by case basis). Students who are interested in sanction and ordination from Five Mountain Zen Order must also be accepted into Five Mountain Zen Order Ordination Path (see the section on Admissions for further information). Buddha Dharma University focuses on continually forging opportunities to experience a contemporary, in-depth and non-sectarian study of Buddhism, whilst also promoting the knowledge and understanding of the various word traditions, schools and cultures of Buddhism. Programs are therefore taught and mentored by scholars and masters from a variety of traditions, thus taking advantage of America’s unique diversity of Buddhist practice and presentation. Buddha Dharma University provides the opportunity to experience a profound, meaningful and rewarding path to Buddhist scholarship and awakening to your original nature.

Buddha Dharma University exists primarily to train priests and monks in fundamental Buddhist doctrine, traditional Zen liturgical practice and function, as well as educating priests in a broad spectrum of the essentials of pastoral care from both a priestly and administrative standpoint. As such, we are a Buddhist seminary with special emphasis on Zen training. This course of study aims to help Buddhist Ministers establish a clear direction for their ordained practice and outreach, whilst developing the knowledge and skill set to be successful in pursuing it. Successful completion of this course of study will prepare a Buddhist Minister for service in running his/her own local Buddhist center and/or outreach program.​


Attendance Number of Years Quarters / Year Classes / Quarter Units / Class Diploma/Degree Total Units Total Classes Total Cost
Buddhist Studies and Ministry
Full Time 3.0 4 3 3 Master of Divinity – Buddhist Ministry 108 36 $1,800.00
Buddhist Chaplaincy
Full Time 3.0 4 3 3 Master of Divinity – Buddhist Chaplaincy 108 36 $1,800.00
2/3 Time 4.5 4 2 3 Master of Divinity – Buddhist Chaplaincy 108 36 $1,800.00

The Buddhist monastic vows within Five Mountain Zen Order are intended for only a select very few individuals. They are both rigorous and demanding and they are also ultimately liberating. Because these vows ask much more of the person who is receiving them than do the Brahmajala Priest Precepts, they must be studied and clarified carefully by those who are called to them.

In greater detail, the five vows are:

  • Vow of simplicity – A vow of restraint, which means monastics are mindful of their actions, consumptions and lifestyle.
  • Vow of service – Following the guidance of seniors and teachers, monastics vow to give themselves freely.
  • Vow of stability – This vow requires that monastics have completed major life changes in order to give themselves wholeheartedly to their vows. (this does not preclude stable monogamous relationships, however parenting must be examined closely on a case by case basis).
  • Vow of selflessness – The realization and actualization of one’s life as the life of all beings, rather than a personal entity.
  • Vow to aspire to the Buddha way – To act as a model of the manifestation of the moral and ethical teachings of the Buddha, manifesting wisdom and compassion in all actions.
  • Vow to always represent yourself in the manner of a Bodhisattva – This means always wearing Monastic Clothing in all venues of your life, the reason for this is to make yourself available to all who see you while you are out in the public eye. Monks are expected to engage themselves in the world (Monastery Without Walls) 24 hours a day.

Full ordination entails a lifetime commitment to these vows. Monastic candidates need to personally embrace these vows, investigating their internal motivations and possible limitations within the guidelines that the vows provide.

Monks make the ultimate visible commitment to the teacher, the dharma and practices of the Mahasangha. This position signifies that they are a senior elder having fulfilled the additional requirements of passing the Advanced Seminary program for Monastics. Monks have the additional responsibility to perform some of the advance Buddhist ceremonies, and are encouraged to enter the service of the community in an interactive role.

To become a Monk, the applicant must have been actively practicing as a Novice Monk for at least twenty-four months, have graduated from the Seminary Program and taken and passed the Bodhisattva Monk certification test.

The first requirement is that Monks should dedicate all of their extra energy to helping the Zen community by volunteering in every capacity required there; and must have the approval of the Zen center’s Guiding Teacher.