Hindu Priest Studies

a2d3c09af03237fb8cf8674cb296a651Paurohitya/ Hindu Chaplaincy Program or Master’s of Hindu Priest Studies Program

Based on the input from several of the temples in the country, Hindu University has developed a Paurohitya Program with dual objectives of a) certification of Hindu Priests in North America; and b) offering a priest training program leading to a Master’s degree in Paurohitya.

Need for and expectations from Priests.  So far, the priestly needs for Hindu Temples and Hindu communities have been mostly met by bringing qualified priests from India. Some smaller communities meet their needs by someone learning on his/her own the required minimal set of purohitai and providing the services to the community. As more and more non-Hindus come in contact with Hindus, many like to know more about the Hindu way of life, and how the lofty philosophies (Tatva Darśhana) are integrated in the daily life through various rituals. A qualified priest should be able to help non-Hindus in this quest. As the interfaith dialogues increase, a qualified priest must be able to provide correct perspective of Hindu Darśhana and rituals to the people of other faiths.

In order to meet these requirements, priests must be able to converse with the Hindu children growing up in this country at the level, and in the language (lingo) they can understand, and fill the gap which parents may not be able to do. Purohitas must be able to go to a Church (and like institutions) and to schools and talk on the Hindu way of life in a manner the audience can understand. As always, they need to be well versed in Hindu scriptures– Key Upaniṣhads, Mahābhārat, Rāmayaṇa, Bhagavad Gītā, some popular Purāṇas, etc. They need to have a working knowledge of Sanskrit, and religious texts in original; to be well versed in the philosophic concepts, and their application in daily life through rituals at home, in the temples, during festivals, through Saṃskāras, etc. Hindu priests need to be well versed in the rituals of Temples, deities, traditions; in Saṃskāras (stages of pre- birth to post-death); in Yagna, Havan etc.; in Katha and Vyakhyaan of Ram ChaṚta Manas, Bhagavad Gītā, BhāgaVātam, Satya Narayan Katha and Bhajans. Also they need to have the ability to articulate in English and in one of the Indian Languages (Hindi, Gujarati or one of the Southern languages) – to Hindus, non Hindus and to children.

Development of a Priest Certification program is designed to set the standard for Hindu Priests Purohitai in North America. This activity involves development of a minimum criteria for awarding certification to those who already have some background and training from elsewhere; offering of classes for studies / training towards certification program; development of Master’s level Program for higher studies in Hindu Divinity; and working with various institutions in India as well as in North America to develop the program.

The Master’s program in Hindu Priest Studies is designed to include four groups of courses 1. Hindu Tradition Four courses (12 credits) Principles of Hinduism, Basic Hindu Scriptures, Basic Jyotish, Principles and Practices of Yoga Meditation; Sanskrit Two courses (6 credits); 3. General Three courses (9 credits) Public Speaking and Communication Skills; Spiritual Counseling (including social and psychological counseling); and Major World Religions (and community diversities); and 4. Rituals Four courses (12 credits) – Saṃskāras, Festivals and Pūjās; Rituals in different Sampradāyas; and Field Practice.

 Master’s Degree requirements

The Master’s degree in Hindu Priest Studies requires 38 credits. These credit courses in the program are divided in four groups

 Group A – Hindu Tradition

These courses are designed to provide a background of Hindu traditions needed to present the Hindu tradition in public and explain about the Hindu tradition, values and concepts to others.

    1. HUC 5001 Principles of Hinduism
    2. HIN 5001 Basic Hindu Scriptures
    3. JYO 5001 Basic Jyotiṣh
    4. YPM 5003 Yoga Philosophy & Meditation

 Group B – Sanskrit

These are designed to provide adequate Sanskrit language background needed to perform pūjā and Saṃskāras in clearly spoken Sanskrit with reasonably decent Sanskrit pronunciation; and to be able to relate the meaning of the verses to the original source materials and Sanskrit texts.

  1. HUC 5003 – Basic Sanskrit
  2. SAN 5002 – Sanskrit II

 Group C – General

Background needed for being the spokesperson of Hindu tradition, and to be able to perform basic counseling services. It includes

  1. Public Speaking and Communication Skills
  2. Spiritual Counseling (including social and psychological counseling, law of the land and the community)
  3. Major World Religions

 Group D – Rituals

To train individuals to perform pūjās and Saṃskāras, and explain the rituals and symbolism. The specialization areas here relate to the various requirements –such as temple worship (Āgama style); marriage; post life ceremonies; annual ceremonies – obsequies; festivities; special havans and rituals; Satyanārayaṇa pūjā; naming ceremony, and house warming ceremony. This group of courses includes

  1. Saṃskāras
  2. Festivals and Pūjās
  3. Rituals in different Sampradāyas
  4. Field Practice.

Enrollment in Paurohitya Program

Like other Master’s programs at HUA, admission requirements include a Bachelor’s degree with 6 credits of course work in Religion/Philosophy or related areas. However, this program is open to individuals who have obtained priest training in India, or elsewhere as a part of Hindu Sampradāyas. If they have a Bachelor’s degree, they are admitted to the Master’s degree program; otherwise they are admitted to Advanced Diploma in Hindu Divinity program. Depending upon the background of individuals, they may be accorded an advanced standing for some of the courses listed here, and need to complete only the remaining courses.

HUC 5001 Principles of Hinduism                                              3 credits

An overview of Hinduism – Perspectives of analysis and presentation in its name, meaning, characteristics; Hinduism source works – overview of basic Hindu scriptures; select reading from source scriptures like Veda’s, Upaniṣhads, Epics, Smṛiti’s , Bhagavad-Gītā, Purāṇas, Dharma-Śhāstras; life styles, profession and progression (Varṇa-Āśhrama Dharma, Jāti, Puruṣhārtha), rights and obligations (Dharma, Karma, Ṛiṇa, Pāpa, Puṇya, Svarga, Naraka), God, Demigods and incarnations (Avtāras); spirituality practices through four yoga paths Jñāna, Karma, Bhakti & Rāja; religious traditions inspired by Vedic practices – Buddhism, Jainism, Sikhism, subaltern religions; overview of major Hindu philosophical and faith traditions (six darśhanas, Āstika-Nāstika matas), Karma theory providing a vision beyond one unit of life-death cycle, one sacred book; concept of Yajña- Dāna-Tapas, Hindu scientific traditions, cultural and literary heritage.

HIN 5001 Basic Hindu Scriptures                                              3 credits

Categorization of basic Hindu scriptures by time line, gradation of primary and secondary authority, languages, authorship, highlighted tradition of philosophy, yoga, tantra and life style. Structure and material presentation in different basic scriptures diversity in the Veda, Upaniṣhads, sūtras, Gītā, epics, Smṛiti’s and Śhāstras. Traditions of faith and philosophy in relation to the basic scriptures readings of select textual portions from basic scriptures and linking it with the principles, practices, ethics and contemporary relevance in relation to specific issues like spirituality, religious identity, rituals, family norms, ethical values, health, profession, education and entertainment. Selections recommended from the following Veda’s   (Śhanti mantras, Puruṣha sūkta, Śrī sūkta, Bhāgya sūkta,hiraṇya garbha sūkta, devi sūkta, Rudra – Praśhṇa) Upaniṣhads (major Upaniṣhads and Yoga Upaniṣhads), Rāmayaṇa, Mahābhārata, Dharma sūtras, Gruhya sūtras, Vedāṇgas, Ayurveda, Yoga sūtras, Bhagavad Gītā, Dhammapada, Jaina sources, Adi granth, Tulsi Rāmayaṇa, BhāgaVāta, Manu smṛiti, commentaries by masters, prayers in Hindu traditions and worship.

JYO 5001 Basic Jyotiṣh                                                              2 credits

Traditional Hindu astrological topics such as History, theory and relevance of Vedic Astrology, value and purpose of Astrology, Astrology and Karma theory, Astrology and Psychology, the solar system, planetary motions, the north and the south nodes, comet, shadow planets, asterisms, ecliptic, eclipses, equator, longitude and latitude, sidereal and tropical zodiacs, the lunar, solar and luni- solar year, Almanac or the Vedic Pañchanga.

Astronomical terminology, time measures, making of charts, casting of horoscopes by modern and traditional methods, impact of the nine planets on human beings, determination, fixing of auspicious and important events, calculation of Praśhṇa chart and its general uses.

YPM 5003 Yoga Philosophy and Meditation                          3 credits

Understanding of Patañjali’s Yoga Darśhana; Yoga as psychology; suffering, and Yoga as release from suffering; tradition of meditation in India; theories of Puruṣha and Prakṛiti; three Guṇas; eight-fold path leading to Samādhi; relevance of Yoga for modern life.

 HUC 5003 Basic Sanskrit                                                             3 credits

Philosophy of Sanskrit language, order of alphabets, devanāgari character design, Śiva sūtras, Śhikṣhā-Śhāstra, voicing and scripting devanāgari Sanskrit, linguistically and culturally elegant reading, writing and apprehending of devanāgari Sanskrit script in transliteration and digital media.

History of Sanskrit language grammars, dictionaries and learning methods (traditional and modern), transliteration issues, diacritical marks, distinction between classical Sanskrit and Vedic Sanskrit; computers and Sanskrit (software, programming), modern linguistics and Sanskrit, importance and contemporary relevance of Sanskrit studies.

Basic grammar covering – nature of Sanskrit word, usage of English – Sanskrit dictionary, noun and verb conjugations, metrical structures in prayers/mantras (used in temples and for chanting), introduction to euphonic combinations (Sandhi- rules), introduction to some of the basic declensional patterns of nouns, pronouns, adjectives, numbers, including gender, number, case-endings, the conjugational patterns of verbs (present, past and aorist), indeclinable words, prefixes, suffixes, formation of feminine bases, compounds, active and passive participles, voices, word-order, simple sentence formation and translation from Sanskrit to English and vice versa, (all with exercises), select readings from good sayings (subhāṣhitas) and classical works (like Rāmayaṇa, Mahābhārata, Kālidāsa’s works, Pañchatantra), simple conversation in Sanskrit; daily prayers in Sanskrit; enactment of daily life situations using Sanskrit vocabulary by participants, amusement-learning games using Sanskrit, story building with pictures in Sanskrit; a program in Sanskrit designed, enacted and composed by participants at the end of the course (for intensives).

SAN 5001 Pāṇinian Sanskrit                                                     3 credits

This course provides an introduction to the technicalities of the Pāṇinian Sanskrit grammar and the teaching traditions of dictionaries. The course deliberates on the processing technicalities of the words in the Sanskrit language as per the rules of Pāṇinian grammar for refinement of communication. (Pre-requisite HUC 5003).

Group C

HDN 5001 Public Speaking and Communication Skills            3 credits

This course is meant to provide the necessary training and language skills related to public speaking and communication in English and the appropriate vocabulary to meet the needs of the priest as a cultural ambassador of Hinduism in diverse forms and at the practical ritual sessions.

HDN 5002 Spiritual Counseling                                                3 credits

This course includes social and psychological counseling, law of the land and the community. This is a specialized training for imparting the skills needed for the priests to function as spiritual counselors in the society and for meeting the specific needs of the individuals and families in special circumstances. The priest is trained to function as a first-call person in the matters of advice wherein the spiritual and religious issues are of significance in providing the needed comfort, care and solace.

HDN 5003 World Major Religions                                             3 credits

This course is designed to provide an acquaintance with the world major religions beyond Hinduism, their perspectives and practices. The historical, theological and practical perspectives of the major world religions such as Buddhism, Jainism, Christianity, Zoroastrianism, Judaism, and Islam for the purpose of comparison with Hindu traditions and comparative understanding are covered in this course.


HDN 5101 Saṃskāras                                                               3 credits

All the courses in this group are practical, tradition specific training under the guidance   of   the   qualified instructors   in traditional systems. The specific requirements of the training would be decided by the instructors depending upon the student’s abilities. The major Hindu saṃskāras as per the select traditions (Sampradāyas) are discussed in theory and practice.

HDN 5102 Festivals and Pūjās                                                  3 credits

The major Hindu festivals and pūjās as per the select traditions (Sampradāyas) discussed in theory and practice.

HDN 5103 Rituals in Different sects (Sampradāyas)              3 credits

Major Hindu Rituals in different traditions (Sampradāyas) as per the select specializations are discussed in depth of theory and practice to bring out the similarities and differences in various sects of Hindu traditions.

 HDN 5104 Field Practice                                                            3 credits

The field practice involves actual apprenticeship in an operating temple. The practice includes the major Hindu Saṃskāras, Festivals and Pūjās, Rituals in different traditions (Sampradāyas), in their aspects of practical observance in the contemporary society. This is an integration of the theory and the practical components of the entire course for societal application.

Summary of Requirements for Paurohitya Program for Coursework and Thesis Option


PAUROHITYA PROGRAM HU Master’s Degree (or Advanced Diploma)

Program (38 credits)

HU Core Courses HUC 5001
HUC 5003
Program Core Courses HIN 5001
HDN 5001
HDN 5002
HDN 5003
HDN 5101
HDN 5102
HDN 5103 Rituals in Different Sects
HDN 5104 Field Practice
YPM 5003
JYO 5001
SAN 5002
Electives Options Course-Work option N/A
Thesis option N/A

Hindu Chaplaincy Program