Home Humanistic Buddhist Monastic Life Program: Taiwan

Humanistic Buddhist Monastic Life Program: Taiwan

The 2012 Woodenfish Program

Humanistic Buddhist Monastic Life Program

-in conjunction with-

The 2012 International Youth Seminar on
Life and Ch'an

 Sponsored by Fo Guang Shan Monastery and Fo Guang University

 Click here to download the application


Program Duration

Dates: July 15 to August 12, 2012

Eligibility and Selection

Woodenfish: HBMLP accepts applications from students of any country and any academic major under the age of 40. Applicants from diverse academic disciplines and religious backgrounds are encouraged to apply. While a majority of participants are working toward an undergraduate or graduate degree, Woodenfish also encourages anyone involved in academic work or with an interest in Buddhism to apply. Applications will be reviewed by a panel of monastics, academics, and alumni of the program. Approximately 100 students will be offered admission to the 2012 program. The final application deadline is April 15th. Applications will be reviewed on a ROLLING BASIS, and decisions will be made within two to three weeks after the submission of one’s application. Since the selection is very competitive, applicants are highly encouraged to apply early to have a better opportunity for admission.

Program Location

The program will take place at Fo Guang Shan Monastery outside the city of Kaohsiung (Gaoxiong) in southern Taiwan. All participants will be provided lodging on the monastic grounds. All courses and activities will be conducted in English—or in Chinese with English translation provided.

Program Content

Woodenfish: HBMLP is designed to immerse Westerners in Buddhist monastic life, and give them a first-hand experience with Chinese Buddhism that would likely be unavailable to them in their home countries. This year Woodenfish will be held in conjunction with another annual program at Fo Guang Shan Monastery: The World Youth Summit on Cross-Cultural Education, which gathers together students from Taiwan, Hong Kong, and China—many of whom already have first-hand experience with Chinese Buddhism—for the purpose of discussion, practice, and self-cultivation.  By combining these two programs this year, Fo Guang Shan hopes to facilitate greater cross-cultural, interfaith dialogue and to provide more opportunities for students from various countries and different backgrounds to exchange their ideas, learn from one another, and develop lasting friendships.  This year’s Woodenfish Program is divided into three main segments:

Segment I (10 days) – Orientation, Monastic Lifestyle & Classes

This part of the program begins with an orientation to intensive immersion in the monastic lifestyle:  Group assembly; appropriate greetings to monastics, teachers and other monastic residents; shrine, meditation and dining hall etiquette; dormitory rules; and basic standards of Buddhist monastic ethics.  The students will be exposed to the same disciplinary expectations as the monks and nuns at the monastery.  The daily schedule which follows is based around morning meditation and evening chanting, along with the three formal meals in the main dining hall - for which instruction is provided.  

After this orientation, Segment I focuses on a range of classes.  Morning classes cover a wide range of Buddhist subjects. These classes follow the formation of Buddhist traditions, from early Indian and Mahāyāna, into classical Chinese Buddhism, culminating in modern Humanistic Buddhism.  These classes provide participants with opportunities to ask questions and begin discussions in an academic setting.  Afternoon sessions focus on introducing the different projects taking place within the Fo Guang Monastery, including the Canon Editorial Dept, the various art galleries and museums, media outreach, charitable activities in the community, secular and monastic educational institutions, hospice and funerary services, and so forth.  Some afternoons will also feature additional meditation instruction and practice, and / or community service such as gardening, cooking, dining hall service, and so on.  In the evenings, senior monastics will give talks in regards to their areas of expertise.  

An example of a typical day:

5:30 AM Wake-up Call
6:00 - 6:50 AM Morning Meditation and Tai-chi
7:00 - 8:00 AM Breakfast
8:00 - 11:00 AM Classes: Buddhist Doctrine and Thought
11:30 AM - 12:30 PM Lunch and Walking Meditation
1:30 - 3:30 PM Classes: Applied Humanistic Buddhism
3:30 - 5:30 PM Community Service / Meditation
6:00 - 6:30 PM Medicine Meal (Dinner)
7:30 - 9:00 PM Lecture / Q&A
9:00 - 9:30 PM Vespers
10:00 PM Lights Out

Download Detailed Schedule

Segment II (7 days) – Chan Meditation Retreat

With the basic monastic etiquette and lifestyle in hand, the students will now be prepared to enter the meditation hall for a Seven Day Chan Meditation Retreat.  The retreat will be led by monastics who are meditation specialists.  The retreat is held in silence, and involves alternating sessions of sitting, walking and standing meditation, and students shall stay in the meditation hall quarters.  The culmination of the retreat is a "three steps one prostration pilgrimage" through the monastery grounds.  

Segment III (5 days) – Cross-cultural Exchange

The focus of this segment of the program will be on fostering exchange between the participants of this program and students of the World Youth Summit on Cross-cultural Education. This Youth Summit brings together young people from countries including Taiwan, Mainland China, Hong Kong, the Phillipines, Malaysia and across the Asia-Pacific world, who have an interest in Buddhism.  The program for the Youth Summit consists of guest lectures on contemporary social issues such as politics and environmentalism, as well as a range of group discussions and activities.  

Segment IV (5 days) – Cultural Tour of Taiwan

Contrary to what many in the West believe, Taiwan is not just a land of factories and electronics stores.  Rather, it is a lush, tropical island home to the tallest mountains in East Asia, aquamarine seas, and some of the most important cultural and artistic treasures in the world.  The final part of the program, while still requiring all participants to maintain proper Buddhist etiquette, will provide an opportunity to travel around the island with guides and translators to visit many important tourist sites.  Accommodation will be provided by Fo Guang Shan branch temples across the island.  Potential stops include Taroko Gorge, Tainan, Sun Moon Lake, the National Palace Museum and other sites in Taipei, Fo Guang University in Yilan County, and Qingde Temple high in the mountains of central Taiwan.


Room and board at Fo Guang Shan Monastery will be provided free of charge to participants for the duration of the program.  Students will live in guest housing on the monastery grounds.  Most meals will be taken in the main dining hall with the assembly of monks and nuns, and students will be taught proper monastic dining etiquette.  During the cultural tour, participants will stay at Fo Guang Shan branch temples across the island of Taiwan. Due to the intensive nature of the program, dependents (spouses, children, and/or partners) will not be able to accompany participants.


Unfortunately, Fo Guang Shan is unable to provide participants of this year’s Woodenfish with a stipend to help offset travel costs and other expenditures. Students are encouraged to apply for scholarships and/ or grants from their home university as well as other foundations. Also, students may consider consulting their financial aid office about taking this program for undergraduate course credit through University of the West.


Participants in the Woodenfish: HBMLP program are responsible for securing their own transportation to and from Taiwan.

In addition, participants will be required to purchase two sets of uniforms which will be worn throughout the program. The cost for the uniforms is $150 (USD).

Shared rooms and all meals are included with the program.

College credit

Students may if they wish receive college credit for the program through the University of the West (Los Angeles). The undergraduate course will be REL 427 Chinese Buddhism: Philosophy and Practice for 3.0 credits and the fee for enrollment is $335 per credit. Participants are able to enroll in this course and upon completion of the program may be able to transfer the credits from the University of the West to the academic institution they attend. Enrollment in a credit course is not required to participate in this program. This option is provided for those participants who wish to also earn college credits for their time. Upon completion the student will receive a letter grade for the class. Please check with the academic institution/department you attend beforehand to see if it will accept the credits.

Additional Information

  • Fo Guang Shan is not responsible for securing visas for participants, and each participant should confirm specific requirements for his or her country.  
  • All meals served in the monastery are vegetarian. Meat products are strictly prohibited on the monastery grounds. Meals cannot be adjusted for those with food allergies or special dietary needs.
  • Alcohol, tobacco, and illegal drugs are strictly prohibited on the monastery grounds. Violation of these prohibitions may result in expulsion from the program.

  • Participants are expected to observe basic Buddhist etiquette while on the monastery grounds – i.e. the Five Precepts (No killing, No stealing, No lying, No sexual misconduct, No taking intoxicants).

  • Fo Guang Shan is an active monastery; participants are expected to act appropriately and modestly in this environment. Please be mindful of interactions with the opposite sex.

  • Participants are not required to shave heads or wear monastic robes as monastics-in-training.

  • Participants are expected to keep a clean appearance. Women are asked to keep hair tied back. Men who do not already have beards on arrival are asked to keep a clean shaven.

  • Participants are responsible for bringing personal care products, and appropriate and modest summer clothing. Insect repellent is recommended.

  • Participants are also asked to limit as much as possible their use of technology such as iPods, laptops, cellphones etc. A computer lab will be provided for participants to check email on a limited basis. We ask for participants to cherish three weeks without such distractions.

  • For more information about the program, consult the FAQ

Program Map

View Woodenfish HBMLP 2012 in a larger map


How to Apply

Please send completed application form, personal statement and transcript to This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it


For more information on Woodenfish, please contact us at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it


Program Background

Find out about the organization and people who make the various woodenfish programs possible.

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