Location: Woljeongsa, South Korea
Dates: July 1st to July 28th, 2024
Applications for the 2024 Summer Humanistic Buddhist Monastic Life
We will consider applications until March 31st. Please submit your application early for the best chance of acceptance.
Program Overview and Objectives
The objective of the program is to promote the understanding of Buddhism by exposing participants to the daily life, practice, and theory of Buddhism within a traditional Buddhist monastic setting.
The Woodenfish HBMLP provides international participants with a first-hand experience of the lifestyle, training, and rituals of contemporary Buddhist monastics. Moreover, it includes academic lectures and discussions in order to provide the participants with historical and doctrinal background for understanding the Buddhist experience.
The primary goals of the program include:
Offering participants a chance to personally experience Buddhism as it is practiced in modern-day Asia.
Providing courses on Buddhism and Asian culture taught by Buddhist monastics and lay scholars.
Introducing participants to the concepts and practices of Humanistic Buddhism.
Experiencing and reflecting on Buddhist monastic discipline and traditions.
Exposing participants to Asian culture and language.
Cultivation of the mind through meditation.
Training in Buddhist monastic customs and practices such as sitting meditation, ethics, and liturgy.
Introductory courses in various aspects of Buddhism, such as history, philosophy, etiquette, rituals, Humanistic Buddhism, Korean Buddhism, etc.
Cultural workshops with experienced artists. In previous years we have offered workshops in classical music, tea ceremony, kungfu, taiji, calligraphy, and other traditional arts.
Communal activities and chances to interact with monastics and lay people in the monastery.
Daily participation in essential routine activities within a Buddhist monastery.
A five to seven-day silent meditation retreat.
A cultural tour of the surrounding countryside and important historical sites. Cultural tour will be from July 26th-28th visiting Andong Confucian village and Seoul.
All activities will be conducted in English.
The details of the program are due to change to better
accommodate the needs of the participants and better fulfill
the program objectives. The content described here is based
on previous years’ programs and is not meant as a detailed
description of the 2024 program.
The HBMLP is divided into three main segments:
Segment I (2-3 weeks) –
Orientation, Monastic Lifestyle & Classes
This part of the program begins with an orientation to 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 similar disciplinary expectations as the monks and nuns of the monastery.
Morning classes cover a wide range of Buddhist subjects. These classes discuss both early Buddhism and Asian Buddhism as well as modern Humanistic Buddhism. History and doctrine will be the main focus. The classes will provide an overview as well as in-depth study. The classes are meant to provide participants with opportunities to ask questions and initiate discussions. The morning classes will have an academic focus and will be taught by academics.
Afternoon sessions focus on applied Buddhism and traditional culture, such as calligraphy, tea ceremony, or various musical instruments. Some afternoons will also feature additional meditation instructions and practices, and /or community service such as cleaning, cooking, dining hall service and so on.
In the evenings, group discussion will be held or senior monastics will give talks on their areas of expertise.
There will be half-day or whole day breaks where participants can rest.
An example of a typical day:
4:30 AM Wake-up Call
5:00 - 6:20 AM Movement Class/Morning Meditation
6:30 - 7:00 AM Breakfast
7:30 - 10:30 AM Academic Class
11:00 - 11:30 PM Lunch
11:30 - 1:00 PM Personal Time
1:00 - 2:00 PM Meditation
2:00 - 3:30 PM Workshop/ Cultural Classes/ Community Service
5:00 - 5:30 PM Medicine Meal (Dinner)
6:00 - 7:00 PM Dharma Talk/ Group Discussion
7:15 - 8:00 PM Evening Service (Vespers)
8:00 - 9:00 PM Personal Time
9:00 PM Lights Out
Segment II (5-7 days) –
Chan Silent Meditation Retreat
With the basic monastic etiquette and lifestyle
in hand, the students will now be prepared to
enter the Day Chan Meditation Retreat. The
retreat will be led by monastics and other
meditation specialists. It is held in complete
silence, and involves alternating sessions of
sitting, walking and standing meditation. The
culmination of the retreat is a "three steps, one
prostration pilgrimage" in the vicinity of the monastery.
The discipline will be somewhat more demanding, but the
students will by this time be familiar with the routine and
mentally ready for more intensive meditation. The retreat
will be supervised by experienced staff.
Segment III –
Cultural Tour to the Buddhist Sacred Site
This segment includes visits to temples and other important sights. Some of it will be conducted in a group, some will be free time. Minor expenses for entrance and food might occur. Details about the culture tour will be provided on a later date.
Room and board at the temple 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. Due to the intensive nature of the program, dependents (spouses, children, and/or partners) will not be able to accompany participants.
Room and board are generously sponsored by the donors and members of the host temple. Students will live in dormitories or shared rooms 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. Due to the intensive nature of the program, dependents (spouses, children, and/or partners) will not be able to accompany participants.
There is a $10 (USD) application fee, non-refundable.
Thanks to the generosity of our donors, every accepted student will receive a scholarship that covers room & board, tuition, transportation, and some fees during cultural tours. (estimated value $7000)
There is a $250 (USD) administration fee. This fee also helps subsidize the cost of our volunteer staffers' airfare and stipends. To be paid after acceptance to the program.
There is an additional $250 (USD) supplies fee. This will be applied towards the costs of two sets of individually tailored uniforms (these can be taken home) as well as the use of other personal items. To be paid after acceptance to the program.
Participants are also responsible for any travel expenses to and from the program (i.e., flight, visa, etc.) as well as personal expenses during the cultural tour.
There is a $200 participation deposit to be given in cash upon arrival day at the temple. This will be returned to participants on the evening of 7/25 (end of silent retreat/beginning of cultural tour). If participants leave early from the program this will not be refunded.
For currently enrolled college students, a waiver is available for the administrative ($250) fee. Students interested in receiving this waiver will first need to submit a current academic transcript along with their application materials. More information regarding how to submit these materials is available on the application form.
For ordained Buddhist monastics, an additional waiver is available for the supplies fee ($250) and administrative ($250) fee. In such a case, the applicant will be responsible for bringing their robes and will not receive the Woodenfish uniform.
Refunds & Cancelation
Request for refunds due to cancelation must be submitted before May 31st as uniforms and accommodations are individually prepared.
College Credit (Optional)
Whittier College (Los Angeles, California) will cross-list the Humanistic Buddhist Monastic Life Program in its course offerings. The undergraduate level course is called Phil 307 Chinese Buddhism: Philosophy and Practice and will give 3.0 credits. Participants are able to enroll in this course and upon completion of the program, can transfer the credits from Whittier College to the academic institution they attend. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org for information on application procedures and fees.
Application content and submission
A complete application consists of the following:
Statement of Purpose: Explain your qualifications and motivation for participation in the program, and list the benefits the program will provide to your personal, religious and academic development. This is an important part of the application and we ask the applicant to spend some time on this. Successful statements are generally 300 - 500 words. The statement will be submitted in the application form.
Undergraduate and/or graduate transcript(s). If an official transcript cannot be easily obtained an unofficial transcript is acceptable. If you graduated more than 8 years ago, this is not needed. The transcript should be sent to email@example.com.
A short recommendation email from your advisor, professor, employer, colleague, or a Woodenfish alumni will also benefit your chances of admission, however, it is not required. This should be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
For PRC (China) passport holders, it is not currently possible to visit Taiwan (ROC) as of April 20th, 2023.
Eligibility and Selection
We accept applications from people regardless of religious background, race, or country of origin. 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, we encourage anyone with an interest in Buddhist practices to apply. Most of our participants are between 18 and 40 years of age. With special admission for those who are over 40 if you have some form of meditation experience/practice and healthy to deal with intensive daily activities during HBMLP.
Applications will be reviewed by a panel of monastics and staff members. In the committee's evaluation, emphasis will be placed on personal motivation and how the experience with the program can benefit your future goals, both professional and personal.
The Woodenfish Foundation is not responsible for securing visas for participants, and each participant should confirm specific requirements for traveling to South Korea from their home country. We are unable to provide letters for visa purposes. The host temple may provide a letter on a case-by-case basis and at their discretion if given ample time- please request this in a separate email to HBMLP. Please note that since the Covid pandemic, residents of some countries are currently banned from traveling to South Korea (this currently includes all PRC passport holders). Please verify the current status of your home country, visa eligibility, and passport validity before applying.
All meals served in the monastery are Buddhist vegetarian and may be predominantly Buddhist vegan. This means the exclusion of alliums such as garlic, onion, leeks, and scallions. Some temples also may avoid ‘strong flavor’ such as chili in their cooking. Meat, fish, and alcohol products are strictly prohibited on the monastery grounds. While food is cooked with care and attention to health and flavor - cooking style and flavors may be different from what you are used to and require flexibility.
Meals cannot always be adjusted for those with food allergies or special dietary needs. While labeling of certain allergens might be possible we cannot ensure consistency. Wheat and other gluten-based products, soy, and peanuts are staples in most monasteries.
The life of monastics (and those in training) is marked by simplicity, acceptance, modesty, and an awareness of interdependence. It is not always easy or slow but the results can be rewarding as we learn to relate to ourselves and others more mindfully in a communal setting. Monastic discipline is a structure designed to help us self-reflect. When attachment and aversion arise we have an opportunity to investigate those emotions from the perspective of the teachings as individuals with a group impact.
Participants are required to observe the Five Precepts (basic lay Buddhist ethics) while on the monastery grounds.
Do not kill
Do not steal
Do not lie
Do not engage in sexual or romantic conduct
Do not consume intoxicants (alcohol, recreational drugs, cigarettes, etc. Nicotine patches are allowed.)
The temple venue is a religious monastery housing monks and nuns; participants are guests in the monastics’ home. Be expected to act and speak appropriately and modestly at all times in this environment. We expect you to not understand all manners, cultural norms, and etiquette- mistakes and cultural faux pas will often be made and feedback will be kindly given for our collective learning.
Participants are not required to shave their heads nor wear monastic robes as usually expected of monastics-in-training programs. Participants will have the option of shaving their heads after one week, depending on how conservative the monastery is on this matter regarding lay people.
Monastic life is structured: routines and schedules. At times, this might seem senseless and annoying personally or excessively rigid. They may also change abruptly. It might be reassuring and freeing. All activities are done as a group, with personal accountability to the schedule. This means showing up in advance, being mentally/physically prepared, lining up, standing in formation, waiting silently, for meals and classes. Monastics in training act as ‘one body’. What one person does can impact the entire group. This experience aims to promote personal responsibility and awareness of the impact of one’s actions, continued mindfulness of one’s motivations and mental states, as well as autonomy in practice. This training acts as a mirror of the mind and gives us chances to practice and refine ourselves.
Privacy is limited. You will be with other participants for nearly 24 hours each day every day. There are no full ‘days off’ or ‘free days’. There is personal time that can be used to nap, read, chat, go for walks, shower, clean, etc. There are more loose and fun outdoor and classroom activities. Sleeping arrangements are modest and dormitory style. Expect to wake up together, study together, eat together, practice together, and go to sleep at the same time.
Participants are responsible for bringing their personal care products, and appropriate and modest summer clothing (non-revealing and muted color clothing) for arrival to/departure from the monastery and any excursions where uniforms would not be worn but with the presence of monastics or the program. There is ample time during the day for personal hygiene. As we live in close quarters regular bathing, washing, etc. is expected. Please bring and use unscented personal products.
Participants are also asked to limit their use of technology as much as possible: this includes iPods, laptops, cell phones, etc. Communication with friends and family at home should also be kept at a minimum and in appropriate areas where other participants and monastery hosts will not be disturbed. There is no communication/technology use during the Silent Retreat. If there is an emergency access is of course available.
Academic/Religious Nature of the Program
This program is primarily scholarly and anthropological in nature, and all applicants are welcome, regardless of cultural/academic background or religious beliefs. (In fact, we frequently have students who are devout Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Atheist, etc.) This is not intended to be a "conversion" program, lead you to become Buddhists, monastics, or promote any teacher/denomination. However, it is an immersive program in Buddhist religious culture- which is notably focused on praxis.
Out of respect for our monastic hosts, please be aware that participants are expected to fully participate in all activities, including chanting, bowing, prostrations during the pilgrimage, attending dharma talks, observing etiquette, etc. None of these activities will “convert” you, come with lifelong obligations, come with expectations of renouncing your faith/culture/personal beliefs, or turn you into a monastic. Further religious commitments in Buddhism are always voluntary and should be individually requested. The program lasts one month and aims to allow you to temporarily “take on” what it might feel like to be a monastic while doing an intensive study of Buddhism in theory and practice.
Staff are always available to help you navigate the experience and contextualize the practices and cultural differences. Not all staff are Buddhist and some come from different Buddhist or religious or non-religious backgrounds. We encourage you to ask your questions during Q&A time, reflect, and question what you don’t understand while embracing that the program will unfold over a month and you aren’t expected to “get everything” on day one. When you return home you’ll have an authentic experience of lived Buddhist monastic practice and study to reflect on.
Lectures and lecture styles will be varied. Completing the recommended reading before the program will help you get the most out of the lectures. Some may be more elementary or advanced and we try to keep in mind the backgrounds of the students. While there is no grading or tests, we do hope you participate and engage in the classes as this will enrich the experience for everyone.
Cultural classes and events are also varied and may range from arts to local history, to guests sharing life experiences, hands-on skills, town hall meetings, tea meditations, open Q&A, talks on classic texts (sutras), etc. We try to keep this portion as diverse as possible.
It is impossible to cover the whole experience of the program but hopefully, this is enough to allow you to self-select if this program is appropriate for you at this time.
For more information on Woodenfish and any questions or concerns not covered in our FAQ, please contact us at email@example.com.
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Founder of HBMLP
Venerable Dr. Yifa, PhD is a Taiwanese Buddhist nun, scholar, and writer. Ordained in 1979, Yifa holds a law degree from the Taiwan National University, a Master's in Comparative Philosophy from the University of Hawaii and a doctorate in religious studies from Yale University. She has been the Dean at Fo Guang Shan Buddhist seminary to provide the education and training to monastics and served as a department head and dean of University of the West in Los Angeles during her tenure at the college. Besides these long term services, Yifa has been a lecturer at Boston University, a faculty member at National Sun Yat-Sen University in Taiwan and taught at McGill University as the Numata visiting professor in the spring of 2005.
Venerable Yifa’s main area research is on Buddhist monasticism and she is the author of The Origins of Buddhist Monastic Codes in China, published by Hawaii University Press in 2002.
Yifa has also been involved in translating sutras from Mandarin to English. Since 2006, she and others have published translations of the Heart Sutra, Diamond Sutra, Ksitigarbha Sutra, Amitabha Sutra and more. Yifa also wrote the works dealing with social issues Safeguarding the Heart—a Buddhist Response to Suffering and September 11 in 2002; reprinted as The Tender Heart in 2007; Authenticity— Cleaning the Junk: A Buddhist Perspective in 2007; Discernment—Educating the Mind and Spirit in 2009. She is also co-author of Benedict’s Dharma: Buddhists Reflect on the Rule of Saint Benedict (2001), by Riverhead, NY; a contributor to the books The Gethsemani Encounter, The Buddha’s Apprentices, and Women Practicing Buddhism: American Experience, the latter edited by Peter Gregory and Susanne Mrozik.
Yifa has participated in many interfaith dialogues such as the Gethsemani Encounter, and contributed to the UNICEF South Asia's Safe Motherhood Project. She has been granted numerous awards including “the Ten Outstanding Young Persons” in Taiwan in 1997, “Outstanding Women in Buddhism Award” in 2002 bestowed by the UN in Bangkok, and 9th annual “Juliet Hollister Award” in 2006 which was granted at the United Nations New York Headquarters, for her contribution to World Peace and Interfaith Education.
Venerable Yifa now is an independent scholar. In 2002, she established the Woodenfish Project to conduct the “Humanistic Buddhist Monastic Life Program” for college students to experience life in monasteries, as well as “Buddhism in China—Buddhist Seminars in Sacred Sites” for scholars and graduate students. In recent years, the Woodenfish Project has developed more programs between Asia and the West, such as “Buddhism Science and Future” to bring dialogue between scientists, scholars, and practitioners, “World CitiZen” to educate teenagers. The Woodenfish recently co-organizes a new project on Buddhist Voice on Climate Crisis with Buddhadoor and Sumeru Publication in 2022 and works with Amitofo Care Center on a field trip study on “Humanistic Buddhism in Africa” in coming summer of 2023.
The Woodenfish Foundation, served as Woodenfish Project branch in American, has received the special consultative status for Economic and Social Council at United Nations in 2016, then be able to create programs like “United Nations Internship” for Youth leadership and “UN Women conference participation” for women’s voice.
Venerable Yifa is currently affiliated with Asia Center at Harvard University as Associate Visiting Scholar to seek more collaboration with academic worlds to create education and training projects for Buddhist leaders.