Location: Woljeongsa, South Korea
Dates: July 1st to July 28th, 2024
Applications for the 2024 Summer Humanistic Buddhist Monastic Life Program will open in December 2023, with limited space available.
We will consider applications on a rolling basis. Please submit your application early for the best chance
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 Chan 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, etc.
Cultural workshops with experienced artists. In previous years we have offered workshops in classical music, tea ceremony, kongfu, 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. Please see here for more details about the tour this year in Taiwan, as well as sites for practice.
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:
5:30 AM Wake-up Call
6:00 - 6:50 AM Tai-chi/ Morning Meditation
7:00 - 8:00 AM Breakfast
8:00 - 11:00 AM Classes: Buddhist Doctrine and Thought
11:30 - 12:30 PM Lunch and Walking Meditation
12:30 - 2:00 PM Break
2:00 - 3:00 PM Meditation
3:00 - 5:30 PM Workshop/ Cultural Classes/ Community Service
6:00 - 6:30 PM Medicine Meal (Dinner)
7:30 - 9:00 PM Dharma Talk/ Group Discussion
9:00 - 9:30 PM Evening Service (Vespers)
10:00 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.
There is a $10 (USD) application fee.
Thanks to the generosity of our donors, every accepted student will receive a scholarship that covers room & board, tuition, transportation, and admission 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.
There is an additional $250 (USD) supplies fee. This will be applied towards the costs of two sets of uniforms, a robe, a bag, and a set of monastic eating bowls, all of which students will take home after the program.
Participants are also responsible for any travel expenses to and from the program (i.e., flight, visa, etc.).
For currently enrolled college students, a waiver is available for the application ($10) and administrative ($250) fees, totaling $260 waived. 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. In such a case, the applicant will be responsible for bringing their own robes and will not receive the Woodenfish uniform. A set of bowls will be supplied as an offering.
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 email@example.com 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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 email@example.com.
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 Taiwan his or her home country. We are unable to provide letters for visa purposes. Please note that since the Covid pandemic, residents of some countries are currently banned from travelling to Taiwan (this currently includes all PRC passport holders). Please verify the current status of your home country before applying.
All meals served in the monastery are vegetarian. Meat and fish products are strictly prohibited on the monastery grounds. Meals cannot be adjusted for those with food allergies or special dietary needs. Note that wheat and other gluten-based products and peanuts are staples in most monasteries.
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 (nicotine patches/gum are allowed)
The temple venue is a monastery housing monks and nuns; participants are expected to act appropriately and modestly in this environment.
Participants are not required to shave their heads nor wear monastic robes as other monastics-in-training. Men will have to option of shaving their heads. Women may get the same option, depending on how conservative the specific monastery is.
Participants are responsible for bringing personal care products, and appropriate and modest summer clothing.
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, with no communication during the Silent Retreat.
This program is scholarly and anthropological in nature, and all applicants are welcome, regardless of personal culture 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. However, it is an immersive program. 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, etc.
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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.