Dates: July 1st to July 28th, 2020
Applications for the 2020 Summer Humanistic Buddhist Monastic Life Program are now open, 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 Chinese 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 Chinese Buddhist monastics. Moreover, it includes academic lectures and discussions in order to provide the participants with historical and doctrinal background for understanding the Chinese Buddhist experience.
The primary goals of the program include:
Offering participants a chance to personally experience Buddhism as it is practiced in modern day China.
Providing courses on Buddhism and Chinese 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 Chinese culture and language.
Cultivation of the mind through meditation.
Training in Ch'an monastic customs and practices such as sitting meditation, ethics, and liturgy.
Introductory courses in various aspects of Buddhism (Early Buddhism, Mahayana and Chinese Buddhism), such as history, philosophy, etiquette, rituals, Humanistic Buddhism, etc.
Cultural workshops with experienced Chinese artists. In previous years we have offered workshops in Chinese classical music, tea ceremony, kongfu, calligraphy, and other Chinese 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 to one of the five sacred Buddhist mountains in China.
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’ program and not meant as a detailed description of the 2020 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 Chinese 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 Chinese 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.
Every accepted student will receive a scholarship that covers room, board and other expenses during the program. Beyond this we ask that participants pay a fee for two sets of tailored uniforms, a bag and a set of eating bowls which will be used throughout the program.
Participants in the program are responsible for their own transportation to and from China.
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.
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 Buddhism to apply. Most of our participants are between 18 and 40 years of age.
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 his or her home country to the People’s Republic of China.
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 the Chinese diet.
Participants are expected 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 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, 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.
Accepted applicants will receive a Pre-Departure Guide with detailed information about the program and suggestions on how to best prepare.
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Student film about HBMLP 2014