Humanistic Buddhist Monastic Life Program (HBMLP) FAQ & Answers

Please read the FAQ carefully, but if you have other unanswered questions,

please email us at

Questions About Program Eligibility 

Q: I'm not a US citizen. Am I still eligible for this program?

A: Absolutely! You do not need to be living or studying in the US to be eligible for the program, nor do you need to be a US citizen; we welcome applicants of all nationalities and encourage women to apply. In recent years, program participants have come from over 25 countries.

Q: I have my undergraduate degree but am no longer at an academic institution. Or, I did not attend college.  May I still apply?

A: Yes, we consider all applicants, regardless of academic background.

Q: Do you have an age limit?

A: Most of our applicants are in their 20's and 30's.  However, we have accepted students older than this.  If you have a sincere interest, we encourage you to apply.


Q: My academic background is not in philosophy, religion, or East Asian studies. May I still apply?

A: Yes, we recognize that now everyone who has an interest in Buddhism is able to major in it in school.  We accept students from all backgrounds.  Some of our past students have been artists, musicians, engineers, medical practitioners, lawyers, and accountants!  We enjoy learning from one another.


Q: I'm interested in Buddhism but I have no background in Chinese language or culture. Will this reduce my chances of acceptance?

A: No, you are still encouraged to apply. The staff will all speak English, all classes will be conducted in English, and translators will be available when necessary. Knowledge of Chinese is not a prerequisite for acceptance.

Q: If I have food allergies, physical limitations or disabilities or recent mental health conditions, should I still apply?

A: We encourage anyone with a sincere interest to apply. However, please keep in mind that meals cannot be adjusted for those with food allergies or special dietary needs. Participants should be in good overall health.  Long stretches of sitting, walking, and physical exertion are part of the daily HBMLP routine.
If you have recently experienced considerable trauma, significant depression or anxiety, or are currently experiencing strong PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder), HBMLP may not be appropriate for you at this time in your life. A therapist can help you assess the best option for you, and it may be best to postpone if you are unsure.  
If you have specific questions or concerns, please contact our nurse at

Questions About the Application

Q: When may I submit an application?

A: The application period for HBMLP typically opens in early January each year. The deadline is typically the end of April, however it is a rolling application timeline, and your chances for admission are better the earlier you apply. Once we receive your application, please anticipate at least 2-3 weeks of processing time before you hear from us. 

Q: Do we need to submit any letters of recommendation with the application?

A: A letter of recommendation is recommended, but not required.

Q: How do you decide who to admit to HBMLP?

A: We take a holistic approach and individually assess each person's unique situation including academic background, personal experience, and motivations. Please make sure your personal statement offers a clear window into who you are and why you would like to participate and how would contribute to the program's environment. We aim to build a diverse and multi-talented group each year. 

Q: Will Woodenfish be able to help with securing a visa for China?

A: No, unfourtunately we are not able to help with visa applications. Participants will have to make their own arrangements. Please check your specific country requirements for entry/exit requirements to P.R. China.

Q: Is there a separate application for receiving college credit?

A: No.  Just indicate on your regular application that you are interested in earning credit. Whittier College (Los Angeles, California) cross-lists 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.  Please check with your registrar to make sure the credits will be accepted. Whittier charges a separate $1200 fee for the credits (we do not make a profit from this). Another option for students is to ask your own institution if they will grant you credit for attending, as a Special Topics or Independent Study course.  We are happy to provide a syllabus to assist you with this.

Q: Can I apply for additional scholarships? 

A: The program scholarship is for ALL accepted students, meaning your room, board, tuition fees, and travel during the program is covered by generous donations from our sponsors. We ask for a $250 fee for uniforms, bowls and some other materials that you will keep.  Students are responsible for all costs associated with applying for a visa to China, international travel to China to and from the program, and other insurance. At this time, we unfortunately do not have additional travel scholarships for new participants. However, we encourage you to get in touch if the minimized costs are still prohibitive, as we would like HBMLP to be accessible to as many students as possible.


Questions About the Facilities and the Program

Q: What will the rooms / sleeping arrangements be like?

A: Housing and accommodations vary each year, depending on the specific monastery. Students are typically housed in shared, dorm-style rooms in the temples' guesthouses.  

Q: Will I be able to leave the temple during the program?

A: For safety reasons, we do not allow HBMLP participants to leave the temple premises except for guided cultural activities and other special circumstances. During the course of the cultural tour, we will visit other Buddhist monasteries and sites of interest, but do not typically spend time in Chinese cities. You may plan other independent travel within China before or after the program.


Q: I practice a different religion and do not consider myself Buddhist. Will I be required to be Buddhist or convert in order to participate? 

A: No, we do not expect participants to be Buddhist, and we do not try to convert anyone to Buddhism. Only a small minority of participants each year consider themselves Buddhist. In past years, we have had a diverse mix of Christians, Jews, Muslims, Atheists, and others attend. Some participants are spiritually seeking, while others are academically or experientially seeking.  Regardless, we ask for an open-mindedness and inclusive attitude and encourage applicants from all faiths. 

Q: Will I be required to participate in Buddhist rituals or prayer?

A: Before and after most meals we recite a Buddhist chant and there is a short service every evening. There is typically chanting and prostration during the evening service, as well as during the pilgrimage.

Q: Can I choose the courses I participate in? Are there many courses to choose from? 

A: Students are expected to attend and participate in all courses. The morning lectures and the afternoon cultural activities are the same for all participants.

Q: Are we allowed to use technology such as computers or smart phones during the program?

A: We do not impose a ban on technology.  However, we ask that you do not use laptops or cell phones outside your room. There is usually not much wifi available in the monasteries, but we try to provide some so students can get in touch with their friends and family. Do not expect consistent, daily access. If you are working or need to do things like pay bills, please make sure this is done before arrival. During the silent meditation week at the end of the program however, no electronics are allowed.


Q: How can my family reach me in case of emergency? 

A: Prior to the start of the program, we provide all participants with emergency email and phone numbers in the US and China that family members may access and get in touch with you 24/7.  

Q: Are there Chinese language courses available? 

A: While you may informally learn some Chinese language, this is not a Chinese language immersion program. All classes will be in English and no knowledge of Chinese is necessary.  


Q: What are the total costs? 

A: All accepted students receive a program scholarship covering room, board and travel expenses during the program dates. We only ask for a $250 fee for uniforms, bowls and some other materials.  Students are responsible for all fees associated with applying for a visa to China, international travel to China to and from the program, and other insurance (travel, health).

Q: Is this a good program for me if I am looking for a relaxing vacation in China?

A: Definitely not! HBMLP is a physically and mentally demanding experience, and you should expect, and be excited to enter into the powerful and demanding discipline of monastic training.