VIN’s teaching English at Buddhist monastery/nunnery volunteer program is one that aims to give volunteers a true taste of life at the monastery. It aims for an exchange between the religious members of a certain community, and foreigners from a drastically different community, that have just one thing in common: the eagerness to learn.
The volunteers may learn about Buddhist culture, while the monks and nuns may learn the English language, an extremely important asset for them. You as a volunteer within this program would experience the role of both teacher and student: humility and authority. English would be your field of expertise and Buddhism your field of apprenticeship.
More than 130,000 Tibetans Buddhist live in exile in India, Nepal, and Bhutan, and nearly 20 percent of those exiled live in Nepal. Although they are now free to practice their religion and rebuild their cultural heritage, they still face many problems, as is expected for any refugee.
Education for Tibetan monks / children is a high priority and accessibility is the biggest challenge for them. Primary education schools called Tibetan Children's Villages - were established by the Tibetan community in Nepal. These schools support religious Tibetan practices and provide schooling in Buddhist philosophies. Recently, many Buddhist monasteries have begun main streaming the education they provide and have begun to teach a variety of other areas such as English and computer skills. The structure and subjects taught vary from monastery to monastery.
As a volunteer in Teaching English to Buddhist Monks Program, you will provide basic conversational English instruction to Tibetan and Nepali monk and nun children and adults. Volunteers also organize games, painting, drawing, and other creative activities. As a unique facet of this placement, volunteers will witness and participate in traditional Buddhist rituals when they take place in the monastery. If you are planning to volunteer during your holidays, or during a career break or gap year or even are retired from your profession – a program that allows you to teach English at Buddhist monasteries is perfect! While teaching English to Buddhist monks, you will gain so much insight into the day to day workings of Buddhist culture, meditation, Buddhist philosophy etc. Teaching English to Buddhist Monks program
has been especially designed for volunteers interested in learning about Buddhist culture
. Volunteers will work in our different monasteries and nunneries
which are in the outskirts of Kathmandu, and other monasteries for a period of one, two, three, four, or even up to 5 months. The longer the period, the better. The duration of the involvement will be decided by VIN and the volunteers together. You will teach English to both junior and senior monks, as well as teachers, for around two to three hours per day, 5 to 6 days a week. We do not accept volunteers into the Buddhist monastery volunteer program if they are planning to stay less than a month.
The monks will share their philosophy and culture with the volunteers as much as their English allows them to. Volunteers will have access to a small library of Dharma (religious) books and can join the monks' practices and ceremonies. Additionally, there will be many pilgrimage sites in and out of the Kathmandu valley that may be visited: Namo Buddha, Boudhanath, Lumbini (Kapilvastu) and Swayambhunath, Pashupatinath, Patan Darbur Square are just a few in the long list.
Swayambhu stupa (monkey temple) lies in the East of Kathmandu and, being over 2500 years old, it is one of the most ancient Buddhist sites in the world and one of Kathmandu's main attractions. Some Monasteries like Karma Lekseling, Karma Samte ling, Oseling are located nearby on a hill overlooking the stupa and the entire Kathmandu valley. Volunteers will live within the monastery with the monks which will give them the unique opportunity to become a real part of the close monastic community and practice a spiritual life. In some monasteries, there are not enough rooms and volunteers may have to stay outside the monastery in a flat or home stay with a family, but the volunteer will still eat meals with the monks/nuns. Volunteering within this program will also allow you as a person to question your ideals and what you value. If you believe in Karma, then your questions about its origin and deeper meaning will be answered at the monastery. If you are curious about the different schools of Buddhism, Mahayana, Hinayana, Vajrayana, Therevada, and so on, you will be given a chance to learn about them and understand the core beliefs of each.
Volunteers are more than welcome to pass on any of their knowledge about mathematics, the sciences, medicine, computing, etc. too. Most of the monks have solely been educated in Buddhist subjects and would greatly appreciate the teaching of any new skills, for example, in business, which will help them maintain the monastery on a day to day basis, in a world that has become fast-moving and constantly advancing.
Knowledge about the Western world, especially the English language which continues to become more and more important in any and all domains, will enable the monks to impart their Buddhist expertise to Westerners. The program's focus is thus on the exchange of spiritual and secular knowledge from which both sides will benefit, monks as well as volunteers.
Before volunteers leave for the site, they will be given intensive Nepali language and cultural classes, as well as daily teaching orientation (TEFL). They will also be taken to the holy sites around the Kathmandu Valley. After the program orientation, the volunteers will be placed in the monastery with the monks.
Note:Monastery life is very different from what you would think as you are thousands of miles away. The schedule is pretty flexible. They usually do not inform people in advance on what is going to happen and sometimes you may find out last minute that your class has been cancelled and replaced by some monastery ritual! There will be many festivals, rituals and visits during your stay in the monastery. You should run as they run and you should try to be proactive and do something creative for them. You might get frustrated if you are expecting a strict schedule as those are rare. You should therefore be very flexible. If at some point there is a larger gap in the schedule than you expected due to various reasons, you may go to VIN's main working site, Jitpur Phedi (10 to 15km away from the monastery) and work for children and women's clubs, teachers and early childhood development centers. You may enjoy working with these disadvantaged people as well.
Please also NOTE that a large portion of the program fee you pay goes to our main community projects. Our "outside the community volunteer placement" such as the monastery is to develop a network of good sponsors like you and raise some funds for our community development efforts! It is a win-win situation for volunteers, partner monasteries and VIN! Volunteers get an organized placement, Buddhist monasteries and nunneries receive volunteer teachers and some funding support for their children's education and VIN develops network and receives some funding that may be used to improve conditions for the locals!
Are you interested in learning about a different culture? Are you keen on tasting Tibetan thukpa and chia (tea), seeing the sun rise behind the Buddha Shakyamuni statue and teaching English with a photograph of His Holiness the Dalai Lama overlooking the class? Do you want to know what life in a monastery is like? Then join a Buddhist monastery today via VIN, who ensure your well-being throughout your stay.
Find out for yourself and join hands with VIN. VIN has been the #1 volunteering organization for Buddhist monastery placement. Apply now
to join our Buddhist monastery
voluntary projects in Nepal.
Some Comments from former volunteers:
“I found VIN struck the right balance between freedom and safety in a country I had never visited. VIN is both flexible and organised.”
“Teaching at the monastery allowed me to immerse myself in the day to day life of a Buddhist monk.”
“When I went to the monastery I gained a new outlook on life. I now have 110 brothers in Nepal who all can’t wait for me to come back and visit again.”
“The food at my monastery was amazing. I don’t know how the cook could make it just right for so many people.”
“I learnt so much in my monastery placement. I feel like I went on a journey of self improvement. Most of all I feel I have learnt patience and to accept everyone and anyone no matter who they are and where they come from.”
“Staying at the monastery was an amazing experience. I didn’t have time to read any of the books I brought because I was always hanging out with the monks or sitting cross-legged chanting Tibetan. I’ll never have an experience like this again unless I come back.” Joshua Anthony, Australia (Jul 1 to 28, 2011)
"My experience with Volunteers Initiative Nepal (VIN) was positive in many ways.The VIN staff is comprised of great people who are fun to work with.The projects are also very interesting and inspiring. My primary work was teaching English to local Buddhist monks at the Osel Ling Monastery in Kathmandu.It was fascinating to live among them and experience Buddhist lifestyle and traditions - both of which were completely unknown to me before my time in Nepal. ..If you're coming to Nepal, take some time to volunteer - it greatly enriches the experience and one's knowledge of Nepal & its people." Marc Nestor, USA Mechanical Engineer Watch Our Video