English at Buddhist Monastery NunneryProgram Fees
Teaching English at a Buddhist monastery or nunnery project of Volunteers Initiative Nepal offers volunteers a unique opportunity to gain insight into Buddhist culture and practice. The volunteering Buddhist monastery project aims to be an exchange between devoted practitioners of Buddhism and those from other cultures, who can share language and other skills. You will have one thing in common; a desire to learn. This project is a great way for international volunteers to learn about Buddhist culture and have a platform to teach English to Buddhist monks or nuns.
Nepal is home to both Nepali and Tibetan monks. Thousands of Tibetan monks have lived in exile in Nepal since Tibet was invaded by China in 1959. While the Tibetans are now free to practise their religion and express their culture and heritage, they remain an underprivileged and marginalised group within society.
Historically, education in Buddhist monasteries in Nepal has focussed on scriptures and beliefs. Despite a more recent expansion in the scope of subjects, which now include English and Computer Science, teaching remains rudimentary and standards vary dramatically between institutions.
As a volunteer you will help provide basic conversational English to monks and nuns, who range from children to adults, in our partner institutions. You will work up to four hours a day, six days a week, teaching English to Buddhist monks or nuns and arranging creative activities, such as games and painting. You are welcome to share any other area of expertise you may have with them; medicine, science, business or similar. These are all subjects that will be of benefit, as even Buddhist monasteries need to be run efficiently.
In return, you will become a part of everyday life while living in a monastery; living among the residents, taking part in rituals and gaining a rare and unforgettable insight into spiritual life. Your placement will last between one and five months, during which time you will live at the monastery; or, where space is in short supply, you will live with a nearby host family or at a guesthouse. Wherever you are located, the experience should be one of total immersion in both Nepali and Buddhist culture.
Buddhism in Nepal
Nepal holds a significant place in Buddhist history; the country is hailed as the birthplace of the Buddha, Siddhartha Gautama. In its landlocked position between India and China, Nepal is seen as a place where Indian and Tibetan streams of Buddhism converge and is home to many of the most important pilgrimage sites in the world.
Following the Chinese invasion of Tibet in 1959, thousands of Tibetan Buddhists fled to Nepal. They settled at Bouddha, north east of Kathmandu, and there are now over 20 monasteries and nunneries in the area. Bouddha also boasts a 36-metre stupa which is one of the most important centres for Tibetan Buddhism; visit, and you will see red-robed monks circling the huge base beneath ribbons of prayer flags, chanting and spinning prayer wheels.
West of Kathmandu, Swayambhu stupa (also dubbed the monkey temple owing to its copious primate squatters) looks out across the chaotic and colourful city. Positioned on a hillside, the stupa is one of the most ancient Buddhist sites in the world. It is one of Kathmandu’s main visitor attractions, for both pilgrims and tourists. Again, prayer wheels line the base, while great statues lead the way up the eastern steps.
To the south east of Kathmandu, is Namo Buddha, another important pilgrimage site, where Buddha is said to have allowed himself to be devoured by a tigress, as she was starving and had a desperate need to feed her cubs.
There is alsoLumbini, the birthplace of The Lord Buddha, on the flat Terai plains. A Unesco World Heritage site, it is now being developed as another Buddhist pilgrimage centre.
These sites are only a glimpse of the Buddhist heritage you can explore when you visit Nepal; volunteer at a Buddhist monastery, and you will be immersed in all aspects of this ancient practice.
Buddhism, VIN and You
If you are wondering what a prayer wheel, a mandala, or a stupa is, then Buddhist volunteer work may be for you.
In addition, if you are interested in Karma then living with monks in Nepal will give you the opportunity to explore its origin and deeper meaning. Did you know that there is more than one form of Buddhism? Mahayana, Hinayana, Vajrayana, Therevada; these are all different schools of thought. Living in a monastery or nunnery will give you a chance to learn about each one and understand its core beliefs. In the monastery you will have access to a small library of Dhama (religious) books; the monks will gladly share their philosophy and culture, as much as their English allows.
VIN works with 13 partner institutions. All of our monasteries/nunneries are in, or on the outskirts of, Kathmandu. Karma Lekse Ling, TergarOselling Monastery and Karma Samte Ling are located near to Swayambhu overlooking the stupa and the entire Kathmandu Valley. Some of the monasteries and nunneries are – Karma Ngedhon Osal Choekhorling, Drikung Kagyu Rinchen, Monastery, Rinchen Pal Ri Monastery, Kadampa Monastery, NyingmapaWishfulfilling Monastery, PalyulUrgenDorjeCholing Monastery, Yuloko Jetsunling, Nyingmpa Budha Nunnery, Trungram Nunnary, Thrangu Tara Abbey Nunnery.
Your Volunteer Experience
A teaching qualification is not required for this volunteer placement (but if you already have one, will be very helpful); only the desire to communicate, learn and the ability to be flexible. Living with monks in Nepal will be very different to what you imagine; there is no timetable and events occur without prior warning. You might find the lesson you worked hard to prepare is cancelled and replaced by a ritual. During your stay in the monastery there will be many festivals and events, so be prepared to change plans, respond to their way of life and be creative with them.
Throughout your placement you will have the full support of VIN. Your safety is our highest priority. On arrival you will be greeted at Kathmandu Tribhuvan International Airport and transported to your hotel (alternative arrangements can be made for those already in Nepal prior to the start of their placement). You will then receive a comprehensive three-day induction, during which time you will be provided with information about your particular placement as well as general information, including basic Nepalese language and culture. This is also a good time to mix with other volunteers and interns, who may be great sight-seeing companions and a source of support during your volunteer placement.
During the induction you will be accommodated in a hotel. However, a large part of the VIN experience comes from living in a home stay with a Nepalese host family. While this is an essential part of the experience we also recognise that it can be a challenging one; becoming part of a new culture and getting accustomed to facilities that will be more basic than those you are used to. However, all our host families are experienced in accommodating volunteers – although their ability to speak English will vary – and you will have 24-hour contact and support from our staff members during your placement.
Finally, the main source of income with which we fund our projects comes from our volunteers. VIN receives no financial backing from governments or foreign agencies. Please be aware that a large proportion of your fee for this placement will be distributed to fund our community projects. Our work outside the community helps to develop networks of good sponsors – like you – to fund the work we do inside the community. The Teaching English at Buddhist Monasteries/Nunneries project works because all parties benefit; the monks or nuns receive valuable English Language education and some funding to support the education of their children; the volunteer has the unique opportunity to experience and understand another way of life and VIN receives funding that will help towards empowering those living in marginalised communities. We are mindful to ensure our costs and the resulting fees are kept to a minimum and that we maintain absolute transparency on how the fee you pay to us is spent. We think you will find the fees affordable, but are happy to answer any questions you may have.Apply nowFees