Residential Volunteer

Resident Volunteer Program


When we put all our energy into our work, it becomes the ground from which we build our lives, the channel for putting our plans into action. Because work continually makes demands on us, it offers us a sense of accomplishment which nothing else can provide. There is great pleasure to be found in living when we care about work, when we take on difficult but rewarding tasks and do them well. - Tarthang Tulku, Skillful Means


The Nyingma Institute is home to a thriving community based on a lifestyle that blends blends the study of meditation and Buddhist teachings with vigorous work to preserve and transmit the Dharma. Special emphasis is given to the approach to work called 'Skillful Means', which shows how work can become a vehicle for cultivating our finest human capacities.


What Is the Resident Volunteer Program?
What Are The Benefits?
How Can I Tell If the Volunteer Program Is For Me?
Who Should Participate?
How Do I Apply?

What Is the Resident Volunteer Program?

The Resident Volunteer Program allows individuals to immerse themselves in a life of service, personal development, and learning that integrates work with study. Volunteers live at the Nyingma Institute in Berkeley in shared rooms and receive vegetarian meals, a small living expense stipend, and a full scholarship for Institute classes and workshops. Work takes place at either the Nyingma Institute or at Mangalam Centers in downtown Berkeley, which houses the offices of the Tibetan Aid Project and several other Nyingma organizations. Types of work include: mailing, fundraising, marketing, event coordination, IT, filmmaking, research, and graphic design. At the Institute, work also may include cooking, gardening, maintenance, or creating art or ritual projects (such as prayer wheels or prayer flags). A typical daily schedule begins with morning meditation from 6:30 to 7:30 AM. Work begins at 8:00 AM and continues until 5:15 PM. Work is six days per week with Sundays free.

Evening classes at the Institute form an important component of the Resident Volunteer program. Working with an advisor, residents choose classes and workshops from among the thirty or so that are offered each quarter. (See Institute Classes and Institute Workshops for lists of classes and workshops offered.) Applicants accepted for the Volunteer Program begin with a two-week trial period; thereafter, a minimum six-month commitment to the program is required.

What Are The Benefits?

Individuals will receive training in Buddhist thought and practice, in how to use work as a spiritual practice, and in specific job skills. They will also have the satisfaction of knowing that their work is being directed to projects of lasting value for the world.

How Can I Tell If the Volunteer Program Is For Me?

Applicants should have:

  • a sincere interest in personal development
  • a willingness to work hard and to view work as a source of learning
  • a wish to devote their energy to projects of long-term value and meaning
  • an interest in Buddhism

One need not consider oneself a Buddhist or have background in Buddhist teachings to apply to the Program. We strongly recommend that you read Gesture of Balance and Skillful Means by Tarthang Tulku as a way of determining if our approach to personal development speaks to you.

Who Should Participate?

  • Those interested in a systematic, in-depth study of the fundamental teachings of Mahayana Buddhism in a setting that encourages their application in daily life.
  • Those interested in doing work that brings lasting benefit to the world.
  • Those concerned about the direction society is taking and interested in exploring alternatives, especially the value of work as a training ground for spiritual development.
  • Those wishing to work as part of a community based on shared ideals and values.

How Do I Apply?

The organizations operating at Mangalam Center have the greatest needs for residential volunteers. For an application and further information please visit the Nyingma Centers Resident Volunteer Program web site. The site will let you know about all the opportunities for volunteer service within the Nyingma communities founded by Tarthang Tulku.

Once your application has been received you will be contacted by a representative of Nyingma Centers who will let you know if you are a candidate for the program. This person can answer your questions about the program and let you know when openings may be available. A phone interview is required and we generally advise candidates to visit the Nyingma Institute to see if the program will meet their needs and expectations. Typically, Volunteer Residents are accepted into the program at the start of a new quarter, so that they have a good selection of classes to choose from.