Monastic Life

Exploring Monastic Life

Thinking about becoming a Buddhist monk or nun?

Explore monastic life with Ven. Thubten Chodron and the Abbey nuns and monk.

Bring your questions and dreams.

What Is It?

Exploring Monastic Life (EML) is an intensive training program, held in August every year. It’s for people thinking about becoming a Buddhist monk or nun, and for newly ordained monastics. There’s no other program like it.

The program usually lasts three weeks and entails living and practicing in monastic community. For 2020 due to COVID concerns, we took EML online. We’ll see how the 2021 version will manifest. 

Venerable Thubten Chodron teaches from over 40 years of living as a Buddhist nun. You learn how and why the Buddha started the ordained sangha—the community of monks and nuns—and the ethical and behavioral guidelines for monastics.

The Abbey monastics join in your daily discussions about family, career, romance, and “stuff,” to explore the issues that you need to think about.

Read a short 2020 EML teaching and watch short videos here. See photos of 2019 EML here and here.

Program Specifics

August 2021

Check back to see exact dates.

Admission is by application.

Qualified applicants will:

  • Have taken refuge at least one year ago
  • Are not presently in a committed relationship
  • Agree to live within the 5 lay precepts during the course: refraining from killing, taken what has not been freely given, sexual misconduct (keeping celibacy during the course), lying, and taking intoxicants of any kind
  • Agree to attend all sessions.

How to apply:

Exploring Monastic Life helps you discern if monastic life is right for you. Come see for yourself.

A new nun shares her experience

A monastic participant in a recent Exploring Monastic Life course shared this after completing the program.

My stay in the Abbey was an important moment. Although I cannot know what it will produce and when, I feel that it marks a turning point in my journey. I finally saw that what I have been dreaming of for so long is possible. Others have realized it. I sometimes wonder why I waited so long to get in touch with the Abbey.

I came back with the certainty of the importance of a monastic community, and with an idea of how it should be organized and how activities can be conducted to benefit residents and visitors. I received more than I hoped for. Every moment, every situation, every activity, every exchange has been for me a source of deep learning. I experienced the teaching of the Buddha integrated in daily life, explained and shared with heart with all sentient beings present. I feel so rich from this experience.

And above all, I learned more about working on myself, to become aware of the state of my mind, reflexes that manifest themselves, rising emotions, and habitual thoughts.  I learned transparency and agreed to let others see me as I am and understand that there is nothing to hide. They see everything anyway. 

I accepted to let myself be touch by the kindness, the benevolence, the acceptance of everybody and to open myself, to participate fully in this effort to learn to become a better person. Every day I try to remember the exceptional moments that I lived and  try to preserve the precious momentum.

Through all this, I try to improve my discipline and cultivate satisfaction and find balance.

I am happy to have access to the Dharma, to be able to study and share the Dharma with others. I would like to return to Sravasti for another stay, to integrate even more how you practice there.

Join us in 2020!


“The Exploring Monastic Life (EML) program gave me a unique opportunity to look deeply at my aspiration to ordain. I highly recommend this thought-provoking and fun program to anyone wishing to become a monastic.”

Alicia Blanco

Sacramento, CA

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