Who are the sponsoring organizations?
All of our centers are inspired by the teachings and projects of Tarthang Tulku, a Tibetan lama who came to America in 1968 and is still active in guiding the organization, but not available for personal contact. In 1969, Rinpoche (a title of respect) founded the Tibetan Nyingma Meditation Center (TNMC), a church. Over the next few years, he founded Dharma Press and Publishing, the Nyingma Institute, the Tibetan Aid Project, the Yeshe De Text Preservation Project, and Odiyan, a country center not generally open to the public. He has also founded many projects that operate in Asia, and there are Nyingma Centers in São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Germany, and Holland. In the past decade, there has been a new series of initiatives, including the Mangalam Research Center, Dharma College, Guna Foundation, the Nyingma Trust, the Center for Creative Inquiry, and Ratna Ling Retreat Center. Ritual art projects such as prayer flag production are ongoing. All of these projects share in common the goal of preserving the Dharma (the Buddha’s teachings) and transmitting it in the modern world. Read more about our organizations’ history and affiliations at the About Us page.
Where will I live, and under what circumstances?
You will live at the Nyingma Institute, a beautiful building with spectacular views and a meditation garden. The Institute houses work-study volunteers, staff, and retreatants. Volunteers live two to a bedroom, with bathrooms and showers down the hall. The kitchen is communal. The Institute provides breakfast makings and offers dinner six days a week. Lunches are provided at the downtown centers. All meals and facilities are strictly vegetarian. The Institute is drug free, tobacco free, and alcohol free.
How far is the walk to work from the Nyingma Institute?
It’s about a 20 to 30 minute downhill walk through the lovely UC Berkeley campus. The uphill climb after work is steep at the end, so it can be a workout. There’s a $1 bus ride for the uphill walk on days when you’re not up it.
What is the stipend? What about health insurance?
The stipend is $150 a month. It’s intended to reimburse for living expenses such as toothpaste, etc. We do not offer health insurance.
What is the work week like?
We have a vigorous six-day work week. You’re expected to be at work by 8:30 AM. The work day ends at 5 PM, and there is an hour break for lunch, plus short breaks during the day. We ask you to treat these time-commitments seriously, just as you would in a regular job. Some assignments are in office settings, doing work related to fundraising, marketing, research and the like, while others are more hands on or require specialized skills. You’re asked to pitch in on kitchen cleanup and other chores.
How about the annual calendar?
The centers shut down for two weeks over the holiday season and for about 4 days for special ceremonies each February. The only national holidays we observe are July 4th and Thanksgiving.
How does the work relate to study and practice?
Our centers treat work as a practice in awareness, concentration, and energy: a kind of ‘meditation in action’. We encourage all volunteers to ground themselves in the present moment, integrate their actions with their values, and treat the challenges of work as an opportunity for growth. To support these goals, we offer a weekly class during the work week in the practice we call “Skillful Means,” supported by a short daily meeting. We also have a daily meditation to end the work day, from 4:40-5:00 PM. You don’t need to attend either, but we strongly encourage it. For more on Skillful Means, see Skillful Means and Mastering Successful Work, two books by Tarthang Tulku, available from Dharma Publishing or the usual online sources. Given the Skillful Means focus and the intense work schedule, volunteers who flourish with us are those ready to challenge themselves to learn and grow through their work and their interactions with others.
Do I get to choose where I work and what kind of work I do?
We try to honor your preferences (in light of your skills), but sometimes the needs of our organizations take priority, and we expect you to cooperate with that. In some cases, you may be asked to split your time among two organizations, or to help with projects that involve more than one organization.
What classes and programs can I take?
Skillful Means instruction and meditation practice are offered during the work day. Evening classes are offered at the Nyingma Institute, and there are also classes at Mangalam Research Center and Dharma College. You can speak with an adviser about what makes sense for you. Since your work day will be very full, don’t plan to take daytime classes, except for occasional Saturday workshops by arrangement.
When can I start?
We schedule volunteers to arrive at the start of the academic quarters at the Nyingma Institute. Upcoming move-in dates for 2013 are March 23, June 8, August 31, and October 5. These dates are the optimum times to join us as they coincide with the beginning of class sessions at the Nyingma Institute. It is best to apply a minimum of 3-4 weeks in advance of your target move-in date.
Can I bring my car to Berkeley?
We discourage the use of cars, as parking in Berkeley is scarce. If you must bring your car, you can buy a street-parking permit from the city for an annual fee of $34.50 once you establish residency. Bus transportation is good, and mass-transit to San Francisco is located just a block from our downtown centers. Biking works well, but remember—Berkeley is a hilly city! Since we’re in the heart of Berkeley, pretty much anything you’d need is within walking distance.
Can I hold down a job, freelance, or go to school while volunteering at the Berkeley Dharma Way Centers?
No, the six-day work week makes that unworkable. For local residents, part-time non-residential volunteer opportunities are always available.
Do I need to be a Buddhist to work at the Centers?
Absolutely not, but an openness to Buddhist practice is pretty essential. We chant to start meals and at the end of the evening meditation. The classes you take at the Nyingma Institute may have Buddhist elements. Also, our projects mostly have as their goal supporting the preservation of Tibetan culture and/or transmitting the Buddha’s teachings, and we expect that to be a strong motivator.
What happens after I apply?
After you submit your online application, you’ll hear from us in a few days. If it seems like there’s a possible fit, we’ll go from there. After you start work, there’s a one-month trial period. And remember: we ask you to make a minimum six-month commitment.