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Volunteering in the Buddhist Monastery in Nepal

Nepal’s Top Monasteries to Explore and Join our Volunteering at Buddhist Monastery in Nepal program

The architectural excellence of the monasteries in Nepal serves as a prime example.

Nepal’s deep-rooted connections with Hinduism and Buddhism are clearly demonstrated by the abundance of temples and monasteries in Nepal spread across the nation. In addition to serving as sacred spaces for religious practices and self-reflection, these monasteries also serve as remarkable showcases of architectural brilliance.

Below is a compilation of six Monasteries located in Nepal.

Boudhanath Stupa

Boudhanath Stupa stands as one of the largest and most important stupas globally. Recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, this location carries great religious and cultural value, especially for Tibetan Buddhists. The stupa features a grand white dome structure crowned with a magnificent golden spire. Its architectural design symbolizes the mandala, signifying the universe in Buddhist beliefs.

In 1979, the Boudhanath Stupa was recognized and designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Over the years, this stupa has been known by various names such as the Buddha Stupa, Chorten Chempo, Chaitya, Jarung Khashor, and the Khasti. Within the stupa’s complex, there are 50 Tibetan convents, also known as gompas, which have provided refuge to Tibetan refugees since 1959. It is believed that the remains of Kassapa Buddha rest at this sacred site. Every day, numerous pilgrims from different faiths gather here to partake in the ritualistic circumnavigation, known as the ‘kora’, around the immense dome. It is believed that those who perform this act with pure intentions will receive positive karma. Surrounding the Boudhanath Stupa, one can find numerous monasteries and smaller stupas scattered throughout the area.

The story of Boudhanath Stupa’s origins.

Various communities hold different myths and legends regarding the construction of the Boudhanath Stupa. These stories, which date back centuries, have been passed down through generations, each carrying significant mythological importance.

The Newari Buddhist Beliefs

In accordance with the historical legend of Nepal, King Vikramaditya of the Licchavi dynasty issued an order for the construction of a stone water tap called Dhunge Dhara in the southern section of his palace courtyard. However, upon its completion, the tap failed to produce any water. Troubled and perplexed, the king sought counsel from astrologers who proposed that a human sacrifice should be carried out on a male candidate possessing thirty-two perfections, known as ‘battislakshanas’. The only individuals possessing these qualities were the king himself and his two sons. Ultimately, the king made the decision to sacrifice his own life and instructed one of his sons to perform the ritual. According to the Newari Buddhist mythology, during the sacrificial ceremony, the king’s head detached and landed near the revered Bajrayogini Temple. Once the ceremony concluded, the prince, burdened with sorrow, released a hen from the temple’s pinnacle and resolved to construct a stupa at the exact spot where it landed. Hence, to this day, the stupa stands as a testament to the hen’s chosen location.

The Traditional Tibetan Text

The Tibetan Buddhist Text recounts the tale of one of Indra’s daughters who, in a previous life, had stolen flowers from Heaven and was subsequently reborn as the daughter of a humble poultry man on Earth. Despite her modest background, she thrived and resolved to erect a stupa in honor of a legendary Buddha from a bygone era. Determined to fund the entire project herself, she approached the king for permission, but he callously granted her only as much land as could be covered by a buffalo hide. Undeterred, the woman ingeniously sliced the buffalo skin into thin strips resembling threads and connected them end to end, creating a vast enclosure that ultimately facilitated the construction of this colossal stupa.


The origins of the Boudhanath Stupa remain shrouded in mystery as there are no written records documenting its legends. However, it is widely believed that the central core of the stupa dates back to the fifth century AD. Within its sacred walls, the stupa is said to house the remains of the Buddha, including his teeth, bones, and hair, as well as precious texts and other artifacts associated with him. Despite the lack of concrete evidence, the unwavering faith of devotees persists, attributing the stupa’s revered status to the potential presence of these holy relics. The sealed interiors of the stupa have preserved this sense of uncertainty for centuries, yet it has not diminished the reverence it commands.

The design and construction of the Boudhanath Stupa exemplify a remarkable blend of structure and architecture.

The Boudhanath Stupa, a significant historical landmark in Nepal, exudes grandeur. When viewed from above, this magnificent structure resembles a vast mandala. Comprised of multiple octagonal platforms, the stupa features staircases that lead to a towering white hemispheric mast. These staircases are adorned with a series of stone lion sculptures. At the base of the stupa, 108 Buddha figurines intricately carved from stone adorn the surroundings. Adjacent to the Buddha niches, the prayer wheels bear the carved mantra of Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara, “Om Mani Padme Hum”. The stupa’s foundation consists of three platforms, each slightly smaller than the one beneath it, symbolizing the element of earth.

There are a pair of spherical pedestals that provide support for the hemispherical structure of the stupa. These bowl-shaped formations represent water, symbolizing the vastness of the universe. The subsequent tower, possessing a square form, is adorned with colossal Buddha eyes on each of its four sides. These eyes serve as a representation of the Buddhist faith, signifying that even after the Buddha’s passing, he continues to watch over his followers. Instead of a nose, the artwork features a symbol resembling a question mark, which corresponds to the number 1 in the Nepali numerical system. This symbolizes unity. Positioned above the Buddha’s eyes is a third eye, which serves as a symbol of his omniscient nature.

The pyramid crowning the square tower symbolizes the element fire, leading to a series of thirteen steps that gradually decrease in size as they ascend, representing the journey towards enlightenment. At the pinnacle, a golden spire adorned with vibrant prayer flags symbolizes the element air. This spire holds significance as the representation of the fifth element in Buddhist belief, embodying “Buddha Vairocana and ether”. The colorful flags, each representing one of the five elements of nature and the Five Pure Lights, are believed to carry the prayers of devotees to the heavens as they flutter in the wind. In addition to the elemental symbolism, the Boudhanath Stupa is rich in other symbolic representations. The nine levels of the structure are a reflection of the mythical Mount Meru, considered the center of the universe in Buddhist cosmology. The thirteen rings ascending from the base to the top signify the path to enlightenment, known as Bodhi. The main entrance to the stupa is located on its northern side, where Amoghasiddhi, the Buddha’s ancestor, is honored. Beneath this statue rests the Buddha Maitreya.

The Boudhanath Stupa, towering at a height of 36 meters, is renowned not only for its impressive structure but also as the focal point of Tibetan Buddhist Culture in Nepal. Few places can rival the stunning beauty and grandeur of this sacred site. As the fragrance of incense fills the air and worshippers bow in reverence, the stupa exudes a sense of surrealism. A journey to Nepal would be lacking without experiencing the Boudhanath Stupa.

White Monastery

White Monastery, Kathmandu Overview

Seto Gomba, also known as White Monastery or Amitabha Monastery, is a Buddhist Monastery situated in Nepal. It offers a combination of religious significance and natural beauty. The picturesque landscape and lush green surroundings make watching the sunrise and sunset a delightful experience. Visitors can admire the panoramic view of the Kathmandu Valley from this location. The tranquil atmosphere appeals to numerous travelers looking to relax and find solace after exploring the vibrant city of Kathmandu.

How to reach White Monastery

Visitors have the option to either hire taxis or rent bicycles in order to reach the summit. Nevertheless, some individuals opt for hiking up the mountain to add an extra element of excitement to their journey. This particular section of the ascent is situated approximately 1500 meters above sea level. At the entrance gate, which is protected by five statues of Gautama Buddha, a nominal fee of Nepalese Rupees 40 must be paid. It is believed by the locals that these statues serve as guardians for the Kathmandu Valley. Adequate parking space is available near the gate, and visitors are required to traverse the spacious pathway in order to explore the monastery.

Kapan (Kopan) Monastery

Situated on the scenic Kopan Hills, just a 20-minute drive from the city center, Kopan Monastery is a breathtaking Tibetan Buddhist Monastery that was established during the late 1960s and early 1970s. Renowned as a popular tourist destination, it attracts individuals who have a keen interest in learning about Tibetan Mahayana Buddhism. For those seeking a brief introduction to this ancient way of life, there is an option to enroll in a short-term (7 days) course. The facilities provided are modest, yet they ensure that every visitor departs with a sense of tranquility and composure. Visitors can choose to spend a few hours exploring the picturesque and serene monastery, engage in a retreat, or participate in one of the courses offered. The monastery campus is open to all, but it is important to adhere to a general code of conduct in order to avoid disturbing the students and monks. To cater to the needs of tourists, there is a café where one can enjoy a simple and nourishing vegetarian meal before taking a leisurely stroll through the monastery gardens. Regardless of the duration, everyone is welcome to experience the serenity and peace that the monastery offers, even if it is just for an hour.

History of Kapan (Kopan) Monastery

Kopan Monastery was founded by Thubten Yeshe and Thubten Zopa Rinpoche, the creators of the Foundation for the Preservation of the Mahayana Tradition. They acquired a plot of land from a royal astrologer in Nepal in 1969 and officially opened the monastery

around 1971 to spread the teachings of Mahayana Buddhism to individuals worldwide. The curriculum includes instructions from Buddha Shakyamuni, regular guided meditation sessions, formal and informal discussions, and a strict vegetarian diet. Initially, there were only 25 monks, but presently, the monastery accommodates more than 350 individuals, comprising monks, teachers, lamas, and support staff. In 1981, two nuns joined the monastery, marking a significant milestone in its development. People from various countries travel to Kopan Monastery to dedicate themselves to studying and practicing the profound teachings of Buddha and Lama Tsong Khapa, the founder of the Gelug lineage. Female students now reside in the Khachoe Ghakyil Ling Nunnery, situated slightly ahead of Kopan Monastery.

Events and Festivals in Kopan Monastery

In addition to Buddhist monastic education, the monastery also organizes various Monastic events. These include Losar (Tibetan New Year), Monlam (Great Prayer Festival), Tsip Shag (students advancing to a higher class), Sukkor Pooja & Rigjung Debate (completion of beginner level of study), Yarne and Gaya (Observance of the annual Rains Retreat), Ganden Ngamchoe (a day dedicated to Lama Tsong Khapa), and other special days honoring Gautama Buddha. These events are observed and celebrated with profound devotion, signifying a fresh start for students and aiding in their comprehensive understanding of Buddhism.

Swoyambhunath Temple

Situated atop Semgu Hill on the outskirts of the Kathmandu Valley, the Swayambhu Temple holds great significance as a religious shrine in Nepal. Among Buddhists and Tibetans, the sanctum is revered as one of the most sacred sites. Upon entering the temple, it is essential to ascend the 365 steps to reach the summit and marvel at the breathtaking panoramic view of Kathmandu, the capital city. With its white dome stupa and numerous shrines, this place attracts visitors on a daily basis. A customary practice among pilgrims is to circumnavigate the temple in a clockwise direction, as it is believed to cleanse all sins. Also known as the Swayambhunath Temple, Swayambhunath Stupa, and the Swayambhu Maha Chaitya, this place of worship has stood for centuries, overseeing a significant portion of the Kathmandu Valley. Due to the presence of numerous monkeys who have made the surrounding area their permanent home, this temple has acquired the playful nickname of the “Monkey Temple”.

Origin of the Title

According to the Swayambhu Purana, the Kathmandu Valley, which surrounds the temple, was once a lake that attracted numerous masters and saints. Among them was the saint Buddha Vipassana, who visited the lake and cast a lotus seed into its waters. From this seed, a magnificent lotus blossomed, with a self-risen stupa at its center. As a result, the place came to be known as Swayambhunath, meaning the ‘self-existent one’ or ‘self-created’. The Tibetan name for this area signifies ‘Sublime Trees’ due to the diverse variety of trees found here. In addition to the origin story of the name Swayambhunath Temple, its nickname, the Monkey Temple, also has an intriguing tale. It is believed that Manjushri, the Bodhisattva of Wisdom and Learning, was raised on the hill where the temple now stands. He allowed his hair to grow long, attracting head lice. These head lice supposedly transformed into monkeys, which still inhabit the vicinity of the temple today.

The design of Swayambhunath Stupa.

The magnificent Swayambhunath Temple possesses a design that is filled with symbolic significance. The initial attractions for visitors are the two lion statues that serve as protectors at the temple’s entrance. The main structure of the temple is a grand hemispherical dome, symbolizing the entirety of the world. At the base of this dome, there are exquisite Buddha statues, while around the base, prayer wheels are adorned with the sacred chant “Om Mani Padme Hum”.

Inside, at the top of the staircase, there is a grand lightning bolt known as the “Vajra” resting on a sleek copper base. This lightning bolt represents the “dharmadhatu” and takes the form of a mandala. Positioned above it is a cubic structure adorned with the Lord Buddha’s eyes painted in all four directions. These eyes symbolize compassion and wisdom. Above each pair of eyes lies the Buddha’s third eye, which is believed to emit cosmic rays when he imparts his teachings. This serves as a message to celestial beings, inviting those interested to descend to earth and listen to him. While it cannot summon creatures from lower realms, the third eye alleviates their suffering when the Buddha preaches. Between the two eyes, there is a curly symbol resembling a question mark. This symbol represents the Nepali numeral one, signifying the unity of all things on earth and the sole path to attain moksha through the Buddha’s teachings.

Engraved on all four sides of the cubical structure are the figures of the five Buddhas, known as the Pancha Buddhas, representing the Buddha in Tantrayana in a metaphorical manner. The Pancha Buddhas include Vairochana, Ratna Sambhava, Amoghsiddhi, Akshobhya, and Amitabha, each facing a different direction and symbolizing various cosmic elements. At the top of each side, there is a pentagonal Toran with carved figurines, followed by thirteen tiers representing stages of nirvana. The Gajur space above the tiers adds to the stupa’s beauty, while fluttering prayer flags complete the magnificent structure by carrying devotees’ prayers to heaven.


Nestled in the Himalayas in Nepal, Lumbini is a picturesque town that holds great significance as the birthplace of Lord Buddha. Recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Lumbini boasts a rich history with ancient stupas dating back 2000 years and monasteries constructed by past dynasties. People from all corners of the globe flock to this spiritual haven to delve into the teachings of Buddhism, engage in meditation and yoga practices, embark on treks, deepen their understanding of Buddhism, and seek inner tranquility. The name ‘Lumbini’ itself, derived from Sanskrit, translates to ‘The Lovely’, a fitting description for this enchanting destination. The entire site is adorned with prayer flags adorned with blessings and incantations, lovingly placed by countless visitors. Each monastery in Lumbini possesses its own unique architectural style, boasting exquisite facades and intricate paintings. Monasteries from countries such as China, Japan, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Germany, and France can be found in Lumbini, showcasing the global appeal and reverence for Buddhism. Adventurous trekkers can embark on the Lumbini Circuit Trek, which offers a remarkable journey through 64 historical and archaeological sites in the vicinity. This trek also provides an opportunity to immerse oneself in the local culture and experience the warm hospitality of the nearby villages. The Mayadevi Temple holds immense importance and is considered the most sacred site in the area. It is within this temple that the actual birthplace of Lord Buddha can be found, where Queen Mayadevi gave birth to him as the wife of King Suddhodana of Kapilavastu. A stone marker precisely identifies this hallowed spot. Other notable attractions in close proximity include the Bodhi Tree in Lumbini Garden, the Pushkarini Sacred Pond, and the Ashoka Stupa (Pillar), which was constructed in 249 B.C.

Places To Visit in Lumbini

Maya Devi Temple

Maya Devi Temple, situated in Lumbini, is recognized as one of the oldest Buddhist Temples and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is famously known as the birthplace of Gautam Buddha. The temple is located within the Lumbini Development Zone, surrounded by ongoing developments that have transformed it into a popular tourist destination. Adjacent to the temple lies the sacred Pushkarini pool and a serene garden. This historical site is where Maya Devi gave birth to Gautam Buddha, with archaeological remnants dating back to the era of Ashoka in the 3rd century BCE. Gautam Buddha’s birth is believed to have taken place in 563 BC. The temple was designed by Japanese architect Kenzo Tange in 1978, with continuous enhancements including landscaped lakes and the construction of numerous monasteries by architects from around the globe. Remarkably, the Nepal earthquake of 2015 did not cause any damage to the monuments or temples in this area.

Shechen Monastery, Baudanath, Nepal

Shechen Monastery, one of the six main Nyingma monasteries of Tibet, was devastated in the late 1950s. Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche, in exile, relocated the rich tradition of the original Shechen Monastery to a new location – a splendid monastery near the grand Stupa of Bodhnath, Nepal. He envisioned this monastery to uphold the philosophical, contemplative, and artistic customs of the mother monastery. In 1980, Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche initiated the construction of Shechen Tennyi Dargyeling Monastery in the Kathmandu Valley. For nearly a decade, skilled craftsmen, stonemasons, sculptors, painters, goldsmiths, and expert tailors labored to transform the monastery into one of the finest examples of Tibetan art. The main temple’s walls (now demolished due to the 2015 earthquakes) were adorned with frescoes illustrating the history of Tibetan Buddhism and the significant teachers from its four main schools. The monastery boasts over one hundred and fifty statues and houses one of the largest Tibetan libraries in the East.

The current abbot of Shechen Monastery is the seventh Shechen Rabjam Rinpoche, who is the grandson and spiritual successor of Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche. There are four hundred and fifty monks residing at the monastery, coming from various regions in the Himalayas. They are provided with a comprehensive education that covers Buddhist philosophy, as well as music, dance, and painting. Additionally, the Shechen Mahaboudha Vidyalaya upper elementary school offers a holistic education to 180 boys aged five to fourteen, combining traditional subjects with a modern curriculum. Upon completing their education at the school, the students are awarded a high school diploma. They can then enroll in a two-year program that focuses on ritual arts, involving the memorization of liturgical texts, learning to play ritual musical instruments, training in sacred chants and dances, and continuing their meditation practices.

The Shechen Institute for Higher Buddhist Studies, a philosophical college or shedra, was established by Rabjam Rinpoche in 1989 at the monastery. Its nine-year curriculum has attracted over 130 students from across the Himalayas. The graduates of this institute have gone on to become teachers in various parts of the world. The monastery conducts ceremonies throughout the year, including drupchens that last for nine consecutive days and nights. In conjunction with these ceremonies, an annual two-day sacred dance festival takes place in the monastery’s courtyard. Khyentse Yangsi Rinpoche, the reincarnation of Dilgo Khyentse, oversees all the major ceremonies. Shechen Monastery in Tibet gained renown for its unique style of cham, which is a form of sacred dance. This tradition was revived by Shechen Rabjam Rinpoche.

Pullhari Buddhist Monastery

Pullahari Monastery, situated north of Boudhanath Stupa on a hill overlooking Kathmandu, is a renowned Buddhist monastery in Nepal. Its tranquil setting provides an ideal environment for meditation and the study of Buddhism. One can easily trek between Kopan and Pullahari Monastery, with a cafe featuring a terrace along the way. From this vantage point, visitors can enjoy a breathtaking view of the city.

Located in the foothills to the north of the Great Stupa of Boudhanath, Pullahari offers a tranquil and secluded environment that is perfect for delving deeper into the teachings of Buddhadharma through contemplation, meditation, and listening. Monks at Pullahari dedicate themselves to prayers, scriptures, rituals, and dedications for the well-being of all beings and the attainment of ultimate realization. Those undergoing the 3-year retreat follow the ancient contemplative practices of the Mahamudra Lineage in order to become Lamas. In 1986, the Third Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche was given a piece of land by the Third Dilyak Dabzang Rinpoche (1929 – 1992) and was asked to establish a 3-year Mahamudra retreat center. He named this center “Pullahari” in honor of Lord Naropa’s monastery in Bihar, India, where Naropa passed on his teachings to Lotsawa Marpa (1012 – 1097) who then brought them to Tibet. It was at this monastery that Naropa predicted the enlightenment of Milarepa (1040 – 1123), assured Marpa that his spiritual lineage would continue through his disciples, and foretold the arrival of Lord Gampopa (1079 – 1153).

Pullahari Monastery was established in March of 1992. The Third Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche consecrated the lineage shrine hall, designated the location for the 3-year Mahamudra retreat center, and decided to move the Rigpe Dorje Institute project from Sarnath, India to Pullahari. He also provided guidance for the annual Rigpe Dorje programs and identified a spot for a Tibetan Medical Centre. He advised Tenzin Dorjee, his General Secretary, to consider not only his current self but also future incarnations when carrying out his projects and activities. Tragically, the Third Jamgon Rinpoche passed away and dissolved his mind into the sphere of Dharmakaya on April 26th, 1992. On November 16th, 1992, the sacred body relic of the Third Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche was transported from Rumtek Monastery to Pullahari. Following the ceremonies that day, The Very Ven. Khenpo Tsultrim Gyamtso Rinpoche commenced teaching the prayer of Calling the Guru from Afar, which marked the beginning of the teachings for the annual Rigpe Dorje program.

Join our Volunteering at Buddhist Monastery in Nepal program

Volunteering in the Buddhist Monastery program is tailored for individuals who have a keen interest in religious culture and are willing to teach English at the monastery for a minimum of two weeks or more. VSN Nepal can arrange for longer stays upon request. During their stay, volunteers will spend approximately two to three hours each day teaching English to both young and old Buddhist monks. The monks, in turn, will impart their knowledge and culture to the volunteers. The program also includes meditation sessions and visits to Hindu and Buddhist holy sites.

For the first three days, the volunteer will take intensive language classes, as well as teacher training, every day at the VSN Nepal Office in Kathmandu. The monks will be able to speak both languages, so it is really a matter of the volunteers’ preference; however, most people find Nepali easier to learn. The volunteers will visit holy sites around the Kathmandu Valley. After one week, they will be placed with a host family near the monastery, depending on the availability of a place to stay in the monastery, where they will stay for a total of six weeks or more. This program combines religious research through an experiential approach with volunteer English teaching. Due to the fact that the monks spend their lives inside the monastery, this program provides them with the amazing opportunity to learn English, as well as experience another culture, from an international volunteer.

In Nepal, Buddhism is a way of life. For many people, volunteering in a Buddhist monastery is a way to give back to their community and connect with their religion.

Monasteries in Nepal are often located in remote areas, away from the hustle and bustle of city life. Monasteries in remote areas provide volunteers with an opportunity to disconnect from technology and connect with nature. It could be a meditative experience for an individual.

Volunteers typically help with tasks such as cooking, cleaning, and gardening. They may also lead or participate in meditation sessions and other religious ceremonies. Volunteering in a Buddhist monastery is a great way to learn about Buddhism and Nepali culture.

In your role as a volunteer English teacher for Buddhist monks in a monastery, your main responsibility will be to instruct the monks in the English language. You will dedicate 2-4 hours each day to teaching English to the monks. You are highly encouraged to facilitate discussions and debates, as this will significantly enhance your proficiency in understanding and speaking English.

Activities you may do as a volunteer in the Buddhist Monastery
  • Teaching English grammar, vocabulary, and pronunciation
  • Planning lessons and curriculum development
  • Leading classes to teach basic conversational English
  • Organizing extracurricular activities such as dancing, games, music, sports, art, etc.
  • Helping monks with their homework
  • Fundraising for the monastery
  • Assisting monastery administrations
  • Helping around the monastery