Category: News

Local Alms Round

What is alms round (pindapāta)?

Buddhist monastics rely on the generosity of others. The alms round or pindapāta is a tradition where lay people offer food to monastics to sustain their spiritual practice for the day. Monastics walk silently with their alms bowls through the town or village, and if people feel inspired, they may offer food as a gesture of generosity and kindness.

Going for alms is not begging. The monastics simply walk or stand silently and receive what is offered. It helps to develop contentedness and humility in the monastics, and generosity and service for the people offering.

When and where is Empty Cloud’s alms round?

Currently, the monastics walk for alms on Saturdays through West Orange, NJ. The route begins around at Empty Cloud Monastery at around 9 a.m. and ends at the West Orange Farmers’ Market. They remain at the Farmers’ Market until around 10:30 a.m.

Can the monastics walk by my place?

Potentially! If you live in West Orange and would like the monastics to pass by so you can make an offering, contact our dāna coordinator here. If you have other questions feel free to ask the monastics in person, or contact us.

What can I offer?

Sādhu, anumodanā! The monastics are happy to receive whatever food you may like to give. Please note that our monastics are vegetarian, and that one of the monks is allergic to food from the USA made with non-organic pesticides and herbicides. Your kindness and generosity is very much appreciated!

Fun fact: The word pindapāta is a combination of two words, pinda and pāta in the Pāli language. Pinda means “a lump of food” and pāta means “bowl”. So pindapāta means literally “placing of food in a bowl.”

Residency Guidelines

The Experience of Residency at Empty Cloud Monastery

Please note, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we have modified our residency guidelines as follows:

  • Short-term residents must commit to staying at the monastery for at least two weeks.
  • All residents are required to be fully vaccinated, with two weeks having passed since receiving the final dose of an approved vaccine.
  • If you are traveling from out-of-state, please review the CDC’s guidance on traveling to minimize risks.
  • If you are interested in a longer-term stay, please read about our stewardship opportunities here.

A monastery is not just a place where monks live—it’s a haven of peace and wisdom for the world. Accordingly, it is common for lay people to come and stay at the monastery for periods of time, experiencing the serenity of the monastery and learning how to integrate Buddhist wisdom into daily life. Here at Empty Cloud Monastery, we invite you to come experience residency at the monastery, immersing yourself in the Dhamma for a period of time.

The resident community is made up of monks of various gender identities, who follow hundreds of monastic precepts, as well as lay people who follow a basic set of training rules (see the “Residency Guidelines” and the “Eight Precepts,” listed below). Perhaps you are a layperson who would like to experience the benefits of monastic life for a period of time. Or you may be exploring the possibility of becoming a monk. Living and practicing with the monastic community could be an excellent opportunity to develop your spiritual practice.

First-time guests may stay for two weeks. If your first stay goes well, you may request to stay for a longer period of time. Returning guests may stay for up to one month.

Please read through all the information below, and feel free to ask any questions by email to the Guest Monk through the form on this page. Once you’ve read through all the information, please submit a residency application by clicking here.

Staying at the Monastery

The monastery is located on about three acres of property in West Orange, NJ. We are dedicated to studying, practicing, and sharing the teachings of the Buddha, and we invite interested laypeople to join us for a time, following the same routines and experiencing the blessings of monastery life.

How Much Does It Cost?

In keeping with the ancient Buddhist practice of generosity, there is no charge for anything at Empty Cloud, which is supported entirely by voluntary donations in the form of food and other material requisites, donations, and work tasks. While there is no obligatory charge to stay, guests are encouraged to consider how they might contribute to the needs of maintaining the monastery, developing the virtues of generosity, gratitude and kindness which are important qualities supporting the practice of mental cultivation.

Meditative Frame of Mind

A monastery is a sanctuary from the usual business of the world, which gives us the opportunity to commit fully to spiritual practice. In order to minimize distraction, maximize the benefits of your time here, and help you blend harmoniously with the resident community, it is advisable to set aside all external engagements for the entire time you plan to be at the monastery. Therefore, please take care of all relevant business before your arrival so that you can dedicate yourself wholeheartedly to the monastic practice during your stay.

Residency Guidelines

Conduct

  • Be thoughtful and considerate of all living beings, at all times.
  • When speaking, use gentle and loving speech, with a mind of kindness and compassion.
  • Follow the Eight Precepts at all times, whether in the monastery or outside of it.
  • Clean up after yourself, and help with kitchen cleanup after each meal.
  • Maintain an attitude of courtesy and respect towards the monastics.
  • Do not enter any area marked “Monks Only.” If you need to enter such an area, you must ask for permission from a resident monastic on each occasion.
  • Do not speak in or near the meditation hall at any time, even if there is no formal meditation session in progress.
  • To help keep the monastery a haven of quiet and simplicity, Internet and phone use is limited.
  • Personal correspondence is permissible in the basement on Rest Days from 8am to 2pm.
  • This is not an appropriate place to engage in flirtation or to seek a sexual relationship.
  • During your stay here, please refrain from any spiritual practices other than Buddhist training as taught by the monastics here.

Schedule

  • Follow the daily schedule and attend all scheduled activities.
  • Do not leave the monastery grounds. If you need permission to leave the grounds, ask for permission during the work meeting, as far in advance as possible.
  • When there are no scheduled activities, you are expected to engage in personal practice and study.
  • On Rest Days, although there is no formal work period, you may still be asked to help with meal preparation and cleanup.
  • If you are staying longer than one week, you may do personal laundry during your free time. Please do full loads; you may combine your laundry with other guests or with monastery laundry.
  • There are no permanently assigned rooms or beds. All residents should be prepared to move to a different room or different bed whenever necessary (such as during retreats).
  • If you wish to have people visit you at the monastery, discuss it with the monastic residents first.

Food

  • Only eat the food served at the monastery at scheduled mealtimes. Do not eat at other times or places. If there are exceptional circumstances, first ask permission from the monastic community.
  • Out of compassion, we follow the practice of only serving food that is vegetarian, cruelty-free, and free of harmful chemicals (pesticides, herbicides, hormones, etc.).
  • If you wish to offer food to the monastery or to invite the monastics to a meal outside the monastery, please discuss it with the Meal Coordinator first.
  • Do not store food or beverages anywhere in the monastery. Any personal food items found may be discarded or used in preparing the community meals.
  • The only edible items available in the evening are standard Theravāda “allowables” (juice, cheese, dark chocolate, honey, molasses, maple syrup, etc. – for more details about what is allowable, ask one of the monastics). Do not eat anything else in the evening, and do not eat allowables at times other than the scheduled time.
  • Do not enter the kitchen except during the work period on a day you are assigned to kitchen work.

Sample Daily Schedule

  • 5:30 AM Chanting & Meditation
  • 7:00 AM Breakfast
  • 8:00 AM Sutta Study 
  • 9:00 AM Work Period
  • 11:00 AM Lunch
  • 2:00 PM Personal Practice
  • 5:00 PM Tea Break
  • 6:00 PM Chanting & Meditation
  • 7:30 PM Dhamma Talk

The Eight Precepts

All guests at Empty Cloud Monastery follow the Eight Precepts. The Eight Precepts are:

  1. To refrain from taking the life of any living creature (including insects)
  2. To refrain from taking that which is not given
  3. To refrain from all kinds of sexual activity
  4. To refrain from false and harmful speech 
  5. To refrain from consuming intoxicating drinks or drugs
  6. To refrain from eating at inappropriate times (after midday)
  7. To refrain from dancing, singing, listening to music, watching entertainment, wearing jewelry or makeup or otherwise beautifying the body
  8. To refrain from sleeping on luxurious bedding

Items to Bring With You when Staying

Please bring your own:

  • twin-sized bedsheets or sleeping bag
  • pillow case
  • towel
  • toiletries
  • outdoor work boots/shoes
  • simple work clothes
  • sun hat
  • weather appropriate-clothing

Covid-19 Safety Practices

Buddhist Insights takes the COVID-19 pandemic very seriously. Because of our commitment to doing our part in stopping the spread of the virus, we have been following the guidelines set by the CDC as well as New Jersey State for communities of faith and the general public. These are some of our safety protocols:

General Precautions

  • Face coverings and social distancing (staying at least 6 feet apart) are required while on monastery grounds
  • Frequent handwashing is encouraged, and hand sanitizer is provided
  • Commonly used surfaces are sanitized daily

Retreats & Events

  • All public, indoor events (including retreats) have been canceled until further notice. At this time, our indoor space does not permit social distancing and effective ventilation for more people than the resident community.
  • We have prioritized outdoor events. Please check our calendar for event updates.
  • We have moved most teachings and events online. Check our calendar for details.

Visits & Residencies

  • We are accepting private visits by individuals or families on a case-by-case basis. Please contact us if you are interested in arranging a visit.
  • Residencies are open for people who can stay for one month. In addition, they must produce a negative COVID-19 test administered no more than 72 hours before arriving at the monastery. Click here for more information on our residency program.