The Experience of Residency at Empty Cloud Monastery
- Residents must commit to living at the monastery for at least one month. For residents new to Empty Cloud/Buddhist Insights, previous monastery experience and a steady Buddhist practice is required.
- All residents will be required to produce a negative COVID-19 diagnostic test taken no more than 24 hours of your arrival. You will also be asked to take a rapid re-test five days after your arrival, and practice increased COVID-19 precautions until you produce another negative test.
- If you are traveling from out-of-state, please review the CDC’s guidance on traveling to minimize risks.
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 male and female monks, who follow hundreds of monastic precepts, and 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 up to two weeks. If your first stay goes well, you may request to stay for a longer period of time when returning for a second visit.
Please read through all the information below, and feel free to ask any questions by email to the Guestmaster through the form on this page. Once you’ve read through all the information, please
submit a residency application by clicking here. (The new form will become available in March 2021.)
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 Study / Meditation
- 5:00 PM Tea Break
- 7:30 PM Chanting & Meditation
The Eight Precepts
All guests at Empty Cloud Monastery follow the Eight Precepts. The Eight Precepts are:
- To refrain from taking the life of any living creature (including insects)
- To refrain from taking that which is not given
- To refrain from all kinds of sexual activity
- To refrain from false and harmful speech
- To refrain from consuming intoxicating drinks or drugs
- To refrain from eating at inappropriate times (after midday)
- To refrain from dancing, singing, listening to music, watching entertainment, wearing jewelry or makeup or otherwise beautifying the body
- 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
- outdoor work boots/shoes
- simple work clothes
- sun hat
- weather appropriate-clothing
The community at Empty Cloud Monastery is in constant growth.
Bhante Suddhāso is a Buddhist monk living in New Jersey, USA. He is one of the co-founders of Buddhist Insights, a non-profit organization created to help connect laypeople with Buddhist monastics. Bhante Suddhāso is a practitioner of both Theravāda and Mahāyāna Buddhism, with a particular emphasis on the teachings found in the Pāli Suttas and the methods of practice used in Chan/Zen. His teachings focus on incorporating multiple step-by-step meditation techniques, as well as on detailed explanations of the Buddhist scriptures that provide the underlying theoretical framework for Buddhist meditation. Bhante Suddhāso has studied under the direct guidance of some of the most well-respected monastics in Western Buddhism, including Ajahn Pasanno, Ajahn Amaro, Ajahn Vīradhammo, and Bhante Gunaratana. His monastic life began at Tassajara Zen Mountain Center, where he was trained in Soto Zen Buddhism; during that time, he discovered a deep affinity for the Theravāda Forest Tradition, which led him to receive ordination at Abhayagiri Buddhist Monastery in California. Since then he has lived at several different monasteries of various Buddhist traditions. In 2019, together with Ayyā Somā, he co-founded Empty Cloud Monastery in New Jersey, where he currently resides as co-abbot.
Ayya Soma is an Italian Buddhist monk and co-abbot of Empty Cloud Monastery in New Jersey. As the co-founder of Buddhist Insights, a non-profit organization connecting people with monastics, she has learned the Dharma through the perspective of monks of all different traditions, and incorporates aspects from all of them in her own practice. Her spiritual path is inspired by the social engagement of Venerable Paññāvati Bhikkhuni; by the knowledge and wisdom of Ven. Robina Courtin; and by the compassion of Khenmo Drolma.
Bhante Sumano is a Jamaican Buddhist monk. Rather than adhering to one tradition of Buddhism, Bhante Sumano prefers to seek the essence of the Buddhadhamma present in all traditions. He practices in accordance with the teachings of the Buddha as described in the Pāli Canon and the Chinese Āgamas, and values the contemporary wisdom of past and present meditation masters. Seeing that the Dhamma is ultimately a practice of the heart, Bhante Sumano is most interested in the teachings that lead to final liberation.
Bhante Pamutto was born in New Jersey, USA. After school and four years in the army, he aroused a strong desire to do something wholesome with his life and travelled abroad seeking a spiritual calling. He discovered Theravada Buddhism in Thailand and moved back to the U.S. to take up residence as an aspirant at Abhayagiri Monastery in California. He was ordained there in 2010 (joined by Bhante Suddhāso the next year) and spent the next seven years in the Ajahn Chah tradition studying under many well-respected monastic teachers. Ever wishing to get to the roots of the holy life, he began a period of solo dhutanga wandering in the forests and villages of Western Massachusetts, living on almsfood and spending much of his time in the forest. Occasionally, he would visit Buddhist Insights at its Rockaway Beach location to offer or receive teachings and delight in sangha. After three years, despite finding the lifestyle of a wandering monk incredibly rich, he became very ill from a tick-born illness and with a heavy heart decided to disrobe to attend to his health. The process of recovery was long, but in 2020 he returned to monasticism and ordained again as a Theravada bhikkhu. Through his illness and after, he has remained committed to Buddhist practice and monastic training in the United States. He currently resides at Empty Cloud Monastery.
Antoinette is a long-term resident at Empty Cloud. She was born in Jamaica and raised in New York (Harlem and the Bronx). As a poet, she was drawn to Buddhist Insights by the silence, attending numerous retreats in Rockaway to study with visiting monastics and Ajahn Stan below. As a Black woman, she was drawn to Empty Cloud by the presence of wisdom and compassion through the Dhamma. As a resident, she is here to serve and to also learn how Buddhist teachings can support an enlightened world free of misogyny and racism.
Stan is the resident cat at Empty Cloud. Also known as Ajahn Metta, he adores meeting new humans and teaching them loving-kindness by purring and sitting on their lap while they are doing sitting meditation. Stan appreciates all the donations his human friends send him to help with his skin allergies.