Visit Us

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.

Day Visits

Set a time to visit the monastery & the Monastic Sangha.

Write us an Email

To offer food, arrange a visit, or ask a question about our events

Overnight Visits

Deepen your Dharma practice & make merit by serving the Sangha.

Short Residencies

To learn more about staying at the monastery

Retreats

Work on your meditation practice in an intensive and supportive environment.

Intensive Meditation & Study

To learn more about our retreats

Overnight Visits

Short Residencies

Staying for two weeks to a month is an excellent way to improve your practice of mindfulness and meditation, while developing wholesome mind states of generosity and virtue. The quiet and seclusion of monastery life can also lay the groundwork for deep insights.

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The monastery is located on about three acres of property in West Orange, NJ. 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.

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.

Outside Commitments

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.

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.

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:

  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

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

Overnight Visits

Intensive Retreats

Retreats at Empty Cloud Monastery provide the conditions for you to deepen your meditation practice in an intensive and supportive environment. On retreat, we pull back from the business of everyday life and focus on waking early, eating simply, performing light work, and spending much of the day meditating—all within the container of silence and peace. Within this container, we allow the mind to settle and to give our practice greater opportunity to develop insight and tranquility.

 

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What are retreats like?

Most of our retreats follow a typical daily schedule that starts at 5:00 am and ends at 9:00 pm. The day is spent in silent practice with alternate periods of sitting and walking meditation. Two meals are served – breakfast and lunch. Comprehensive meditation instruction and talks about the Buddha’s teachings are also offered daily. In addition, group or individual meetings with the teachers about meditation practice take place regularly.

A short work period is set aside each day and usually lasts an hour. This gives retreatants an opportunity for mindfulness during everyday activities, from chopping vegetables or washing dishes to vacuuming or cleaning bathrooms. This voluntary service period is essential to communal harmony, and is a great way to extend our practice to all activities of our day.

A retreat environment, with its simple yet nourishing lifestyle, is designed to support and enhance your meditation practice.

Retreat cost 

Everything at Buddhist Insights is offered free-of-cost, following the ancient practice of dana, or giving. We invite every retreatant to personally reflect on how they can support the monastery and the retreat environment however they can, before, during, and after the retreat.

Transportation

Please see our Transit Directions page for more information on transportation to the monastery.

Accommodations

Most people who visit stay in a simple dorm-style room with beds for two to eight people, depending on the size of the retreat. Sharing a living space with others is part of our practice of community and togetherness. We currently do not offer single rooms. If you have questions or other accommodation needs, please contact us.

Meals

Two vegetarian meals per day are offered on retreat, breakfast and lunch. There is generally a variety of options available at mealtime, including steamed veggies, brown rice and white rice, oatmeal, fresh fruit, nut, soy and/or rice milks. For safety reasons, retreatants are not allowed access to the kitchen or fridges, and are not allowed to eat outside of designated meal times. Please let us know if you have a medical or health concern regarding food. 

What to Bring

Please bring weather appropriate-clothing for staying cool/warm as needed, as well as twin-sized bedsheets or sleeping bag, a pillow case, a towel, toiletries, a portable timepiece such as a wrist watch, outdoor work boots/shoes, simple work clothes, sun hat.

Sample Retreat Schedule

Below is a typical schedule on retreat. Note, however, that the schedule changes depending on the specific retreat.

4:30 am – Wake Up
5:00 am – Meditation
6:00 am – Morning Chores
6:15 am – Breakfast
7:00 am – Dharma Talk
8:00 am – Meditation
10:00 am – Work Period
11:00 am – Lunch
12:00 pm – Break
2:00 pm – Dharma Talk
3:00 pm – Meditation
5:00 pm – Break
6:00 pm – Talk
8:00 pm – Meditation
9:00 pm – Bedtime

Appropriate Conduct

Along with the schedule, precepts are the foundation of fruitful meditation practice and communal harmony. In order to create a safe, harmonious, and healthy environment, all retreatants must follow the Eight Precepts while on retreat. These 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

Internet, Phones, and Electronics

To maximize the benefit of a retreat, Internet, phone, and electronic device use is not permitted. We ask retreatants to leave devices at home. If this is not possible, they will be collected and stored safely until the end of the retreat. An emergency contact will be provided so that friends and family may contact you in case of an unforeseen emergency.

Individual Needs

Empty Cloud Monastery is committed to inclusiveness, and welcomes people from all backgrounds on retreat. If you have any particular need for assistance or special accommodation please contact us so we can offer you as much support as possible.

Staying Longer

If you would like to stay longer than a retreat, please look into our residential opportunities.