The Woodenfish Program, known formally as the Humanistic Buddhism Monastic Life Program, or HBMLP, is a program set up by the Taiwan based Fo Guang Shan Buddhist order for college students. Held in the summer of each year, students have an opportunity to live the life of a monastic in a Buddhist monastery; namely, living in the Fo Guang Shan order's main monastery in Kaohsiung, Taiwan. The program offers free room and board, and is funded by a grant from the order.
The namesake comes from the wooden fish instrument, the most common religious musical instrument used in Chinese, Korean and Japanese Buddhism. The program is sponsored by Buddha's Light International Association.
The primary objective of this program is to promote the understanding of Chinese Buddhism by exposing the participants to the daily practice of Humanistic Buddhism within a traditional Buddhist monastery. The Woodenfish Program provides students interested in the study of religion, Buddhism and/or Chinese culture and language first-hand experience in the lifestyle, training, and functions of contemporary Chinese Buddhist monastics. Classes taught on various levels by the knowledgeable monastics and staff, inform students on Buddhist history, doctrine and philosophy, as well as classes offered regarding the liturgical instruments, monastic etiquette, meditation practice and other functions and rituals. All instruction is given in English or is translated from Mandarin. Other key elements of the program include:
- Offering participants a chance to view and experience Buddhism as it is practiced in modern-day Taiwan.
- Introducing participants to the concepts and practices of Humanistic Buddhism.
- Communal activities within the monastery, such as vegetable gardening, kitchen duty, etc.
- Daily participation in many of the routine activities within a Buddhist monastery.
- A five to seven day silent meditation retreat.
- Cultivating spirituality through meditation.
- A cultural tour of Taiwan.
The program director may change the activities slightly to better accommodate the needs of the participants and/or better fulfill the program objectives.
Through Venerable Master Hsing Yun, the founder of Fo Guang Shan, and the efforts of Venerable Dr. Yifa, the Woodenfish Program provides an opportunity for a group of undergraduate and graduate students to come each summer to the Fo Guang Shan monastery in Kaohsiung, Taiwan, the world headquarters of the Fo Guang Shan system of temples, colleges, associations, and charitable and cultural programs. Fo Guang Shan is a Linji Ch'an monastery, which is similar in many ways to a Japanese Rinzai monastery.
Participants hail from some of the best universities from across the globe. They are diverse in backgrounds but, there is a concentration of Asian studies, Buddhist studies, comparative religion and counseling/psychology majors. The participants may be in their undergraduate training or completion the dissertation for their Ph.D.