Odiyan Retreat Center


Live, work and learn at Odiyan

Being a resident volunteer at Odiyan means becoming an integral and valued part of our community. We live together, work together, learn together, enjoy and care for our beautiful home together.

As a new resident you receive:

  • Housing — a comfortable room with one roommate, connected to a large covered porch  with fabulous views
  • Vegetarian meals — home-cooked and mostly organic (from our gardens!) with open access to our large community kitchen
  • Opportunities for study, reflection, meditation, and participation in community Buddhist practices.
  • Living allowance — $150 per month, $216 after one year
  • Free domestic phone calls, free WiFi
  • Free skill training in a wide range of trades and traditional arts
  • A healthy setting of nature, hiking trails, wide-open spaces, sacred beauty, fresh air, clean water, and nutritious food.

The Odiyan lifestyle is active and physically strenuous.  We are seeking volunteers who are hardy and able to use hand tools and small machinery.

Additional skills in cooking, preserving food, graphic design, programming, network and computer troubleshooting are always welcomed.

Odiyan has its foundations in Tibetan Buddhism but no religious affiliation is required to join our team. A desire to grow personally and be of service is essential. The minimum commitment is six months.

We are seeking people with the following attributes:

  • A sincere interest in our mission and purpose
  • Experience working with tools and/or small machines
  • Physically strong, able to perform manual work for hours each day, including repeated lifting, bending, kneeling
  • Resourcefulness and a strong sense of personal responsibility
  • Ability to commit to our rigorous schedule
  • Can work independently without excessive socializing or use of personal music devices
  • Financial resources to sustain personal needs (medical, transportation, loans, bills) for the full commitment period, and for travel expenses to and from Odiyan.

Odiyan is located in a very rural area of Sonoma County, CA. The closest small town is about a 40-minute drive along one-lane mountain roads.

Frequently Asked Questions

Download Application


New Odiyan resident volunteers should arrive eager to contribute and face challenges, stretch beyond current limitations and grow as human beings. In exchange for your time and energy, Odiyan offers a truly unique experience that continues throughout a lifetime.

Our founder, Tarthang Tulku, has devoted his life to establishing the Tibetan wisdom tradition in the West and preserving all schools of Buddhism in Asia. Our small community has accomplished an incredible amount over the last 45 years in laying the groundwork to realize this expansive vision.

Volunteering at Odiyan teaches each person to activate greater awareness, concentration and energy during the activities of daily life. We use “Skillful Means” to approach work as a path of greater understanding, inner growth and meaning.

Current projects at Odiyan for 2021 require people who are physically strong, can lift up to 50 lbs, able to work with manual tools and small machines, and have flexibility and strength for working in conditions such as being on your feet all day, on your knees, or bending.

“It is our nature as human beings to be satisfied and fulfilled. Work gives us the opportunity to realize this satisfaction by developing the true qualities of our nature. Work is the skillful expression of our total being, our means to create harmony and balance within ourselves and in the world.”

Skillful Means – Patterns for Success page xviii, Tarthang Tulku

Frequently Asked Questions

Download Application


Skill Training: Learning at Odiyan means acquiring and sharing numerous practical skills: flower and vegetable gardening, landscaping, construction work including trades skills such as welding and concrete work. You can learn the use of tools and small machinery, metalwork and woodworking, vegetarian cooking and food preservation.  Volunteers also participate in sacred art production such as stupa construction, tsa-tsa molding, fabric arts, metal statue casting, Buddhist text production and Temple construction and repair.

Volunteers who stay longer than six months often become involved in resource and project management, project planning and implementation, budgeting and crew training.

Study and Practice: Odiyan study hall and library offer spaces for study and classes, as well as dedicated audio/video equipment for many free online classes offered by our sister centers around the world. The Odiyan monthly schedule offer opportunities to participate in meditation, mantra, and fundamental Buddhist practices.

Frequently Asked Questions

Download Application

More Details

The minimum commitment is six months. If you have any questions or just want to chat about living and working at Odiyan, don’t hesitate to call our volunteer office. 510-981-1987.You can also check out our FAQs for more information.

Guidelines for Applying:

Volunteering at Odiyan is challenging physically, mentally, and emotionally. Applicants must be in good physical health with no serious or ongoing health concerns. Please do not apply if you are coping with major unresolved emotional issues, withdrawal, or unresolved diagnosed psychological disorders, or if you have recently quit smoking or using drugs, recently begun a regimen of medications or have recently begun or been released from a recovery program.

Covid policies: We request full vaccination of new residents. If you want to apply and have circumstances that prevent you from getting vaccinated, please contact us.


Can I bring my animal companion to Odiyan?
Unfortunately, we cannot allow volunteers to bring their pets.

Can I still apply if I am not from the United States?
Please be aware that if you do not hold a United States passport or green card we cannot assist you in obtaining a visa for entry, visiting or residing in the United States. We cannot consider volunteers who travel to the US on a B2 tourist visa at this time.

Can we apply as a couple? Can we live together?
Couples are welcome to apply. Each person must fill out a separate application. Please indicate if you are applying as part of a couple. Provided we have housing available, we will house couples together.

Can I attend online classes, work online or have a part-time job or school commitment while volunteering at Odiyan?
We do not recommend that you apply if you have any school or job commitments that must be fulfilled during your time at Odiyan due to the immersive nature of volunteering here.

Covid-19 Policies:  We request full vaccination of new residents. If you want to apply and have circumstances that prevent you from getting vaccinated, please contact us.

Are all meals vegetarian? Yes.

What if I’m not vegetarian?
You must be able and willing to follow a vegetarian diet while on-site at Odiyan. We do not cook or store meat in any of our kitchen areas.  If you find you are wanting animal protein, you are welcome to have jerky or other dried animal meat products in your room.  Most people find they adjust well to our diet here even if they have not been vegetarian in the past.

I have food allergies and/or special dietary needs, will I be able to eat the meals there?
Each resident takes turns cooking and is generally happy to try to account for and communicate about ingredients relevant to food allergies. Due to the communal nature of our meals, we cannot always practically accommodate all food allergies or dietary preferences at every meal.

What is the housing situation like?
Volunteers live in comfortable rooms in the structure surrounding the Main Temple. Each room accommodates two people and has a sink, a closet, shelves and other simple furnishings. All rooms have large windows and open onto a shared outdoor porch.

What sort of work will I do at Odiyan?
At Odiyan we all do a variety of work. Generally, new residents are assigned to the main crew which has a changing list of projects based on current priorities. The skills that are most consistently utilized are gardening and landscaping, construction trades, metal and wood work, foundry work such as casting and welding, use of small machinery and tools and vegetarian cooking. If you don’t have any of these skills but you are eager, have a strong build, and are good at hands-on work, please apply!

What is the general schedule at Odiyan? 

Monday through Friday, we focus on sacred art and construction projects and the vegetable gardens.  Saturday is generally reserved for working on general upkeep and maintenance of our communal living spaces and the acres of landscaping that need attention.

The daily schedule includes work, cooking for the community, classes, temple ceremonies and other activities. The Odiyan day begins with morning practice (not required) at 5:30 am, followed by breakfast.  A morning meeting at 7:15 am orients the work and other activities for the day. Lunch is at noon. Dinner is served at 7:30 pm in Summer, 6:30 pm in Winter.

Sundays are for personal chores, optional meditation practice, study, reading, relaxation, exploring the land or projects of personal interest.

Can I bring my car?
Yes, volunteers are welcome to bring their cars to Odiyan but it is not necessary. If you do bring a vehicle, please note that by California law, it must be insured.

I don’t have a car, are there other ways to get to Odiyan?
Yes, most volunteers travel here without bringing their car. Volunteers pay their own travel expenses round trip. This may include a van shuttle from either the Oakland or San Francisco airport to our closest city, Santa Rosa (about $35) and a local bus fare to bring you to the closest bus stop. From there you will be picked by car by someone from Odiyan. Travel details are arranged upon acceptance to the program.

Are there any breaks/vacation time?
Our community organizes special celebrations on the Fourth of July and Thanksgiving. We also have a winter break, which usually begins around Dec. 22nd until the first working day after New Year’s Day. This is the time that most volunteers visit with family and friends. If you know you need time off for family or other commitments please let us know in your application.

What about internet access and cell phones?
We have a desktop station available for internet access. You are welcome to bring your own laptop and other devices. WiFi is available in most residential rooms and in several common areas. Mobile phones are welcome, but due to the rural and mountainous landscape, cell service is spotty at times. Verizon works the best