Volunteering 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. The minimum commitment is six months.


As a volunteer 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
  • Classes and opportunities for study, reflection, meditation and participation in community Buddhist practices.
  • Living allowance — $150 per month
  • 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.

We are  seeking volunteers who are physically hardy and able to use hand-tools and small machinery. Gardening, cooking and landscaping skills are always helpful. 


Odiyan has its foundations in Tibetan Buddhism but no religious affiliation is required to join our team. Living in a wholesome environment without the usual distractions of modern life can reveal to each of us the patterns and perspectives we hold that restrict our potential. Therefore, a desire to grow personally and be of service is essential.


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.




Odiyan looks like a traditional monastery or retreat center in many ways, but at this time in our community’s development, residents dedicate the majority of their time to work as a spiritual practice.


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 path of greater understanding, inner growth and meaning.


Odiyan 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 through a lifetime.  

For a summary of our current work projects, please visit the Volunteer page.

“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. Through work, we contribute our energy to life, investing our body, our breath and our mind in creative activity. By exercising our creativity, we fulfill our natural role in life, and inspire all beings with the joy of vital participation.”

Page xviii, Skillful Means – Patterns for Success – Tarthang Tulku




Classes and Practice: Volunteering at Odiyan offers continual opportunities to learn. Regular, structured classes are held several mornings during the week. As new residents integrate into Odiyan, they can participate in morning and weekend meditation sessions, and subsequently in community  Buddhist practices and ceremonies at the Odiyan temples. See the class and practice schedule here. 


Skill Training: Learning at Odiyan means acquiring and sharing numerous practical skills: flower and vegetable gardening, landscaping, all forms of construction including trades such as plumbing, electrical, and HVAC, use of tools and small machinery, metal and wood work, vegetarian cooking and food preservation.  Volunteers also participate in sacred art production such as stupa construction, tsa-tsa molding, fabric arts, metal statuary casting, Buddhist text production and Temple construction and repair.


Volunteers with longer residency (over six months) often become involved in resource and project management, project planning and implementation, budgeting and crew training.


Community: Living and working in a close community with other human beings provides endless opportunities to learn to interact harmoniously with others. This becomes especially poignant and important at Odiyan where the scope of  work projects is often monumental. Classes such as the Caring courses, Skillful Means and Buddhist study support learning about living and working together for a higher purpose of benefiting others.



More Details

We are currently taking applications for people who can start in January 2020 or later. The minimum commitment is six months. Send your resume (and photo, if you like) and we will get back to you asap.

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:

We are seeking applicants with the following attributes:

  • Physical, mental, emotional health and stability
  • Sincere interest in and ability to physically perform the types of work we are currently engaging – primarily construction, metal-work and landscaping
  • Positive attitude and flexibility
  • Interest in inner development and being part of an intentional community
  • Proven history of dependability

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, diagnosed psychological disorders, if you have recently quit smoking or using drugs, recently begun a regimen of medications or have recently begun or have recently been released from a recovery program.



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 much 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.

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, strong and enjoy hands-on work, please apply!

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 stations 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.