Residential Work-Study Program


Kum Nye Class



Ratna Ling Retreat Center, located in the redwood coastal hills of Sonoma County, CA, offers an integrated program that combines work with both traditional and contemporary practice and study. Centered around Kum Nye, Skillful Means and meditation, the class and practice curriculum offers a comprehensive approach to integrating spiritual practice with daily life and supports the development of stable, regular practice.

The residential work/study program at Ratna Ling Retreat Center allows you to further your study and practice of Skillful Means by engaging in full-time volunteer work as a means to cultivate deeper self-knowledge. Additionally students meet with senior teachers in the evening as part of a more comprehensive education in Tibetan Buddhist teachings. Classes cover a range of topics, including a weekly Skillful Means class as well as introduction to Buddhist topics, history, philosophy, Tibetan Yoga, and special topics often by request from current students. See “Class” section below for more information.



Skillful Means – Work as Spiritual Practice

Noting that most Americans make strong distinctions between work and their private time, tending to regard work as a burdensome necessity rather than as an opportunity for growth and accomplishment, Tarthang Tulku introduced Skillful Means as a way to help readers find greater satisfaction in work and life. Published in 1978, Skillful Means , is a collection of teachings and practices that guide students and volunteers toward a work experience that is meaningful and satisfying. For Dharma students, work can be an effective spiritual exercise, a practice in mindfulness and the means of perfecting six spiritual qualities, from generosity to discipline and patience, foundation of vigor, concentration, and wisdom. Skillful Means points out how the discipline of work develops awareness, strengthens concentration, and stimulates energy.

Today Ratna Ling volunteers continue to study and practice Skillful Means as a practical guide for turning work into “work practice”; using work as an opportunity to train our minds and gain deeper insights. As part of the Ratna Ling Work Study program, students meet once a week with Ralph McFall after work to explore the two main books in which these teachings are given: Skillful Means and Mastering Successful Work. Practicing throughout the week, each individual is given countless opportunities during their regular work day to cultivate greater self-knowledge and use the insight and experience of their practice to make positive changes in their work and life.



Volunteers at work



Students are asked to bring open and inquisitive minds and to be active participants in and out of class. In addition to attending classes, practice at work and out of work is central to success in this program. Through study and practice we are able to use everyday situations in work and life for a practical and beneficial exploration of Buddhist teachings and practice. Check the Ratna Ling Work-Study Program Schedule.

Past and current class topics include:
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  • Work as spiritual practice (using the books Skillful Means and Mastering Successful Work)
  • Kum Nye Tibetan Yoga theory and practice
  • Kum Nye Dancing theory and practice
  • Buddhist history and philosophy
  • The Bhavachakra (Wheel of Life/Wheel of Becoming)



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  • Textual study (Bodhicarayavatra aka ”Guide to the Way of the Bodhisattva”, Path of Heroes)
  • Dharma in daily life
  • 2nd Year Students Abhidharma intensive
  • 3rd Year Students Path of Heroes textual study and practice
  • Introduction to 1st turning of the dharma wheel
  • Tibetan Language



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