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Seva-Vidya (Service Learning)

Volunteer & Service-Learning Opportunities for Compassionate & Sustainable Living

‘The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.’

~ M.K. Gandhi


Dharmalaya Institute provides opportunities for sincere volunteers to do meaningful service for mutual benefit, some of which include an experiential education component (‘service learning’ or ‘learning by doing’). Would you like to learn about various ideas and practices of sustainable and compassioante living while dedicating yourself to service work for a great cause? If so, read on!


Volunteer & Service-Learning Opportunities at the Dharmalaya Institute in Bir

Dharmalaya Institute offers volunteer and service-learning opportunities through activities including natural building (eco-friendly earthen architecture), organic farming and landscaping, and other fields related to sustainable and compassionate living. 

The Institute currently offers several types of volunteer and service-learning programmes at different times:

  • Compassion in Action: Long-term Service-Learning Immersion for Caring Contemplatives (four months or more): Dharmalaya Institute’s Compassion in Action programme is a long-term, residental service-learning immersion opportunity conceived to provide a supportive environment for caring contemplatives to take a deeper dive into the possibilities of compassionate, sustainable, and sensible living, integrating the outer work (improving our world) with the inner work (improving ourselves).. The prerequisite for the programme is successful completion of at least one of Dharmalaya Institute’s workshops such as Sustainable Thriving, Compassionate Living, Earthen Building, etc. After one has successfully completed at least one such workshop, then one would qualify to apply for the Compassion in Action programme and typically would be welcome to volunteer during almost any time of the year (subject to availability) with a minimum commitment of four months.  › More
  • Post-workshop Practicum Periods: Some of Dharmalaya Institute’s workshops are followed by optional practicum periods in which workshop participants may opt to remain longer to deepen their understanding and improve their skills by working on a voluntary basis alongside our local team of artisans. These practicum periods are open only to those who have completed the workshop. (See our workshops,)
  • Volunteer Work Periods (short-term): On rare occasions, Dharmalaya Institute offers short-term volunteer programmes (usually 2-3 weeks) in which volunteers with busy schedules can come to get a taste of the arts and methods of sustainable living in the Himalayas by doing volunteer work related to earthen building, organic gardening, natural landscaping, and more. During these Volunteer Work Periods, the focus is on hands-on service work: seven hours per day, six days per week (with free time in the evenings and on Sundays). There is no formal instruction as such during Volunteer Work Periods (if you’re looking for systematic instruction and training, see our workshops), but volunteering gives one the opportunity to learn informally by working alongside our local team. Please note that short-term volunteering is available only during one of the posted Volunteer Work Periods (not at any other time). For the schedule of upcoming Volunteer Work Periods, see the programme schedule on the bottom half of our homepage. There is no tuition fee during Volunteer Work Periods, but volunteers must pay modest costs for food and lodging.  › More
  • Management Team: A limited number of long-term positions for volunteers willing and able to take responsibility for a specific aspect of Dharmalaya’s work or life on campus. For example, managing hospitality, garden projects, karma yoga, etc. Minimum time commitment for management positions is one year, with longer commitments being preferred. Trial period required. › More
  • Karma Yoga Retreats: Active retreat programmes blending mindfulness and meditation with relaxed and joyful volunteer service work doing various activities related to sustainable living, such as earthen construction, organic gardening, natural landscaping, etc.  › See our Events Calendar
  • Intensive Workshops: Short but jam-packed training programmes and practicums in eco-friendly construction and other skills for sustainable living  › See our Events Calendar
  • Earthen Masonry Training: A structured certificate programme in the art and techniques of earthen masonry, including adobe, cobb, stonework, etc. (Minimum commitment: six months)  › More
  • Internship in Vernacular Eco-Architecture: A formal, rigourous, supervised internship programme for architects and students of architecture, providing hands-on experience and deeper understanding of the hows and whys of earthen architecture in the neo-traditional style of esteemed eco-architect Didi Contractor. Much more demanding than the other programmes. (Minimum commitment: four months)  › More
  • Teaching English: We need long-term volunteers (requires commitment of at least four months) who are fluent in English to provide classes and practice conversations for our local staff, who have requested English classes.  › More

If you’re intersted in volunteering at Dharmalaya but you aren’t sure which of these programmes to choose, probably the best place to start is with the first option above, the Volunteer Work Periods for Sustainable Living. For more information, or to apply to volunteer at the Dharmalaya Institute, read our information for volunteers at the Dharmalaya Institute in Bir.

Volunteering Elsewhere in Bir or in the Dharamshala Area

If you interested in other volunteer opportunities in Bir, or if you are looking for volunteer opportunities in the greater Dharamshala area (in the Kangra District of Himachal Pradesh, India), including McLeodGanj and Sidhbari, see our Volunteering in Dharamshala page.

‘All the suffering in the world comes from seeking happiness for oneself.
All the joy in the world comes from seeking happiness for others.’

~ Shantideva, Nalanda University, 8th century CE


› More info on volunteering at the Dharmalaya Institute