Q: What is Buddha Dharma University?

A: Buddha Dharma University was established by the Five Mountain Zen Order (“The Monastery Beyond Walls”) primarily as a Buddhist seminary with an emphasis on Zen training. We are a religious institution that seeks to provide a thorough, in-depth education in Buddhism from the perspective of a variety of traditions, but with a strong emphasis on our core: Korean Zen. See our history.

Q: How many classes should I take?

A: That’s up to you, and what you want from your education at Buddha Dharma University.

Full-time students typically take 3 classes each quarter and can graduate in four years. Of course you can take as many classes as your schedule will allow.

Q: What sort of job will my certificate or degree allow me to get?

A: That of serving others, in whatever capacity that may take. Our graduates have only one “job” – To help others wake up to their true nature. That may take a wide variety of forms. For example, graduates of Buddha Dharma University may go on to found their own Zen centers, serve as chaplains or spiritual counselors, teachers, authors…but, above all, they are servants where they live and work. In other words, do not expect a six-figure income; expect to discover your true nature — and how to help others discover the same.

We expect our graduates to enter the world with helping hands. So don’t enroll to make money. Enroll to wake up and serve the world.

Q: I have looked into other distance-learning programs, but I am hesitant. Will I feel part of a community?

A: That’s up to you. All students have access to their professors via email, phone, and on-line video. Also, each continuing student is assigned to a Zen teacher who will engage you in personal practice counseling as well as koan study if you wish it. These meetings take place regularly, perhaps once a week, and will enhance your Zen experience.

Many universities, and even some high schools, are now utilizing online learning as a regular part of their curriculum. Buddha Dharma University is on the cutting edge of this growing trend.

Buddha Dharma University strives to provide an education as interactive and personal as possible, to anyone who seeks it — regardless of where you happen to live. But, as with everything else in the world, you get out of it what you put into it. If you seek camaraderie, contribute to forum posts, interact with professors and fellow students.

Q: Is financial aid available?

A: Yes. Depending on your needs, and the availability of funds each quarter, you may qualify for assistance with your tuition. When you apply, please let us know your situation. Our admissions board will discuss it and contact you as soon as possible. NOTE: there is a finite amount of financial aid available in the form of scholarships. There is no guarantee scholarship money will be available when you apply. So please apply as early as possible in your decision-making process.

Also, students receiving financial aid are expected to show exemplary effort and commitment to the Dharma, and demonstrate academic mastery in the form of a grade of least a B or better. If academic performance drops below a B average, or if it is deemed students are not fully engaged in their academic studies, scholarships and/or grants will be revoked and students will be put on probation to determine if financial aid should be reinstated.

Q: Where do I obtain textbooks?

A: To help keep our tuition costs low, we use free resources as often as possible. Where that is not possible, we provide links to Internet sources such as Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or other online sellers of books. Please budget for at least $20 for textbooks for each course.

Q: Does Buddha Dharma University have a code of conduct that students are expected to follow?

A: Yes. It can be found here.

Q: What is the relationship between BDU and the Five Mountain Zen Order?

A: Most Ven. Wonji Dharma received the stewardship of BDU a couple of years after he founded the Five Mountain Zen Order. As BDU transitioned to being online only, it also became the de facto seminary for FMZO. Upon his passing in December 2021, Five Mountain Zen Order stopped being an overarching organization for all of the multiple affiliated sanghas, although many of them still communicate with each other and participate in joint precepts ceremonies. Buddha Dharma University, therefore, went back to being an education for anyone interested in Buddhist philosophy and practice and is not connected to any particular order. Several sanghas still use it as a seminary for their priests, although this is managed at the individual sangha level, and is not managed by BDU.

Because BDU is no longer linked so directly with FMZO (which has splintered into many different groups), we have the ability to return to Ven. Thich Thien An’s vision of a broader Buddhist education for anyone, not only those desiring to ordain.

Q: I’m a certified teacher in a Buddhist lineage.  How can I be involved?

A: We are always open to new instructors from multiple lineages.  We have classes that have already been developed but need an instructor, and we are open to creating new courses.  If this interests you, please e-mail Admissions.

Q: Does Buddha Dharma University offer a doctoral degree?

A: Not at this time.

Q: I have a question not answered here. Is there someone I could contact to ask it?

A: Yes. You may e-mail Admissions.