Abhayagiri Buddhist Monastery
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|Abhayagiri Buddhist Monastery|
View from the Bhikkhu Commons
(Monks' Utility Building, or MUB)
(Photo by Reginald White)
|Denomination||Thai Forest Tradition|
Abhayagiri Buddhist Monastery 16201 Tomki Road Redwood Valley, CA 95470,United States
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Abhayagiri, or Fearless Mountain in the canonical language of Pali, is a Theravadin Buddhist monastery of the Thai Forest Tradition in Redwood Valley, California. Its chief priorities are the teaching of Buddhist ethics, together with traditional concentration and insight meditation techniques, as an effective way of dissolving stress.
Origins & Development
About 16 miles (26 km) north of Ukiah, the monastery has its origins in the 1980s when the UK-based Ajahn Sumedho, foremost western disciple of the Thai meditation master Ajahn Chah, started getting requests to teach in California. Visits by Ajahn Sumedho, as well as other senior monks and nuns, resulted in the Sanghapala Foundation being set up in 1988. The monastery's first 120 acres (0.49 km2) were given to the foundation by the devotees of Chan Master Hsuan Hua, founder of the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas in Talmage, before he died in 1995. Currently, the monastery rests on 280 acres (1.1 km2) of mountainous forest land.
Until 2010, Ajahn Pasanno and Ajahn Amaro served as co-abbots. In 2010, Ajahn Amaro accepted an invitation to serve as abbot of Amaravati Buddhist Monastery in England. Ajahn Pasanno is now the sole abbot of Abhayagiri.
The monastery has developed significantly under Ajahn Pasanno's leadership and guidance. The Bhikkhu Commons (also known as the Monks' Utility Building, or MUB) was dedicated on July 4, 2010. Also in 2010, the Pacific Hermitage, a branch of Abhayagiri Buddhist Monastery, was founded in the Columbia River Gorge along a forested stretch of White Salmon's Jewett Creek with the support of Ajahn Pasanno, who encouraged Ajahn Sudanto to lead the effort to establish the Pacific Hermitage.
The building of a new Reception Hall at Abhayagiri, which will be a two-story complex that will include a spacious meditation hall, a larger and more modern kitchen, office, a library, guest rooms, a child care room, bathrooms and showers for laymen, laundry, a small shrine room/reliquary, as well as covered decks and storage rooms, began in July 2013. The first phase of construction is complete.
Currently, there is one abbot, eleven fully ordained bhikkhus (Buddhist monks), two samaneras (novices), and two anagarikas (postulants). Male residents live in small huts nestled in the forest. Female residents live in a house which was separately donated to the monastery. Guest teachers come from the forests of Thailand as well as England. Visitors come to the monastery regularly for day visits, and can also stay as overnight guests.
The daily schedule, in keeping with tradition, is rigorous. Most residents (monastics and lay visitors) rise well before sunrise. Morning puja begins at 5:00 am and lasts an hour and a half. It includes chanting in both Pali and English, as well as silent meditation. This is followed by a half-hour chore period and a simple oatmeal breakfast. At 7:30 am, there is a meeting where a short Dhamma reflection is given and work assignments for the day are announced. There is then a three-hour work period, ending with a meal around 11:00 am, which has to be consumed before midday. There follows free time for sitting and walking meditation as well as Dhamma study beginning at 1:00 pm. One can also walk around the extensive network of trails that wind about the mountainside. At 5:30 pm, tea is served in the kitchen and generally one of the Ajahns and other monastics are available in the Dhamma Hall for questions and answers. Tea time is followed by the evening puja beginning at 7:00 pm, which includes chanting in Pali and silent meditation. Formal Dhamma talks are offered on Saturdays and lunar observance days during evening puja just after the period for silent meditation. On lunar observance days, which mark the four moon quarters, sitting and walking meditation continue until 3:00 am the following morning.
Special lunar observance days at Abhayagiri include Asalha Puja, which commemorates the first teaching given by the Buddha after he attained enlightenment and the first time another being attained stream-entry as a result of the Buddha’s teaching. The next day is the beginning of vassa (Thai: พรรษา), the three-month Rains Retreat. Vassa is followed by Kathina, a festival in which the laity expresses gratitude to monks and offers to the monastic community gifts of cloth and supplies that will be useful for the coming year. The cloth is then cut, sewn and dyed by the monks to make a robe on that day to offer to one of the Saṅgha. Other days that the monastic community at Abhayagiri sets aside each year for special commemoration include Ajahn Chah’s birthday (June 17).
Programs & Teaching in the Community
Abhayagiri offers a variety of programs and teachings throughout the year. The Upāsikā Program was created for laypeople in order to assist individual practice, enhance spiritual training, and deepen both the intellectual and experiential understanding of Dhamma. Upāsikā Days are held throughout the year at the monastery and are open both to those who have made a formal commitment to the program and to those who may simply wish to attend for the day. Each year’s commitment ceremony takes place in the spring. There is a different theme for the teachings that are offered on each Upāsikā Day.
Members of the Abhayagiri Saṅgha regularly travel from Abhayagiri throughout the year to offer teachings in the immediate area and other parts of the country. Once a month, they offer teachings at Yoga Mendocino (Ukiah, California), at the Three Jewels Meditation Hall (Fort Bragg, California), and at Berkeley Buddhist Monastery, and they offer teachings at least once throughout the year at Portland Friends of the Dhamma (Oregon), Spirit Rock Meditation Center, Insight Santa Cruz, and the Common Ground Meditation Center (Minneapolis, Minnesota).
- Ajahn Amaro
- Ajahn Pasanno
- Amaravati Buddhist Monastery, UK
- Bodhinyana Monastery, Australia
- Chithurst Buddhist Monastery, UK
- Birken Forest Buddhist Monastery, Canada
- Wat Pah Nanachat, Thailand
- "Origins of Abhayagiri", Abhayagiri Buddhist Monastery.
- "Ajahn Amaro Biography", Amaravati Buddhist Monastery. Retrieved on 19 September 2013.
- "Monasteries in the lineage of Ajahn Chah", Forest Sangha. Retrieved on 19 September 2013.
- " The Pacific Hermitage: About Us".
- "Groundbreaking: July 23 - August 8, 2013".
- "Construction", Updates, Floor Plans, Cost Estimation.
- "Residents", Abhayagiri Buddhist Monastery.
- "Day Visits", Abhayagiri Buddhist Monastery.
- "Overnight Stays", Abhayagiri Buddhist Monastery.
- "Daily Schedule", Abhayagiri Buddhist Monastery.
- "Chanting Book", Abhayagiri Buddhist Monastery.
- "Chanting Book", Abhayagiri Buddhist Monastery.
- "Upasika Program", Abhayagiri Buddhist Monastery.
- "Yoga Mendocino (Ukiah, California)"
- "Three Jewels Meditation Hall (Fort Bragg, California)"
- "Berkeley Buddhist Monastery"
- "Portland Friends of the Dhamma"
- "Spirit Rock Meditation Center"
- "Insight Santa Cruz"
- "Common Ground Meditation Center (Minneapolis, Minnesota)"
- Abhayagiri official website: offers free audio, books & newsletter
- Forest Sangha website
- On-line Pali Language Course