Nestled in the Columbia River Gorge along a forested stretch of White Salmon's Jewett Creek is the home of a small group of Theravada Buddhist monks. The Pacific Hermitage is a branch of Abhayagiri Buddhist Monastery in Redwood Valley, California.
Established in the summer of 2010, the Hermitage is a place of solitude for these monks who devote their lives to meditation and simple living. The monks walk daily through the town of White Salmon to accept donations of food, and are available to the community as a spiritual resource. They also teach and lead Buddhist meditation locally and in the region.
Abhayagiri Monastery is the first monastery in the United States to be established by followers of Ajahn Chah, a respected Buddhist master of the Thai Forest Tradition of Theravada Buddhism.
Born in Portland, Oregon in 1968, Ajahn Sudanto became interested in Buddhism and Indian spiritual traditions while completing a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the University of Oregon. After graduation he set off for a open-ended period of travel and spiritual seeking in India and Southeast Asia. After a year of traveling, he proceeded to Thailand to begin a period of intensive study and meditation, which drew him to Wat Pah Nanachat in the Northeast of Thailand. There he met Ajahn Pasanno (then the abbot) and requested to ordain and train with the resident community, taking full ordination as a bhikkhu in 1994. After training for five years at Wat Pah Nanachat and various branch monasteries in the Ajahn Chah tradition, he came to Abhayagiri to live and train with the emerging sangha in America.
Ajahn spent the summer of 2007 together with Ajahn Karunadhammo in the Columbia River Gorge on retreat in an impromptu forest hermitage supported by the Portland Friends of the Dhamma. Later he was asked by the Abhayagiri community to lead the effort to establish the Pacific Hermitage in 2010.
Ajahn Caganando (pronounced Cha-ga-nan-do) was born in New York in 1954. After receiving a physics degree he worked in solar and wind energy research, and energy efficient construction. The search for spiritual well being led to practice in several Buddhist monasteries in India and Thailand. Serving on IMS staff for five years, he met western monks from the Ajahn Chah lineage. Interested in monastic life, he went to Wat Pah Nanachat in Thailand in 2002, and took bhikkhu ordination in 2004 with Luang Por Liem as his preceptor. Meeting Ajahn Pasanno in Thailand in 2007 and benefiting from his guidance, he came to Abhayagiri Monastery. In 2010, he came to White Salmon, WA to help Ajahn Sudanto establish the Pacific Hermitage.