The Hermitage:

Photo of Pacific Hermitage

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.

The Tradition

The Thai Forest tradition is one branch of the Theravada Buddhist tradition. Theravada Buddhism, also known as the Southern School of Buddhism, is present throughout Thailand, Burma, and Sri Lanka. The Theravada tradition is grounded in the discourses recorded in the Pali Canon, the oldest Buddhist scriptures. Theravada literally means the Way of the Elders, and is named so because of its strict adherence to the original teachings and rules of monastic discipline expounded by the Buddha.
The Thai Forest tradition is the branch of Theravada Buddhism in Thailand that most strictly holds the original monastic rules of discipline laid down by the Buddha. The Forest tradition also most strongly emphasizes meditative practice and the realization of enlightenment as the focus of monastic life. Forest monasteries are primarily oriented around practicing the Buddha’s path of contemplative insight, including living a life of discipline, renunciation, and meditation in order to fully realize the inner truth and peace taught by the Buddha. Living a life of austerity allows forest monastics to simplify and refine the mind. This refinement allows them to clearly and directly explore the fundamental causes of suffering within their heart and to inwardly cultivate the path leading toward freedom from suffering and supreme happiness. Living frugally, with few possessions fosters for forest monastics the joy of an unburdened life and assists them in subduing greed, pride, and other taints in their minds.
Forest monastics live in daily interaction with and dependence upon the lay community. While laypeople provide the material supports for their renunciant life, such as almsfood and cloth for robes, the monks provide the laity with teachings and spiritual inspiration. Forest monks follow an extensive 227 rules of conduct. They are required to be celibate, to eat only between dawn and noon, and not to handle money 

For more on the monastic tradition see the "The Thai Forest Tradition" on the Abhayagiri website.

The Monks

Ajahn Sudanto

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.

Caganando Bhikkhu

Tan Caganando
Ven. 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. Interest in sustainable communities, solar architecture, and meditation resulted in some practical hands on building work. Asia was calling, and a period of world travel led to practice in several Buddhist monasteries in India and Thailand. Interested in supporting meditation, he was on staff at IMS for 5 years where he first met western monks from the Ajahn Chah lineage. Exploring 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 and benefiting from his guidance, he came to Abhayagiri Monastery in 2007. 

Thitabho Bhikkhu

Tan Thitabho
Tan Thitābho was born in Tucson, Arizona in 1985. While attending the University of Arizona and working on a Bachelor of Fine Arts, he began reading about Buddhism and practicing meditation. At that time, a strong interest to ordain arose in him, and after discovering the western branch monasteries in the Ajahn Chah tradition, he came to visit Abhayagiri in August of 2004. Tan Thitābho continued to stay on at the monastery and after training for two years as an Anāgārika and Sāmaṇera, he received the higher ordination, becoming a fully ordained Bhikkhu on April 22, 2007. Tan Thitābho spent one year training in Thailand from 2009-2010 and is now living at Pacific Hermitage.
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