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.
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.
He was born in North Carolina in 1955. He was trained as a nurse and moved to Seattle in his early twenties where he came in contact with the Theravada tradition. In 1992, he helped out with a monastic visit to the Bay Area and spent two months serving a winter retreat at Amarāvati Monastery in England. Ajahn Karuṇadhammo made the decision to ordain while visiting Thailand in 1995. He asked if he could be part of the prospective California monastery (the then unnamed Abhayagiri) and was part of the original group that arrived at Abhayagiri on June 1, 1996. After training for two years as an Anāgārika and Sāmaṇera, he took full Bhikkhu ordination in May, 1998 with Ajahn Pasanno as his preceptor.