If you are interested in staying at Abhayagiri as an overnight guest, we ask that you please read the following before making a request to stay.
Abhayagiri Buddhist Monastery is located on two-hundred and fifty rustic acres in Redwood Valley, California. Guests are welcome to visit for the day. Abhayagiri is not a retreat or meditation center. It is a monastery devoted to the training of monks and lay people in the Forest Tradition of Theravada Buddhism. People are welcome to visit and it is possible to arrange a guest stay for short periods of time, sharing in the lifestyle of the monastic community. If a guest would like to stay overnight, please use the Contact form to reserve accommodation.
In keeping with our tradition, there is no charge for anything at Abhayagiri Buddhist Monastery. We are supported entirely by voluntary donations in the form of food and other material requisites, money, and work. While there is no obligatory charge to stay here, guests may consider how they might contribute to the needs of maintaining the monastery, developing the virtues of generosity, gratitude and kindness- important qualities which support the practice of mental cultivation.
Duration of Stay
First-time visits are limited to a one week stay (ten days if visiting from out-of-state or two weeks if visiting from outside the U.S.). We ask that all new guests stay for at least three nights. After the first visit, a guest may request to stay for a longer period of time when returning for a second visit. Accommodations are limited, so please contact the guest monk (preferably by email) well ahead of time to check the availability of space. We do not make reservations for guests more than two months in advance of the requested date of stay.
Due to the high number of overnight guest requests and our limited accommodations, we ask that reservations not be made until one can firmly commit to those dates without the likelihood of changing or canceling. Because of very limited facilities, we often have to turn people away who wish to visit. Occasionally, people make reservations and then cancel or change them. If a guest makes a reservation and then cancels or changes it, this usually means that someone else has lost the chance to stay here. Therefore, we ask guests not to make a reservation unless they can make a firm commitment to follow through on it.
If a potential guest has made a reservation to stay, received confirmation and then later cancels the reservation less than two weeks before their visit (for non-emergency reasons), that guest forgoes staying at Abhayagiri for one year from the reservation date. In addition, if a guest comes to stay at Abhayagiri and leaves a day or days earlier than planned (for non-emergency reasons), the guest forgoes being able to extend their next stay past the number of days stayed on that visit (e.g. if someone plans to come for a week and he or she stays only four days, their next reservation can be for no longer than four days).
Arranging for Transport
We do not arrange transport for guests and request that they organize their own transportation both to and from the monastery before arriving. For more information, please visit the Transportation page.
The best time to arrive for orientation purposes is between 10:30 am and 12:15 pm. The guest orienters typically orient guests at 12:00 pm, after the meal. If you need to arrive later, you will be shown to your hut after evening puja ends and will receive an orientation the following day. Please do not plan on arriving at the monastery after 8:30 pm. Guest orienters will not be available to show guests to their huts.
Lodging Descriptions for Women and Men
When staying at Abhayagiri, the general monastery etiquette is to accept whatever lodging one is offered. The guest lodgings vary, but are all individual heated rooms with water and a bathroom or outhouse/pit toilet close by. Each room or cabin requires the use of some steps. Men and women stay in separate areas of the monastery.
Women who are overnight guests stay at Casa Serena, the women’s guest house, a 2000 square foot three story house with four separate rooms and three bathrooms. Each room has a basic spring or foam mattress. Reaching the house requires walking up a series of about 30 steps and each room requires walking up a short stairway.
Casa Serena is located about a twelve to fifteen minute walk (2/3 of a mile) from the monastery center (cloister), up and down a few hills along a gravel road. There is also a forest trail that women can access at Casa Serena to walk to the upper part of the monastery.
If a guest is staying at Casa Serena, she can drive between the Casa Serena parking lot and the monastery cloister if unable to take the twelve to fifteen minute (2/3 mile) walk to the cloister area. For a female guest without a car, rides will not be routinely available both to and from the cloister.
The men’s guest accommodations are generally located a few minutes uphill walk from the cloister area.
Almost all of the resident monastics live in the upper part of the monastery, which is about a fifteen to twenty minute (3/4 mile) walk up a steep hill.
Male guests stay in separate cabins or rooms, which have either beds or thin air mattresses. Every cabin for male guests has several windows, a wood laminate floor and is heated by propane. There is running water outside the cabins and either an outhouse or pit toilet. Each cabin requires the ability to climb some steps to arrive at its entrance.
During the summer months (mid-July to late September), the evening and morning meditation sessions, pūjās, are held outdoors in the upper area of the monastery, about a twenty minute uphill walk from the main cloister, close to where male guests stay, and a 15 minute uphill trail walk from Casa Serena. Guests should be able to walk these distances when staying during the summer months.
Meals and Eating at Abhayagiri
At Abhayagiri, the guests follow the 8 Precepts (see below) along with all of the other residents in the monastery. The monks follow 227 rules (and thousands of derived rules), many of which are based on these 8 basic precepts. One of these 8 precepts is to limit the consumption of food between the hours of dawn and midday or roughly 7:00 am to 12:00 pm (or 1:00 pm during daylight savings time). By limiting eating to these times, the monks are less of a burden on the laity because they do not require food outside of this brief morning time and they can devote their afternoon and evening hours to formal practice. Refraining from eating in the afternoon is also a form of renunciation.
There is usually a very light breakfast of porridge, tea and milk/milk alternative served at 7:00 am. At 10:45 am or 11:00 am, the main meal is offered. At 5:30 pm, tea with sugar/honey and juice is served.
Since the founding of the monastery, there has always been enough food for everyone. However, since Abhayagiri residents subsist on donated food and do not buy food, what is offered varies day by day. As a principal, there is a strong emphasis based on renunciation and restraining the outward expression of any preference for specific types of food (unless the donor asks what is needed). This principal creates an atmosphere of ease for those donating food, whereby they can feel free to generously give whatever they wish without a sense of fear or concern that they might be giving the “wrong” or “non-preferred” foods.
For that reason, and to work with views, opinions and preferences, Abhayagiri residents and guests are asked to accept whatever food is offered. Overnight guests may donate whatever food they wish but are under no obligation to do so. That being said, guests who stay at Abhayagiri are asked to refrain from requesting a special diet or special food either at breakfast or the meal. Since the work tasks change from day to day for a guest, it is also not possible to oversee the cooking process to make sure that one’s special dietary needs are met for the meal.
Those with strong food allergies or food requirements, whether eating specific foods or needing to eat in the afternoon, would be advised to find a different practice environment that would better suit those needs.
Outside Communication and Coming and Going while Staying at the Monastery
A monastery is a sanctuary from the usual worldly concerns for those who have dedicated themselves to spiritual practice. As guests are sharing in community life, it is not appropriate to come and go without notice or engage in external business during their stay. We ask guests to take care of all business before arrival and to agree to stay in the monastery for the duration of their visit.
To help make the monastery a haven of quiet, simplicity and solitude, guests are asked to refrain from using their cell phones (or smart phones) for calls or email while staying here and to leave their tablets and laptop computers at home. This policy is in place to ensure a peaceful, contemplative stay.
If it is absolutely necessary for a monastery telephone or computer to be used to arrange departure or for an emergency, it is customary to ask the guest monk or a senior monk for permission to do so.
Pets at Abhayagiri
As a monastery policy we strongly discourage bringing pets to Abhayagiri. If a day visitor brings a pet, we ask that a dog or cat be leashed and with the owner at all times (or left in a car – weather permitting). Some people are highly allergic to pets and may be prevented from visiting if pets are around Abhayagiri or have been in the guest living spaces. In addition, we do not allow pets to stay overnight in the monastery. These policies ensure safety for the pets, visitors, residents, and wild animals that live in the monastery.
Items to Bring with You when Staying Overnight
- sandals for taking on and off easily when entering indoor spaces
- a sleeping bag if staying in early October to late December or early April to late May (not necessary if traveling by plane)
- a light blanket if staying between early June and late September (not necessary if traveling by plane)
- a set of sheets if not bringing a sleeping bag
- pillow case
- alarm clock
- sturdy work boots/shoes
- work clothes
- warm clothing and rain gear for early October to late December and early April to late May
- work gloves and a sun hat (helpful but not necessary to bring)
We ask all overnight guests to dress fairly conservatively (i.e. wearing less revealing/tight fitting clothes). This includes wearing pants, long shorts or long skirts and to wear long or short sleeve shirts rather than tank tops.
The Eight Precepts
The Buddha developed the Eight Precepts so that lay people could have rules that would set up the conditions for a more direct path towards liberation (as opposed to a spiritual path without moral guidelines). Lay people who stay in the monastery overnight are asked to follow the following precepts:
- To undertake the precept to refrain from taking the life of any living creature.
- To undertake the precept to refrain from taking that which is not given.
- To undertake the precept to refrain from any kind of sexual activity.
- To undertake the precept to refrain from false and harmful speech (which includes harsh, divisive, and frivolous speech).
- To undertake the precept to refrain from consuming intoxicating drink and drugs which lead to carelessness.
- To undertake the precept to refrain from eating at inappropriate times (refraining from eating after midday).
- To undertake the precept to refrain from entertainment, beautification and adornment.
- To undertake the precept to refrain from lying on a high or luxurious sleeping place.
The Daily Routine
Guests participate in the daily routine, including the morning group meditation which begins at 5:00 am and the evening group meditation which begins at 7:00 pm or 7:30 pm. The daily morning routine also includes a brief chore and a three-hour work period. Physical disabilities/sensitivities are taken into account when work tasks are assigned in the 7:30 am work meeting. We ask guests to inform the guest monk of any physical problems that may prevent specific types of work, for example, heavy lifting or digging.
5:00 am Morning meeting - chanting and meditation
6:30 am Brief chore period
7:00 am Light breakfast/tea
7:30 am Morning work period assignments and a Dhamma reflection
8:00 am Morning work period and meal preparation begin
10:30 am Cleanup after work period
11:00 am The meal is offered and a blessing is given
11:45 am Kitchen cleanup time
1:00 pm Period for personal practice
5:30 pm Tea - a good time to meet informally with the monastics
7:00 pm Evening meeting - chanting and meditation
On Saturdays and Lunar Observance Days, the evening meeting begins at 7:30 pm and is followed by a Dhamma talk.
On Lunar Observance Days, the four moon quarters, the schedule is reduced and the day is set aside for formal meditation and contemplation. After the 7:30 pm evening meditation and Dhamma talk, there is typically an all-night vigil with sitting and walking throughout the night. At midnight, a one hour question and answer tea break is held in the Dhamma Hall. Sitting and walking meditation then continues from 1 am until 3 am, when morning chanting begins. The day after the Lunar Observance Day is also set aside for rest and further practice.
As the scheduling for the Lunar Observance Day varies somewhat from the observable moon phases, check the Abhayagiri Calendar for exact dates. Attending the vigil is optional for overnight guests and visitors to the monastery.
A Guide to Monastic Etiquette at Abhayagiri Buddhist Monastery
This is intended as a guide for laypeople staying at Abhayagiri Monastery. People from non-Buddhist backgrounds may find the discipline and customs somewhat unfamiliar. It is hoped that the following information may assist in providing greater understanding and a sensitivity to the various conventions of monastic life.
The Vinaya, the code of monastic discipline, establishes a relationship with laypeople without whose daily support the Saṇgha could not continue. Monks and nuns are prohibited from possessing money and from storing food. They are completely dependent on the laity for many simple things, such as the preparation and offering of food, pruning foliage, and digging in the earth.
In monasteries, an emphasis is placed on establishing harmony through mindfulness and a consideration for others. Guests are invited to share in these observances of beautiful behavior and sensitivity.
Before entering a shrine room or living space, it is necessary to remove one's shoes. Although visitors are not obliged to, there is the custom of bowing to the shrine or teacher. The triple bow, to the Buddha, Dhamma and Saṇgha, is usually done upon entering or leaving the meditation hall. At the end of a formal meditation period, respect is given to the senior monk with a triple bow. When in the meditation hall, concern should be taken in moving with as little noise as possible. When sitting, one should avoid lolling and lounging and sitting with one’s back against the wall, especially during a Dhamma talk. Care should be taken not to point the feet at the shrine or at other people generally, as this can be considered impolite.
When offering something to a monk or nun or speaking with them, one should not stand over them but rather approach them at the same level at which they are sitting.
Monks and nuns are allowed to collect and consume their daily meal in the period between dawn and noon. Anything they intend to eat or drink, except water, must be formally offered into the hands or placed on or into something in direct contact with the hands.
In our tradition, monks and nuns lead lives of total celibacy. This includes refraining from suggestive speech or physical contact with lustful intent, both of which are serious offenses against the Vinaya discipline. To avoid this and to prevent gossip or misunderstanding from arising, a monk has to be accompanied by another male whenever he is engaging in a long conversation with a woman. A similar rule applies for nuns.
Guests are asked to be sensitive to the proper mode of conduct for men and women within a monastic setting. Although male and female guests and visitors meet, work, and eat together, we ask that men not enter the women’s lodgings, or vice versa, without permission from the senior monk. We also ask male and female overnight guests to avoid physical contact with each other.
Terms of Address:
The abbot is usually addressed as “Luang Por” (a Thai word which means "venerable father"). Any monk who has been ordained for at least ten years may be referred to as “Ajahn” (a Thai word derived from the Pāli word Ācariya meaning “teacher”). Other monks can be addressed as “Venerable” or the Thai equivalent, “Tahn.” Any monk, senior or junior can be called “Bhante,” a more general term of respect. These designations may or may not be followed by the ordained name of the individual. Nuns may be addressed as “Sister” or “Ayyā.” If they have been ordained for ten years or more, they may also be addressed as “Ajahn.”
Añjali and Bowing:
“Añjali”’ is a gesture of respect. The hands are held together in prayer-like fashion raised to the slightly lowered forehead. To bow correctly, kneel with the buttocks on the heels and with the hands in añjali. Bring the palms to the floor about four inches apart, then bring the forehead down to touch between the palms, the elbows close to the knees. Bow three times.
We hope that your stay will be peaceful and enriching to your spiritual life.