How we name things is important. When contemplating what to call the monastery in Redwood Valley, Mendocino County, California, a number of different possibilities were considered. Since we were the fortunate beneficiaries of the generosity of Ven. Master Hsüan Hua in receiving the initial gift of 120 acres of land in Redwood Valley, it was obvious that it would be appropriate to somehow reflect the kindness of this offering and the spirit in which it was intended. It also seemed important to choose a name in the Pali language, to confirm our sense of allegiance to the Theravada tradition and reflect the ‘classical’ style of Forest monastic life embodied in the monastery.
The name finally settled upon, Abhayagiri, means ‘the mountain of fearlessness’ or ‘fearless mountain’ ( ‘A’ = ‘not’ or ‘without’; ‘bhaya’ = ‘fear’; ‘giri’ = ‘mountain’). It seemed appropriate for a variety of reasons, the most important being the way in which it reflected the intention behind Ven. Master Hua’s gift. On several occasions when our communities met together, he had made a point of stating that it had been the dream of his life ‘to bring the Northern and Southern traditions of Buddhism back together again.’ Master Hua was someone who acted upon his words, so when we received the news a few days before he passed away that he had offered us 120 acres of forest fifty[fifteen?] miles north of the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas in Ukiah, Mendocino County, California, we were surprised but not surprised; such open-hearted gestures of ecumenical friendship were just his style. It was also in keeping with this same openness and trust that the gift was made with no strings attached; it was a pure offering, enabling our communities to be physically close and relate in an atmosphere of mutual respect and harmony.
This reflection by Ajahn Amaro is from the book, Roots and Currents, pp. 217-218.