Luang Por Liem (left) and Luang Por Anek hiked in the Columbia Gorge during their visit to Portland.
Portland Friends of the Dhamma was honored May 19– 20 with a visit from several senior monastics in the Theravada Thai Forest tradition of Ajahn Chah. On the invitation of Ajahn Pasanno, co-abbot of Abhayagiri Monastery in Redwood Valley, California, ten monks came to Portland for two days. Four of them had traveled from Thailand.
The Thai visitors were Luang Por Liem, Ajahn Chah’s successor and abbot of Wat Pah Pong; Luang Por Anek, abbot of Wat Pah Saingam; Ajahn Kevali, abbot of Wat Pah Nanachat; and Ajahn Siripanyo, abbot of Wat Dtao Dam. Accompanying them were Ajahn Yantiko, Tan Caganando, anagarikas Carl and Ian and Ajahn Pasanno.
The visiting monastics watched salmon climb the fish ladder at Bonneville Dam.
It was a quick trip, but the monks were very generous with their time and spent many hours each day with the lay community. On Tuesday afternoon at Portland Friends of the Dhamma center, the monks participated in a casual tea and answered questions from the group. Tuesday evening brought a formal Puja, with chanting, sitting meditation and a teaching from Ajahn Liem.
The community extended two morning meal offerings, Tuesday at the center and Wednesday at the home of Scott and Joan Benge, where the monks resided during their stay. The Tuesday meal was well attended and Ajahn Liem offered blessings, as well as a generous amount of teachings in Thai to our Thai community members. Wednesday’s meal was in honor of departed family and friends. The monks did a blessing ceremony and chants, the altar was filled with photos of loved ones, and 25 lay practitioners and monastics shared a meal.
On Wednesday afternoon, several community members took the monks and their stewards, Debbie and Tina, on a hike in the beautiful Columbia Gorge. Scott described it this way: “On the trip up the Gorge, we went to the Portland Women’s Forum State Scenic Viewpoint to get a fantastic view looking east, then on a short hike up Eagle Creek to see the hanging gardens and old growth Douglas fir and finally to Bonneville Dam to see the salmon climbing the fish ladder. The fish seemed to elicit the most animated response from Venerable Ajahns Liem and Anek.”
Thai Forest monks visiting from Thailand and California and their stewards were hosted by Scott and Joan Benge and lay supporters from Portland Friends of the Dhamma.
Wednesday evening, the monastics joined the lay community for a meeting about the Sanghata Project. The mission of the Sanghata Project is to foster the teachings of the Buddha by supporting the establishment and maintenance of a branch of Abhayagiri Buddhist Monastery in the area around Portland, Oregon. Luang Por Liem and Luang Por Anek offered sound advice and support for the project. They emphasized that the group stay grounded in wholesome principles and actions, maintaining firm, clean spiritual qualities. Luang Por Liem said money should not be the focus – as, often, monasteries have no money – but that “faith has to be our starting fund.”
For more information on Portland Friends of the Dhamma or the Sanghata Project, please visit www.pdxdhamma.org.
Contributor: Jessica Swanson.
Photos: Courtesy of Scott Benge; Jessica Swanson.