About the Monastery
Birken Forest Monastery ('Sitavana') is a Canadian Theravada Buddhist monastery following the Thai forest tradition of Ajahn Chah. In 1994, Canadian-born Abbot Ajahn Sona established the first Birken Forest Monastery, a primitive shack monastery nestled in the coast mountains near Pemberton, British Columbia. As the community of monastics and lay supporters grew, Birken was reborn in its second, larger location near Princeton, B.C. In 2001, Birken expanded yet again, relocating to its current and final resting place near Kamloops, B.C. The monastery is also known by its Pali name 'Sitavana', translated as 'cool forest grove'.
A visit to Birken is a valuable experience for anyone interested in spiritual matters. A journey through the magnificent mountains and valleys of British Columbia brings you to this quiet place. Once here you will spend your time with people dedicated to a peaceful, tolerant and virtuous life. A monastery is a place supportive of personal spiritual development for sincere people of all backgrounds and religions. In the language of the Buddha, monastics are simply referred to as "good friends." They are people who are dedicated full-time to following the path the Buddha set for achieving ultimate freedom from suffering, or enlightenment. Monastics can give you interesting perspectives on your own spiritual experiences, help you to understand Buddhism, and share useful ideas for making your mind bright and peaceful.
The Birken residence (vihara) provides nearly 10,000 sq.ft. of comfortable, green living space, including a spectacular meditation hall overlooking the surrounding forest, marsh and bird sanctuary. Due to its isolated location, Birken operates entirely off-grid, with solar panels supplying power for most of the year. Over the years, many improvements have been made to bring the monastery to a very high level of energy efficiency and a model of simple, green living. The main building has a walking meditation hall as well as a library and eating area in the basement, a large kitchen, guest rooms, and four shared bathrooms. Depending on demand, guest rooms may be private or shared. Monastics live in individual cabins (kutis). During some periods, a kuti may be available for guest use. These have propane heaters or wood stoves, but no electricity, water, or toilet facilities; and are a short walk from the main building.
While here, all that is expected is that you practice the rules of virtue (expressed in the Eight Precepts) as well as Birken's Guest Guidelines. Together, they are important and useful strategies to support mental cultivation and the development of wisdom. The Precepts support harmonious community living and are harmonious with the precepts undertaken by resident monastics. Our Guest Guidelines detail appropriate procedures and etiquette for visiting a Buddhist monastery, and are provided to all guests upon arrival. Each individual's requirements at the monastery are diverse, but these differences are met with intelligence, tolerance, patience and kind humor.
For over 2500 years, the monastic tradition has survived only through the support of the lay community. Theravada monks and nuns must refrain from growing or cooking their own food, and handling money. To this day, the lay community in countries around the world continues to generously provide monastics with the basic requisites of food, clothing, lodging and medicine. Birken is supported entirely by donations. All teaching, accommodation, and food are offered freely, without suggested fee. It is left to the good will and discretion of visitors and well-wishers to decide how they might support the work of the monastery.
We look forward to welcoming you to the monastery for a visit sometime soon!