About the Monastery
Birken Forest Buddhist Monastery (‘Birken’) is a Canadian Theravada Buddhist monastery following the Thai forest tradition of Ajahn Chah. In 1994, Canadian-born Abbot Ajahn Sona returned from monastic training in Thailand and established a primitive shack monastery in the coast mountains of British Columbia, naming it “Birken” due to its proximity to the Birkenhead Lake Provincial Park. As the community of monastics and lay supporters grew, Birken was reborn in its second, larger location near Princeton, B.C. In 2001, Birken relocated to its current and final resting place in a secluded forest location just south of Kamloops, B.C. The monastery is also known by its Pali name ‘Sītavana’, translated as ‘cool forest grove’.
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 remote 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 monasticism. The basement of the main building contains a walking meditation hall, library and dining area. The main building also contains a large kitchen, several guest rooms, and four shared bathrooms. The monastics and many of the resident lay stewards live in small cabins (called ‘kutis’) a short walk away from the main building.
For over 2,500 years, the monastic tradition has survived solely through the generous support of the lay community. Theravada monks and nuns must refrain from growing, cooking or storing their own food, and are prohibited from handling money. To this day, lay communities in countries around the world generously provide monastics with their basic requisites of food, clothing, lodging and medicine. In return, monastics offer laypeople the highest gifts of Dhamma teachings and spiritual mentorship. Birken is supported entirely by donations and the voluntary labour of resident lay stewards. Guests from all walks of life are welcome to visit the monastery and experience the liberating teachings of the Buddha for themselves.