This weekend, I had the good fortune to be able to attend the grand opening of the new Portland Friends of the Dhamma centre, which recently relocated into the former zendo of Dharma Rain Zen Center. A number of prominent monks from the Thai Forest Tradition of Ajahn Chah came for the ceremony, including Ajahn Sumedho, Ajahn Pasanno, Ajahn Viradhammo, and Ajahn Sona. It was like the Buddhist equivalent of hanging out with a bunch of old school rock legends. Sort of.
Friday night, the weekly mediation and Dhamma talk was led by Ajahn Viradhammo, one of Ajahn Chah’s early Western students and current abbot of Tisarana Buddhist Monastery in Canada. Saturday, Ajahn Sumedho, Ajahn Chah’s first Western student and former abbot of Amaravati Buddhist Monastery in England, led a day-long of meditation and Dhamma reflections. And Sunday, Ajahn Pasanno, abbot of Abhayagiri Monastery in Redwood Valley, California and the second-most senior Western student of Ajahn Chah, led the grand opening ceremony, which consisted of chanting, some reflections by Ajahn Pasanno, Ajahn Sona, Sakula, and other members of the community, and a Thai-style water blessing.
Not only was it great to sit with and listen to the reflections of monks who have been practicing longer than I’ve been alive, but it was great to see how the PFoD community has grown over the years and for them to finally have a permanent home. A lot of people worked very hard, and gave generously of their time and financial resources, to make this grand opening a reality. When the building they were previously in was sold, and they had trouble finding another suitable (and affordable) location, there was some worry that the group might have to disband. But thanks to all that generosity and hard work (and maybe a bit of luck too), PFoD still has a spiritual home in Portland.
The entire experience was extremely auspicious, and I know it meant a lot to the whole community to have so many venerable monastics present, including Ajahn Sumedho. I know it definitely meant a lot to me. I think it’s safe to say the weekend was a success, and PFoD’s new home will continue to act as both a ‘landing pad’ for visiting monks and nuns and a place of training for the lay-community, being a welcoming sanctuary for anyone interested in trying to put the Buddha’s teachings into practice.