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RFC: Birken Forest Monastery (British Columbia)

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Note: the guest guideline, available from their website, answers most of the question here with great clarity.

  • Name of Center: Birken Forest Buddhist Monastery
  • Address: 7000 Smith Lake Forest Service Road, Knutsford, BC V0E 2A0, CANADA
  • Website: https://birken.ca/
  • Contact Email: meditate@birken.ca
  • Tradition(s): Ajahn Chah's Thai Forest / Theravada
  • Technique(s): Samadhi (mostly breath meditation) / Vipassana
  • Teacher(s): Ajahn Sona
  • Cost: Donation
  • Accommodations: Single and double rooms, isolated kutis. The rooms are surprisingly comfortable and well designed. Most rooms appear to be private single rooms. The place is very nice, clean and tidy. It is mostly off the grid: powered by solar panels (and propane / wood for heating), the water is extracted from a well then filtered.
  • Facilities:
    • One large meditation hall
    • Tea / Dining area 
    • Walking paths for walking meditation
    • Libraries with a various choice of books, including lay people stuff.
    • comfortable, western type bathrooms and showers.
    • washing machine / dryer are available for longer retreats
  • Physical Setting: In the middle of the woods, far from most things. A few trails leaving from the monastery lead to beautiful, quiet spots, including a hidden lake where retreatants set up a basic area for meditation.
  • Food (Vegetarian/Vegan/etc.): Generally quite good. Choice of vegetarian / vegan / meat at most meals. No food after 12, except sugary treats at tea time.
  • Retreat Length(s): 7 days for a first personal retreat (can be negotiated), at will otherwise. They sometimes organise formal retreats.
  • Typical Schedule: First meditation at 5.30am, breakfast at 7am, lunch at 11 or 11.30, tea time at 5pm (sometimes and opportunity for a Q&A session with the abbott), end of day meditation at 7pm. Outside of formal retreat, retreatants are free to do as they please outside of those.
  • Issues of Taboos around attainment, real practice, disclosing insights, etc.: Discussion about concentration states and attainement are open and frequent. 
  • Issues of Rites/Rituals: Basic bowing / "anjali" hand clasping. Nothing a respectful guest can not grasp after a few days. No one seems to take real offense if those are not strictly respected.
  • Issues of Proper Dress: quite lose. Just wear modest clothing. e.g. I wore jeans and a hoody most of the time.
  • Issues of Language: English spoken
  • Health Issues: Beware of mosquitos in summer, they can be quite nasty.
  • Logistical Issues: Can be reached by taxi (~100CAD) or with personal cars. They organize regular pickup from the nearby city of Kamloops, which has an airport.
  • Strengths: very comfortable for Western practitioner
  • Weaknesses:
    • Noble Silence is only losely enforced, especially in the kitchen. That can be an issue for meditators seeking more reclusion but I appreciated having some human interaction once in a while.
    • Meetings with teachers are short and rare (I only had one 30 minutes interview in 10 days).
    • One must come with their own discipline to go sit, as there is no formal meditation schedule beside morning / evening.
  • Other Comments: Guests must take part in daily chores. The kitchen duty can take up to a couple hours everyday
  • Overall Impression: Great place to take some time off from the world and sit, provided you sort of know what you're doing and want to do.
  • Worthy of recommendation on the Dharma Overground? Yes
  • Name of Person Reviewing the Center: Emmanuel

RE: RFC: Birken Forest Monastery (British Columbia)
Answer
8/2/19 9:03 AM as a reply to Duncan Idaho.
Heya,

if the page doesn't have any obvious flaw (if so, I'm happy to rework it), should we promote it to the wiki?

Thanks!