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Review of Jhana Grove - Western Australia

  • Name of Center: Jhana Grove
  • Address: 283 Kingsbury Drive, Serpentine 6125, Serpentine, Western Australia
  • Phone Number: +61(0)8 95253314
  • Website: http://www.jhanagrove.org.au
  • Contact Email: bookings@jhanagrove.org.au, jhanagrove@bswa.org
  • Tradition(s): Theravada Thai Forest Tradition (Ajahn Chah)
  • Technique(s): Anapanasati (see basic instructions)
  • Teacher(s): Ajahn Brahmavamso (Brahm)
  • Cost: Free. 9 days retreats has a bond of AU$225 which can be refunded upon request. Retreats must be booked at the above website - schedules are there as well. Self-retreats is possible with permission from Ajahn Brahm. Slight extensions to the 9 days retreats are also possible if rooms are available (note that there are also weekend retreats so that might affect room availability)
  • Accommodations: Single rooms with attached personal toilet+shower
  • Facilities: Rooms are embedded in cottages with 6 rooms per cottage. Total 10 cottages. Each cottage has a dining table, a tea corner with electric water boiler and tea+sugar, a fridge, a microwave, a washing sink and some cups/plates/spoons etc. One bed per room with one pillow each. Bedsheets and blankets can be borrowed. There is a large meditation hall for about 60 retreatants. Cushions of various sizes and shapes including stools are available outside the hall. Walking rooms (with strips of carpets to delineate walking paths) around the hall. Laundry room with 2 machines + hanging lines. Drinking water from specified taps (incl one in each cottage). Dining room with kitchen (cooking not allowed for retreatants) - self-retreatants must walk a hew hundred metres down the road to Bodhinyana Monastery in the morning to get food there from dana.
  • Physical Setting: In the middle of a forest near to the Serpentine National Park. Scenic and quiet with a nice scent from the woods. Kangaroos come right to the stupas outside the meditation hall in the night.
  • Food (Vegetarian/Vegan/etc.): Official retreats get vegetarian (ovo-lacto) food twice per day before noon as per usual Theravada tradition. These are danas provided by lay people or cooked by the organisers with help from retreatants (simple chopping of vegetables etc) and are lavish. There is tea break - cheese and chocolates are provided. Self-retreatants have to walk over to Bodhinyana Monastery a few hundred metres down the road to get food there before noon with the monks - these will have meat as they are offerings as per usual Theravada tradition.
  • Retreat Length(s): weekend retreats, 9 days retreats, self-retreat
  • Typical Schedule: See official schedule. There is a schedule that starts at 4 am and ends at 9 pm, with alternating 1 hour of sitting followed by walking meditations, and 3 periods of rest (breakfast at 6.45 am, lunch at 11 am, tea at 5 pm). Two talks by Ajahn Brahm, one at 8 am and one at 8 pm. But in the words of Ajahn Brahm - do what you want when you want to, let go, be at peace with yourself. In his first talk, he will encourage retreatants to sleep as much as possible first.
  • Issues of Taboos around attainment, real practice, disclosing insights, etc.: Lay people can do whatever they want (just maintain noble silence!)
  • Issues of Rites/Rituals: Chanting (optional) once in the morning and once in the evening. Some bowing here and there but all optional. Noble Silence to be maintained and 8 precepts to be observed.
  • Issues of Proper Dress: Just sensible meditation outfits but I've seen ladies in shorts presumably after a walk in the woods
  • Issues of Etiquette: Nothing special though it must be noted that all retreats are in noble silence
  • Issues of Language: English only. Retreatants cannot talk (noble silence)
  • Health Issues: Jhana Grove "have been designed so that the elderly and infirmed, especially those with illnesses such as cancer, can learn meditation" (from website). There are first aid kits available, and a medical centre near the train station 10 minutes drive down the highway.
  • Logistical Issues: From the Perth international airport:
    1. Take a taxi straight to Kingsbury drive. Tell the driver it is 5km on the left after Karnup Road on the Southwest Highway. On Kingsbury Drive, you will first pass by Bodhinyana Monastery on the right - Jhana Grove is further down the road on the left. Cost is about AU$110 (verified from personal experience).
    2. Take a train from Perth Train Station to Serpentine Station - you will need to arrange for someone from Bodhinyana to drive you down from Serpentine Station though. Tickets must be pre-booked at the transwa website (from personal experience, these trains can be FULLY booked so book early!). At the end of the retreats, local retreatants are willing to drive you down to the Serpentine Station. There is a shuttle bus that cost AU$15 from the international airport that will drop you near the Perth Train Station. OR, you can take the free shuttle to the Domestic airport, take Bus service 37 there and ask the driver to tell you to get off at the stop nearest to the Perth Train Station. Costs AU$4.
  • Strengths: Very relaxed, lots of freedom, great food, single rooms where you can meditate in if you do not want to join the group at the hall, inspiration from sitting with monks (there seems to be a duty list for the monks - at least one will be around meditating in the hall even though they do not provide instruction, they just sit quietly for hours), scenic surrounding that you can go bushwalking in to let your mind grow calm, VERY inspirational and funny talks by Ajahn Brahm twice per day, very kind organisers. Good facilities.
  • Weaknesses: You have to perform daily duties - cleaning up after meals, help in preparing meals etc.
  • Other Comments:
    - None of my emails to the organisers were answered - it's a remote part of Australia after all and everything is processed by volunteers. Try both emails when you are emailing and hope that someone sees it. Use a catchy email subject.
    - 9 days retreats are in fact 8 full days of meditation. It does not count the day (call it Day Zero) when you report - briefings at 5.30pm with first talk at 8pm that night. Day 9 has some meditation but mostly cleaning up. Ajahn Brahm will give a final pep talk on Day 9 as well.
  • Overall Impression: Very beautiful, peaceful and conducive environment for meditation. Place is very clean.
  • Worthy of recommendation on the Dharma Overground? Yes
  • Name of Person Reviewing the Center: Hong Ng