Is Bhavana Society open to the public during the Covid-19 pandemic?
Bhavana Society is closed to the public, but is accepting applications to visit the monastery for stays of five days or longer.
To apply, please fill out an application here: https://bhavanasociety.org/long-term-residency
Below are answers to our most Frequenlty Asked Questions. See also the "General Guidelines."
If you do not find an answer for your question, please "Contact Us."
For questions relating to "Food Dana," please visit the Offering Meals for the Community page.
I'm driving and need directions. How do I get to Bhavana?
Google Maps and Apple Maps both give accurate directions to Bhavana Society. However, the the best route to Bhavana (from the north or east) is to go to Winchester and head west on Route 50. Once you are on Route 50, use your phone or GPS to guide you the rest of the way. Detailed directions are below.
From Route 50...
Soon after the Gore Post Office, turn LEFT at the Gore sign. It takes you to the town of Gore. (There is a former convenience store that serves as a landmark.)
Turn LEFT again at the Back Creek Road sign to go directly to the Bhavana Society.
This is a well maintained, but winding backcountry road. Please drive mindfully.
How do I register for a formal retreat or individual retreat?
Retreats are suspended because of Covid-19. Reopening and retreat information will be posted on our website home page well in advance of reopening.
To register for a scheduled group retreat, visit our Retreats & Events Schedule page. Then click on register. (NOTE: You must register as a user to establish an Account Profile before you can submit a visit or retreat registration form.)
If you were a registered user of Bhavana's previous website, you will need to re-register. Please read: Rebirth of a Website.
What types of retreats do you offer? What's the daily schedule like?
Bhavana Society is currently closed for retreats until further notice until further notice. However, we are accepting application for long-term lay residents for stays of five days or longer.
We offer individual retreats and formal, structured group retreats. We have three- to five-day and ten-day formal retreats. Retreats are generally held in silence. Dhamma talks, meditation instruction and teachings in Buddhist doctrine and philosophy are offered by monastics daily. There are also question and answer sessions as well as individual interviews with monastics. Reading during retreats is discouraged. Meditation styles include concentration as well as mindfulness (vipassana).
For further details check the descriptions about specific retreats on the Retreats & Events Schedule.
Typical Retreat Daily Schedule
This is a typical schedule for a formal retreat. Exact times and activities will vary.
4:45 AM Wake-up gong
5:00 AM - 5:30 AM Optional yoga
5:30 AM - 6:45 AM Group Meditation
7:00 AM - 7:45 AM Breakfast
8:00 AM - 8:45 AM Work period
9:00 AM - 11:00 AM Group Meditation
11:15 AM - 12:00 PM Lunch
12:00 PM - 2:00 PM Personal time
2:00 PM - 5:00 PM Group Meditation and Dhamma Talk
5:00 PM - 6:00 PM Optional yoga
6:00 PM - 7:00 PM Tea (optional)
7:00 PM - 9:00 PM Group Meditation or Dhamma Talk
Participants are expected to attend all group events. Please note that we do not serve or eat an evening meal.
NOTE: Introduction to meditation retreats have shorter meditation periods. For all retreats the meditation is split between sitting, standing, and walking meditation.
What if I have not meditated before?
If you are coming to a retreat and have never meditated before, we recommend that you read Bhante G’s book, Mindfulness in Plain English. We also recommend that you start to do some meditation on your own so you have some experience before you get here. No meditation experience is required for beginner retreats.
What is the cost? Is there a daily charge?
Bhavana Society does not charge retreatants, visitors or residents for any of its activities. We practice dana (Pali for generosity) by offering lodging, food, and teachings free of charge.
This center was built and is maintained solely by the generosity of all of you who value the teachings. If you would like to offer a financial donation to the Bhavana Society, we accept PayPal as well as personal checks.
The Bhavana Society is a 501(c)3 tax exempt non-profit organization. All general donations are tax deductible with the exception of donations for books received. Contributors in foreign countries should check with their government’s regulations. Please note, our bank charges us a substantial fee to complete a foreign money exchange, please consider offering US Funds only, thank you.
What activities will I be involved in during a formal retreats or overnight visit?
MEDITATION: Meditation practice includes formal sitting and walking meditation as well as being mindful at all other times.
YOGA: If yoga is offered during a formal retreat participation is optional.
WORK PERIOD: An hour or two of light work per day is required during formal retreats.
CHANTING: If you visit, you join Bhavana residents for chanting each morning and evening. Retreats usally do not have devotional chanting.
What should I do when I first arrive?
- Fill out a RELEASE OF LIABILITY statement.
- Assign yourself a mug from the cupboard (over the sink in the Sangha Hall.) Please place a piece of masking tape on your cup and write your first name and last initial only on the tape.
- Get some from the bedding storage area, if you are arriving by plane. On the day you leave, please wash and dry your sheets. If there is not time, please put them in the laundry basket. If you are driving to Bhavana, please bring your own twin-size bedding. We have plenty of blankets.
- Bring your car up to the dormitories for unloading. then park in the lower parking lot. If you arrive after dark, you may leave your car at the dormitory that night and move it to the parking area the next morning before 8:30 a.m.
What do I need to bring when I attend a retreat or come for an overnight visit?
- Sleeping bag or twin sheets, pillow case, and towel *
- Alarm clock if you wish. Each room has a small battery alarm clock.
- Water bottle
- Ear plugs if you are a light sleeper
- Wet weather clothes.
- Unscented bug spray in summer.
- Sweaters or a shawl for cool weather year round.
- Personal meditation cushion if you prefer.
- Yoga mat, if practicing yoga.
- Modest clothing. Tight fitting clothing of any kind -- pants, tights, shorts, workout gear -- is not permitted. Even in warm weather, revealing clothing such as tank tops, low cut shirts and short shorts, etc. are also not permitted. Baggy shorts that come down to the knees are okay. Please not bring t-shirts with commercial or political messages.
- Please bring your own water bottle/container. If you drink a special drink like juice or soy milk, we request that you bring it with you in a non-perishable container and keep it with your personal items.
- We strongly request that you do not use your cell phone during retreats. Also, please be aware that cell coverage can be spotty. If you need to contact someone, please do so before you arrive or after you leave our center.
- If you would like to bring a donation of food or supplies, please read about what we need.
*Note: Bhavana does have a limited number of sheet sets, pillow cases, and towels for those arriving by public transportation. Please bring these things if possible, but don’t sweat it if you can’t. We also have blankets and pillows.
Laundry facilities are available only for guests staying over 10 days.
Please see also: "What NOT to Bring" below.
Are there items I should NOT bring to Bhavana?
- Do not bring illicit drugs, alcohol, or weapons/firearms of any type. They are strictly forbidden. If you are addicted to smoking and feel you must smoke while you are here, please contact us before coming. Vaping is prohibited.
- Do not bring personal computers, electronic musical devices, radios, musical instruments, newspapers, magazines and secular books to the center during retreats. It is our Abbot’s request that you concentrate on the retreat and not disrupt your concentration with electronic devices or reading material. It is our Abbot's request that if you bring a cell phone, you turn it off during the entire retreat. Your family can use our Office Phone number to get emergency messages to you.
- Do not bring noisy jewelry, noise-making clothing (such as nylon, corduroy, etc.) Do not bring clothing with distracting lettering or images.
- Do not wear perfumes or deodorants with strong scents.
- Do not bring pets.
What is the daily schedule like at Bhavana on non-retreat days?
This is the schedule we follow on non-retreat days.
AM - Morning Schedule:
4:30 AM - 5:00 AM Wake-up and shine
5:00 AM - 6:00 AM Meditation in Main Hall
6:00 AM - 6:30 AM Puja chanting
7:00 AM - 8:00 AM Breakfast
9:00 AM - 10:30 AM Community Work period
11:00 AM - 12:00 PM Lunch
PM - Afternoon & Evening Schedule
12:00 PM - 2:00 PM Free time
2:00 PM - 4:00 PM Work Period/Free Time
3:00 PM - 4:00 PM (Wednesday) Resident’s Meeting
3:00 PM - 4:00 PM (Saturday) Pali Class
3:00 PM - 4:00 PM (Tuesday and Friday) Interviews with monastics/teachers
4:00 PM - 6:00 PM Free Time
6:00 PM - 6:30 PM Break
6:30 PM - 7:00 PM Puja Chanting
7:00 PM - 8:00 PM Meditation
The daily schedule varies on full and new moon days for the observance of Uposatha.
All residents and guest are expected to fully participate in morning and evening meditations. If you cannot fully participate, please speak to the Retreat Coordinator or Guest Master upon your arrival. Visitors are welcome to come just for the day for the Saturday and/or Sunday meditations, Dhamma talks, discussions and classes. Please let us know if you would like to participate in any of the events offered to the public each week (except when we are in retreat, please read all the guidelines about visiting).
All residents and guest are expected to contribute two to four hours of work per day of chores and work for the benefit of the community. If you believe you cannot offer your help or are limited to what work you can offer, please speak to the Guest Master upon your arrival.
Noisy work should be completed between the hours of 8:00 a.m. and 10:45 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. and 4:00 p.m. Please keep the Meditation Hall and surrounding areas quiet at all other times.
I've never met a monastic before. I'm unsure how I should act. What are the rules?
For many people, the monastics at Bhavana are the first monastics they ever meet. No need to worry! Our monastics are friendly and approachable. If you are accustomed to very formal monasteries, you may find us quite casual.
The Buddha wanted his nuns and monks to be able to interact with lay people to share the teachings. He also wanted them to be separate from worldly affairs so they could focus their energy on spiritual practice. For that reason the Buddha laid down rules of behavior for monastics. These rules permit interaction, while at the same time discouraging intimacy.
So for example, the rules for Theravada monks and nuns requires that they do not touch members of the opposite sex. Therefore, you can greet them by holding your palms together in the praying position instead of shaking their hands.
People often ask how to address monastics. Address fully ordained monks as “Bhante” (pronounced BON-tay), novice monks as “Samanera” (pronounced sa-ma-NAIR-ra). These translate roughly as Venerable Sir and novice.
General rules of politeness will probably cover anything else. If you have questions once you are here, please ask.
For even further information see: The Bhikkhus' Rules: A Guide for Laypeople (Compiled and explained by Bhikkhu Ariyesako) on the Access to Insight website.
What meditation postures can I use at Bhavana?
You are encouraged to sit in a position you find comfortable. We provide floor mats and round cushions as well as benches. Folding chairs are provided in the back of the hall for those who need them. You are also welcome to bring your own equipment. We do not have designated “sitting meditation” and “walking meditation” periods. While meditating in the hall, you’re invited to sit for as long as you’re able and then quietly do standing or walking meditation. Of course, please be courteous of your neighbors.
Are there special guidelines about meals and food?
Food is not eaten after 12 noon each day. Only tea, juice or soft drinks can be consumed after noon. (An evening meal for medical reasons must be approved at the time of registration.) The meals prepared here are vegetarian; please note, dairy and egg products may be used. Vegan options will be available.
Most people eat at low, dining benches while seated on the floor with cushions. We have number of chairs and folding tables that you may use if that's more comfortable.
Further details can be found on Bhavana's Mealtime Practice page.
Please also note that fasting (no food taken) is not allowed at Bhavana Society. Please do not come here for this purpose. If you decide not to eat while staying at Bhavana Society, unfortunately, you will be asked to leave.
How do I become a resident?
Please look in our information on Lay Residency for further details.
If you would like to stay for any length of time longer than 7 days, please read the material on residency and submit an application.
During our current closure for Covid-19, we are only accepting residents for stays of two months or more.
Are there items it would be helpful for me to donate?
What are your housing accommodations like?
Dorm rooms are in buildings with central heating, plumbing and electricity. A limited number of single-occupancy primitive cabins (kutis) without electricity or plumbing, and heated by either propane or wood-burning stoves, are available. If you have medical needs relating to your overnight accommodations, please let us know. If you have a preference, please offer your request in the Special Needs category on the retreat registration form. Please note we cannot guarantee your request because we are limited to spaces available.
What does it mean when a retreat is marked as "full"?
If a retreat is marked full, it means we are not taking any more registrations. If it is marked “full for men” or “full for women," it means we are full for that sex. We do maintain a waitlist.
Can I volunteer to do something?
Yes, there are many ways you can be of service to the Bhavana Society. For details please read the information on this link to our page for:
Please note that we are currently closed to the public because of Covid-19.
Volunteer Opportunities (also listed under Support Menu). Thank you!
Visits by Large Groups - Are there any special issues?
Please note that we are closed to most visitors during the Covid-19 pandemic. We are accepting visits of 5 days or longer by application.
Issues of limited accommodations, parking, well water, septic system and seating in the dining and mediation halls all impact how many can be comfortably accommodated at one time. Limiting how many can be accepted for overnight visits when no retreat is in progress is essential for the harmony and both the Bhavana community and the visitors.
Visitors, even those considering offering Dana, are asked not to come to Bhavana for overnight stay during the Residents Retreat or formal public Retreats. Visitors requesting to offer Dana are asked to come on the day of their scheduled Dana for a day visit only.
Visitors should understand that during Residents Retreat and public Retreat times all monastics and residents are also "in retreat" and may not be available for discussion.
Thank you for your understanding.
I want to become a monastic. What is the ordination process at Bhavana?
For information on this topic, please read the detailed explanation provided at the links below:
NOTE: Bhante Gunaratana continues to support the ordination of women, however we do not ordain women at Bhavana Society. Women seeking to ordain can find additional information pertaining specifically to Bhikkhunis at the website of: Dhammadharini: Women Upholding the Dhamma.
What is "Noble Silence"?
We eat breakfast and lunch together in silence and almost all retreats are held in silence.
Noble Silence means no talking or non-verbal communication of any kind, except of course in emergencies, or for interviews or Q&A. If you feel it's necessary, you may pass a short note to the Retreat Coordinator. Noble Silence applies not only to speech but also to any signals and written notes etc. as well as to external contact by telephone or Internet.
The purpose of Noble Silence is to allow the mind to let go of outer distractions and to focus as much as possible on the inner world. In this regard it is also useful to minimize eye contact with other retreatants. Practicing restraint of the senses in this way provides an essential foundation for the powerful inner work that a meditation retreat facilitates.
What are "The Precepts"?
Please follow this link to our page on: The Precepts.