Forest Monastery is a meditation monastery in the lineage of the Thai
Forest Tradition. Founded in 1990 by Ajaan Suwat Suvaco, it has been
under the direction of Thanissaro Bhikkhu (Ajaan Geoff) as abbot and
meditation teacher since 1993. Currently there are eight American monks
and one Thai monk in residence.
panoramic photo of view of Metta Forest Monastery at sunset
The Monastery is outside of Valley Center, California at the end of a road in an avocado orchard surrounded by the mountains and chaparral of northern San Diego County.
Being a monastery, its primary purpose is to give men the opportunity to ordain as bhikkhus to practice in line with Dhamma and Vinaya (training rules) taught by the Buddha over 2,500 years ago.
Laymen and laywomen are also welcomed at the Monastery to practice in line with the Buddha’s teachings.
The Monastery is open every day, year-round to day visitors. It is not necessary to call for permission to visit. The most important facts for day visitors to know are listed below. More information can be found at Monastery Etiquette.
- The monks’ alms round is at 8:30am every day. If you are running late, the last chance to offer food to the monks is 9:00am at the Sala. This is the only meal of the day. If you arrive after 9:00am, the resident laypeople can receive the food, store it overnight and offer it to the monks the next day.
- Visitors are welcome to participate in the daily activities of the Monastery. Alternatively, you are welcome to spend the day meditating in the Sala (Meditation Hall) or on the platforms and walking paths located throughout the avocado orchard.
- There are books and mp3 CDs on meditation and Buddhism in the Sala (Meditation Hall). These are distributed free of charge, and you may take what you find useful.
If you would like to come for an overnight visit, we ask that you write or call the monastery to obtain permission and to guarantee that the monastery is not closed to visitors at the time you would like to come.
There are no scheduled retreats at the Monastery as there are at most meditation retreat centers. Rather, one could say the Monastery is always in “retreat” mode, and visitors drop into the routine and out of it according to their own scheduling restrictions. Usually, there are five to twenty visitors at any one time, and the high season is the summertime despite the hot weather.
First-time visitors are allowed to stay for periods of up to two weeks. All visitors are asked to observe the Eight Precepts and to participate fully in the daily schedule of the Monastery. The sixth of the eight precepts basically limits overnight visitors to one meal per day. If you have a medical condition or other compelling reason to be exempted from this precept please call the monastery to alert one of the monks to your situation.
We don’t charge for room or board, as all our activities are funded by donations. Our accommodations are very simple. We have a dormitory-style guesthouse, and there are also 8’x 8’ wooden platforms in the avocado orchard where tents may be pitched in the shade.
The food at the Monastery is not vegetarian as is sometimes assumed. The monks respect the generosity of all the laypeople and do not refuse any offerings of food. The food available to laypeople staying at the Monastery reflects this as all the food is first offered to the monks. If you have strict dietary requirements, e.g. illness or allergy related, or vegan, please call the monastery to confirm that the Monastery kitchen will be able to accomodate them. Lacto-ovo vegetarians can get by just fine picking and choosing as long as they’re not concerned with absolute purity.
The Eight Precepts
- Panatipata veramani sikkhapadam samadiyami ― I undertake the precept to refrain from destroying living creatures.
- Adinnadana veramani sikkhapadam samadiyami ― I undertake the precept to refrain from taking that which is not given.
- Abrahmacariya veramani sikkhapadam samadiyami ― I undertake the precept to refrain from sexual activity.
- Musavada veramani sikkhapadam samadiyami ― I undertake the precept to refrain from lying.
- Suramerayamajja pamadatthana veramani sikkhapadam samadiyami ― I undertake the precept to refrain from taking alcohol or intoxicating drugs.
- Vikalabhojana veramani sikkhapadam samadiyami ― I undertake the precept to refrain from eating at the wrong time (i.e., after midday).
- Nacca-gita-vadita-visukkadassana mala-gandha-vilepana-dharana-mandana-vibhusanathana veramani sikkhapadam samadiyami ― I undertake the precept to refrain from dancing, singing, music, going to see entertainments, wearing garlands, using perfumes, and beautifying the body with cosmetics.
- Uccasayana-mahasayana veramani sikkhapadam samadiyami ― I undertake the precept to refrain from lying on an elevated or luxurious bed.
- Our support communities are primarily Thai, Laotian, American and Sri Lankan. Please be sensitive to the differing cultures that meet here.
- Dress conservatively. Casual and comfortable is fine, but no shorts, and nothing provocative or revealing. This applies to both sexes.
- Please avoid the monks’ huts and the monks’ area of Monastery. There are small, decrepit, yellow signs posted showing the boundary.
- Guests are asked to be supportive of the Vinaya rules that the monks follow.
- Please do not pick the fruit in the orchard without first getting permission from one of the monks.
- The Monastery is not a place for total silence. Vistors are encouraged to be quiet to perpetuate an atmosphere conducive to meditating. However, there are certain chores to be done and cooperation necessary among the guests, so some speech is necessary. In any case, the Buddha never recommended total silence, but rather Right Speech.
What to Bring
- It is necessary to bring:
- a tent (if you’re going to use one)
- a sleeping bag or bed linens
- a pillow (if you’re going to use one)
- a sleeping pad
- a towel
- shoes or boots you can garden or work in
- comfortable, loose-fitting clothing (see also weather and monastery etiquette)
- your own snacks if you have special dietary needs and cannot follow the 6th Precept in the evenings
- Avoid bringing personal snacks that require refrigeration, as the Monastery usually doesn’t have extra space in the fridges.
- And avoid bring snacks or supplements that require cooking, otherwise use of the kitchen would quickly spin out of control.
- We recommend that visitors bring:
- a flashlight
- an alarm clock or watch
- sun hat
- sun screen
- personal water bottle (some visitors like to have one)
- It’s not necessary to bring:
- meditation cushions (We have a large, varied (& dusty) supply, but you may bring your own if you wish.)
- electronic devices such as, among other things, microwave ovens, hair dryers, and irons. The reason is that the Monastery has a solar system with limited power. More efficient devices such as smart phones and laptops are fine, but you might consider leaving them behind if you can do without them.
- a wardrobe full of clothes as there are no washers and dryers available. There are of course tubs for hand-washing and clothes lines for drying.
Meditation instruction follows the teachings of Ajaan Lee Dhammadharo, a member of the Thai Forest Tradition. If you wish to get a head start with the meditation techniques taught at the Monastery, please read and experiment with the following:
Make a right at this sign. You will then descend deep into an avocado grove. The monastery is at the very bottom. Enjoy the ride!
This place is nestled in an avocado grove. Avos everywhere! That is not an invitation to steal their avocados though.
I am not sure what this flower is but BOY was it fragrant!
There are tents everywhere. People can camp in the avocado groves:
Absolute worst. outfit. ever. to wear while hiking. We went to the monastery sporadically after having a fancier day earlier because it was nearby. I'm hiking in heels! Will not let that stop me from making it to the top of the hill for the beautiful view! :P From now on I will keep hiking shoes in my car and NEVER take them out!
The beautiful view up top:
Member's SectionMurphy's Ranch
Anza Borrego Desert
Cuyamaca State Park