If you are thinking of making a personal retreat or offering to stay and help at The Forest Hermitage or Bhavana Dhamma please understand that both are places for the serious and dedicated practice of Buddhist meditation. Spending some of each day in mindful and purposeful activity and most of the rest alone, practising sitting and walking meditation, can be hard work and demanding, albeit profoundly rewarding. We recommend, therefore, that applicants have had some previous experience of meditation and ideally, some connection with The Forest Hermitage.
Please read through the information below and then complete this online application form at least a week before you would like to come and stay.
For organised group retreat at Bhavana Dhamma please go here.
Men usually stay at the Hermitage, and women stay at Bhavana Dhamma.
Guests live strictly by the eight precepts. These are to abstain from: killing any living being; stealing; all sexual activity; lying; using alcohol and drugs; eating after noon; listening to music and entertainments, and wearing jewellery and makeup; and using high and luxurious seats and beds.
Taking the 3 Refuges and 8 Precepts
It’s normal when guests arrive at a monastery to formally request and take these precepts by reciting them in the Pali language with a monk. So you’ll be asked to do this. Don’t worry – you don’t need to to know them off by heart, or even know how to pronounce them exactly. We’ll provide a copy once you arrive and you can read from it. You can find a copy here, too.
Guests are required to participate fully in the daily routine, and in keeping with the Forest Tradition only one meal a day is eaten (at 11 am).
This is an outline of the routine at the Hermitage. It is subject to change.
5:30 am – Morning Bell
6:00 am – Morning sitting. If there is no group meditation then sit by oneself.
7:00 am – Hot drink.
7:30 am – Work period and individual practice time.
10.30 am – Meal, clean up, free time.
2:00 – Individual practice time and / or work. No walks please.
5 pm – Break and individual practice time.
8:00 pm – Evening sitting.
9:00 pm – Free time and bed.
Work forms an important part of the practice here and we ask all guests to gladly cooperate. It is an opportunity to cultivate both dana (giving) by doing something to support this place, and mindfulness and awareness.
There is a work period each morning and on some days there will be one in the afternoon as well.
Noble Silence/Noble Speech
The atmosphere of the Hermitage should be one of mindfulness and awareness, therefore speech is kept to a minimum and if possible noble silence maintained.
Reading is fine as long as you read material within our tradition, such as the Pali suttas and teachings by forest monks. Reading should be an aid to practice and therefore kept to small amounts. We are happy to recommend what’s best.
The practice here is that of Samatha-Vipassana – calm and insight. And apart from formal practice you will be expected to be mindful and watchful of your state of mind and attitude. Meditation instruction will be given and there will be opportunities for questions.
Monday, Wednesday and Friday evenings are open to the public and include a Dhamma talk. They finish at 9:30 pm.
Etiquette forms an essential part of the practice here, as it does in most traditional monasteries. Here are some of the main points to bear in mind.
Bowing: We bow to pay our respects to the Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha. Bowing mostly takes place in the shrine room, but you are encouraged to do it when entering and leaving your room as well. It is an excellent practice to cultivate mindfulness, respect and humility.
Keep a low profile: When you are participating in the meal offering to the monks at the Hermitage you should be mindful of keeping your head lower than, or not too far above, the level of theirs. So when entering the eating room you should at first stoop and then walk on your knees.
Talking to monks: When talking to a monk, especially a senior one, it is polite to keep your palms joined over your chest.
Shoes: These are not to be worn indoors.
Mobile phones and Internet Use
Mobiles must be handed in on arrival. They will be kept safely and returned at the end of your stay. Internet use is not allowed, unless you are staying for a longer period and need to make travel arrangements, etc, in which case permission may be sought from the Abbot.
We make no charges and depend entirely on offerings.
If you can bring a sleeping bag and pillow case please do. We can provide if this is a problem. You will also need towels and toiletries; waterproofs just in case (including reasonably shower proof footwear); comfortable shoes for walking meditation; decent socks (shoes aren’t worn indoors); comfortable and loose fitting clothing for meditation; and a torch.
If you have read through the information above and would like to stay please fill in the online application form.