The extensive information below is based on recurring questions Bhavana has been asked. We hope they will answer your question. See also the "General Guidelines." If you do not find an answer for your question, please "Contact Us." NOTE: Questions solely about Buddhist doctrine and teachings (Dhamma) and the practice of meditation may be sent to Bhante Seelananda at: email@example.com Bhante Seelananda will answer your questions in a timely manner, but please offer him some time to reply due to his busy schedule.
For questions relating to "Food Dana," please visit the Offering Meals for the Community page for further information.
I'm driving and need directions. How do I get to Bhavana?
See also the directions given in the "Footer" of each page.
NOTE: From the North or East on Rt. 50 West, it is not necessary to take Rt. 259:
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?
To register for a scheduled group retreat, visit our Retreats & Events Schedule page and find a retreat that meets your experience level and interest. 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?
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 complete silence, with meditation instructions and teachings in Buddhist doctrine and philosophy. There will be the opportunity for questions and answers. Reading and writing during retreats is discouraged. Meditation styles include concentration as well as mindfulness or vipassana (insight).
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 recomend very highly that you read Bhante G’s book, Mindfulness in Plain English. We also recomend that you start to do some meditation on your own just so you have a little bit of experience before you get here. However, no experience is required for beginner retreats. See also: Retreat Participation/Experience Levels.
What is the cost? Is there a daily charge?
This is a very frequent question that we cannot answer because it would be setting a price. We do not charge retreatants or residents for room and board, meditation and Dhamma instruction. The Buddha’s teachings are priceless. We practice dana (in the Pali language) by offering the teachings without a price tag. For the Buddhist practice of generosity, donations are given to provide financial support so that our center can continue to offer retreats at no charge. This center was built and is maintained only by the generosity of all of you who value the teachings.
If you would like to offer a financial donation to the Bhavana Society, you may use the PayPal link below. If you wish to make a recurring donation, once on the PayPal site check the "Make this a monthly donation" box:
Donations by check or money order may be sent to: The Bhavana Society, 97 Meditation Trail, High View, WV 26808.
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.)
What activities will I be involved in during a Formal Retreats or overnight Visit?
MEDITATION: Meditation involves both formal (sitting and walking) meditation and being mindful at all other times.
YOGA: If yoga is offered during a formal retreat participation is optional.
WORK PERIOD: One or two hours of light work per day is required during formal retreats. Somewhat more work needs to be done during individual retreats since fewer people will be here.
CHANTING: See the regular daily schedule in the question below on the schedule for non-retreat days. During formal meditation retreats we usually do not hold devotional services.
What should I do when I first arrive?
- Hand in RELEASE OF LIABILITY statement.
- Assign yourself a mug (for drinks) found in the cupboard over the sink in the Sangha Hall. Place a piece of masking tape on it and write your first name and last initial only on the tape. (When you leave please remove the tape.)
- If you did not arrive by car and need bedding, please get some from the bedding storage area. When they are soiled please wash them if there is time; if not, put them in the laundry basket.
- For cabin (kuti) users - Kutis have wood stoves or gas heaters. If you don’t know how to use them, please ask.
- You may bring your car up to the dormitories for unloading, but as soon as this is done, park in the lower parking lot. However, if you arrive after dark you may leave it there 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 preferred or twin sheets, pillow case, towel *
- Alarm clock
- Water bottle
- Ear plugs if you are a light sleeper
- Wet weather clothes and shoes
- Unscented bug spray during warm weather conditions as flying insects are common in our region
- We always recommend bringing a shawl or something to cover yourself for cool weather year round
- Personal meditation cushion if you prefer (We have plenty of zafus, zabutans, and benches for everyone.)
- Yoga mat (if you will practice yoga)
- Modest clothing. (Even in the warmest of weather, tank tops, low cut shirts and short shorts, etc. are not acceptable. Baggy shorts that come down to the knees are permissible.) Do not bring t-shirts with commercial or political messages. Please note, tight fitting clothing is inappropriate. Loose fitting clothing is requested for both men and women.
- Please bring your own water bottle/container to re-fill with our filtered water. If you drink a special drink like juice or soymilk, we request that you bring it with you in a non-perishable container and keep it with your personal items. Though we have a refrigerator used by visitors, it is very small and everyone will have access to it. Unfortunately, we cannot provide soymilk or other supplements for your special dietary needs.
- You may bring your cell phone, but not all cell phones work in our area. You may use your cell phone for an alarm clock, but we strongly request that you do not use your cell phone once you are on our premises. 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. Bhavana is able to supply 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.
- Do not bring personal computers, electronic musical devices, radios, musical instruments, newspapers, magazines and secular books to the center. It is our Abbot’s request that you concentrate on the retreat and not disrupt your concentration with electronic devices or reading material.
- 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 Mandatory Participation Meditation in Main Hall
6:00 AM - 6:30 AM Mandatory Participation Puja chanting
7:00 AM - 8:00 AM Breakfast/Community Clean-Up
8:30 AM - 8:45 AM Mandatory Work Meeting
8:45 AM - 10:45 AM Community Work period
8:30 AM - 10:30 AM (Saturday) Mutual cleaning
9:30 AM - 10:30 AM (Sunday) Meditation
10:45 AM - 11:00 AM Preparing for Lunch
11:00 AM - 12:00 PM Puja Chanting/Lunch/Community Clean-Up
PM - Afternoon & Evening Schedule
12:00 PM - 2:00 PM Personal time
2:00 PM - 4:00 PM Work Period/Personal Time
3:00 PM - 4:30 PM (Wednesday) Resident’s Meeting - all residents must attend
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 Optional Meditation/Free Time
6:00 PM - 6:30 PM Break
6:30 PM - 7:00 PM Mandatory Participation Puja Chanting
7:00 PM - 8:00 PM Mandatory Participation Meditation
All events subject to change depending on circumstances. 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.
Please keep conversations to a minimum from evening meditation until after breakfast.
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. Often people are nervous or uncomfortable. No need for that here! If you have never interacted with monastics before, things may seem a bit formal and stiff. If you are accustomed to very formal monasteries, you may find us quite casual. We hope that as you get to know us any discomfort will fade away.
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-te), 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 comfortable meditation position. We provide floor mats and round cushions as well as benches. A limited number of miscellaneous size cushions are also available. Folding chairs are provided in the back of the hall for those who need them. You are also welcome to bring your own equipment. Because of different tolerances for holding a still posture, meditations 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. 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.
Chairs and small, folding tables are available for those who prefer not to eat at the low, dining benches while seated on the floor with cushions.
Further details can be found on Bhavana's Mealtime Practice page.
Please also note, fasting (no food taken) is not allowed at Bhavana Society. It is not Bhavana Society’s responsibility for those who wish to fast, please do not come here for this purpose, we do not have the medical staffing to accept this kind of responsibility. If you decide not to eat while staying at Bhavana Society, unfortunately, you will be asked to leave. We are hopeful you will understand the decision requested from you to strictly follow this guideline.
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.
Are there items it would be helpful for me to donate?
Pease click this link for our page on: Items 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 as are some single dorm rooms. 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 that we are currently not taking any more registrations at all. If it says “full for men” or “full for women” then that means there is only space for people of the other sex. If the retreat is full (for either men or women) we will have a waitlist for each gender.
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:
Volunteer Opportunities (also listed under Support Menu). Thank you!
Visits by Large Groups - Are there any special issues?
Issues of limited accommodations, parking, well water, septic system, seating in the dining and mediation hall, as well as the logistics of the support necessary for larger groups all impact how many can be comfortably accommodated at one time. Bhavana follows the guideline of accepting, during non-retreat times, up to 12 (twelve) overnight visitors 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.
Large family groups offering Dana are requested by Bhante G to: "Bring Dana in groups of 10 (ten); possibly three weeks in a row, not all coming at once in a group of 30 (thirty)." 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, due to numerous difficulties has decided not to undertake the responsibility of ordaining women at the Bhavana Society Forest Monastery. 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"?
Daily we eat breakfast and lunch together in silence. Almost all retreats are held in silence.
Noble Silence means no talking or non-verbal communication of any kind, except of course in emergencies, interviews or discussion times with the Retreat Coordinator and Retreat Teacher(s). 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.