Intro to Buddhism & Meditation in Portland
When I first arrived in Portland, I spent countless hours both online and conversing with others trying to find the various Buddhist communities in town. After some years of exploration, I’ve learned every single Buddhist group in Portland (I think!), and have organized them here on this page.
At the time of writing, I’ve personally visited about half of these groups. However, I am not offering any specific endorsements. The intention of this page is merely to state the options. I will try my best to keep my comments factual and data-focused.
At the same time, it’s really helpful to have a framework on how to evaluate a meditation group. There are some things we all want (like integrity and kindness), but there are also different desires (like prioritizing meditation instruction vs. community, or a strong teacher vs non-hierarchy, etc.).
In a companion post, I offer an in-depth guide on how to evaluate & choose a meditation group/community. I highly recommend reading that article and to also consider what you’re looking for in a community. This will greatly help you navigate which ones are “for you” and which ones aren’t.
Although, the best test is always just checking a few of them out and getting a feel for what seems to resonate.
A Few Final Notes to Keep in Mind:
- 11/21 update – I wrote this article pre-COVID, and I would assume that most groups are now meeting virtually, though there are likely some back in person. I will update it again when we’re “in the clear” with COVID.
- While every center has its own flavor, some centers have multiple groups throughout the week, led by different instructors, and may have a very different feel. It can be helpful to check out multiple groups at the same center!
- You don’t need to “join,” “sign up” or go through any “initiation” process to go to any of these groups. You just show up, and are free to never come again, or keep coming back as long as you like!
- You also don’t need to be a Buddhist. In general, Buddhist communities tend to be very inclusive, and aren’t interested in converting anyone.
If there is any center/group I’ve missed, please let me know and I will add it.
Table of Contents
Vipassana / Insight Meditation / Theravada Buddhism
The oldest lineage, Theravada Buddhism is also where the whole modern mindfulness movement came from, and tends to be pragmatic, straightforward, and technically precise. In turn, its approach to philosophy and meditation is usually the most accessible to Westerners.
- Logistics: Every morning 8am virtual meditation + discussion
- Lineage: Sayadaw U Tejaniya – mixed with general Theravada
- Notes: Led by a former monk, explores how to have a rich meditation/dharma practice while living in the world. Offers regular daylong retreats, courses, and workshops. Discussion found on the Facebook group.
- Logistics: In-person R Evening in Milwaukie; Virtual M evening
- Lineage: Early Buddhism – based largely on the earliest known discourses (suttas)
- Notes: Features a Sutta study group, and regular daylongs and courses (including an annual 12 week comprehensive exploration of the Buddha’s teachings). Discussion found on the Facebook group.
3. Portland Insight Meditation Community (PIMC)
- Logistics: SU & T morning; SU, M, T & R evening in SE Portland.
- Lineage: General Theravada – primarily Burmese lineages
- Notes: One of the two largest Theravada Centers in Portland. They offer retreats, monthly daylongs, deepening study courses, and have several different teachers that lead various classes throughout the week. The Sunday morning gathering attracts a very large audience.
- Logistics: SU morning, M & F evening in SE Portland
- Lineage: Ajahn Chah – Thai Forest
- Notes: One of the two largest Theravada Centers in Portland. Several times a year they host non-residential weekend retreats with prominent monks in the Thai Forest tradition. On the 3rd Friday of each month, a monk from the nearby Hermitage comes to give a talk. They also have a book club and a regular meeting sutta study group (the classic Buddhist texts).
- Logistics: W evening in N Portland
- Lineage: General Theravada
- Notes: Was originally a Dharma Punx group, and has since broken off to become independent.
- Schedule: SU & W evening in North Portland. R Evening NE Portland. SU afternoon & W evening in Hillsboro. T evening in Beaverton.
- Lineage: S.N. Goenka – Burmese Theravada
- Notes: This group is ONLY available to people who have done a 10 day Vipassana retreat in the style of S.N. Goenka. They occasionally host daylong sits. Note that these groups are peer-led.
- Schedule: T afternoon, Every other S Evening in SE Portland
- Lineage: Sayadaw U Tejaniya & Sayadaw U Pandita – Burmese Theravada
- Notes: Uses modern dharma teachings to explore the integration of meditation with daily life.
- Schedule: Every Morning 9am Virtual Meditation, M Evening in SE Portland
- Lineage: General Theravada
- Notes: This group places special emphasis on reflection and writing about our meditation experiences.
- Schedule: Maybe 10 times a year, they host a dharma talk & sometimes daylong retreats from teachers that just finished leading a retreat at the nearby Cloud Mountain Retreat Center. These tend to be some of the most senior Vipassana teachers in the country.
- Schedule: SA afternoon in SE Portland
- Lineage: Thai Dhammakaya Temple (the largest temple in Thailand)
- Notes: Led by a Thai monk who has been teaching abroad for over 10 years.
- Schedule: SA afternoon in SE Portland
- Lineage: Thai forest
- Notes: Led by an American-born monk who lives at a nearby hermitage. They offer meditation + a dharma talk.
- Schedule: M Evening in NE Portland
- Lineage: Spirit Rock & MBSR
- Notes: Most evenings are meditation-focused with a once-a-month book study group.
Zen Mahayana Buddhism
Zen Mahayana Buddhism has a very earthy feel, and emphasizes bringing awareness into every moment of your life. Their approach to meditation is usually not as technical & articulate, as they focus on the effortless here-and-now aspect, and also the immediacy of compassion.
- Schedule: SU & F morning. SU, T, W & R evening. M-F early morning. All in NE Portland.
- Lineage: Soto & Rinzai – Maezumi Roshi and Shodo Harada Roshi
- Notes: One of the two biggest Zen Centers in Portland. They hold regular classes, events, day-longs, and are the urban offshoot of the Great Vow Zen Monastery, located in Clatskanie Oregon, which has many live-in monastics, and offers monthly residential retreats.
- Schedule: SU morning, T & W evening in NE Portland.
- Lineage: Soto Zen – connected with Shasta Abbey.
- Notes: One of the two biggest Zen Centers in Portland. They also have several ongoing multi-week courses, workshops and retreats. Schedule changes seasonally.
- Schedule: M, T & R evening in SE Portland. W evening in SW Portland. F morning in NE Portland.
- Lineage: Thich Nhat Hanh
- Notes: Thich Nhat Hanh has a somewhat eclectic style that is very beginner / non-buddhist friendly. It uses some Theravada language with the simplicity of Zen and a grounding in the joy and heart aspects of the path. These groups are all peer-led.
- Schedule: SU & W evening in SE Portland. M-F early morning “cloud meditation.” SA morning in SE Portland.
- Lineage: Rinzai Zen – Genki Takabayashi
- Notes: This is the only dedicated Rinzai group in Portland. Hosts occasional retreats.
- Schedule: T & R evening, SU & SA morning in SW Portland
- Lineage: Soto Zen – stems from the Dharma Rain Zen Center
- Notes: Classic Zen found here.
- Schedule: W evening, SU & F morning in SE Portland.
- Lineage: Soto Zen – Order of Buddhist Contemplatives
- Notes: Has a very traditional feel.
Vajrayana / Tibetan Buddhism
Vajrayana / Tibetan Buddhism has a mystical & devotional feel. It can initially come across as really esoteric and inaccessible (unless you’re drawn to artful spirituality!), but if you can get past that, it has a great blend of Theravada and Mahayana, offering a richness of precision with an emphasis on the now.
- Schedule: SU morning (in-person/Zoom hybrid)
- Lineage: Nyingma – Gyatrul Rinpoche
- Notes: They offer periodic retreats, deepening study classes, occasional visits from senior Vajrayana teachers, and are affiliated with the Tashi Choling Monastery in Ashland, Oregon.
- Logistics: T evening, every other SU morning, R evening for young adults & first SU of each month for Queer dharma, all in SE Portland
- Lineage: Nyingma & Kagyu – Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche
- Notes: They offer regular classes, workshops/courses, and host a Young Adults group and a Queer Dharma group. The Shambhala style tends to be the most accessible-to-Westerners of the Tibetan lineages.
3. Kagyu Changchub Chuling (KCC)
- Logistics: SU & W evening, SU morning in NE Portland
- Lineage: Kagyu – Kalu Rinpoche
- Notes: They have a resident Lama (someone who completed a traditional 3 year retreat), and offer regular classes, daylongs, retreats, children’s programs, etc.
- Logistics: M evenings in NE Portland
- Lineage: Kagyu – Lama Ole Nydahl & Hannah Nydahl
- Notes: Affiliated with the international non-profit Diamond Way organization with 600+ groups in this tradition.
- Logistics: SU & M morning, T evening in SW Portland
- Lineage: New Kadampa – Geshe Kelsang Gyatso
- Notes: They lead various training programs and have many ways to get involved. This is the only Mahayana / non-Vajrayana Tibetan center in Portland.
6. Portland Dharma Center (Dzogchen Shri Singha of Portland)
- Logistics: SU afternoon, M-F evening in SW Portland
- Lineage: Nyingma / Dzogchen – Khenpo Choga Rinpoche
- Notes: Has many different teachers and offerings throughout the week, exploring a variety of topics.
- Logistics: T evening & 4th SU afternoon in NE Portland
- Lineage: Kagyu – Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche
- Notes: Explores the Joy of Living teachings of Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche, a native Tibetan teacher who travels widely and has a large network of affiliated sanghas across the world.
- Logistics: SU morning & R evening
- Lineage: General Tibetan / Vajrayana
- Notes: This is an actual college in SE Portland with master’s degrees and semester-long courses. Those courses are a bit pricey, though they have two weekly donation-based events (the Sunday morning is often led by Portland’s only “Rinpoche” – roughly defined, someone recognized as the reincarnation of a great sage).
- Logistics: R evening in SE Portland
- Lineage: Shingon Buddhism (Japanese)
- Notes: They offer several Japanese cultural experiences throughout the week, though the Thursday night class is the highlight for dharma students, especially as Shingon Buddhism is one of the few ways to access Vajrayana Buddhism separate from Tibetan Buddhism.
- Logistics: SU-SA early AM silent meditation. Every first & last SA of month sacred dance workshops. All in SE Portland.
- Lineage: Newar Vajrachariya (Nepalese)
- Notes: Their temple is open every morning for silent meditation. The founder is an international Vajrayana Sacred Ritual Dance teacher & performer. He offers donation-based Buddhist dance workshops in the temple, both scheduled and on request.
Traditional Buddhist Temples & Centers
Note: the majority of meditation centers in the West (see all of the above) tend to place prime importance on meditation, and are generally filled with westerners interested in “spiritual Buddhism.”
In Asia, many Buddhist monasteries give equal if not more emphasis to community, study, chanting, devotional practice, etc. For the most part, the following temples are more in this style.
Some of the temples might be of interest to Westerners for meditation teaching (such as Miao Fa), but more generally, unless you are from the listed country and/or speak that language, it’s likely the primary value you’ll find is in having a neat cultural experience or getting to dialogue with some monks (which is actually kinda cool!).
1. Mahayana Temples & Centers
- Chinese: Miao Fa Temple in SE PDX, Kwan Yin Temple in NE PDX, Hui Lin Medicine Buddha Meditation Center in SE PDX,
- Japanese: Oregon Buddhist Temple (Jodo Shinshu) in SE PDX, Nichiren Buddhist Temple of Oregon in SE Portland
- Vietnamese: Nam-Quang Temple in NE PDX, Chua Phat Quang in Beaverton, Tinh Xa Ngoc Phuoc in SE PDX, Ngoc Son in SE PDX, Minh Quang in SE PDX, Chua Linh Son in SE PDX, Amitabha Buddhist Society of Oregon in Beaverton
- Korean: Bokwangsah Temple in SE PDX
2. Theravadan Monasteries, Viharas & Temples
- Burmese: Sirimangala Buddhist Monastery in NE PDX
- Lao: Wat Buddhatham Aram in NE PDX & Buddhist Center NW in Gresham
- Sri Lankan: Oregon Buddhist Vihara in Hillsboro
- Cambodian: Wat Dhammarangsey in West Linn
- Thai: Pacific Hermitage in White Salmon
Buddhist Inspired Groups
- Logistics: Multiple gatherings every day across the greater Portland area.
- Lineage: General Buddhism
- Notes: An alternative to AA and other recovery programs, Refuge Recovery is a community that uses Buddhist principles, mindfulness & loving-kindness practices as a basis for recovery from all types of addictions
Where To Go On Retreat Near Portland
I’ve previously written an in-depth guide to why & where to go on Meditation retreat, including places near Portland and also across the country/world. However, I’ll provide some highlights here:
1. Retreat Centers that lead 10+ retreats per year within 90 miles of Portland
- The Great Vow Zen Monastery – offers monthly Zen retreats, plus opportunities for long-term residential practice.
- Cloud Mountain – offers Vipassana retreats from 2 – 30 days with some of the most senior Vipassana teachers in the country.
- Northwest Vipassana Center – offers donation-based 10 day Vipassana retreats in the style of S.N. Goenka.
2. Communities that lead 1 to 9 retreats per year within 90 miles of Portland
- Vipassana: Portland Insight Meditation Center (see the Vipassana section above)
- Zen: Mount Adams Zen Buddhist Temple, Dharma Rain Zen Center & No Rank Zendo (see the Zen section above)
- Vajrayana: Dorje Ling & Kagyu Changchub Chuling (see the Vajrayana section above)
- Non-Buddhist places that occasionally lead Buddhist retreats: Still Meadow Retreat Center
3. Places to do self-retreat within 90 miles of Portland
If you don’t need any guidance, and are cool to completely do your own thing, here are some places that will offer lodging, food, and quiet:
- Repeats from #1 and 2: The Great Vow Zen Monastery, Dorje Ling, Mount Adams Zen Buddhist Temple & Still Meadow.
- Other Spiritual Traditions: Ananda Laurelwood, Our Lady of Guadalupe Trappist Abbey, a long list of Catholic Retreat Centers, and probably several others.
- Places you won’t get fed: Find a cabin in the woods, rent an AirBnB, go backcountry camping, and probably several others.
If you have any questions about a particular center/group, or would like me to add something to the list, feel free to comment below or email me!