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.
Although, I will say that the best way to find a group is always just to check a few of them out and get a feel for what seems to resonate.
A Few Notes to Keep in Mind
- This article is up-to-date as of 09/2022; however, places are likely still switching around their virtual/local status or adding/subtracting days as part of the slow transition from the pandemic. In turn, I’d recommend following the below links to verify the current schedules of various groups. Also note that if something is offered as a hybrid local & online event, I just marked it as being in-person below.
- While every center has its own flavor, some centers have multiple groups throughout the week or are led by different instructors, which may have a very different feel from each other. 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 as you are 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 and discussion; W evening courses in NE Portland
- Lineage: Sayadaw U Tejaniya + general Theravada
- Notes: Led by a former monk, explores how to navigate modern life with a depth of love, wisdom, and inner freedom. Offers regular daylong retreats, courses, workshops, and community service projects. The morning meditation attracts around 20 sincere meditators each day.
2. Portland Insight Meditation Community (PIMC)
- Logistics: SU morning in SE Portland; SU, M & TH evening virtually; Weekday mornings virtually
- 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 in SE Portland; W morning, F evening, and SA afternoon (virtual)
- Lineage: Ajahn Chah – Thai Forest
- Notes: One of the two largest Theravada Centers in Portland. They sometimes host monks from a nearby hermitage for dharma talks, and several times a year they host non-residential weekend retreats with prominent monks in the Thai Forest tradition. The ongoing events include a book club and a regular meeting sutta study group (the classic Buddhist texts).
- Logistics: W evening (virtual)
- Lineage: General Theravada
- Notes: Was originally a Dharma Punx group, and has since broken off to become independent.
- Schedule: Monthly three-hour intensives in N Portland & Hillsboro
- 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. Note that these groups are peer-led.
6. Caring Heart
- Schedule: TU afternoon, 2nd M evening, and every other S Evening (all virtual)
- 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)
- Lineage: General Theravada
- Notes: This group places special emphasis on reflection and writing about our meditation experiences. They also host occasional workshops and intensives. Somewhat geared towards mental health professionals, or those interested in combining therapeutic modalities with Buddhist meditation.
- Schedule: M Evening (virtual)
- Lineage: Spirit Rock & MBSR
- Notes: Most evenings are meditation-focused with a once-a-month book study group. Hosts 8-week MBSR courses in person.
- Schedule: W evening, SA afternoon (all virtual)
- 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: Maybe 10 times a year, they host a dharma talk & sometimes daylong retreats from teachers who 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.
Zen Mahayana Buddhism
Zen-style 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 & precise, as they focus on effortless here-and-now presence and the immediacy of compassion. There is also an emphasis on ritual and form.
- Schedule: SU & F morning, and SU, TU & TH evenings in NE Portland. W & F evening virtual.
- Lineage: Soto & Rinzai – Maezumi Roshi and Shodo Harada Roshi
- Notes: One of the two biggest Zen Centers in Portland. They hold regular classes, events, daylongs, and host various affinity groups, like LGBTQIA+ and engaged Buddhism. They are also 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, TU, W & TH evening in NE Portland.
- Lineage: Soto Zen – connected with Shasta Abbey.
- Notes: One of the two biggest Zen Centers in Portland. They also have regular ongoing multi-week courses, workshops, daylongs, and residential retreats. The schedule changes seasonally.
- Schedule: TU & TH evening in SE Portland. W evening in SW Portland. M evening & F morning virtually.
- 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. They also host a once-a-month book club.
- Schedule: SU & W evening in SE Portland. M-F 6am, 12pm & 8pm silent virtual meditation. SA morning in SE Portland.
- Lineage: Rinzai Zen – Genki Takabayashi
- Notes: This is the only dedicated Rinzai group in Portland. Hosts occasional retreats and daylongs.
- Schedule: TU evening & SU morning in SW Portland. T-SA virtual morning meditation.
- Lineage: Soto Zen – stems from the Dharma Rain Zen Center
- Notes: They also host a virtual book club and Zen podcast study group, along with periodic workshops and daylongs.
- Schedule: W evening, SU & F morning in SE Portland.
- Lineage: Soto Zen – Order of Buddhist Contemplatives
- Notes: Has a very traditional feel. Affiliated with many temples and monasteries along the West Coast and internationally.
- Schedule: W evening & SU morning in SE Portland, TU morning virtual
- Lineage: Diamond Sangha – roots in both Soto & Rinzai
- Notes: Emphasizes koan practice. Hosts monthly orientations to Zen practice. Affiliated with another Zendo in California that hosts retreats.
Vajrayana / Tibetan Buddhism
Vajrayana / Tibetan Buddhism has a mystical & devotional feel. It can initially come across as somewhat esoteric and inaccessible (unless you’re drawn to artful spirituality!), but if you’re open to it, it has a great blend of Theravada and Mahayana, offering a richness of precision with an emphasis on the now.
1. Kagyu Changchub Chuling (KCC)
- Logistics: SU morning & W evening in NE Portland; SU evening, TU evening, and M-F morning Virtual
- Lineage: Kagyu – Kalu Rinpoche
- Notes: They have a resident Lama (someone who completed a traditional 3-year retreat), and offer a full schedule of deepening study classes, daylongs, retreats, children’s programs, and more.
- Schedule: SU morning & W evening in NW Portland
- 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. They also sometimes host a Tuesday night book club.
- Logistics: SU-F virtual morning meditation; TU evening in SE Portland
- Lineage: Nyingma & Kagyu – Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche
- Notes: They also offer regular classes and workshops/courses. The Shambhala style tends to be the more secular-leaning, least mystical of the Tibetan lineages.
4. Samden Ling
- Logistics: W mornings (virtual)
- Lineage: Nyingma/Rime’ Dzogchen Nyingthig – Adzom Paylo Rinpoche
- Notes: Guided by a local Lama, they offer teachings and practices from The Longchen Nyingthig Teaching Series. They also have a Youtube channel, online resources, and periodic live talks.
- Logistics: M & TH 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 mornings, F afternoons, W evening in SW Portland
- Lineage: New Kadampa – Geshe Kelsang Gyatso
- Notes: They also lead various training programs and have many ways to get involved. This is the only Mahayana / non-Vajrayana Tibetan center in Portland.
7. Portland Dharma Center (Dzogchen Shri Singha of Portland)
- Logistics: SA afternoon, TU & W evening, and 3rd SU afternoon (all virtual)
- 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 (virtual)
- 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. They also have various deepening study programs and utilize the online courses & materials of Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche.
- Logistics: SU mornings
- Lineage: General Tibetan / Vajrayana
- Notes: This is an actual college in SE Portland with master’s degrees and semester-long courses focused on various aspects of Buddhism and meditation. However, the Sunday morning gathering is open to the public, donation-based, and is often led by Portland’s only “Rinpoche” (roughly defined, someone recognized as the reincarnation of a great sage).
- Logistics: W & TH evenings (virtual)
- Lineage: Shingon Buddhism (Japanese)
- Notes: A little different than everything else on this page, Shingon Buddhism is one of the few ways to access Vajrayana Buddhism separate from Tibetan Buddhism. Note that the above site is affiliated with, but slightly different from the Japanese Temple / cultural center that hosted them pre-pandemic.
- Logistics: SU-SA morning silent meditation in SE Portland. TU, W evening & F morning chanting, singing or mantra (virtual).
- 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: Gatherings nearly every day across the greater Portland area, as well as multiple local meetings every day virtually
- 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.
- Logistics: W evening in SE Portland
- Lineage: Secular (was formerly affiliated with a local Buddhist organization)
- Notes: Their Wednesday evening gathering is a “social meditation,” and the general thrust is to develop community & mindful relating.
- Logistics: W evening virtual
- Lineage: Run by a former Zen monk, but now more secular oriented
- Notes: Has a social justice and psychological component, exploring collective and individual liberation. They also offer periodic workshops and retreats.
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 (they lead periodic group retreats, but also have some of the most affordable self-retreats in the area, where you do your own practice but get to stay at the temple), Dharma Rain Zen Center & No Rank Zendo (see the Zen section above)
- Vajrayana: Dorje Ling & Kagyu Changchub Chuling (see the Vajrayana section above)
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.
- Other Spiritual Traditions: 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!