Intro to Buddhist 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 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.
Outline for this Guide
1. Vipassana / Theravada Buddhist Groups
2. Zen / Mahayana Buddhist Groups
3. Tibetan / Vajrayana Buddhist Groups
4. Traditional Buddhist Temples & Viharas
5. Buddhist Inspired Groups
6. Where to go on Buddhist Meditation Retreat Near Portland
A few final notes to keep in mind:
- 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.
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, it’s approach to philosophy and meditation is usually the most accessible to Westerners.
- Logistics: M evenings, and M-R early mornings in NE Portland.
- Lineage: Sayadaw U Tejaniya – mixed with general Theravada
- Notes: Monday nights alternate between a meditation focused gathering and a book discussion focused gathering. For more info, click the “events” button at the top of this website!
2. 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 regularly 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: SU evening in SE Portland
- Lineage: General Theravada – especially from the classical Buddhist texts (suttas).
- Notes: Has a more integration focus – bringing together meditation with relationship & daily life.
- Schedule: First M every month in SE Portland
- Lineage: Sayadaw U Tejaniya & Sayadaw U Pandita – Burmese Theravada
- Notes: Uses modern dharma teachings to explore integration of meditation with daily life.
- Schedule: SU morning, periodic additional times, all in SE Portland
- Lineage: General Theravada
- Notes: This group places special emphasis on reflection and writing about our meditation experiences.
- Schedule: every other W evening in NE Portland
- Lineage: IMS & Spirit Rock
- Notes: Makes the basics of Insight Meditation accessible.
- Schedule: F evening in SE Portland
- Lineage: General Theravada – affiliated with Portland Insight Meditation Center (PIMC)
- Notes: Formerly a Dharma Punx group, has a social justice orientation, and is peer-led.
- 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. This is always a special treat, as these are some of the most senior Vipassana teachers in the country.
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 Clatskanine Oregon, which has many live-in monastics, and offers regular 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: Orthodox Zen, sort of feels like a Catholic church service.
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, T & W evening in NW Portland
- Lineage: Kagyu / Dzogchen – Gyatrul Rinpoche
- Notes: They have a resident monastic, 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. A note that this is 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.
- This is an actual college in SE Portland with master’s degrees and semester long courses. It’s a little pricey (everything else on this list is predominantly free/donation-based), but they have some really interesting courses open to the public for both meditation and textual/philosophical study.
Traditional Buddhist Temples & Viharas
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. The following temples are more in this style (although this doesn’t necessarily mean they don’t have meditation or deep spiritual practice).
- Logistics: SA morning & afternoon in SE Portland
- Lineage: Chinese Chan Buddhism
- Notes: Saturday mornings they have Chinese Chanting followed by Dharma talk and vegetarian lunch. Later in the afternoon they have a Theravada class with meditation & talk (I’m told this is often led by a Theravada/Thai trained monk, though I will update when I have a chance to visit).
- Logistics: SU afternoon & F evening in Hilsboro
- Lineage: Sri Lankan Theravada
- Notes: They have two resident fully ordained monks / renunciates, and host weekly meditation and dhamma school.
- Logistics: SU mornings in SE Portland
- Lineage: Pure Land Buddhism – Jodo Shinshu (Japanese) – Buddhist Churches of America
- Notes: Has a book club, chanting club, Dharma school for kids, choir and many other events.
- Logistics: SU morning in deep NE Portland
- Notes: Established by the Vietnamese community. Free vegetarian lunch after Sunday service.
- Logistics: Located in SE Portland
- Notes: Very little info is available online – I will update when I have a chance to visit.
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
- Logistics: SA morning in NE Portland
- Lineage: General buddhism
- Notes: Geared towards beginners and non-buddhists, they present buddhism in a very accessible way.
Where To Go On Retreat Near Portland
1. Places listed previously on this list
- Groups: Portland Insight Meditation Center, Heart of Wisdom Zen Center, Dharma Rain Zen Center, No Rank Zendo, Dorje Ling, Kagyu Changchub Chuling, and possibly some others.
- Notes: Apart from Heart of Wisdom and Dharma Rain, the others hold infrequent retreats, but are still very nice as they directly plug back into the weekly meditation group.
- I’ve previously written an in-depth guide to why & where to go on retreat. I highly recommend skimming through it (see link in title). However, if you want the short version, the most popular places near Portland are Cloud Mountain (great Vipassana option if you have a little $$), the Northwest Vipassana Association (solid Vipassana donation-based option) and the Great Vow Zen Monastery (if you’re into Zen).
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!