Program News

Gratitude for Ayyā Santussikā’s Daylong Teaching

Ayyā Santussikā from her online message to PFoD in 2020

On February 7, 2021, Ayyā Santussikā of Karuna Buddhist Vihara met online with Portland Friends of the Dhamma and friends from Seattle, Northern California, and throughout the Western Hemisphere. Ayya spoke to these 60 practitioners during a daylong session of meditation and teaching on the Mahāmangala Sutta, (Snp 2-4) also known as the chant “The Highest Blessings.”

Ayya is well loved by PFoD. She has the ability to help us see both the content of a sutta and its inspiration for us. With her interactive style, suttas spring from the page with a relevance for daily life. The Highest Blessings unfurled into guidance for living a blameless life and seeing the freedom in this. She advised that it is important to make space for awakening and to practice as if seeing Nibbana will happen. It is right here. We just need to shift in our thinking so we are not looking from the place of the self. 

Portland Friends of the Dhamma is grateful to the volunteers and donors who made possible the meal offering, online production, and recording of the session. The recordings and wisdom from today’s sessions are available here. Ayya’s teachings are available here and here. Join a growing number of PFoD practitioners at her online Sutta Study on Wednesday evenings here

A New Library — The Result of Patience, Generosity and Friendship

Photo: From left to right, Alistair (designed & built the library), checks in with Patty (the force behind this wonderful addition), and Nathan (sponsor), holding a picture of his wife Sophary, who recently passed away and who this library is dedicated to. 

There is a new library at the Center, with build-in shelves and an area for backstock. It was funded in memory of a community member Sophary Varns by her husband Nathan and grew from the vision and effort of many in the community. Here’s the story:

Patty Pandzik, PFOD librarian, had a problem. Boxes of books were randomly stashed throughout the building. “Books were above the meditation hall, in the furnace area, and behind various curtains. No one knew how to find what you wanted,” Patty said. Plus, “there were big gaps on the shelves and no organizing system.” 

She brought her concerns to Alistair Williamson, chair of the Building Committee. “We had 110 boxes of books,” said Alistair. “I had been feeling that stacking books all over the Center was just not treating them well. It was not respectful.” So after talking with many community members, “Alistair came up with a beautiful plan for a new library area,” Patty said. “And he could build it himself if we could find the money.” They brought the plan to the Board, unsure of the response since money was tight.

Meanwhile, Patty had invited Nathan to help her sort and inventory the exploding stock of books. As they organized, she showed him the design for a new library area, mentioning that she and Alistair had offered seed money for the project. Thinking of his wife Sophary, who had recently passed away, Nathan inquired into how much more funding was needed. When he got the answer, he said, “I can do that,” — and he did.

“Sophary would be pleased to leave something like that for our members as a tool for helping and to benefit their practice,” Nathan said. Adding, “I feel so much gratitude toward this Dhamma Center and the monks and so much appreciation for having the Center here.”

With funds secured, Alistair started building. “He did 99% of the labor,” Nathan said, including “finding a nice door and getting everything leveled and plumbed.”  

At the same time, Patty and Nathan completed the book inventorya huge taskand concluded they had many more books than the area would ever hold. And so 23 boxes were driven to Wat Atammayatarama, a Thai monastery outside of Seattle (Ajahn Ritthi, abbot of the monastery, was delighted to have them). Other boxes went to Wat Dhammarangsey, a Cambodian monastery in West Linn, which needed books in English for their younger generation (this was especially sweet because Nathan serves on their Board). “That left us with just the books we wanted to keep,” said Patty.

Once construction was complete, Patty and Nathan loaded up the shelves. According to Patty, the library is now organized, “in a way that people can find what they’re looking for.”

With the project done, Alistair reflected on how it gradually came to fruition. “Patty saw a real need at the Center. It took a lot of persistence for her to get people involved and figure out a solution. In doing so, she drew people together.” He added, “it was fitting that Nathan wanted to fund it in memory of Sophary, that we could provide a way for him to do that.” 

Patty reflected on the patience and other Dhamma qualities the project inspired. “If you had told me this would take a year, I might not have done it. My mind would have spun all sorts of stories and I would have just given up. But I was determined to not entertain those stories. I just stayed in the present moment and id the next thing. Plus the collaboration of kalyanamitta – it was beautiful. the Dhamma was always present.” 

Nathan added, “Sophary would be happy to know this was going on with her in mind. I thought this was something I could do to help the Dhamma Center and also to remember Sophary. I’m just pleased I had the resources to help out.”

If you are interested in participating in a project at the Center, please contact us. If you would like to learn how to remember PFOD in your will or living trust visit our planned giving page.

Thank you for Ayyā Medhānandī’s Inspiration at the New Year

Ayyā Medhānandī Bhikkhunī, the founder and guiding teacher of Sati Saraniya Hermitage, spent a day of Dhamma with us on January 3, 2021. She met with Portland Friends of the Dhamma for the first time, a start to our new year, just before entering her winter retreat. The theme of the day was “An Ever-Present Refuge.” Over fifty people from all over North America gathered to learn the wisdom of being present in the moment as a refuge from the worldly winds and suffering. While she recognized that there has been great suffering this past year, she pointed out that suffering allows us to learn the Dhamma. Our true home is the place within us unperturbed by the conditioned. Ayya included guided meditation, reference to the suttas, and a reading from the Dhammapada. Over and over she emphasized that Nibbana is attainable in this very lifetime. 

We are grateful for this inspiring teaching and for the hard work of our volunteers who organized the online event, helped the Hermitage with tech support and Zoom facilitation, and for our donors who supported the meal offering for the Hermitage, our Nuns’ Fund, and our Center and staff.

We are happy to say that Ayyā Medhānandī will return, via Zoom, for a daylong once again on Sunday, September 19, 2021. We hope you can join us.

The recording of the day may be found here.  Below are two links that regularly upload her Dhamma talks.

 Sati Saraniya Teachings and Dharma Seed 

Gratitude for Ajahn Thanissaro’s November Visit on Zoom

Ajahn Thanissaro during his visit on Zoom to PFoD in 2020

Ajahn Thanissaro (Geoff) appeared on Zoom hosted by Portland Friends of the Dhamma and joined by others from Belarus and Brazil to Peru and Sri Lanka. Over 170 practitioners gathered to hear his teaching on managing grief and coping with change. Guided meditation and two sutta study sessions were filled with practical skills on these two topics so relevant to recent events. 

Dozens of participants expressed their gratitude for his teaching and the generous hosting by PFoD. We are grateful to our volunteers who were onsite during the session and who assisted along the way and to our donors who made this event possible and accessible. 

Ajahn Thanissaro (Geoff) has been a long time teacher for PFoD, and this was his 19th annual visit. Sakula began the day by reflecting on the support she has received from Ajahn’s meditation teachings in particular. The recorded sessions from the day are available here and here. Other teachings and ebooks by Ajahn Geoff are available here

A Rich Day of Teachings – Ayya Santussikā Returns to PFoD

Ayya Santussikā and Ayya Cittānandā during their March 2020 visit

On September 27, 2020, Portland Friends of the Dhamma hosted a Daylong led by Ayya Santussikā, abbess of Karuna Buddhist Vihara. The topic which ran throughout the day was  “Directing the Mind, Cooling the Heart” and was attended by many, including one person from abroad. The day began with taking the Five Precepts, followed with a lovely guided meditation. The Vihara’s meal was offered by members of the PFoD community and was followed up with even more lovely reflections which you can hear for yourself by following this link “Directing the Mind, Cooling the Heart.”  The day has been described as a “treasure.” 

This is the second time in 2020 that Ayya Santussika Bhikkhuni, along with her attendant Ayya Cittananda Bhikkhuni have graced us with their presence. The first time was in March just before PFoD had to shut down due to the pandemic. Of course for now we meet online, one advantage is a much broader spectrum of people are able to participate.  

We are grateful to our donors and volunteers who made the meal offering, flowers, and technical support possible for this event. You are securing our ability to continue our training during the pandemic. Anumodana!

Conversations have already begun to secure Santussika Bhikkhuni’s return for more teachings. We will happily send out notices when this comes into being.

For more talks by Ayya Santussika click on Karuna Vihara Dhamma Talks.

A Gratitude Fills the Heart

On Sunday, June 28th, 2020, friends and families gathered online to celebrate Portland Friends of the Dhamma’s anniversary-fundraiser. Appropriately, Luang Por Pasanno (the inspiration for the arising of this community) anchored the event. Themes throughout the day included comments on the rarity and beauty of drawing close to good people, encouragement to wisely reflect on the teachings and the benefits of practicing Dhamma within community.  

“To have a center, a community that one can give oneself to is really important…It is something that is of tremendous benefit, it is something to appreciate and delight in.” 

Luang Por went on to encourage us to take care of that which makes all of this possible. 

“Attending carefully so there’s a real discernment and wise attention we’re applying, there’s a freedom in that. To give that gift to ourselves and give that gift to others through the resources of Portland Friends of the Dhamma is a wonderful, wonderful thing to do.” 

The dana for this event totaled $30,500. We are confident this generosity has secured our operating budget and cash reserves through at least April of 2021 and gets us within striking distance of fully funding our capital reserves ($7,500 to go). With a measure of relief, we anticipate (hope) this will get us through the pandemic.

A treasured highlight of the event was a video featuring messages from our monastic teachers over the years, interspersed with a photo history of Portland Friends of the Dhamma. A full version, that includes Luang Por’s Dhamma contributions, can be found here, minus the fundraising portion. Donations can be made here.

And finally, this event could not have happened without the huge contributions of time and efforts from numerous volunteers. Anumodana to all the planners, speakers, and producers. The generosity of our supporters around this event, and the ongoing strength of monthly giving, shows a deep faith in our teachers and our Center. May we all delight in the trust offered Portland Friends of the Dhamma as a place to meditate, train, and build a community of kalyanamitta.

Kalyanamittas in the Time of Covid19

What is it like to give and receive the Dhamma in this time of the coronavirus global pandemic? It’s like this. We Zoom. We make videos for the children. We receive words of encouragement. We receive support from our renters and from our virtual dana bowl.

We Zoom Our Programs

Online programs and workshops hosted by PFOD – Online Monasitcs affiliated with PFoD

Sunday Sila – 10:00 a.m. – 11:30 a.m. is now given interactively as a large online group.  The morning includes silent meditations, reflections, and a video chat. Attendance is at or above usual numbers. An audio of the Dhamma Reflections is recorded and will soon be posted to our website and listed under Teachings. Kristen and her daughter have been avid Friends of Dhamma zoomers on Sunday Sila.

“Not being good with technology, for me it’s amazingly easy to click a link and with no effort be taken right into it,” said Kristen. ” I appreciate all the behind-the-scenes work to set up the equipment and send the emails with the link. It means I get to see live people, my friends, my community. Being with everyone is so heartwarming. Also, I like seeing everyone at home with their comfy chairs, cushions, and altars. It feels like we’re all together in this practice. Seeing the names with the faces is like meeting new people.” She added, “I’m glad that people at a distance and those who can’t leave home can also join in.”

Tuesday Reflections – 8:00 p.m. – 9:30 p.m. is also now online and like always, begins with a guided meditation, a reflection on a practice topic, and, time willing, a group chat to reflect on practice, share our joys and challenges, and or ask questions — all while enjoying each other’s company while snug in our individual homes.

“I am so grateful to Jessica for her support of the Tuesday Reflections folks. Many people have shared with me how happy they feel after having spending their time in contact with this group.” 


Friday Investigations – 7:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m. can also be joined online. As with Sunday Sila, these groups begin with a meditation followed by reflections and interactive participation. An added benefit is that Sunday Sila sessions Dhamma reflections are recorded for the Friends of Dhamma Podcast and remain available there for later listening. We are so grateful that members of the community have whole-heartedly stepped forward to help with financial and in-kind support for sound and video equipment and Zoom subscriptions.

“With the onset of the quarantine and PFOD programs being moved online, we have the joy of attending Investigations again, from Bend, OR…sitting together in silence and then sharing Dhamma with our Portland friends has been delightful. Anumodana!
Joan and Scott Benge

We Make Video’s for Our Children

The children in our community have a new treat to look forward to. videos on our YouTube channel from Jessica and her family. “Star Meditation” and “I Know You Are But What Am I?” teach activities that children and parents can do together learning skills and values.

And there’s more, for a complete list click here.

We Receive Words of Encouragement

As our community members and teachers step forward to find novel ways of sharing Dhamma with one another during the COVID-19 stay-at-home order, perhaps one of the most heartening gifts are the messages of encouragement from our monastic and lay teachers at a distance. Luang Por Pasanno (กำลังใจจากหลวงพ่อปสันโน)  Ajahn Sudanto, Ayya Santussikā, and several others have sent video, audio, or written messages made specifically for Portland Friends of the Dhamma. We are so grateful for such support from these wonderful teachers.

We Recieve Support from Each Other

We are all one community and our care and compassion for each other is connected and felt.  During this unusual time, I would like to share with you a new PFOD program called Hand to Heart. This is available to anyone in our community who may need assistance.  This assistance may be for food or staples such as TP, medicines, fluids, including covering the cost and delivery. We want to help and we have a generous donation strictly directed to support those in need.

“Being able to share with the community in need from PFOD is perfect, so thank you for this opportunity.” Donor

Contact: Jane Meskill 

We Recieve Support from Our Renters

Portland Friends of the Dhamma leases space in our Center to three Buddhist organizations and one professional counselor. Knowing our renters would not be able to access the building for two or more months, the Board offered discounts to each. What a lovely surprise we received when some renters chose to pay in full and none requested to break their lease! Bonnie Wilson, our Treasurer, remembers receiving notes, with one of them reading,

This pandemic has made us rethink everything. All our assumptions about the year have been changed.”

She went on to share, 

Because our cash flow is so close to the bone, we were thrilled our renters were able to maintain this level of commitment to us when their income is also at risk. I can’t tell you how humbling and heartwarming is was to see those checks come in. It means we are closer to knowing we will be fine.”

And From Our Virtual Dana Bowl

The dana bowl has been part of PFOD since the beginning. Many community members have enjoyed leaving dana after a meditation, class, or workshop. For years PFOD had a simple woven bowl, eventually replaced by a wooden box. Between $500 to $700 a month has been consistently given this way, providing much-needed and deeply appreciated support. Now that all our gatherings are online, our dana bowl has gone online too. You can help us maintain our urban refuge so one day, we can reunite, in the city, in a BIG IN-PERSON Celebration!

What’s Up, Online, and Ready to Zoom!

Join using Zoom

Zoom is an online video meeting system. You don’t need an account.
You can join either with video (of yourself) or just audio.


Sunday Sila – Sunday morning meditation, reflection, and check-in
Led by Sakula

10:00 – 10:45 Meditation and five-minute break
10:45 – 11:15 Dhamma Reflections (video not recorded, reflections recorded for podcast)
11:15 – 11:30 Dialogue, Q n’ A (not recorded) – this session may go longer if folks wish to stay
Contact us for login info

Reflections – Tuesday night meditation, reflection, and check-in
Led by Jessica Swanson

Time: 8:00 PM – 9:30 PM
Meditation, Reflections, and Voluntary Check-in
Contact us for login info

Investigations – Friday night meditation, reflection, and discussion
Led by Matthew Grad

Time: 7:00 PM – 9:00 PM
7:00 – 7:45 – Meditation
7:45 – 9:00 – Short Break, Dhamma Reflections, and Discussion
Contact us for login info

Family and Kids Program – Tutorials and handouts for family-friendly Buddhist activities
Led by Jessica Swanson
Join the Family & Kids subgroup for information and links
Contact Jessica if you have any questions

Virtually Bookish – An eight-week Buddhist book group
Led by Ruby Grad

Every Other Saturday from April 18th – July 25th
Time:  12:00 noon – 2:30  Pacific Time
Contact Ruby if you have any questions
Contact us for login info

A Sew Mindful Workshop – A workshop sewing masks for family and community
Hosted by Sakula and Charla Chamberlain

Saturday, April 25th
Time: 2:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m.
Contact us for Zoom log in info and/or to request future sew-a-longs


Home Retreat, a Guide for 1 to 10-day self-retreats
Written and supported by Matthew Grad

Hand to Heart – A PFoD Food Bank
Please contact if you are in need of any help to pay for and/or delivering food or medicines
Contact person: Jane Maskill

Sangha Helpline
Steve has offered to build a contact list of members of the sangha who would like to offer help to others in their neighborhoods during this covid19 crisis.
Visit Sangha Helpline
Contact Steve Diamond if you have any questions

Encouraging Words

Messages to our community from our extended Dhamma family of visiting teachers
Click here to view video and written messages


Inspiring Teachings Made Possible by Donors and Volunteers

Our donors and volunteers made possible a wonderful weekend of meditation and teaching on the theme of joy by the inspiring Santussikā Bhikkhunī. She and Cittānandā Bhikkhunī visited for the weekend from Karuna Buddhist Vihara in the Santa Cruz mountains.

Tea and conversation was held around the table downstairs. Ayya Santussikā spoke on the topic of joy and happiness and their necessity on the path to enlightenment. She encouraged us to notice joy and cultivate it when it arises. The theme continued through the weekend. The altar was filled with flowers in warm welcome. All the seats were filled, and more cushions were set out. 

Such teaching is possible at Friends of the Dhamma because you, our donors and volunteers, have so generously given of time and resources. Anumodana!

Debbie Stamp Brightens a Winter Weekend

Sharing stories from her own life, Debbie Stamp reflected on skills for looking after our own heart with patience and kindness. We are grateful to our volunteers  and donors who made it possible for Debbie, a lay teacher and resident of the Abhayagiri community, to visit Friends of the Dhamma again this year. 

With “The Refuge Within” being the theme for the weekend, Debbie’s voice was filled with warmth as she reflected on her life and those small moments or key individuals who brought insight. She encouraged us to see how the small changes that come with our practice can go unnoticed unless we look for them.  

Teachings from the weekend can be found here.

 At the end of weekend Debbie learned of our plans for visiting monastics over the next two years and was so inspired that she gave the dana she had received to Friends of the Dhamma. She wishes to thank everyone for making possible the joy she felt in giving back to our community in this way.