Frequently Asked Questions
Things You Must Know
Please take care of any phone calls, emails, and business or errands before visiting. Unplugging from electronics and media is part of life at the Abbey. There is no phone or Internet access for short-term guests. Long-term visitors may have email and phone access every 10 days.
Due to severe allergies with some of our residents, the Abbey is a fragrance-free environment. Please leave scented, perfumed, or fragrant toiletries at home. We require the following toiletries to be fragrance-free: soap, shampoo, conditioner, deodorant. (Look for “fragrance-free” on the label. Generally speaking, products labeled “unscented” may still contain harmful chemicals.)
We require visitors to supply proof of Covid-19 vaccination before coming to the Abbey. For 2021, visitors are also required to take a Covid PRC test right before you come. If you have any contagious illness, including a cold or flu, please postpone your visit.
What does it cost?
The Abbey does not charge fees to visit or to stay here. We depend entirely on the generosity of guests and supporters to carry out our programs, maintain and build facilities, and support the community. Dana is the Sanskrit word for offerings.
Everyone who visits the Abbey benefits from the kindness of the people who have given before them. Thus when you make an offering, you make it possible for countless other people to hear and experience Buddha’s teachings. This plants lots of good seeds in your mind.
Initial dana offering for course & retreats
We do ask an initial gift of $100 to reserve your place in retreats and courses. Your offering marks your commitment to yourself to follow through on your wish to attend. See details of the particular course on the Event Schedule.
But how much should I offer?
This is not a business a transaction. It is an act of generosity that comes from your heart. If it helps, you can explore what retreat centers charge per day for lodging, meals, and teachings.
Accommodations are simple but comfortable. Men and women are housed separately.
Do I need to bring sheets and towels?
Yes. Bring sheets for a single bed, pillow slips, and bath and hand towels.
Do I need to bring blankets?
No. The Abbey provides pillows and blankets.
Can I have a private room?
Generally rooms are shared. Space availability depends on the number of guests visiting the Abbey at any time. Write the office if you have special needs.
Guests are not permitted in each other’s sleeping quarters or in the monastics’ rooms.
What to Pack
- Sheets to fit a single bed, pillowcase, bath towel, and hand towel.
- Scent-free toiletries (toothbrush & paste, deodorant, hand lotion, lip balm, shampoo)
- Alarm clock that doesn’t tick. (You may not use your cell phone as your clock.)
- Water bottle
- If your visit is less than a week, bring enough clothing to last. Laundry facilities are not available for short-term visitors. Long-term guests launder with the group once a week.
- Pack modest clothing appropriate for a monastery: loose tops, baggy pants and/or long skirts in solid, subdued colors. Please no shorts, yoga pants, tank tops, form-fitting tops, or T-shirts with graphics or logos.
- Multiple layers for warm days and cool mornings and evenings in spring, summer, fall.
- Long-sleeved work clothes for outdoor service projects. You’ll also need good outdoor shoes for walking and working in the forest.
- If you are visiting in the winter, expect snow and bring warm clothing, snow boots, gloves, and a hat. Bring cleats as our paths can get icy.
- For summer, bring a sun hat.
- We don’t wear shoes inside the buildings and recommend that your footwear be easy to slip on and off.
- Optional: indoor slippers or thick socks, and a shawl or blanket for the Meditation Hall.
- Please consider making a food offering. The community (including guests) eats only food offered to the monastics. We welcome whatever you wish to offer. See the Offering Food page for ideas, but remember that we refrain from eating any meat, fish, garlic, and onions.
- A monetary offering shows respect for the teachings and helps you express your gratitude. Read about Giving.
- Please consider something from the Abbey’s current wish list.
- Please bring a mind ready to enjoy meditating in the Abbey’s beautiful, natural setting!
Materials for Dharma practice
- Bring meditation outlines, prayer books, and Dharma books. The Abbey has a small library for guests, but it may not contain the books you wish to read. Books from the Abbey library may not be taken to guest rooms to prevent loss. Books by Ven. Thubten Chodron are available at the Abbey by donation.
- Notebook and pen to take notes during teachings.
- Personal electronic devices are permitted for taking notes during teachings and you can use them to store your practice texts and study material. You will not be able to access the Internet with your personal devices.
- Bring prescribed medicines. Do not go off your regular medication while at the Abbey.
- Allergy medicine if you are allergic to cats
- An Epi Pen or two if you have an allergic reaction to bee stings
Family & Pets
Can I share a room with my spouse or partner?
Couples are housed in separate rooms. Out of respect for the monastics’ celibate lifestyle, we ask couples to refrain from physical contact and flirting while at the Abbey.
Can I bring my kids?
Children and teens are welcomed for day visits, but please let us know in advance. Parents are responsible for overseeing their children during the visit.
We are not able to accommodate families with children under 10 years old for overnight visits. You are welcome to stay at a motel in Newport and visit the Abbey during the day.
Children over 10 may stay overnight, under the direct supervision of a parent, if your visit is scheduled in advance.
It may be possible for older teens to attend some programs on their own. Write the office about your specific case.
Can I bring my pets?
While we love animals, the Abbey is not suited for pet visits.
Can my family reach me while I’m at the Abbey?
Your family and friends can call the Abbey office in case of an emergency. Please give them our office number, 1-509-447-5549, as an emergency contact. We monitor the phone, even when we’re in retreat, so they will be able to get urgent messages to you.
Phones & Internet
A wonderful benefit of your stay at Sravasti Abbey is the opportunity to slow down, become quiet and cultivate a “monastic mind.” You are choosing to participate with a community of practitioners who are dedicated to deepening their understanding and practice of Buddhist teachings. To support this, we have guidelines about using electronic devices while you’re here.
Do you have phone service?
We’ve found that cell phones are the single biggest distraction for our visitors. Therefore, to help you keep your mind in the Dharma and at the Abbey, we ask that you turn in your cell phone upon your arrival. It will be stowed carefully in a locked security box in the Abbey office. Besides, cell reception is poor in our rural setting. Make your last calls before you arrive.
What about Internet?
You are welcome to use your notebooks and laptops to study or take notes while you are here, but you will not have Internet access. Please complete all business and personal communications before you arrive.
How will my family reach me in an emergency?
In case of a family or work emergency, your friends or family can call or write the Abbey office—1-509-447-5549—to reach you.
Long term guests
If you are here for a stay of 5 days or longer, you may email/telephone once every 10 days.
What do you eat?
We are vegetarian, but do serve dairy and bake with eggs. We do not eat fertilized eggs, radishes, onions, garlic, or leeks.
We serve three meals daily, except on new and full moon days when we take the eight Mahayana Precepts together. Residents take turns preparing simple meals. Lunch is the main meal of the day.
Snacks, fruit, and tea are available at all times.
What if I need a special diet?
We always serve gluten-free and dairy-free options.
If you have food intolerances, please let us know in advance of your visit. We do our best to accommodate special diets, but cannot provide expensive specialty ingredients. If your diet is very restrictive, write the office to discuss your needs.
Should I bring food?
Following the ancient custom of Buddhist monastics, we eat the food that is offered by visitors and supporters and share this with our guests. We do not shop for food. Please consider making a food offering when you come.
However, do not bring personal snacks. We do not keep food in our rooms.
Sravasti Abbey experiences the four seasons: winter is cold, spring and fall are cool with rain, summer is usually hot and dry.
Check our local weather before you come.
Weather patterns are subject to climate change.
Do you get snow?
Snow can come October through March, with strong winds and temperatures down to 20°F (-12°C) or lower.
While the county plows the main road, Abbey paths can get covered in ice and snow. Drive up with good snow tires.
Wear boots and bring ice cleats in the winter.
What to leave at home
- Alcohol, cigarettes (including e-cigs), marijuana & derivatives, illegal drugs
- Firearms or other weapons
- Valuables—Sravasti Abbey is not responsible for lost or stolen items. You can lock them in your car.
- Reading material that is not related to the Dharma or Abbey projects
- Musical instruments
- Chewing gum
- Athletic clothing, revealing or tight-fitting clothing, tank tops, shorts, patterned fabrics and T-shirts with graphics/words on them
- Make-up (including nail polish), jewelry (including “spiritual” items)
- Perfumes and or scented after-shave, lotions, or hair products
There are a few formalities about living in a monastery that you might want to know.
How do I address the monastics?
It’s appropriate to address them as Venerable. Even if their Tibetan names are too hard to remember or pronounce, you can just refer to them as Venerable and that will be good enough.
Can I wear shoes inside the buildings?
We remove our shoes before entering all of the Abbey buildings. You may bring slippers or exclusively indoor shoes if you need foot support.
Can I wear shorts if it’s hot?
In the monastery, it is respectful to dress modestly, which includes not wearing shorts or short skirts and tank tops or low-cut necklines. We also discourage tight-fitting clothing such as yoga-wear.
What is the bowing about?
You’ll see Buddhists bow three times when they enter the Meditation Hall and before formal teachings. Bowing is a means of expressing respect for the teacher and teachings. Bowing also counteracts pride. It is a recognition that the potential for wholeness lies within us, and we will listen to and meditate on the Buddha’s teachings to develop it. When practiced with this understanding, bowing helps make our mind receptive and open. You may join us or not as you choose. If you’d like to learn how, ask any of the residents to show you. If you’d rather stand respectfully, that’s ok too.
Standing for the teacher
It is polite to receive the teacher by standing with hands pressed together at the heart and bowing slightly.
Care for Buddhist books, notebooks, and handouts
Books, printed Dharma materials, and pictures of deities, teachers or Buddhist symbols, should be used mindfully. In order to keep them clean and show our respect for the teachings they impart, please avoid placing them directly on the floor, under your chair, or stepping over them. We have placemats in the Meditation Hall to put them on.
Sit in the teacher’s presence respectfully and attentively. Be seated comfortably, either on a cushion or chair. Please do not lean against the walls in the Meditation Hall. If you need to stretch your legs, please do so quietly and mindfully. Please avoid pointing your feet toward the altar or teacher.
If you have other questions or concerns, please ask.
What’s all this about fragrance-free products?
Our monastic precepts prohibit monks and nuns from using perfumed products, which is a fairly easy practice to follow. Also, an increasing number of people experience strong allergic reactions to the scents in personal hygiene and cleaning products—from deodorants to fabric softeners to shampoos. Even natural scents like essential oils can cause problems for chemically sensitive people, including some members of our community.
What’s the difference between scent free and fragrance free?
The labels “scent free” or “fragrance free” and “unscented” are not interchangeable, although they sound the same. In general, unscented products may still contain chemicals that actually hide the natural odor of a product, while fragrance free products do not. This article clearly explains the distinction.
What toiletries are fragrance free?
Hundreds of products are fragrance free and are readily available. The list below is a sample of products that we know don’t cause a reaction in our chemically sensitive residents. Please note that Aveeno products DO cause a reaction, even when they are labeled fragrance free.
Thanks for taking the extra effort to keep our community and guests healthy!
A few fragrance free products to recommend
- 365 Fragrance Free Shower Gel
- Cetaphil Ultra Gentle Fragrance Free Body Wash
- Eucerin Advanced Cleansing Body and Face Cleanser – Fragrance free
- Free and Clear brand sensitive skin shampoo
- Dove Moisturizing Body Wash — unscented
- Cetaphil Moisturizing Cream — fragrance-free
- Dermal Therapy Hand, Elbow & Knee Cream — fragrance-free
- Jergens — unscented
- Neutrogena Facial Cream — fragrance-free
- Neutrogena Hand Cream — fragrance-free
- Oil of Olay Complete Care — fragrance-free
- Oil of Olay Total Effects — fragrance-free
- Vaseline Intensive Care Hand Cream — unscented
- Earth Science Almond-Aloe Facial Moisturizer — unscented
- Earth Science Beta Ginseng Hydrating CrÏme — fragrance-free
- Lafe’s crystal rock deodorant
- Schmidt’s fragrance free deodorant
- Green Goo unscented deodorant
- Everyone unscented 3 in 1 lotion
- Eucerin Lotion — fragrance-free
- Cetaphil Moisturizing Lotion — fragrance-free
- Curel Moisturizing Body Lotion — unscented
- Every Man Jack fragrance free shaving cream
- Kiss My Face Natural Moisture Shave — fragrance-free
- Botanical Therapeutic Tree Essence — fragrance-free
- Druide Shampoo Hypoallergen, Horsetail & Proteins — fragrance-free
- Earth Science Pure Essentials Shampoo — fragrance-free
- Nature Clean Herbal Shampoo — fragrance-free
- Dove — unscented bar
Other Visiting Resources
A must read before visiting
Helpful instructions to plan your travel
Learn from books by Ven. Thubten Chodron.