Arrow River Forest Hermitage

formerly the Arrow River Community Center

[the Pavillion by the Falls] The Arrow River Forest Hermitage is a Theravadin Buddhist monastery and meditation center located in Northern Ontario, fifty miles southwest of Thunder Bay. We have 92 acres of land in a beautiful mixed forest. There are presently seven all-weather dwelling places on the property as well as a meditation-hall and kitchen, a sauna, library and well-equipped workshop.

The resident bhikkhu is Ajahn Punnadhammo who has been studying and practicing Buddhism since 1979 and was ordained in Thailand in the forest tradition of Ajahn Chah (novice ordination Feb. 1991, higher ordination Feb. 1992). Between 1990 and 1995 he was based at Wat Pah Nanachat, Thailand. Punnadhammo is a Canadian, born Michael Dominskyj in Toronto in 1955. He began studying the Dhamma under Kema Ananda, the founder and first teacher at the Arrow River Center.

[Ajahn Punnadhammo] Lay people are welcome to visit the Hermitage and short or long term retreats can be arranged. We require the ongoing presence of at least one lay person to act as monastery steward. This can be a rewarding experience for the right person.

History of Arrow River

The Arrow River Community Center was founded by Kema Ananda, formerly Eric James Bell, in 1975. Kema Ananda was a student of Ven. Ananda Bodhi (later Namgyal Rinpoche.) Kema had been ordained as a Samanera (novice) but opted to disrobe and teach and practice as a layman after one year in robes. He was an expert in the Burmese Insight method of Mahasi Sayadaw and passed these teachings on to Ven. Punnadhammo.

[The shrine inside the pavillion] From '75 through the late eighties the Center was run as a lay meditation center with the hope that it would become self-supporting. To this end a furniture manufacturing operation was begun and we produced many fine pieces of craftsmanship under the label "Artisans of Devon." This project began to unravel after a disastrous fire destroyed our shop.

Throughout this period many individuals benefited from the facilities and teachings of the Center by doing short or long term retreats. Two-week group retreats were held annually as well as individual sessions ranging from three-months to three-years. Kema Ananda himself did a three-year retreat in 1983-86 after which the focus of his teachings began to shift. More of the traditional practices such as loving-kindness and mindfulness of breathing began to be taught as well as a heightened emphasis on morality.

Ven. Punnadhammo began at the Center in 1979 and did a one-year solitary retreat in 1988-89. After this he went to Thailand to seek ordination. During this period Kema Ananda continued to teach in partnership with his wife Woon. In 1995 Kema Ananda contracted lung cancer and anticipating his imminent death he asked Ven. Punnadhammo to return to Canada and to assume management of the Center. Punnadhammo returned with the blessing of his seniors in the order in Nov. of that year and was able to spend some time with his beloved teacher before his death.