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Canmore Theravada Buddhist Community and Monastery
Our Mission and History

Our Mission

The mission of the Canmore Theravada Buddhist Community (CTBC) monastery is twofold: CTBC is firstly committed to providing support to its four long term residents and secondly to providing teachings to the wider Buddhist community of practitioners and supporters.


The support for the four residents is a quiet environment with an emphasis on lengthy daily times of solitude devoted to meditation so at this time CTBC is not accepting any day visits or overnight stays. We gratefully encourage and accept people bringing the midday meal as a dana offering.


The support for the wider community is three weekly offerings of meditation and Dhamma teaching plus several opportunities to join the resident community for meditation time.


The three weekly offerings are:

1. Tuesday Meditation Group 7:00pm - 8:30pm

2. Thursday Sutta Contemplation via Zoom 5:45pm - 7:15pm

3. Friday Meditation Group 8:30am - 10:00am


The additional opportunities are:

1. Moon Days twice a month 9:00am - 5:00pm 

2. Evening Silent Meditation five evenings a week from 7:00pm - 8:00pm 

3. Morning Silent Meditation six mornings a week from 6:00am - 7:00am

4. One on one interviews with Ayya Ahimsa or Sanghamitta by arrangement. (email:


Our History

“Beautiful in the Beginning”...a Long Beginning


Over thirty years ago Mary Dumka, now also known as Sanghamitta, came into contact with the Dhamma, the Buddha’s teachings. She found them to be life changing and immediately wanted to share their benefits with her psychiatry patients. 


A couple of years later she moved from Calgary to Canmore and found that there were no Buddhist meditation groups to send her patients to, and so she started one herself! As you can see, Sanghamitta makes things happen - beautiful things. The newly formed group was originally called the Bow Valley Sangha and has been running for 29 years now.


Happily, at this time her lay teacher in Calgary, Michelle Calvert, was offering a three year Dhamma teacher training. Michelle had been named an Acariya, the Pāli word for teacher, by Bhante Piyadassi, a senior Sri Lankan monk. Both Sanghamitta and Judy Pequegnat (peg-i-nah), now also known as Kusala and one of our current board members, attended this teacher training program.


Several years later in 2010, just months before their retirement, Sanghamitta’s husband Andre had a heart attack. Six days later he died.  A year after that Sanghamitta made a cross-country road trip to visit some Canadian Theravada monasteries, and to scatter Andre’s ashes with friends and relatives. While she was staying at Sati Saraniya Hermitage nuns’ monastery, near Perth Ontario, Ayya Medhanandhi shared with her the situation for bhikkhunis in this tradition. Both historically and currently, female monastics receive significantly less support than their male counterparts. 

On learning this information, Sanghamitta’s heart opened and  the idea of gifting her house in Canmore to become a nuns' monastery after her death percolated up. One of the first things that happened in order to turn the house into a monastery was the building of a kuti - a stand alone monastic dwelling. In 2013 Red Door kuti was constructed in the workshop of Michael Kerfoot, the person who designed the main house. It was then transported and placed in a corner of the property, tucked into the forest that surrounds the house.


Sanghamitta had already had a number of female monastics come, stay in the house and lead onsite retreats for the Canmore Theravada Buddhist Group. But according to their monastic rules, the Vinaya, male monastics are not permitted to stay in a house alone with women, so the construction of a kuti allowed her to invite male monastics to come and lead retreats. Her longtime teacher, Ajahn Sona of Birken Forest Monastery near Kamloops, was one of these visiting monastics.


In these early days Sanghamitta assumed that this future monastery would be a branch of an existing monastery. But as she began to make inquiries and investigate, it quickly became clear that this wasn’t going to be the case.


So in 2014, she set up a non-profit society, which involved creating a Board of Directors.  The society was soon registered as a charity with the Federal government.  At that time, a decision was made not to be affiliated with any particular Theravadan tradition given that members of the Board had received teachings from Sri Lankan, Thai, Burmese, Canadian and US lay and monastic teachers. The aspiration was simply to be a Canadian Theravadan monastery.

Now, Sanghamitta was still thinking that the monastery would be created after her death. So her Will laid out two conditions for the go ahead. The first was that the Board would have two years after her death to find a resident monastic to come to Canmore. The second was that there be evidence of enough community support to maintain the monastery long term. If, after two years these conditions were not in place then the house would be inherited by family members instead.


So we now have a Will and a registered society in place and the possibility of a monastery. But nothing was guaranteed. The bottom line for Sanghamitta was that Canmore Theravada Buddhist group have a Dhamma teacher after her death. She gradually realized that the best way to make this happen was to do it while she was alive – to get the monastery up and running and to invite a resident nun to Canmore.


The initial search for a resident nun to come live in Canmore was limited to the North American continent. In 2017, Sanghamitta wrote or spoke to all the nuns’ monasteries in Canada and the US looking for a potential candidate. She also spoke to some elders in the Sri Lankan communities of Calgary and Edmonton to see if they knew of any possibilities. 


In response to these enquiries, Ayya Santacitta from Aloka Vihara Forest Monastery in California, expressed an interest. And for the next couple of years she visited several times, helping lead the group and offering retreats.  For a while the plan was for her to be in Canmore for six months of the year (easy for a non-citizen to do) and to be at Aloka Vihara for the other six months of the year. 

For Sanghamitta, this felt like a win/win because she would only be restricted in her lay life for six months of the year and then for the other six, when Ayya was in California, she would be unrestricted - a nice way to ease into a more renounced life. But then, in 2019, Ayya Santacitta received an invitation from her homeland of Austria that drew her heart and took her away from the Canmore project. 


Ayya Medhanandi was the Board’s first monastic advisor and her strong advice from the beginning was to not have just one nun, but two. The idea was that there was strength in community. Based on this wisdom, in 2020 Sanghamitta converted half of the property’s two car garage into a second kuti. Bodhi Leaf kuti is spacious for walking meditation in winter and has two large windows that look into the forest.


Now, after Ayya Santacitta decided to go elsewhere, Sanghamitta despaired of ever finding a nun to come to Canmore in her lifetime. There had never been enough support for nuns and, as a result, there simply weren't very many around. Stepping back, the desire was still there to create a monastery and the bottom line was to ensure the continued teaching of Dhamma in Canmore. One option was to invite a monk to start the monastery. It was difficult for the Board to move away from the original intent to support nuns, but an invitation was made to Ajahn Subharo, a Canadian monk who originally trained with Ajahn Sona at Birken Forest Monastery. He came and tried it out for six months in 2020. In the end, Ajahn Subaro realized he preferred to be in Malaysia, his previous residence. 

So nine years of intense and determined effort had gone by, and still no resident monastic, nor monastery. My goodness! 


But does our story stop there? No way! Not to be deterred, Sanghamitta and the Board went back to the original vision of supporting a nun and now started looking off the North American continent and even beyond fully-ordained Theravadan bhikkhunis. They contacted a variety of nun’s monasteries abroad: Amaravati in England, Dhammasara in Australia and Anenja in Germany. 


Circling back, as part of her explorations Sanghamitta had naturally invited two Canadian-born bhikkhunis, Ayya Nimmala and Ayya Ahimsa, to come live here. But Ayya Nimmala had been staying in Vancouver for many years, caring for elderly parents.  And Ayya Ahimsa turned down the offer twice, as she did not feel ready.


Ayya Medhanandi suggested Ayya Brahmavara as the next possibility, a longtime nun from England and about to be ordained as a full bhikkhuni. She was with us last spring and summer… and it was wonderful, as many of you know. However, at this time in her monastic life, after spending almost 20 years in one community at Amaravati, Ayya Brahmavara was eager to visit and stay at many different monasteries. We were sad to say goodbye. Since departing, she has been travelling, staying in different monasteries and doing very well.


It has only been over the last year that the monastery has finally come together as a reality.

The reason why is because…out of the blue last spring, Ayya Ahimsa sent an email to Sanghamitta! She had just finished a 30 day retreat with a new-to-her meditation teacher, Beth Upton. Feeling more confident in her meditation and confident about the instruction she was receiving, Ayya Ahimsa said that she was very, very interested in coming to live in Canmore. Was that still a possibility? Yes, absolutely! Ayya arrived a few months ago in mid-December.


And then, one of our very first board members, Nadine Fletcher, now also known as Bodhipālā, accepted our offer to be a steward. She arrived in April and is planning to stay for the summer and maybe beyond. 


Last summer, Sarah Haverstock, was visiting bhikkhuni monasteries in California looking for a place to ordain. While at Aloka Vihara, she met Ayya Ahimsa and learned about the nascent Canmore monastery. Sarah was drawn by the shared interest of the community to prioritize time for meditation. Last September, she asked Ayya Ahimsa if she could take Anagarika precepts and live at the Canmore Theravada Buddhist Community monastery. She arrived in March. Coincidently, Sarah is a good friend of Bodhipālā’s, from their time together as lay stewards at Birken.

On May 1st the Board of the Canmore Theravada Buddhist Community, the CTBC, officially became the owners of 518 2nd St. Canmore – previously owned by Sanghamitta. Thankfully Sanghamitta’s longtime friend, lawyer Tannis Naylor, did all of the legal work for us pro bono. Giving a monastery is very, very virtuous. We often read in the suttas, the Buddhist texts, about donors of monasteries, people like Visakha and Anāthapindika. The Buddha praises them highly. What an example Sanghamitta is for us and what a testimony to her Pali name, Sanghamitta, given to her by Ajahn Sona. It means “friend of the Sangha.”


The suttas clearly outline a beautiful relationship between monastics and lay people. This 2600 year old tradition that the Buddha established is an economy of gifts, not a transactional, monetary economy. In the Itivuttakha sutta 107, entitled Very Helpful, Bhante Sujato translates:

This was said by the Buddha, the Perfected One…: 

“Mendicants, brahmins and householders are very helpful to you, as they provide you with robes, almsfood, lodgings, and medicines and supplies for the sick. And you are very helpful to brahmins and householders, as you teach them the Dhamma that’s good in the beginning, good in the middle, and good in the end, meaningful and well-phrased. And you reveal a spiritual practice that’s entirely full and pure. That is how this spiritual path is lived in mutual dependence in order to cross over the flood and make a complete end of suffering.” 

The relationship in which householders provide for the physical needs of the monastics and the monastics provide for the spiritual life of the householders, embodies a very different ethos from the dominant monetary economy. This counter-cultural practice helps everyone keep their values straight. Periodically, throughout the history of Buddhism, the economy of gifts has faced challenges and weakened, usually when one side or the other loses sight of the qualities of the heart that are its essence. 


In the way of life that the Buddha put in place, everyone is giving because it uplifts the heart and steadies the mind. It is considered priceless to have the opportunity to do good things for others, whether that means offering material things – from a meal, to help volunteering, to an entire house... or whether it means offering the Dhamma – from sharing it formally and informally, to doing the inner work of purifying a mind, aiming for the highest gift we can give to ourselves and others: the gift of fully developing wisdom and compassion, becoming a person who sees things as they are and that is incapable of intentional harm. 


It is not transactional; it is not an exchange. It is based on generosity. It’s about how we feel, and what we value. The Board hopes that Canmore and the greater community finds the presence of the monastery a real and tangible opportunity to express those values and to experience the feeling of goodness, the feeling of generosity.

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