Myokoin Temple Finds a New Oregon Home
And Builds a Retreat Center

Written by: Rev. Diane Jishin Dunn

Jishin and Jason Dunn have turned this 108-year-old building into a Jodo Shin Buddhist temple and retreat center.

Jishin and Jason Dunn have turned this 108-year-old building into a Jodo Shin Buddhist temple and retreat center.
Photos by: Columbia County Museum Association, Jason Dunn, Jishin Dunn

In October we opened a new chapter in Shin Buddhism in Oregon, by completing Myokoin Temple’s new Great Hall Retreat Center.

Rev. Dunn with sangha member Julie Love.

Rev. Dunn with sangha member Julie Love.

The facility, a conversion of an108-year-old school building, will provide room for up to 16 retreatants in the tiny town of Deer Island, just 35 miles north of Portland.

Creation of the Great Hall Retreat Center will allow Myokoin Temple to conduct Buddhist retreats focused on un-hooking from digital technologies, and cultivating an “attitude of gratitude” through art, movement and mindfulness activities

This will be a new adventure for our Jodo Shinshu temple, where the focus of the teaching is one of entrusting in the working of the great vow of Amida Buddha.

The retreat center and temple share the former school gymnasium. We built the altar ourselves with re-purposed cabinets and carved Chinese door panels from a local auction. 

The space includes several furniture groupings for casual gathering and conversation, a library, restroom and a separate shower room.  We have installed a coffee or tea station. People can do yoga or gather in groups on the large open floor.

The Hanamatsuri Shrine, at the head of the practice hall.

The Hanamatsuri Shrine, at the head of the practice hall.

The hall also meets a secondary goal, to create a space for Deer Island writing, art and social groups, in addition to dharma activities.

In the future Myokoin Temple and the retreat center will serve as a place for gathering, celebrating and sharing. As an example we recently hosted Shin Buddhist poet Marcus Cumberlege, of Bruges, Belgium.  He read his beautiful poetry to 10 guests.

Coming back to the Northwest

The new temple is a return to my Pacific Northwest roots, many years after founding a Shin Buddhist temple in Alaska.

My husband Jason Dunn and I purchased the historic Deer Island School in 2014, after moving back to Oregon in 2009. The structure is the third oldest school building in Oregon, and sits on the Lewis and Clark Trail on Highway 30.

The beautiful old school was a blank canvas on which we created our home, bed and breakfast Deer Island Manor, and the “forever” home of Myokoin Temple. 

A young boy Buddha in the vegetable garden.

A young boy Buddha in the vegetable garden.

We named the facility Deer Island Manor to honor the majesty of our new home. We have spent the last two years planting more than 100 trees and shrubs, establishing organic herb and vegetable gardens, and creating a lavender farm.

Free-roaming chickens gift us with fresh eggs each morning.  Deer Island Manor is an ideal place to meet travelers from all over the world, and to share the dharma.

Myokoin Temple and the White Lotus Center (a Jodo Shinshu temple and Buddhist center) had their start in the wilds of Alaska.

In 1999 Rev. Yoho B. Van Paris, of the Jikoji Temple in Antwerp, Belgium, moved to Anchorage.  He and I established the White Lotus Center for Shin Buddhism, and later were granted permission to establish Myokoin Temple, both in Anchorage.

Myokoin Temple is directly affiliated with the Nishi Hongwanji-ha Temple (Jodo Shinshu) in Kyoto, Japan.  Myokoin has contributed as a member of the European Shin Buddhist Community Conferences, for the past 15 years.

The new life of Deer Manor is very different from its origins.

The new life of Deer Manor is very different from its origins.

As a Shin Buddhist we strive to recognize that we cannot reach enlightenment through our own ego-based efforts. Yet through the infinite compassion and wisdom of Amida Buddha, we are encompassed by Amide’s Pure Land “just as we are.”

This is where the idea of “my practice” falls away, and gratitude towards the compassion of Amida becomes the focus.

So with this in mind, retreats in our tradition are not driven with the idea of “gaining something good,” but instead focus on cultivating and encouraging activities that will naturally give rise to gratefulness during day-to-day life. 

Bunks are ready for retreatants.

Bunks are ready for retreatants.

Some days it feels like a dream being here, as we put down roots in the land to make our mark for the ages.  It is my hope that our little temple will serve as a rest stop for the weary, and continue to teach those who seek the dharma.

We can accommodate 50 people for a service. We hold Shin Buddhist services on the 1st and 3rd Sunday of each month at 2 p.m.  Every Wednesday evening, at 7:30 p.m., we host a silent meditation session.

All of our activities are open to the public and have been well received.  You might think people wouldn’t be interested in such a rural facility, but I have been wonderfully surprised by new people visiting each week.

If you are looking for a small dharma-friendly retreat space for your group, or are thinking you would like to get away just for a weekend on your own, feel free to contact us for availability and costs.

If you find yourself traveling in our area, please give us a call at 503-880-1498 or email at revjishin@gmail.com. Please stop by to visit the temple.  We would love to share a cup of tea with you!

Author: Rev. Diane Jishin Dunn

Rev. Diane Jishin Dunn, resident minister for Myokoin Temple, ordained in 2003 at the Jodo Shinshu Nishi Hongwanji-ha temple in Kyoto, Japan. Dunn has written several books and is founder of Deer Island Press, an independent publisher of Buddhist poetry. A retired hospice chaplain, she is married with three children, four grandchildren and eight hens she calls “the girls.”