The main teachings of Vedanta are:

                                                   1) The Divinity of the Soul,

                                                   2) The Oneness of Existence, and

                                                   3) The harmony of religions.

                        The Vedanta Retreat at Scappoose has been dedicated to the harmony of religions

These grounds spread in 289 acres of hilly land provide a place to conduct spiritual practices of various religious traditions i.e. prayer, worship, reflection, and meditation in a beautiful natural ambiance in the spirit of unity. There are eleven beautifully architected shrines nestled in the woods honoring those spiritual traditions of the world, a series of trails and fifteen dedicated meditation benches placed throughout this pristine forest to make it a multi-religious place of worship.

Revered Swami Aseshananda (ministry 1955-1996) the then Minister in Charge of the Vedanta Society of Portland, first conceived this idea in 1970. Most of the shrines were designed by Br. Shanti (later Swami Atmajayananda) and constructed by both Br. Shanti and Br. Sarada (later Swami Harananda), the monastic members of Vedanta Society of Portland. A few shrines were added later. The adjacent clear-cut property is added on March 17, 2020.

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Vedanta Retreat 23000 NW Gilkison Road, Scappoose, OR 97056

 

Vedanta Society of Portland

1157 SE 55th Ave Portland, OR 97215

Phone No. 971 302 6918; Email: vedantapdx@gmail.com

Website: vedanta-portland.org

 

3. Jewish Shrine: The Biblical trail connects the Christian to the Jewish shrine as the Bible connects the two religious traditions. The three-dimensional Star of David was built as the primary structure then a carved and the central box was placed representing the Ark of the Covenant. The inscription around the box is from the Torah and the sacred name “Yahweh” is carved on top. Judaic and Vedanta paths both acknowledge Infinite Spirit without form. The shrine was dedicated in 1975 by Swami Aseshananda and then rededicated in 2012 by Swami Shantarupananda and Rabbi Debra Kolodny in a multi-faith gathering. The rabbi chose the quote from the Hasidic master Reb Nachman for the meditation site on the Biblical Trail.

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5. Native People’s Shrine: Br. Shanti and Swami Aseshananda consulted with the Sun Dance Chief of the Sicangu Sioux peoples, Brave Buffalo, in designing, shaping and orienting this shrine in 1976. According to the Native People the Eagle is considered the most universal form of Great Spirit in North America. Its outstretched wings in a crouching position is a protective pose for its children. The eagle is positioned overlooking the valley where some of the first Native people came to this part of North America roughly 11,000 years ago. Brave Buffalo set up the circular Medicine Wheel, planted the central cedar tree and passed the peace pipe to both Vedanta and Sioux members gathered on August 6, 1977.This dedication ceremony  marked the first time in human history that “Indian” Holy ones, Brave Buffalo and Swami Aseshananda, from two different continents jointly dedicated a prayer site. This site was rededicated in 2011 by Swami Shantarupananda and Brave Buffalo’s nephew and current Sicangu Sioux Sun Dance Chief, John Brave Hawk. Many Native People’s holy ones feel that their path is close to the ancient Vedic teachings where the Totality of life is revered.

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1. Holy Mother Shrine: Sri Sarada Devi (1853-1920), also known as Holy Mother was born in Jayrambati, a small village in Bengal, India. She had a spiritual marriage with her husband, Sri Ramakrishna (see shrine #8). She is considered by many throughout the world to be the embodiment of God as Mother, the Source of compassion. She inspired millions of spiritual aspirants from around the world to follow the spiritual way of life. She emphasized following meditation (Dhyana Yoga) and service to the Infinite Spirit in all (Karma Yoga), thus, the two trails Dhyana and Karma were dedicated near Her shrine. This shrine was  built and dedicated to Her in 1974 by Swami Aseshananda, her spiritual son, whom She initiated into spiritual life in 1917.

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2. Christian Shrine: Swami Aseshananda and Br. Shanti chose this site for two reasons: 1) Historically it was the site where the Easter sunrise service was conducted by Swami Devatmananda (minister-in-charge from 1932-54) and 2) It symbolizes Christ’s walk up Calvary. The shrine design reflects European Gothic cathedral lines. This particular image of Christ on the lap of his mother was hung on a wall of a neighbor and one day Sri Ramakrishna was looking at Christ intensely and He entered a spiritual union with Christ. The Shrine was initially dedicated in 1975 and then rededicated along with the St. Francis of Assisi meditation site in 2014 by Swami Shantarupananda, the minister-in-charge of the Vedanta Society of Portland from 1996 to 2015, and Sister Mary Jo Chaves of the Franciscan Spiritual Center of Milwaukie, OR.

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4. Buddhist Shrine: This shrine was built and dedicated in 1975 to honor the Buddhist tradition. The unconventional structure was partly inspired by a house designed by Frank Lloyd Wright that brought Eastern and Western design lines together. The ‘Four Noble Truths’ and the ‘Eightfold Path’ of Buddhism inspired innumerable people to lead spiritual lives. This site and the meditation site further down the trail were rededicated by Swami Aparananda and a Zen Buddhist monk, Jissan Larry Christensen in an interfaith gathering in 2015.

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6. Vivekananda Shrine: The construction of this shrine began in 1975 and the shrine was completed and dedicated in 1976. The architectural lines and ratios represent the Orissa style, a common medieval Hindu temple style. The shorter, front aspect symbolizes Shakti (relative reality) and the taller back aspect represents Shiva (Absolute Reality), thus, we enter the Absolute through the relative. Swami Vivekananda (1863-1902) brought Vedanta and the Yoga teachings to the West in 1893. He spoke as a representative of Hinduism at the Parliament of Religions as part of the famous  Columbian Exposition in Chicago. This shrine honors both him and his inspired teachings of Jnana Yoga and is in close proximity to  the Jnana Trail and its corresponding meditation site. The shrine was rededicated by Swamis Shantarupananda, Atmajayananda and Harananda in 2012.

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8. Ramakrishna Shrine: The life and teachings of Sri Ramakrishna (1836-1886) depict the harmony of religions. Sri Ramakrishna performed much of his spiritual practices in a temple garden in Kolkata, India on the River Ganges where five sacred trees were planted. This was called Panchavati. Accordingly site for the shrine for Sri Ramakrishna was chosen at a place where five large trees were present symbolizing the penance of Sri Ramakrishna and five sides and five poles were incorporated into the structure of the shrine. The lowered entry was taken from the Japanese Tea House design where one bows to enter a sacred space. Sri Ramakrishna worshiped and realized Supreme Spirit as Mother both in personal and impersonal aspects. The Bhakti Trail behind the shrine symbolizes Ramakrishna’s emphasis on the path of devotion.

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7. Sufi Shrine: This shrine was built in 1976 and dedicated in February of 1977 by Swami Aseshananda and a member of the Vedanta and Sufi community, Mr. Harawalla. The five wooden columns holding up a stylized dome represent the five pillars of Islam (declaration of faith, 5 times prayers per day, alms giving, Ramadan fasting and pilgrimage to Mecca). The viewer of the plaque/shrine is facing east, facing  Mecca. The horizontal and vertical inscription on the hanging plaque is an Islamic prayer, “None exists but God” that resonates with the non-dual Vedanta realization, “The Lord is All.”

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9. Sikh Shrine: Sikhism grew from the teachings of Guru Nanak (1469 - 1539), who was born in India. His image is represented here. The symbol on his hand and above his picture is a version of the OM symbol. The quote from his teachings speaks to the universality of the way to Divine Love and sense of Oneness that resonates with the Bhakti Yoga of Vedanta and appeals to Hindus, Muslims and people of many backgrounds. The shrine and site were dedicated in an interfaith celebration by Swamis Bhaskarananda, I/C of Seattle, Swami Atmaghanananda, I/C of Kancheepuram Centers and Sdr. Jagjit Singh, Gurudswara Sahib, Vancouver, WA, on July 4, 2016.

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10. Advaita Shrine: Advaita (without a second), Nondualism is one of the ancient Indian philosophies as well as higher state of consciousness. A Shiva Lingam (symbol of the Absolute as Auspiciousness) sits in the middle of a 12 sided outer structure representing 12 Jyotirlingas and 11 Rudras and one door to enter. This site was chosen because of it being the highest point at the Retreat symbolic of the Advaita experience being the highest and all encompassing, most challenging to attain. Advaita harmonizes the whole creation - all people and all religions, as it is the experience of the Essence or Background Consciousness of all. The shrine was dedicated by Swamis Ishatmananda, Chandrashekharananda and Revve Norman Wolf on July 4, 2017 at the Vedanta Retreat.

12. Jain Shrine: Bhagavan Mahavir Swami or Vardhamana was born in the early part of 6th century BCE and slightly preceded Bhagavan Gautam Buddha. He was the twenty-fourth tirthankara and revived Jainism an ethical, spiritual and philosophical religion. He attained Kevala Jnana (omniscience) and taught to observe ahimsa (non-violence), satya (truth), asteya (non-stealing), brahmacharya (chastity), and aparigraha (non attachment). By the observances of these virtues and proper darshan (observation) and tapasya (effort) one is able to attain jnana (wisdom) and charitra (character). The principles of anekantavada (many-sided reality): syadvada (conditioned predication) and nayavada (interpretation thesis) are the unique contribution of Jainism.

11. Mind Mirage Seat: In the dreaming state, according to Jnana Yoga, the dream-world is projected and experienced in the mind. Similarly, the world that is experienced during the waking state is in fact, conceived in one's mind and then projected as if outside of him. In the dreamless sleep state the mind is merged in the Self, the Eternal Witness, the Substratum and absence of objects is experienced. The mind gives us experience of this world and then vanishes totally like a mirage. These experiences happen in our lives on a daily basis but we hardly notice it. The Mind-Mirage seat is dedicated to depict the nature of the mind that it is transitory. It is also to encourage to discover the Eternal Changeless Substratum behind the mind. The water in the Seasonal Vernal pool in front of the seat comes and goes away like the mind. But the pool remains like the Eternal Substratum.

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1. Holy Mother Shrine: Sri Sarada Devi (1853-1920), also known as Holy Mother was born in Jayrambati, Bengal,  India. Sri Ramakrishna, Her spiritual consort and Guru invoked Divine Mother in Her person and worshipped Her. She is worshipped by many throughout the world as the embodied Divine Mother, personified compassion and love. She instructed Her devotees to perform their duties as a service and to meditate on the Chosen deity. This shrine was built and dedicated to Her in 1974. Two trails, Karma and Dhyana representing Her teachings were dedicated near Her shrine.

​2. Christian Shrine: This site was chosen by Swami Devatmananda (Minister-in-charge, VSoP from 1932-54) for the Easter sunrise service. This place also symbolizes Christ’s walk up to Calvary. Christianity teaches its adherents to have faith in God and to reach Him through the loving prayers to the Son of God, Jesus Christ, and to the Holy Spirit. Christian and Vedantic traditions, both acknowledge the path of devotion for spiritual realization. Sri Ramakrishna was looking lovingly at this particular image of Madonna and her child when He entered the spiritual union with Christ. The Shrine was dedicated in 1975. St. Francis of Assisi meditation site was dedicated in 2014.

​3. Jewish Shrine: The three-dimensional Star of David was built as the primary structure, then a carved, wooden box was centrally placed representing the Ark of the Covenant. According to Zohar, the symbol Star (God, the protector shield) of David represents the six male Sefirot (attributes of God) in union with the seventh Sefirah of the female (the center of the shape). The inscription around the box is from the Torah and the sacred name “Yahweh” is carved on top. According to Judaism God is transcendental who revealed Himself to Abraham, Moses etc. The shrine was dedicated in 1975 along with the meditation site on the Biblical Trail, which has a quote from the Hasidic master Reb Nachman. 

4. Buddhist Shrine: The ‘Four Noble Truths’, the ‘Eightfold Path’, and a compassionate approach to the life of Buddhism have inspired innumerable people to lead spiritual lives. The concepts of karma, reincarnation, practices such as meditation, and many teachings are common in Vedanta and Buddhism. This shrine was built and dedicated in 1975 to honor the Buddhist tradition. The meditation site with a quote from Buddha down the trail was dedicated in 2015.

​5. Native People’s Shrine: According to the Native People, the Eagle is considered the most universal form of the Great Spirit in North America. Its outstretched wings in a crouching position express protection for its children. The eagle is positioned overlooking the valley where some of the first Native People came to this part of North America. This unique shrine was dedicated on August 6, 1977, by Brave Buffalo and Swami Aseshananda, two holy men from two different continents. It was rededicated in 2011 by Brave Buffalo’s nephew, John Brave Hawk. The Native People’s culture emphasizes harmony with nature, the endurance of suffering, respect, and non-interference toward others.

​6. Vivekananda Shrine: Swami Vivekananda (1863-1902) brought the teachings of Vedanta and the Yogas from India to the West in 1893. He participated in the Parliament of Religions as part of the famous Columbian Exposition in Chicago representing Hinduism. He taught the unity of existence, Divinity of Man, and how this Divinity can be manifested in the day-to-day life of all human beings. The architectural lines and ratios represent the Orissa style, a common medieval Hindu temple style. The front pyramidal assembly hall symbolizes Shakti (relative reality) and the back sanctum Sanctorum represents Shiva (Absolute Reality), thus, we enter the Absolute through the relative as the Swami taught us to realize the Divine in mundane activities. The shrine and Jnana Trail were dedicated in 1976.

 7. Sufi Shrine: The five wooden columns holding up a stylized dome represent the five pillars of Islam- the declaration of faith, prayers 5 times per day, alms-giving, Ramadan fasting, and pilgrimage to Mecca. The viewer of the plaque/shrine is facing east toward Mecca. The horizontal and vertical inscription on the hanging plaque is an Islamic prayer, “None exists but God”. Islam (submission) teaches that God is merciful, all-powerful, unique, and “The Lord is All.” This shrine was built in 1976 and dedicated in 1977 in a joint ceremony with members of the Portland Vedanta and Sufi communities.

​8. Ramakrishna Shrine: This shrine was built and dedicated in 1974 honoring the life and teachings of Sri Ramakrishna (1836-1886). Sri Ramakrishna performed much of His spiritual practices in the Panchavati, surrounded by five sacred trees, at Dakshineshwar Temple garden in Kolkata, India on the river Ganga. The structure of this shrine has five sides and five poles surrounded by five trees. Sri Ramakrishna worshiped and realized the Divine as Mother both in the personal and impersonal aspects. Following various religious paths and attaining the highest realization with each path He declared. “As many faiths, so many paths”, and taught the harmony of religions to all. The Bhakti Trail behind the shrine symbolizes Sri Ramakrishna’s emphasis on the path of devotion.

​9. Sikh Shrine: Sikhism grew from the teachings of Guru Nanak (1469-1539) who was born in India. His picture is placed in the shrine. The symbol on his hand and above his image is a version of the OM symbol. The core teachings of Guru Nanak are- meditation with devotion to the Creator, truthful moral living, and service to humanity. His teachings appeal to Hindus, Muslims, and people of many backgrounds. The shrine was dedicated at the interfaith celebration in 2016.

​10. Advaita Shrine: Advaita (Literally ‘without a second’, aka Nondualism) is one of the ancient Indian philosophies which teaches the highest state of Consciousness is the only Reality and all others are seeming and without any existence of their own. In this shrine, a Shiva Lingam (symbol of the Absolute Auspiciousness) is seated in the middle of a 12 sided outer structure representing 12 Jyotirlingas (effulgent symbols of the Absolute). Being the highest point at the Retreat, symbolically this shrine represents all. Advaita harmonizes the whole creation, all aspects of life and religions because it is the experience of the Essence or the Background Consciousness of all. The shrine was dedicated in 2017.

11. Mind Mirage Seat: In the dreaming state, the dreamworld is projected and experienced in the mind. Similarly, according to Jnana Yoga, the world as experienced during the waking state is in fact, conceived in one's mind and though it may seem that there is a real-world out there, no such world exists. In the dreamless sleep state, the mind along with its modifications is merged in ajnana (Ignorance) and the absence of objects is experienced. All these three states are experienced on the Eternal Witness, the Substratum by the help of the mind. Giving us all these experiences the mind vanishes totally like a mirage at the dawn of Real Knowledge. The Mind-Mirage seat is dedicated to encourage the discovery of the changeless Eternal Substratum behind the changing mind. The water in this seasonal vernal pool comes and goes like the mind but the pool remains symbolic of the Eternal Substratum.

​12. Jain Shrine: Bhagavan Mahavir Swami or Vardhamana was born in the early part of the 6th century BCE, slightly preceded Bhagavan Buddha. He was the twenty-fourth Tirthankara and revived Jainism as an ethical, spiritual, and philosophical religion. He attained the state of Omniscience and taught his followers to practice: truth, non-violence, non-stealing, continence, and non-attachment. By living these virtues with proper Darshana (observation) and intense effort one is able to attain wisdom and character. The principles of many-sided reality conditioned predication, and interpretative thesis is the unique contribution of Jainism.

13. Shintoism: A Torii gate was built and dedicated in 2021. It represents the traditional Japanese spiritual culture. The gate symbolically marks the transition from secular to sacred, finite to Infinity, and from the limited to the Unlimited. In Shintoism, auspiciousness Kami is invoked by the priests with traditional rituals.