History of Spirit Rock
Following Insight Meditation retreats first held in 1974, participants founded the Dharma Foundation in 1976. Its purposes were to sponsor more retreats (the first being in Yucca Valley, CA, that same year) and to publish the Inquiring Mind, a Journal of the Vipassana Community, which it did for several years. It also helped sponsor sitting groups, which led to the Monday night classes initiated in Marin County, CA, in 1984. In 1985, members of several Bay Area sitting groups incorporated Insight Meditation West for the purpose of acquiring land and establishing a West Coast Insight Meditation Center.
The community continued to grow and plan a permanent dharma center. In 1987, a contract was drawn up to purchase 411 acres of undeveloped land in the San Geronimo Valley of northern California from The Nature Conservancy, who used the funds to preserve rainforests in South America. Then in 1988 the title was taken on the Woodacre land, and the name Spirit Rock Meditation Center was formally adopted. The year 1988 also saw the first meeting of the Vision Committee and the first issue of the Spirit Rock newsletter. In 1990, a large temporary meditation hall, administrative office, and caretaker's quarters were completed. In 1994 a kitchen/dining hall was built that seats over 100 people.
In 1997 the ground breaking ceremony for the residential retreat center was held. The residential retreat center opened in July 1998 and currently hosts retreats that range from two nights to two months. Since 1990, attendance at Spirit Rock has increased enormously. Hundreds of people now attend classes, daylong programs and residential retreats each week at the center in Woodacre. In addition, more than 10,000 people have given generously of their time and money to help develop Spirit Rock since its inception.
In our 26-year history, several historic events have taken place at Spirit Rock:
- In 2000, His Holiness the Dalai Lama attended a conference of international Buddhist teachers.
- In 2002, Alice Walker spoke at the African American retreat, which brought together for the first-time teachers, community leaders and practitioners from around the nation.
- Vietnamese leader, Thich Nhat Hahn, has taught at Spirit Rock, as well as Ram Dass, Huston Smith, and many other well-known Buddhist teachers.
To learn more about the history of Spirit Rock and Buddhism in the West, read "This Fantastic, Unfolding Experiment," an article by Jack Kornfield that appeared in Buddhadharma (summer 2007) in which he describes the challenges and tensions that have accompanied bringing Buddhism to the West and the creative solutions that have emerged to meet them.