For the second time this year the Friends of Sravasti Abbey (FOSA) gathered to their share ideas and expertise as well as commit their support to Sravasti Abbey as the community begins to unfold the plans for its first monastic residence. Many new faces came this year and made the gathering a fun, creative weekend which culminated in an action plan to support multiple aspects of the monastic residence building project.
Before we knew it, the one month Medicine Buddha retreat ended on December 4 with some wonderful activities that deepened the already heartfelt connection of the retreat community. From a long glorious walk in the snow around the perimeter of the Abbey’s land to a fire puja that warmed the bitter cold day as well as helped us purify negative karma, the retreat experience will stay in our minds for years to come. May all the merit we generated during this retreat benefit countless living beings.
The one month Medicine Buddha retreat was a wonderful experience. With nine participants and Barbara holding down the fort as office manager, the group settled in as a community very quickly
There were five sessions a day of practice and one of study. Offering service in the woods and around the main house rounded out the schedule. It structured the group and mind wonderfully. Alex Berzin visited. The week long teachings of Khensur Wangdak Rinpoche with a full house of guests provide a beautiful opportunity to open our hearts to all of them. Many of the motivations we shared daily focus on the rarity of this opportunity to be in retreat together.
Taking the first step on the path to full ordination, Abbey resident Barbara McDaniel requested anagarika precepts from Venerable Chodron. Venerable agreed and on October 26 the ceremony was performed in the Abbey’s meditation hall.
The Abbey residents and a few of Barbara’s close Dharma friends attended. It was an inspiring ceremony as Venerable spoke about the great benefit and merit of taking precepts and planting the seeds of virtue for future lives. It was quite a transformational process inside and out.
From the mandala offering to Venerable by her students to the colorful procession carrying the Buddha statue to its new home in the garden, the air was filled with the Dharma and hearts of gratitude.
We did our best to try and capture the precious day as over 50 friends and supporters of Sravasti Abbey came to rejoice at all the virtuous activity and merit created by those near and far.
Sravasti Abbey and the Couer d’Alene Dharma Friends recently co-sponsored the Maitreya Heart Shrine Relic Tour in Spokane. The Unity Church on the South Hill in Spokane enthusiastically opened its doors and its heart for the tour. They provided not only the space but also a large group of volunteers to help coordinate and support the tour.
Over 1000 people came through the shrine room over a two day period. The event drew people from various spiritual traditions, and many were deeply moved by the experience including the Abbey residents and the local Dharma community.
A bronze Buddha bust was donated by Barbara McDaniel earlier this summer upon her arrival to the Abbey as a full time resident. As you can see it has undergone quite a transformation. It was sent to the Sakya Monastery in Seattle along with a box filled with mantras, incense, precious items, and potpourri, where it was painted, filled and blessed.
It now resides in the Abbey’s meditation hall waiting for October 13th when it will be moved to its new home in glass house in the middle of the Abbey garden. The day will also mark the fulfilling of a promise from Venerable Chodron to the founding donors of the Abbey, her 30th year as a monastic and the 4th anniversary of the founding of Sravasti Abbey.
On September 7, Nanc Nesbitt a full time lay resident becomes the second resident of Sravasti Abbey to ordain in less than a year. She takes the Sramanerika or novice precepts as well as the 2 year training precepts or Siksamana precepts which will prepare her to one day take the bhikshuni vows.
Nanc is given the name Thubten Semkye by Venerable Chodron which is translated as the mind generating the Able One’s teachings or bodhicitta. The kindness and support of many people especially the Chinese bhikshunis made this auspicious day possible as the Buddhist sangha welcomes another member to its community.
Planting the Seeds to Cultivate Compassion retreat, held the last weekend of May, brought together a wonderful group of 21 participants of varied ages, cultural backgrounds and levels of interest in the Dharma. Everyone felt in harmony and showed a strong motivation to participate fully in all aspects of the retreat.
We shared the responsibilities of community life with great joy and enthusiasm. Thought provoking and honest dialogues filled the group discussions and Q&A’s about attachment, love, expectations and stubbornness.
We took walks in silence every afternoon which helped the body and mind greatly after sitting and contemplating these powerful topics. We also celebrated Tsog together; many of us for the first time. We made new dharma friendships were made and renewed old ones renewed during this fruitful weekend.
As the Abbey continues to grow its resident community, the need for lay supporters also grows. Although the group was smaller this year than previous years, the level of commitment was steady and deep. From inviting generosity planning, to helping transcribe, to working in the forest, there is no limit to what one can do to support the virtuous endeavors of Venerable and the community.
From the meeting, a workable organizational chart was created giving all who participated, a place to offer their skills and enthusiasm. The group also got to practice together which strengthens the connection to the Dharma, the Abbey and each other and creates the causes for future virtuous activity as a group.