Winter has come in with bang and the crew and community have become accustomed to shoveling and clearing the Chenrezig Hall building site and working in the snowy conditions. The second floor has begun with the laying of the floor joists and the sheeting. Some of the crew is preparing the faswall to begin the exterior second story walls. The crew will take a holiday break and be back after Christmas.
As we head into the shortened snowy dark days of winter, the celebration of one of Tibetans Buddhism’s brightest lights in our world takes on added significance.
Making many light, food, and flower offerings to Lama Tsongkhapa, Abbey residents and friends celebrated with a Lama Chopa Puja, followed by a chanting procession around the Aspiration Buddha House in the garden after dark.
May all beings have the opportunity to study and hear the amazing teachings of this brilliant and well-loved sage.
After an unusually mild fall, the Chenrezig Hall crew is adapting to the ever-changing weather that early winter brings. The Abbey community is moving into a support position, keeping the water and snow from accumulating on the concrete slab—thus keeping the working surfaces clean and safe—so that the crew can continue to work unhindered.
The resident community regards Sravasti Abbey as the spiritual home of all Dharma friends who visit and spend time with us. This past month, visitors from far and near came to visit, taking the opportunity to share their lives and the insights gained from Dharma practice. By doing so, we can truly inspire each other along the path.
Venerable Chodron traveled to India in October to attend a conference organized by the Tibetan Department of Religion and Culture, where monastic scholars were gathered to share research on the issue of full ordination for nuns (bhikshunis) in the Tibetan tradition. She remained there to attend teachings with His Holiness the Dalai Lama in December. In between she has visited nunneries, given Dharma talks, met with some of her teachers, and worked on writing projects. Click here to read how Ruby, who is traveling as her attendant, is reflecting on these visits.
The variety of colors of the autumn foliage has been striking this year, a result of a slow cooling fall. The simple and humorous presence of our animal friends makes life at the Abbey a joy. They give us an opportunity to pause and reflect on the fleeting nature of this life and to appreciate all we have in our lives.
With the last window of dry weather and above-freezing temperatures closing quickly, George and the crew worked intently to get the Chenrezig Hall site ready for the last concrete pour. The second half of the large slab, the forms for large exterior beams, and the interior of the faswall blocks were all poured on the same day. With a sigh of relief, the crew will now move quickly to frame the sub-floor for the second story so as to continue with the faswall exterior walls. We’ll keep you posted.
Now that the foundation and footings have been poured, the building itself is starting to take shape. George and his crew are working through rainy and muddy conditions to get the building up enough for the roof to be put on.
It has been a great meditation on dependent arising as we witness the causes and conditions and watch the parts coming together. It might be too soon to give it the name Chenrezig Hall, but it’s getting closer every day.
Four members of the Abbey’s sangha traveled to Escondido, California to participate in this yearly gathering of monastics living in the West. It is an opportunity to make new friends and have heartfelt discussions about practice, living in the precepts, and monastic life and training. The quiet surroundings of Deer Park monastery, as well as the warmth of its community, added to the openness and joy of being together as sangha community.
If you want to see a remarkable example of dependent arising, watch the day-by-day process of the construction of a building. Take a look at the causes and conditions and the many non-building parts that come together that our minds label the building of Chenrezig Hall.
With the building of Chenrezig Hall right outside the meditation hall door, it seemed very appropriate to have the yearly Chenrezig retreat during its construction. The retreatants were delighted to witness the day-by-day work on the hall while receiving amazing teachings that included the kindness of others.
Once a year, the Sravasti Abbey community takes time to explore the local area and points of interest. This year, Nate Conover, who attended Exploring Monastic Life, offered us a day at his family’s home on beautiful Hayden Lake, where we all got a chance to canoe, kayak, and ride in a speedboat.
There was a lot of laughter, Dharma discussion, and friendship. Thank you Nate for your generous and lovely gift, and many thanks to Peter, his friend, for cooking a delicious lunch for people he had never met before.
After a year of visits and exploration of community life, Jack Hillie decided that living at the Abbey is the best way to deepen his practice and transform his mind. Jack requested and then received the eight Anagarika precepts. It was a joy to see him glow with aspiration shining on his face. The community is blessed by his wonderful enthusiasm and love of the Dharma.
The Abbey monastic community continues to blossom with Terri’s recent sramanerika and sikasamana ordinations. Three of our Chinese bhikshuni friends came to support and help with the ceremony, as did a number of local Dharma friends. It was a joyous day for the community and for the Dharma in the West.
Summer is still in the air as the Abbey community welcomed guests for its annual concentration retreat. Ven. Chodron gave clear and practical teachings on the importance of concentration at every level of practice, especially in the practice of wisdom. Sessions included walking meditation and silent meditations to promote stability and clarity. May we all cultivate the precious qualities of serenity and concentration in our minds for the benefit of all beings.
The first stage of Chenrezig Hall—excavating the site and building the forms for the concrete footings—has begun. Contractor George Weaver and his son Jeremiah set out the layout of the building and Leo’s Excavating took it from there. With glorious fall weather planned for the next few weeks, Chenrezig Hall will start to take shape as soon as the appropriate permits are secured.
After many meetings with county officials, the architect and the contractor, we’re breaking ground on Chenrezig Hall. George Weaver, the contractor, is confident that the construction will continue through the winter.
With the heavy machinery arriving in the next few days, the community is expecting life to get a whole lot more exciting from now until the building is done, and we’ll use it as an opportunity to practice gratitude and fortitude.
For the 8th year in a row, the Sravasti Abbey community has opened its doors to those wishing to explore their aspirations to ordain. Six guests from near and far are experiencing first hand the challenging and powerful process of teachings, training, group sharing ,and Dharma practice. In doing so, they are cultivating clarity regarding this important life decision. The group finds honesty and friendship as well as moments of great joy and laughter as we travel this journey together for 3 weeks.
Living at the Abbey offers all of us a wonderful opportunity to integrate the Dharma into our daily lives no matter what may arise. We can meet those moments with fear and a closed mind or meet them with compassion and open heartedness. The more we practice the more we choose the open heart.
After nine years, one search and rescue event, and many folks getting turned around during their forest walks, the Abbey community is well under way to installing numerous trail signs.
Ven. Jigme’s nephew, Shane, who designed and built the beautiful Sravasti Abbey sign on Country Lane, recently spent 3 weeks routing, and painting over 40 signs. Three of the major trailheads have been signed and over the next year the community hopes to install all the signs indicating major trails, locations, and guidance back to the Abbey.
Sharing the Dharma in the summer brings blue skies, flowers, and a full meditation hall. More than ever people are coming to the Abbey to experience what the Dharma is all about, and this once a month day gives visitors a first hand experience of the Dharma, our community, and the beautiful environment so conducive for practice.
The Abbey community recently had the opportunity to honor our many local friends who support and care for the Abbey with a day of celebration and friendship. Abbey residents prepared their favorite vegetarian dishes and desserts for the group. The celebration included group Chenrezig practice, potluck lunch, and a walk in the forest. Ven. Semkye shared the wonderful times and funny adventures during offering service over the past eight years, and several of the volunteers spoke about how offering service to the Abbey has transformed them. The amazing kindness of our local friends has been a big piece of the Abbey’s success. We are deeply grateful for all you do!
The Abbey community joyfully welcomed Her Eminence Dagmo Kusho Sakya of the Sakya Monastery in Seattle for a weekend of teachings and a White Tara initiation. A practitioner since she was a child in old Tibet, Dagmo-la combines powerful wisdom with gentle humility as she shares the teachings she received from many realized lamas and from her own deep practice.
White Tara’s compassion seemed to pour through her in a gentle flow of Dharma nectar, and the many who attended were grateful and inspired.
Due to the impermanent nature of things, each day at the Abbey is unique. Seeing each fleeting moment as an opportunity to refrain from harm, to create virtue, and to generate bodhicitta can bring freshness and purpose to monastic life. May we always see the preciousness of this life as a cause for awakening no matter what comes along in any moment.
Ven. Chodron recently taught a retreat on emptiness inspired by His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s book titled How to See Yourself as You Really Are. In the years to come she plans to continue to teach on the nature of reality from this profound yet accessible book. As you will see from the photos below, hearing teachings on emptiness can bring a lot of joy to the mind!
Friends of Sravasti Abbey Singapore does a terrific job of organizing Ven. Chodron’s teachings in their city. They’re also active when Ven. Chodron isn’t in Singapore. The harmonious recently brought their enthusiasm to run a booth at Amitabha Buddhist Centre’s annual carnival, where their Belgian waffles were a big hit.
Richard said, “We have a very strong marketing team that walked around the Carnival with an enticing poster. This brought many visitors to our booth who became our happy customers.” They also made a lot of friends for Sravasti Abbey while supporting ABC where Ven. Chodron was a resident teacher in the 1980s.
For the 8th year in a row, the Sravasti Abbey community hosted Exploring Buddhism—Young Adult Week. The participants traveled from Toronto, Singapore, St. Louis, Seattle, and Portland.
Ven. Chodron spent the week with them giving teachings, facilitating honest and insightful group discussions, and taking walks in the beautiful Abbey forest. They offered service with joyful willing hearts.
We made close heartfelt connections with each of them and sent them on their way with many blessings and great encouragement to live happy and meaningful lives.
For the 9th year in a row, the Sravasti Abbey community opened its doors and hearts to visitors during its annual Open House. Ven Chodron greeted the guests to begin the festivities. The schedule included tours, chanting by the Abbey community, and a lovely meditation on loving kindness by Ven. Tarpa. It was a wonderful day of joy and friendship.
After almost 8 months of being in storage, the altar and all the holy objects returned to the Meditation Hall. With the help of many Dharma friends and participants in the young adult program, the project unfolded without an obstacle. The Hall is now bright and clean with the Triple Gem happily back home. The next step is to restore the outside of the hall and do landscaping.
Ven. Chodron traveled to Singapore in May at the invitation of Kong Meng San Phor Kark See (KMS-PKS) Monastery, the largest temple in Singapore. While there, with the support of Pureland Marketing and Friends of Sravasti Abbey Singapore, she also spoke at Wat Palelei, Tai Pei Buddhist Centre, Buddhist Fellowship, met with Dharma friends, and visited other temples. The schedule was packed, and the Singaporeans responded with enthusiasm and generosity, inviting her back to teach again and again. Here are some highlights.
After three years of taking care of her worldly responsibilities and making many prayers towards her aspiration to ordain, Katya took 8 Anagarika precepts on Vesak, one of the most auspicious days in the Buddhist calendar. It was a joyous day as the community supported her commitment to train and deepen her Dharma understanding. Congratulations and many blessings to Katya!
The Sravasti Abbey community and friends celebrated Vesak, commemorating the Buddha’s birth, awakening, and pairinirvana. Many beautiful offerings were arranged and thousands of prayer requests from our friends in Singapore graced the walls of the Meditation Hall. May all our deepest aspirations for ourselves and all beings be immediately fulfilled.
With the vast views and landscapes that surround the Abbey, one can forget about the beauty right in front of you. Ven Jigme recently captured the close and personal flower treasures of the Abbey garden as an offering to the Buddhas and bodhisattvas. Here are some of the gems.
Ven. Tenzin Kacho brought her wisdom, compassion, and personal experience as a chaplain to the Abbey’s yearly Memorial Day retreat. Many attendees found the retreat deeply moving, as well as practical as they are caring for a loved one who is dying or preparing for their own deaths. With humor and insight Ven. Tenzin Kacho gave all of us an incredible gift, showing us how to transform our minds when living our lives and facing death.
Built in the 8th or 9th century, Borobudur is a magnificent Buddhist stupa in Central Java, Indonesia. Venerable Chodron led a retreat and pilgrimage to this holy site in May 2012. The monument includes 2,762 relief panels depicting the Buddha’s life, over 500 Buddha statues in meditation pose, and 72 stupas.
Borobudur is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Enjoy these beautiful images, provided courtesy of Cheng Cheng and Kenryuu.
At the invitation of Ekayana Buddhist Centre and their related publisher, Karinaya Foundation, Ven. Chodron made her first visit to share the Dharma in Indonesia. She discovered a flourishing Dharma community with a non-sectarian mission to learn and practice all of the Buddha’s teachings. She gave teachings in Jakarta and Surabaya and led a retreat at Parakan, which culminated in a pilgrimage to the magnificent 8th century Buddhist stupa, Borobudur. The Indonesians already hope she will return for more teachings next year!
For the month of May, Venerable Chodron, accompanied by Venerable Chonyi, will be teaching and meeting friends and supporters in Singapore and Indonesia. The schedule is very full, with many opportunities to share the Dharma and the Abbey’s long-term vision. Venerable has a deep and long-standing heart connection to the people of Singapore, and the response to her visit in Indonesia so far as been very enthusiastic.
After a gray and cold April, May has finally brought us spring-warm breezes and the beauty of the Earth coming out of winter sleep. The community is coming into the busiest time of the year at the Abbey, with retreats, programs, outdoor gardening, forest, and building projects. These are all amazing opportunities to practice mind training and joyous effort, as each resident and guest changes roles and tasks to support each other.
During the last weekend of April, 32 people came to the Abbey to participate in the Forgiveness Retreat. For many, the topic had great meaning and they came with sincere motivations to work through old grudges and past hurts. The response from attendees verified that the teachings and the sharing brought healing and relief to their minds, as well as tools to work with past and present difficulties with more compassion and wisdom.
The monthly Sharing the Dharma Days brings many new and old friends together for a day of practice and friendship. Over 30 folks attended this month’s event, where they all get a chance to sample a day in the life of the Abbey community. The Dharma Days continue to attract an ever-increasing number of people sincerely interested in knowing more about the Buddha’s teachings and those who practice them.
Venerable Chodron and the Abbey sangha recently traveled to Seattle and Southern California. In the Seattle area, Venerable Chodron and Venerable Chonyi visited a prison Dharma group, and Venerable Chodron spoke at Dharma Friendship Foundation and at Chi Yuan Temple, where she met with Venerable Jendy Shih, who has been so instrumental in supporting the Abbey. In California she spoke at the University of California at Irvine and five Abbey nuns received teachings from His Holiness the Dalai Lama. This Dharma journey included contact with many friends, new and old.
Six members of the Abbey community recently took a road trip to Portland, Oregon to hear Venerable Chodron and other distinguished Buddhist teachers share their understandings of the Heart Sutra at Maitripa College. The Abbey residents enjoyed the diverse and shared perspectives on this profound teaching of the Buddha.
Jonathan, who has been part of the Abbey community for almost two years, recently completed his anagarika training. The community was extremely joyous as each member shared with Jon all the growth of good qualities we have seen blossom while he has been with us. Then, Venerable Chodron presided over a beautiful ceremony marking the completion of his anagarika.
Jon will be going to Connecticut to increase his skills, make further preparations to ordain in the future, and integrate all he has learned while at the Abbey. May his aspiration to ordain come true and may he return to the Abbey as soon as he can.
As spring arrives at the Abbey so do our dear friends and guests. We work around the unpredictable weather, moving easily from outside to inside as needed. With a motivation to benefit all beings by our actions of body, speech, and mind, every moment becomes an opportunity to create the causes for our awakening.
The practice of Dharma becomes integrated into our minds when we are able to practice no matter where we are or what we are doing. At the Abbey the community has many opportunities to cultivate virtue and lessen the nonvirtues each moment of the day.
For the eighth year, Sravasti Abbey’s three-month winter retreat ended with the retreat community doing the traditional Vajra Dhaka fire puja.
Some retreatants found this year’s puja to be particularly powerful, a result of focusing on purification and emptiness for three months in the Vajrasattva and Six-Session Guru Yoga practices. Retreatants reported a deeper clarity and a growing confidence in their ability to integrate the Dharma into their lives.
For the third year in a row Guy Newland came to the Abbey to share his knowledge of the wisdom aspect of the path. Guy offered a survey of several texts by the great sage Nagarjuna, including Fundamental Wisdom of the Middle Way.
He shared his enthusiasm as well as his great knowledge of dependent arising and emptiness with a group of curious and open-minded attendees. Guy’s joy was contagious, and the group had many lively discussions during meals and in the break times. Hopefully Guy will return many times to continue to teach on this profound path.
During retreat it is very important for us to keep our minds happy and calm Looking out to the horizon or looking at the sky helps to broaden our view. The spaciousness and vastness of the sky widen our perspective, placing us in the moment. Here are a few of the glorious skies that have helped keep our minds bright and uplifted this winter.
If anyone had doubts about how 29 people doing two different retreats simultaneously without a Meditation Hall would do as far as supporting the silence and the practice, they were quickly put to rest within the first week. The support, caring, flexibility, and deep sincerity of everyone was palpable. The quality of the individual retreatants and of the group as a whole made for a wonderful retreat experience for everyone. The folks going home will continue by doing the Retreat from Afar. The remaining 16 will continue in retreat for the next two months.
It has been three months since the community decided to move the meditation hall to make room for Chenrezig Hall. It has been a teaching on dependent arising with the help of professionals, Dharma friends, guests and benefactors making the move possible. Now the Buddha is home again. Although there is still much to do to the building and the grounds around it to complete the project, it has transformed into a warmer, more solid space. Thank you to everyone for getting us this far.
Two weeks have already passed, and the Vajrasattva and Six Session Guru Yoga retreatants are settling into community retreat life. With 29 people living together in silence, it is quite remarkable how spacious and open the energy is. The group is harmonious and practicing very earnestly together.