The silence of winter makes retreat this time of year a true joy. The community is transitioning into Chenrezig Hall for much of its daily activities, and this intimate Tara retreat was great trial run of new systems and procedures. Ten residents and guests took part in the 2-week retreat, bringing a wonderful sincerity and eagerness to enjoy this time with Green Tara.
Venerable Chodron in Asia 2013: Part II – December 2013
After teaching in Malaysia and Singapore, Venerables. Chodron, Jigme, and Damcho continued their tour with a visit to Indonesia, where the Karaniya Foundation, along with Ekayana Buddhist Centre, hosted a weekend retreat and Dharma talks in Bandung and Jakarta. The nuns returned to Singapore for a special event at Poh Ming Tse temple: a joint book launch to introduce Don’t Believe Everything You Think by Venerable Chodron and Like Milk and Water Mixed by Bhante S. Dhammika.
Venerable Chodron’s Singapore connections stretch back over 25 years, and her Dharma friends and students have been enthusiastic supporters of the Sravasti Abbey since the beginning. This leg of the journey culminated with a surprise celebration, hosted by Friends of Sravasti Abbey – Singapore (FOSA-S), in honor of the Abbey’s 10th Birthday.
Our second big Chenrezig Hall moving day focused on setting up the new commercial kitchen. With help from a number of friends, the community moved the large appliances, the rest of the foodstuffs, and boxes of dishes, towels, and cleaning supplies.
The community is adapting to new ways of cooking and washing dishes, required by law that a commercial kitchen demands. With patience, understanding, and a good deal of humor we are making it a powerful practice for our minds.
The Abbey community recognizes the power of purification to remove obstacles to understanding the Dharma. Five of our friends joined us in a weekend retreat with Chenrezig called Nyung Ne. It is a powerful practice that includes many prostrations, praises, mantra recitations, meditations on emptiness and voluntary fasting. It was an amazing weekend and all of us felt our practice deepen as a result.
After 3 months of residing in a wooden crate from China to acclimate herself to the Abbey’s drier climate, the our beautiful Yin has finally been placed on her home base in the entryway to Chenrezig Hall. So how do you move a 320 pound statue? You do so very slowly and carefully with lots of help from friends, here how we did it.
Summer ended with a week of rain and then the brilliance of autumn arrived with clear blue skies, fresh air, and the comings and goings of a Dharma-filled summer began to ebb. Visitors who have come the past few weeks have brought their practice, skills, and gentle enthusiasm to the community. Another exquisite Buddha arrived home safe and sound as well. We are all fortunate indeed.
Ten years, ten monastics. Yes it’s true. Right after celebrating the Abbey’s 10th birthday, we welcomed our 10th sangha member. Ruby Xuequn Pan, who has been an Abbey resident since January of this year, received her novice and training vows from the bhikshuni sangha in a beautiful ceremony, thus becoming Venerable Thubten Damcho. May the sangha continue to grow to help the Dharma flourish in the world.
The Chenrezig retreat brings wonderful energy to the Abbey each year as an increasing number of people attend the week-long program. This year nearly 3-dozen practitioners took part in the silent retreat, connecting deeply with their practice and the powerful teachings on the sadhana that Venerable Chodron gave. Many reaffirmed their connection to Chenrezig and their aspiration to become just like him.
For the 4th year in a row, the Abbey community and guests spent 3 days focusing on the image of the Buddha and cultivating concentration. Ven. Chodron taught on the five hindrances and how to counteract them, and encouraged us to be patient and to practice consistently by sitting daily.
As amazing as it may seem, this year’s Exploring Monastic Life was the 9th one since the founding of the Abbey. A diverse group of participants spent 2-plus weeks with the community receiving teachings, meditating, offering service and sharing the challenges and joys of living in a monastery.
The profound teachings on the Vinaya and the closeness that comes from such intense personal and interpersonal work is a transformative experience. May there be much clarity in the minds of those who contemplate monastic life now and in the future.
As the days and months go by, the changes in Chenrezig Hall become more apparent as crews of workers descend early in the morning and stay until late afternoon. The skill and expertise of the different crews is amazing, and we are deeply grateful to them all.
Two months ago, Venerable Chodron gave a weekend of powerful teachings at the Power of Love retreat. Following on its heels was the recent Power of Compassion retreat.
Fifteen guests joined the Abbey community to hear these profound yet practical teachings that dispelled whatever misconceptions any of us may have had about compassion being a state of passivity or of overwhelm. The group left truly inspired to cultivate this vast and courageous state of mind.
Many of the elders of the Tibetan Buddhist tradition that trained and studies in Tibet are passing on as the years go by. Only a few are alive and in good enough health to teach. Geshe Yeshe Thabkhe, who lives in Sarnath, India, is in the U.S. right now and recently came to the Abbey to teach the first four chapters of Aryadeva’a Four Hundred Stanzas.
We were very fortunate to have such wonderful teachings from this wise and compassionate teacher and are deeply grateful. May he have a long and healthy life so he can continue to teach all beings the path to awakening.
It is very unusual for Tibetan nuns to be able to visit the U.S. Recently the Abbey community had the great pleasure and fortune to have 2 of the nuns from Jangchub Choeling Nunnery in South India, Venerable Dawa Chonzom and Venerable Lobsang Choden. They participated in all the community’s activities with wonderful enthusiasm and curiosity.
The Tibetan nuns shared stories about living in the nunnery with over 200 other nuns and their daily schedule that is filled with many hours of study and debate. It was inspiring for the Abbey community to be with the nuns, witnessing the wisdom and joy they have cultivated over more than 20 years of ordained life.
We also welcomed Mexican nun, Venerable Drolma, who lives at Dharmadatta Nunnery in India, American nuns, Venerables. Gache and Kalden, both of whom also live and study abroad.
A building as remarkable and innovative as Chenrezig Hall, with its purpose to benefit all beings, deserves a sign to mark its place in the world. The process of crafting the sign and then mounting the structure for the outside entry way of Chenrezig Hall was exciting.
Thirty-four retreatants gathered for a Memorial Day weekend of inspiring teachings by Venerable Chodron on His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s book How to See Yourself as You Really Are. Experienced as well as beginning practitioners took in every word as Venerable shared her thoughts on this profound topic. People felt energized afterwards and many are already planning to attend next year’s continuation of the teachings.
As the weather turns warm and sunny and the building progresses, many crews with different skills are working in the hall each day at the same time. Electricity, roofing, plumbing and geothermal elements are being installed, indicating the complexity of this multi-functional building. It is amazing to see all the people and level of expertise each person contributes.
Venerable Chodron traveled to Mexico in April for several public talks and to teach on Lama Tsongkhapa’s ‘Three Principal Aspects of the Path.” A total of nearly 1000 people attended the teachings—given in English with Spanish interpretation— in Mexico City, Morelia, and Xalapa.
In addition, the lamrim talks were streamed live and viewed at 120 sites in 25 countries. The Mexicans are warm and enthusiastic practitioners, and they joyfully expressed their appreciation for Venerable’s sharing of the Dharma.
As the days get longer, the crews show up at 7am and get right to work. As the plumbers, electricians, and heating crews begin their tasks on the inside of Chenrezig Hall, George’s crew heads outside to place the large beams that will support the deck and roof. After they are installed, the roof can be finished and the large deck built. At the same time, on the far side of the hall, the concrete workers build and pour the last of the cement pedestals for the beams. It has sure been busy!
Stained glass artist and Abbey friend Beverly Brecht has began designing a beautiful circular window of Chenrezig that will beam compassion throughout the dining room of Chenrezig Hall. When Bev first heard about the plans for Chenrezig Hall, she immediately offered to create this thousand-armed Chenrezig window as well as two other windows in the upper story.
Everyone loves the beautiful window of Mahaprajapati Gotami in Gotami House. Seeing what a great inspiration the first window has been, Bev is energized to continue offering this wonderful service to the Abbey and the Dharma.
Conducive circumstances are important when practicing the Dharma in that we have no major obstacles to hearing, thinking, and meditating. They also apply to construction projects. In this light, spring is providing welcomed sunny days for the Chenrezig Hall crew.
After seven weeks in silence, it is crucial to re-enter daily life easily and slowly. Like the early spring and the first flowers, our minds need time to adjust to the activity that will come. We also say goodbye to some of our fellow retreatants and prepare to welcome guests.
After 7 weeks in silent retreat, the Abbey community and 4 guest retreatants welcomed friends to celebrate the completion of the retreat. A glorious sunny day added to the joy and sharing as we did a beautiful puja, potluck, gift exchange, and chanting. It became apparent how deeply connected and interdependent we all are. May we continue to guide and support each other and every living being along the path.
The Buddha taught that things exist by being merely labeled, but where is the point when something is worthy of a particular label? That point came for many of the Abbey residents as the roof trusses were placed. Chenrezig Hall is becoming a building! See for yourself.
As Winter Retreat continues, our minds grow more quiet, giving us ample opportunity to watch the Abbey’s daily fluctuations with a joyful mind. Some of our retreatants said goodbye with the conclusions of the first segment of The Four Establishments of Mindfulness Retreat, and we rejoiced at the return of Venerable Semkye and Venerable Chonyi from their trip to India.
Ruby Xuequn Pan had the good fortune of being born and raised in Singapore, a country that Venerable Thubten Chodron has continued to return to teach in annually since her post there as a resident teacher in the late 1980’s. Ruby attended one of those teachings in 2008 and made a strong connection with the Dharma and Venerable Chodron.
Dani Miertz’ heartfelt aspiration to ordain as a Buddhist nun came to fruition on January 19, 2013. She received the Sramanerika and Siksamana ordinations from her preceptor, Bhikshuni Thubten Chodron and her Acharya, Bhikshuni Jendy Shih. Bhikshunis Venerable Jenying and Venerable Jienshen, assisted with the ceremony, and Venerable Tarpa was Dani’s guide.
Over the New Year the Abbey welcomed new and old friends to participate in a Vajrasattva Retreat. Vajrasattva helps us to start the new year with a fresh attitude.With Teaching from Venerable Chodron twice daily and lots of meditation, all the retreatants supported a harmonious environment conducive for developing our minds.
As we experience the changing of late fall into winter, the Abbey reflects on the value of community life. Our community has been fluctuating as some go off to listen to teachings in India, while others return home from pilgrimage. As we all see one another come and go, we joyfully reflect on impermanence.