The Abbey celebrates Lama Tsongkhapa Day each year with pujas and light offerings. This year it fell on December 23, just two days before our annual Christmas Day reading of Shantideva’s Engaging in the Bodhisattva’s Deeds. We rejoiced to acknowledge the annual solstice theme of returning light by celebrating wisdom, great compassion, and bodhicitta. We dedicate the merit for these qualities to grow in all beings and for peace on a chaotic world.
Vens. Chodron and Damcho finished their Asian tour with 10 days in Mundgod, India where they attended the Emory-Tibet symposium with His Holiness the Dalai Lama on Bridging Science and Buddhism. They stayed to witness His Holiness award certificates to the class of 20 geshemas, the first nuns to receive the highest Tibetan Buddhist academic degree. Ven. Chodron gave talks in Mundgod as well. Then they were off for a stopover in Singapore before returning to the Abbey.
From Singapore, Ven. Chodron and Ven. Damcho traveled across the border to Malaysia where Ven. Chodron gave public talks and a weekend retreat sponsored by the Kuching Dhamma Vijaya Centre. Ven. Dhammika, a nun in the Theravada tradition, is founder of the center.
From Malaysia, the nuns traveled to Bangalore, India where Ven. Chodron gave two talks.
Ven. Chodron’s annual trip to Singapore included ten days of teachings at multiple venues, private Dharma talks, and consultations with various temples. She also met many old friends and Dharma students. Watch teachings on Joyous Effort at Pureland Marketing: Day 1 and Day 2.
Friends of Sravasti Abbey-Singapore (FOSA-S) and Pureland Marketing did their usual spectacular job of organizing the events and providing accommodations and support for Ven. Chodron and her assistant, Ven. Damcho. The FOSA-S also coordinate book sales and book signings at every venue. We rejoice in Ven. Chodron’s long-term Dharma connection with the Dharma students in Singapore and are grateful for their continuing support.
From Malaysia, the nuns traveled to Bangalore, India where Ven. Chodron gave two talks.
Following the excitement of the Global Bhikkhuni Award Ceremony in Kaohsiung, Ven. Chodron and Ven. Damcho traveled Taiwan to visit Dharma friends and give talks at various temples. They connected with Ven. Mingjia at Manjushri Vihara and met again with Ven. Wuyin, founder and abbess of Luminary Temple, who has been so influential in developing the Abbey. They also stopped at Pu Yi Nunnery and the Dharma Drum Institute of Liberal Arts where, among others, they met with Ven. Huimin, who supports the Abbey bhikshuni sangha’s varsa retreat. The Abbey nuns have been touched by the interest and support for what we are doing at Sravasti Abbey. We rejoice in the virtuous and fruitful link with the Taiwanese sangha.
Ven. Chodron began her annual Asian teaching tour with a stop in Taiwan to accept the Global Bhikkhuni Award. Presented by the 300-member Chinese Buddhist Bhikkhuni Association (CBBA) of Taiwan, the award honored 50 women from 12 countries for their distinguished achievements in sharing Buddha’s teachings. They wrote, “Venerable Bhikkhuni Thubten Chodron, you are being honored for preserving, protecting, and promoting Tibetan Buddhism by establishing and being the Abbess of Sravasti Abbey in Washington, USA and for offering teachings, both oral and written, which reach the hearts and are widely received by the American people.” Watch Ven. Chodron’s acceptance speech. Find lots more photos on her Facebook page.
The chill of approaching winter reminds us that a year of remarkable Dharma activities is winding down. The garden is getting put to bed, and the apple orchard is harvested. Tara’s Refuge is revitalized and refreshed with the old barn and other out-buildings being torn down. Guests come and offer their practice and enthusiasm for whatever is needed. It is a precious time to cultivate a very joyful mind and set one’s sights on awakening for the benefit of all beings.
For the second year, Ven. Chodron unpacked the profoundly wise and comprehensive book comparing Buddhist traditions that she co-authored with His Holiness the Dalai Lama. This year’s course focused on the wisdom chapters. The group was most inspired and grateful to receive these teachings. Now may we practice and integrate them into our lives to being benefit to the world.
Ven. Chodron traveled with 4 other monastics to Northern California for several events. First stop: a tour and Dharma talk with the staff at Google. Next, they joined in the 22nd Annual Western Buddhist Monastic Gathering at Land of Medicine Buddha. While 3 nuns headed home, Ven. Chodron and Ven. Tsepal went on to the Gyalwa Gyatso Dharma Center where Ven. Chodron gave a teaching. Ven. Tsepal joined the San Jose Walk to Feed the Hungry before participating in an interfaith conference sponsored by the Global Peace Initiative of Women. The nuns share insights from their journeys in several Bodhisattva’s Breakfast Corner talks.
In October, several of the Abbey sangha traveled to share the Dharma. Ven. Tsepal journeyed to Missoula, Montana with other community members, then taught the next week in Seattle. Ven. Jampa returned to Germany to share her journey to full ordination and speak about her life at the Abbey. Ven. Chodron and some of the Abbey bhikshunis made a stop at Google headquarters in Silicon Valley where Ven. Chodron gave a talk to the staff.
With the change of season, much needed rains have come to the Inland Northwest. The Abbey community has many tasks as we get ready for winter, greet new guests, and move them smoothly into the Abbey daily stream. With a mind of bodhicitta, may we bring the greatest benefit to all.
Dharma friends Doug and Sarah again offered lunch at their family’s summer cabin on Idaho’s Hayden Lake. The community enjoyed kayaking, resting, reading Dharma books, and taking long walks along the country road. Sarah prepared a wonderful hearty lunch with lots of love and joy. The Abbey community felt rejuvenated and rejoiced in Sarah’s generosity and kindness.
Shikshamana Precepts – October 2016
Ven. Tenzin Tsepal is a longtime student of Ven. Chodron’s who ordained as a novice in 2001. Joining the Abbey community this year, she recently took a step towards taking full (bhikshuni) ordination by receiving 6 shikshamana trainings. Ven. Chodron is her preceptor and our great friend, teacher, and supporter Ven. Jendy Shih came to serve as acharya or training master. Ven. Hong Zen also attended to guide and encourage the proceedings. We rejoice at Ven. Tsepal’s great fortune and for the continuing support and encouragement of the Taiwanese bhikshunis.
One of the Abbey’s favorite activities is what we call “swarming.” It’s when the community and guests gather their energies and joyous effort to accomplish a particular goal. Recently, 15 residents and guests filled the Abbey’s two trucks and headed up to Milarepa Mile, the highest part of the property, to re-open a beautiful trail that had been neglected for 5 years.
In one day the group felled, limbed, and cleared the trail and had lots of fun doing it. We now have a beautiful trail where we can enjoy the silence and contemplate the teachings as we go along.
It’s been a busy Dharma season, but things are slowing down now as the autumn leaves begin to turn. Friends and family have come to visit a few of the sangha members, and our monthly Sharing the Dharma Day came on the heels of a rainy and joyful offering service day. Who says you can’t have fun practicing the Dharma?sep16
Geshe Dadul Namgyal returned to complete the course of teaching he began last year on “Madhyamaka Through Metaphor.” Geshela’s scholarship, practice, and humor shine through his teaching. With wit, skill, and PowerPoint brought the reasonings of the profound Madhyamaka view down to Earth for us. We make prayers that Geshela will continue to teach to benefit all beings with his wisdom and compassion.
The annual Labor Day retreat saw a record number of 50+ guests and residents participating. The large group held the retreat silence kindly and conscientiously, and their practice was sincere. Ven. Chodron gave accessible and practical teachings on how to cultivate concentration as the path to liberation and awakening, especially how to counteract the hindrances that arise. There was much gratitude at the retreat’s end.
Renowned Tibetan scholar Geshe Yeshe Thabkhe gave extraordinary teachings on Aryadeva’s 400 Stanzas on the Middle Way. At the last minute, Geshela was unable to make the trip, but he was determined to teach. Instead, he taught via Ustream for nine straight days.
His commentary focused on many of the wrong views we need to refute in order to cultivate the wisdom that understands reality correctly. This was Geshela’s third installment of teachings on this precious text. Despite the complexity of the topic the group was truly inspired to study and integrate the teachings into our lives. May Geshela live long so he can continue to benefit all beings. And may he return to the Abbey to give transmission on the final four chapters!
It is hard to believe that this wonderful and important program is in its 12th year. It’s an intensive retreat that helps people explore their aspirations to ordain in a very deep and honest way. The group this year was sincere, thoughtful, and lived harmoniously in community. Most attendees of them came away with a strong commitment to practice more consistently and live the Dharma more fully in their lives.
July’s Offering Service day brought folks from the area to collaborate on a number of fun and diverse projects. From forest thinning to lunch making, to mala making to garden harvesting, the group showed a great joyous effort and Dharma friendship from start to finish. We dedicated all the merit at the end of the day for the benefit of all beings.
The Abbey has a close connection with nuns of the Chinese tradition. The Luminary Temple in Taiwan, and its founder Ven. Master Wu Yin, have been especially significant to the Abbey’s development. Two senior Luminary Temple bhikshunis (fully ordained nuns) made a short but inspiring visit. Both have known Ven. Chodron for many years. They shared their wisdom generously with our monastic and trainees, reminding us of the precious conditions we have to practice the Dharma at the Abbey.
Ven. Chodron spent time with the Vietnamese Unified Buddhist Congregation of the USA and Canada in weekend gathering of teaching and sharing in California. While she was there, the Viet Nalanda Foundation sponsored her public talk on “Taming the Mind Through Meditation” at the Viet Bao Gallery. These are views from that event. Volunteers translated and overdubbed the Abbey info video, The Beauty of Sravasti Abbey, into Vietnamese. See it here.
Photos are courtesy of the Viet Nalanda Foundation.
Singaporean Hsiao Yin spent several months at the Abbey last year. She has now returned to deepen Dharma study and training by taking the anagarika precepts. This marks a further time of exploration as she lives and offers service in the community. We are happy to support her in her spiritual journey.
With almost 17 hours of daylight this time of year, there is a constant hum of activity at the Abbey. From spraying knapweed to hanging prayer flags to visiting the local food pantry there are lots of opportunities to practice virtue such as fortitude, joyous effort, and rejoicing.
The Abbey community and over 20 guests made a deep connection to the Medicine Buddha in the annual, weeklong silent retreat. Ven. Chodron gave profound teachings from Shantideva’s guide to equalizing and exchanging self with others. This teaching is the prescription to heal the disease of our pervasive self-centered thought, which cares only for its own happiness. Through the salve of wisdom and compassion, the retreat was a healing experience for all.
The Abbey community loves the annual week-long Young Adults Explore Buddhism program. Participants with a variety of life experiences come from all over the world. With Venerable Chodron as their guide, they dive deeply into topics important to them, and they support one another as they connect to their most cherished values and aspirations. Offering service, group discussions, and teachings nurture that connection. The resident community appreciates their enthusiasm, energy, willingness, great hearts, and humor.
Dharma Life is precious. There is no better place to bring meaning and purpose to our endeavors than to live with the Dharma. With the Dharma, even the mundane activities of life like cleaning, cooking, and gardening can become great sources of virtue. It is a work in progress, however, as we strive to counteract our self-centered thought and our likes and dislikes in order to have a joyful virtuous mind no matter what daily task is before us.
Once again the Abbey’s monthly Offering Service Saturday was well attended and lots of fun. Friends and the community split into diverse groups to help with mala making, veggie garden weeding and harvesting, rhubarb processing, forest work, and statue polishing. Our hungry appetites got totally cared for by a fabulous vegetarian potluck. Afternoon brought much Dharma sharing as folks continued their joyous effort and the day ended with all of us dedicating the merit for the awakening of all beings.
A beautiful sunny day welcomed the 39 friends who came to June’s Sharing the Dharma Day. Venerable Chodron continued to teach on “The 37 Practices of Bodhisattvas” from her book, Don’t Believe Everything You Think. This month’s verse was about harsh speech and how it is destructive for our own peace of mind, not mention others’. Venerable Chodron began the talk sharing the news about the massacre in Orlando and gave wise advice on how to use the tragedy to grown our deep compassion and maintain hope for our world.
Twenty years ago, when Venerable Chodron was spiritual director of Dharma Friendship Foundation (DFF) in Seattle, the group received and consecrated a beautiful statue of Shakyamuni Buddha and a collection of sacred texts—the Kangyur and Tengyer—that graced all their Dharma activities. When DFF recently moved to a smaller space, the board decided to offer the near-life sized statue and many shelves of sacred texts to the Abbey. Dharma friends Pam Cowan and Steve Miller came for the retreat and drove these treasures over in a rented truck. Other retreatants were a great help in getting the heavy boxes and filled statue into Ananda Hall, where they will reside until a final home is built for them. Welcome to your new home teacher Shakyamuni Buddha!
For the 5th year Venerable Thubten Chodron skillfully unpacked His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s book on selflessness, How to See Yourself As You Really Are, over the Memorial Day weekend. A record fifty-one people attended, responding to Venerable Chodron’s provocative, humorous, and direct teachings with undivided attention and lots of questions. Everyone experienced the gift of the Dharma and left the retreat with lots to think about in terms of who we think we are.
Nyung Ne (pronounced nyoo-nay) is a powerful purification retreat that helps cleanse our minds of the obstacles to gaining realizations on the path. The community and nine guest participants spent the weekend chanting praises to Chenrezig, prostrating, making offerings and meditating on emptiness in our 4th Nyung Ne since the Abbey’s founding. With gratitude, we deepened our connection to Chenrezig, Buddha of Compassion, and to the Dharma.
With an unseasonably warm April and a rainy May, the Abbey gardens have exploded in a brilliant profusion of color and form. Every inch of the garden is filled with leaves, stems, flowers, and trees of various sizes, shapes, and shades of the rainbow. Our Dharma practice helps us see the fleeting nature of even this glorious display. We imagine purifying and enhancing all the beauty, then multiply it a million-fold and offer it to all the Buddhas and bodhisattvas, which brings great joy to our minds and hearts.
This year’s Kathina—the ceremonial offering of robes and requisites to the sangha—coincided with the Sharing the Dharma Day. Spring was in the air, along with a palpable sense of joy and gratitude as the Abbey sangha shared the Dharma and, in return, received support from our lay friends. May this mutually beneficial relationship be of the greatest benefit to everyone near and far.
The final stop on Venerable Chodron’s spring teaching tour was Moscow, Russia, where a dedicated band of students has been following the Abbey online for some time. Having formed a Friends of Sravasti Abbey – Russia group, they sponsored public talks in Moscow and a weekend retreat with more public talks at a retreat center outside of the city. Venerables Tenpa and Tenzin led the way, with tremendous support from lay students. We hope they’ll be able to visit the Abbey too!
The Abbey community is starting off an event-filled Dharma year with service and practice. The community celebrated its first bi-monthly posadha (the confession and restoration rite) with our two new bhikshunis, and the veggie garden got planted. Tara’s Refuge is getting a new look, forest thinning for fire safety has begun, and spring cleaning keeps the Abbey looking bright and welcoming. With lots of joyous effort, may all beings benefit.
The Abbey’s Offering Service Saturdays started up again in May. Twelve friends spent the day with us making quick work of some spring projects. A bountiful vegetarian potluck nourished the group, and there was much sharing and joy as we ate. We would not be able to survive at the Abbey were it not for the great and continual kindness of all our friends and supporters. Join us again on June 4.
Denmark was the third country visited on Venerable Chodron’s spring teaching tour. She gave two talks at the Osal Ling Tibetan Buddhist Centre in Aarhus, then went to Copenhagen where she gave a public talk on “Working with Difficult Emotions” and a weekend workshop based on Living with an Open Heart, the book she co-authored with Russell Kolts, at the Phendeling Centre.
Venerables Jampa and Damcho took part in the Triple Platform Ordination in Taiwan, a 45-day monastic training program where they received the novice, full, and bodhisattva ordinations. They also had the opportunity to visit monasteries that the Abbey has a connection to and pay respect to Dharma masters.
Sravasti Abbey’s first retreat of 2016 focused on Sharing our Joy. Twenty-five people—including many first-time guests—joined the weekend that included a Saturday morning walk-a-thon in nearby Newport to raise awareness of child abuse. Venerable Semkye and the elements started us off with a talk on death and impermanence, accompanied by high winds, hail, rain, lightning, and thunder. In the following days, Venerables Tarpa and Semkye gave teachings on the immeasurable thought of joy and the far-reaching practice of joyous effort, and we meditated together, learning to rejoice in our own and others’ virtue.
Venerable Chodron’s spring European teaching tour took her to Germany where she gave public talks and workshops/retreats in Frankfurt and the Hamburg area. The Frankfurt talks focused on Living with an Open Heart, in conjunction with the publication of the German edition of that book, co-written with Russell Kolts. In Hamburg, where she was hosted by the Tibetan Center, she taught on Nagarjuna’s Precious Garland and met with residents of the newly established Shide nunnery.
Now that the community is out of retreat the year’s projects and visitors begin. We try to place activities like planting veggies, clearing the stream at Tara’s refuge, and welcoming guests from near and far within the practices of joyous effort and warm friendliness. This keeps our minds in the Dharma and, hopefully, inspires everyone we meet to respond in kind.
Although this past winter was short on snow and spring arrived early, it is still a glorious display of dependent arising as the brown bare earth and trees green out with each passing day. The spring flowers made their debut earlier than we can remember and added their customary bright cheerfulness to the landscape. What a wonderful offering to make to the Buddhas!
The Abbey ended our third winter varsa—the annual 3-month monastic retreat— with the pravarana ceremony described in the Vinaya, the basket of Buddha’s teachings on monastic discipline. During the three months of varsa, we focus on community harmony and refrain from pointing out faults. To end the varsa, we ceremonially “give the pravarana,” an invitation for others to offer feedback on our behavior so that we can learn and grow in the Dharma. The ceremonies are beautiful and we rejoice at the opportunity to uphold the Dharma in this way.
Venerable Chodron’s first stop on her spring European teaching tour is the Nagarjuna Center in Valencia, Spain, where she reconnects with longtime friend Venerable Paloma, who translates her talks there. A video clip of the teaching on anger is here.
Winter retreat concluded with a huge celebration. About 85 people packed into the Meditation Hall for our biggest Sharing the Dharma Day ever. Ven. Chodron gave beautiful talk on working with the critical mind, “The Internal Judge & Jury,” followed by an amazing lunch, and a Lama Tsongkhapa Guru Puja and gift presentation in gratitude for the all the support—from holy beings and ordinary beings—during the retreat. And now, the doors are officially open! Come visit!
As the winter retreat wound to its close, opportunities for engagement increased and some were too good to pass up. The Abbey had an invitation to meet presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, for example, and reconnect with interfaith friends. And the Washington State caucuses drew us to into the political process for a couple of hours. The warm spring days called us to clean up the gardens and the waterways of Tara’s Refuge, which we “swarmed” as a community in the final days of retreat. We rejoice in all we’ve learned from our time of internal work and are ready to open the doors. Sharing the Dharma Day is April 3.
Following on the publication of Buddhism: One Teacher, Many Traditions, Venerable Chodron’s book co-authored with His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Maitripa College organized a weekend symposium with Venerable Chodron and Sri Lankan scholar Venerable Seelawimala to explore “the convergence and divergence” of the two major Buddhist movements: the Pali and Sanskrit traditions. The event was well-attended and people learned a lot. Wisdom Publications generously offered free copies of the book to symposium attendees.
The Abbey has a warm connection with Maitripa. Venerable Chodron has taught there several times and has known the college’s founder, Yangsi Rinpoche, for decades. Maitripa students have joined the Abbey for programs and retreats too.
Here are some scenes from the weekend symposium. Photos are courtesy of Marc Sakamoto/Maitripa College.
In March, our two youngest nuns headed to Taiwan for seven weeks of training at the Miao Fah Chan temple. If things proceed without obstacle, they will return as bhikshunis, fully ordained nuns. The community sent them off with much good advice, encouragement, and support. The Abbey has a strong connection with this temple, as the abbot, Master Hsin Tien, has visited the Abbey and was the ordination master for Venerables Semkye and Yeshe’s bhikshuni ordination and Venerable Losang’s novice ordination.
Author, translator, and scholar Roger R. Jackson normally spends his winters at Carleton College in Minnesota, where he is a Professor of Religion. This winter, however, he is teaching at Maitripa College in Oregon. Taking advantage of his proximity, we invited Roger to the Abbey.
A student of Geshe Lhundub Sopa, Roger has studied Tibetan Buddhism for over 40 years. His passion is Mahamudra—literally, the Great Seal—which he shared with us for two jam-packed days during our winter retreat. Bringing keen scholarship and a poet’s fervor, Roger stimulated and inspired us (watch the course online), and we hope he returns to share more.
Virtue was clearly in everyone’s minds as we gathered on the last day to share and celebrate the joyous effort of practicing together. The noble silence was beautifully held, the sense of community made group endeavors a breeze, and the gratitude for the Venerable Chodron’s guidance and wisdom was sincerely and clearly expressed. Our friends departed to integrate all they learned into their lives, and the Abbey community continues in silence. May many beings benefit from our efforts.
Responding to a request from our Singaporean friends, the Abbey community and winter retreatants celebrated the Chinese and Tibetan New Year with a joyous Cittamani Tara Puja. The merit from the puja was dedicated for the well being of many Dharma friends in Singapore and their families. Tara, the Buddha of enlightening activity and a powerful ally for removing worldly and spiritual obstacles, is a favorite of many Buddhist practitioners. May all our supporters around the world and all sentient beings benefit.
One day time seems to stand still, while the next day it flashes by at a brilliant pace. All 21 retreatants try to use their time wisely as they approach the final week of the month-long refuge retreat. Each day brings an opportunity to practice the path. As the silence of the outer world deepens, the inner world becomes quieter as well. What a precious opportunity we have! Thanks to you all for your support.
The Sravasti Abbey monastic community entered its third “snows retreat” on January 16th. For the next three months we will practice contentment, watch our own minds, and not speak of the faults of others. It is a special opportunity to delve deeply into Dharma practice and study without the busyness of events, programs, and guests. May all beings benefit from our efforts to cultivate wisdom and compassion and to nourish our community harmony as well.
Ten guests—two from as far away as Singapore and Australia—arrived safe and sound and joined the 11-member Abbey community to begin a one-month “vacation” with the Three Jewels. Many of the retreatants are senior practitioners or have been to the Abbey before, which makes for a quick entry and a short and sweet logistics session.
The group does five sessions of meditation and one study session each day. We also receive teachings and offer service. We rejoice at the great fortune to be able to deepen our refuge, delve into the lamrim, and learn how to bring it all into our practice and our lives.
To start the new year, Venerables Chodron and Damcho returned to Bylakuppe, India, for the fourth and final installment of the Jangchup Lamrim teachings by His Holiness the Dalai Lama. Along the way, Venerable Chodron gave two talks in Bangalore, rejoicing in the opportunity to repay the kindness of the Indians. Venerable Chodron also spoke at a benefit dinner for Reimagining Doeguling, a project to redevelop the Tibetan settlement in Mundgod that she advises on. Both nuns greatly appreciated their time with their Tibetan teachers, and also the kindness and hospitality of their Indian and Tibetan hosts.
Venerable Chodron gave Singapore teachings in December and again in January. Here are more scenes from the trip. Additional photos are in the December 2015 photo gallery.
Making New Year’s resolutions takes on a whole new meaning when you come to a Vajrasattva retreat at the Abbey. The participants in this year’s retreat were deeply focused on regretting and purifying past destructive actions as well as making a commitment to refrain from them in the future. This brings a strength and clarity to actually transforming the mind and growing our virtuous qualities; and doing it with joy and compassion as well.