The Abbey community, along with two long-term guests, continue the winter retreat using the precious time and opportunity to go deeply into the Dharma. The environment, winter stillness, and the schedule help support all aspects of our practice. Along with the retreat, being in Varsa helps us to be extra vigilant about watching our own minds to relinquish judgments and criticism. This helps to set our motivations and focus firmly in bodhicitta and emptiness.
As the Buddha taught, all things that come together must separate. And so the one- month retreatants bid the Abbey and the community farewell. We spent their last day here rejoicing in all the merit we accumulated as a group of sincere practitioners. We dedicate all of it for the full awakening of every living being. Until we meet again, friends, many bows and blessings to you all. What a pleasure and delight to have you with us.
Participants in this year’s 1-one-month winter retreat comprise a wonderful group of sincere and enthusiastic practitioners. They come from all over and have jumped in with both feet. In addition to meditating in five sessions daily, they shovel tons of snow and clean piles of dishes, Then they show up at every session with high intentions and deep focus on study and reflection. On the other hand, some beings on the Abbey property prefer staying outside to meditation practice.
The one-month Lama Tsongkhapa-4 Establishments of Mindfulness Retreat has begun with 26 people participating. The days flow into each other like a moving stream, with five sessions of meditation, one study session, and lots of opportunities to offer service through shoveling snow and meal cleanup. May our endeavors benefit all beings.
The Abbey celebrated Chinese New Year, as we do each year, with a Lama Chopa Puja, especially dedicating the merit for our Dharma friends in Singapore. We also welcomed a new nun to the community. Long-time guest Ven. Phuong Thien requested admission to the community, asking for a new name and taking Ven. Chodron as her abbess and spiritual mentor. With a lovely, simple ceremony, she became Ven. Thubten Pende and received Tibetan robes. We rejoice in the merit-making and welcome our new nun.
Several Abbey community members and guests joined with 8000 others at the Spokane Women’s March. With our robes, we stand out in the crowd, and many stopped us to appreciate the monastic presence there. Ven. Semkye and Ven. Chonyi each shared their impressions on Bodhisattva’s Breakfast Corner.
The Abbey community entered our fourth varsa, the three-month “snows retreat,” by enacting beautiful ancient ceremonies. Varsa is one of the three major activities a fully ordained sangha has the power and opportunity to do. We also welcomed Ven. Heng Cheng and Ven. Tien Chang from Taiwan for teachings on the Vinaya, the monastic code of practice in ethics. For nine days, Ven Heng Cheng inspired and encouraged us to learn and understand Buddha’s guidance for how to develop a compassionate monastic mind. We hope both nuns will return again and again to guide and teach us in the future.
As we turn the corner into 2017, the Abbey community stays close to home with several long and short-term guests, including a lunch visit with our local sheriff and deputies. Dharma conversations fill the day as we offer service and tie up loose ends before the winter retreat begins. May we stay focused and reflective during this quieter wintertime.
Vajrasattva Retreat 2017 The 2017 Vajrasattva Retreat brought 52 participants to bring in the new year. It was easy to imagine countless sparkling white Vajrasattvas floating from the sky as a winter storm brought eight inches of snow. There was a strong sense of closeness and friendship as we listened to teachings on purification. The group shared enthusiasm and open-heartedness for the practice and for living cozily in community together.