Forty-one monks and nuns from several different Buddhist traditions gathered at Spirit Rock Retreat Center in California for the 24th annual Western Buddhist Monastic Gathering. Three Abbey residents joined Ven. Chodron for communal practice and sharing on this year’s theme being “Practice, Path and Fruit.” Ven. Lamsel’s report is here. Many more photos are here.
On a vibrant autumn Sunday, the Abbey again hosted Sharing the Dharma Day for a group of especially enthusiastic guests. Ven. Chodron taught on “Working with Unwanted Thoughts and Emotions,” from her book with Russell Kolts, An Open-Hearted Life. The topic brought forth a deep afternoon discussion, followed by a beautiful walk through the Abbey grounds.
The season changes and beautiful colors are everywhere in the gardens, the meadow, and the forest. Enjoy the magnificence of change and beauty. More fall photos are on Facebook.
Ven. Thubten Chodron made her bi-annual visit to North Idaho College (NIC) in Coeur D’Alene. Her talk on “Being Human”—helping listeners to avoid seeing the world in a duality of “us and them”—brought thoughtful comments from the large audience of students and townspeople.
Ever since we began to build Chenrezig Hall, glass artist Beverly Brecht has envisioned stained-glass windows in the building. In September, she installed the second of two glass depictions of Chenrezig, Buddha of Compassion. The new window, located in the Kuan Yin Room, displays Four-Armed Chenrezig. With over 700 pieces of glass and more than 500 crystal “jewels,” the window is magnificent! Thank you, Bev, for sharing your amazing artistry and for your deep practice of compassion and generosity.
Geshe Dadul Namgyal joined us for his fifth visit, this time teaching on the Six Perfections. Geshe-la is fan of metaphors, and his teachings on bodhicitta and the perfections of generosity, ethical conduct, and fortitude were filled with vivid similes to help us understand the practices of bodhisattvas. We ran out of time before Geshe-la could finish the perfection of fortitude, thus ensuring that he will have to return next year to finish the remaining three (and a half) perfection! About 45 retreatants, including residents, joined these amazingly joyful teachings.
Beautiful September weather provided an optimal day for some outdoor service and fun. On Offering Service Saturday, Abbey residents and guests hauled firewood from the forest to Ananda Hall, painted railings, worked in the garden, and more. The next day, Sharing the Dharma Day, was another beautiful day with many old and new friends visiting.
We’ve seen a beautiful September with many wonderful visitors including students from Gonzaga University’s “Mindful Leadership Class,” Ven. Pende’s former high school friends, Sheridan’s and Matt’s visit as well as Ven. Lamsel’s parents and grandmother from Australia.
Ven. Chodron headed to India in August for interviews with His Holiness the Dalai Lama regarding the book series, The Library of Wisdom and Compassion. Afterwards, she stayed on to attend teachings with His Holiness and to give several talks herself. Ven. Damcho accompanied as her assistant. It was a time to make connections with longtime Dharma friends as well as refine material for the upcoming books.
After a full day of teachings, the community and guests took Ling Rinpoche on a tour of the Abbey buildings and forest. The next day, he gave a public talk at North Idaho College and enjoyed a lunch hosted by the Coeur d’Alene Dharma Friends. Then Rinpoche headed for the airport to continue his North American teaching tour. What a blessing to host him in the Inland Northwest!
Sravasti Abbey had the great fortune to host a visit from His Eminence the 7th Ling Rinpoche over three days. A small crowd welcomed him with a brief ceremony and tea offering in the Meditation Hall, followed by a teaching the next day. More than 90 people came to hear Rinpoche’s beautiful and clear explanation of “The Song of the Four Mindfulnesses,” a short and profound text by the 7th Dalai Lama. What a joyful day for the Abbey!
We had a wonderful group of about 50 participants for our annual Labor Day weekend retreat, which focused on meditative concentration. Ven. Sangye Khadro led the retreat, taught from traditional texts and her own experience. She gave us plenty of opportunities to practice calm abiding during the teaching sessions in addition to dedicated meditations sessions. Everyone parted with skills and confidence to practice stabilizing meditation in the future.
Ven. Thubten Chodron traveled to Dharamsala for a rare chance to meet with His Holiness the Dalai Lama to discuss later volumes of their book series, The Library of Wisdom and Compassion. We rejoice in their work to bring His Holiness’ lifetime of teachings available to English-speakers! During the visit, Ven. Chodron is also giving talks and teachings and meeting old friends. Ven. Damcho is traveling as her assistant.
After a wonderful Exploring Monastic Life program, the Abbey swiftly returned to our regular daily schedule. While Ven. Chodron and Ven. Damcho have headed to India, we’ve enjoyed wonderful guests here at the Abbey, including three nuns—Buddhist teacher Ven. Sangye Khadro, Ven. Zi-Chi from Luminary Temple in Taiwan, and Ven. Pelha from Maitreya Institute in the Netherlands. Lay friends have spent time with us too, and we’ve all rejoiced in sharing the Dharma.
The last two weeks of Exploring Monastic Life (EML) were as joyful as the first. Due to forest fires in Canada and California, the air quality was bad, which restricted our outdoor time. But we had still lots of fun during the teachings with Ven. Chodron, discussing the Dharma, cooking, baking, cleaning, and especially doing the skits at the very end of the course.
About 50 people attended our August Sharing the Dharma Day. Ven. Tarpa taught on Chapter 10, “Compassionate Understanding of Emotions,” from An Open-Hearted Life, by Dr. Russell Kolts and Ven. Thubten Chodron. Drawing from personal experiences to illustrate her points, she made us laugh. She also used quotes from many sources that brought in different perspectives. Guests (and residents!) learned more about the essential practice of transforming negative emotions into a compassionate state of mind.
Fifteen participants, including five Abbey residents, joined this year’s Exploring Monastic Life program led by Ven. Thubten Chodron. Participants have come from all over the world — India, Taiwan, Singapore, Germany, Netherlands, Australia, and the US. It’s an exciting time of exploration, joy, learning, insights, cooperation, and community.
Geshe Yeshe Thabkhe gave one week of teachings on the 2nd chapter of Pramanavarttika by Dharmakirti, a 7th century Indian master of logic and reasoning. A renowned master himself, Geshe Thabkhe is now 87 and traveling is not easy. However, he willingly and joyfully offered two excellent teachings daily via Livestream. His Holiness the Dalai Lama has emphasized the training in logic and reasoning to deeply understand the Dharma. With the help of Geshe Thabkhe and his able interpreter, Joshua Cutler, we are doing our best to follow our teachers’ instructions. Thank you!
About 10 members of the Abbey community joined Sarah and Doug at their lake place on the shores of Hayden Lake in Idaho. They enjoyed the time off to relax, read, play with Cora-the-dog, and sit by the water. There was canoeing, kayaking and then everyone shared wonderful lunch together. Thank you, Doug, Sarah, and the other lay friends who helped make this a wonderful outing!
On Sharing the Dharma Day, more than 60 people listened to Ven. Thubten Chodron’s talk on “Mindful Awareness,” Chapter 9 of An Open-Hearted Life. Meditating on and discussing the teachings brought great insight and joy, and many wonderful connections were made.
The day before was Offering Service Saturday, when about 15 volunteers came up to help with many projects such as forest support, gardening, cherry picking, mowing the forest paths and lawn, processing rhubarb, and cooking. It was a wonderful warm, sunny and joyful day. Thanks to everybody for your great support!
Our one-week Chenrezig Retreat was joyful! Ven. Chodron taught twice a day on the Chenrezig practice and on Nagarjuna’s Letter to a Friend. Although Nagarjuna gave these teachings to a king about 2000 years ago, they are still very applicable today. Over 45 people attended the retreat. We kept noble silence, but also had the opportunity to discuss the teachings in regular discussion groups, as well to meditate in daily meditation sessions.
Ven. Choyang Visits
We are delighted to host Ven. Tenzin Choyang, born in Tibet and now training at Jangchub Choeling Nunnery in India, for a two-week visit. Ven. Choyang is on a two-year scholarship from the Tenzin Gyatso Foundation to study science at Emory University in the US. She is eager to explore American monastic life, including work in the forest. In this Bodhisattva’s Breakfast Corner talk, she explains the importance of studying logic to strengthen our daily practice.
Along with summer’s arrival, Sravasti Abbey hosted our annual Young Adults Explore Buddhism course with six wonderful participants. In addition, we’ve seen guests from all over the world. Practitioners from Germany Singapore, Australia, Mexico, Alaska, and California bring their joy and enthusiasm for the Dharma. The Abbey is indeed the spiritual home for everyone from all over the world.
June’s Offering Service Saturday and Sharing the Dharma Day were back to back, allowing participants to come to the Abbey for the whole weekend. A dedicated crew accomplished many significant tasks on Saturday. On Sunday we welcomed a large crowd from all over to explore compassion. Ven. Chodron’s talk, based on An Open-Hearted Life—which she co-wrote with Dr. Russell Kolts—focused on the strength in compassion. See the talk here.
Ven. Thubten Semkye made her third trip to share the Dharma at the Way of Compassion Dharma Center in Carbondale, Colorado. She offered a public talk and a weekend retreat on “Fortitude and Joyous Effort: Our Best Traveling Companion on the Path to Awakening.” The Carbondale students are enthusiastic and dedicated. Ven. Semkye rejoices in their practice and in sharing with them.
For the 6th year, Venerable Chodron gave commentary on How to See Yourself as You Really Are by His Holiness the Dalai Lama. This year’s teachings were on bodhicitta and how to work with the two biggest hindrances to developing it: anger and attachment. The group was keen of all aspects of the retreat, including meditation sessions and group discussions. The bright and clear weather seemed to reflect the potential of our minds, which can be attained with bodhicitta. May all beings benefit from our practice. More photos are on Facebook.
Warm weather Dharma activities began in earnest this month, and we invited guests to join with the community in listening and thinking about the Dharma. Among the things we rejoiced in: Sharing the Dharma Day, Offering Service Saturday, community outreach, and the release of of The Foundation of Buddhist Practice, the 2nd volume in the Library of Wisdom and Compassion series by His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Venerable Thubten Chodron. Lots of Dharma arising!
Ven. Thubten Chodron’s European schedule took her back to Hamburg, where she launched the German edition of her book, Good Karma: How to Create the Causes of Happiness and Avoid the Causes of Suffering. She also led a retreat on developing compassion and wisdom, based on Approaching the Buddhist Path, co-authored with His Holiness the Dalai Lama, at the nearby Semkye Ling retreat center. Tibetan Center Hamburg organized both events. While there, Ven. Chodron met the center’s resident lama, Geshe Pema Samten, and connected with the nuns of the burgeoning Shide Nunnery. Karen continued as her most helpful assistant, and Ven. Thubten Jampa joyfully joined in all the activities in her native land.
Friends of Sravasti Abbey Russia sponsored Ven. Thubten Chodron’s third journey to the Moscow area. In the city, she gave a public talk to launch the Russian edition of her book, <cite?Living with an Open Heart, co-written with clinical psychologist and professor Dr. Russell Kolts. You can listen to her talk, on Cultivating Compassion in Everyday Life. From there she headed to a lovely country retreat center where she led a weekend Amitabha retreat and offered a public talk on developing bodhicitta. Ven. Chodron has a strong connection with the earnest students of this Russian group. She talks about her visit to Europe in this Bodhisattva’s Breakfast Corner talk.
Kindness joined with willing hearts and minds in our weekend Kindness Retreat. There were many new faces, along with our frequent retreat attendees . Together, we brought joy to listening to the teachings on cultivating kindness. Many of our guests were inspired to take some of the touch points from the weekend home with them to integrate into their lives.
The year’s first Offering Service Saturday was a day of fun and friendship, and we accomplished lots of service projects. Eight of our closet lay friends spent the day helping plant the veggie garden, adding fresh compost to the Gotami House garden, washing the Prajna Cottage decks and rails, and thinning the forest. At the end of the day, we each expressed what the day meant for us and how offering service is a great Dharma teaching.
Ven. Chonyi traveled to the Deep South for more than a week of teachings on “Opposite of Anger,” hosted by the South Carolina Dharma Group in Columbia. The week included talks at the group’s charming in-town center, two public talks, and a weekend retreat on Chenrezig, Buddha of Compassion, and the “Eight Verses of Thought Transformation.” The group’s sincere practice and Southern hospitality made for a warm sharing of the Dharma.
Spring arrived as Sravasti Abbey celebrated one of the treasured rites of a monastic sangha, the kathina. Lay friends came for the celebration bringing offerings to help sustain the community and the Dharma. Donna and Danna, who have served the Three Jewels and the Abbey since its founding in 2003, represented the lay community. By offering a beautiful new robe to the sangha, they took part in an offering ritual that has taken place for 2600 years. It was a joyful and auspicious day.
Ven. Chodron’s annual spring teaching trip takes her to Europe once again. The journey begins in Nijmegen, Netherlands, where Venerable leads a weekend retreat at the Jewel Heart Center. From there, she returns to Denmark where she gives talks at Osal Ling Tibetan Buddhist Center in Aarhus and a weekend retreat with the Phendeling Center in Copenhagen. Earnest students in all three centers warmly welcome Venerable’s teachings. Audio will be posted as it’s available. The first talk, on government ethics based on Nagarjuna’s Precious Garland, is here.
The Abbey opened our doors and began the 2018 season with joyful activities. Ven. Chodron and a few of Abbey sangha traveled to Coeur d’Alene where Ven. Chodron gave a talk titled “Connected in a Divided World.” Sharing the Dharma Day and the end-of-retreat celebration soon followed. Lastly, many Abbey residents took part in a Non-Violent Communication (NVC) workshop with LaShelle Lowe-Chardé, a masterful trainer and Dharma practitioner.
The Abbey’s 5th annual monastic retreat, Varsa, ended with the Pravarana ceremony. It includes an invitation to receive feedback that helps to clear transgression of precepts or behaviors that may have disturbed the peace and harmony of the community. Now we move forward into the Dharma season with fresh minds and clear motivations.
Based in our spiritual motivation to relieve the suffering of others as best we can, the Abbey community felt it was important to stand with young people all across the US to demand government action toward ending gun violence in America. Five community members took a few hours out of retreat to march in Spokane where, despite the snow and rain, over 2000 people showed up to protest. See Ven. Samten’s Bodhisattva’s Breakfast Corner talk on working with grief over mass shootings and Ven. Tsultrim’s talk on March for Our Lives and why school safety is not a political issue.
More photos are on Facebook.
As the snow begins to melt and spring is in the air, impermanence is at work as our one-month Amitabha retreat participants finish their time at the Abbey and head home. The community unanimously appreciated this group for their gentle, silent, and focused groups presence. They were a joy to be with. May the merit we all gathered by practicing together bring great benefit to all beings.
As we head in to the final days of our one-month Amitabha retreat, daily life flows easily and quietly. What’s going on in our minds is the important part. That’s the real test of how fruitful the time together has been. Our goal is to be content with creating the causes for our awakening for the benefit of all beings. Watch Ven. Jenkir’s BBC on Focus on the Causes here.
After 3 weeks of extraordinary Vinaya teachings and sharing community life with nearly 60 monastics and lay volunteers, the Abbey now turns to the silence and joy of winter retreat. We welcomed 9 guests to join us for the first month-some “old hands” at winter retreat and some new ones too, including a retreatant from Taiwan and another from Italy. We are loving our holiday with Amitabha, Buddha of Infinite Light!
“Let’s not wait 22 years before the next Vinaya course,” one nun exclaimed, referring to the previous course that Vinaya Master Bhikshuni Wuyin taught for Western nuns in 1996. All agreed.
With the guidance of Ven. Master Wuyin, the faculty from her Luminary International Buddhist Society, and Ven. Thubten Chodron, the 49 nuns attending the Living Vinaya in the West course lived and learned together in community. Everyone came away with new insights into the Buddha’s compassionate instructions for monastic life. With a broader understanding of the role of nuns and monks in any society, we each deepened our commitment to establish flourishing monastic communities in the West.
Chinese New Year and Losar, Tibetan New Year, Celebrated at the Abbey On Ven. Chodron’s and Ven. Damcho’s recent trip to Singapore, many students requested a new year puja with special request prayers. The Abbey joyfully complied with the powerful Four Mandalas to Cittamani Tara practice. We dedicated the merit as requested for removing obstacles, good health and long life, speedy recovery, good rebirth, and harmony in relationships for the prayer requesters and all beings. Happy New Year to all, and especially to the Friends of Sravasti Abbey Singapore. May all be auspicious for the coming year.
Rebecca Bradley, who began anagarika training at the Abbey last year, became a novice nun at a most auspicious occasion. Surrounded and supported by the 49 nuns of the Living Vinaya in the West program, she ordained as Ven. Thubten Lamsel. Abbey founder and abbess Ven. Thubten Chodron was her preceptor and Ven. Thubten Tarpa, the Abbey’s most senior resident nun, was her Acharya or instructor.
Sravasti Abbey nuns conducted the entire ordination in English. Our Vinaya teachers from Luminary International Buddhist Society in Taiwan – Ven. Bhikshuni Master Wuyin and six of her fully ordained disciples – supported with smiles and tears as they witnessed this blossoming of the Western sangha. The Abbey sangha rejoices and welcomes Ven. Lamsel to the community!
See more photos on Facebook.
What a happy bunch of nuns! Ven. Bhikshuni Master Wuyin and the faculty of six nuns from Luminary International Buddhist Society in Taiwan bring their years of study and experience to the Living Vinaya in the West program. Abbey abbess Ven. Thubten Chodron invited Master Wuyin and the Luminary nuns to educate 49 Western nuns in the Vinaya, Buddha’s guidelines for monastic living.
Master Wuyin wanted the course to be experiential, and nuns from the Theravada, Chinese Mahayana, and Tibetan traditions are responding with enthusiasm. The curriculum includes live teachings, videos, small group discussions, and skits. It’s an historic event that will undoubtedly strengthen the roots of Dharma in the West.
See more photos on Facebook.
After months of planning and preparing — and 22 years of aspiring — the Living Vinaya in the West course has begun. Nuns from five continents — Australia, Europe, Asia, and North and South America — have gathered to learn the lived experience of the Vinaya, Buddha’s guidelines for monastic life. Ven. Bhikshuni Master Wuyin and six nuns from Luminary International Buddhist Society in Taiwan are the faculty, with additional commentary by the Abbey’s Ven. Chodron. Over 40 volunteers have also helped to support the program. This historic event is possible through the kindness of numerous people around the world. The Buddha said that when fully ordained monastics practice these guidelines, the Dharma will last forever. May it be so!
After two years of training in the novice precepts, Abbey monastics Ven. Losang and Ven. Pende traveled to Taiwan to take their respective ordination to become fully ordained. Both trained at Lingyan Zen Temple where they took the Triple Platform ordinations, which finished in December. Ven. Losang becomes our first bhikshu (fully ordained monk), while Ven. Pende is our 11th bhikshuni (fully ordained nun).
Ven. Losang and Ven. Pende treasure their opportunity to take higher ordination and continue training at the Abbey. They also have tremendous gratitude for the kindness, generosity, and hospitality they received from Taiwanese teachers, fellow ordination trainees, and the lay volunteers they encountered. See more photos on Facebook.
As winter sets in the Abbey community continues to keep things running smoothly and enjoying the guests who come to spend time with us.
Ven. Chodron returned from her Asia travels to a nearly complete new abbess cottage. We also celebrated the holiday season with our yearly recitation of Shantideva’s Guide to a Bodhisattva’s Way of Life, and residents are getting ready for the upcoming Vinaya program.
For millions of people around the world, New Year’s celebrations are about parties, football, parades, and fireworks. But for the 42 attendees at the Abbey’s yearly Vajrasattva retreat, it is a time for self- reflection, purification, and deepening Dharma practice. The days were cold and sunny and the nights lit by a full moon. We imagined the millions of snowflakes to be tiny Vajrasattvas sparkling in the moonlight purifying the minds of all beings and bringing peace and harmony to the world. Happy New Year!
Varsa, the annual 3-month monastic retreat, is a time for the monastic community to focus on practice. It particularly emphasizes community harmony. The timing is based on the lunar calendar, and for 2018, the varsa ceremonies began on New Year’s Day. What a great way to welcome the new year! Dates for the Abbey’s annual winter retreat and the annual varsa overlap, but they are not the same. The winter meditation retreat begins February 14.