On a sunny autumn day, we enjoyed the company of our Sharing the Dharma Day participants. Ven. Jigme gave the talk on developing love and compassion, drawing from the book, An Open-Hearted Life, by Dr. Russell Kolts and Ven. Thubten Chodron.
We rejoiced at Geshe Dadul’s return for teachings on bodhicitta and the last three of the six paramitas or perfections. Drawing from the verses of 11th Century Tibetan Geshe Potowa, Geshe Dadul offered vivid metaphors for understanding the perfections of joyous effort, concentration, and wisdom. In addition to teaching, Geshe-la kindly entertained our questions and ideas in the break times. He left us with inspiration and lots to put into practice.
Many new and old friends visited us for meditation, teachings, and discussions on the book Living with an Open Heart. New friendships were made and old ones refreshed. It’s a wonderful monthly gathering to share Buddha’s teachings with a wide range of people for the local area.
About 10 friends from North Idaho and Eastern Washington joined the community to help with different projects on our monthly Offering Service Saturday. We did a lot! The biggest item on our list was filling the Ananda Hall furnace room with firewood for the winter. that and many other projects were accomplished with joy. Watch Joseph share about his Dharma insights from offering service on our Bodhisattva Breakfast Corner (BBC).
Around 60 participants, including residents, joined our annual Labor Day weekend retreat. This may be the largest number of participants yet! Fortunately, we have enough sleeping space, but barely enough room for everyone to meditate. And definitely not enough space for full-length prostration practices. Still, Ven. Thubten Chodron offered amazing teachings based on the concentration chapter of Following in the Buddha’s Footsteps, Volume 4 of the Library of Wisdom and Compassion that will be published in October. Retreatants left with excellent guidance for stabilizing our meditation.
The Abbey community and guests had the great opportunity to receive teachings on Indian master Dharmakirti’s text on logic and reasoning, Pramanavarttika. We were fortunate to study this text with Geshe Yeshe Thabkhe, a great Buddhist scholar and practitioner who resides 6 months a year at the Tibetan Learning Center in New Jersey. Geshe Thabkhe taught via Live Stream with Joshua Cutler as his interpreter.
Once a year the Abbey, along with millions of Buddhists worldwide, celebrates the Buddha’s first teaching when he introduced the Four Noble Truths. It’s an auspicious day, a day to rejoice in Buddha’s virtuous deeds and the continuing effects of his teachings. This year, the day fell on our August Sharing the Dharma Day. Photos are by Gen Heywood Photography.
This month’s Offering Service Saturday was well attended including four family groups who came to volunteer together. With beautiful weather, we were able to do many necessary activities including harvesting, foresting, cooking, and weeding. Thanks to everyone who helped keep the Abbey clean, healthy, and beautiful. Great joyous effort and lots of fun!
Fifteen participants—including five new monastics—trained together in this year’s Exploring Monastic Life (EML) program. The course provided excellent teachings on the ordination ritual, deep daily discussions, offering service, opportunity for questions and sharing with the Abbey community, and lots of fun!
A beautiful July day brought 43 people together to offer service at the Abbey. What a lot we got done! We celebrate everyone’s generous effort to clean up the forest, harvest the garden, net the fruit trees, fold T-shirts, roll mantra, make a fantastic lunch, and more. As our prayer says, “We are grateful for the opportunity to offer service to the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha.” Thank you all for joining us!
After the Sakyadhita conference, Ven. Chonyi stayed in Australia to visit the nuns at Santi Forest Monastery and to give a couple of talks in Sydney. The Santi nuns practice in the Theravada Forest tradition. They generously shared their practices, requisites, and beautiful land with Ven. Chonyi and other visiting nuns. The visit reaffirmed Ven. Chonyi’s experience of the universal sisterhood of nuns who have chosen “the homeless life,” the way of Buddhist monastics.
Vens. Chodron, Over 45 participants including residents spent an awakening week with Manjushri, Buddha of Wisdom. Ven. Thubten Chodron taught on the Manjushri practice as well as on Nagarjuna’s “Letter to a Friend,” a 123-verse poem that covers the entire Mahayana path. Everyone enjoyed the retreat tremendously.
Sakyadhita in Australia — June 2019
Vens. Chodron, Chonyi, and Samten journeyed to Australia for the 16th International Conference of Sakyadhita, the global organization in support of Buddhist women. The conference theme focused on New Horizons in Buddhism, which drew over 800 women and several men from around the world. Filled with talks, workshops, academic papers, and enormous good will, the nuns were happy to meet so many people and to learn to hear how they are applying Buddha’s beautiful teachings in all types of situations. More news will follow. Most of these photos are by Olivier Adam, official conference photographer. See many more on his conference Facebook page.
Vens. Chodron, Chonyi, and Samten traveled to Australia to attend the 16th International Sakyadhita Conference. Along the way, the nuns were welcomed at Vajrayana Institute in Sydney where Ven. Chodron gave teachings before the conference. She also spoke at Buddhist Library, gave a lunchtime talk to the team at Insight Timer, and video-recorded a series of teachings for Nan Tien Institute’s Humanistic Buddhism course. The Aussies were warm and generous, making the Abbey nuns feel right at home.
Ven. Tarpa, mastermind of all things maintenance, organized a weeklong service project to pain, stain, and oil the wood on all Abbey buildings. She rented a Genie boom lift to reach the very high places and recruited volunteers from all over. Residents and friends worked a steady schedule to make maximum use of the Genie. Now the trees are trimmed and the wood sparkles. More importantly, the building facades are protected from our strong summer sun and fierce winter storms for a few more years. It was a time of great teamwork and joyous effort!
The Abbey hosted fourteen smart, caring, and enthusiastic young people to explore Buddhism, meet like-minded friends, and receive teachings from Ven. Chodron. Their discussions were rich as they thought about how to bring the insights from their experience into their daily lives. We loved their energy and wish them all well as they courageously take on the world.
Commenting on just a few pages of How to See Yourself as You Really Are by His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Venerable Thubten Chodron packed in three days of powerful teachings on compassion. Nearly 60 people gathered to hear her commentary on Chandrakirti’s six-point metaphor for how a being bound in cyclic existence is like a bucket in a well. The group listened, discussed, and meditated together, glad to be taking this holiday weekend to grow in understanding and compassion.
The Abbey community and guests enjoy Mother Nature’s beautiful transformation into spring. We also enjoy connecting with our friends in Spokane and for Sharing the Dharma Day. Long-term guest Em shares about her experience at the Abbey in this Bodhisattva’s Breakfast Corner talk.
Christina Manriquez has trained earnestly at the Abbey for some time. On May 8, the Abbey’s resident bhikshuni sangha fulfilled her request by ordaining her as a novice nun. Her preceptor, Ven. Thubten Chodron, bestowed the new nun’s ordination name, Ven. Thubten Kunga, “the always happy one.” Ven. Thubten Tarpa, the Abbey’s most senior resident nun, was her instructor (acharya). Everyone at Sravasti The Abbey rejoices and welcomes Ven. Kunga into the sangha community!
Ven. Sangye Khadro led a packed weekend course on preparing spiritually for the one thing in life we know for sure will come—our own death. She based her talk on her free distribution book, Preparing for Death and Helping the Dying. About 50 participants, including residents, attended this meaningful course to learn how to think and meditate to familiarize ourselves now for the time of death.
Geshe Yeshi Lhundup visited the Abbey to share teachings on great compassion from Chandrakirti’s “Supplement to the Middle Way.” Geshe-la is a senior Dharma teacher at Drepung Loseling Monastery where he has taught for over 20 years. His teachings showed how to practice compassion conjoined with an understanding of impermanence and emptiness.
Vens. Semkye and Jampa joined about 100 people—faith leaders, leaders of conscience, witnesses, and supporters—for Spokane’s the Earth Day vigil, where the group expressed deep care for Mother Earth. It was a great opportunity to build friendships, strengthen resolve, and put thoughts and prayers into action for greater environmental awareness.
Ven. Tenzin Tsepal is the 13th Abbey monastic to receive full ordination in Taiwan. She returned from seven weeks of training at located at Fu En Si Temple in Taiping, Taichung, where she was fortunate to have Ven. Thubten Chodron as one of her bhikshuni witnesses. Ven. Damcho was also there and helped out with translating for seven non-Chinese speaking participants. The Abbey celebrates our growing fully ordained sangha! Hurray! You can watch Ven. Tsepal share her experience on our YouTube channel.
About 20 students from the Dornsife Center for Community Engagement at Whitworth University in Spokane joined us a for a day of learning about learning to care for themselves as they care for others. They offered service in the forest, shared a meal with the community, and learned about meditation. We were inspired to meet these remarkable students from all parts of the world who are so dedicated to altruistic service. Watch Ven. Samten’s Bodhisattva’s Breakfast Corner talk on self-care.
Our first Sharing the Dharma Day of the year drew a good-sized crowd of old friends and many new faces. After the long winter retreat, we were delighted to fill the Meditation Hall with like-minded folks interested in transforming their minds. Ven. Sangye Khadro gave the Dharma talk on “Being Responsible for our Emotions.”
As spring slowly arrives, so do the annual spring activities. This year, Ven. Chonyi stepped in to give the spring semester public talk at North Idaho College (NIC) and many chipped in to clean up the garden after a long winter. Guests and residents helped prepare the vegetable garden, build a new raspberry match, and reach out to our local communities.
Ven. Thubten Chodron, traveling with Ven. Damcho as her translator and assistant, was in Asia for about three weeks. After serving as bhikshuni witness at the full ordination ceremony (see photos below), Ven. Chodron gave talks at Luminary Buddhist Institute and Manjushri Vihara in Taiwan and at locations in Hong Kong.
Ven. Chodron was invited to participate in the full ordination of nuns at the Fu En Si Temple in Taiwan, accompanied by Ven. Damcho as her translator. It’s a great honor and also a great opportunity to learn how to perform the full ordination so we can offer it at Sravasti Abbey one day! Ven. Tsepal is at this same temple to receive the bhikshuni ordination. En route, Ven. Chodron also gave Dharma talks in Seattle and Taiwan. Video is here..
At the end of our winter Varsa (monastic retreat), the Abbey celebrates Kathina. Widely celebrated in Buddhist countries of Southeast Asia, the Kathina ceremony especially demonstrates the interdependent relationship between the ordained sangha and the lay community. Originally a time for lay followers to offer monastic robes—which were scarce in ancient India—it also offers a chance to help replenish the monastery’s supplies after a long retreat. Many guests joined us for this joyful event.
The Abbey sangha completed our 6th annual Varsa (our “snows retreat”) with the Pravarana ceremony. Ancient in its origin, the Pravarana is rite for inviting feedback from other monastics about our conduct during the Varsa period. The purpose is to strengthen our good qualities and to diminish negative actions. It supports the development of trust and connection within the community.
Our three-month winter retreat was totally dependent on our supporters’ kindness. We appreciate the donations, food, and other offerings you gave so monastics and lay practitioners could study and practice the Dharma. We finished our Vajrasattva purification retreat with a fire puja, a “go-around” where we shared our personal experiences, and a lunch outing sponsored by a kind donor. We also to a lovely side trip to visit a nearby lake and forest, enjoying our connections before the winds of karma send our guests back out into the world.
The three-month retreatants continue to focus on Vajrasattva, mind training, and the lamrim meditations. It’s a wonderful time for deep reflection and purification. We are very thankful to all supporters who make this time possible. All the merit gained from our practice is dedicated for all the supporters for their extensive kindness.
In February we’ve had so much snow that our break times are filled with shoveling. That’s not a complaint. We are happy about the abundance of snow! It’s beautiful and good for the environment. But mainly we continue meditating and receiving precious teachings by Ven. Chodron as well as Ven. Sangye Khadro.
February has brought big winter storms and a deep snow accumulation. Ice cubes are forming on edges of the roofs, animals are looking for food, and Tashi, our neighbor’s dog, comes up to keep us company. Thanks to the very kind volunteers who keep bring food through the winter!
This year 20 meditators—14 residents and 6 guests—are participating in our annual 3-Month Winter Retreat. We are meditating on Vajrasattva, who helps to purify negative karma and obscurations. With five meditation sessions every day, study time, regular teachings, and lots of snow shoveling, our days and nights are filled with the sounds and sights of the Dharma. May our practice be of benefit to all sentient beings!
This year Tibetan Losar and Chinese New Year were on the same day. This doesn’t happen every year. It’s a great day to create merit by offering to our precious teachers and the sangha, and to practice the Dharma. Watch Ven. Sangye Khadro’s talk about Losar.. You can also listen to Ven. Chodron’s motivation that explains the Singaporean prayer request. She gave it before the puja on Chinese New Year.
To finish their one-month Vajrasattva retreat, everyone joined in a Dorje Khadro fire puja to purify any lingering negativities and mistakes in their practice. One of Lama Tsongkhapa’s heart practices, the Dorje Khadro fire puja is a powerful way to clear the mind and remove obstacles caused by broken vows and commitments.
In all, 33 people began this year’s annual winter retreat doing the purification practice of Vajrasattva. Thirteen of them came for only the first month, and what a dedicated group! They were faithful in their practice and generous (and cheerful!) in offering service. At their closing circle, each one shared insights gleaned from their time in retreat. Here are their portraits. You can read a few words about each person’s experience in this post. We wish them all well as they continue to practice from afar and integrate their retreat experience into their lives.
The first month of our winter retreat includes Abbey residents and about 18 guests who spend five meditation sessions every day with Vajrasattva, Buddha of Purification. Our goal is to purify past negative actions and to gain a clear perspective on our lives. By this practice, may all being be freed from suffering and its causes!
We hosted about 40 guests and 16 residents over four days during the New Year Vajrasattva Retreat. It was a filled weekend—lots of people, meditation, and teachings on the practice of Vajrasattva, the Buddha of Purification, with Ven. Chodron. (See the teachings on our YouTube channel.)
We also enjoyed daily guided meditation sessions and group discussions. Throughout, we kept silence well and met each other in kindness, closeness, and understanding. Happy new year to all! May genuine peace — born from the Three Higher Trainings of ethical conduct, meditative concentration, and the wisdom realizing the ultimate nature — prevail!