Offering service to the Three Jewels in different ways is an essential part of everyday life at Sravasti Abbey. We clean the surrounding forest of overgrowth to protect it from fire and to support its health. We grow vegetables in our community garden, take care of the property’s infrastructure, and much more.
Exploring Monastic Life is our annual program for Dharma practitioners wishing to explore monastic life. A daily schedule of meditations, teachings, discussions, and offering service provides participants the opportunity to discover their deepest aspirations and share them with others. This year, people participated both in-person and online.
Ordination days are some of the most joyous times at the Abbey. On August 11, Venerable Thubten Chodron and the bhikshuni sangha ordained anagarika Nicole as Ven. Thubten Rinchen and Andrea from the Dharmadatta Nuns’ Community as Ven. Thubten Trinley. In addition, Stacy, Stephen, and Munsel (aka Sydney) took the eight precepts to begin their anagarika training. The ordination marked the end of this year’s Exploring Monastic Life retreat and gave participants a chance to witness this rare and meritorious event.
Reverend Gen Heywood, pastor of the Veradale United Church of Christ and founder of Faith Leaders and Leaders of Conscience of Eastern Washington and North Idaho, is a close friend who visits us to photograph special events and daily Abbey life. She recently visited and took photos for a photojournalism article she is writing on spiritual communities. All photos courtesy Gen Heywood Photography.
This month we welcomed many Dharma friends that we hadn’t seen since before Covid the lockdowns began. They brought lots of joy and support to help reorganize and clean out an office, stack firewood, and nourish flowers. We also reviewed our fire safety plan and supported Ven. Semkye with spreading the ashes of her dear sister Jane, who died three years ago. We thank all our volunteers for their immense kindness and support!
The Medicine Buddha is a healer whose Dharma medicine addresses the root cause of suffering. We turn to Medicine Buddha when we are sick and when loved ones are ill or dying. This July, we had the opportunity to focus on the Medicine Buddha practice for one week to support the healing of others and ourselves. Ven. Chodron also continued giving commentary on Nagarjuna’s “Letter to a Friend,” containing advice to a king on how to improve his Dharma practice.
The community was thrilled to reopen the Abbey’s doors by celebrating a “hybrid” Sharing the Dharma Day in July. About 20 participants joined us in person and many others online via Vimeo Livestream and Zoom. Chenrezig Hall was full of joy as we reconnected with our friends and discussed the Dharma face-to-face.
In the beginning, Sravasti Abbey had only four buildings—Ananda Hall, a garage (converted into a Meditation Hall), a barn, and a small log garden shed. With a little work, the shed soon became a meditation cabin. It’s been the site for many personal retreats and preliminary practices, and has occasionally served as a bedroom. But now it’s gone, having been removed to make space for a new home for our teacher Venerable Sangye Khadro. We gave the cabin to a neighbor down the road, who stopped by with his family and friends to dismantle it.
June has given us lots of opportunities to benefit our environment and serve all the beings that share our land. We finished building a woodshed, hosted an Exploring Buddhism course for young adults, received teachings on the mind, and did many other fun things.
For our annual Memorial Day Retreat, Ven. Chodron began teaching from Good Karma, her commentary on “The Wheel of Sharp Weapons” by Master Dharmarakshita. He wrote these verses on how to create the causes for happiness and avoid creating the causes for suffering centuries ago, but they are still applicable today.
The forests, meadows, and trails surrounding the Abbey are blooming with fresh flowers, green leaves, and tender needles. Stopping to look at the ground reveals a variety of wildflowers that are show-stoppingly beautiful, making our walks a feast of offerings to the buddhas and bodhisattvas.
In this five-day course, Venerable Chodron’s began teaching the third volume in the Library of Wisdom and Compassion series co-authored with His Holiness the Dalai Lama. About 100 participants joined, including residents and online listeners. Ven. Chodron did not shy away from presenting the reality of samsara by teaching us about the Four Truths of the Aryas. She will continue teaching from this volume on Friday nights. Go here to find the live and archived teachings.
Abbey residents conclude Varsa, our annual monastic retreat, with the ceremony called Pravarana in which we invite feedback from fellow monastics to restore our precepts, promote harmony, and strengthen our commitment to the Dharma. Pravarana is one of the four main ceremonies that monastic communities are required to hold each a year.
It’s been a wonderful, full retreat, with five meditation sessions daily and times of offering service to support the retreat. We are grateful to all the supporters who made this possible and commit to repaying your kindness through our deepening practice and service. We dedicate our merit to the quick awakening of all sentient beings and are grateful to continue providing the Buddha’s teachings to students far and wide.
We’re still in the middle of our winter Green Tara retreat. Over the weeks the community has been going deeper into our minds and hearts. We celebrated the Day of Miracles by taking the eight Mahayana precepts and reciting all of our monastic precepts. The days have been in silence otherwise, very serene and very peaceful.
During the annual winter retreat, Abbey residents connect deeply with the Dharma in order to transform our minds. This year, we are focusing on Tara’s swift compassion, trying to cultivate her qualities in order to benefit all sentient beings. We are also purifying our body, speech and mind from non-virtuous deeds done in this and previous lives. This is a rare and precious opportunity and we are grateful to all those who make this retreat possible.
Winter retreat is a special time for Abbey residents to reconnect with the most nourishing aspects of their practice. This year, half of the community offers service to keep the Abbey running, while the other half is devoted to “strict” retreat. Then, halfway through the three-month timeframe, our roles will switch. Most residents are doing the Green Tara practice, while some are doing refuge, mandala, and prostration ngondros (preliminary practices) or deity retreats.
A record 164 people participated in the 2021 New Year’s Vajrasattva Retreat, our most popular retreat held online this year. After all, what better way to bring in a new year than letting go of our regrets, making amends, and recommitting to our deepest values?
Varsa—the annual three-month monastic retreat—is one of the rites the Buddha stipulated for a functioning monastic community. The Abbey’s annual varsa coincides with our winter meditation retreat. It’s a time for community meditation, study, and deepening in the Dharma. This year’s varsa includes 12 fully ordained nuns (bhikshunis), one fully ordained monk, and four shiksamanas—nuns in training for full ordination.
Learn from books by Ven. Thubten Chodron.