Waiting for the slab to be poured, we chanted Tara mantra as the temperatures dropped and snow fell. Through the hard work and great kindness of many people, it finally happened in mid-December. Now that the concrete has cured, the interior walls are quickly going up and the rooms are taking shape.
Our abbess and teacher, Venerable Chodron, has headed off to Singapore for the first time since 2019. It’s been an annual tradition for her to share the Dharma with long-time students in Singapore, but Covid put that on hold. These photos show the joyful reunion of students with their teacher. In her teaching marathon, she shares the Dharma at numerous centers, meeting many old and new friends along the way.
We are always delighted to enter varsa, the annual three-month monastic retreat. During this time we are especially mindful of our speech and actions as we focus on community harmony and refrain from correcting one another. Varsa is one of the rituals the Buddha established for the monastic sangha. At least four fully ordained monastics are needed, and we are fortunate to have a flourishing bhikshuni (fully ordained nuns’) community here. The Abbey’s varsa overlaps with the annual winter retreat.
Our siksamana training course ended this week with the ceremonies to enter varsa, our annual three-month monastic retreat. The ceremonies nicely encapsulate all that we learned throughout the course about precepts and monastic roles and responsibilities. May all the benefits of our training ripple out to benefit all sentient beings!
Snow hasn’t stopped construction of Sravasti Abbey’s new Buddha Hall. Abbey residents play an essential role in keeping the building site accessible. Ven. Losang and other monastics take turns plowing the road so that trucks can come into the site. That will be essential when 15 concrete trucks come in to pour the slab.
The Abbey just completed an intensive three-week siksamana training course for resident monastics and five guest nuns. Most of the participants are training to take full ordination (that’s what “siksamana” signifies), and the course helps prepare them for this step. Venerable Chodron and the Abbey’s fully ordained monastics gave talks and led discussions on the precious monastic precepts established by the Buddha, monastic comportment, and many aspects of living in a monastic community. Several kind lay friends also came to cook and offer service during the program. What a treasure to broaden and deepen our commitment to monastic life!
November brought many changes in weather—wet, cold, then snowy—but construction continues. Gradually the outer walls are rising, but most of the action has been on the ground. Many systems have components below the concrete slab foundation. Now that those systems are installed, the slab can be poured.
A nice-sized crowd gathered for our final Sharing the Dharma Day of 2022. After the long Covid shutdown, we are still delighted to welcome guests for the Dharma events. The day’s topic, drawn from the book, An Open-hearted Life, focused on the difference between personal distress and genuine compassion. It’s timely, in the face so many tragedies in the world news. We were inspired to share Dharma remedies and Dharma joy together.
The Abbey just spent six illuminating weeks with Geshe Yeshi Lhundup of Drepung Loseling Monastery in India. Offering six sessions a week, Geshe Yeshi unpacked Je Tsongkhapa’s “Illuminating the Intent.” This classic text is a commentary on Chandrakirti’s Entering the Middle Way. This was Geshe-la’s fourth teaching series on this text. This time we delved into the ten perfections and the beautiful qualities a bodhisattva develops on the way to Buddhahood. We hope he will accept our invitation to return again and again!
Abbey life provides constant opportunities throughout the day to reflect on the reality of impermanence and selflessness. By setting a bodhicitta motivation before whatever we do – walking in nature, participating in workshops, running errands, listening to teachings, or offering service – we are consciously creating the causes for big change that will serve everyone.
The Buddha Hall construction site is humming with activity. An enormous amount of concrete has already been poured, and crews have started to set the Faswall blocks. (See Buddha Hall Walls Go Up with Faswall to learn more.) They’ve also laid plumbing pipes and electrical conduit, and installed four enormous (30,000 pounds each!) water tanks for the Buddha Hall fire suppression system. Stay tuned. There’s lots more to do!
It was great seeing so many friends come to October’s Sharing the Dharma Day (SDD). Each month on SDDs, the Abbey community and local friends take time out of our busy lives and gather together to meditate, hear teachings, share a meal, and discuss the Dharma. The opportunity to reconnect on a heart-to-heart level is very nourishing for us both.
“Go forth to enter the path!” Chanting the beautiful text of the ordination ceremony, the Abbey community welcomed a new monk, Ven. Thubten Ngawang, into monastic life. Master Jian Hu, former abbot of Chung Tai Zen Center in California, served as Preceptor, with Geshe Dadul Namgyal as Acharya. Abbess Ven. Thubten Chodron beamed joyfully throughout the ceremony as anagarika Stephen Taul fulfilled his long-held aspiration. Many lay friends joined the entire Abbey community to support and rejoice in his merit. As the chant continues, “How happy is the door to liberation!” Congratulations and welcome, Venerable Ngawang!
It was a major moment for the community to see all the trucks come in and begin to pour the footings for the new Buddha Hall! To us, it’s not just concrete: this lays the groundwork for a place where many dedicated practitioners will come and work towards their highest spiritual aims, with ease and room to do so. See the video: We’ve Started Pouring Concrete!
The Abbey hosted our largest in-person retreat since the Covid shutdown, with nearly 30 guests joining us for the Labor Day weekend retreat. Many more joined online. Venerable Chodron’s teachings covered all kinds of generosity, from material giving to the non-material giving of love, protection, respect, and the Dharma. We left feeling refreshed and inspired to share whatever we have with others.
This past month we’ve been rejoicing at all the folks who’ve come to visit us and learn more about what we do as a community. We enjoyed another Sharing the Dharma Day (SDD) with new and old friends, and Ven. Sangye Khadro also held a silent retreat on how to meditate. Meanwhile, we continue to offer service in whatever way is needed.
Throughout our Exploring Monastic Life (EML) course, residents and guests developed ever deeper clarity. Our discussions raised sensitive but practical subjects, and participants continued to offer service. We had some fun with skits, and we also held an anagrika ceremony for our new monastic aspirant, Donyo!
Here’s a look at the recent and speedy Buddha Hall developments at the Abbey! In less than a month, the look of the building site has changed completely — from mostly forest to nothing but powdery dirt that is still being shaped to get ready for the concrete footings. Meanwhile, the community is getting to know the statues that are in process for the main altar.
Happy August! We’re right in the middle of our annual Exploring Monastic Life (EML) program, where 16 participants are learning more about monastic life in general and, specifically, about training at the Abbey. Activities this past week included teachings and discussion, lots of forest work, a training request ceremony, and celebrating Wheel Turning Day.
July has been full of big changes for the Abbey! A cascade of guests have continued flowing in and out, and we’ve really enjoyed sharing the Dharma and making lifelong connections with them. Residents also enjoyed a trip to nearby Hayden Lake as a brief pause from Buddha Hall activity.
At last! The long-awaited Buddha Hall project is in motion. Here’s a look into the July 17 groundbreaking ceremony, which we combined with Sharing the Dharma Day. Many friends joined the community to hear the Buddha Hall team speak about the history of the project. Then we followed Ven. Chodron to the building site where we blessed the land and used borrowed golden shovels to ceremonially break the ground. What a joyful day!
We enjoyed a good week in silence meditating on Manjushri, the Buddha of Wisdom, and hearing teachings by Venerable Chodron on the first verses of Chandrakirti’s Supplement to the Middle Way, his homage to Great Compassion. We visualized clarity, wisdom, and understanding infusing our minds while learning to reflect on the lack of inherent existence of everything!
We’re rejoicing! Ven. Chodron has signed the contract to begin building the Buddha Hall! In the coming weeks, trucks and construction workers will roll up the hill to break new ground. Here is a look at the signing ceremony where the community renewed our commitment to bring this long-held dream to fruition.
Vens. Chodron and Damcho traveled to Seoul, South Korea in June to attend a two-day conference on “Buddhist Nuns’ Sangha Around the World: Present and Future” organized by Hanmaum Seonwon (One Mind Zen Center) to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the passing of their founder, Ven. Daehaeng. Afterwards, they joined a pilgrimage tour of historic temples and Hanmaum Seonwon branches. It was a brief but rich experience learning about the situation of Buddhist women worldwide and getting a glimpse of Buddhism in Korea. See Ven. Damcho’s complete travelogue here.
For one week, a bunch of thoughtful, reflective, and enthusiastic young adults came to explore Buddhism at the Abbey. They spent the week meditating, chanting, bowing, enjoying live teachings, offering service in a variety of ways, and discussing the Dharma together. We hope they came away feeling lighter and clearer on their paths.
The Abbey was happy to host a large in-person retreat for the first time in over two years. Approximately 20 old and new friends attended our annual Memorial Day retreat, and many more online. Venerable Chodron continued to teach from her book “Good Karma” on how to create the causes for happiness and avoid the causes of suffering. The community was reminded how joyful it is to open our doors and share the Dharma in-person.
It’s still lush and wet here in the eastern Washington mountains, where the wildflowers and the people are blooming! Today the community partakes in a very light and joyful anagarika ordination for Dronsel, who previously went by Yvonne. We rejoice in her long-sought dedication to travel this path.
More beauty shows its face around the Abbey, as we continue to offer everything we have to the flourishing of the Dharma. With a happy mind, we continue to cook, clean, garden, invite guests, and participate in pujas, retreats, and teachings, all for the sake of the beings who may benefit.