“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.
It was a beautiful week at the Abbey, with a wave of greenery sweeping the region! With the new weather, we’ve started to clean-up our forest again. Meanwhile, we’re being showered with precious Dharma teachings from in-house and off-site teachers. Guests keep trickling in, who kindly help us to carry out the activities of awakening.
Venerable Sangye Khadro led a beautiful weekend retreat on a loving-kindness, the first retreat of the season. Guests and monastics reflected on the kindness they had received throughout their lives and related their experiences to each other. Here’s a glimpse into the retreat.
April life at the Abbey has been meaningful and chock-full of merit-making. Yvonne arrived from Singapore for a long visit, and we welcomed other guests for short stays. Offering service activities are in full swing, along with retreats, Offering Service Saturdays, and Sharing the Dharma Days. Now that we are open again, friends are even coming up just for lunch. All are vaccinated and boosted (our requirement for visiting) and everyone needs to call before they come.
Kathina is a celebrated day that goes all the way back to the time of the Buddha, when the lay community offers much-needed requisites to the sangha. This year, our friends in Singapore and Malaysia presented the Robe of Merit on behalf of our friends in Ukraine. Read more about this day of mutual generosity and gratitude here: https://sravastiabbey.org/kathina-in-person-online-april-10/
As soon as our winter retreat ended we opened the doors for Sharing Dharma Day, inviting in-person guests for the first time in a long time. What a joyful occasion! After a guided meditaiton with Ven. Jigme, Ven. Chodron gave a practical teaching on preparing our minds to work with conflict (watch it here). The vegetarian potluck lunch was scrumptious, followed by a Green Tara meditation practice. It was a joy to close the day by thanking the volunteers who supported the Abbey throughout the winter retreat. We’re happy to be open again!
Our three-month winter meditation retreat ended, as it usually does, with a time of sharing and a Dorje Khadro fire puja to purify all negativities. Meditators from both the Medicine Buddha retreat and the Vajrasattva retreat groups had fruitful insights to share. Then we piled into the kitchen to create a scorpion of black sesame seeds, an offering to Dorje Khadro in the fire puja. By this merit may the poisons of ignorance, anger, and craving be purified. May this merit nourish the seeds for all beings to be fully awakened.
Varsa, the annual monastic retreat that emphasizes community harmony, ends with a ceremony called Pravarana. One of the four main ceremonies that monastic communities are required to hold each year, Pravarana offers a chance to invite feedback about our behavior. The ceremony restores our precepts, promotes harmony, and strengthens our community’s commitment to the Dharma. Although Varsa is complete, our overlapping Medicine Buddha retreat continues for two more weeks.
While each day of retreat looks very similar, there are many opportunities to appreciate impermanence. We’ve celebrated Losar—Tibetan New Year—received the long-awaited Buddha Hall building permit, and changed which half of the community is supporting the retreat. As the end of retreat nears, so does spring.
Six Abbey guests ended their one-month Medicine Buddha retreat with the powerful Dorje Khadro fire puja to help purify any mistakes during their time in retreat. They also thanked Venerable Chodron for this rare and amazing opportunity. Meanwhile, the Abbey community’s retreat goes on as we practice meditation, offer service, get exercise, and receive wise teachings from Geshe Thabkhe.
Lunar New Year, Feb. 1, was an auspicious day at the Abbey. Two men took the eight anagarika (monastic trainee) precepts for life – Gyatso in person and Renato in Mexico via Zoom. Two lay people also took refuge and the five lay precepts. The Malaysian Butterworth Lay Buddhist Society sponsored a delicious celebratory lunch prepared by Kuni’s Thai Cuisine. We rejoice in all the merit created by so many beings on this day!