Nine guests joined the Sravasti Abbey community for the one-month Amitabha Retreat. Before they left, we asked them to share their Amitabha retreat reflections. Photos of the retreat, along with portraits of all participants, are here.
Angela Yang, California
With the combination of 100+ meditation sessions and Venerable Chodron’s kind guidance, I learned to change my habit pattern from pushing myself too much to being more compassionate and relaxed in my meditation practice.
Overall, practicing along with a group of devoted monastics was a truly inspiring experience. I realized that it’s important to have a longer view in my Dharma practice and think about what it means to be practicing for the next 20-30 years.
Sravasti Abbey was by far the most beautiful place that I’ve done a retreat at, and this really was the perfect pure land for my retreat.
Jane Robson, Oregon
The retreat experience allowed me the time to think deeply about the habitual processes of my thinking. I was able to see the patterns through which I react and make decisions. Having so many repeated sessions each day clearly delineated the areas I need to work on most, and those in which I have more facility. Noble silence provided a way to hear my own thinking, as did the abundant life surrounding the Abbey, with the constant clucking of wild turkeys and the near-silent tread of deer. Thank you, all.
With hands folded in respect and a heart-mind made (hopefully) somewhat wiser, thanks to all you’ve done through your collective open arms.
I bow down and sing praise for the kindness of the spiritual community that calls this Western pure land of Sravasti Abbey their home. May the Dharma in the West and in my heart flourish.
Ven. Jenkir Shih, Taiwan
I feel home here—a precious home of Dharma, “The Western Pure Land” indeed. I experienced warm sisterhood and brotherhood here. The openness, trust, and discipline of the whole group form an authentic sangha. I appreciate so much the devotion, kindness, and wisdom of Venerable Chodron—such a humble, down-to-earth, and extraordinary example for us to follow. Thank you, thank you, and thank you, and I thank all the causes and conditions which offered me such a wonderful retreat to attend.
Karen Barrick, Illinois
Venerable Chodron said in the beginning of retreat, “You can’t clean the dirt you can’t see. Find the dirt.” This raised various responses for me:
- I need to find my dirt and deal with it head-on.
- Secondly, do I want to continue living in a way where I create more dirt?
A month-long, silent retreat at the Abbey proved to be conclusive conditions to find my dirt, new and old. The meditation sessions helped break down a lot of my dirt and really get into my mind. From there I had to see if I wanted to continue to go through the motions I have for years, or if I wanted to be an active participant in creating less dirt.
This retreat helped me look at, as Venerable Chodron said, “What kind of person do you want to be?” The choice is mine —create more dirt with grasping, self-cherishing and greed/attachment or be open, loving, compassionate, and generous. Retreat gave me plenty of time to look at what I had been fostering and what I want to foster in the future.
It was an absolutely amazing experience, and I am so grateful for Ven. Chodron and the Abbey community. Their generosity, care, kindness, and guidance have been such a support during retreat. Along with the with the magical location, all combined together, it made for a wonderful experience that I hope everyone can experience at some point in their lives. The experience was priceless, and I wish for the Abbey to continue to flourish year after year and continue spreading the Dharma for generations to come.
Ven. Thubten Nyima, Washington
During this retreat I focused a lot of my time on understanding what self-respect means, on identifying when and how I behave in ways that are not in line with self-respect, and trying to practice letting go of those old habitual patterns. I realized that respecting myself is more important than earning other’s respect.
Self-respect, I think, is a strong foundation for the path as it helps me keep my precepts, act in ways that are consistent with my values, and gives me impetus to develop my good qualities. When I lack self-respect I act in destructive ways, I cut corners, criticize myself, become lazy, and overlook my highest goals.
I also worked on healing some old hurts, understanding the impact of the eight worldly concerns in my life, and cultivating equanimity. I became aware of the subtle anger and irritation that seem to permeate my mind at times, and how it gives rise to anxiety and discontent. I examined some of my fears and how those fears are fueled by the imputations of my mind. I learned a lot about my mind. Thank you for giving me this opportunity.
Sabrina Facco, Italy
I had never really thought about doing an Amitabha retreat, but I wanted to come to the Abbey for a longer visit, so I decided to participate without knowing much about the practice. I feel a very strong connection with Amitabha. Before my father passed away I talked to him about Amitabha and his Pure Land, so I was curious to know more about it.
The first few days went OK. I got some advice to take it easy, which helped me a lot, but as the days went by, a little bit of anger started rising up. I couldn’t stand anything and wanted to get away. I started to skip some sessions because everything seemed so tight and too much for me. I just wanted to go away. One day I was walking down the road and found myself singing some Italian songs (love songs). I remembered that Venerable Chodron said this could happen, but I was happy; it made me feel better. I think I was fighting against something that wanted me to stay there and to do the retreat. Maybe my old habits were coming out.
After talking to Venerable Chodron, I relaxed and returned to the group and did my best. I tried to imagine this blissful Pure Land. Sometimes it was coming, and sometimes it was more difficult. I recited the mantra and tried to stay with the image of Amitabha. Then, from the middle of the retreat until the end, I found myself singing Amitabha’s song and his Pure Land! So for me it was a big change. I feel much more at peace and relaxed, and I can say that Amitabha’s company has been really inspiring. He always looks at me with much love and acceptance, and I learned that all the other stuff was just made up by my mind. In all my fighting’s (with the practice) he would always let me win and would not complain, so in the end I had to give in.
I hope I got some of Amitabha’s wisdom and qualities. I would like to be like him, to give my victory to others and be in peace. I feel that I have put new positive imprints in my mind that I want to cultivate so that I can replace all my negative thoughts with the thought of Amitabha and his wonderful Pure Land. In this way I can be sure that my life will be peaceful and so [will] my death, and in that way everything can be of benefit for all sentient beings.
Tanya Lasuk, Washington
What a delight! This Amitabha Retreat was filled with light. The guests were all enthusiastic and copacetic. Although we were silent most of the time, we bonded over our daily tasks and all the moments of spontaneous kindness and support. Really, being part of the community and participating in meals, cleaning up and (oh my gosh!) the scrub down of the kitchen brought everyone a deep sense of community and connection. So wonderful to spend time within this sacred community.
Zopa Herron, Oregon
What happened in Amitabha’s Retreat?
– A blizzard, then one more blizzard! Wow. This is not springtime in Portland anymore.
– Watching “my” “personal” territory shrink and, with relief, sometimes disappearing totally. “Yes, I can do that. Yes, I’d like to help with that.”
– What’s that sound on a snowy sunlit day—on a path—oh, so that’s silence, wow! I’ve missed you Dear Silence!
– Learning, learning, learning: serenity, practice, Buddhist reasoning, pure mind = pure land! Who is Amitabha?
– Old patterns—competition, comparison, anxiety arise. It’s quiet—no emails, no phone calls, no chatter. So, I see ??? rise—name them. Apply an antidote: rejoice in other’s good actions, good fortune. Be grateful. Remember my own good Buddha nature. Oh, where did that pattern go? Can’t find it—I guess it was empty!
– Living, eating, sleeping, meditating, studying, chopping, sweeping, scrubbing is more fun, more clearly interdependent in community.
– A community: each one intensely intent on generosity, ethics, patience, joyous effort, serenity, and wisdom.
I loved this retreat. Thank you!