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Spring is arriving at the Abbey, with alternating snow and rain showers and then spectacular blue skies with sunshine. We rejoice at our retreat experience and welcome transitioning into the more active part of the year as we integrate the Dharma into daily life. We’ve planned guest programs through the end of October; check the end of this email for specifics. We welcome you to attend!

May the warmth of goodwill and generosity towards all beings grow in our hearts as the length of the days grow in spring.

In the Dharma,

Bhikshuni Thubten Chodron and the Sravasti Abbey Community

Guy Newland Teaches on Nagarjuna

We were delighted to welcome Dr. Guy Newland to the Abbey for his third visit. He taught on a variety of passages from Nagarjuna’s work that centered on the Madhyamaka view of emptiness.

An animated teacher, Guy gets everyone thinking and involved in the topic. Twenty-four of us enjoyed lively discussions in the break times and had a good time learning, discussing, and meditating on the nature of reality.

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Winter Retreat Concludes

Our three-month winter retreat concluded with a fire puja before Guy’s course began and a Lama Chopa puja after it. During the fire puja we imagine burning all remaining negativities and feel the sense of purification that follows. Later that afternoon, all the retreatants took part in the Abbey’s tradition of doing skits. People creatively planned and acted about a dozen skits, which had us all laughing as we made fun of our own habits and actions.

The end-of-retreat Lama Chopa puja is the time that Abbey residents show our appreciation by giving gifts to all the people who enabled us to do retreat: the people who offered food, bringing it up to the Abbey in the snow each week; the people who transcribed all the Bodhisattva Breakfast Corner talks so that the 240-plus Retreatants from Afar (including around 70 people who are incarcerated) could read them; and all the donors, supporters, and helpers that made the retreat possible. This was a time of celebration and joy in the merit everyone created, the wisdom and compassion that we nurtured, and in our harmonious cooperation

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The Growing Bhikshuni Sangha

In addition to Venerables Chonyi and Jigme receiving bhiksunī ordination in Taiwan last November, Venerable Samten has just returned from receiving it in Taiwan. So now we have six bhikshunis! Buddhist scriptures say that having a community of four fully ordained ones indicates the flourishing of the Dharma in a locale and makes that place a “central land” for the Dharma. So what is happening at Sravasti Abbey, in rural Washington State, is a major step for rooting the Buddha’s teachings in the country.

At the conclusion of Guy’s course, the Abbey’s bhikshunis gave a talk on the significance of having a bhikshuni sangha at the Abbey. They spoke of their personal experience of being nuns and of attending the full ordination ceremony in Taiwan. It was a very moving discussion and we got a lot of positive feedback on the talk. As Guy put it, “We have a lot of Dharma talks, but this was a Sangha talk that was very important.” It’s available on the web and we hope to speak on this topic in other venues as well.

Northwest Dharma News also published a piece on the Abbey’s bhikshuni sangha.

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Sharing the Dharma Day and Other Guests

More than 20 guests attended the first Sharing the Dharma Day of 2012, many of them new people from local towns. Everyone was delighted, and the Abbey community gave them a warm welcome.

“The Essence of Buddhism” was the topic of the day, and Venerable Tarpa explained the Buddhist world view through describing the Noble Eight-fold Path. The afternoon discussion helped participants focus on why they are drawn to spiritual practice and how to bring their spiritual aspirations more fully into their daily lives.

We were also delighted to welcome Jesse and Andrew from Montana, Antonio from New York, Ana Lorena from Mexico, and Sharon from Southern California, all of whom spent several days with us. Susan, who came for the three-month retreat, will stay for a few more weeks, and Jack, who attended Young Adult week and Exploring Monastic Life last year, is with us for three months

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Making Merit with Manis

Look at the photos from the one-month winter retreat, when 29 people shared the Abbey facilities. Sure was crowded! With the community growing and retreat attendance growing too, we are moving forward with plans to build Chenrezig Hall.

The new building will have a large kitchen and dining room, counseling and media rooms, a chapel, guest rooms, and other spaces for community use.

To build this beautiful building, named for the Buddha of Compassion, we will need lots of merit. Thus the Abbey is launching a merit-making activity, inviting millions of recitations of Chenrezig’s mantra, om mani padme hum. We’ll dedicate the practice for the well-being and ultimate happiness of all sentient beings, for peace in the world, and for all the conditions to come together to build Chenrezig Hall.

We’ll send you all the details in mid-April. Let us know if you and/or your Dharma group would like to participate in this Chenrezig practice and mantra recitation.

As Lama Yeshe told us insistently, “Even if you don’t want to develop compassion, recitation of om mani padme hum will make compassion grow in your mind.” This benefits all of the world.

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Seeking Short-term Volunteer Web Designer

To help the Abbey spread awareness of Chenrezig Hall, we are inviting a volunteer web designer to help us evaluate and implement a redesign of our “Step Towards Peace” website. We’d like to find someone who can design page layouts, create some custom graphics, format content, create CSS, and who wishes to use their skills to help the Dharma grow in the West. The volunteer would work closely with Abbey residents over the next four weeks. If this sounds like something you’d like to do, write to Ken for more details.

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Other News

For those of you who haven’t seen the newly released video about the Abbey made by our dear friends Deborah and Jason, please take a look and share it with your friends.

You may remember that two years ago a group of Maasai visited the Abbey and we shared a wonderful afternoon with them, talking and learning of each other’s spiritual practices. One of our dear friends and neighbors, Bon, together with the Newport and Priest River Rotary Clubs, is organizing a project to help them, the Maasai Environmental Development Consortium. Take a look at the wonderful work they are doing and give them a hand if you wish.

Please plan to visit soon!

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