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We were delighted to learn that HH the Dalai Lama gave the opening prayer at the US Senate on Thursday March 6. In addition to some verses from the Dhammapada, he recited his favorite verse from Guide to a Bodhisattva’s Way of Life

For as long as space endures
And as long as sentient beings remain,
Until then may I, too, abide
To dispel the misery of the world.

We pray that our legislators will take in the meaning of what they heard and put it into practice for the benefit of the country and the world.

Bhiksuni Thubten Chodron and the Sravasti Abbey Community

Winter Retreat
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Most of the community completed their winter retreat in the middle of March, and with the exception of two people who need three months to finish their retreat commitments, we collectively transitioned to post-retreat time. However, because two people are still in full-time retreat, we decided that the rest of the community would join them for one meditation session each day. This gives people a chance to enjoy more meditation time and makes the transition from silence to regular daily shedule easier.

All of us will formally finish retreat on April 13 when there will be a celebratory Lama Chopa puja in the afternoon. The morning of April 13 is Sharing the Dharma Day, and all of you are invited for both events.

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Sharing the Dharma Day
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Our first Sharing the Dharma Day of the year saw 55-60 people attending. After being in retreat, we were delighted to see so many old friends again and to welcome people who were visiting the Abbey for the first time.

Since our two retreatants were using the Meditation Hall, we held the Sharing the Dharma Day meditation, Dharma talk, and discussion groups in the dining room of Chenrezig Hall, which we quickly rearranged to accommodate a delicious potluck lunch. The theme was “Living with Loss,” the topic of the next verse of “The Thirty-seven Practices of Bodhisattvas.” Last year we began studying this poem explained in Don’t Believe Everything You Think, a book that brings the Dharma alive and makes it is easy to put into practice in your daily lives.

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Out & About
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I gave a talk at North Idaho College entitled, “Being Your Own Best Friend: Cultivating a Healthy Sense of Self” to a huge crowd of students and local people at North Idaho College. The audience was very receptive, which made giving the talk quite enjoyable as we discussed self-confidence, humility, arrogance, as well as the role of compassion for others in healing the wrong conceptions we have about ourselves and in opening ourselves to see the goodness in the world. The video of the talk is here.

Then two days later I gave the sermon, “What Is a Good Life? On Living in Line with Your Ethics,” at two services at the Spokane Unitarian Universalist Church. Unlike other speakers, I give a different sermon at each service. The idea of repeating a prepared talk twice is boring. Here’s the audio for one of the talks. The Abbey has a wonderful connection with the people at UU, and it was nice seeing all of them once more.

A new series of Meditation Classes at the UU Church also began this month, with many new people joining those who have attended the previous Monday night series. The Dharma talks given by Venerables Semkye and Jigme were well received and people ask excellent questions. A lively discussion followed.

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The Support of Community
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The support of the community was especially important for Venerable Tsultrim and Venerable Chonyi this month. Venerable Tsultrim had surgery and is recovering well. We took care of her as much as she would let us, and after a week she was able to do prostrations again and was back in retreat.

Then Venerable Chonyi got “the phone call:” her mother had fallen, gone into cardiac arrest, and was on a ventilator in Atlanta. Venerable Chonyi flew there that evening, and due to her mother’s foresight in making an advance health directive—a living will—the family was spared making an excruciating decision. Instead they did what Mom wanted, and three days later she was taken off the ventilator and died.

Venerable Chonyi wrote, “Nothing helps but the Dharma; there is no viable refuge other than the 3 Jewels. Grateful for everyone’s support and practice. Looking forward to return to monastery life. But everybody is okay and we are bathed in a lot of love. Phenomenal kindness [especially from the hospital staff and other family members] everywhere.” Meanwhile the rest of her sisters at the Abbey felt bonded with her as we did pujas and dedications for her mother and the rest of the family.

The local community continues to support the Abbey with much kindness. One Saturday they decorated the yoga studio in Coeur d’Alene and had a “garden-warming party” to help us landscape around Chenrezig Hall. So when the weather gets warmer, we’ll be planting flowers and shrubs all around—one of the final tasks necessary to complete Chenrezig Hall. And our Spokane friend, Cathleen, offered a beautiful large photo of the Buddha’s face that now peacefully overlooks the dining room.

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Kathina Ceremony to End the Varsa

In the February enews we told you about beginning our first varsa retreat, which concludes with the pravaranaceremony. (The detailed story is here .) These are two of the three principal monastic rites that a community of four or more fully ordained monks or nuns must do to qualify as a functioning Sangha community. The third is the posadha or confession ritual, which we already practice twice a month.

We recently learned procedures for performing the kathina (kuh-teen-uh) ceremony, an ancient ritual that invites participation from the lay community and marks the end of the varsa retreat.

The kathina ceremony is widely celebrated in Buddhist countries of Southeast Asia. It’s a time when lay followers can make offerings of the four requisites—food, clothing, medicine, and shelter—and joins the Sangha to celebrate the great merit of the varsa.

The Abbey will enact our first-ever kathina ceremony on April 19, beginning at 9 am and including a potluck lunch. All are welcomed to join us!

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Youth Emergency Services
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As many of you know, one way the Abbey is involved with our local community is by serving on the Board of Youth Emergency Services (YES), a nonprofit organization that helps the homeless teens in our area have a place to live and stay in school. From now until May 30 we are engaged in Clothes for the Cause—gathering old clothes, sheets, towels, blankets, quilts, curtains, tablecloths, other textiles, and even clean rags—to benefit YES.

Clothes for the Cause pays $0.20 per pound for these. So now you can do your Spring Cleaning for the benefit of others. You can bring donations to the Abbey or to the Spokane or Coeur d’Alene classes.

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Other News
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Our 2013 Annual Report is out.

Scott’s encounter with a worm arouses his bodhicitta. He shares his experience here.

Our newly scheduled April 25-27 retreat, Bringing Dharma Into Daily Life, is designed to help you incorporate the Buddha’s teachings more fully into your day-to-day activities. It’s a great retreat for beginners and a refresher for those who have been practicing for a while. Come share spring and the teachings with the community.

A new 12-week session of the Sravasti Abbey Friends Education (SAFE) distance learning program begins April 29. Check it out here or sign up with the SAFE Coordinator (safecoordinator@gmail.com).

Chase came to stay for a week and John came for the weekend; we and they thoroughly enjoyed the visits. Meanwhile, our long-term guests, Jonathan and Cesar, are still with us too, and we’re appreciating their time with the community.

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