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Spring is here, with exceptionally warm weather in eastern Washington State. The snowbells have been here for over a month, and the daffodils, crocuses, and Siberian irises are blooming now. Other irises are preparing for their magnificent display in May, and the lilies are beginning to grow too.

The turkeys are beginning their mating season. (We keep telling them this is a monastery but they don’t listen.) The cats like to go outdoors, and the deer are grazing.

One of our Singaporean retreatants took some gorgeous photos of the monastery lands. Take a look at her view of the transition from winter to spring at the Abbey.

Bhikshuni Thubten Chodron and the Sravasti Abbey Community

Retreat

By the last month of retreat, there’s very little new to tell you. Our daily schedule is the feme, the same people are at the Abbey, and we enjoy meditation, teachings, and time for silent reflection.

More than 200 people have also been doing the Manjushri Retreat from Afar, meditating at least one session each day. Almost half of those meditators are in prison, and we are inspired by their commitment to cultivating wisdom and compassion amid their difficult practice conditions.

This year, retreat officially ends on April 11 with the kathina offering ceremony in the morning, a potluck lunch, and a thanksgiving Lama Chopa puja in the afternoon. We welcome you to attend these festivities.

The week prior to these events will be active: the sangha will do the ceremonies to conclude the varsa (annual monastic retreat), the Yamantaka retreatants will do a large fire puja to conclude their retreat, and the Manjusri retreatants will do a smaller puja. We’ll have skits, I’ll speak at North Idaho College, and three monastics will attend a meeting at the Spokane mayor’s office about “Compassionate Spokane.” Activities will begin again—many of you have asked about next Sharing the Dharma Day (see below for the schedule)—and we hope to see you soon. See our Abbey life.

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A Delicious Thai Meal

For several years now, the Abbey sangha has led a meditation class at UU Church in Spokane. Some of our kind friends from the class decided to have a fundraising event for the Abbey’s sangha medical fund. They planned, cooked, and served a fantastic Thai meal, which was followed by a Dharma video.

Tickets were sold out five days before the event, and people met new friends, learned the Dharma, and enjoyed themselves very much. Our deep appreciation goes to the Friends of Sravasti Abbey in Spokane, to the UU Church, and especially to Tracy—the chief organizer—and Kuni, the head Thai chef.

May all sentient beings enjoy good food and spiritual friendships.

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Auntie’s Bookstore

Venerable Chodron did a book reading from Buddhism: One Teacher, Many Traditions to more than 60 people at Auntie’s Bookstore in Spokane.

She spoke about the origin and purpose of this book, which she co-authored with H.H. the Dalai Lama, read from a chapter on altruism, and then answered questions from the audience.

It was great for her and Venerable Tsultrim to see many of our Dharma friends, especially since they hadn’t seen them since early January when we began retreat. The rest of the community will have to wait until the kathina ceremony and end of retreat celebration on April 11.

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Buddhism for Beginners: eBook

We told you last month that Venerable Chodron’s Buddhism for Beginners is now available as an audio book from Audible, which you can preview here.

Audible is offering us 10 free copies, which we’d like to pass on to you.

Buddhism for Beginners is a “user’s guide” to Buddhist basics, taking the most commonly asked questions—like, “What is the essence of the Buddha’s teachings?”—and providing answers in plain English. A complete and accessible introduction to Buddhism, it’s also a wonderful resource for seasoned students.

If you or someone you know are a) interested in the Dharma, b) like listening to audiobooks, and c) would appreciate a free copy, write the office to request yours. We’ll send the promo code to the first ten people that write in.

Enjoy!

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2015 Courses & Retreats

The 2015 schedule of courses and retreats is set through October.

We’ll start with a weekend retreat on Cultivating Love at the beginning of May and follow that with the usual Memorial Day Retreat, when Venerable Chodron will continue teaching on His Holiness’ the Dalai Lama’s excellent and practical book for understanding selflessness, How to See Yourself as You Really Are. Another weekend retreat follows in in June, Developing Compassion.

July is packed with wonderful teachings. Our annual Exploring Buddhism for Young Adults (18-29) starts things off, followed by a weekend course called, How To Be A Bodhisattva with Dr. Jan Willis. Jan is a longtime friend of Venerable Chodron’s, one of Lama Yeshe’s early Western students, as well as a Buddhist scholar and author. She has studied Shantideva’s Guide to a Bodhisattva’s Way of Life for over 40 years and will share her insight and experience.

Also in July and crossing into August, Dr. Guy Newland returns with his always-interesting philosophical teachings. This time, teaching “Empty Even Conventionally,” he’ll explore the nature of reality as put forth by the two Middle Way systems, the Prasangika and the Svatantrika.

In August we’ll host our annual Exploring Monastic Life course for people curious to investigate their monastic aspirations and for newly ordained nuns and monks (five years or less).

September begins with our annual Labor Day Retreat, in which Venerable Chodron will lead practices and give teachings on developing meditative stabilization. Then another popular guest teacher returns to the Abbey, Geshe Dadul Namgyal. Geshe Dadul is a translator, scholar, and teacher with a degree in English lit in addition to his many years of Buddhist studies. He will draw from classical texts and use PowerPoint to present “Madhyamaka Through Metaphors.”

In October we’ll offer the annual one-week retreat, this year focusing on the beloved deity, Green Tara, subject of Venerable Chodron’s book, How to Free Your Mind: Tara the Liberator. Venerable Chodron will lead the retreat as well as give teachings.

In October, too, the Abbey will host the 21st Western Buddhist Monastic Gathering for culturally western monastics ordained in a Buddhist monastic, celibate tradition. Venerable Chodron is one of the Dharma elders of the gathering, and the wisdom and support offered offered by the monastics at previous gatherings influenced the development of the Abbey. We are delighted to now have the facilities (thanks to Chenrezig Hall) to repay the kindness of our monastic brothers and sisters by having everyone here this year. Monastic Dharma friends are welcomed! (Register at WBMG.) The Abbey will be closed to other guests during this week.

Locally, of course, we’ll continue with Sharing the Dharma Day every month and with meditation classes in Coeur d’Alene and Spokane. Venerable Chodron has a full schedule of international travel that includes teachings in the U.S., Mexico, Indonesia, and Australia.

Guests also join us between events for short and long-term visits. All the details are in the Visiting section of our website.

Please come visit! Everyone who spends time at the Abbey contributes in some way to creating peace in a chaotic world.

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More News

Our 2014 Annual Report has been released. “Harmonious Sangha Reaching Out” is the theme that encapsulates the Abbey’s activities of the last year. Highlights included our first varsa, pravarana, and kathina ceremonies and consecrating Chenrezig Hall.

In her annual message, Venerable Chodron wrote, in part, “The sangha exists solely by the support of and in dependence on the generosity of lay followers. Without you, there is no sangha and no sangha rites. Together, then, we are creating the conditions for a central land, a place where the Buddha’s teachings flourish.”

Space is still available in the spring session of the Sravasti Abbey Friends Education (SAFE) distant learning program, which begins April 30. One recent student wrote, “This course was very enjoyable due to the online discussions, which were really active and engaging. Many of us feel so isolated in our worlds away from the sangha, and SAFE helps lessen that. We also don’t have access to a regular teacher or sangha members. For all of these reasons, the SAFE course is such a blessing.” Learn more about it here or write the SAFE Coordinator to sign up.

Read Ken’s reflection “Who Am I?” as he sees the importance and the insignificance of one person in the universe.

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