We’re emerging from our three-month Winter Retreat as the earth revives from its slumber and begins putting out shoots. Ven. Semkye said, looking at our flower garden that now has a soft green cover, “You can hear the grass growing.”
Meanwhile, we can also hear the turkeys preening and pairing off, heralding that spring is truly here.
As we engage in end-of-retreat rituals, we’re looking forward to connecting again in person and online to share and practice the Dharma with you.
For now, in line with the Washington State Covid guidelines, we are open to fully vaccinated guests. However, you must register in advance. Masking is optional, and no pre-visit test is required. Of course if you have any respiratory symptoms at all, please wait before you come.
Refer to the Visit section of our website to check on visiting requirements as conditions may change.
Bhikshuni Thubten Chodron & the Sravasti Abbey Community
Precious Monastic Rites
A sangha of four or more fully ordained nuns or monks is required to perform three Vinaya rites to make a place a “central land” for the Buddhadharma. For nine years, the Abbey has performed all three.
We do posadha, the bimonthly confession and restoration of precepts; varsa, the rains retreat—in our case this is a “snows” retreat; and pravarana, the invitation for feedback done at the conclusion of the varsa.
These rites have been performed since the Buddha’s time and are very precious. When we do them, we feel like we’re linking up with centuries of sincere practitioners who have kept the Dharma alive and passed it down to the next generation, enabling us to encounter and practice the Dharma and Vinaya today.
Doing these rites unites the present sangha with previous sanghas who have faithfully done these practices for twenty-five centuries. These practices transform our minds—the feeling from doing them is difficult to describe.
For example, prior to the varsa and pravarana rites, to count the number of participants, sticks are passed out to everyone present. We kneel, take a stick, and say:
Like a vajra without obstruction, the stick of liberation
Is hard to obtain and today I am able to receive it.
Receiving it with delight, I now hold it up to my head.
May this situation come about for all sentient beings.
We then return the stick and say with palms joined:
Endowed with purity, I receive this stick.
Endowed with purity, I return this stick.
Firm, joyous, and unattached, I am free of faults and offenses.
May this situation come about for all sentient beings.
This generates a type of self-confidence together with humility that is difficult to find in the world. It also unites the present sangha in our mission to create peace in a chaotic world.
See photos of this year’s end of varsa rites here.
Sharing the Dharma
Days of Miracles Teachings
Tushita Meditation Centre in Dharamsala invited Ven. Chodron to give two online talks as part of their annual Days of Miracles teachings from the first through the fifteenth of the Tibetan new year.
The first talk was on ” ‘Big Love’—Remembering Lama Yeshe,” in which Ven. Chodron shared how she and others from the motley crew of hippies who made their way up Kopan Hill were skillfully trained by Lama Yeshe. Many old students attended and laughed hard as Ven. Chodron recollected Lama’s direct and humorous pith instructions that she still relies on today. Watch the first talk here.
The next day, Ven. Chodron spoke on “Make Every Day a Miracle.” She explained how by reflecting deeply on dependent arising and the kindness of all sentient beings, we can generate love, compassion, and bodhicitta that will truly make every day of our precious human life meaningful and miraculous. Watch the second talk here.
A Virtual Return to Smith College
Ven. Chodron was invited to return to Smith College virtually (she taught there for a week in 2017) to speak on “Tonglen and Social Problems” as part of a Buddhist meditation class. Given that the taking-and-giving meditation is an advanced practice that requires preparatory teachings beyond an hour of class time, she decided instead to have an open discussion with the students.
Of course, questions immediately arose about how to respond to the war in Ukraine and keep the mind balanced without falling into anger or personal distress. Ven. Chodron emphasized the importance of studying and understanding the Buddhist worldview as a prerequisite for Buddhist meditation, instead of practicing meditation techniques outside of their intended context. Watch the Q&A series here.
International Women’s Day Celebration
Together with two nuns from the Chinese and Theravada traditions, Ven. Damcho participated in an online International Women’s Day event to “Celebrate Nurturing Women” organized by Singapore Buddhist Mission and Buddhist Youth Network. The three nuns shared how female role models have inspired them, and responded to questions about gender discrimination in Buddhism.
The event closed with an auction of Buddhist artwork to support monastics in Singapore who live alone. Everyone rejoiced in Buddhist practitioners from different traditions coming together to celebrate women’s potential and contributions in the secular and spiritual realms. Watch the video here.
What’s Happening in the World
The Russian invasion of Ukraine is horrific and all of us want to do what we can. Go here for a list of organizations where our donations will provide humanitarian aid for refugees and people in Ukraine.
It’s also imperative that we don’t let our own minds slide into fear and anger. Ven. Chodron gave talks over the last last month that advise us how to do that. She skillfully wove the international display of the self-centered attitude with our personal inner self-centeredness, giving us a lot to think about and to work on in our Dharma practice.
How can we be nonviolent in a time of war, for example, when Ukraine has been attacked and invaded although it did not provoke the conflict? What does it mean to be compassionate toward a party that is killing others? Dharma student Michael shared his thoughts on “Nonviolence and Compassion” in response to Ven. Chodron’s talks. Read what he wrote here.
Ven. Kunga combined her pre-ordination experience working in the US State Department with a Buddhist world view in her reflection, “We Are All Refugees.” Read it here.
Abbey monastics continue to share how we’re working with our minds in response to the war. Watch the talks here.
The Buddha Hall
See how excited we were to finally get the building permit for the Buddha Hall in this video.
The next step is for our contractor, John Young, to price out the project, asking sub-contractors to submit bids to work on the various aspects of building construction. He hopes to get the bids by April 7. At that time, we’ll know more about what it will cost to build the Buddha Hall and the infrastructure necessary for that.
After that, we have to wait for the county government to remove the road restrictions. The Abbey is located in a rural area where the ground becomes very soft after the snow melts. Large trucks are restricted from driving on county roads because their weight will damage them. The road restrictions are usually removed at the end of May or beginning of June.
The step after that is to prepare the building site and put in all the infrastructure, including a fire hydrant (like in cities), more water tanks, a septic system, and so forth. All these are required by the county building department because we are too far from the town of Newport to link into its public services.
Stay tuned for the latest updates here!
Winter Meditation Retreat
Our annual three-month winter retreat concluded on March 31 with a Dorje Khadro fire puja and a go-around. Everyone shared what they learned from their retreat and what they want to take forward and emphasize in their subsequent practice.
This year, two meditation retreats were going on simultaneously—the Vajrasattva purification retreat and the Medicine Buddha retreat. All of us were enriched by this quiet time so that we can focus inward on transforming our minds.
Although it’s difficult to get used to talking and a lot of activity after meditation retreat, we’re glad to welcome all of you at the Abbey and online in the upcoming months.
After focusing inwards during our three-month monastic snows retreat, the sangha reconnects with the lay community through the kathina celebration.
Dating to the Buddha’s time, kathina is traditionally an occasion when lay friends make offerings of the four requisites—food, clothing, shelter, and medicine—to replenish the monks’ and nuns’ supplies after the three-month monastic retreat. The monastics accept these offerings, and ceremonially offer a “robe of merit” to a worthy monastic.
This year, the Ong family of Malaysia will offer the Robe of Merit on behalf of the people of Ukraine.
We invite all our friends to join us in person and online on April 10 to rejoice in each other’s practice. Learn more about the kathina celebration here.
2021 Annual Report Is Out
The 2021 Annual Report invites our benefactors and volunteers to rejoice and share in the merit of supporting an abundance of Dharma activities last year.
Ven. Chodron’s 2021 overview emphasizes the training and growth of the monastic sangha and the practice of fortitude as key themes for the year. Read her Message from the Abbess here.
Your support allowed uncountable numbers of people around the globe to experience Buddha’s teachings. For example, the Abbey’s YouTube channel saw more than 600,000 views last year, and Insight Timer clocked more than 300,000 plays of Abbey-led meditations.
See photos, anecdotes, and more outreach statistics on our Annual Report page here.
Medicine Buddha Puja
About sixty people came together for the March Medicine Buddha Puja, including Dharma friends from Russia and Ukraine. We especially dedicated all merit toward peace in Ukraine and the world.
Russian and Ukrainian Dharma practitioners have been meeting online daily for prayers, practices, and mutual support. One Ukrainian friend shared how she works to keep compassion in her heart despite the atrocities she sees, hears about, and reports.
Her courage and conviction inspired everyone as all sixty voices recited the Medicine Buddha mantra aloud, with our Zoom microphones on, to spread the sound of the Dharma throughout the war zone and the world.
For one puja participant, the sound of all those voices brought a sense that her practice could really make a difference in cultivating peace.
Medicine Buddha Puja will continue one Sunday a month at its new time, 10 am Pacific Time. Register here for the next one on April 17 when Ven. Sangye Khadro leads the practice.
Sravasti Abbey Friends Education Program
Registration for Course 1A of the online Sravasti Abbey Friends Education (SAFE) program opened on March 28. There’s room for 100 students and the classes are filling rapidly, so sign up now! Find the registration link here.
For all other SAFE courses, if you successfully completed a SAFE course this past fall, you are automatically enrolled in the next course. If you have taken some time away from SAFE and are ready to resume, please write to our office.
Read Sarah’s reflection here on how doing the SAFE program has transformed her Dharma practice and deepened her understanding of difficult topics like emptiness.
Learn the Dharma with Buddha Bear
Inspired by video greetings sent by a friend and his children, we began making some videos to introduce little ones to the Dharma. They center around our newest resident at the Abbey, Buddha Bear.
So far, Buddha Bear has learned to chant “Om Mani Padme Hum,” make prostrations, offer water bowls, and do serpentine walking while chanting “Namo Amituofo.” (Buddha Bear got a little carried away with the last chant, but no one complained.)
Now, Buddha Bear is reflecting on what it means to take refuge and considering taking the five lay precepts. Watch the videos of Buddha Bear learning the Dharma here, and share them with your friends young and old!
- We have re-posted Ven. Chodron’s “A Song to Mummy Tara,” originally requested by Friends of Sravasti Abbey-Russia in 2016, offered to mitigate suffering in these times. Read it here.
- Our friends in Indonesia at Penerbit Dian Dharma have translated Gavin Discovers the Secret to Happiness into Bahasa Indonesia for free distribution! Here’s the eBook site. Watch Ven. Chodron reading parts of the book with Bahasa Indonesia subtitles here.
- The Abbey is featured in The Travel website’s article on Buddhist monasteries in the USA. Take a look here. Please let us know if you have ideas on how we might improve our listing.
- Read advice on “Developing Courage” here from His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Ven. Chodron from the first volume in The Library of Wisdom and Compassion, Approaching the Buddhist Path. Learn more about the book here.
- Gompa Tibetan Monastery Services, an organization that broadcasts teachings and pujas from Tibetan monasteries and nunneries in India and Nepal, shared this video about the benefits of becoming a member here. Ven. Chodron’s ongoing teachings on Shantideva’s “Engaging in the Bodhisattva’s Deeds” are featured on their website here.
- Correction: In our March 1 eNews, we incorrectly named the Spanish publisher of The Library of Wisdom and Compassion series. We should have credited Ediciones Amara, a Dharma publishing house located in Menorca, Spain, for translating and publishing all books in the series. Visit the the webpage here.
Here’s what’s happening in the next few weeks:
- April 3: Sharing the Dharma Day in person and online
- April 5: Compassion + Technology with Ven. Thubten Chodron, 6:30 pm PT. Hosted on Zoom by North Idaho College.
- April 10: Kathina Celebration in person and online
- April 13: Monastic Panel Q&A with Ven. Thubten Chodron. Hosted on YouTube by Empty Cloud Monastery.
- April 17: Medicine Buddha Puja on Zoom
- April 22–24: Awakening the Kind Heart with Ven. Sangye Khadro in person and online
- April 23/24: Following in the Buddha’s Footsteps with Ven. Thubten Chodron. Hosted on Zoom by Vajrayana Institute, Australia. (Talk is on Sat. in the U.S., Sun. in Australia.)
- April 29-May 1: Wandering in Samsara: Karma and the 12 Links with Ven. Sangye Khadro. Hosted on Zoom by O Sel Ling, Spain. In English with simultaneous Spanish translation.
Plus regular ongoing teachings:
- Engaging in the Bodhisattva’s Deeds with Ven. Thubten Chodron streamed live on Thursday mornings, 10 am Pacific Time.
- Samsara, Nirvana, and Buddha Nature with Ven. Thubten Chodron streamed live on Friday nights, 6:00 pm Pacific Time.
- Kamalashila’s Stages of Meditation—the Middle Section with Geshe Yeshe Thabkhe streamed live on Saturday mornings, 9 am Pacific Time. With oral interpretation by Katrina Brooks. Special time: 1 PM on April 9th
- Awakening the Kind Heart with Ven. Sangye Khadro on Zoom for 5 Tuesdays, beginning April 5, 4-5:30 pm, Pacific Time. Hosted by Thubten Kunga Center for Wisdom Culture.
Check the Abbey Events page for much more.