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After a wet spring, summer finally arrived and the Abbey’s gardens are bursting with flowers and veggies. We are enjoying a harmonious community life, working outdoors and sitting in the garden to discuss the Dharma or read.

I have been in Wisconsin this month, studying Nagarjuna’s Root Wisdom with Jangtse Choje Rinpoche at Deer Park Buddhist Center, and enjoying the teachings immensely. This month’s enews, therefore, comes mostly from members of the community.

Throughout these summer days may your positive actions bear much fruit, bringing happiness now and in the future for you and for all living beings.

Bhikshuni Thubten Chodron and the Sravasti Abbey Community

Dagmo Kusho-la’s Retreat

We welcomed Dagmo Kusho-la from Sakya Monastery in Seattle, one of the few Tibetan women teachers, to the Abbey this month. Her kind, gentle, firm wisdom spread everywhere throughout the Abbey for the four days she and her attendant, Venerable Migmar, were here.

The Meditation Hall was packed as Dagmo-la taught about “Parting from the Four Attachments” on the first day, then gave a White Tara Empowerment and instructions on the White Tara sadhana the next day. The teachings concluded on Turning the Dharma Wheel Day with a teaching on bodhicitta. Forty-one people attended these teachings. Later, she sent a note to the Abbey saying that she really loved being with a harmonious community in a quiet, beautiful rural area that reminded her of her old home in Tibet.

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Chenrezig Hall

Plans are coming together and we hope to start construction on Chenrezig Hall this year. We selected George Weaver from Alpha & Omega Construction , a local firm, as the contractor. We’ve seen George’s work and appreciate his commitment to green building, care with detail, and the fact that he works with his crew and so will always be onsite.

After we approved the preliminary design, Tim Wilson, our architect, began working on the construction documents. We’re also working with Randall Fong to design the commercial kitchen. Meanwhile engineers are working on designing the septic system and the geothermal heating system. Venerable Chodron describes the purpose and function of Chenrezig Hall in this 9-minute YouTube video.

Hopefully all the plans will be completed soon enough to apply for the building and kitchen permits and then begin building. Then everyone will work hard to get the roof on before the snow comes. Never a dull moment at the Abbey!

We’re nearly half way to our goal of 21 million om mani padme hum mantra recitations to help build Chenrezig Hall. We appreciate your joining in the mantra recitation as we work together to construct this building that will enable us to expand the sangha community and our Dharma activities and retreats for guests. One inmate chanted a million mantra and dedicated them to Chenrezig Hall! Keep chanting and let us know how many you do!

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Teachings

Venerables Semkye and Chonyi are once again traveling to Spokane each Monday evening to lead a meditation class with the Unitarian Universalist Buddhist Meditation Group. Each Tuesday morning at breakfast they share news about the growing interest and enthusiasm for the Dharma in Spokane. It truly inspires our practice here.

Some of you have been following the weekly teachings streamed live on the Internet. Venerable Chodron has concluded the teachings on the Paths and Grounds, and July’s live teachings featured members of the community reviewing the final quiz on this topic. The last of these sessions will be streamed Thursday August 2. All the videos are archived on YouTube.

On Thursday, August 9, Venerable Chodron begins a new set of Dharma talks on the seven types of cognition, objects of cognition, and the poisions of phenomena. We’ll discuss how we know objects, reliable and unreliable mental states, and the categories of existent phenomena. Learning this will help a great deal when we begin studying Buddhist philosophical tenets, the topic that will follow in the Thursday evening teachings. Please write to the office for copies of the handouts.

While attending teachings in Madison, Venerable Chodron has also been teaching in the Midwest. She gave a talk in Madison and visited Cleveland, where she gave three talks at the Jewel Heart Center and spoke to about 50 or 60 incarcerated men at a state prison. Her talk was on karma and they were very interested and asked great quesstions.

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Nature

Our summer weather has brought us some spectacular skies , and the Abbey’s organic vegetable garden is burgeoning with greens, peas, beets, lettuce, and other produce. We are now in the process of harvesting and freezing some for the winter. Thanks so much to Venerable Chonyi’s expert garden planning, Katya’s constant care, and help from many volunteers, including Judith, Susan, Kevin, and others. A wonderful brown bunny has been around the vegetable and flower garden lately and seems very tame, to the point of allowing Jack to pet it before calmly hopping away.

Our forest clean up project continues (with 240 acres, it will probably never end!). We enjoy working in the forest and the result of our work is evident. Our neighbor Chris very kindly mowed many of our trails; they had gotten quite overgrown with all the rain this spring. We rented a path mower and a tractor to pull it, and away he went. Venerable Jigme’s nephew Shane is visiting us and being a skilled carpenter, he is making signs for the trails in the forest.

We have two new batches of baby turkeys near the Abbey, and lots more in the forest. The mother hens care for them constantly as they chirp and waddle all around the paths and into the tall grasses. This reminds us of the compassion of all mother sentient beings.

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Volunteer Appreciation

On July 28 a wonderful group of around 25 of our generous and reliable local volunteers came to the Abbey for “Volunteer Appreciation Day” to celebrate our interdependence. Abbey residents thanked them for their incredible support, and Venerable Semkye gave a tribute to their service on Bodhisattva Breakfast Corner.

Our hearts delighted in giving them a vegetarian feast and a DVD of Venerable Chodron’s teaching, along with many precious photos of their past volunteer activities. Samten Regan, Bill Miller, Laresa Kerstetter and Kathy McGary gave heart-warming talks about the potent effect that volunteering over the years has had on their minds and on their practice.

The time with volunteers ended with a sunny walk up to Sukavati — our “land of great bliss” where we spread cremation ashes—which overlooks Lone Mountain and many lush green valleys. While there, anagarika Dani led us in a beautiful metta (loving-kindness) practice that ended with everyone gazing over the valleys below, spreading loving kindness from our hearts to all beings in all places. Thank you so much to all our volunteers—local and abroad—whether you were able to attend or not!

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Activities at the Abbey

We had another lovely Sharing the Dharma Day attended by residents and 25 visitors. Venerable Chonyi gave a talk on impermanence and unsatisfactory conditions. A lively discussion followed, deepening our understanding of how we experience these qualities in our lives and how to apply Dharma to these situations.

For the health of the Abbey community, our dear Dharma friend and yoga instructor, Chris Lovejoy has offered a few yoga classe sto the residents. Chris is a skilled and patient teacher, who has helped each of us to become more aware of what our bodies need in order to stay flexible for sitting in meditation and for offering service. We are grateful—and now just need to do it!

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Visitors

Sister Dhammadhira, a Theravada Buddhist nun, stayed with us for five days, joining in our practices. She gave a talk on the four establishments of mindfulness, a meditation practice done in both our traditions. We enjoyed sharing and learning about each others’ practices. We are firm believers in learning from other Buddhist traditions as well as taking part in interfaith dialogues.

A number of visitors have joined us this month. We met new Dharma friends Karen and Mark from Australia, who were very enthusiastic about serving the Dharma. We also had a visit from the Desmond family, whose teenage son is interested in Buddhism. They had a wonderful tour, lunch, and meeting with Venerable Chodron and were delighted to make such good contact.

Zach, who attended the young adult week, has spent all of July with us, exploring the Dharma, asking lots of interesting and penetrating questions, and serving in the gardens, forest, and kitchen. We have truly enjoyed his presence, as well as that of Steve from Seattle, who stayed with us for a week, and Shane, who will remain into August.

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SAFE Course Resumes September 10

Sravasti Abbey Friends Education (SAFE), our online, distance learning program, resumes September 10. We’re repeating Courses 1 and 2—Introducing the Buddha’s Teaching and Renunciation—and launching Course 3—Bodhicitta.

The program focuses on personal transformation through studying and practicing the Buddha’s teachings. Evaluating her experience, a participant from South Africa wrote, “This has been a truly inspirational course. I am so happy that I have had the opportunity to be fortunate to be part of it. Over the last 12 weeks I have experienced a personal growth as well as spiritual growth. The amazing thing for me is the simple way in which the Dharma was presented. The questions were a brilliant conversation starter and I enjoyed following the different discussions.”

A student in the US told us, “To sum up, I learned a lot, worked hard, practiced the best I knew how and enjoyed the whole process. The course has helped me integrate Buddhism in my everyday life.”

You can learn more about the SAFE program on the Abbey’s website. Write the SAFE Coordinator to enroll in a fall course.

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Pearl of Wisdom on Amazon

First published in 1988, the Pearl of Wisdom prayer books are a compilation of recitations, practices, and short texts—in English—that support a daily meditation practice. Edited by Venerable Chodron, the books have been regularly updated; the 2011 edition of Pearl of Wisdom I includes all the prayers, chants, and recitations that we do at the Abbey. Both books are now available on Amazon.

We were amazed to discover independent book sellers offering these on Amazon for $102 and up! These links— Pearl of Wisdom I and Pearl of Wisdom II — should take you to the reasonably priced $10 editions. You can find teachings on many of the texts and sadhanas included in the Pearl of Wisdom books on thubtenchodron.org.

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More News

After attending the Abbey retreat on forgiveness and reading Working with Anger, Juliet wrote, “Gasp! I Was the Person You Were Talking About!” It’s a great story about how she was transformed by the Dharma.

Cheri looks at her experience with jury duty in a Dharma perspective.

Dani, our anagarika from Germany, has been supervising German translations of some of Venerable Chodron’s teachings. You can check them all out here . Karina already does such a terrific job of translating the thubtenchodron.org teachings into Spanish. How wonderful that these are now becoming accessible to another language group!

Photos from the How to See Yourself as You Really Are retreat are now on the web.

The Annual Alms Bowl Rummage Sale is August 11 in Spokane at the Unity Church, 29th & Bernard on the South Hill, beginning at 8 a.m. Organized by local Abbey volunteers, Rummage Sale proceeds provide food for the Abbey community. The flyer proclaims, “Good times! Good karma!” Call Tracy at (805) 286-5172 to offer items for sale, volunteer your time, or for other details.

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