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The summer days are turning shorter, although the temperatures are still high, and the apple trees are ripening in abundance. We were surprised by a sudden hail shower, and rejoiced in the much-needed rain for the land. With many retreats upcoming and weekly teachings ongoing, we soak in the healing rain of the Dharma.

Bhikshuni Thubten Chodron and the Sravasti Abbey Community

Exploring Buddhism: A Week for Young Adults

Five young adults, along with our youngest monastic, Venerable Damcho, participated in Exploring Buddhism, a program the Abbey has held annually since 2005.

Each morning I gave a teaching and then we had a discussion afterwards, applying the Dharma to our lives. These discussions ranged from qualities we look for in friends, to ethical conduct, to what we learned from and appreciate about our parents, and more. Watch the teachings here.

In the afternoon, we offered service, mostly in the forest, where our discussions continued. This group was particularly dynamic and questioning. They bonded closely early on, and were very open and supportive of each other.

Dr. Russell Kolts, co-author of An Open-hearted Life, kindly came to teach the young adults one day. They enjoyed his open approach and the way he presented Buddhist ideas in non-Buddhist language. On the last day, we closed with skits, which had Abbey monastics rolling with laughter. “People Pleasers Anonymous” was my favorite, but “Ten Years Later”—in which they played each other coming back to a young adult week reunion—was a close second. See photos of the week here. -VTC

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Sharing the Dharma Day

About fifty people shared the Dharma by meditating, listening to teachings, discussing the Dharma, and enjoying a potluck lunch together. See photos here.

This month’s verse from the Thirty-seven Practices of Bodhisattvas (verse 25) was:

When those who want enlightenment must give even their body,
There’s no need to mention external things.
Therefore, without hope for return or any fruition,
Give generously—
This is the practice of bodhisattvas.

We discussed the joy and benefits of generosity, and also looked at what holds us back from giving. Giving involves receiving too, which some people find more difficult than giving. But our uneasiness about receiving others’ gifts inhibits their enjoying giving and their creation of merit. So how can we accept others’ gifts and kindness without our minds inventing stories of obligation or unworthiness? Watch the talk here.


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How to be a Bodhisattva Retreat

Unfortunately, Dr. Jan Willis was ill and could not lead thiss course as originally scheduled. Instead, I pinch hit by relating sections from Shantideva’s Engaging in the Bodhisattvas’ Deeds to three contemporary issues: competition and jealousy, the mindfulness craze, and racism and white privilege. Two of the talks are online. The jealousy talk is not available, as it will be used for an on-line program in the future.

Thirty-five people attended the retreat, and with topics like those, needless to say, we had very interesting and heartfelt discussions.

Here, too, people were very open and supportive of each other, listening and sharing deeply. While some Buddhist centers have to try to attract a diverse audience, at the Abbey this happens very naturally.

The discussion on racism led to sharing how we create identities for ourselves and others. Read Ken’s reflection about his Identity Crisis.

We wish Jan a speedy recovery and hope she will be able to come next year to teach. -VTC

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Friday Lamrim Teachings

We rejoiced at the conclusion of teachings on The Easy Path to Omniscience by Panchen Lobsang Chokyi Gyaltsen, which began in June 2014 and ran for 60 weeks. It takes tremendous merit to receive the full transmission and teachings on a Dharma text, and we are grateful to our friends in Singapore who requested the teachings and sponsored the livestream for students around the world. The teachings are archived here.

The Singaporeans and the Abbey community have requested that Venerable Chodron continue to teach on the lamrim (stages of the path). These topics outline the entire gradual path to awakening, and studying them provides the foundation for understanding and actualizing the Buddha’s teachings.

We will embark on The Gomchen Lamrim by Gomchen Ngawang Drakpa, beginning August 7. Venerable Chodron will weave this together with teachings from her book Guided Meditations on the Stages of the Path.

Teachings are Fridays at 6:15 pm Pacific Time/Saturdays at 9:15 am Singapore Time. Tune in live. Please guide yourselves in meditation before the livestream begins.

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Prison Outreach

On Saturday, July 25, Venerable Tarpa visited the Buddhist group at nearby Airway Heights Correctional Center. This Dharma group has been meeting weekly for 20 years with a constant flow of new and returning men. They continue to support each other, and it is likely the only opportunity for most of them to let their guard down and share their deeper thoughts and feelings.

This month they delved into and discussed: “What is the motivation for our Dharma practice? What gets in the way of our having higher motivations such as those of the three-capacity beings described in the lamrim—a higher rebirth, liberation from cyclic existence altogether, and the full awakening of Buddhahood?”

The group shared an energetic discussion. Everyone had to rouse himself out of concerns for just this life and figure out how to use the lamrim meditations to cultivate and then actualize these higher aims.

On the Abbey’s monthly Offering Service Saturday, we were grateful that several people strung malas (prayer beads). We frequently receive requests from incarcerated people who want to use these to count the mantras they chant. Also, we recently received a donation of books from the library of a deceased Dharma student. Some of these will also be sent to those who are incarcerated.

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Spokane Meditation Class

Our weekly meditation class at the Unitarian Universalist Church in Spokane continued in July, with people going deeper into An Open-hearted Life.

The group has been focusing on part three of the book, Cultivating Compassion, which describes the two methods of developing bodhicitta. The group continues to be between 30-40 people each week, and the discussions are always interesting. Venerable Jigme has led the July classes. Venerable Jampa has also attended each week and is a valuable addition to those who share the Dharma in Spokane.

Many of the attendees are looking at the self-centered attitude and how to transform that into a mind that exchanges self for others. People are also looking at how to keep the teachings accessible in their day as difficulties arise. Elizabeth, who is in her 90s, faithfully attends the class each week!

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Guests Galore

Summertime brings many visitors to the Abbey.

Long-time Dharma student Scott Lawley came to visit with his partner, Kim, and ten-year-old twin daughters Miranda and Charlotte, who showed us some of their secret handshakes. The first is for the Dalai Lama, the second is om mani padme hum, and the third involves their stuffed animal friends. Watch the video here.

Ryder and Naomi, who are alumni of Exploring Buddhism, came with their two children who, at age two and four, are learning how to make offerings and chant mantras.

James from New Mexico visited for three weeks and left with ideas for bringing compassion training into middle school and high school. Lana from France is spending the summer with us and is a great help in every way. Greg, a Zen practitioner from the Bay Area, visited for five days and was touched by the harmony and friendliness at the Abbey.

David, Jessica, and Wego came to sprinkle the ashes of Nouage, David’s deceased wife, at Sukhavati, the beautiful hillside site we have designated for that.

Kuni from Spokane spent many days with us, which is always a delight, not only because she’s a great person but also because she cooks delicious Thai food, which is a treat for us. Terri from Boise also spent some days with us, and Tara, who is a huge help with the Abbey’s YouTube channel and, also visited. Jay returned with more friends from Moscow, ID on Sharing the Dharma Day and cooked up a storm during retreat!

We were also delighted to welcome the board members of YES (Youth Emergency Services of Pend Oreille County) for lunch. Venerables Chodron and Jigme are on the YES board and many of the other residents drop by the YES office in Newport to leave extra clothes or food for the teens. Visit the YES website to learn more.

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Enjoying the Outdoors

Our work to thin overcrowded areas in the forest continues. The Department of Natural Resources helped us by funding the clean-up of about 23 areas last year and this year. Forest Ventures did a great job and the areas look so different than before.

Abbey residents and guests have been working on other areas. We especially appreciated the help of the many people who attended the Abbey’s monthly Offering Service Saturday organized by Friends of Sravasti Abbey. The young people had a great time out in the forest and asked lots of Dharma questions while limbing trees.

We have had a bumper crop of cherries this year and a good amount of raspberries as well.

The apples are still growing and the plums will be ready soon. Meanwhile the veggie garden provides us with salad and other goodies, and the flower garden is gorgeous.

We recently heard the term Nature Deficit Disorder—it’s not a medical term but it describes what happens to us when we do not spend enough time in nature. Staying at the Abbey is a great remedy for this, especially for our guests from the cities. We can see them relax and they all tell us how much better they feel at the end of their visit. We can’t attribute all of this to being in nature; focusing on the Dharma surely has something to do with this too!

To take care of our environment, the Abbey has also written to the Office of Environmental Analysis regarding the Tongue River Railroad project that wants to ship coal to China via trains through the Pacific Northwest. Needless to say, this project would increase global warming and immediately threaten Eastern Washington, where we live. Read our letter. -VTC

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Dharma Resources

The talk Venerable Chodron gave on compassion at Ekayana Buddhist Center in Jarkarta, Indonesia is now online. Watch Part 1 and Part 2.

You can also watch the video of the workshop on “Living an Open-hearted Life” with Dr. Russell Kolts and Venerable Chodron at the Spokane Unitarian Universalist Church given in May.

Venerable Chodron was interviewed on The Yoga Hour on-line radio program, where

Yogacharya Ellen O’Brian spoke with her about compassion. Listen to the recording.

Seven Tips for a Happy Life is a new booklet, designed for teenagers (and everyone else too), by Venerable Chodron and published by Kong Meng San Phor Kark See Monastery for free distribution. See the summary here and download it here.

Tricycle Magazine posted an interview with Ayya Tathaaloka and Venerable Chodron on spiritual friendship. Abbey friend Sarah Conover did the interview, which you can read here. now has Bahasa Indonesia and Vietnamese sections! The Vietnamese translator is 70 years old and said he wished he had more time to translate Venerable Chodron’s talks! Many thanks to all the kind volunteers who help with the website.

Venerable Samten shares her reflections on a visit to a women’s prison in Indonesia.

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More News

Sravasti Abbey wished His Holiness the Dalai Lama a long and healthy life on his 80th birthday. To celebrate, we read together one of His Holiness’ favorite texts, “Praise to Dependent Arising” by Je Tsongkhapa.

Venerable Jampa and Abbey volunteers Traci and Tracy attended His Holiness’ teachings in New York, which included a huge long life offering. They also loved their visit with our friends at the Tibetan Buddhist Learning Center in New Jersey. Enjoy photos and Venerable Jampa’s sharing on the Bodhisattva’s Breakfast Corner.

Sakyadhita International has posted hundreds of beautiful photos from the 14th Annual International Conference in Indonesia that Venerable Chodron wrote about last month.

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