Summer is a time of much activity at the Abbey, from many guests coming to join courses and retreats, to Abbey residents taking care of building maintenance and forest health.
We welcomed the return of the “genie”—the cherry picker-type boom that can lift us into the air to paint or prune the tops of trees. After completing most of our projects, we did a little “joy riding” to admire the magnificent views.
Thanks to the generosity of our friends Doug and Sarah, Abbey monastics enjoyed a day of rest at their family’s cabin by Hayden Lake.
See photos of Abbey life in July here.
Bhikshuni Thubten Chodron & the Sravasti Abbey Community
During the week-long Manjusri Retreat, nearly fifty people practiced purifying mental negativities and receiving the inspiration of the Buddha of Wisdom. Together with meditation sessions, there were Dharma talks, discussions, and Q&A sessions filled with much laughter.
We thought deeply about the teachings, which in this retreat centered on how to do the Manjusri practice and on Nagarjuna’s Letter to a Friend. Nagarjuna’s text is rich with material to practice in daily life. Watch the teachings here.
Many young people attended this retreat and they expressed the difficulties they face in finding people to discuss the Dharma in their social circles and workplaces. They appreciated being able to connect at the Abbey. Both the older and younger students experienced the value of sharing across generations. Photos are here.
Exploring Monastic Life
Fifteen people, including two Abbey residents, are participating in our annual Exploring Monastic Life program. Three of them attended the program last year as lay practitioners and returned this year as monastics. This year’s group is especially serious, and people are thinking deeply about monastic life.
In the morning, the group offers service; in the afternoons there are teachings for all Abbey monastics and participants. Ven. Chodron is explaining passages in the ordination ceremony where the preceptor and instructor give advice to the candidates. These passages are very moving as they direct our minds to what is virtuous and give us inner strength to apply antidotes to the afflictions.
This is followed by a discussion group in the garden where participants delve into habits, emotions, thoughts, and views, sharing how each individual works on subduing their mind. There’s a lot of laughter when doing this as everyone sees the humor in some of their false expectations and assumptions.
Enjoy the photos here. Recordings of the teachings will be posted soon.
Sharing the Dharma Day
Many old and new guests gathered on a sunny Sunday morning to meditate, listen to a talk on the book An Open-Hearted Life, delight in a potluck lunch, and discuss how to enhance their compassionate qualities.
Ven. Chodron spoke on how using imagery and imagination can help us change a bad mood into a good one. Watch the talk here. Both Buddhism and psychology use these techniques.
For example, when we practice mind training, we reframe a bad situation by interpreting it in a more tolerant and forgiving way; we imagine ourselves responding to it with compassion rather than anger or fear. When we stop and imagine what it would feel like to have warmth, kindness, courage, confidence, clarity, patience, and compassion, we take a step toward generating those qualities and toward resolving difficult situations in a kinder way.
As it often is, the afternoon discussion was lively with people sharing from their hearts. Opening up to others about how we apply Dharma to our lives enables us to enjoy close friendships with our fellow Dharma students. Join us for the next Sharing the Dharma Day on August 4, when we also celebrate Wheel Turning Day.
Offering Service Saturday
Almost 45 people pitched in to help the Abbey during July’s Offering Service Saturday, and wow, did we get a lot done and have a good time doing it!
Two groups worked in the forest—one limbing trees, the other carting away debris. Other people worked in the veggie garden and flower garden; still others covered the apple trees with netting to prevent the bugs and birds from eating more than their allotted portion of the fruit. Some people rolled mantras to put in statues, others pulled weeds, still others helped pack books to send to incarcerated people.
And of course, there was the kitchen crew that prepared a wonderful lunch for all of us. There was much laughter and play as well. The energy of many people working together for a common goal is very rewarding, and Abbey residents are always touched by the support we receive in taking care of the land.
See the photos here. Join us for the next Offering Service Saturday on August 10.
Teachings in Australia
After the Sakyadhita conference, Ven. Chonyi stayed on in Australia to visit Santi Forest Monastery and give two Dharma talks in Sydney.
Santi Forest Monastery is a small community of Theravada nuns who are establishing a bhikkhuni sangha. Ven. Chonyi joined the residents and other guest nuns in conversations about monastic life and on long group walks through the monastery’s beautiful bush country. The visit affirmed her sense of spiritual sisterhood with nuns across traditions.
Back in the city, she was impressed with the warm welcome at Buddhist Library and Sangha Lodge. While both are Theravada centers, they have an ecumenical approach to the Dharma. Attendees were curious and receptive as she shared antidotes to some of life’s daily challenges from the Tibetan thought training teachings. Photos are here.
More of Ven. Chodron’s teachings in Australia are now up on the web. Watch or listen to the series of teachings she gave at Vajrayana Institute on the Foundation of Buddhist Practice here. Listen to the talk she gave at the 16th Sakyadhita Conference workshop here, and a series of short talks recorded for Nan Tien Institute on Shantideva’s Engaging in the Bodhisattva’s Deeds here.
Getting Ready for the Buddha Hall
With a resident community of 16 monastics, and a full house of 50 or more for many retreats, we’ve outgrown our log cabin Meditation Hall. The time has finally come to build the Buddha Hall.
We’re planning a meditation and practice space that can accommodate more guests and monastics, and also serve as a dedicated study center with an expanded library and media room.
A committee of four nuns—Vens. Chodron, Tarpa, Samten, and Damcho—have met a few times with architect Tim Wilson from Momentum Architecture who designed Gotami House and Chenrezig Hall. Now it’s official: Ven. Chodron signed a contract with Tim during the Manjusri Retreat to get the ball rolling, and he has since come out to scope out the site.
Manjusri retreatants were delighted to hear Ven. Chodron spell out her vision for the hall, and everyone recited the Buddha’s mantra as she signed the contract to help begin to generate the merit needed for this new project to go smoothly without obstacles. Watch the video of the contract signing here.
We invite your help to keep a continuous flow of merit going. Learn more about how you can join in the recitation of the Buddha’s mantra to help build the Buddha Hall here.
Awaken Every Day
Our motivation is the most important aspect of everything that we do. Ven. Chodron’s latest book, Awaken Every Day: 365 Buddhist Reflections to Invite Mindfulness and Joy, published by Shambhala Publications, offers wise and practical reflections for every day of the year to help us make the best use of this precious human life. The book is in stores now.
Read the great review in “Spirituality and Practice” here.
Listen to Ven. Chodron’s talk based on the book about “Practicing Buddhist Mindfulness” here.
Guided Buddhist Meditations: Essential Practices on the Stages of the Path is a new edition of Guided Meditations on the Stages of the Path. It is in stores now, and Shambhala is offering a 30% discount for online orders until August 31. Learn more about the book and get the discount code here.
Ken did a solo week-long shamatha retreat at home. He shares his experience here.
Read the poem “The Peace and Beauty of the Night’s Darkness” by Luis here.