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The days grow noticeably shorter in November as winter approaches. We experienced a week or so of Arctic frigid weather with its bright blue skies and sunshine, followed by days of rain and wind. After a busy spring, summer, and early fall, we are happy to slow down and spend more time on our studies.

As the holiday season approaches, we wish you internal peace and calm and freedom from the energy of frenzied shopping and over-consumption that fills the air at this time of year.

Bhikshuni Thubten Chodron and the Sravasti Abbey Community

Sharing the Dharma Day

On one of the few sunny days of early November, nearly 50 people gathered for Sharing the Dharma Day (click for photos). As usual, there was a nice mix of first-timers as well as regular attendees. Venerable Chonyi gave the talk on Verse 20 from The 37 Practices of Bodhisattvas

While the enemy of your own anger is unsubdued,
though you conquer external foes, they will only increase.
Therefore, with the militia of love and compassion,
subdue your own mind.
This is the practice of bodhisattvas.

Anger is a particularly hot topic—we all have it and we experience it in others. Venerable Chodron’s commentary on the verse in Don’t Believe Everything You Think highlights the cultivation of loving kindness as anger’s antidote, and both the Dharma talk and Venerable Jigme’s afternoon discussion focused on this. We especially looked at ways to recognize when anger is arising and how to direct loving kindness towards ourselves as well as others as we transform our old negative habits. The Dharma talk is here.

The final Sharing the Dharma Day of 2014 is December 7. We’ll resume them next spring at the end of winter retreat.

Our meditation classes in Spokane and Coeur d’Alene have been completed for the year. The Spokane group followed Venerable Chodron’s book, Living with an Open Heart, and after each week’s session, Venerables Semkye and Chonyi marveled at how deeply people were taking the teachings in and applying them to their lives.

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November, a Month of Travel

Having been at the Abbey for three years, Venerable Jampa went for her first visit to her native Germany. We write often and had a skype call too. After it, she wrote a little reflection about how she has changed since living at the Abbey.

Four Abbey monastics—Venerables Chodron, Tarpa, Semkye, and Samten—attended His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s teachings in New York. The first day was organized by the Danang Foundation, and His Holiness taught Nagarjuna’ Commentary on Bodhicitta. Just before His Holiness walked on stage for the afternoon session, Venerable Chodron was able to offer him a copy of Buddhism: One Teacher, Many Traditions, the book they co-authored. (Photos here.)

Organized by Tibet House and Tibetan Buddhist Learning Center, the teachings on the next two days were on Je Tsongkhapa’s Essence of Eloquence. His Holiness knew many of his old students were in the audience, so he dove straight into the topic of the book: the correct view of reality, the emptiness of inherent existence. At the end of the teachings, all of us were very moved by these teachings, including the translator Geshe Thupten Jinpa who had to pause while reading Tsongkhapa’s concluding poem. The preciousness of sitting at His Holiness’ feet, learning about emptiness was etched in our minds.

Shantideva Meditation Center in New York invited Venerable Chodron to give a day of teachings about Dharma points that westerners have difficulty understanding. The group was enthusiastic and eager to learn. They were also very kind and generous in taking care of her and Venerable Samten during their time in NYC. Traci, Tracy, Kim, and Tanya hosted and helped Venerables Tarpa and Semkye. (Photos are here.)

After the teachings, Venerable Tarpa and Venerable Semkye visited NYC’s Green Tara (a.k.a. the Statue of Liberty), and then Venerable Tarpa went to Florida to visit her parents while Venerable Semkye went to Vermont to visit her sister and brother.

In mid-November, Venerable Tsultrim departed for Taiwan, where she will do the one-month three-platform ordination ceremony during which she will receive the bhikshuni ordination. There was lots of laughter as well as solemn moments, when the Abbey bhikshunis shared their stories with her about what to expect. Our prayers are with her as she takes this significant step in her Dharma journey.

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Buddhism: One Teacher, Many Traditions

We want to remind you once more of the newly released Buddhism: One Teacher, Many Traditions, co-authored by H.H. the Dalai Lama and Venerable Chodron.

If you want to know about the commonalities and differences among Buddhist traditions, this is the book for you. Rather than discuss superficial similarities (we all bow to the Buddha), the book looks at topics such as the qualities of the Three Jewels, the three higher trainings, the four immeasurables (brahmaviharas), the perfections, and the views of selflessness and emptiness.

In this interview, Venerable Chodron talks about the book with Tracy Simmons from Spokane Faith & Values.

Venerable Chodron also talks about the book in this BBC talk. Learn more about the book, its contents, and read its endorsements here. Bhante Gunaratana’s foreword is here.

You can order the book on Amazon or directly from Wisdom Publications. Venerable Chodron tells the story behind the book in this video.”

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Nyung Ne

Nyung Ne is a strong purification practice done with Thousand-armed Chenrezig. While it is said to be a “fasting retreat,” the real fast is not simply from food and drink, but also from the mental afflictions of ignorance, anger, and attachment. Venerable Chodron describes the purification in this BBC video and explains the true meaning of “fasting retreat” here.

The practice is intense, with three lengthy sessions for two days and one session early the last morning, each with lots of prostrations, mantra recitation, and time to meditate on emptiness. But what can be better than meditating on the Buddha of Compassion?

We were a group of 19 people, who supported and encouraged each other, and who delighted in the Dharma. All of us felt very fortunate to have been able to do this retreat and dedicated the merit for the wellbeing of all sentient beings. Retreatants share their experiences in this BBC video. Photos are here.

We had a chance to bond together even more when, after the retreat ended, 14 boxes with new chairs for the dining room arrived. We unloaded them from the truck and then worked together to inspect and assemble them. These times when we “swarm” to work on a project together are some of times our abbess appreciates the most because the group spirit is so apparent.

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Our vegetarian Thanksgiving was delightful this year. We invited two teens from Youth Emergency Services, along with the mother and little sister of one of the teens, to join us. We spent the morning cooking together and, after lunch, took a long walk in the forest. Our “turkey” was a huge 38 lbs. (17 kg.) squash that it took two people to lift. We first cut it in half with a hatchet, removed the seeds to roast, and then cut it into smaller pieces. We laughed so much as we took turns striking it with the hatchet! There was a good bit on the wall and the floor to clean up afterwards.

Speaking of Youth Emergency Services, we were delighted that many people stepped forward to offer holiday gifts to the teens. The participants of the Spokane meditation class at the Unitarian Universalist church were especially generous, and we know the teens will be overjoyed.

Meanwhile Mike’s mother, who is over 90 years old and loves arts and crafts, made holiday greeting cards for each of the 158 teens that YES now serves.

YES still needs “Santas” to offer gifts to some of the teens. Call Jamie at the YES office—509-447-1126—to sign up and bring hope to a kid that needs your generosity.

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Visitors & New Arrivals

We welcomed Brian back to the Abbey for another month. His help in the forest is greatly appreciated, although he had to take care of his back this visit. Brian is spending more and more time reading Dharma books and sitting in the Meditation Hall.

James, a WWOOFer, spent a week at the Abbey, helping in the forest and preparing the garden for winter. Kathleen was with us for a month, sharing her quiet and steady presence, and Sherry and Caitlin visited for about a week. Dale and Valerie stopped by for two days, David jumped into Abbey life for a week, and Alexis began her three month stay with us.

Chelsea, another WWOOFer, was with us for a month. Her mind was like a sponge when it came to absorbing the Dharma, and she joined in almost every activity possible. Her mother, Donna, came for a week, too, and wants to come back with one of her friends. Chelsea told us, “It’s incredibly inspiring to see so many people dedicated to incorporating the Dharma into their daily lives. Staying at the Abbey was a beautiful and very connecting experience.

Many other guests came as well, and many of them helped prepare the veggie garden and the flower gardens for winter. Others worked in the forest, bucking up and stacking firewood—you should have seen the huge pile of firewood six of them made in just one day! And they had a lot of fun working together to do it.

nov14abbeylife10.jpgHaving spent time at the Abbey before, Clinton and Shane both came to the Abbey to begin training here. After getting used to Abbey life, they will request and receive anagarika precepts. We are grateful for Clinton’s extensive computer knowledge and for Shane’s mastery of carpentry, but more than this, we appreciate their earnest aspiration to learn and practice the Dharma.

Mudita, a kitten who showed up at our doorstep meowing, “I want to live here,” has moved in. Very playful and full of energy, she doesn’t care that Maitri and Karuna are the old timers whom she should respect. All three of them attend teachings on Thursday and Friday evenings, but we can’t say they’re the best students. Karuna sleeps during the teaching, Mudita plays, and Maitri sits and listen when she isn’t upset with Mudita.

Go here for photos of Abbey life.

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We were disappointed in the result of the Ferguson, MO grand jury and dismayed that a few people rioted afterwards. Peaceful protest is necessary, and we hope that real change for the better can come from Michael Brown’s tragic death. Watch how Venerable Chodron brings a Buddhist perspective to the situation in this Bodhisattva Breakfast Corner talk, ” We Are All Michael Brown and Darren Wilson.”

On December 14, from 11 a.m. (Pacific) to 3 p.m., the Abbey will combine our annual Lama Tsongkhapa Day obervance with the nationwide Vigil Commemorating Victims of Gun Violence.

Je Rinpoche spread teachings of wisdom and compassion to illuminate the hearts of all beings, and traditional celebrations of his life and work include making many light offerings. As we celebrate him, we will also mark the 2nd anniversary of the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School and the growing tragedy of gun violence. Since that shooting in December 2012, the U.S. has seen nearly one school shooting per week, and 60,000 Americans have been victims of gun violence.

Please join us to affirm our aspirations for and actions toward a more peaceful world.

Go here to find out more about vigils nationwide. May we work together—within our own hearts as well as in society—to help bring peace to our chaotic world.

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Other News

Don’t forget to sign up for the Manjushri Retreat from Afar. The retreat begins January 13, and you can choose a 1-month or a 3-month option. Manjushri is the Buddha of Wisdom. Doing the Retreat from Afar helps you make a connection with this Buddha of Wisdom and to grow your own wisdom to understand and practice the teachings. Explanations of the practice and recordings of Venerable Chodron leading it are on

Videos of Venerable Chodron’s October teachings at Maitripa College on The Four Establishments of Mindfulness are now online here.

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