Table of Contents

Winter is definitely coming: the leaves are gone and the first snow has fallen. But autumn isn’t over yet: the sky has been clear, and at night the light of the full moon reflects off the snow.

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The trees we took down this summer have been bucked up and stacked in the forest; they’ll be next winter’s firewood.

We’re grateful to many volunteers. Some—like Lana, Stephen, Traci, and Caz—have stayed with us for a long time. Others—like Annie, Joe, Jim, Nancy, Hartmut, Suzanne, and others—stayed for a few days, but all helped with outdoor and indoor projects. See them in photos of Abbey Life.

Bhikshuni Thubten Chodron and the Sravasti Abbey Community

Sharing the Dharma and Offering Service

Attendance for the November Sharing the Dharma Day was a little smaller than usual, perhaps due to the colder weather, but people’s participation was just as active. The topic was Verse 29 from “The Thirty-seven Practices of Bodhisattvas”:

Understanding that disturbing emotions are destroyed
By insight with serenity,
Cultivate concentration which surpasses
The four formless absorptions—
This is the practice of bodhisattvas.

This verse encourages us to develop concentration in our meditation practice. “Surpassing the four formless absorptions” means concentration that is united with insight that leads to liberation, instead of to rebirth in the celestial realm. As usual, the afternoon discussion was thought provoking and helped participants to become genuine Dharma friends by speaking in a personal way about how they integrate the teachings into their lives.

The day before was our final Offering Service Saturday of the year, with a small crowd of volunteers coming to help with the forest, work in the kitchen, and string prayer beads for prison Dharma practitioners. These monthly offering service parties, suggested and organized by Spokane friends Doug and Sarah, have been wonderful for people making friends, sharing their skills, and making merit. We’ll continue these next spring when things thaw out again.

– VTC

Photos are here.

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Buddhism: One Teacher, Many Traditions

Throughout Venerable Chodron’s work on Buddhism: One Teacher, Many Traditions—which she wrote with H.H. the Dalai Lama—the Abbey community learned a little of its contents and was eager to delve into it.

We wanted to explore more in depth about the commonalities and differences in the Pali and Sanskrit traditions—their teachings and ways of practice. We were delighted, then, when Venerable Chodron accepted our request to give an intensive course on it, which she did for two weeks in November.

Wisdom Publications, the book’s publisher, suggested making these talks into a course for their new project, the Wisdom Academy. Two people from Wisdom Publications came to the Abbey to set up the equipment and we did the videoing. Daniel, Wisdom’s vice-president, interviewed Venerable Chodron for a podcast. You can listen to the interview here.

The course was fascinating as we learned about the situation of Buddhism in different countries and why it developed the way it did. We learned how each tradition views the Three Jewels of refuge, the sixteen attributes of the four truths of the aryas, and other topics. We especially enjoyed the chapters on the higher trainings on ethical conduct and concentration—the former contained some of His Holiness’ personal perspectives and advice, and the latter gave us a much broader perspective on meditation.

The intensive format—with two daily teaching sessions and a discussion group, in addition to our usual morning and evening meditations—gave us the opportunity to really go into the topics and think about them so that we can apply them to our Dharma practice and our lives.

Venerable only completed part of the book, and has agreed to continue the course next year. We hope you will join us!

See the photos here.

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The Paris Attack

The day after the IS attack in Paris, Venerable Chodron led a motivation before the Dharma teaching:

May we develop a kind heart that wishes all beings—victims and perpetrators alike—to be free of their suffering and attain the happiness they desire.

May all beings understand the causes of happiness and suffering and not, in ignorance, create the causes for suffering in an attempt to create the causes for happiness.

May we cultivate kindness, compassion, and equanimity for all beings and model those values for others.

Being imperfect beings, may we do our best to create peace in our chaotic world.

Venerable Chodron also gave a Bodhisattva’s Breakfast Corner talk on Responding to Terrorism. Members of the Abbey community also gave their reflections on the attack. Venerable Chonyi shared a Prayer for the World, and Venerable Semkye reflected on the conditioning of the young perpetrators in Too Precious to Lose.

On Thanksgiving Day, the Bodhisattva Breakfast Corner talk again looked at current events, with Venerable Chodron sharing a sermon from a Presbyterian pastor in Texas that one of our Dharma friends had sent us. Framing Thanksgiving in a way that asks us to live up to our national ideals and values was very moving for all of us. Watch it.

Venerable Tarpa later a gave a talk on non-violence and reconciliation, Peace Is Possible, drawing on the courageous life of Vietnamese monk, Maha Ghosananda.

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The Elements

This summer we had an experience with the fire elements, with Washington State’s raging forest fires being not so far from the Abbey. Fortunately we were spared, but many others were not. Then on November 17, there was the worst windstorm our area has seen in 126 years, with gusts up to 60 mph.

After the windstorm, some rain came, and by the next morning the sky was calm and clear. But there was no electricity, telephone, or Internet.

After clearing Country Lane of a fallen tree, a few Abbey residents went to Newport to stock up on gasoline for the generator. Along the way they saw five or six places where trees had fallen on top of the electrical lines so that the wires were almost on the ground. Fortunately we had the generator so that we could heat Ananda Hall for a few hours and charge up our computers, but the other buildings had no heat or light for 50 hours.

On the third day, we did Tara Puja as we always do on the 8th day of the lunar month, and at the end of the puja, the lights came back on! Someone recalled that the same thing happened last summer when our electricity was out for two days: it came back on while we were doing Tara Puja.

But our Internet was still out and we were told there was a long line of people with this problem. Life went on. Two days after Tara Puja was the 10th of the lunar month when we did Lama Chopa Puja. The puja was lovely—we made special light offerings—and surprisingly, when we went to use our computers after the puja, our Internet connection was working!

Those of you who follow our daily Bodhisattva Breakfast Corner talks and the teachings on Precious Garland and the Gomchen Lamrim, please check the video archives for the talks we couldn’t stream or post during the power outage.

Over 200,000 people in our area were without electricity, and our friends in Spokane fared worse than we did in that respect. Our electricity was reestablished before theirs, so we called many of them to invite them to stay with us until their lights came back on.

– VTC

Photos are here.

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Tara’s Refuge

Tara’s Refuge is our new land and house down the hill. The house needs a lot of repairs, and we’re doing what we can before the snow comes to fix some of the urgent items. The rest will wait until spring.

The large apple trees supplied us with lots of delicious apples to eat over the winter. The deer are enjoying the apples that were too high for us to pick (even after climbing the trees) after the wind knocked them to the ground.

We’ve consulted with the County Weed Board on how to restore the meadow to its native grasses, and we will implement that in the spring. The energy on the land is changing, which we certainly feel every time we pass. It will be wonderful to explore the forest and wetlands come next summer.

Take a look at Venerable Samten’s beautiful video of the ceremonies we’ve done for Blessing Tara’s Refuge.

– VTC

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In the Broader Community

On November 29, Venerable Chodron gave two Sunday morning “sermons” at Unitarian Universalist Church in Spokane, where Abbey nuns have conducted a weekly meditation class for eight years. The congregation is deeply committed to social justice, and we share many essential values. They tell us that Venerable Chodron is the only guest speaker who gives a different talk at each of the two morning services! Audio of both talks is online: Compassion and Social Action: Choices and Questions, and Making Friends with Ted Cruz and Jihadi John.

Following the services, there was an environmental rally in Spokane, just prior to the start of the world meeting on environmental preservation and climate change in Paris. Six people from the Abbey attended, despite the extremely cold weather that day. Venerable Jampa gave a talk at the rally, clearly explaining the importance of caring for the environment as a reflection for our compassion for all the sentient beings living in it. Read her speech and see the photos.

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Sign Up for the Retreat from Afar

Please join us for the winter Retreat from Afar. When you do, you’ll be practicing together with the Abbey community and hundreds of meditators all over the world to deepen your refuge in the Three Jewels. The retreat begins January 15, and you can choose a 1-month or a 3-month option.

To participate, you commit to doing at least one daily session of Meditation on the Buddha, including reflection on one of the graduated path topics from The Easy Path to Omniscience, which Venerable Chodron taught extensively last year.

More experienced meditators who have taken refuge and some of the lay precepts may opt to do the refuge preliminary practice (ngondro), which includes 111,111 recitations of the refuge formula.

There are plenty of teachings to support you on ThubtenChodron.org, and additional teaching will come via Bodhisattva’s Breakfast Corner throughout the retreat.

Go here to learn more about Retreat from Afar, or write the coordinator to sign up.

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More News

The Abbey contributed a letter to encourage President Obama to observe Vesak Day—the day we celebrate the Buddha’s birth, enlightenment, and parinirvana—at the White House. See it here.

Our friend Cindy has been in Dharamsala and watched as the nuns debated in front of His Holiness the Dalai Lama! The report on the session, including His Holiness’s comments, is here.

Take a look at this great video about labels and compassion.

The Abbey is now listed on the KAICIID Peace Map website.

The Indonesian translation of Venerable Chodron’s Seven Tips for a Happy Life will be published for free distribution. Excerpts of it will be published in an Indonesian web magazine, buddhazine.com.

Read how Dharma students Tanya and Heather each reflected on the incident in Paris, In the Face of Violence.

Photos from our cedar-grove outing and the Sandpoint High School visit that we reported in last month’s eNews are now on the Abbey website.

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