- Course on The Foundation of Buddhist Practice
- Standing with Others
- The Compassionate Kitchen
- Reaching Out to Others
- Vacation with the Buddha of Compassion
- Offering Service Saturday and Sharing the Dharma Day
- Vens. Chodron and Damcho in Asia
- Land Blessing
- Dharma Sharing Far & Wide
- More News
The maple trees turned bright red and shed their leaves; the tamaracks were brilliant gold before cold rains took the needles down. Firewood to heat Ananda Hall is stacked and ready to go, and the gardens are put to sleep for the winter.
The first snowfall of the year came on November 8, and then melted away before returning during the Nyung Ne retreat. Watching the snowflakes silently fall is always a delight.
The Abbey has a new email and donation system, so our eNews has a new look and our online giving form has changed. We welcome your ideas and feedback about the new system. Especially let us know if you discover any problems.
Wishing you a warm heart and clear mind for the season!
Bhikshuni Thubten Chodron and the Sravasti Abbey Community
An enthusiastic group of about 32 people attended the weeklong course on The Foundation of Buddhist Practice, the second volume of The Library of Wisdom and Compassion.
Unlike in a silent retreat, Ven. Chodron encouraged the group to discuss the teachings during the break times and discuss they did! Sometimes they were so involved in discussing a Dharma point that someone had to interrupt so that they could go to the Meditation Hall for meditation. These discussions also facilitated the formation of many Dharma friendships between new and older practitioners.
People said they enjoyed the teachings on this book co-authored by His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Ven. Chodron. They especially appreciated that Ven. Chodron made many examples from her own and others’ lives to illustrate the points. Watch the teachings and see the photos.
Vens. Chodron, Jampa, Losang, and Tsepal joined with other members of the Spokane community for a vigil at the Beth Shalom Synagogue in Spokane following the horrible murder of Jews on Shabbat in Pittsburg.
We joined with a multi-colored, multi-religious, multi-age audience to comfort the grieving and reaffirm our values of equality, respect for others, kindness, and compassion. The temple was packed and overflowing, not only with people, but also with love and unity. Read about it on SpokaneFAVS. (Photo above by Tracy Simmons.)
After the vigil we went to hear a talk given by Holocaust survivor Marion Blumenthal Lazan at the Spokane Convention Center. It was heartening to see so many families and young adults there. It is especially important that they learn about the Holocaust from people who actually experienced it, so that young people can know and learn from the past and make the future different. The talk had been arranged a long time ago but wound up coinciding with the tragedy in Pittsburg. You can explore her website and watch her video to learn more.
The Compassionate Kitchen: Buddhist Practices for Eating with Mindfulness and Gratitude is now in print.
Based on talks Ven. Chodron gave on how to bring our Dharma practice to procuring, preparing, and eating food, The Compassionate Kitchen: Buddhist Practices for Eating with Mindfulness and Gratitude explains how to cultivate constructive attitudes around food. It includes the Abbey’s verses for blessing and offering our food and chapters by students who have successfully dealt with eating disorders.
Geshe Dadul Namgyal, Senior Resident Teacher at Drepung Loseling Monastery in Atlanta, Georgia, endorsed the book:
“The Compassionate Kitchen offers a very rich menu of Buddhist theory and practice concerning food and cultures surrounding food. From the appetizer items of the background philosophical principles and general perspectives on food, to the main entrées of the proper conduct and mind-set while eating, to the choicest desserts of dedication prayers and concluding rituals, it captures a complete treatment of the Buddhist concept of food in an easily digestible manner. On top of that, it beautifully displays them through the scenario of the actual practice being followed at Sravasti Abbey where the author herself is the founder, abbess, and an indispensable guide.”
There’s a short excerpt on the Abbey website and a review in Tricycle Magazine. Also, check out the article at Religion News Service.
Armistice Day in Coeur d’Alene
Peace was the focal point at this year’s November 11 Armistice Day Ceremony held at the Human Rights Education Institute in Coeur D’Alene, Idaho. Event organizer Mary Hanlin said, “My goal is to create an annual coming together in honor of the original intent of November 11, an end to war and a fostering of world peace.”
Ven. Samten was one of four speakers for the event. The theme that emerged from all the speakers came to the same point, as clearly articulated by HH Dalai Lama: “As we truly come to recognize the oneness of all humankind, our motivation to find peace will grow stronger. In the deepest sense, we are really sisters and brothers, so we must share each other’s suffering. Mutual respect, trust, and concern for one another’s welfare is our best hope for lasting world peace.”
Multi-Cultural Week at Whitworth University
As part of a multi-cultural week at Whitworth University in Spokane, Ven. Chodron was invited to speak on Tibet and Buddhism. Before the talk, we shared dinner with a group of students from the International Center there. What a lovely group of people from all over the world: Nepal, Pakistan, Mongolia, the Philippines, Ethiopia, China, Mexico, and more, not to mention the Abbey contingent from Russia and Singapore. Over 55 people attended the talk. We hope many of them will come to visit the Abbey. There is already an activity with the university’s International Center scheduled for the spring. Photos are in the Abbey Life gallery.
Over the Thanksgiving weekend, 16 people shared a holiday with our best friend, Chenrezig, the Buddha of Compassion. Blanketed by the early winter fog and light rain, we sequestered ourselves in the Meditation Hall for three daily sessions of deity yoga.
Abbey resident Ven. Tsepal skillfully led the Nyung Ne retreat, which includes taking the 8 Mahayana precepts, many prostrations, recitations of Chenrezig’s long and short mantras, and chanting a moving praise of his enlightened qualities. Every other day we fast and also keep silence. Over four days, we purified, meditated, and accumulated merit.
Our minds quieted, our concentration increased, and our hearts naturally softened and opened. Personal insights were shared over tea in the breaks on the days we spoke. A beautiful silent snow fell on the second day of retreat. We took it as an auspicious sign of our purification!
We concluded the retreat with dedications for the many sponsors and community members who cared for us with great kindness. How wonderful that Nyung Ne is an annual retreat at the Abbey! Take a look at the photos.
Despite—or maybe because of—the snow, 12 friends came to help us on the last Offering Service Saturday of the year. Everyone had a great time (and a delicious meal), with some people preparing the Abbey grounds for winter by working outdoors, and others stringing beads to make malas (rosaries) for the incarcerated people that the Abbey supports. You can tell from the photos how much fun we had.
The following day was Sharing the Dharma Day with nearly 50 people altogether. Ven. Chodron read from An Open-Hearted Life and discussed how to become friends with ourselves. This necessitates stopping the exaggerated and false self-criticism we often struggle with and, instead, learning to “hold our line.”
Holding our line means to know the path we want to follow, both spiritually and in our ordinary life, and to follow it without putting undue attention on obstacles that might arise. Why? When we put most of our attention on problems and obstacles, we don’t really look where we’re going and stumble. But when we have a clear idea and keep that strongly in mind, we hold the line and go in that direction. Watch the talk and see the photos.
Sunday December 2 is Lama Tsongkhapa Day and the last Sharing the Dharma Day of the year. The next one is March 24 when we celebrate Kathina and the end of the winter retreat.
Ven. Chodron is on her annual trip to Asia now. Here’s the latest by Ven. Damcho who is accompanying her and acting as the Chinese-English translator for her talks.
After a stop in Seattle where Ven. Chodron spoke on The Compassionate Kitchen at the American Evergreen Buddhist Association, we had a smooth journey to Taipei. We were warmly received at Luminary Mountain Temple by recent Abbey visitors Ven. Jenkir and Ven. Zichi. The Abbey nuns met with Luminary abbess Ven. Master Wuyin, who shared about her recent pilgrimage to Dunhuang in China with 50 of her nuns. We invited Ven. Master Wuyin to be on our advisory board, and she happily agreed.
Ven. Chodron spoke to the Luminary Temple nuns about how to bring bodhicitta into their meditation practice and daily lives. Over the next days, we also visited Pu Yi Nunnery, and Dharma Drum Nong Chan Monastery, where Ven. Chodron also gave talks. In one session, the 45 attending nuns were especially moved to hear Ven. Chodron’s appreciation for the bhikshuni sangha, her encouragement for them as women practitioners, and her exhortation for them to have a balanced schedule that includes continuing education.
Flying on to Jakarta, Ven. Chodron spoke on “Good Karma” to about 650 people at Wihara Ekayana Arama. Ekayana Buddhist Centre launched the Bahasa Indonesia translations of Buddhism: One Teacher, Many Traditions and How to Free Your Mind: Tara the Liberator. Quite a number of Ven. Chodron’s books have been published in Bahasa Indonesia, both for commercial and free distribution, which is really wonderful. Read about “Translating the Dharma for All.”
Ven. Chodron gave several teachings in Indonesia. We also visited the Ekayana Ehi-Passiko School, a Buddhism-based school that emphasizes mindfulness. Ven. Chodron spoke to a class of fifth graders about the Sravasti Abbey animals, and the kids were full of questions: “Do cougars eat people?” and “How do you avoid attacks from bears?” She also spoke to high school students about meditation. It’s wonderful to see these students learn about meditation, mindfulness, compassion, and kindness from a young age.
Vens. Chodron and Damcho spent their last days in Indonesia leading a retreat and visiting the Buddhist temple ruins at Muaro Jambi. Here, it is said, Lama Atisha spent 12 years studying bodhicitta and thought-training with his most beloved master, Serlingpa. We’ll hear more about this in the next eNews, but wonderful photos are already on Facebook. Next, they head to Singapore, where teachings begin December 6.
As you know, we emphasize practicing the Dharma in our daily lives, and this year we’ve had a fantastic chance to practice patience and fortitude when dealing with our infrastructure.
Since the Abbey is now home to more monastics and more guests are visiting, the Washington Dept. of Health has required us to update our water system from Type B to Type A. This necessitated drilling a new well. The drill went down and down until, at a depth of 585 feet, water spurted out at 20 gallons a minute. Hurrah!! See the 40 second video to see how much that is.
We’ve also had to replace the broken cesspool at the small house down the hill at Tara’s Refuge with a new septic system. In the process, we discovered that the old pipe under the foundation that connects to the new septic system is also broken. The septic system is now completed and we’re awaiting the plumber and contractor to fix the pipe.
On top of that, our geothermal heating and cooling system in Chenrezig Hall hasn’t functioned in months. Finally, the problem was diagnosed as a small leak in one of the many underground pipes. Now the challenge is to find this tiny leak and repair it. Fortunately, we have a backup heating system in the building.
One project that is successfully completed is adding a generator to Prajna Cottage. That happened just in time. One cold morning just a few days after it was installed, the electricity went out for a few hours. Ven. Chodron could stay warm and merrily continued to write throughout the power outage.
Two local people requested the Abbey community to do a land blessing ceremony to create positive intentions for Mother Earth and living beings. Joining with our Carmelite nun friends and a small group of concerned citizens, we did a private event with a sincere wish to help protect our local environment and its inhabitants from potential environmental and health degradation.
Our interfaith ceremony brought in beautiful elements from the Buddhist and Catholic faiths, as well as the sharing of a Northwest Native American prayer. Blessed water from the miraculous healing spring and shrine of Our Lady of Lourdes in France was mixed into holy water the Buddhists had blessed with recitations of om mani padme hum. Each participant received water to sprinkle on lands near and far that may be adversely impacted by a possible silicon smelter. We imbued this water with our sincere positive intentions for the well being of all—but in particular Newport and the surrounding region.
We enjoyed learning about the thoughtful passages from the Catholic Laudato Si that speak about caring for the environment.
Ven. Samten shared some of the wisdom in Working With Anger, written by Ven. Thubten Chodron, at Shantideva Center’s new location in Brooklyn. Among the book’s 67 antidotes to anger, the Shantideva group focused on becoming aware of our buttons and rehearsing the antidotes on the cushion so that we can be better prepared for situations that will inevitably trigger those buttons. Over time, with effort, we can diminish the size of those buttons and deactivate our reactivity!
A number of people present at the talk have visited the Abbey and more are inspired to make the effort to visit in 2019. Photos of the visit are on Shantideva’s Facebook page.
We’ve also been studying Working with Anger at the Spokane Unitarian Universalist Church meditation class led by Abbey nuns, which finishes December 10 before we go into winter retreat. The class will continue through the winter as a student-led book study group focusing on A Fearless Heart by Thubten Jinpa, principal English translator for His Holiness the Dalai Lama. The class meets Mondays from 6:30 to 8:00 pm beginning January 15. Contact Susan or just drop in. Abbey nuns return in early April.
Also in Spokane, Vens. Jigme and Lamsel led a meditation workshop at the Souls Center, “a classroom for spiritual empowerment.” Host Julia Hayes created an intimate environment, including a cozy fireplace, to explore the topic of meditation: What is it? Why do we do it? How do we do it? We first practiced and discussed meditative stabilization, then moved on to analytic meditations on mind as the source of happiness and pain and the kindness of others. Everyone seems to grow in self-acceptance as we examined what can sometimes be uncomfortable topics. The day helped all our efforts to adopt beneficial states of mind and abandon harmful ones.
Don’t forget to sign up for the Retreat from Afar, joining with meditators at the Abbey for one or three months in the Vajrasattva purification practice. The retreat begins December 27.
Whether you’re doing the New Year’s Vajrasattva Retreat, joining the One- or Three-month Retreats, or meditating from afar, here’s a list of resources for how to learn and prepare for Vajrasattva practice.
News came that President Trump will award the Presidential Medal of Freedom to seven people next week, one of whom is Babe Ruth. As a German-American, Babe Ruth spoke up against the extermination of the Jews during World War II when the American and British governments had no intention of helping them.
Ven. Chonyi responds to a reader’s question: Does Buddhism command you to love the Buddha?