The multiple colors of autumn are slowly falling to the ground, replaced by bare branches and sprinklings of snow. All the animals are preparing for winter, as the monastics catch our breath after a busy spring, summer, and autumn.
The Vajrasattva New Year’s retreat, the one-month winter retreat with guests, followed by more silent retreat time just for Abbey residents are coming up, and we are planning for them now.
Bhikshuni Thubten Chodron & the Sravasti Abbey Community
Dharma Advice for the Days We Live In
Those of you who live in the US may be watching the impeachment hearings and some of you may be assiduously avoiding watching them. Regardless, the takeaway from this is that our actions and our speech matter. They affect others and ourselves.
What we say and do has an ethical dimension that impacts the present experiences of ourselves and others as well as our future lives. Knowing this, let’s practice good ethical conduct ourselves; this is our contribution to world peace. Then, with a compassionate mind—not with anger—let’s hold public officials, corporate leaders, and so on accountable for their actions, and let’s work for the benefit of all.
Course on The Foundation of Buddhist Practice
Ven. Chodron continued teaching The Foundation of Buddhist Practice, the second volume of The Library of Wisdom and Compassion, which she is co-authoring with H.H. the Dalai Lama. She taught on the first three chapters in 2018 and began this year with chapters 4 and 5, which cover relying on a spiritual mentor, and part of chapter 6, which describes how to set up a meditation session.
A lot of discussion flowed from the chapters on how to choose qualified Buddhist teachers, how to make ourselves into qualified and receptive students, and how to create a beneficial relationship that spurs our Dharma practice in a positive direction. H.H. the Dalai Lama also gives practical explanations on how to handle problems that may arise and unusual behavior on the part of the teacher. This weeklong course was stimulating and thought provoking to say the least!
Beginning in January, Ven. Chodron will continue teachings from this book Friday evenings at 6:15 Pacific on Livestream. Join us!
Buddha Hall Update
As the Buddha taught, everything is impermanent. We thought the design process was coming to a conclusion, when, together with our great architect Tim Wilson, we revisited a few choices and made some changes. We lowered the too-high roof, eliminated the clerestory windows (which no one could have climbed up to clean), and simplified the ceiling of the main hall. The design of the Buddha Hall is now clearer and will eliminate a lot of extra cost.
Tim also gave us the first hand-drawn color designs of the Buddha Hall. It will be a beautiful building that many people now and in future generations can use to learn, practice, and sustain the Buddha’s teachings in the West.
We also met with an acoustician, a kind and knowledgeable gentleman, who spent an entire morning giving us the ABCs of acoustical design and answering our many questions. Learning from the not-so-great audio systems in Chenrezig Hall and the Meditation Hall, we want to make sure that everyone can easily hear teachings, ask questions, and join in beautiful chanting in the Buddha Hall. Updates will be posted on the website.
A New Anagarika
Laresa Kerstetter has been an Abbey visitor for many years, always returning for courses or to offer service no matter where she was living in the world.
In October, Laresa moved to the Abbey to explore her monastic aspiration and took the eight anagarika precepts in November. She will train with the community for at least a year and use this time to grow in the Dharma. We welcome her—and her forestry skills! Photos are here.
Another New Book!
Sravasti Abbey has published a new book of essays by Venerable Bhikshuni Master Wuyin Shih and the nuns of Luminary International Buddhist Society. Translated from Chinese, Building Community: Living and Learning with the Sangha includes fifty discourses on leading Buddhist communities with wisdom that draw from Venerable Wuyin’s decades of experience as an abbess, and also vignettes by her students about the Buddhist teacher-student relationship.
Interest in this practice continues to increase, with 17 guests participating this year. This purification practice of Chenrezig is especially powerful for healing illness, purifying negative karma, and opening the heart to compassion.
Physically rigorous, its effect on the mind and body are profound. Bhikshuni Palmo originated the practice in India many centuries ago, through which she was healed from leprosy and gained the superior realizations of a bodhisattva.
Ven. Tsepal expertly led the practice, supported by the Abbey community. Thank you to all!
Sandpoint High School Students Visit
For the fifth year, a class of students from Sandpoint High School and their teacher came to the Abbey on a field trip. Ven. Chodron gave a talk, together with a slide show, about Buddhism, its history, and its spread around the world.
The students then divided into smaller groups and viewed the Meditation Hall, took a tour of the Abbey property, and climbed to the top of the upper meadow. (They loved the view from there).
We ate lunch together, which was followed by informal discussion before they took their leave. The students asked many questions about our life at the Abbey.
They were surprised that the Abbey has Facebook and Instagram pages, and that we watch documentaries online. Somehow, they thought that monastics are still in the Stone Age (or at least in the 1970s)!
Sharing the Dharma Day
We had a big turnout for Sharing the Dharma Day in November, with both old and new friends attending. Ven. Chodron spoke on equalizing and exchanging self and others from An Open-Hearted Life, which sparked questions on the meaning of compassion and benefitting others.
A delicious lunch was followed by a vibrant discussion on the same topics. It’s wonderful to see people open up and discuss how they can use the Buddha’s teachings in their lives to solve their problems.
Watch the talk here. See photos here.
Forest Care and Offering Service Saturday
The last Offering Service Saturday for 2019 was a wonderful example of people enthusiastically working together for common goals. While some people worked indoors, the majority of the 18 volunteers who came to help us were in the forest.
We continued to buck up firewood, cut down dead trees (and roll them down the hill, which was great fun!), cut dead branches off flourishing trees, and the star attraction—burning the piles of waste (rotten wood) that have built up since we cleared out the overcrowded hillside leading up to the Abbey last winter.
We lacked the ingredients to make “s’mores”—graham crackers, chocolate, and marshmallows—the favored treat at campfires of our youth, but everyone had a good time without them.
In-House Workshop on Drug Use on and off College Campuses
Abbey monastics believe it’s important that we know what is happening in society at large so we can better address people’s needs by explaining how to practice the Buddha’s teachings in all circumstances.
In addition to the diversity workshop we had in October, we asked Dr. Patricia Maarhuis, the Alcohol and Drug Counseling, Assessment, and Prevention Services coordinator at Washington State University, to come and educate us on drug use on and off college campuses. Together with three of her assistants, Patricia explained how the legalization of marijuana in Washington State has affected its use among youth and boomers.
It was a big eye-opener, especially when Patricia explained vaping of nicotine and marijuana and the effect it has on youth’s health. One of her assistants spoke of this in terms of its effects on communities of color. We were very impressed and encouraged by her three assistants, who were all young, articulate, and intelligent women motivated to help society. We formed a wonderful bond with them and they expressed their desire to return to the Abbey for a longer stay to learn about Buddhism.
Ven. Tarpa and Ven. Losang recently led a four-visit mini-retreat with the Buddhist group at Airway Heights Corrections Center. Over seven weeks, the monastics introduced the men to purifying negativities with the four opponent powers within the 35 Buddha prostration practice.
Each visit included two afternoon sessions of meditation and teachings. During the last session, the venerables focused on the four ways that ethical downfalls occur: due to not knowing, lack of respect for the precepts, carelessness, and being overwhelmed by strong afflictions.
About 20 people participated overall, and their interest in the practice was strong. They especially welcomed the retreat-like atmosphere we all created together.
To follow up, the regular weekly volunteers will now incorporate this practice into their monthly schedule of activities. They hope to study soon Unlocking Your Potential: How to Get Out of Your Own Way by Ven. Thubten Chodron and Calvin Malone.
To see how incarcerated people learn about themselves and their society and use this knowledge to come to terms with their actions and determine to change, check out this documentary on a group of inmates at a prison in Soledad, California.
A Monastic Goes to Stanford
Venerable Damcho participated in the 7th Contemplation by Design Summit at Stanford University—a week of free, multi-disciplinary events to encourage a busy campus community to enjoy the “power of the pause” and cultivate inner peace and balance.
She gave the University Public Worship at the Stanford Memorial Church on “Pausing from the Eight Worldly Concerns,” which you can listen to here. She was honored to stand with an all-woman, interfaith team from the Stanford Office for Religious Life in a church built by a woman (Jane Stanford), with stained-glass windows of women saints smiling upon them.
Following the service, Ven. Damcho took questions at a talkback session held over lunch and then led a guided meditation on the kindness of others at the Windhover Contemplative Center. The events were well-attended by people curious about Buddhist monastics and meditation, and Ven. Damcho was grateful for the opportunity to sit in on other summit sessions and learn from other presenters as well.
Visiting Our Friends, the Carmelite Nuns
Venerables Tarpa and Semkye visited the Abbey’s close friends, Sisters Leslie and Nancy of the Carmelite Sisters of Mary, a Catholic cloister order, who live not far from the Abbey. It’s a yearly tradition for the four of them to get together to share insights regarding spiritual practice, ask and answer questions about each other’s traditions, and explore how monastic life interfaces with daily life.
Vens. Tarpa and Semkye have seen the benefit of this interfaith dialogue as a way to rejoice in the gift of compassion, wisdom, faith, hope, and love from monastics across spiritual traditions. May all religious practitioners, regardless of tradition, live together in harmony.
Dharma Class News
Live Streamed Teachings
Changes are coming for our Thursday and Friday Livestream teachings.
The Thursday class Livestream of teachings on Daniel Perdue’s The Course in Buddhist Reasoning & Debate has concluded. To complete the book, the Abbey community will do the final debate practices offline. The debate teaching series is archived here.
The Friday class on Approaching the Buddhist Path, Volume 1 in The Library of Wisdom and Compassion by His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Ven. Thubten Chodron, also concluded in November. (See the entire series here.) Abbey monastics will continue to review those teachings online through December.
Beginning in January, Ven. Chodron will teach from Volume 2, The Foundation of Buddhist Practice, starting with Chapter 6,”How to Structure a Meditation Session.” Chapters 1-5 were covered in weeklong teachings at the Abbey in 2018 and 2019. (See the series here). Tune into weekly Livestream teachings on Fridays at 6:15 pm (Pacific).
Winter Retreat from Afar
The winter Retreat from Afar—doing the Shakyamuni Buddha practice and gradual path meditations—begins January 3, so sign up soon. By committing to one practice session daily, the Retreat from Afar helps to strengthen your meditation practice and keeps you connected with the Abbey. Learn details here and read about how to prepare for the retreat here. Submit your mantra recitations to help create merit to build the Buddha Hall. Details are here.
Spokane UU Winter Classes
The Spokane Buddhist meditation class at the Unitarian Universalist Church continues with Abbey nuns through December 9. Beginning January 6, the Monday night group will reconvene for student-led meditation and book study on Ethics for the New Millennium by His Holiness the Dalai Lama. Classes are weekly at 6:30 pm and all are welcomed. Nuns return to lead the class April 13.
Virtual Morning Practice Group
An enthusiastic band of Sravasti Abbey lay followers has created a daily morning Dharma group, and they invite you to join them. The group meets every morning (weekends included) on the Zoom app at 6:30 a.m. (MST)—the same time that the Abbey residents begin their daily practice.
Email Kathy for details.
I live in Spain where I don’t have any Dharma friends. Although I can’t join the group every day because of the time-zone difference, I try to join during the weekend and every time it’s possible. I find doing this is very helpful for my practice. It’s a wonderful way to integrate my ethical conduct and it’s a good reminder that helps me guide my day through the path I have always wanted to follow. It would be wonderful if lots of Dharma practitioners would like to join this marvelous gift that Kathy has taken the care to offer us for the benefit of all sentient beings.
Listen & Read
Listen to Ven. Chodron’s interview on the Ten Percent Happier Podcast with Dan Harris.
Ven. Chodron’s teachings on Nagarjuna’s Precious Garland, at Shantideva Center in September, are now online. Watch them here.
The Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg turned down an environmental award, saying, “… the climate movement does not need any more awards. What we need is for our politicians and the people in power to start to listen to the current best available science,” and, “There is no lack of beautiful words but when it comes to our actual emissions, our ecological footprints per capita—if we include our consumption, our imports, as well as aviation and shipping—then it’s a whole other story.”
YES Christmas Gifts
Youth Emergency Services (YES), a non-profit organization serving homeless and at-risk youth, is organizing a holiday gift drive for needy families in the Newport, WA area. If you are interested in donating, contact YES by December 4th via phone (509-447-1125) or email.