After a very hot and dry summer, climate change is now making the weather go in a different direction this autumn with a lot of rain. We aren’t complaining and the trees and animals are singing now that there is plenty of water.
Fortunately we’ve been spared the flooding that our northern neighbors in British Columbia are experiencing. We’ve gotten some snow too and expect more this winter.
Meanwhile the turkeys were happy to be near the Abbey over Thanksgiving, and we have a flock of quails who have nestled in too. Watch Ven. Jampa’s Bodhisattva’s Breakfast Corner talk about “The Tale of the Quarrelsome Quail” here.
Bhikshuni Thubten Chodron & the Sravasti Abbey Community
Illuminating the Intent
We were privileged to listen to Geshe Yeshi Lhundup from Drepung Loseling Monastery in India teach Je Tsongkhapa’s Illuminating the Intent, a massive text based on Candrakīrti’s Supplement to (Nāgārjuna’s) Treatise on the Middle Way.
Geshela began teaching us this text two years ago, so this year he just picked up from where he left off. We enjoyed eight days of learning topics that centered around the emptiness of inherent existence. Watch the teachings here.
The text has ten chapters, one for each of the ten perfections. These teachings challenge us to think deeply, and we greatly appreciate that Geshela is able to teach in English.
Know Your Mind—Part 3
Venerable Sangye Khadro taught a weekend course on mind and mental factors, the third in this year’s series on the topic. This final course covered the afflictive mental factors (six root and twenty auxiliary) and the four changeable mental factors.
Previous courses covered the nature of mind, types of mind, and virtuous mental factors. Taken as a whole, the series gives an excellent overview of Buddhist psychology.
Sharing the Dharma Day
This month, Ven. Chodron spoke on empathic listening as explained in chapter 45 of An Open-Hearted Life. This chapter, written by both Dr. Russell Kolts and Ven. Chodron, counseled us to slow down and listen to others with our heart.
Interrupting people to tell them they are wrong, blaming others for having ideas that differ from ours, manipulating or coercing them to make certain choices that conform with our thoughts and interests—we easily slip into these behaviors. And as we know from experience, the result isn’t good.
Just as we want to feel understood and respected, so do others. If we listen carefully and with empathy, others will feel heard, and when both of us have calmed down we will have our turn to speak.
One of the guests at the Abbey said after the talk, “I felt like she was talking directly to me.” Many others nodded their heads in agreement. There’s a lot to think about and act on so that we can listen empathically and create peace in a chaotic world.
Over Thanksgiving weekend, ten residents and five guests participated in the Abbey’s annual Nyung Ne purification retreat of Chenrezig. Ven. Tsepal led each of the seven sessions, drawing on her experience with leading many past Nyung Nes.
Nyung Ne means “abiding in the retreat” and is an incredibly powerful purification practice said to purify 40,000 eons of negative karma. Participants take the Eight Mahayana Precepts on the first and second day, meditate on and make offerings to Chenrezig, and make prostrations while reciting praises to the Buddha of Compassion.
Participants eat only one meal on the first day and abstain from any food, drink, or speaking on the second day. The community was happy to share the practice with both old and new friends. A few participants doing the practice for the first time were surprised at how joyful they found the experience. Learn more about the Nyung Ne and Chenrezig practice here.
The Buddha Hall
Good news! The Northeast Tri-County Health District has approved the plans for the septic system, pending the okay from the Washington State Department of Health for the “cast-in-place” tanks for the sand filters.
Vens. Samten and Damcho are interviewing audio-video companies in Spokane so we can choose a company to install the complex sound system designed by our acoustic team.
Tim, the architect, is working with Rick from the building department regarding meeting all the specifics of the building code so we can obtain the building permit. To that end, various engineers have to make minor revisions in their drawings.
We’re progressing toward meeting all the regulations for a commercial building—that’s how the building department classified the Buddha Hall because it will be a large building open to the public. We hope to have more news on that front in December.
John, our contractor, wants to start bidding out the materials and sub-contractors. With the supply chain delays, this will be interesting.
The Sravasti Abbey App
Many volunteers offered their time and skills to make the app—programmers, designers and consultants, quote editors, and more. Their names are listed on the app, and we thank each one. Their wonderful contributions will enable many more people to contact the Buddha’s precious teachings.
The app has received good reviews. Emily from New York wrote: “Just want to congratulate and thank everyone at the Abbey for the launch of the Sravasti Abbey App. You have offered so much online for those of us that don’t have access to a physical temple or Dharma Center. The App is such a fantastic game changer for us all! Well done Sravasti Abbey!”
The Eight Mahayana Precepts
The Eight Mahayana Precepts is a practice of living in eight precepts for 24 hours. It’s a wonderful way to create merit and jump-start our practice. Learn more about the Eight Mahayana Precepts here.
Kathy Elton, a long-term practitioner and Abbey supporter, began a Lay Practitioners Practice Group that meditates together daily in the mornings and evenings. Learn about the group here. On behalf of the group, Kathy asked Venerable Chodron to give the Eight Mahāyāna Precepts.
Ven. Chodron will give the Eight Mahayana Precepts on Saturday, December 18 at 6:00 am (MST), preceded by a required teaching on the practice given by Ven. Tsepal on Wednesday, December 1 at 7:00 pm (MST). Both will be offered over Zoom.
Write to Kathy Elton to register for both events and receive the Zoom link info.
Teachings by Ven. Chodron
Science and Technology in Service of Society
Thanks to Zoom, Ven. Chodron’s twice-annual talks at North Idaho College, hosted by the Diversity Council, have continued. In the recent autumn semester talk, she emphasized the importance of cultivating a good motivation and a sense of interconnectedness when we engage with science and technology. Watch the talk here.
Aspirations for Degenerate Times: Mahayana Practice in Light of Current Events
Ven. Chodron’s weekend workshop on “Aspirations for Degenerate Times” for FPMT Spain focused on the five forces outlined in the Seven-Point Mind Training instruction: motivation, seed of merit, destruction, prayers of aspiration, and familiarity.
Close to 50 participants listened closely to these powerful teachings, which were translated into Spanish simultaneously by Francisco from FPMT Spain. Ven. Nyima led prayers and offered guided meditations in Spanish as well. Recordings of the teachings will be posted on our YouTube channel.
The Four Seals and the Heart Sutra
Rechung Dorje Dragpa Buddhist Center in Veracruz, Mexico is launching a course based on Ven. Chodron’s 2009 teachings on the Four Seals and the Heart Sutra, which are now available in Spanish through Instituto Budadharma here. Ven. Chodron recently gave an introductory talk to inspire their study, offering a practical explanation of the four seals: (1) all conditioned phenomena are transient, (2) all polluted phenomena are duḥkha in nature, (3) all phenomena are empty and selfless, and (4) nirvāṇa is true peace. People asked stimulating questions, and the talk with simultaneous translation in Spanish by Altair is available here. The 2009 retreat teachings are in English here.
Teachings by Ven. Sangye Khadro
Courses for Thubten Norbu Ling
The Easy Path Lam Rim course for Thubten Norbu Ling in Sante Fe, New Mexico, which began last spring, culminated in studying the six perfections, the main practices a bodhisattva engages in to attain awakening for the benefit of all beings. Watch the full series here.
Ven. Khadro then began a new five-week course entitled “The Wisdom of Emptiness.” She began with an overview of principal Buddhist teachings such as the four truths and the two truths, and then explored the different types of selflessness and how to meditate on them. Watch the first talk here and the second talk here. Register here for the full course.
The Human Spirit Psychoanalytic-Buddhist Training Program
Ven. Khadro continued teaching two groups of students from the Human Spirit Psychoanalytic-Buddhist Training Program in Israel, a program she has been involved with for several years. The senior students are now learning the methods for developing bodhicitta and the practice of the six perfections while the junior students are learning about the afflictions and how to overcome them as well as the four establishments of mindfulness. Follow the teachings and meditations here.
Students in the weekly class Ven. Khadro teaches for the Sandpoint Sangha continued to learn about dependent arising. She showed slides of the details of the Wheel of Life, explaining how it illustrates different aspects of samsara. One member commented that she saw many paintings of the Wheel of Life while visiting Buddhist temples in Ladakh forty years ago but had never heard an explanation of it, so she was quite grateful.
Teachings by Abbey Monastics
South Carolina Dharma Group
Ven. Chonyi led the South Carolina Dharma Group in a two-day Zoom course on “Looking into the Twelve Links.” They examined the particular features and inter-relationship of each link and its role in creating our experience of cyclic existence.
Coincidentally, Ven. Chodron’s weekly teachings on Samsara, Nirvana, and Buddha Nature have just begun to cover the chapters on the twelve links of dependent origination. For in-depth study, tune in on Friday nights at 6:15 Pacific Time when the teachings are streamed live. Find them here.
German Talk for Tibetan Center Hamburg
Ven. Jampa gave a Zoom talk for the Tibetan Center in Hamburg, Germany on “Weather the Storm of Climate Change,” a topic that she is passionate about. She presented different meditations and mind training techniques on how to face the reality of climate change, strengthen mental resilience, and encourage actions in an environmentally conscious manner. Watch her talk in German here.
Spanish Dharma Class for Ganden Shedrup Ling
Ganden Shedrup Ling continues to host Ven. Nyima’s class on the Seven-Point Mind Training. The group’s participation and commitment to the course has been very strong. The class will continue in 2022.
Retreat from Afar
Every year, the Abbey offers all of our friends and supporters the opportunity to take part in our annual three-month retreat in the winter from home. While Abbey residents do multiple meditation a day, retreatants from afar do one meditation session daily.
This year, our retreat is on the Medicine Buddha, to subdue the Covid virus and the suffering and disharmony created in its wake. You can find more information on the Retreat from Afar page here.
Offering Service Saturday
Over the summer months, Ven. Chodron and a team of nuns and guests removed massive amounts of dead trees and branches along Bodhisattva Path so that sunshine and precipitation can now touch the forest floor and help the trees to thrive in these areas.
Despite Covid and high fire danger, a small number of our vaccinated volunteers and long term guests also helped with fire mitigation in and around the Abbey grounds. Together we hauled out dozens of piles of dead material to be safely burned offsite.
At the last Offering Service Saturday on November 20, an energetic team focused on limbing trees near the Abbey’s buildings. With the fire danger at a safe level due to snow and rain, Dave, Janet, and Vens. Semkye and Dekyi burned a huge pile of branches and dead material.
The transformation is striking as we continue to make the Abbey a fire-safe place to live and share the Dharma.
Interfaith Group Going Strong
After a year and a half, the local Newport Interfaith group continues to meet monthly on Zoom. Reading The Book of Joy by His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu together has inspired a deep sense of commonality within the group.
Group members have discussed how crucial their faith has been in helping them ride out these uncertain times with fortitude, thus having the capacity to hold others in compassion as they witness the suffering of the world.
These spiritual friendships have inspired Ven. Semkye, the Abbey representative in the group, to keep her practice alive and strong in her heart.
The Eastern Influenced Corporate Leader
Alana Mai Mitchell, a corporate coach in Australia, interviewed Ven. Chodron for her podcast, “The Eastern Influenced Corporate Leader.” Having never taken leadership training courses, Venerable spoke from her own experience on the qualities of a good leader.
She stressed that a leader must be trustworthy and ethical, and present a broad vision of accomplishing something larger than our individual selves. People feel satisfied with their work when they witness how it benefits others. A leader must also respect and support every person on a team and value their contributions. Watch or listen to the podcast here.
Journalists are becoming more interested in the Abbey. A reporter from the Associated Press (AP) interviewed Ven. Chodron for an article about bhikshuni ordination and opportunities for nuns in various Buddhist traditions. A freelance photojournalist based in Spokane then came to document Abbey life for the story.
Tracy Simmons, Executive Director of the SpokaneFāVS (faith and values) news site, was interested in our children’s book publication Gavin Discovers the Secret to Happiness, authored by a man connected with the Abbey’s Prison Dharma Program. Tracy interviewed Ven. Chodron about the program, which offers spiritual guidance and Buddhist materials to over a thousand incarcerated people. Learn more about the Prison Dharma Program here.
We’ll share links to these articles as soon as they are posted.
- Ven. Chodron’s talk on “The Diversity of Buddhist Traditions” given for the Great Tree Zen Women’s Temple is now available here.
- Ven. Sangye Khadro’s talks on A Fearless Heart by Thupten Jinpa are available here with French translation. The edited videos will be posted on our YouTube channel in the future.
- In “With the Help of the Dharma,” Calvin Malone reflects on the support he received from Venerable Chodron, Sravasti Abbey, and other Buddhist volunteers while he was in prison.
Here’s what’s happening online in the next few weeks:
- December 5: Sharing the Dharma Day
- December 6: How to Hold Steady when Our Buttons Get Pushed with Ven. Thubten Semkye, 8:30 pm Central Time, 6:30 pm Pacific Time. Hosted by Tara Ling Buddhist Center.
- December 11 : Forum on Secular and Buddhist Mindfulness with Ven. Thubten Chodron and Ven. Ariyadhammika Thera, 4:45 pm Pacific Time (December 12, 8:45 am Malaysia Time). Hosted by various Malaysian Buddhist organizations.
- December 12: Medicine Buddha Puja
- December 25: What is Faith? with Ven. Thubten Chodron, 6 pm Pacific Time (December 26, 10 am Singapore Time). Hosted by Tibetan Buddhist Centre Singapore.
- December 31–Jan 2: New Year’s Vajrasattva Retreat
Plus regular ongoing teachings:
- The Wisdom of Emptiness with Ven. Sangye Khadro, on Zoom every Wednesday, 8:15 am Pacific Time/ 9:15 am Mountain Time through December 15.
- El Adiestramiento Mental with Ven. Thubten Nyima, on Zoom every other Wednesday, 3 pm Pacific Time/ 7 pm Puerto Rico Time.
- Engaging in the Bodhisattva’s Deeds with Ven. Thubten Chodron streamed live on Thursday mornings, 9 am Pacific Time.
- Creating Peace in a Chaotic World with Ven. Sangye Khadro, on Zoom every Friday, 7 pm Pacific Time/ Saturday, 10 am Singapore Time through December 10. — New series!
- Samsara, Nirvana, and Buddha Nature with Ven. Thubten Chodron streamed live on Friday nights, 6:15 pm Pacific Time.
Check the Abbey Events page for much more