Snow is falling as the Abbey community and a handful of guests perform the opening rites to begin our annual winter retreat.
We’ve seen a season of obstacles—wildfire evacuation, community-wide Covid outbreak, and Geshe la’s disappearance in November.
However, doing the taking and giving meditation, thinking of the victims of the terrible wars, famine, natural disasters, and other sufferings in today’s world, puts these challenges in perspective as it strengthens our compassion.
The Abbey has received incredible showers of kindness from friends and strangers near and far. “Thank you” isn’t enough. We are fervently committed to repaying your kindness through our practice.
Vens. Chodron, Damcho, and Konchog are in Asia until January. Venerable’s teaching schedule is here.
The rest of us are very ready to settle into the silence of retreat, concentrate on the four truths of the aryas, and deepen our connection with the Three Jewels for the benefit of all.
Join us when the Retreat from Afar starts in January. You can sign up now.
May you have all good conditions for growing your Dharma joy!
(on behalf of) Bhikshuni Thubten Chodron & the Sravasti Abbey Community
Most of you now know that our teacher and friend Geshe Tenzin Chodrak (Dadul Namgyal) disappeared from the Abbey on the evening of November 7. Details are on our website here. We still don’t know what happened
The investigation continues, directed now by Geshe la’s family and the Pend Oreille County Sheriff’s Office.
We are grateful to scores of search volunteers and for all the prayers and pujas devoted to Geshe la’s well being. We have special thanks for the visits of Gala Rinpoche and members of Geshe la’s family.
As the Abbey community enters winter retreat, we will focus on our Dharma practice in order to create the karmic causes for Geshe la to return.
Together with Geshe la’s family, we maintain trust in the Three Jewels, the infallible workings of karma, and the view of dependent arising and emptiness. And dedicate merit on his behalf.
Asia 2023 Travelogue
Ven. Chodron headed off on her annual teaching tour in Asia on October 27, accompanied by Vens. Damcho and Konchog, and a stuffed animal menagerie including Diligent Dharma Dog, Serenity Sloth, and Samadhi Sheep as her assistants.
Read Ven. Damcho’s full description of the visit in Asia Travelogue 2023, Part 1 on our website.
The trip began with a full program in Seattle. Ven. Chodron gave talks and reconnected with dear friends, including a visit with Her Eminence Dagyum Kusho Sakya, where she paid respect at the late His Holiness Dagchen Rinpoche’s shrine.
After a rich time of Dharma connections, the Abbey monastics departed for Singapore where they were warmly welcomed by the Friends of Sravasti Abbey Singapore (FOSAS).
Ven. Chodron gave a full schedule of talks there over two and a half weeks. Venues included Amitabha Buddhist Centre, Pureland Marketing, and Vimalakirti Buddhist Centre.
Links to all Venerable’s Asia Dharma talks are listed under More News below. You can also find them on the Asia Teaching Tour 2023 playlist.
Aside from giving public talks, Ven. Chodron made private connections, including a visit to Pu Ti Buddhist Temple where she gave a short talk to the nuns. Afterwards, she joined the abbess in a heartfelt sharing on the importance of monastic training. She also offered a private talk for caregivers for people who are differently abled. Watch the talk here.
A new friend, Benevolent Bear, joined the team and made her debut alongside Samadhi Sheep at the final talk for youths at Singapore Buddhist Mission.
As always, we are grateful to the FOSAS volunteers who tirelessly set up booths at almost every talk to make Ven. Chodron’s books available and share about Sravasti Abbey and the Buddha Hall.
On November 15, the monastics and menagerie departed for Malaysia, where the Young Buddhist Association of Malaysia organized talks in Penang and Kuala Lumpur.
Ven. Chodron hit the ground running in Penang with two talks and a weekend retreat. Then they moved on to Kuala Lumpur. In addition to talks there, Ven. Chodron participated in the second Pali-Sanskrit International Buddhist Community Forum on Mindfulness: The Art of Living with Peace in Modern Life.
The Abbey monastics greatly appreciated being hosted by the Dharma Drum Mountain nuns’ community in Kuala Lumpur. In fact, Serenity Sloth enjoyed her time there so much that she requested to join their community and has taken a Chinese Dharma name, Kuan Ji (寬寂 Extensive Serenity). Compassionate Koala joined the group in Penang and together with Benevolent Bear, she looks forward to visiting the Abbey and requesting training.
Again, there’s more about the Malaysia visit in Ven. Damcho’s post.
Indonesia, Taiwan and Singapore again
Ven. Chodron leads a retreat in Indonesia this weekend, followed by more teachings and a conference in Singapore, and a talk at Dharma Drum Mountain in Taiwan. Check out the remaining schedule and look for talks on the Asia Teaching Tour 2023 playlist.
Buddha Hall Update
We’re really moving forward!
The sheetrock team has completed the walls in most of the upper floor rooms and a significant number of the lower level rooms as well.
Nine electricians continued installing conduit, wired the elevator room, and began installing lights in the Main Hall.
Duct work continues in the lower floor and the fire suppression system is almost complete. After many days of preparation to get the steel rails and other hardware in place, the elevator cab is now installed.
Some people seem to like working at night in the cold. The team that installed the hardy plank on the upper sections of the Buddha Hall did just that, and completed it in a surprisingly short time. We asked why they liked to work late. They replied, “It’s quieter, all the other trades are out of the way, and we can concentrate with greater ease!”
The most challenging stucco work has been happening on the parapet above the main entrance. The task has required three floors of scaffolding, tenting the entire structure, and running heaters for many hours. This allows the stucco team to complete the work despite rapidly dropping temperatures and high humidity.
Robert and Randy and their assistants have done beautiful work on all parts of the Buddha Hall. They are highly skilled, and they have been so happy to hear our expressions of deep appreciation!
Work has also continued on the water and septic systems: building sand filters, digging trenches to connect water pipes to the existing water lines, and connecting the water tanks at the top of the meadow.
And we’ll have a Tara Room!
Friends of Sravasti Abbey have invited year-end support to help build the Tara Room, a smaller side room off the Main Hall filled with images of the well-loved female deity, Arya Tara.
Arya Tara represents the buddhas’ enlightened activity, and is known for quick wisdom and helping to remove hindrances.
The Tara Room will be a place for small group meditations and teachings. Learn more and help sponsor the Tara Room here.
Buddha Hall Roof Ornaments
Everyone is excited about the roof ornaments as they make their transition from hand-crafted copper elements in Nepal to painted, assembled, and fully mounted ornaments at Sravasti Abbey.
Learn about them here.
They are now ready to go on the roof whenever the construction team decides it’s time to mount them.
The largest ganjira (spire) was the last one to be painted at Bryan’s Auto Collision Shop in nearby Priest River.
There was much joy and wonderful teamwork while we assembled the newly painted large ganjira, with the help of our dear friends Tsepak and Tamding. See photos here.
We are rejoicing in the ongoing hard work of so many people as the Buddha Hall moves further forward toward completion.
Nyung Ne Retreat
Residents and eight guests participated in the Abbey’s annual Nyung Ne purification retreat of Chenrezig. See photos here.
Vens. Tsepal and Lamsel skillfully led the group through five days of practice, drawing on their experience of many past Nyung Ne retreats.
Nyung Ne means “abiding in the retreat.” It is an incredibly powerful purification practice said to purify 40,000 eons of negative karma. Participants take the Eight Mahayana Precepts each morning, meditate on and make offerings to Chenrezig, and make prostrations while reciting praises to the Buddha of Compassion.
The group did two Nyung Ne cycles, or rounds. In each round, participants eat only one meal on the first day and abstain from any food, drink, or speaking on the second day.
The second round begins on the third day, when the fast from eating, drinking, and speaking is broken. Participants again eat only one meal, followed by another day of fasting.
The community was happy to share the practice with both old and new friends. Those who weren’t in the retreat joyfully supported the Nyung Ne and rejoice in the merit generated by the participants.
Sharing the Dharma Day
November saw our last Sharing the Dharma Day of 2023.
Ven. Sangye Khadro gave the talk on Compassion as an Antidote to the Critical, Judgmental Mind to a crowded room of Dharma friends, including several newcomers. Ven. Jigme’s meditation pointed us toward really hearing the critical voice inside ourselves.
Ven. Chonyi’s discussion questions asked us to analyze what happiness we (unconsciously and mistakenly) think will come from such a mind. We also explored. ways to catch and re-direct ourselves toward seeing people’s good qualities.
Of course, with so many people present, the potluck was stupendous!
The next Sharing the Dharma Day comes April 24, 2024. Please plan to join us!
- Ven. Sangye Khadro finished teaching the online course on Seventy Topics for Tse Chen Ling Center in San Francisco. They explored the topics found in chapters 4-8 of Maitreya’s Ornament for Clear Realization. You can watch her 2022 teachings on 70 Topics here.
She also led the November 18 hybrid gathering for Clear Mountain Monastery, founded by our Theravada brothers Ajahn Nisabho and Ajahn Kovilo, while they attended a conference in China. After meditation, she spoke about how the Abbey community has been using the Dharma—such as the lojong practice of “Transforming Adversities into the Path”—to deal with the challenges we have experienced in recent months, such as the disappearance of our dear teacher, Geshe Chodrak. Watch it here.
She continues to meet with the Sandpoint Sangha once a month, where they are focusing on death and impermanence. She emphasized how it is important to familiarize ourselves with Dharma practices such as mindfulness, loving-kindness, and thought transformation. These will help us be better prepared for death, and are also tools for transforming daily-life difficulties—such as illness and other unwanted experiences– into the spiritual path.
- Ven. Semkye recently gave a Dharma talk on impermanence to the Inland Northwest Unitarian Universalist Community in Spokane. She shared that accepting impermanence compels us to have a flexible and vast mind. It helps us to prioritize what is important in our lives and can be a catalyst for our spiritual growth.
- Ven. Dekyi gave an online talk on climate change to students at Mount Holyoke College. She explained how climate change can be understood within Buddhist philosophy and the steps Buddhists are taking to combat the consequences. She emphasized the importance of interdependence, strong commitment to non-harm, karma, and taking responsibility for our actions.
A key point is recognizing that climate change really comes down to altruism vs. self-centeredness. Fortunately, we have the Buddha’s teachings showing us how to overcome this and act in ways that are truly beneficial for everyone, including the earth. She also gave the talk on Bodhisattva’s Breakfast Corner. Watch it here.
- Ven. Jigme spoke to about 20 Hospice of Spokane staff and volunteers about how Buddhists approach death and dying, and how we help those who are going through the death process.To help them understand our approach, she spoke of our belief in rebirth and karma, along with the general Buddhist worldview. She also shared how Abbey residents prepare advance directives, medical powers of attorney, and create Dharma wills.
The audience was very interested in how we support a dying person by keeping a calm quiet environment and providing any practices that the dying person asks to be done during the death process.She also explained the Buddhist ethics of valuing of life and practicing non-harmfulness, which therefore oppose assisted suicide.
Two New Teaching Series
Two new weekly teaching series began this month:
- On Thursdays, Ven. Thubten Chonyi covers Taking Refuge, with talks on the refuge ngondro (preliminary practice) that we are doing for winter retreat. She begins each class by leading the practice, and then explains an aspect of taking refuge in the Three Jewels.
The class offers helpful preparation for the annual Retreat from Afar, which begins January 5. You can sign up here.
- On Friday nights, Ven. Sangye Khadro teaches The Middle-Length Treatise on the Stages of the Path to Enlightenment by Lama Tsongkhapa. Tsongkhapa composed this text towards the end of his life as an abbreviated version of his Great Treatise on the Stages of the Path to Enlightenment (Lamrim Chenmo), but it is believed to contain his final views on the important topic of emptiness.
The monastic community entered our annual varsa retreat earlier than usual this year at the end of November. Varsa began as the “rains retreat” during the summer months in the Buddha’s time, but he also made provision for a winter varsa. Given our climate, the Abbey observes it during the snowy months.
Varsa is one of the four monastic rites that a fully ordained sangha must perform each year. Doing so makes that area or country a “central land.”
During varsa, we study Dharma and focus on harmony in the community. Varsa begins with three ceremonies, which we have now completed.
The varsa is not the same as our annual winter meditation retreat. The dates usually overlap somewhat, but the two have different purposes. We are fortunate that our varsa includes so much meditation time!
- Ven. Chodron’s talk Open Heart, Clear Mind for the 2023 Metta Conference in Australia is now online.
- Videos from two 2023 retreats are now available on the Abbey’s YouTube channel:
– Young Adults Explore Buddhism (2023)
– Good Grief Retreat (2023)
- Ven. Chodron’s September and October talks for the Vajrayana Institute in Sydney are now on YouTube: Awareness of Our Body and Speech and Cultivating a Healthy Sense of Self.
- Ven. Kunga shares how she works with Geshe la’s disappearance in this post, coupled with a poem by Ven. Jampa Sangmo.
Watch Ven. Chodron’s Talks in Asia
- The Power of Aspiration at Vimalakirti Buddhist Centre
- Working with Anger Part 1 at Amitabha Buddhist Centre
- Working with Anger Part 2 at Amitabha Buddhist Centre
- Strengthening and Maintaining Mental Well-Being: the Buddhist Approach at Tibetan Buddhist Centre
- How to Live a Meaningful Life, a Talk for Caregivers at Singapore Buddhist Mission
- How to See Yourself as You Really Are at Amitabha Buddhist Centre
- How to Free Your Mind: Tara Retreat at Amitabha Buddhist Centre
- From TikTok to Dharma Talk at Singapore Buddhist Mission
- Transforming Anxiety and Depression at the Butterworth Lay Buddhist Society
- Four Talks on the Power of Compassion at the Butterworth Lay Buddhist Society (Talk 2), (Talk 3), (Talk 4)
- Mindfulness: The Art of Living with Peace in Modern Life for the Vajrayana Buddhist Council of Malaysia
- Looking for the Heart for Buddhist Society at University Sains Malaysia
- Rejuvenate Your Life for Penang Bodhi Heart Sanctuary
- The Essence of a Meaningful Life for Dharma Drum Mountain Buddhist Centre, Malaysia
Watch for more on the Asia Teaching Tour 2023 playlist on YouTube.
Here’s what’s happening in December:
Now – Dec. 22: One-Month Winter Retreat: Four Truths and Refuge Ngondro
Now – Dec. 31: Teachings with Ven. Thubten Chodron in Indonesia, Singapore, and Taiwan
December 17: Medicine Buddha Puja with Abbey monastics on Zoom
Dec. 29 – Jan. 1: New Year’s Vajrasattva Retreat with Ven. Sangye Khadro
Plus weekly teachings online:
Taking Refuge with Ven. Thubten Chonyi, streamed live Thursday mornings at 8 am Pacific Time
Middle-Length Lamrim with Ven. Sangye Khadro, streamed live Fridays at 5 pm Pacific Time. No class Dec. 29.