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The stillness of winter snows helps our minds settle into meditation. And the days growing ever so slightly longer in January reminds us that this precious time for silent reflection is impermanent. May all sentient beings’ minds pause to contemplate what is important in life.
Bhiksuni Thubten Chodron and the Sravasti Abbey Community

Chenrezig Hall

Weather improved in January, enabling the crew to complete the sub-floor and lay the faswall walls for the second storey. Chenrezig Hall will be an imposing and dignified structure, which will provide us with ample space for more Dharma activities. It’s very exciting to see it literally take shape—soon we’ll be setting the trusses for the roof! Watch the movie!!

Many of you will remember Venerable Jampel who lived at the Abbey 2007-10. He has returned to the Abbey because he wants to help to build Chenrezig Hall. He is working with George’s construction crew and is happy to be back.We’re happy to see him again too.

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Winter Retreat & Retreat from Afar

The first part of January was “regular Abbey life ,” and then, mid-way in the month, we began the first phase of our annual winter retreat. Including residents and guests, there are 25 people. This year’s retreat is on the Four Establishments of Mindfulness, contemplating the lamrim (stages on the path) to generate our motivation at the beginning of the session. The group is tranquil and sincere; they feel the preciousness of the opportunity to do retreat and they treasure it.

If you haven’t already signed up for Retreat from Afar , you may want to do it. It’s a great way to establish a regular daily practice that nourishes you spiritually. Here you’ll do one meditation session a day until March 4, the day those of us at the Abbey conclude our winter retreat. (If you want to continue longer, that’s great!) Retreatants from Afar do either Chenrezig retreat or meditation on the four establishments of mindfulness. Let us know if you’d like to participate and send us a photo. We put all the photos in the Meditation Hall so that you are included in our retreat. We support you while you meditate and you also support us while we do. It’s a wonderful sharing of the Dharma.

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A New Nun and a New Anagarika

Dani Mieritz, originally from Tibet Center in Hamburg, Germany, came to the Abbey a year and a half ago with the aspiration to become a nun. Dani is highly motivated and has really put the Dharma into practice to transform her mind. Having trained as an anagarika with eight precepts, she requested sramanerika and siksamana (novice and training ordinations).

Our friends Venerables Jendy, Jenshen, and Jenying—three senior Taiwanese bhiksunis from a temple in Seattle—came to the Abbey to assist with the ordination. It was a sunny winter day and many guests from Coeur d’Alene and Spokane came to join in the celebration. The bhiksuni sangha gave Dani the ordinations in a moving and joyous ceremony, and Dani became Venerable Thubten Jampa.

After a lovely lunch, residents and guests again assembled to witness Ruby, the first Singaporean to join the Abbey, take the anagarika ordination. This was followed by a Q&A session with the bhikshunis, where the audience asked direct and heartfelt questions about Dharma practice and monastic life.

Local reporter Tracy Simmons attended, and our local city paper, the Spokesman Review, picked up her story.

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New Year’s Retreat

A lovely and enthusiastic group came for the Vajrasattva New Year’s Retreat. The videos of the teaching on the Vajrasattva practice are up on the web, and those of you who do the practice may want to watch them. The talks cover the four opponent powers and the visualization to do during the meditation. They also include a lot of discussion on guilt and how to avoid it, and the tendency many of us have to assume responsibility for others’ feelings and problems while not taking care of our own. This led to a discussion about codependency, keeping our promises and making our word mean something to others, personal integrity, and other contemporary topics that fit in well with purification meditation.

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Outreach

Venerable Tarpa visited an inmate at the Coeur d’Alene jail, offering him Dharma counseling and encouragement.

Many inmates are doing the Retreat from Afar with us. We sent them the Chenrezig practice and instructions on how to do it, and every week we send them transcriptions of some teachings to help them in their meditation. They are very appreciative and are happy to be part of a Dharma community from afar. One inmate told us the profound impact living according to the five precepts has had on his life.

Venerables Chodron, Jigme, and Samten attended the monthly meeting of Youth Emergency Services (YES) of Pend Oreille County. In our small—and wintry chilly—county, there are 116 homeless teenagers and YES works to find them homes, give them school supplies, and connect them with mentors. It’s a grassroots organization, registered with the state, and we are now in the processing of applying for 501(c)3 tax-exempt status. (In the meantime,we will continue to function under the umbrella of Crime Victim Services in Newport.) We find it very satisfying to join with other citizens in our county to reach out and help these teens.

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Pilgrimage in India

Venerables Semkye and Chonyi joined Dharma students from Deer Park Center in Wisconsin for pilgrimage to the Buddhist holy sites in India. Prior to joining the group they stayed a few days at the Sakya Heritage Society near Delhi, where Dharma friends from Seattle, Teresa and Larry Lamb, are living. It is the nuns’ first trip to India, so naturally there is some culture shock. Venerable Chonyi writes about her initial impressions.

Finally, the photos are up from Venerables Chodron, Jigme, and Samten, and Ruby’s trip to His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s Lamrim teachings in Gaden and Drepung Monasteries in South India. Here’s a second batch of photos taken while we were in the monasteries and a third batch of rural India around the monasteries.

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Life as a Buddhist Nun

Establishing the monastic sangha in the USA is one of the goals of Sravasti Abbey and thus this year we will host “Life as a Buddhist Nun,” a training course in monastic conduct.

The dates have been changed to May 31 – June 17, 2013 so that more people can attend.
The course is open to all nuns from all Buddhist traditions and will enable us not only to study the Vinaya (monastic code) together but also to get to know each other and form Dharma friendships. A few people aspiring to ordain may be accepted also.

Making offerings to support the nuns at this program creates great merit and helps the Dharma to take root and spread in the West. Donations of whatever amount are welcome and will be used to offer food to the nuns and provide air tickets for nuns from India and other places. (Please note in the “comments” line that your offering is for the nuns’ program.) If you’d like to volunteer to serve the program, let us know. It’s a wonderful opportunity to meet an extraordinary gathering of people.

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More News

Tracy Simmons from Spokane Faith and Values interviewed Venerable Chodron about her new book, Don’t Believe Everything You Think.

For a long time, people have been asking us to make a video of how to set up an altar and how to make water bowls offerings. It’s done—take a look!

Ruby shares her thoughts on dependent arising as applied to society, and Ken tells how meditating on emptiness helped him subdue anxiety and arrogance.

For those of you interested in Buddhist reflections on current events, watch the Bodhisattva Breakfast Corner talks on Gun Violence Prevention and the inauguration on Martin Luther King Day.

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