‘Tis the season of New Years. We wish you a good Solar New Year (January 1), a good Lunar New Year (January 22), and an upcoming good Tibetan New Year (February 21).
May you have good health, a peaceful mind, and a heart full of love and compassion for all beings.
But it’s not enough to wish goodness for others and ourselves; we must also create the cause for goodness through practicing generosity, ethical conduct, fortitude, joyous effort, concentration, and wisdom.
So we wish you much joy and happiness as you create the causes for more joy and happiness.
Bhikshuni Thubten Chodron & the Sravasti Abbey Community
Trip to Singapore and Bodhgaya
We told you about the December teaching tour to Singapore in the January enews. (Read about it here.) And then the journey continued. Ven. Damcho’s Travelogue begins here, and continues at the link below.
On Christmas eve, Ven. Chodron, Ven. Damcho, and Donyo set off for Bodhgaya, India, together with a joyful group of Friends of Sravasti Abbey Singapore (FOSAS).
The main purpose of their trip was to attend His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s teachings in person. They were received at the airport by Brajesh, the brother of a friend of Ven. Chodron. His travel company, Inner Peace Holidays, pulled out all the stops to make sure the group was well cared for.
The intrepid FOSAS set about organizing a light offering ceremony to thank all donors who have contributed to the Buddha Hall and to make prayers and dedications for the New Year.
Despite various obstacles, the team managed to set up the light offerings at a space just outside the Maha Bodhi Stupa, which marks the site of the Buddha’s enlightenment. This allowed for filming (cameras are not allowed inside the stupa grounds).
Other friends of the Abbey from around the world joined in the ceremony, including Ven. Jampa and Ven. Nyima, who traveled from Germany and Colombia respectively. Some people lit butter lamps, some read names of thousands of donors aloud, and others recited the “King of Prayers.” Ven. Chodron made vast aspirations that moved everyone’s hearts. Watch the beautiful video Donyo made here.
Teachings with His Holiness
H.H. the Dalai Lama’s teachings in Bodhgaya were December 29-31, followed by a long-life puja. About 60,000 people attended. His Holiness began by conferring the bodhisattva vows and then launched into teaching Nagarjuna’s Commentary on Bodhicitta and giving a 21 Taras permissory rite.
It was inspiring to be with so many people who wanted to generate the aspiration to become fully awakened, listen to the Dharma, and make prayers for the welfare of sentient beings. Detailed daily reports can be found on His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s website here and you can watch the videos here.
Ven. Chodron was grateful to receive a brief meeting with His Holiness to personally offer Volumes 5 through 8 of The Library of Wisdom and Compassion, the book series she is co-authoring with him. More about that below.
Travelogue: On to India continues on our website here.
Everyone is now safely back at the Abbey and easing into the silent winter retreat. The community welcomed them heartily after the long time away.Some of the Singapore talks are still being posted. Listen to Ven. Chodron’s talk at Buddhist Fellowship on “Live Each Day with Loving-Kindness” here.
Read Donyo’s reflection, To FOSAS with Love, here and see India photos here.
Friends of Sravasti Abbey Singapore
At the conclusion of a Dharma talk that Ven. Chodron gave at Kong Mengg San Phor Kark See Monastery, the largest temple in Singapore, the Friends of Sravasti Abbey Singapore (FOSAS) knelt in front of the Buddha while Choon Fah spoke this aspiration on their behalf.
“Tonight, in this Hall of No Form, in the presence of Lord Buddha, Venerables, our respected teacher Venerable Chodron, and Venerable Damcho, and all the dearest brothers and sisters in the Dharma, we would like to make these aspiration prayers to Lord Buddha for the Buddha Hall Project at Sravasti Abbey.
“Our Greatest Teacher Lord Buddha, please listen to us. We would like to thank you heartily from the bottom of our hearts for the blessings and the strength you are giving us to help establish Buddhism in the West, by leading us to establish Sravasti Abbey in the USA. With your blessings and strength bestowed on us over the years, we have helped to successfully purchase the land, remodel the garage to the first Meditation Hall, enlarge the kitchen, and build Gotami House, Chenrezig Hall, and the Teacher’s Cabins.
“Your Wisdom, Compassion and Teachings attracted many people from all over the world to visit and stay at the Abbey for monastic training and Dharma teaching that helps themselves and others to live meaningful lives. The monastics at the Abbey grew from one bhikṣuṇī, Ven. Chodron, and two cats to more than 20 monastics and four cats now.
“Now, we need a home, the Buddha Hall, to invite all these spiritual beings to engage in their Dharma practice, prayers, meditation, yearly retreat and events. We hope to complete it as soon as possible because we want to welcome you and all the Dharma students in this hall. May everyone in the USA and Singapore, the world, and all the ten directions benefit from the Buddha Hall. Your hall, the Buddha Hall, will be the spiritual home for all beings
“We make this sincere aspiration prayer requesting you to please bestow blessings, financial resources, and strength for us to complete the Buddha Hall. Lord Buddha, please accept our invitation and come home to Sravasti Abbey Buddha Hall, which we are building to welcome your presence.
“With utmost sincerity from the depths of our hearts, we voice these aspiration prayers to you. May we have the fortune to meet your pure teachings, practice them sincerely, abide in good ethical conduct, and generate bodhicitta to liberate all sentient beings. Please inspire us to have the courage to practice well with joyous effort. Inspire us and all sentient beings, so that we may be liberated from the ocean of samsara and gain true happiness and peace.”
May their aspirations be fulfilled! You can watch the video of their presentation here.
Buddha Hall Update
To help make the above aspiration a reality, FOSAS offered 1000 butter lamps at the stupa in Bodhgaya and invited everyone to participate in whatever way they can to build the Buddha Hall.
Together with Ven. Chodron, Ven. Damcho, Donyo, and many other friends in Bodhgaya, FOSAS made this heartfelt, beautiful offering. See the video.
Despite the heavy snow fall in December, the slab for the Buddha Hall was eventually poured. That has paved the way for progress in January.
Now the crew is busy framing the first floor, placing the beams and joists for the second floor, building some of the outer walls, and so on. Framing of the lower walls is almost complete, which allows us to see how the rooms are laid out.
Ven. Samten made a wonderful Guided Video Tour of the lower level. You can watch it here, and see all the latest photos too!
It’s very exciting to witness the Buddha Hall come into being and think of having all of you here to consecrate it upon completion. We’re regularly posting new short Buddha Hall update video clips here
New Year Vajrasattva Retreat
Ven. Sangye Khadro led our annual New Year’s Vajrasattva retreat, laying out clear reasons for purification practice and explaining its importance as we progress to Buddhahood.
In addition to covering the fundamentals of karma and the four opponent powers, she clarified the difference between regretting our negative actions and falling into guilt or shame.
The group discussions helped us examine how easily (or not) we forgive ourselves for mistakes, and we discussed holding ourselves with kindness as we purify. By sharing examples from her own experience, Ven. Khadro brought the Vajrasattva practice alive for many new and old meditators. Watch the teachings and led meditations here.
Along with residents and in-person guests, about 120 joined people us online
Until the Buddha Hall is finished, we often hold teachings, meditation sessions, and discussions in the dining room—the only room large enough for everyone to sit comfortably. This accentuates the need for the Buddha Hall. On the last day of the retreat, retreatants walked to the site of the Buddha Hall and visualized a huge number of people joyfully doing retreat there, in the presence of the Buddha, Ananda, and Mahaprajapati—the figures of the three large statues on the main altar—looking on and encouraging us. Photos are here.
While Ven. Chodron, Ven. Damcho, and Donyo were in Asia, life continued on at the Abbey
Winter is our time for silent retreat, a time to go inside and integrate all that we have learned in the past years. We love the activity of the summer, but by the end of the year, the quiet of falling snow and having time to do meditation retreat is very welcome.
The meditation objects for winter retreat this year are the four establishments of mindfulness, a practice common to both the Pāli and Sanskrit traditions. This practice enables us to see our body, feelings, mind, and other phenomena for how they function and what they mean conventionally and to investigate their ultimate nature.
Retreat from Afar
We’re very pleased that more and more people join the Retreat from Afar each year.
This year over 450 people are participating, including those online and those who are currently incarcerated. About 190 people sent us their photo, which we put in our dining room to remind us that all of us are learning about and meditating on the four establishments of mindfulness together.
We’re especially happy that many people from Ukraine and Russia are participating in the retreat. A monk has kindly been encouraging more people to join and signing them up. He will lead a weekly meditation for them on the topic.
You can still sign up to join in. Find the registration link and retreat resource info here
A New Book!
Wisdom Publications has just released Realizing the Profound View, Volume 8 in The Library of Wisdom Compassion series by His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Venerable Thubten Chodron.
At their brief meeting in Bodhgaya, His Holiness opened the book to a random page and asked his translator, Tenzin Tsepag, to translate part of that page into Tibetan. It turned out to be a section on identifying the object of negation.
His Holiness nodded his approval and everyone in the room rejoiced in the publication of this multi-volume series that presents His Holiness’ teachings on the stages of the path to awakening to a non-Tibetan audience.
Of the ten volumes in the Library, Volumes 7, 8, and 9 all cover the topics of emptiness and dependent arising. Volume 7, Searching for the Self, was published early last year and Volume 9, Appearing and Empty, will come out later in 2023.
Learn about Realizing the Profound View here. Read an excerpt here.
Medicine Buddha Pujas & Death Penalty Action
Sixty-one people gathered on Zoom for the January Medicine Buddha Puja. As we read the names of people who had recently died, dedicating our merit for their fortunate rebirth, we noticed that the name “Amber McLaughlin” appeared twice.
Afterwards, Sophia, a nurse in Seattle, wrote to tell us that Amber had been executed in Missouri, the first transgender woman to be executed in the U.S.
Sophia is a volunteer for the Innocence Project and Death Penalty Action. Both aim to abolish the death penalty. She wrote, “(They) work to gain justice for those who had inadequate or corrupt trials, and in all cases of death sentence we work to earn clemency.”
“At times of execution,” she said, “we hold a vigil for the condemned outside the prison and online, so they know they’re not alone.” In accordance with our precept to not kill or encourage killing, Abbey monastics also oppose the death penalty.
The next Medicine Buddha Puja is February 12. Info and registration link are here.
– Ven. Damcho has been translating for the 84,000 Project: Translating the Words of the Buddha—that is, the entire Tibetan canon into English. She just completed translating The Basket without Words: The Illuminator’s Matrix, which you can read here.
– Syrinda observes how two very different beachside bubble blowers affected their audiences. Read her thoughts on Bubblemen here.
– Our video team has edited and uploaded a number of talks and and teaching series to the Abbey’s YouTube Channel:
- Introduction to Tantra series with Ven. Sangye Khadro
- 2022 Manjushri Retreat series with Ven. Thubten Chodron
- 2022 Perfection of Generosity series with Ven.Thubten Chodron
- Following in the Buddha’s Footsteps: Taking Refuge talk with Ven. Thubten Chodron
– Sarah and Betsy seek your help in compiling a book based on the Bodhisattva’s Breakfast Corner talks on our YouTube channel. It’s tentatively titled How to Love a Stranger and Other Reflections from the Sravasti Abbey Monastics. You’re invited to: 1) Submit the title and link to two or three (no more) of your favorites by email. 2) Use “BBC Suggestions” in the subject line, include title and links, and send to Betsy Wharton: bewharton dot bw at gmail dot com.
– By request from our friends in Asia, the Abbey offered a Cittamani Tara New Year Puja, dedicating merit for everything auspicious in the new Year of the Rabbit. It’s posted on our YouTube channel here
Here’s what’s happening in the next few weeks:
- Jan 6–Feb 5: One-month Winter Retreat on the Four Establishments of Mindfulness in person
- Jan 6–Apr 3: Retreat from Afar on the Four Establishments of Mindfulness
- Jan 7: Stopping the War Within Ourselves with Ven. Thubten Chodron in Singapore
- Jan 8: My Life as a Nun: A Journey of Self-Acceptance with Ven. Thubten Damcho in Singapore
- Jan 14: Healing from the Heart with Ven. Thubten Chodron in Taiwan
- Jan 15: Medicine Buddha Puja on Zoom
Plus regular ongoing teachings:
- Rice Seedling Sutra with Geshe Yeshe Thabkhe streamed live, Thursday mornings, 9 am Pacific Time.
- Samsara, Nirvana, and Buddha Nature with Geshe Dadul Namgyal filling in for Ven. Chodron, streamed live, Friday evenings, 6 pm Pacific Time. Now streamed on YouTube.
- Engaging in the Bodhisattva’s Deeds with Ven. Thubten Chodron streamed live, Saturday mornings, 8 am Pacific Time. Now streamed on YouTube.
Check the Abbey Events page for more.