May love, compassion, and wisdom grow in your heart throughout the new year

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As a merely labeled year has come to an end, we wish you everything good for the new year. Let’s rejoice that we’ve had our precious human lives for one more year and make strong aspirations to make it meaningful as we transit into the new year. May we have inspired effort to increase our love, compassion, and generosity towards others and to cultivate tranquility, integrity, and wisdom within ourselves.

Bhiksuni Thubten Chodron and the Sravasti Abbey Community

Sharing the Dharma Day & Community Events

December brought another lovely Sharing the Dharma Day—seven brand new people plus lots of regulars. Venerable Semkye gave a good talk on Buddhist traditions, and Venerable Tarpa led off with an effective introduction and meditation on the Four Noble Truths. Our discussion was on our positive and negative experiences of religious and spiritual rituals, identifying and separating out the good qualities that are nourished from the rituals themselves.

Lots of visitors came to the Abbey in November, before the snow began, but as the weather changed we moved more into the quiet and contemplative time of year. On Christmas, we did our annual reading of Guide to a Bodhisattva’s Way of Life by Shantideva. Reading the entire text in one day lets your mind settle into the bodhisattva path and be inspired to transform.

Venerable Chonyi and Katya attended the Christmas party for Youth Emergency Services (YES) , a community organization centered in our local town of Newport that reaches out to homeless teens. There are 125 homeless teens In our small, rural county—a situation we find unbearable—and the Abbey has been working with YES and others in our community to give support to these young people.

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India

In late November, Venerables Jigme and Samten joined Venerable Chodron and Ruby in India to attend H.H. the Dalai Lama’s teachings on several of the essential texts on the stages of the path to awakening. His Holiness taught enthusiastically—nearly six hours a day—and that’s not including all the private interviews he had with various individuals and groups. The power of compassion is quite evident in how he is able to do so much of benefit to others.

We also visited a number of Venerable Chodron’s teachers while there, including Jangtse Choje Rinpoche and Zopa Rinpoche, as well as the incarnations of some of her teachers (who are now in their late twenties), Serkong Rinpoche and Zong Rinpoche. We also had nice connections with Dagyab Rinpoche and his group from Germany, as well as a group from Singapore that included many friends and supporters. Venerable Chodron also met many old Dharma friends from the ‘70s and ‘80s.

After the daily teachings we often took walks in the countryside, sometimes passing through Tibetan and Indian villages. We spent two evenings at Jangchub Choeling Nunnery and were heartened to see the nuns studying and practicing diligently. We happily attended the two long life pujas for His Holiness, fervently aspiring to practice well so that he will have a reason to live long and continue to teach. Some India pics are here and others will be uploaded before long.

On the way to His Holiness’ teachings and also on the way back to Bangalore, Venerable Chodron gave Dharma talks at Choekor Sumling, a Dharma center in Bangalore. The center members are warm and hospitable and Venerable Chodron, Venerable Samten, and Ruby enjoyed their time there. Watch the Dharma talk on handling anger and cultivating fortitude and the talk on subduing the self-centered thought that Venerable Chodron gave there.

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Chenrezig Hall

The building crew was going full steam ahead as fall turned into winter, and then the snow fell in buckets, slowing down the process. The crew is indefatigable and worked on. It’s exciting to see the building take shape as we walk in the skeleton of what will be the downstairs guest rooms, chapel, office, counseling room, Dharma supply room, media room, work room, and more.

In the last few days the weather has improved so the subfloor is nearly finished, and soon they’ll begin building the walls of the second floor, which will also be made of faswall, a green building product. Our wish is to get the roof on as soon as possible to protect the slab and inside framing. When that happens, we’ll welcome the snow with open arms as it’s so necessary for a healthy forest.

We are grateful to all of you who made offerings so that we were able to meet the $100,000 challenge gift. This has helped us enormously as we go forward. We are also grateful to each of you that contributed your recitations of “om mani padme hum,” so that we met our goal of 21 million recitations. Let’s rejoice at all the compassion created by our meditation on Chenrezig and recitation of his mantra as well as your generosity in building Chenrezig Hall!

Northwest Dharma News wrote a lovely article about Chenrezig Hall and its purpose of spreading compassion.

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Newtown

Mass shootings are hard to bear and difficult to understand. We would like to offer some guidance to help you work with the various emotions that arise in response to them. Three talks Venerable Chodron gave in the summer after the cinema shooting in Aurora are here , and new talks by Venerable Chodron and Venerable Chonyi focus on Newtown in particular.

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Winter Retreats

Winter is a delightful season to do retreat. It is quiet and beautiful, and your energy naturally becomes introspective.

The Abbey community will meditate on the four establishments of mindfulness this year, with a shorter retreat January 14 – February 8, and a longer retreat January 14 – March 4. Let us know if you would like to join us.

Alternatively, you could do Retreat from Afar, doing one meditation session a day January 14 – March 4. Here you can choose to either do 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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Lama Tsong Khapa Day

While Venerables Chodron, Jigme and Samten, and Ruby spent Lama Tsong Khapa Day in 90-plus degree weather in South India, the Abbey community bundled up for the candlelight procession at home.

It was a lovely evening, arranging beautiful offerings and reflecting on the kindness of the Buddha and the lineage lamas who taught and preserved the precious teachings so that we can practice them now.

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Prison Work

Our work with inmates continues and as soon as we send out the January issue of our quarterly “Dharma Dispatch” to inmates around the country, we expect many of them to sign up for the Retreat from Afar. Some of them, who have done the retreat in previous years, have already written us to ask about it.

I had the privilege to give refuge and the five precepts to Terrell, an inmate in Michigan with whom I’ve been corresponding for eight years. When Terrell first wrote, he was in a level 5 prison—a supermax where they incarcerate the more unruly and dangerous inmates.

At some point Terrell got tired of suffering and decided he needed to change. “It hasn’t been easy,” he told me, but he slowly worked his way up to the level 1 prison, where he has much more freedom and responsibility.

What gave him the strength to do this? He said, “There were all you people on the outside helping me even though you didn’t know me. Seeing that, I had to put my best foot forward.” Watch the Bodhisattva Breakfast Corner talk for more about this.

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New Books & Videos

Many of you have found Khensur Jampa Tegchok’s book, Insight into Emptiness, very helpful in increasing your understanding of the nature of reality, the emptiness of inherent existence. I felt privileged to have been able to edit that book.

Many of you have also commented that Don’t Believe Everything You Think gives you a practical way to see how to apply the Dharma in your everyday life. It is now also available as an e-book, which you can get from Amazon and Apple now. Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and Google will have the ebook in the first week of January.

The latest book is El Camino a la Felicidad, the Spanish translation of A Path to Happiness, which also talks about practical applications of the Dharma, how to work with anxiety, and Buddhism in modern society. This short book was published by Ediciones Dharma, and you can get copies at www.edicionesdharma.com or by sending them an email.

For those of you who have Highest Yoga Tantra initiation, we’ve resumed the class on the tantric precepts and commitments. We’ll post videos online once a week. If you’ve had Highest Yoga Tantra initiation and want to register to watch these videos, please write to us.

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Chinese Bodhisattva Breakfast Corner

Sravasti Abbey is pleased to announce the launch of the Bodhisattva Breakfast Corner Chinese channel, 早安,菩萨 !Thanks to an enthusiastic team of volunteers from Singapore, Venerable Chodron’s talks on how to incorporate the Dharma into daily life are now available dubbed in Chinese.

The team will target to upload one talk a week, beginning with the recent series of Venerable’s talks on trust. Please share the link to the Chinese channel with your family and friends who may feel more comfortable listening to Dharma talks in Chinese.

If you are interested in helping to translate the talks and make Venerable Chodron’s teachings more widely available, please write to Sravasti Abbey. Congratulations everyone annd much appreciation. May many Chinese-speaking people benefit from this channel!

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Sponsoring Virtue

While at HH the Dalai Lama’s teachings in Mundgod, I mentioned to a lay student about “Life as a Buddhist Nun ,” a Vinaya course that the Abbey will have in March-April, 2013, that Buddhist nuns from all traditions are welcome to attend. My friend enthusiastically replied, “Please tell those who aren’t monastics about it because, like me, they may want to make offerings to support this virtuous program.”

Donations will be used to sponsor the program (everyone attends without charge) and to provide air tickets for nuns in Indonesia, India, etc. If you’d like to contribute , please specify that your offering should be used for LBN. If you’d like to volunteer to serve the program, let us know.

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More News

Read how Robbie delves into the fears his mind creates and how he untangles them in Flowers in Winter.

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