The Abbey is covered in snow. The trees are happy that in the spring there will be water, so they can recuperate from the extremely hot past summer and grow taller.
The deer, squirrels, and chipmunks are delighted too. Not as many turkeys are visiting this winter, but after having 60 of them a few years ago, that’s ok. Meanwhile the monastics are building muscles shoveling snow.
All of us are Covid-free and joyful after having completed an inspiring monastic training course. Our annual three-month Winter Retreat begins in a few days, giving us the time to go inward in our Dharma practice after a busy year of sharing the Dharma and caring for the Abbey.
Our prayers are with all of you and with all sentient beings. Together, may we create peace in a chaotic world and help one another to be free from samsara and attain buddhahood.
Bhikshuni Thubten Chodron & the Sravasti Abbey Community
Monastic Training Program
Every summer, the Abbey hosts an Exploring Monastic Life program for people who are considering becoming monastics.
This winter, we just completed a Monastic Training program specifically for those who are already ordained but have not received the full bhikshuni ordination—shiksamanas and sramaneris.
Three novices from the Dharmadatta Nuns’ Community, Ven. Tenzin Metok, a guest bhikshuni from Germany, and Ven. Thubten Pema returning from Singapore, participated in the course with the Abbey’s shiksamanas. Three anagarikas—eight-precept holders who wear a blue uniform at the Abbey—and two lay people who are serious about ordination also attended parts of the program, making a total of 15 participants.
Our resident bhikshunis and bhikshu taught and led the program, and some lay guests kindly came to help with the cooking. It was an excellent learning opportunity for everyone. We also entered our annual monastic retreat (varsa) and integrated teachings on these monastic rites practiced since the Buddha’s time into the curriculum.
Everyone was very sincere in their Dharma practice, and the feeling in the community was one of joy, harmony, and enthusiasm for learning and practicing the Vinaya and the Dharma.
All of us are rejoicing in this opportunity to spread the Dharma and establish the sangha in the West. We believe establishing the monastic sangha in the West is important for the pure Dharma to take root in new places.
Enjoy photos of the monastic training program here and of us entering varsa here. The Dharmadatta nuns shared their practice with us in Bodhisattva’s Breakfast Corner talks that you can watch here, here, and here.
Christmas at the Abbey
As the Abbey community does every Christmas, we recited the entirety of Shantideva’s Engaging in the Bodhisattva’s Deeds. Our minds were peaceful, contemplative, and motivated after this.
About 20 people from the Lay Practitioner’s Meditation Group also took part from afar, with close to ten people reciting the whole text, which takes about four hours. Follow Ven. Chodron’s ongoing teachings on this text on Thursdays at 9 am Pacific Time here.
Later that afternoon, the community watched the documentary Mission: Joy, about a historic five-day meeting between His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu. We were moved and inspired by the joyful friendship between these two great spiritual leaders. Learning about Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s passing the next day became especially poignant for us.
Ven. Damcho also gave the day’s Bodhisattva’s Breakfast Corner talk on “Happy Holidays,” which you can watch here.
Talks and Interviews with Ven. Chodron
What is Faith?
On Christmas Day, Ven. Chodron gave an online talk on “What is Faith?” hosted by Tibetan Buddhist Centre in Singapore. She shared her personal journey cultivating faith in the Three Jewels and offered practical advice on how we can develop admiring, aspirational, and convictional faith. The thought-provoking session drew lots of questions and was a fitting close to a day at the Abbey focused on cultivating inner peace and joy. Watch the talk here.
100,000 Bows Toward Full Awakening
Bhikkhu Nisabho and Ajahn Kovilo from Clear Mountain Monastery interviewed Ven. Chodron about her life as a monastic. The two Theravadin monks were especially interested in the ngondro or preliminary practices done in Tibetan Buddhism.
Ven. Chodron spoke on having a long-term view of our Dharma practice, emphasizing different aspects of our practice in different lifetimes. Quoting His Holiness the Dalai Lama, she said, “Our mind is very complex, so we need different practices to cultivate various aspects of our potential. One practice isn’t sufficient.”
Women in Buddhism
In November, reporter Luis Henao from the Associated Press interviewed Ven. Chodron and several other Buddhist nuns about the situation of women in Buddhism. You can read the article here, entitled “In Buddhism, Women Blaze a Path but Strive for Gender Equity.” Spokane-based photographer Young Kwak took beautiful photos of the Abbey that are part of the photo gallery on Buddhist nuns here. (Click the banner photo to see the gallery.)
Teachings by Ven. Sangye Khadro
Ven. Sangye Khadro completed “The Wisdom of Emptiness” course for Thubten Norbu Ling in Santa Fe, New Mexico, where they explored different methods to investigate how the “I” exists. Watch the course here.
She gave a new series of talks on “Creating Peace in a Chaotic World” for Amitabha Buddhist Centre in Singapore. While there may be conflicts or other problems in the world, our community, family, or workplace, Ven. Sangye Khadro shared how we can still experience inner peace by practicing mindfulness, thought training (lojong), loving-kindness, generosity, and ethical conduct. Watch the series here.
Weekly teachings for the Human Spirit: Psychoanalytic-Buddhist Training Programin Israel continued throughout December, with one group learning about the bodhisattvas’ path, and the other group learning about the origins of suffering—in particular, the mental afflictions and their antidotes. Watch the guided meditations and talks here.
Ven. Sangye Khadro also met with the Sandpoint Sangha for a final session before the Abbey goes into Winter Retreat. They discussed how we are dependent on others for everything we use and enjoy in life. To repay that kindness, they did a meditation on giving. They imagined the elements of their bodies merging with the external elements (earth, water, fire, and wind) and providing living beings with whatever they needed to be happy—food, clothing, shelter, beautiful gardens and parks, and more. Listen to this meditation here.
More Teachings by Abbey Monastics
Talk for Tara Buddhist Center in Nashville, TN
Ven.Semkye gave an hour-long online talk on “How to Stay Steady When Our Buttons Get Pushed.” She described how holding a self-centered view of the world creates our buttons of anger, suspicion, and blame.
Practicing the Dharma gives us an opportunity to step back and see our life through the broader lens of wisdom and compassion, which can reduce our buttons in size and eventually eliminate them completely. Watch the talk here.
Spanish Dharma Class for Ganden Shedrub Ling in Puerto Rico
The mind training class that Ven. Nyima has been teaching in Spanish concluded this year with lots of joy, although there wasn’t enough time to finish the text, Mind Training Like the Rays of the Sun by Nam-Kha Pel. The class will resume next year and the groupis looking forward to completing the review of this profound topic.
The Buddha Hall
We recently received good news—the Health Department granted our septic permit, which is a prerequisite to securing the building permit.
Our architect and engineers have completed revisions required by the building code and these are ready to be submitted to the building department.
The acousticians are in touch with the architect to finalize their plans, and we are in the process of selecting a company to install the Buddha Hall’s audio and video wiring and equipment.
The Buddha Hall is considered a commercial building, so the rules and regulations are much stricter than for a residence. Washington State requires us to have State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) approval that identifies and analyzes environmental impacts associated with building projects, roadways, etc. This will take a few weeks but we are inching ever closer to obtaining the building permit.
We are hopeful that barring any more obstacles, the building permit will come through before long, which will enable our contractor to price out all the materials and labor needed to construct the Buddha Hall. Given the supply chain delays, the cost will probably be higher than we anticipated.
Meanwhile, the artists sculpting the Buddha and other figures and painting the Manjushri thangka for the main altar are continuing their work. If you haven’t already watched the work-in-progress video of the Manjushri thangka, you can do so here.
Prison Dharma Outreach
In another article, he shares his gratitude for the Dharma and many Buddhist practitioners and teachers who helped him and the Buddhist groups in prison. Read it here.
We also want to remind you about a delightful children’s book with an important meaning, Gavin Discovers the Secret to Happiness. It was written by Al Ramos, an incarcerated person who has transformed his life through Buddhist practice. Learn more about the book here.
Vens. Chonyi and Damcho interviewed Al for Eastern Horizon, a Buddhist magazine published in Malaysia. He shares how he met the Dharma and how he practices it in a difficult environment such as prison. Read about how he maintains a happy mind here.
While the Abbey goes into our annual Winter Retreat from January 6 to March 31, there are many ways we can stay connected:
- Hundreds of people worldwide join our Winter Retreat from Afar and commit to doing one Medicine Buddha practice session a day. Learn more here.
- The Lay Practitioner Meditation Group will do the Medicine Buddha practice on Zoom daily. An Abbey monastic will lead sessions on Saturday mornings. Learn more about the meditation group here.
- Participate in and send in your prayer requests for our monthly Medicine Buddha Puja offered on Zoom. Learn more here.
- Tune in for weekly livestreamed teachings here and follow our Bodhisattva’s Breakfast Corner talks on YouTube.
The Sravasti Abbey Friends Education onlineprogram will resume on April 18, 2022. Registration opens on March 28. Check back here to register.
As many of you have realized, the ThubtenChodron.org website has been down or not working properly for the past two months.
Two of our remarkable volunteers, Peter Aronson and Jeremy English, worked long and hard to diagnose and rectify the situation. Peter wrote up the story of what happened—the website had become so large that it was unwieldy—and the solution. Read about it here.
We are so grateful to them and all the volunteers who help the Abbey make the Dharma available to more and more people. We receive many emails appreciating the website, so we know that you are also grateful to them.
Once the site was back up and running, our volunteer team jumped right back in to update posts from the past two months, and also posted retreat teachings from the past year. Watch the 2021 week-long Medicine Buddha Retreat here, teachings on Nagarjuna’s Letter to a Friend here, the Know Your Mind Retreat here, and the Perfection of Generosity Retreat here.
- Approaching the Buddhist Path by His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Ven. Chodron is available as an audiobook. Listen to it here. Audiobook versions of the rest of the Library of Wisdom and Compassion are in the making. We’ll keep you posted when they are published.
- Mindfulness is very popular these days and is now taught in a wide variety of contexts to benefit people. Although rooted in Buddhism, secular mindfulness differs from mindfulness as the Buddha taught it. Eastern Horizon Magazine published Ven. Chodron’s article discussing the differing motivations, techniques, purposes, contexts, and results of Buddhist mindfulness and secular mindfulness. Read the article in the September 2021 issue here.
- Lion’s Roar published an article by Ven. Chodron on how to cultivate bodhicitta through the seven-point cause and effect method. Read it here.
- Ven. Lamsel shared her honest and heartfelt reflections on both the difficulty and the joy that comes with releasing afflictions and generating virtuous qualities. Read her poems here.
- Journalist Tracy Simmons relies on wisdom from Ven. Thubten Chodron in Awaken Every Day to help her find common ground with people whose views differ from her own, including her dad. Read her article here and listen to the talk she gave for a North Idaho Unitarian Universalist Sunday service here.
Here’s what’s happening online in the next few weeks:
- January 6–March 31: Winter Retreat from Afar
- January 10: The Path to Self-Acceptance with Ven. Thubten Chodron,8 pm Turkish Time, 9 am Pacific Time. Hosted by Merve Karakus with simultaneous interpretation in Turkish.
- January 16: Medicine Buddha Puja
- January 22–23: Buddha Nature with Ven. Sangye Khadro, 8 am–11:30 am Pacific time. Hosted by O Sel Ling Spain with simultaneous interpretation in Spanish.
Plus regular ongoing teachings:
- Engaging in the Bodhisattva’s Deeds with Ven. Thubten Chodron streamed live on Thursday mornings,9 am Pacific Time.
- Samsara, Nirvana, and Buddha Nature with Ven. Thubten Chodron streamed live on Friday nights, 6:15 pm Pacific Time.
- New series!—Kamalashila’s Stages of Meditation—the Middle Section with Geshe Yeshe Thabkhe streamed live on Saturday mornings, 8:30 am Pacific Time. With oral interpretation by Katrina Brooks.
Check the Abbey Events page for much more.