Dear Friends,

Ven. Sangye Khadro opened our New Year’s Day Vajrasattva retreat teaching with these words:

“Let’s wish happiness for all sentient beings. May all sentient beings have a happy new year, and every year.

“Let’s wish them all to be free of suffering and its causes. And we wish them to have every kind of happiness all the way up to awakening.”

May this be our wish every day in 2024.

The first month of our winter retreat has ended, and Vens. Chodron, Damcho, and Konchog soon return from Asia. The Winter Retreat from Afar starts in January. You can sign up now.

See latest photos, including some of the small and large acts of kindness encountered at the Abbey in recent weeks

By our practice in this new year, may we create the causes for lasting peace in our own hearts in order to create peace in our chaotic world.

(on behalf of) Bhikshuni Thubten Chodron & the Sravasti Abbey Community

One-Month Refuge Retreat

The Abbey’s annual one-month winter retreat started early this year, in December, and will resume for residents in January.

Seven wonderful guests joined us, including a nun visiting from Instituto Lama Tzong Khapa in Italy, to practice the refuge ngondro (preliminary practice) with meditation on the four truths. See retreat photos here.

The beautiful refuge ngondro entails visualization, recitation, and meditation to deepen our understanding of, and relationship to, the Three Jewels—Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha.

At the closing go-around, one long-time meditator exclaimed, “This Dharma is serious!” Many people nodded their heads in agreement. The retreat showed that by meditating on the nature of cyclic existence, the possibility of freedom from its faults, and the excellent qualities of the Three Jewels to guide us, we gain greater conviction in the fruit of the path.

Retreatants appreciated Ven. Chonyi’s weekly talks on refuge and the ngondro practice. You can watch these here to prepare for the Retreat from Afar, which begins January 5. Learn more and sign up here.

Asia 2023 Travelogue – Part 2

After teachings in November in Singapore and Malaysia, Ven. Chodron continued her Asia tour with visits to Indonesia, Taiwan, Singapore (again), and India, accompanied by Vens. Damcho and Konchog.

See the latest tour photos here. You can also watch most of the Dharma talks on the Asia Teaching Tour 2023 playlist on our YouTube channel.

Ven. Damcho sent a Travelogue Part 2 that details talks and events in these countries. Below is a brief summary; you can read the full travelogue here.

Indonesia

Venerable Chodron received a warm welcome in Indonesia, where she gave teachings for the first time since the Covid epidemic broke out.

About 500 people attended her first talk at Wihara Ekayana Arama in Jakarta on Transforming Knowledge into Action. She gave two more evening talks and led a weekend retreat in other cities. See these teachings on the playlist.

Singapore

Back in Singapore, the Venerables addressed young people with a Q&A for youths organized by the Singapore Buddhist Mission. Ven. Damcho also gave a short talk on How to be Self-Empowered at the My Little Gems Preschool graduation ceremony.

Ven. Chodron then gave a set of public talks, including a book launch of In Praise of Great Compassion, Volume 6 of The Library of Wisdom and Compassion, at Poh Ming Tse Temple (watch them here).

The Buddhist singing group Bodhicitta, whose members have known Ven. Chodron since their 1980s college days, performed Buddhist songs at the book launch, bringing a beautiful close to the 2023 Singapore teachings.

Taiwan

The Venerables then traveled to Taiwan for private meetings with monastics and a public talk for Dharma Drum Mountain entitled Sowing Seeds of Dharma in the Wild West. See photos here.

International Buddhist Conferences

Singapore: They returned to Singapore once more for Ven. Chodron’s panel presentation at the two-day 12th Global Buddhist Conference on “Life, Death, and Rebirth,” hosted by Buddhist Fellowship. She was one of very few female presenters. See photos here.

 India: The final leg of the journey led to Bodh Gaya, where Ven. Chodron spoke at the International Sangha Forum 2023, alongside 2,000 monastics and lay participants. Her presentation on “Compassion in the Pali and Sanskrit Traditions” is in plenary session 4 here. Watch the full conference proceedings here.

In a brief audience with His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Ven. Chodron happily presented him with a copy of Appearing and Empty, Volume 9 of The Library of Wisdom and Compassion.

The travelers joined in His Holiness’s international prayer session for world peace at the Mahabodhi Temple, then stayed on for his teachings over the new year (watch them here). They’ll be home soon.

More photos, links to talks, and travel details are in Ven. Damcho’s Travelogue Part 2.

Buddha Hall Update

Watch a new video chronicling all the 2023 Buddha Hall progress in just five minutes!

Construction momentum continues to pick up. Two-dimensional plans are taking shape and the progress is extremely exciting to observe.

Here are some highlights:

Roof ornaments: While snowflakes fell, a very large aerial lift platform transported wooden frames in sections to the top of the roof of the Buddha Hall. These frames form the base that the three ganjiras (roof spires) will eventually be mounted on.

Fire suppression: Installation is almost complete. The equipment in the fire suppression room is astonishing in size and complexity. We’re glad to have it, but we hope it will never need to be used.

Stucco: The stucco team persevered and finished their work, completing the parapet and the upper east side of the building by tenting those areas and running heating units for many hours each day to ensure successful curing of the stucco. See the video.

More: Drywall installation has been ongoing for weeks, electricians continue to install wiring, and new parts continue to be added in the HVAC room. After about three weeks of effort, the elevator is in.

Even in its under-construction state, the main hall is already beautiful. That has been obvious since the first placement of the trusses, and it shows all the more now that the walls are sheetrocked. Its large east facing windows connect the sky and the earth to the space, and will be a beautiful home for the buddhas, bodhisattvas, sincere practitioners, and one-time guests who connect with the Buddha Hall.

Tara Room: Thanks, everyone, for your generous support of the Tara Room! We look forward to meditating with you in that space very soon.

See the latest photos.

Lama Tsongkhapa Day

Celebrating Lama Tsongkhapa, one of Tibet’s greatest scholar-yogis and the founder of the Gelug school of Tibetan Buddhism, the Abbey held a Guru Puja that ended with a special light offering ceremony.

Residents and guests each held a candle as we circumambulated the dining room and chanted Lama Tsongkhapa’s mantra. We ended by making special dedications and aspirations for Tsongkhapa’s illumination of Buddha’s teachings to flourish.

See photos here.

Dharma Outreach

Ven. Sangye Khadro spoke with students and staff of the Human Spirit Psychoanalytic-Buddhist Training Program in Israel, where she has taught for many years.

She gave a brief explanation of the Vajra Cutter Sutra, which Yangsi Rinpoche had advised them to recite to help avert the violent situation currently in their country. She also led a meditation on generating compassion for those who do harm.

She said the Buddhist psychotherapists are doing their best to help ease the minds of fellow Israelis amidst the violence in the region.

Ven. Sangye Khadro also led the last meeting of 2023 for the Sandpoint Sangha. She led a meditation to show how only the Dharma can help us keep a positive and peaceful mind at the time of death, and taught on the Buddha’s five remembrances—that we will definitely grow old, get sick, die, separate from all that is dear to us, and experience the results of our actions, both good and bad. Frequently reflecting on these five help us avoid creating negative karma due to attachment and live in a meaningful and beneficial way.

Update on Geshe Chodrak’s Disappearance

Many people have asked if there is new information about Geshe Chodrak/Dadul Namgyal, who disappeared from the Abbey on November 7. Regrettably, there is none.

Geshe la’s family has put forth a $25,000 reward for information leading to his recovery. Word has spread throughout nearby towns and online. The family asks for help in posting the flyer widely. Download it here.

All information should be directed to the Pend Oreille County Sheriff, 509-447-3151.

Theravadin monk Ajahn Nisabho sent Golden Shovel, after Shantideva, his moving poetic reflection on Geshe la’s disappearance. Read it here.

RV for Oregon Road Fire Victims

The Oregon Road Fire, which forced the Abbey community into evacuation for a week, burned 10,817 acres. It destroyed 384 structures, including 126 primary residences that literally burned to ash.

Government assistance has come slowly, and many of our neighbors are still homeless this winter. Ven. Losang contacted the New Hope Resource Center in Colbert, WA to see how we could help.

The Center is seeking used RVs that fire victims can park on their own land as temporary housing. The Center will help outfit them for winter living. They also invite donations of all types of tools, both to help with winterizing and to replace those lost to the tradesmen/women who live in the fire zone, so they can get back to work.

The Abbey community has assembled the resources for one RV. It will house an older woman and her disabled son. New Hope Resource Center welcomes support. Learn about them and reach out here.

More News

  • Per tradition, the community read Shantideva’s Engaging in the Bodhisattva’s Deeds together on Christmas Day. We were thankful for Ven. Chodron’s & Geshe Chodrak’s teachings on this text over the past few years.
  • Read Engaging Modern Buddhist Youth in Asia, an interview with Ven. Damcho on issues related to modern Buddhist young people, published in the January 2024 Eastern Horizon Magazine.

  • In the same issue, Eastern Horizon Magazine published a conversation with teachers of three Buddhist traditions on Buddhist Ethics in the Age of Technology, addressing the topic of AI. Ven. Tsepal wrote from the Tibetan Buddhist perspective and will become a regular columnist in future issues.
  •  Tanya converted a Dharma talk by Ven. Jigme into wise and lovely poetry. Enjoy Every Day: Advice from Ven. Jigme.

  • The little stray Siamese that we took to POSNA (Pawsitive Outreach Spay/Neuter Alliance) was recently adopted (at right). Hooray! Some Abbey residents will volunteer at the shelter again once winter retreat ends.

Upcoming Events

Here’s what’s happening in January:

Jan 8-Feb 5, Mondays: Introduction to Tantra with Ven. Sangye Khadro on Zoom, hosted by Thubten Norbu Ling

Jan 14: Relying on Spiritual Mentorswith Ven. Thubten Chodron on Zoom, hosted by Hamburg Buddhist Society

Jan 20-Feb 24, Saturdays: Rice Seedling Sutra with Geshe Yeshe Thabkhe on Zoom

January 21: Medicine Buddha Puja with Abbey monastics on Zoom

Jan 25 – Apr 11, Thursdays: Ornament for Clear Realization with Ven. Sangye Khadro on Zoom, hosted by Tse Chen Ling

Plus weekly teachings online:

Taking Refuge with Ven. Thubten Chonyi, streamed live Thursday mornings at 8 am Pacific Time, through January 4

Samsara, Nirvana, and Buddha Nature with Ven. Thubten Chodron, streamed live Thursday mornings at 8 am Pacific Time, starting January 25. Watch for the link.

Middle-Length Lamrim with Ven. Sangye Khadro, streamed live Fridays at 5 pm Pacific Time. No class January 5 & 12.

Check the Abbey’s Events Page for more!