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June was a month full of activity at the Abbey, with many programs and visitors. It’s also been a rainy month, which has made the meadows brilliant green, and the gardens are bursting with beautiful flowers.
May compassion warm our hearts and nurture a garden of joy in those around us,

Bhikshuni Thubten Chodron and the Sravasti Abbey Community

Vesak Day

The Abbey community began Vesak Day with taking the Eight Mahayana Precepts. The bhikshuni sangha then did our fortnightly posadha—confession and restoration of precepts. This was followed by Lama Chopa puja and a special dedication of merit.

During our visit to Singapore, 318 people requested Abbey monastics to make prayers and dedicate merit for others’ good health and long life, the clearing of obstacles, good rebirth, speedy recovery, and harmonious relationships. All total, we read out loud (and posted on the walls of the Meditation Hall) almost 4000 names! Through our merit and prayers may the temporary and ultimate happiness of all these people quickly come about.

After a lovely lunch, sponsored by a Singaporean family, we continued our virtuous activities with Katya taking the eight precepts and becoming an anagarika. At the conclusion of the ceremony, everyone offered personal congratulations to her, commenting on all the dedicated effort she put into creating the causes to move to the Abbey. Meanwhile Katya is glowing—not only her freshly shaven head reflecting light, but also her face beaming with happiness.

This was followed by putting our Buddha relics into a new stupa and then doing the practice of Prostrations to the Thirty-five Buddhas.

Our day concluded with Venerables Jigme and Samten leading the weekly meditation class in Spokane and the rest of us chanting and meditating at the Abbey.

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Young Adults Exploring Buddhism

Nine eager, attentive, and inquisitive participants joined our 8th annual Exploring Buddhism program for young adults. For a week, they took part in a full schedule of meditation, teachings, discussion groups, offering service, and of course, fun and laughter.

This year’s group asked important questions; they were thinking about their lives and how they want to live them. We respect and encourage their searching, and their youthful energy keeps the rest of the Abbey community on our toes. The week culminated in the young adults doing a hilarious skit where they played each other and in a go-around where they expressed what they had learned and what they will take away from their “vacation” at the Abbey.

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Chenrezig Hall

Venerable Tarpa and I have met with Tim Wilson, our wonderful architect, and we’re finalizing the preliminary plans for Chenrezig Hall. We have also found an expert kitchen designer, so that is underway.

Chenrezig Hall is a more complex building than Gotami House was: it’s a commercial structure, so different regulations apply, and the Health Department requires permits for serving food and inspections of the commercial kitchen. We’re in the process of interviewing potential contractors who are preparing bids. We’re not sure yet when we’ll be able to begin construction: it depends on finishing the construction plans and getting all the permits.

The whole process is very exciting. Chenrezig Hall will give us much needed space so that the monastic community can grow and so more of you will have comfortable rooms and a large dining room when you visit the Abbey and participate in retreats and other programs.

We’re grateful to the over 200 people who are diligently reciting “om mani padme hum” to help us create the merit to build Chenrezig Hall. Please keep chanting: We’re aiming for 21 million mantra and so far the total is 8.2 million.

Not all your mantra recitations need to be done in formal meditation sessions. You can also recite it as you go about your daily activities—this helps to keep our mind in a positive state. It’s hard to recite “om mani padme hum” and have a complaining mind at the same time! Be sure to send us the number of mantra recitations you do.

Many thanks, also, to all of you who have donated to help us build Chenrezig Hall. Your pure motivation and aspirations create powerful merit.

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Happenings at the Abbey: Sharing the Dharma Day and Open House

We happily received many returning guests as well as many new visitors during the monthly Sharing the Dharma Day. The theme of this day was meditation — with a Dharma talk on meditation and then actually meditating. We also enjoyed good Dharma conversations with people.

Just following this, at the request of newlyweds Kevin and Nancy , the community did Chenrezig meditation. Kevin lived at the Abbey and worked as the office manager from 2007 to 2009 and met Nancy, who was a volunteer at the Abbey. We dedicated the merit of the puja for them to have a happy life together in a relationship based on kindness, respect, and mutual support in their Dharma practice.

Our annual Open House drew about 45 guests this year, and the team of 15 local volunteers who helped us prepare and take care of the guests was great. Most people were from Newport, Coeur d’Alene, and Spokane, with some from other areas. A good time was had by all.

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Seeing Yourself as You Really Are Retreat

About two weeks before his eagerly anticipated retreat Jeffrey Hopkins wrote us to say that his health was not up for it. We were sad and concerned, but retreat must go on… so I led it, using H. H. the Dalai Lama’s book Seeing Yourself As You Really Are. 36 people attended the retreat and everyone listened attentively, taking in the unique perspective that the Buddha’s teachings have on our lives. In break times people worked in the garden and discussed the teachings, and when Sunday afternoon rolled around and it was time to leave, everyone was smiling and relaxed. We may still have a long way to go to see ourselves as we really are, but we’re making progress, and that’s what’s important.

Pics from this retreat aren’t on the web yet, but the ones from Venerable Tenzin Kacho’s retreat on Precious Life, Facing Death are.

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Prison Visits

Four Abbey residents visited Airway Heights Correctional Center for their annual Buddhafest. The men were very appreciative. Venerable Tarpa has started the training to become a regular volunteer there and to work with the Buddhist group.

Venerable Chonyi also visited a prison near Boise where she gave a talk to the incarcerated men there.

Inmates have also been enthusiastic “participants from afar” in helping the Abbey to generate merit to build Chenrezig Hall. Scott in Idaho contributed 100,000 recitations of om mani padme hum and Chris in California dedicated 1 million!

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Out & About

Venerable Chonyi taught at Treasure Valley Dharma Friends one weekend, and Venerables Jigme and Samten led the meditation class in Spokane. A new series of meditation classes will begin at the Unitarian church on July 9.

I gave a talk on Father’s Day at the Gardenia Center in Sandpoint, ID. The talk was about family harmony and reconciliation. We’ll let you know when it’s posted to thubtenchodron.org.

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The Meditation Hall, Garden, & Forest

Venerable Tarpa and Terri have been hard at work restoring the Meditation Hall after its move up the hill last autumn. The altar is back in the hall, due to the kindness of a group of volunteers who came to help us lift the heavy, 20 foot long piece out of the workshop, onto a trailer, and then into the Meditation Hall. The community is delighted to have the inside of the hall “back to normal” again, and with the new carpeting the hall is quieter and more comfortable.

We removed more old logs from both the garden and the area where the Meditation Hall used to be, and relocated the ant colonies in them to another place in the forest. Unfortunately the ants returned to the old garden cabin, and we’re contemplating what to do now.

There’s been a lot of rain in June so working in the forest has been delayed this year. However, in mid-June we began again to remove and trim trees, thin the forest, remove debris, and pull knapweed. All of us love working outdoors in the forest; it’s a welcome change from working on the computer!

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A New Book Is Out!

Khensur Jampa Tegchok, one of my teachers and author of Transforming Adversity into Joy and Courage, asked me to edit a series of teachings he gave on the nature of reality to form a book. Insight into Emptiness is published by Wisdom Publications and will be released in mid-July.

This book is a real gem. It explains many points that you don’t find in other books in a clear and comprehensible way. Khensur Rinpoche also explains the metaphors from the famous verse in the Diamond Cutter Sutra:

A star, a visual aberration, a flame of a lamp,
an illusion, a dewdrop, a water bubble,
a dream, a flash of lightning, a cloud,
em>see conditioned things as such.

And the metaphors from the equally famous verse from the Pali suttas:

Form is like a ball of foam,
feeling is like a water bubble,
discrimination is like a mirage,
volitional factors are like a plantain trunk,
and consciousness is like an illusion.

It was my privilege to edit this book, and I highly recommend it for those wanting to understand the ultimate nature of reality. Laura Miller from Mandala Magazine interviewed me about studying with Khensur Jampa Tegchok and editing the book. The audio interview is here and an excerpt from the book is here.

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Other News

While in Singapore a group of young Buddhist leaders asked me to speak to their concerns. We had a fun Q&A session and they continued the discussion afterwards. There are also more pics of the teachings in Singapore for you to see.

On the auspicious occasion of the 610th Anniversary of Je Tsong Khapa’s composition of his masterpiece Lam Rim Chen Mo (The Great Treatise on the Stages of the Path to Enlightenment), His Holiness the Dalai Lama will give teachings and transmissions on eighteen classic Lam Rim commentaries at the request of H.E. Ling Rinpoche (whose previous life was the preceptor for my sramanerika ordination in 1977).

An old monastic friend, Nicky Vreeland, a student of Khyongla Rato Rinpoche, has been appointed by H.H. the Dalai Lama as the first Western abbot of a Tibetan monastery. PBS did a great interview of this unassuming, talented monk.

Ken Matthews, an anagarika at the Abbey for about six months, has returned home to Florida. He is very kindly tutoring us via skype on photography programs and other computer skills. May all Ken’s virtuous aspirations be fulfilled!

Would you like to live near the Abbey? Two nearby properties are for sale. Down the hill on Country Lane, Emily and Eric are doing a “short sale” on their 4 bedroom, 2 bath place , having cut the price to $165,000. A little farther away, our friend Jo is selling her 40 acre property with its beautiful 3-bedroom hilltop home . Jo and her late husband, Pat, hosted two Rinpoches and several other Abbey guests in this tranquil, light-filled setting. We welcome Dharma friends to become our new neighbors.

You might like to read Lori’s reflections on her first Sravasti Abbey retreat.

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