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The long days at the Abbey are glorious, allowing for walks in the forest after evening meditation. The garden is full of flowers and the veggie garden is growing, giving us organic salad. The cherries are nearly ready and the apples grow fuller by the day. After a mild winter, the warmer-than-usual temperatures continue, with several days over 100 degrees Fahrenheit. We’re very glad that Chenrezig Hall has air-con!

Bhikshuni Thubten Chodron and the Sravasti Abbey Community

His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s Teachings in Australia

Venerable Jigme and I went to the Blue Mountains in Australia, where His Holiness the Dalai Lama gave five days of tantric teachings specifically for “senior” students. The initiation and commentary were wonderful, and His Holiness was vibrant and enthusiastic about teaching. His energy is amazing, especially considering that he will be 80 on July 6. At the conclusion of the teachings, he exhorted us to practice just as, after eating a delicious meal, we must digest it and absorb the nourishment.

At the teachings, I saw many old Dharma friends from the 1970s and 80s, whom I had not seen since then. Recognizing them was a challenge . . . none of us look like we did back then! But it’s rewarding to see these people grow in the Dharma and tame their minds over the decades. Many of these people shared how much they rejoice at the establishment of the Abbey, which provides support and community that the early Western sangha did not enjoy.

Venerable Jigme also attended His Holiness’ teachings in Brisbane before returning to the Abbey, while I gave two talks in Sydney—at a university and to a group of socially engaged Buddhists—and then traveled to Indonesia. Photos are here.

You can listen to the talk on developing happiness that I gave at Macquarie University, Sydney, and to a talk on cultivating love and kindness that I gave in Long Beach, California, before departing for Australia.

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Indonesia Travels

I met Venerable Samten in Medan, Indonesia, and thus began a full schedule of teachings and retreats for two weeks. A three-day retreat on the “37 Practices of Bodhisattvas” was held outside Medan, in an area of lush tropical jungle. We then returned to the city for two public talks at Vihara Borobodur Medan. The talks were packed—around 400 people each evening.

The retreatants made a video photo montage of the “37 Practices” retreat, and you can find audio recordings of the retreat teachings online. The audio recording of the first public talk on “Buddhism: One Teacher, Many Traditions” is also up, and the remaining teachings will be posted soon.

We then flew to Jakarta and did another three-day retreat on “Buddhism: One Teacher, Many Traditions,” as well as a public talk on the same topic at Ekayana Buddhist Center, also attended by a few hundred people. It’s wonderful to see people so eager to learn the Dharma.

Venerable Samten shares her reflections on the teaching tour.

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Sakyadhita Conference

Sakyadhita is an international organization of Buddhist women. They hold a conference every two years, and with the conference in Yogyakarta, Indonesia this year, (it’s in different Asian countries each time) it worked out well for me to attend. The days were full with meditation, two plenary sessions, workshops, chanting, and evening Dharma talks.

The opening ceremony was lovely, with the nuns from each group processing together and bowing to the Buddha. The variety of robes was indicative of how far Sakyadhita reaches to bring Buddhist women together: India, Indonesia, Thailand, Cambodia, Malaysia, Singapore, Burma, Korea, Taiwan, Japan, and many Western countries.

There were practitioners, academics, monastics, lay followers, priests, and ngagmas—a wide variety of ways in which people engage with the Buddha’s teachings. People presented papers and the Q&A sessions that followed them were fascinating. (See some of the photos here.)

This year’s theme was “Compassion and Social Justice” and plenary sessions covered the topics of Indonesian Buddhist women, Buddhist culture in Indonesia, the globalization of Buddhism, implementing compassion and social justice, diversity and multiculturism, bhikkhuni ordination, equality, respect, and lay/monastic relations, the future of Buddhist feminism, Buddhist women and compassionate activism, the spirit of compassion, and breakthroughs in Buddhist education.

There was time, too, for informal discussion, connecting with old friends, and making new ones. I especially enjoyed talking to some of the young Asian nuns; Buddhism has a bright future with them. Congratulations to Sakyadhita for a wonderful conference; I encourage people to attend in the future.

(You might like to read Venerable Chodron’s 2007 reminiscence about the very first conference that sparked the founding of Sakyadhita International.)

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Cultivating Compassion Retreat

We enjoyed a cozy weekend retreat on Developing Compassion from June 12-14, and especially appreciated the presence of long-time friends from the local community.

Venerable Chonyi began the retreat by exploring the definition and building blocks of compassion, and Venerable Semkye followed up with a talk on learning to be our own best friend. After a day of rich exchange, the two Venerables tag-teamed the closing discussion, where participants shared on steps they could take to deepen their daily practice.

It was a rejuvenating time for everyone to get in touch with our capacity to open our hearts without prejudice and fear. Watch the talks and see the photos here.

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Sharing the Dharma Day

This month’s Sharing the Dharma Day fell on Father’s Day, which more than 40 people celebrated together, including fathers with families in tow. Following up on last month’s teaching on “Chasing Rainbows,” Venerable Chonyi gave a thoughtful talk on how we misperceive impermanent things to be permanent and pleasurable, which creates grief when things change. Watch the teaching, “Suffering is Like a Dream.”

The afternoon discussion group had us probing the mind that grasps at wrong conceptions of reality and exploring how to work with these disturbing mental states to bring inner peace. The day ended with new visitors from the Unitarian Universalist Church of the Palouse in Moscow, Idaho, and the Spokane Meet-up group enjoying a forest walk and touring the grounds. See photos here.

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Catholic-Buddhist Monastic Dialogue

Venerables Tarpa and Semkye attended the 4th Monastic Inter-religious Dialogue held at Gethsemani Abbey in Bardstown, Kentucky. The 5-day event opened conversation between monastics of the Benedictine and Cistercians Catholic orders and from the Chinese, Tibetan, Theravada and Zen Buddhist traditions.

This year’s theme was “Maturation in the Buddhist and Christian Monastic Traditions.” The exploration centered on the intention of being engaged in a religious tradition with its practices, teachings, and communal support in order to attain a goal. We explored both traditional and contemporary practices that enable the process of maturity in both traditions to occur.

Several participants gave presentations, including a powerpoint presentation by Venerable Semkye sharing how, at the Abbey, “Community Life becomes the Training.” In the afternoons we enjoyed sharing some of the practices and rituals in both traditions including the universal custom of bowing. The Catholics taught about the meaning behind the singing of Psalms and introduced us to Lectio Divina, an ancient form of aspirational prayer that uses many kinds of objects—art, nature, world events, etc.

Much of the joy was in the intimate group and one-on-one sharings during and between the sessions where we had the opportunity to hear each other’s spiritual journeys.

Both Venerable Semkye and Venerable Tarpa shared about their experiences on Bodhisattva’s Breakfast Corner. Their talks are at the very top of the Sravasti Abbey’s Interfaith playlist.

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Offering Service Saturdays & Compassion Puja

The first Offering Service Saturday on June 27 was a huge success. Initiated by our friends Sarah and Doug from Spokane, these monthly service days offer a focused time for Abbey friends to visit and offer service to the monastery.

Despite the 100-degree heat, about 10 volunteers came from Spokane and the Tri-Cities to help, and help they did! Although we didn’t work in the forest as originally planned (too hot), the compost was turned, cherries were pitted, the leaks in the irrigation system were stopped, bolted lettuce was pulled, spring greens were cleaned, and hot weather crops planted—among other things. Venerable Semkye captured the joy of the day in her Bodhisattva’s Breakfast Corner talk.

After a delicious potluck lunch, we moved to the Meditation Hall where we invoked the compassion of Chenrezig in response to the killings of nine members of the Emmanual AME Church in Charelston. Citing ignorance as the root of all suffering, we did our meditation practice, sending the light of wisdom and compassion to penetrate every heart everywhere. Faiths United to Prevent Gun Violence and Everytown USA have called on faith communities to Rise for Charleston between June 26 and July 19, and the Abbey is happy to take part.

The next Offering Service Saturday is July 25. Future dates are August 29, September 26, and October 31. Write Sarah and Doug to know more and sign up.

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More News

His Holiness the Dalai Lama celebrates his 80th birthday on July 6, 2015! We’re dedicating for him to continue to have good health and a long life for the benefit of all sentient beings. You might enjoy a short free e-book of an interview by Franz Alt with the Dalai Lama on “Ethics Are More Important than Religion.”

Here’s a wonderful birthday gift: Wisdom Publications just told us that Buddhism: One Teacher, Many Traditions, co-authored by His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Venerable Chodron, has won a silver medal in Foreword Reviews’ 2014 book awards!

We have also just learned that our friend, Jan Willis, who is scheduled to teach at the Abbey in July, is unable to visit at this time. We wish her well and hope to reschedule soon. Instead, Venerable Chodron will lead the retreat and teach on the same text, Shantideva’s Engaging in the Bodhisattva’s Deeds.

Yogacharya Ellen Grace O’Brian from the Center for Spiritual Enlightenment will host Venerable Chodron on her weekly online radio broadcast, The Yoga Hour. They’ll discuss ways to “Embrace Your Open-Hearted Life: The Way of Compassion” on Thursday, July 9, at 8 am Pacific Time. Listen to the archived recording.

Venerable Damcho talks about her decision to ordain in an interview with The Straits Times Singapore. As part of a Vesak Day special, they questioned several young Singaporean monastics about why they take up robes.

A number of guests have come up to offer service for short and long visits, including Jay from Moscow, Leigh from Portland, and Joe from Spokane. Lana, who has been offering service at Dharma centers around the world, arrived for a three-month visit, and James, who did the 2013 Winter Retreat, is back for a few weeks. Stephen is here for the summer, and a few others are beginning to arrive to spend the month of July. Their joy in practicing the Dharma inspires us all.

Out in the community, Venerable Chonyi spoke at the North Idaho Unitarian Universalist Church in Coeur d’Alene, and our meditation classes at the UU Church in Spokane continue to study An Open-hearted Life. These classes will go on without a break through August, meeting every Monday at 6:30.

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