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It’s summer and the Abbey is buzzing with Dharma activity—from naga puja to forest work; from continuing our classes with Jeffrey Hopkins to leading a meditation group in Spokane; from serving on the board of Youth Emergency Services to fixing up the house at Tara’s Refuge. June Abbey life photos are here.

In these and so many ways we—residents, guests, and the extended community that includes you—contribute to creating peace in a chaotic world.

Bhikshuni Thubten Chodron and the Sravasti Abbey Community

Prison Outreach

In most prisons, each religious group has one day each year to have a special event. Venerables Chodron, Tarpa, and Losang attended the Buddha Day at Airways Heights Correctional Center, where Venerable Tarpa is a regular volunteer who assists the Buddhist group. Thirty-one inmates attended, most of whom we knew from prior visits.

This day, the room was decorated beautifully with prayer flags and Buddhist artwork done by the inmates. In the morning, the men gave talks and did skits with Buddhist themes, and in the afternoon Venerable Chodron and Lama Lekshe, from Tsinta Mani Choling in Spokane, gave Dharma talks followed by Q&A. The men soaked in the Dharma and were extremely grateful for our attendance. We also had some pleasant conversations with volunteers from other religions, who tutored their groups on the same day. We especially appreciate the Airway Heights chaplain who is open-minded and supportive.

Also, Venerable Jigme visited the Minimum Security Unit at Monroe Correctional Complex and shares about her visit:

Built in 1910, the prison has a capacity of 2,400 men. Getting into prison to visit takes some planning. Two months before visiting, I submitted a request to visit and a background check was done. Upon arriving at the prison, I put my things in a locker and handed my driver’s license to the guard. He gave me a visitor pass to wear on my lapel. After walking through a metal detector, we were escorted to a classroom where a small altar with water bowls and incense had been set up. The inmates began arriving during what is called “movement,” a short period of time when they can move from their cell to an activity if they have prior permission to attend a group.

Eight men attended the group; all were new to Buddhism and had only attended this group four or five times before. I began by explaining the two types of meditation—stabilizing and analytic—then led the group in breathing meditation followed by a on “Mind is the Source of Happiness and Pain.”

The men asked very good questions about what to study first and how to concentrate the mind. We talked about how we are all the same in wanting happiness and not wanting suffering. One man asked about how to work with his mind when faced with someone who is angry. Although the group is very new, it was clear that they already understand the benefits of applying the teachings to their lives.

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Offering Service Saturday

One Saturday of each month, the Abbey has a special offering service day where many of our local friends come to help us. This month, 16-18 people attended. We had a very good time and accomplished a lot.

One group polished the new Buddha statue donated by Dharma Friendship Foundation. Another group worked to wash the fabric book covers wrapped around the Kangyur and Tengyur scriptures of the Tibetan Canon. Others worked in the forest, trimming branches to prevent fire danger, while others worked in the veggie garden and flower garden, and still others processed rhubarb for the  freezer and strung prayer beads for prison inmates.

These offering service days are wonderful community building activities. Please join us for the next one on July 30. Photos are here.

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Meet the Neighbors Days

The Abbey is involved with the Spokane Interfaith Council, which sponsors “Meet the Neighbors” events so that people from various religions —and none at all—can learn about each other and visit the wonderful variety of temples, churches, and mosques in our community.

The Abbey hosted one of these days, which was very enriching for all of us. Christians, Muslims, and other Buddhists attended, with some coming from Iraq, Pakistan, and Ethiopia. After introducing the Abbey and our practices and schedule, the conversation turned to the importance of interfaith cooperation in our world. As a group, we voiced a strong intention to support interfaith understanding and to override the voices of division in the US and the world.

We then visited the Meditation Hall where we explained our Dharma items and chanted for our guests. The afternoon concluded with snacks and small group discussions that everyone enjoyed.

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Sharing the Dharma Day

Nearly fifty people attended the June Sharing the Dharma Day. The talk was on verse 34 of “The Thirty-Seven Practices of Bodhisattvas:”

Harsh words disturb the minds of others
And cause deterioration in a bodhisattva’s conduct.
Therefore, give up harsh words
Which are unpleasant to others—
This is the practice of bodhisattvas.

Everyone can resonate with this verse, since all of us at one time or another have spoken harshly to others. Seeing the pain such speech gives others and the impediments it places for our own spiritual progress, let’s train ourselves to pause before we speak and consider the adverse effects of harsh speech on ourselves and others. Venerable Chodron’s talk is here, and you can read Don’t Believe Everything You Think for more. Photos are here.

Before teaching about harsh speech on Sharing the Dharma Day, Venerable Chodron spoke about the tragedy in Orlando and gave helpful advice on how to use this event to strengthen our compassion and determination.

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Tragedy in Orlando

Again there was another terrorist attack and hate crime, this time in our country. While people may propose different solutions to the problem of violence, we are united in opposing violence. As the Buddha said, hatred and violence are not overcome by hatred and violence, but by compassion and love. Seeing the suffering of everyone involved in the attack—victims, perpetrator, the parents and communities of both—let’s cultivate compassion and come together to oppose hatred and violence.

Take a look at this 5 minute video and ask, “Who am I really?

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New Anagarikas

On June 13, Alicia and Stephen received the eight anagarika precepts, shaved their heads, and donned “the blues,” the outfit anagarikas (Tib. gomi genyen) wear during their year of training.

This year is designed so people who are considering monastic ordination will have time to explore whether a monastic life style is suitable for them. Some people conclude it is and request novice ordination; others prefer to live as a lay practitioner. No matter what people choose, we see the anagarika period successful for helping each person to gain clarity in their Dharma practice. Photos are here.

Stephen has written some Dharma poems. Read them here and here.

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Exploring Buddhism: Young Adult Week

This was our 11th annual Young Adult Week, with an exceptional group of ten young adults. The wide variety in ages—from 17 to 31 years of age—and the diversity of backgrounds—which included people who grew up in Uruguay, Cuba, and Australia—posed no difficulty for them. They bonded quickly and deeply.

They  were full of questions during the daily Dharma teachings and shared on a deep level during our discussion times in the garden. Discussions continued when they worked together in the forest and washed dishes together after meals—they enjoyed talking so much that it took an unusually long time to finish the dishes! And their skits on the last day were hilarious! Photos are here.

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Community Outreach

The Spokane Interfaith Council, along with OutSpokane, invited the Abbey to take part in an interfaith worship service during the city’s 25th annual GLBTQ+ PRIDE Week. The organizers wanted to be as inclusive of all faith traditions possible, and said, “The next generation of LGBTQ+ folks needs to see us united, so that they can feel safe.”

Venerable Chonyi joined with clergy from five additional traditions—United Church of Christ, Jewish, New Thought, Unity, and Disciples of Christ—to create a service to include all faiths as well as to affirm a spiritual refuge for people who may be barred from participating in other religious services.

Venerable Chonyi appreciated the openness and harmony in the planning group as they re-fashioned a borrowed, heavily Christian, Pride interfaith liturgy into an inclusive profession of shared values. When the group reviewed the new text together, one pastor wrote, “Several of us had tears in our eyes and the hairs on our neck stood up in awe. It really was a spiritual moment. What binds us together is love and compassion for the youth, and that love transcends our particular belief systems.”

More than 100 people of all ages—children to senior citizens—attended the service. Following the Pride week theme, “From Silence to Celebration,” the service used song, recitation, personal sharing, and a little old-fashioned preaching to remember those who have suffered and to invoke the values of love, kindness, compassion, wisdom, and inclusiveness. Several speakers particularly noted the present danger for transgendered people. Participants behind the podium and in the audience were visibly moved. As the service ended, a rainbow appeared in the sky over Spokane.

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More News

Venerable Chodron was interviewed by Third Eye Drops, a program oriented towards millennials. The interviewer gives a six-minute introduction questioning the source of happiness and satisfaction, and then the interview begins. Listen here.

Read the Dalai Lama’s optimistic outlook on the world’s future in brief.

Also, the U.S. Institute of Peace invited the Dalai Lama and youth leaders from around the world. Listening to His Holiness and some of the youth leaders speak brings hope for our future. Watch an inspiring video from their meeting. We very much enjoyed a visit by Bon and the team of volunteers from our local food bank. It was inspiring to hear the wonderful work they are doing to provide food and access to resources to people in our county. She shares about their experience here.

Venerable Jampa shared about the culture where she grew up in East Germany—German Democratic Republic—and the transition time after the fall of the Berlin Wall. You can read it here or watch her talk online.

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