Spring flows into summer and the Abbey grounds are glorious in the sunshine. The days are long and cool, ideal for all the work that happens outdoors in this season. The chipmunks in the garden scurry about in joyful agreement.
We’re rejoicing in the steady stream of guests here to study, practice, and offer service with us, reminding us constantly of how our lives are dependent on the kindness of others. Abbey nuns have also been out and about, connecting with communities local and international.
Young Adults Explore Buddhism
Up to 14 young adults participated in our annual “Young Adults Explore Buddhism” program. This course is always fun with the enthusiasm and humor of young adults, but this year’s group was special. They were particularly thoughtful and open-minded and asked many excellent questions over teachings and discussions about the nature of mind, rebirth, emotions, karma, and everything else under the sun.
June’s Sharing the Dharma Day was integrated into the course and the young adults jumped right into setting up for the day, welcoming local friends to the Abbey, and engaging in rich discussions with them. Venerable Chodron gave the morning talk on how to establish compassionate habits based on a chapter from An Open-Hearted Life. Watch or listen to the talk here.
Dr. Russell Kolts, the co-author of An Open-Hearted Life, taught the young adults for a morning, and the monastic community took turns giving Bodhisattva’s Breakfast Corner talks so that the young adults could hear from a diversity of voices and personalities. A representative of Washington Governor Jay Inslee came for lunch one day, and together with the monastics, the young adults bombarded him with questions about climate change and possible solutions to it. See the young adult week photos here.
The Genie Project
In mid-June, the Abbey rented a cherry picker-type boom—we call it by its brand name “Genie”—for nine days to take care of the high-up maintenance of buildings and trees that are inaccessible to ladders. The project began on Offering Service Saturday, and we stained roof fascia boards, deck beams and columns, and painted the trim of Gotami House and Chenrezig Hall. We oiled the wood siding of the more than 70-year-old barn and cut down dead branches of three trees for their health.
Ven. Tarpa—with support from Vens. Semkye, Jampa, Losang, and Kunga from the infrastructure team and 15 volunteers from near and far—worked diligently and joyfully in teams each day, some in the boom and others on the ground. Everyone enjoyed the astonishing view from above and engaged in Dharma conversations during break times.
It was a precious time collaborating with like-minded friends to take care of the Abbey’s buildings and trees so that we can continue to practice the Dharma together here. We are so grateful to all the Dharma friends who came to help us! Enjoy the photos of the “genie project” here.
Ven. Chodron, accompanied by Vens. Chonyi and Samten, traveled to Australia in the last half of June. Their time in Sydney included a visit to meditation app developer Insight Timer, where Ven. Chodron spoke to their staff on the importance of linking ethical conduct and compassion to mindfulness. She then taught at the Buddhist Library Sydney on the “Eight Verses of Thought Transformation.” Watch or listen to the talk here.
Weekend teachings at Vajrayana Institute began with an evening talk on “Living an Open-Hearted Life,” before Ven. Chodron unpacked the topic of karma. The first of the Vajrayana Institute talks is here and others will be posted shortly.
At the request of the Nan Tien Institute, Ven. Chodron also made a series of seven short videos for a course on Humanistic Buddhism, focusing on the bodhisattva ideal as explained in Shantideva’s Engaging in the Bodhisattva Deeds. Photos of the time in Sydney are here.
The nuns then joined 800+ participants at the 16th Sakyadhita International Conference of Buddhist Women, held at the sacred land of the Gundungurra and Darug people in the Blue Mountains. The full schedule included panels, round table discussions, paper presentations, workshops, cultural expression in the form of music and dance, and time to connect with friends old and new.
Ven. Chodron presented a short paper discussing how the six harmonies—of body, speech, mind, precepts, views, and requisites—enable a sangha community to fulfill the long-term benefit of awakening, and the temporary benefit of facilitating the practice of its individual members and supporters, and serving society. The three nuns then presented a workshop on the same topic. In an evening Dharma talk, Ven. Chodron explained the opening verse of Chandrakirti’s Supplement to Nagarjuna’s Treatise on the Middle Way on compassion. She also spoke on this verse at Gaden Shartse Thubten Dargye Ling in Long Beach, California on her way to Australia. Watch the talk here or listen to it here.
The most precious aspect of the gathering was that it allowed women to share their practice, discuss challenges and current social and environmental concerns, and rejoice in the vast and diverse ways that the Dharma is being practiced and preserved. This all occurred in a supportive, harmonious, and warm environment.
The conference culminated with a surprise birthday celebration for Jetsunma Tenzin Palmo. The chanting and heartfelt expressions of gratitude for the immeasurable support that so many Asian and Himalayan nuns have received from both Jetsunma Tenzin Palmo and Ven. Lekshe Tsomo were very touching. See photos of the Sakyadhita Conference here.
This trip was a great distance to travel for a nine-day visit (excluding travel days). However, experiencing the richness of the teachings, connecting with people from such a wide variety of Buddhist traditions and countries, and experiencing the kindness and care of the planners, facilitators, volunteers, and hotel staff has left us feeling deep and profound gratitude for this remarkable experience.
A Family’s Visit
Two years ago, a young man named Ryan spent three months at the Abbey. In his application, he wrote, “If I am allowed to come, I will be of maximum service. I will help anywhere I am needed and will do as much as I can to learn and practice. I have a lot of tolerance for others when living in a group setting. I will respect everyone to the utmost and take my studies very seriously.”
The Abbey environment really suited Ryan; we saw him grow and thrive on many levels. He enjoyed offering service in the forest and connecting with people who came for retreats. Unfortunately, when he returned home, he got involved with old friends and last year, we received news from his family that he had died.
After the cremation, his family wanted to come to the Abbey to spread his ashes on the forest knoll we call Sukhavati (the Land of Bliss), the name of Amitabha Buddha’s pure land. The family—Ryan’s mother, step-father, brother, sister, and girlfriend—all came to spend a few days with us. It was a healing experience for them and for the Abbey community as we all grieved the loss of Ryan in our lives. One afternoon we sat in a circle and told stories about Ryan, laughing at many humorous tales. The second afternoon we did a meditation on compassion and Chenrezig and then hiked up the hill to spread his ashes at Sukhavati. The sharing was a blessed event for all of us.
Interfaith Pride Worship Service
Vens. Chonyi and Damcho attended the 4th annual Interfaith Pride Worship Service in Spokane, which saw faith leaders from local Buddhist, Christian, Jewish, and Unitarian Universalist groups coming together to express solidarity and offer a safe space for members of the LGBTQIA community. Ven. Chonyi led the opening invocation, offering a guided meditation to invite love and compassion—shared by all spiritual traditions—then sending its healing light to everyone in the room and beyond.
The theme of the evening was “To Thrive, Not Just Survive,” embodied beautifully by an installation of a Tree of Life with protest signs at its roots and space for everyone to hang leaves with their written aspirations for the future. Faith leaders shared from the heart about coming out and finding acceptance in their respective faith traditions, and the Spectrum Singers, an all-inclusive, intergenerational chorus based in Spokane, brought diverse voices together as one in celebratory song. As the service ended, a double rainbow appeared in the sky over Spokane.
Interfaith Panel at North Idaho College
Ven. Jigme participated in a panel of different religious traditions for the Master of Social Work program at North Idaho College, together with representatives from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Unity Church, Unitarian Universalism, and Wicca Religion. The purpose of the panel was to help students become aware of the importance of faith traditions of different groups that they serve in order to be most effective when helping them.
All the panelists gave an overview of their basic beliefs and then took questions. The students raised stimulating questions ranging from how each group related to men and women in leadership and power, to differences in beliefs between theistic and non-theistic belief systems, especially with regard to the afterlife and rebirth. The beauty of these opportunities for sharing is that we all can experience the commonalities in values between different faith traditions.
Photo courtesy of Tracy Simmons at SpokaneFAVs.
Vens. Sangye Khadro and Semkye participated in the annual Buddhist Day at Airway Heights Corrections Center where the Buddhist group has been meeting for over 20 years. The program for the day included short, inspirational speeches by incarcerated men, and a talk and guided meditation on equanimity led by the nuns. Ven. Sangye Khadro also led a brief tsog practice and the men mixed all the colored rice from a lovely mandala that everyone helped to create over the course of the day.
The following morning, the Venerables returned to the facility to lead a half-day retreat. Ven. Sangye Khadro spoke about the Buddha’s life and Ven. Semkye led a walking meditation and meditation on the Buddha. A Q&A and discussion session gave the men a chance to share about their practice. They expressed how the Dharma has helped them remain positive in their difficult life situation and gives them a sense of peace and hope as they practice transforming their minds. Ven. Semkye shares about the visit in this talk.
Venerable Losang continues to meet with the Buddhist group at Airway Heights Corrections Center. At a visit on June 29, he taught on verses 10 to 12 of “The Wheel Of Sharp Weapons,” based on Venerable Chodron’s book Good Karma, and led meditations including the taking-and-giving meditation. The group also discussed how to apply the Buddha’s teachings in daily life.
One of the incarcerated men whom we have been corresponding with for many years shared how a fight on the prison yard influences so many people. (Thankfully, he stays away from gang activity and was not involved in the fight). Read his account here.
Photo by Viacheslav Dubrovin.
New Books by Shambhala Publications
Our motivation is the most important aspect of everything that we do. Ven. Chodron’s latest book, Awaken Every Day: 365 Buddhist Reflections to Invite Mindfulness and Joy, published by Shambhala Publications, offers wise and practical reflections for every day of the year to help us make the best use of this precious human life. Watch Ven. Chodron share the story behind the book here and read from it here.
Guided Buddhist Meditations: Essential Practices on the Stages of the Path is a new edition of Guided Meditations on the Stages of the Path. It will be in stores on July 30, and Shambhala is offering a 30% discount for online orders until August 31. Learn more about the book and get the discount code <here.
Have a question about Buddhism? Check out the “Ask a Buddhist” column that Sravasti Abbey monastics respond to for SpokaneFAVs, an online news source that covers religion, spirituality, and ethics in the U.S. Browse a directory of recent columns here.
Ven. Chodron responds to a student’s question about how to deal with someone’s ingratitude after we have helped them. Read her reply here.
Luminary Temple has posted Ven. Chodron’s talk on “Practicing the Dharma with Bodhicitta” as a series of short videos with English and Chinese subtitles. Watch them here.
We’ve posted “The Ten Great Vows,” an aspirational prayer by Vasubandhu, on Ven. Chodron’s website. Contemplating it lifts your heart and inspires bodhicitta. Read it here.
Ven. Jampa has been giving a Dharma spin on fairy tales by the Brothers Grimm in her Bodhisattva’s Breakfast Corner talks. Read about Mother Holle (or Mother Frost) here.
The Abbey has published a booklet of teachings for novice monastics translated into German by a team at Shide Nunnery in Germany. Qualified monastics can download it here.
Europe’s leaders are about to decide whether to end carbon pollution completely! Sign this petition to show your support for the plan, which will be delivered to key governments before EU leaders meet in days.