Table of Contents

May was a full month for Abbey residents, with activities at home and abroad. Read on!

May your hearts bloom with joyful compassion as the flowers bloom with the spring sun.
Bhikshuni Thubten Chodron and the Sravasti Abbey Community

Teaching in Asia

Venerable Chonyi and I spent most of May in Asia. I was able to celebrate Chinese Vesak Day twice, once in Singapore and the following day in Indonesia, where I was invited to teach by Ekayana Buddhist Center.

The sangha at the Jakarta temple did a Vesak Day alms round, accepting gifts in our alms bowls from the approximately 9,000 followers who crowded the temple that day. It was a touching experience, knowing that their gifts came due to their faith in the Three Jewels and had nothing to do with us as individuals. Their generosity inspired a strong wish in me to repay their kindness by sharing the Dharma. Fortunately I was able to do that since they had planned a full schedule of teachings in Jakarta and Surabaya and a retreat at Parakan.

175 women came to the day-long woman’s retreat in Jakarta, and 250-300 people attended the evening talks. Among the participants at the Parakan retreat were 32 Indonesian nuns. We all enjoyed having special sessions so the nuns could talk about their practice.

The retreat culminated at Borobudur, a huge and wondrous stupa built in the eighth century when Indonesia was a predominantly Buddhist land. There are nine levels to circumambulate. Some of them have reliefs telling the story of the Buddha’s life; others relay Jataka tales, and still others tell the story in the Gandhavyuha Sutra of Sudhana’s search for teachings on the bodhisattva path. Buddha statues and stupas gaze over the valley, while busloads of children scamper up and down the stupa, and taking pictures. I had the sensation of the Buddhas’ continuous, calm presence even while we sentient beings run around doing all sorts of things.

We then went to Singapore, where there was also a super full schedule of Dharma talks. These included three evening talks and a weekend retreat, followed by three talks for young adults, at Kong Meng San Phor Kark See, the largest temple in Singapore. Friends of Sravasti Abbey Singapore, an active group that has supported the Abbey for years (I’ve known many of its members since 1987-88 when I lived in Singapore), also organized talks at Tai Pei Buddhist Centre, Wat Palelai, Buddhist Fellowship, and a special session for the leaders of many of the Buddhist youth groups. FOSAS is an amazing group of dedicated Buddhists who go all-out to propagate the Dharma and help the Abbey. They come to the airport to greet us after midnight on workdays and get up at 3 a.m. to see us off en masse when we leave. Here are pics of my first day in Singapore, and more photos will be up soon.

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Sravasti Abbey Makes the National News

The big news is that an article about the Abbey, emphasizing Venerables Chonyi and Jigme’s recent bhiksunī ordination, appeared in an article “Buddhist Abbey a Dream Fulfilled for U.S. Nuns” in the May 7 editions of the Washington Post and USA Today and in the May 8 Huffington Post. We never expected to appear in major US newspapers! We are happy that more people will learn about the Dharma through these articles.

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Meditation Hall & Chenrezig Hall

The Meditation Hall lost some of its waterproof sealing when we moved it last fall, so Venerable Tarpa and Terri have been working steadily to re-seal it. John Perry and Kenny arrived with their giant machines and have begun to tear up the cement foundation where the Hall used to perch in order to make room for Chenrezig Hall. It’s great fun to watch the power-dismantling of the old to make room for the new.

We continue working with architect Tim Wilson and are near finalizing the preliminary design for Chenrezig Hall. This building is much more complicated than Gotami House; in addition to meeting the requirements for a building permit, we must also get a septic permit, a food handler’s permit, and design a commercial kitchen. We continue to investigate green building, which will be more expensive initially but will make for a better constructed building that is hopefully free from carpenter ants in the long-term. Designing the building for future as well as present generations is a wonderful creative process.

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Chenrezig All Over the World

Friends of Sravasti Abbey recently invited people all over the world to join in reciting Chenrezig’s mantrato create the merit and inspiration for the Abbey to build Chenrezig Hall. Individuals and Dharma groups from France, Germany, Indonesia, Italy, Mexico, Nepal, the Netherlands, Peru (pictured here), Singapore, Turkey and the United States—to name a few—have recited om mani padme hum over 3.5 million times! Along with their practice, people have sent heartfelt, inspiring dedications for peace, the flourishing of the Dharma, and the success of Sravasti Abbey.

By transforming our minds we create the causes for our own and others’ happiness and we ensure that the Dharma thrives. Thus, we create the causes for places like Chenrezig Hall to exist. With so many people working to develop love, compassion, and wisdom, this is truly what it means to bring peace to a chaotic world.

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The Garden & Forest in Spring

The Abbey community has enjoyed our springtime outdoor Dharma activities. We renovated an area of the flower garden, removing old cedar posts where carpenter ants lived, and Debbie Walker, a volunteer at Spokanimal animal shelter, recently gifted Maitri and Karuna a small outdoor tent. The kitties can now enjoy the outdoors without a leash yet keep a safe distance from the little beings that live in and around the Abbey garden.

Katya and Dani went to work planting early vegetable crops and have finished preparing the beds for the hot weather crops.

The forest trails are drying out and Venerables Samten and Semkye have already begun working in the forest. The Abbey was awarded another FLEP grant for the 2011-2013 seasons, and we’ll be thinning and limbing in the forest again this summer. If you like having fun in the outdoors and would like to help us keep our beautiful forest healthy, come and join us. We have great discussions while limbing and cutting trees.

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Volunteer Meeting & May Visitors

We had another packed house for Sharing the Dharma Day, and on Saturday May 19, local Dharma friends, Erin, Rick, Tracy, Ken, Cherise, and Heather visited the Abbey to explore opportunities to volunteer. We had a lovely lunch on the sunny deck getting to know one another. Venerable Semkye and Dani shared about helping with the upcoming Open House on June 16 as well as opportunities in the forest, gardens, and with restoring the Meditation Hall. We are grateful for all the support with the Abbey’s efforts to develop the Buddhadharma in the West.

We were delighted to have our neighbor, Jo Simpson, here for lunch. She and her late husband, Pat, encouraged and inspired us to build Gotami House several years ago. Another of our neighbors, Matt Wakabayashi, continues to volunteer to mow the grass. He and his wife, Bon, support people in need locally and in Kenya. Our dear Dharma friend, Veda from Spokane, also visited. We always enjoy our time with her and thank her for her offerings.

First time visitors to the Abbey included Risa, Roger, and Tom who are connected to Disciples of Christ church in Spokane. We enjoyed their many questions and their sharing about their own spiritual paths. Siau, who just graduated from University of Idaho, brought her parents who were visiting from Malaysia to see how Westerners practice Buddhism.

Cheri and Steve Langston from Memphis, Tennessee spent a day at the Abbey, so Cheri could take refuge and lay precepts and do the aspiring bodhicitta ceremony with Venerable Tarpa. Cheri has been an enthusiastic “retreatant from afar” and manages the Abbey’s Facebook page. Cheri and Steve plan to move to the Spokane area in order to be closer to the Abbey.

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Nonviolent Communication: Growing Harmony in the Community

Every Tuesday afternoon, the Abbey residents gather with anticipation, joy, and sometimes a bit of trepidation to practice Nonviolent Communication, as taught by Marshall Rosenberg. We find it a strong complement to the Dharma. It takes an open heart to work through each step of a disagreement with patience and care, trying to come to a neutral observation of what happened, investigating our own and others’ emotions about it, finding our true needs, and then a making positive, specific request. Everyone in the community agrees on the importance of this effort to increase harmony in our own minds, in the Abbey community, with our visitors and supporters, and then spreading it out everywhere.

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Preparing for Death, Bardo, & Rebirth

Bringing her characteristic warmth, keen insight, and gentle humor, Bhiksunī Tenzin Kacho returned to the Abbey over Memorial Day weekend to lead 36 people on a retreat preparing for death, bardo, and rebirth. The foundation for this exploration was a prayer/contemplation “Wishes for Release from the Perilous Straits of the Intermediate State, Hero Releasing from Fright,” found in His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s Book, Advice for Dying and Living Well.

A nun in the Tibetan tradition as well as a hospice chaplain, Venerable Kacho encouraged us in personal reflection on this topic, including sharing our own closest experiences with death, making lists of what we would want to accomplish if we had only 6 months to live, and thinking about who we need to forgive and share our love with before we die so that we’ll be able to face our deaths with confidence and clarity and live life more fully. Photos of the retreat will be on the website in a few weeks.

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Other News

Venerables Samten and Jigme resumed meditation classes at Spokane Unitarian Church. The participants enjoy lively discussions and practice meditation on the lamrim, following my book, Guided Meditations on the Stages of the Path. The 20 to 30 people who attend benefit from the class as evidenced by their thoughtful questions and honest discussions about how to put the Buddha’s teachings into daily practice.

Photos from the April Forgiveness retreat are now on the web.

Our Annual Open House is June 16 from 1 to 4 pm. The program includes chanting with the Abbey community and brief meditation instruction. The Open House offers a relaxed way for you to introduce your friends to the Abbey. If you’re within driving distance, please join us!

We wish you a joyful Saga Dawa—Vesak Day—on Monday June 4, the day we commemorate the Buddha’s birth, awakening, and parinirvana. You might enjoy watching this Bodhisattva Breakfast Corner talk, “ Vesak, a Happy and Hopeful Day.” We’ll be taking the 8 Mahayana precepts and doing Chenrezig and Lama Chopa pujas, as well as our bi-monthly confession and restoration of precepts. The merit of all virtuous activities increases on that day, and we encourage you to take extra time for reflection, study, and practice.

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