Table of Contents

Spring is one of the most beautiful seasons at the Abbey (the other beautiful seasons here are summer, autumn, and winter), and with the completion of winter retreat we now welcome many old and new friends and resume our more active schedule. Enjoy photos of Abbey life here.

Bhikshuni Thubten Chodron and the Sravasti Abbey Community

Love Retreat

We had a loving and moving retreat about love, the first of the four immeasurables of love, compassion, joy, and equanimity. Many people new to the Abbey attended, and all—newcomers and steady students—said how much they benefited from thinking about “What does it mean to love someone?”

We discussed the difference between love and attachment, considered the role of anger in destroying love, and practiced extending love impartially to all beings. Watch the Dharma talks here. People enjoy these short weekend retreats at the Abbey that enable them to be in nature, consider topics dear to their hearts, and return home refreshed with new inspiration. Photos are here.

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Compassion Seminar

The meditation class at the Spokane UU Church invited Dr. Russell Kolts—my co-author of An Open-Hearted Life: Transformative Methods for Compassionate Living from a Clinical Psychologist and a Buddhist Nun—and me to do an all-day workshop. Russell and I have done joint presentations together before, and the exchange flows naturally between us.

The UU minister, Dr. Todd Eklof, introduced the day, with the message that compassion must be reflected in our daily life behavior, that talk is good but it must be followed by action in society. Russell and I then got into the nitty-gritty of the topic: the interference caused by hatred and thoughts of revenge, the necessity of courage for true compassion, methods to stretch our perspectives to see a situation as others do. We related this last point to important social issues facing the US today: immigration, racism, and violence.

We are grateful to the UU Church for their support and for a great group of Friends of Sravasti Abbey volunteers who organized this fruitful event. Please see the pictures.

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How to See Yourself As You Really Are Retreat

We had a lovely Memorial Day retreat following H.H. the Dalai Lama’s book How to See Yourself as You Really Are, with about 35 people, some flying in from all over the country.

This was our fourth annual retreat on this book. The section we covered this time was on the cultivation of meditative stability, the fifth of the six far-reaching practices.

With meditation sessions, teachings, and discussion groups, the day was filled. There were times of silence as well as time to exchange our thoughts. Watch this year’s teachings here and listen to the previous years’ teachings here.

The retreat concluded with a day of much needed rain, as the trees and flowers were nourished by the water and the retreatants nourished by the Dharma. Photos are here.

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Sharing the Dharma Day

We continue to read Don’t Believe Everything You Think together, this month dwelling on verse 23, which deals with attachment to attractive people and things.

When you encounter attractive objects,
Though they seem beautiful
Like a rainbow in summer, don’t regard them as real
And give up attachment—
This is the practice of bodhisattvas.

Listen to the Dharma talk here. You can watch the earlier talks in the series here.

The afternoon discussion was juicy, with people discussing how they exaggerate the good qualities of attractive objects, which leads to unrealistic expectations and difficulties. They also brainstormed ways to transform their mind, such as seeing these things as ephemeral, like a rainbow. We were delighted to welcome about 40 people, including a number of Social Adventurers from a Spokane area meet-up group. See photos here.

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In the Community

Venerable Semkye and Venerable Chonyi represented the Abbey at the 53rd Annual Spokane Leadership Prayer Breakfast. Our friend Skyler, founder of the Compassionate Interfaith Society at Eastern Washington University, is now a legislative assistant with the Spokane City Council and brings his compassionate sensibilities to the role. For the traditionally Christian prayer breakfast, he organized an interfaith table that included the nuns, an imam, and a rabbi, among others. Hopefully their presence will raise awareness about the diversity of faiths practiced in Spokane.

The Abbey’s meditation class at the Unitarian Universalist Church in Spokane continues. It is entering its eighth year, and 20 to 40 or more people attend each week. While we’re in winter retreat, some of the more senior lay students facilitate the group, which keeps the enthusiasm and participation going. The class has been studying An Open-Hearted Life for about a year, and they organized the compassion seminar mentioned above.

Russell Kolts and I did a book reading and signed copies of our new book An Open-Hearted Life: Transformative Methods for Compassionate Living from a Clinical Psychologist and a Buddhist Nun at Auntie’s Bookstore in Spokane. As usual, he and I have a good time presenting together and the audience was warm and responsive. We were pleased that many of the people attending the Monday night meditation class in Spokane, who are studying this book, attended.

The Abbey community had a delightful outing visiting our friends and neighbors, Jim and Cindy. We walked the trails in their forest, ate fresh fruit, and listened to their wonderful stories about restoring the native trees and animals on their land. It was touching to hear how the Dharma helped them make amends with their estranged daughter, who now sends them loving Mother’s Day cards.

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Prison Dharma

Venerable Tarpa and Venerable Damcho attended the 20th Annual Dharma Day at Airway Heights Correction Center, which is the biggest celebration in the year for the Buddhist inmates.The program began with a sharing session on the theme of “Living the Dharma,” with inmates speaking about how their Dharma practice has helped them to take responsibility for their actions and work with their fears of being ostracized by society upon release. Following that, a three-man band led a sing-along to a song about meditation, followed by a tsog puja, and a meditation session led by a Zen Dharma teacher.

The transparency of the inmates’ sharing, and the presence of dedicated prison volunteers from different Buddhist traditions, made for an inspiring and meaningful morning.

In the last enews we told you about Venerable Jigme giving Dharma talks at two prisons in Walla Walla, WA. A few weeks later, she visited the Coyote Ridge Correctional Center in Connell, WA and gave refuge and precepts to several inmates. She tells the story here.

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Website Complete!

We’re rejoicing that all the Dharma teaching and articles are now posted on the new website! Heather Duchscher, the project’s volunteer coordinator, shared the news at the end of the Memorial Day retreat, and made a moving offering of volunteers’ reflections to Venerable Chodron. See the reflections here and view Venerable Chodron’s response.

More than 70 volunteers from all corners of the world helped with the site migration, and a dedicated team will stay on to keep the website going. Many thanks to everyone for creating the causes for the Dharma to flourish online!

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More News

Following on the success of the new, we’ve begun work on a new Sravasti Abbey website, making it more user-friendly and responsive to different viewing platforms. You can help by giving us your feedback in a quick 10-question online survey. We want to build a website that works for you.

We’ve enjoyed having Kristy with us for six weeks, and practicing with Susan (from Seattle), Chris, Christopher, Summer, and Heather, who extended their stays beyond retreats. Christian and another Susan (from California) are visiting for the first time, and Stephen is with us for a few months.

I was asked to write a piece on the “Meaning of Life” for a website with that name. Read it here.

Dr. Rita Gross wrote an excellent review of Buddhism: One Teacher, Many Traditions in the Summer 2015 edition of Tricycle magazine. Read the review here.

Low Hsiao Yin tells us about transforming our perspective with An Optimistic Mind.

Keith reflects on the Sneaky Self-centered Thought.

Ken shares his thoughts on Social Media.

Karuna Shechen is one of the international organizations helping people suffering from the effects of the earthquakes in Nepal. Photographer Olivier Adam will offer the profits of his photo sales between May 28 and June 7 to support this effort. Click here.

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