Not only are the tulips, irises, and peonies opening in the Abbey garden, the Abbey itself is also beginning to slowly open after Covid, with people who have been fully vaccinated (plus two weeks so they have full immunity) allowed to visit us.
After nearly a year and a half without guests (this includes two winter retreats when we normally don’t have guests), we’ve been delighted to welcome our friends and supporters in small numbers.
See photos of Abbey activities in May, including beautiful wildflowers on the Abbey grounds.
Bhikshuni Thubten Chodron & the Sravasti Abbey Community
Sravasti Abbey is Gradually Reopening
Following CDC guidelines, the Abbey is now gradually opening our doors to guests again! Only people who have been fully vaccinated may come. This will begin with Sharing the Dharma Day on June 27. Venerable Fauci (aka Ven. Jigme who is a nurse practitioner) recommended we begin with 20 guests.
The event will still be broadcast on Vimeo Livestream with a discussion group on Zoom.
If you missed the May 16 Sharing the Dharma Day, you can watch the guided meditation by Ven. Sangye Khadro on “Responding with Compassion” here. Ven. Chodron’s teaching on “Finding the Best in Other People” is here, which is based on Chapter 39 of An Open-Hearted Life.
Some fully vaccinated guests can also attend the Medicine Buddha retreat from July 3–9. If you’d like to attend either of these events in person, please register on the specific event page—Sharing the Dharma Day here and Medicine Buddha Retreat here—and send us a copy of your vaccination card to the office.
Welcome back to your Dharma home!
Peaceful Living, Peaceful Dying Retreat
From May 1–2, Ven. Sangye Khadro followed up on last year’s retreat with the same name, “Peaceful Living, Peaceful Dying.” This year she focused on overcoming fear of death and grief over losing loved ones, as well as practices to maintain mindfulness of death and impermanence.
Ven. Sangye Khadro shared sutras containing the Buddha’s advice on death and explained various methods for dealing with anxiety. She also talked about rebirth and how to live and die meaningfully. Abbey monastics led the nine-point death meditation between teaching sessions.
In the discussion groups, people shared near-death experiences and how attachment played a role in response to a loved one’s death. We heard much gratitude for the course given its relevance to the Covid-19 pandemic. Watch the teachings and meditations here.
Wisdom Publications released Volume Six of the Library of Wisdom and Compassion by His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Ven. Chodron on May 4.
Courageous Compassion explains the ten paramitas (perfections) found in the Sanskrit and in the Pāli traditions, and then goes into how each tradition presents the paths and grounds leading to arhatship and full awakening. Learn more about the book here.
Watch Ven. Chodron introduce the book here and read some of her favorite parts here. Read an excerpt from the book on “Voluntarily Accepting Suffering” here. You can also join Ven. Chodron for an online book launch on June 16 at 7 pm Pacific Time, hosted by East West Bookshop in Seattle. Learn more here.
The Buddha Hall
Kevin Koesel, our project engineer, came with a team to stake the actual perimeter of the Buddha Hall. Then John Young, our contractor, visited the building site.
After looking at the placement of the building on the hillside together, all of us enthusiastically favored John’s idea to move the site up the hill a little. Doing so will make use of flatter land there and decrease the amount of dirt that will be excavated. John will now speak with Kevin and Tim Wilson, our architect, to include these changes in the building plan.
Because the Buddha Hall is such a large building in a rural county, the permitting process is lengthy. In addition to applying for and receiving a building permit, we must also pass special reviews and engineering inspections, an NREC energy code review and inspection, inspection by the state fire marshal, a SEPA examination of environmental impact, obtain a septic permit, and have a fire department site plan.
People have responded enthusiastically to the $250,000 Jumpstart Challenge for building the Buddha Hall. So far about $190,000 has been contributed, so we’re on the way. The deadline is July 14. Learn more about how you can support the building of the Buddha Hall here.
Seeing a post about the Abbey’s new Buddha Hall project on Instagram, someone wondered why we need it. “Why do you need to spend so much on a place to meditate? Buddhists should be happy with any reasonable place to use as a Buddha Hall.” Read Ven. Chonyi’s reply here.
May We Gather
“May We Gather” was a Buddhist memorial for Asian-Americans who have been killed due to racist violence. Organized by Rev. Duncan Ryuken Williams, Dr. Funie Hsu, and Chenxing Han, it was a 90-minute program that included Dharma talks on the six perfections, chanting, and the gilding of a broken ceramic lotus to symbolize how, with resilience, shards can be reconstituted to form a whole again. See the program details here.
Representatives from a wide variety of Buddhist traditions and temples, mostly in Southern California, participated. The event was livestreamed so that national and international audiences could join in the touching and healing memorial. Watch an edited recording of the ceremony here.
- The Buddhist Channel in Indonesia requested Ven. Chodron to speak on “Who’s Responsible for My Suffering?” She spoke about karma and its effects, getting all the important points into a 50-minute talk. Watch it here.
- Ven. Chodron gave two talks to the Friends of Sravasti Abbey Singapore who joined together with Buddhist Gem Fellowship, Butterworth Lay Buddhist Society, and the Young Buddhist Association in Malaysia. In the first talk, “Life After the Pandemic: It Depends on Us,” she discussed how difficult it is for some people to find themselves living in the middle of a worldwide pandemic—a situation that hardly anyone thought about just a few years ago. Accepting this situation and opening our hearts with compassion to everyone else who is also in this situation is helpful. Watch it here. In the second talk, “Living a Happy Life, Covid or Not,” she spoke on the many creative ways that people are working with the pandemic to bring happiness to self and others. Find it here.
Russia and Spain
- Friends of Sravasti Abbey Russia and Ukraine asked Ven. Chodron to teach on Buddhism: One Teacher, Many Traditions and Approaching the Buddhist Path. Both books that she co-authored with His Holiness the Dalai Lama have been translated and published in Russia. She has been to Russia several times to teach this group of young, enthusiastic practitioners, and it was wonderful to reconnect with them. Watch the first talk here and the second talk here with consecutive translation into Russian.
- Ven. Sangye Khadro taught a weekend course on “Introduction to Tantra” for Osel Ling Retreat Center in Spain to about 80 participants with translation into Spanish. She explained the essential foundations for practicing tantra—a good understanding of the three principal aspects of the path to awakening (the determination to be free from samsara, the altruistic intention of bodhicitta, and the correct view of emptiness)—and some of the unique features of tantrayana that differentiate it from sutrayana. To access the teachings, register with Osel Ling.
Lion’s Roar Magazine
Ven. Chodron’s article, “Oh Tara, Protect Us,” on Tara, a female manifestation of full awakening, was published in Lion’s Roar Magazine. Read it here.
Lion’s Roar Podcast also featured Ven. Chodron’s talk on “The Four Rules of the Universe,” where she encourages us to watch how our self-centered mind influences how we interpret and experience events. Listen to it here.
Ven. Sangye Khadro was active teaching:
- A course on the basics of meditation—“Meditation 101”—for the Ocean of Compassion Center in San Jose, CA. Over five sessions, students learned about meditation posture, breathing practices to settle the mind, and simple techniques that help us become more aware of our thoughts and emotions without being carried away by them. Listen to audio recordings here.
- A Thursday morning class on the First Panchen Lama’s text, The Easy Path, for Thubten Norbu Ling Buddhist Center. In May she completed the small scope of the lamrim. Watch the teachings here. When the class resumes July 1, she will explore the middle scope, learning about samsara and how to be free from it. Write the center to register She also continues with a Friday morning meditation class for Maitripa College on the topics of bodhicitta and the bodhisattvas’ path to buddhahood.
- Two talks on “What is Buddha Nature?” for Tse Chen Ling Buddhist Center in San Francisco. In her first talk she explained buddha nature according to the Prasangika Madhyamika school. In a follow-up talk on June 1, she will explain how it is understood in other Buddhist schools. Register here.
- High school seniors at Unity Christian High School in Iowa. After she shared some of the basic ideas of Buddhism, the students asked many thoughtful questions that they were curious about.
A student from Utah Valley University interviewed Ven. Nyima for a paper on communication styles used by different cultures. The student was curious how Buddhist monastics conduct teachings and outreach to Dharma students and the general public. Ven. Nyima enjoyed the engaging exchange.
On the eve of Vesak Day here in the US, the Abbey community offered an online celebration to commemorate the Buddha’s birth, awakening, and passing into parinirvana. Ven. Tsepal led a meditation on the Buddha, after which Ven. Chonyi spoke on the importance of relying on a spiritual mentor, who guides us on the path to awakening just as the Buddha would. The video will be on the YouTube channel soon.
At the same time, Ven. Sangye Khadro led a meditation on the Buddha for the Sandpoint Sangha in Idaho.
Ven. Damcho addressed two Vesak events in Singapore. First she gave a short talk to parents on how to teach kindness and gratitude to their children as part of an online celebration organized by My Little Gems, a Buddhist preschool. She also briefly attended the Singapore Buddhist Mission’s E-Vesak Metta Concert. Ven. Chodron had pre-recorded a video message encouraging the group to make merit, purify their minds, and generate bodhicitta on Vesak Day. Ven. Damcho then offered a short greeting to the 500+ participants about following the Buddha’s example of transforming adversity into joy and courage. Watch their messages here.
Offering Service Saturday
How fun it was to welcome six friends and volunteers on our first (deliberately small) Offering Service Saturday of the year! Our work centered on the recently felled trees on Paramita Path, with Jon and his son Hank using their chainsaw skills to cut some of the big trunks, while Patricia, Whitney, Tracy, and nuns worked with loppers and ran the chipper to clear the slash.
In the upcoming weeks, nuns and volunteers will use the new log splitter to make firewood for the next couple of winters. It’s a lot of fun when people “swarm” a project together to accomplish a big task. And we appreciate our volunteers so much because the outdoor work is more than our group of nuns and one monk can handle.
Meanwhile, Ven. Losang is making good progress in constructing a woodshed near the barn where the firewood will be stored.
- If you missed the Kathina ceremony, in which a robe of merit is offered to the sangha after the conclusion of the varsa retreat, you can watch it here. This was combined with thanking all our supporters who enabled us to do winter retreat. We were delighted that so many supporters and volunteers joined the event where lay followers and the sangha expressed our heartfelt appreciation for each other. Several people said afterwards what a moving event this was, even though we were all online.
- Ven. Tenzin Tsepal responds to the question “What makes a person a Buddhist?” for the Ask a Buddhist column on SpokaneFāVS interfaith news website. Read it here.
- Get a window into the Abbey’s daily life by following us on Instagram here. Our short videos and pictures combined with Dharma inspirations will brighten your day.
Here’s what’s happening online in the next few weeks:
- June 1: What is Buddha Nature? with Ven. Sangye Khadro, 6 pm Pacific Time. Hosted by Tse Chen Ling Buddhist Center.
- June 6: Medicine Buddha Puja
- June 10–13: Exploring Buddhism (for ages 18–29)
- June 16: Courageous Compassion with Ven. Thubten Chodron, 7 pm Pacific Time. Hosted by East West Books.
- June 19–20: Know Your Mind – Part 1 online retreat with Ven. Sangye Khadro
- June 26–27: How to Meditate with Ven. Sangye Khadro. Hosted by Centro Shiwa La, Brazil.
- June 27: Sharing the Dharma Day
Plus regular ongoing teachings:
- El Adiestramiento Mental with Ven. Thubten Nyima, streamed live every other Wednesday, 4 pm Pacific Time/ 7 pm Puerto Rico Time, beginning June 2. — New series!
- Engaging in the Bodhisattva’s Deeds with Ven. Thubten Chodron streamed live on Thursday mornings, 10 am Pacific Time.
- Wisdom of Ultimate Truth with Ven. Sangye Khadro, streamed live on Friday mornings, 7 am Pacific Time/ 7:30 pm Indian Time, June 4–August 6. — New series!
- Samsara, Nirvana, and Buddha Nature with Ven. Thubten Chodron streamed live every Friday night, 6:15 pm Pacific Time.
Check the Abbey Events page for much more