Dear Friends,

May was a busy month at the Abbey. Not only did we host a number of different groups for Dharma teachings and activities, but we were also busy in the forest, clearing deadwood for fire mitigation.

Meanwhile flowers—both flowers in our garden and wildflowers—bloomed, the deer trotted in the meadows, and the bunny rabbits hopped around in the forest.

A moose surveyed the parking area one morning, and the swallows and robins get along very well as they share the areas to peck for food and tiny stones.

See the most recent Abbey Life photo gallery here.

Bhikshuni Thubten Chodron and the Sravasti Abbey Community

Intra-religious Learning

In her travels to Taiwan in recent years, Ven. Chodron has spoken at various sites of Dharma Drum Mountain (DDM), an international Dharma organization founded by Venerable Master Sheng Yen.

During those visits, she and Ven. Guoyi, the Director of Nung Chan Monastery, have become friends. (Note: Although her title is “Director,” she has the role of an Abbess.) Together, the senior nuns mused how wonderful it would be to have a gathering of bhikshunis from their two groups to learn about each other’s teachings and practices. And then they decided to make it happen!

Ven. Guoyi and two other DDM bhikshunis visited the Abbey last year to discuss the feasibility of a larger group visit. We were thrilled that the gathering materialized in May with the joyful arrival of 10 DDM bhikshunis. See photos here.

 The week-long program included teachings on different meditation and bodhicitta practices in Chinese Chan and Tibetan Buddhism, discussions on community life and living in the Vinaya, and plenty of opportunities for informal exchange and getting to know each other. The DDM nuns also enjoyed learning to use hand saws and loppers during a brief excursion to offer service in the forest.

Ven. Guoyi headed the DDM delegation, which included bhikshunis of varying ordination age, along with Ven. Changwu, Director of DDM’s Vancouver and Seattle centers, and Ven. Changzao, Director of DDM Malaysia. Ven. Changwu and Ven. Damcho shouldered the responsibility of simultaneous translations from Chinese to English and vice-versa, so that our discussion flowed easily.

 One particularly moving exchange happened during a discussion on gender and hierarchy. After a brief sharing, all four Abbey monks stood up and bowed to the Taiwanese bhikshunis in appreciation for the Chinese sangha’s help in establishing the Vinaya monastic discipline at the Abbey.

The value of this precious interchange between the Taiwanese and American sangha communities is indescribable. We see this as the start of an ongoing exchange program between Sravasti Abbey and Dharma Drum Mountain.

The Buddha Hall

Roof ornaments

 The most exciting news: the golden roof ornaments are up! This spectacular event was captured with magnificent photos taken by our friend Rev. Gen Heywood and drone footage shot by our friends at Northfork Landworks. See photos and video here.

The Buddha Hall construction crew took the lead. These men aren’t Buddhist, but they were jazzed at the opportunity to install the precious ornaments on the parapet and roof. One man, who is generally quiet and reserved, had a huge smile when the job was done.

Directing from the ground, the Abbey’s Buddha Hall team and architect Tim Wilson guided placement of the ornaments while monastics and guests chanted mantras and recited a sutra. Everyone was joyful, especially Tim!

The Dharma wheel with the two deer on the parapet and the three ganjiras—spires—at the top of the building are striking and evocative images, symbols of the Buddhadharma taking root in the U.S. We are tremendously grateful to all of you around the globe who have supported this project that will benefit countless beings.

More, inside and out

Our surprisingly dry May allowed the excavators to return to work on final stages of sculpting the land to create swales, change some grades, and prepare a walking path around the Buddha Hall.

Ven. Chodron enjoyed sharing her ideas for the path with architect Tim and the Young Construction team.

Finish carpenters Neal and Sean have built and installed the faux beams in the Tara and Posadha Rooms. Now they are working on the beams in the Main Hall, installing trim throughout the building, and hanging doors. They are highly skilled and their work is beautiful.

Altars are currently being installed in the Tara and Posadha Rooms and the Main Hall. This is exciting! Now can we imagine how the fully completed altars will look!

$216,000 Buddha Hall Challenge

Friends of Sravasti Abbey, along with Abbey residents, thank all the awesome donors who have made offerings to match the $216,000 challenge gift. As of June 1, total donations are more than half-way to meeting the challenge.

The matching deadline is July 9, only five weeks away.

Heather from Friends of Sravasti Abbey writes, “Matching this gift is the first phase of support for the hundreds of thousands still needed just to complete the building itself. After that comes furnishings and all the final touches. We’re getting closer, the finish line is within sight, and our generosity, prayers, and dedications are making all the difference. Let’s keep going!

The Abbey still hopes to begin offering programs in the Buddha Hall before the end of the year, with the aim to install the final statues and fully consecrate it in 2025.

Together, we will finish the Buddha Hall, a spiritual home for all beings!

Good Karma Memorial Day Retreat

We had a full house for the Memorial Day retreat, which focused on Ven. Thubten Chodron’s book, Good Karma: How to Create the Causes of Happiness and Avoid the Causes of Suffering.

Good Karma is based on Dharmarakshita’s classic poem, Wheel of Sharp Weapons. The first line of each verse describes some current unwanted situation, the second and third lines explain what actions led to that situation, and the fourth line suggests an antidote to avoid experiencing it again in the future.

New and experienced students from near (Spokane) and far (Singapore) resonated with Venerable’s lively and relevant commentary and her patient, clear answers to seemingly endless questions on how karma works. The monastics were amazed at the transparency and honest sharing in discussion groups and everyone’s rapt attention in meditation sessions.

 Nine students took refuge and lay precepts during a Refuge Ceremony on Sunday evening (see right).

Each participant took away a renewed sense of respect for the law of karma and its effects, a clearer sense of personal responsibility for our actions, and a deepened commitment to living and acting ethically.

Sharing the Dharma Day

On a beautiful Mother’s Day, Sharing the Dharma Day brought together a delightfully diverse group of people.

Ven. Semkye began with a meditation using the breath to slow down and clear the mind; this is especially helpful in stressful situations.

Ven. Chodron spoke about the link between compassion and ethical conduct: ethical conduct is the practice of not harming self or others, while compassion is the motivation for keeping ethical conduct. She also spoke of the benefits of living ethically, such as feeling good about ourselves and making our lives meaningful.

After lunch, the intimate group shared an enriching discussion on the role of ethical conduct in daily life. Join us on June 9 for the next Sharing the Dharma Day!

Teachings Galore

Buddhism: One Teacher, Many Traditions

Ven. Chodron offered two online talks for Jamyang Buddhist Centre in London based on the book Buddhism: One Teacher, Many Traditions, which she coauthored with His Holiness the Dalai Lama.

In the first talk she covered Chapter 1, giving an overview of different Buddhist traditions and the influence of history and culture on their development to the present day. The talk was integrated into the study visit by nuns from Dharma Drum Mountain, making a fitting introduction for the in-person exchange between monastics from the Tibetan and Chinese traditions. Watch the talk here.

The next week, Ven. Chodron went into Chapter 11 on the topic of bodhicitta, focusing on the four immeasurables of love, compassion, joy, and equanimity and how they are cultivated in the Pali, Sanskrit, and Chinese traditions. Watch the talk here. Watch Ven. Chodron’s extensive teachings on this text from previous years here.

Working with Anger & Taming the Monkey Mind

Ven. Chodron began a new monthly series of talks based on the titles of her books, hosted by Vajrayana Institute and Kunsang Yeshe Retreat Centre in Sydney, Australia. Watch the first talk on Working with Anger here. The next talk on June 23 is on Taming the Monkey Mind. Register here.

 Ven. Sangye Khadro in Spain

Ven. Sangye Khadro is on a 6-week teaching tour in Spain. Among her many Dharma offerings, she taught on the Four Establishments of Mindfulness in Valencia and gave a talk on Keys to Happiness at Tekchen Chöling, a center in Ontenyent, a small city outside Valencia.

From there she traveled to Alicante on the Mediterranean coast where she conducted a course on Peaceful Living, Peaceful Dying, one of her favorite topics, and led a course on Understanding Emotions in Barcelona. She returns to the Abbey in early June. See the events calendar for her upcoming online teachings.

Four Establishments of Mindfulness

For four weeks in May, Ven. Damcho offered a series of talks via Zoom on the “Four Establishments of Mindfulness” for the Dharma Buds, a group of Dharma friends in Singapore. After giving an overview during the first session, in the following weeks she described each topic in more detail and led guided meditations on the body, feelings, and mind. Ven. Damcho was delighted to share these teachings with Dharma friends, including her parents who attended regularly! Watch the talks here.

Outreach

Whitman College

Ven. Chodron gave the keynote speech for Whitman College’s multi-faith Baccalaureate Ceremony in Walla Walla, Washington. After student speakers from a variety of religions shared prayers and reflections, Ven. Chodron began her talk saying what a creative time life-after-college is for graduates.

She encouraged graduates to explore the world with an open, curious mind, to recognize their own good qualities, and not be afraid of “failing.” She urged them to live with kindness, forgiveness, and compassion, allowing them to feel at home in the world and able to relate to everyone.

That night, 50 people attended Venerable’s well-received public talk, Staying Calm in the Face of Challenges, hosted by the Walla Walla Dharma Sangha. She skillfully pointed out how our self-centered attitude undermines our deep wish for happiness.

Temple Beth Shalom

In April, Ven. Chodron spoke about Buddhism with the teen Sunday school class at Temple Beth Shalom in Spokane. They are currently studying world religions. After introducing the Buddhist view that our experiences depend on our perspectives and thoughts, Ven. Chodron took questions that ranged from “What do you like most about Buddhism?” to “What do you think happens after death?” to “How does Buddhism give meaning to your life?” It was a meaningful interfaith sharing.

Sandpoint High School Visit

 After a five-year hiatus due to Covid, a Sandpoint High School Anthropology class came to explore the Abbey. Students first heard a quick history of Tibetan Buddhism and how we practice it here at the Abbey, then toured the grounds, including viewing the recently installed Buddha Hall roof ornaments. We then led them in a brief guided meditation, which they were keen to try.

To our pleasant surprise, while the students ate their lunch, they openly shared their reflections on the challenges of school life and how they will contribute in a meaningful way to their families and the world. At departure time, they wished they had more time to share and ask questions! We were touched and inspired.

Getting Honest About Attachment Retreat

Many guests packed into the Chenrezig Hall dining room at the end of April for the Getting Honest About Attachment retreat with Ven. Tenzin Tsepal. While exploring the sneaky disturbing emotion of attachment made us squirm at times, several people called the two-day course “life changing.”

Ven. Tsepal defined attachment as a mental factor that exaggerates the attractiveness of an object, then wishes for and takes a strong interest in it. How does that manifest in daily life?

We identified some of our fiercest attachments, including friends, relatives, pets, good health, sleep, cellphones, praise, money, acceptance, caffeine, and appreciation, to mention only a few.

Then we examined the disadvantages of attachment. A verse in The 37 Practices of Bodhisattvas says, “Sensual pleasures are like salt water. The more you indulge, the more thirst increases.” Attachment breeds cravings, greed, and possessiveness and leads to harmful actions. It invariably ends in disappointment.

Ven. Tsepal skillfully led the group to recognize attachment, see its suffering results, and begin to learn ways to counteract it. Watch the teachings here and download the accompanying slides here. Photos are here.

More News

  •  Chinese translation! Beginning on Friday, June 7 at 6 pm Pacific Time (Saturday, June 8 at 9 am in Taiwan/ Malaysia/ Singapore), we will offer simultaneous translation into Mandarin Chinese via Zoom for Ven. Chodron’s weekly teachings on The Library of Wisdom and Compassion series. The Chinese translation of Volume 4, Following in the Buddha’s Footsteps, has been published in Taiwan, which you can find here. Join via Zoom here:

    Zoom link: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/88679695933

    Meeting ID: 886 7969 5933

    Passcode: 143064

  • Last year, Ven. Chodron gave a talk on The Four Thoughts that Turn the Mind to the Dharma for Innercraft, an online platform featuring different meditation teachers, including those from Sravasti Abbey. Watch the talk here on these crucial contemplations to deepen our Dharma practice.

  • The MindScience Academy at the Istituto Lama Tzong Khapa in Italy asked Ven. Chodron to share her thoughts on what happiness is and how to create the causes for it. Watch her talk on “Live an Ethical Life to Have a Peaceful Heart” here.
  • Read this inspiring reflection from a Good Karma retreat participant, “How Long Do Prayer Flags Stay Up?”
  • A WSU journalism student writes of learning to roll mantras and other cool things when young journalists visited the Abbey in April. Read the article on FaVS News.

Dalai Lama Global Vision Summit

Ven. Thubten Chodron and Ven. Sangye Khadro join 16 distinguished presenters for the 4th Annual Dalai Lama Global Vision Summit June 13-17.

Drawing on the Dalai Lama’s universal and timeless wisdom, they will share teachings, tools, and practical guidance for a more joyful, loving life and a better future.

Offered freely online. Sign up here. Produced by Lion’s Roar and Tibet House US.

Upcoming Events

Here’s what’s happening in June:

June 3-24, Mondays: Choosing Harmony, at CREATE in Newport with Abbey monastics

June 5-July 24, Wednesdays: Beginning Buddhism, at Souls Center in Spokane with Abbey monastics

June 9: Sharing the Dharma Day, in person at the Abbey

June 11-July 2, Tuesdays: Peaceful Living, Peaceful Dying, on Zoom with Ven. Sangye Khadro

June 14-20: Young Adults Explore Buddhism, in person at the Abbey

June 22: Offering Service Saturday, in person at the Abbey

June 22: Taming the Monkey Mind, on Zoom with Ven. Thubten Chodron

June 23: Medicine Buddha Puja, online with Abbey monastics

June 28-July 5: Grief & Resilience White Tara Retreat with Ven. Sangye Khadro, in person at the Abbey

July 13: Buddha Nature, on Zoom with Ven. Thubten Chodron

Plus weekly teachings online:

Check the Abbey’s Events Page for more talks, retreats & courses!