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As the days grow longer the snow comes and goes. The paths alternately turn to mush and freeze over with ice as the temperature changes. February is noted for incredible deep blue skies contrasting with the evergreen trees and white clouds. Every so often a snow storm sneaks in—we had one just a few days ago that left nearly a foot of snow.

It was gorgeous and the Latinas in the group made Mexican hot chocolate to keep us warm while the electricity was out. We are grateful to the people at the PUD for working during the blizzard to restore it before too long.

May you too experience the kindness of sentient beings, allowing that to nurture the seeds of love and compassion in your heart.

bhiksunī Thubten Chodron and the Sravasti Abbey Community

Winter Retreat Is Almost Over

There’s not a lot to tell you during winter retreat as we follow the same schedule every day of five meditation sessions and one session of study.

I can tell from the Q&A sessions that people are doing good work in their meditations, looking deeply into the functioning of their minds, applying antidotes to the afflictions, deepening their understanding of the Dharma.

Teachings on the bodhisattva ethical code continue twice a week. We did a beautiful Four Mandalas to Tara puja on Losar—Tibetan New Year—that people loved.

Perhaps the most “exciting” thing that has happened is the kind of excitement we can do without—we discovered a leak on the bottom floor of Gotami House, with water seeming to seep in from the foundation. We’re still trying to figure out what is happening, and meanwhile Zopa and Dani have moved to a drier room.

Lama Chopa puja celebrating the completion of a successful retreat and thanking all the volunteers who so kindly made it possible will be on Sunday, March 11 at 2:00 pm. There will be a potluck lunch at noon, and after the puja there will be “Meet the New bhiksunīs” where you’ll be able to talk with Venerable Chonyi and Venerable Jigme about their experience taking full ordination in Taiwan.

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Venerable Samten Goes for bhiksunī Ordination

Venerable Samten recently left for Taiwan where she will take full ordination as a bhiksunī. The program is a month long and includes teachings and training. Before going to Fa Yin Temple for the ordination program, she visited two other temples and met Venerable Master Wu Yin, the bhiksunī who taught Vinaya at the Life as a Western Buddhist Nun conference back in 1996 and is the author of Choosing Simplicity. Venerable Samten will return to the Abbey in later March.

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Sravasti Abbey: The Movie

When the folks from Ewam Center in Montana visited the Abbey a couple of summers ago, they showed us a beautful video of their project, Garden of 1000 Buddhas. “We’d be happy to make a video like that for the Abbey,” Deborah Hicks told us before she left. She and her husband, Jason—professional musicians as well as the video artists of Wild Yak Productions—do the media work for Ewam.

Of course we said “YES!” immediately!

Jason and Deborah brought their cameras to the Abbey last summer, interviewing residents and guests and shooting some beautiful scenes of the Abbey property. Then they went to work using their skill and media magic, combining the video, Abbey photos, Deb’s voice, and Tsering Wangmo’s music.

The result is a wonderful 13-minute introduction to the Abbey. You can watch it here on YouTube, and we’ll be showing it wherever one of the Abbey monastics goes to teach.

Thanks to Jason and Deborah for their many hours of love, skill, and attention. It’s a beautiful offering!

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Sravasti Abbey Friends Education (SAFE)

Sravasti Abbey Friends Education—our new online learning program (SAFE for short)—is about to begin its spring term. Once again we’re offering Course 1—Introducing the Buddha’s Teaching.

We’re also offering Course 2, Renunciation—the first of the three principal aspects of the path—and we’re delighted that 14 of the 16 people who attended Course 1 last fall have enrolled in Course 2.

Both courses begin April 2, so sign up now.

Many lay practitioners have expressed a wish to have a more formal way of strengthening their connection to the Abbey. The SAFE program facilitates that aspiration as it helps participants deepen their personal Dharma practice. Interactive learning approaches include video and audio teachings, readings, discussions, written compositions and responses, and visits to Sravasti Abbey.

Some of the Course I participants shared their experiences of the SAFE program:

“This course improved my general understanding of what Buddhism is and what Buddhists believe, and it helped me put the pieces together in the right order. The biggest benefit to me has been the realization of what proper Dharma motivation is. This has given my practice clear direction and has strengthened my commitment to trying to practice Dharma in every situation at all times.”

– Suzanne Chudejova, Czech Republic

This class was very valuable to me in continuing my connection to the Dharma. I really appreciate the opportunity to be connected with Venerable Chodron’s brilliant work and with the Abbey and all the wonderful people who practice and live there. Having the honor of being able to visit there this year and seeing firsthand how purely everyone practices was very inspiring… I am really looking forward to participating in the next module!”

– Candance Hall, New Zealand

“Having the weekly schedule and assignments brought a whole new level of commitment to Dharma study… The course has given me more clarity and more tools for understanding the hearing, thinking, and meditating parts of the process. The course has also gotten me into the very good habit of sitting twice a day, in the morning and in the evening (most days). I’m also now more apt to sit even at the end of a very long day, when I’m tired.”

– Tara Shaw, USA

If you want to know more about the SAFE online learning program, there is a detailed description on our website.

If you’d like to participate in Course I, please write the SAFE coordinator.

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Guy Newland Is Coming Back!

Teaching on Nagarjuna’s famous book, Treatise on the Middle Way, which explains the nature of reality, perhaps the greatest Madhyamaka text ever written. Guy’s course will be March 6-11, and there’s still room at the Abbey, so please join us. Commuters are also welcomed. Write the office for a daily schedule.

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Other News

Live-streamed teachings on the Grounds & Paths will resume Thursday, March 22 at 6 pm Pacific Time, then follow every Thursday as we’ve done in the past. (See links below.) We started the Grounds & Paths teachings last summer, and past teachings are archived on YouTube if you want to review before we start up again. Here’s the link to the first teaching of the series.

I will also continue the teachings on the bodhisattva precepts that we’ve been doing during the winter retreat. These will be uploaded to the Abbey’s YouTube channel once a week.

After retreat is complete, the Abbey will resume our programs here and we invite you to attend. Also, the nuns will resume the local meditation courses, and I will be in California —at Vajrapani Institute, in San Francisco, and at UC-Irvine—and in Seattle, Portland, Singapore and Indonesia this spring. See the schedule of events below.

We hope you’ll visit soon!

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