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The first glimmers of spring, with its deep blue skies and brilliant sun, shimmer across the snow. And then, in keeping with the changeable nature of our lives, another snow storm comes, showering millions of Chenrezig and Vajrasattva white snowflakes on us. May we and all beings open to receive their enlightening influence as we practice to transform our minds.
Bhiksuni Thubten Chodron and the Sravasti Abbey Community

Completion of Winter Retreat Part 1

We’ve had a great group of retreatants this year , who diligently weathered the weather to go to the Meditation Hall for five meditation sessions a day. (The sixth session was a study session done either in Ananda Hall or Gotami House.) Feeling fulfilled and contented with their efforts and all they had learned, six guests, completed the 26-day retreat (Part I of a seven-week retreat) and departed for home on February 8.

Retreat is not all serious business. It’s actually quite joyful and we maintain our sense of humor.

Meanwhile the rest of the retreatants continued doing retreat on the Four Establishments of Mindfulness. All have said what a powerful practice this is. They have learned much about how their minds function, how they relate to their bodies and feelings, and what Dharma practice really means. This retreat will conclude March 4. On March 3 at 2:00 pm, we will offer a Lama Chopa puja in thanks for having the opportunity to do retreat. Everyone is invited to attend and celebrate the completion of a retreat well done.

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Chenrezig Hall

If you’ve been checking out the pics and videos on the Friends of Sravasti Abbey website, you’ll see that the walls of the second floor are up! The crew worked diligently despite the snow (which the Abbey community has been diligently shoveling) to lay the faswall. Now you can see the second story gables.

The big day was February 8 when a huge crane, accompanied by five or six concrete trucks, came up the hill to pour the concrete inside the faswall walls.

Talk about an adrenaline day! The crew had to pay close attention to make sure every space inside the faswall blocks was filled with concrete so that the building’s walls will function like one solid surface. They couldn’t take a break until all the concrete was poured, a process that lasted five hours.

We took advantage of a narrow window between a snow fall and the snow melting (which prompts road restrictions for heavy vehicles such as concrete trucks), and George, our contractor, was happy with the result.

Now some of the framing of second story rooms is completed, and yesterday the trusses began to arrive. The roof will follow. We regularly post photos of the progress, so please stay in touch and rejoice with all the Abbey’s friends as Chenrezig Hall comes into being!

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Sravasti Abbey Friends Education Program (SAFE)

A new session of the Sravasti Abbey Friends Education (SAFE) program will begin on April 8.The SAFE online learning program focuses on personal and inner transformation through the study and practice of the Buddha’s teachings.

The program provides students with the tools to strengthen their Dharma practice and to increase their ability to benefit others on several spiritual and social levels.

Through a variety of learning and interactive approaches—which include video and audio teachings, readings, discussions, written compositions and responses, and visits to Sravasti Abbey—students will understand profound and important Dharma concepts and begin to put them into practice.

All four SAFE courses will begin on April 8. These include Course 1A “An Introduction to the Buddha’s Teachings.” Courses 2 though 4 cover “The Three Principal Aspects of the Path:” Course 2 focuses on “Renunciation,” Course 3 on “Bodhicitta,” and Course 4 outlines “The Correct View.” Come and join us in learning and practicing the path to compassionate awakening. For more information and to register for a course, please contact us!

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Nuns Return from Pilgrimage in India

We were happy to welcome Venerables Semkye and Chonyi back from their month-long pilgrimage to Buddhist holy sites in India. They joined a group organized by Deer Park, Geshe Sopa-la’s center in Madison WI. Being their first time in India, the two nuns experienced a bit of culture shock (read Venerable Chonyi’s first impressions), both in India and upon returning to the US.

They were inspired by visiting the places where the Buddha walked and lived, yet the difference between the living standard in the US and in rural India made them think.

They returned with a greater appreciation of the comfortable environment we have in the US to practice the Dharma, a determination not to take it for granted, and renewed appreciation for all of you who support the Abbey so that we can study, practice, meditate, and share the Dharma here.

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Changes

Zopa, who has faithfully served the Abbey in many capacities for five years, has taken a leave of absence in order to enter a year-long retreat, which she has been eagerly anticipating. Zopa has been our cook, office manager, and general “Mom” to many retreatants over the years. She has dreamed of doing a longer retreat for some time, and when the opportunity appeared, she jumped at it. She departs with the support and love of our community, who wish her well and will welcome her back to the Abbey when she emerges from retreat.

Venerable Samten’s father, Ken Becker, passed away during the winter retreat. The Abbey community has been doing weekly meditation and offerings on his behalf and will continue until the seventh week. Venerable Samten has been taking the transition well, having a Dharma mind.

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More News

In 1995, Ajahn Amaro from Amaravati Monastery in the UK and I did a talk together called “Timeless Wisdom: Being the Knowing.” Demian has now resurrected this video and released the talk, together with some other short teachings. It’s a great video; here’s a ten minute excerpt from it. While the wisdom may be timeless, I had far fewer wrinkles and gray hair back then.

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