It’s said that having obstacles is a good time to practice the Dharma, which is a good thing because the USA has had several obstacles in the last year. In addition to Covid, February saw severe winter snowstorms in much of the country and people being without electricity or water for days. Meanwhile, the Abbey’s winter has been very mild and we could use more snow.
The eNews is the most difficult to write in February because in the middle of our three-month winter retreat, every day is outwardly the same: Meditate, study, eat, and sleep. Sometimes a walk is included. But this February there are many other Dharma activities from earlier this year to tell you about.
Take a look at the short “Abbey tours” videos that Ven. Jampa has been making and posting on Instagram here.
Bhikshuni Thubten Chodron & the Sravasti Abbey Community
Green Tara Winter Retreat
Two months of our annual winter retreat have been completed and there is one more month to go. Retreat time is always treasured at the Abbey since we are so active the rest of the year with courses, retreats, forest work, caring for the gardens, and so forth.
Externally, every day looks more or less the same as we follow a schedule of five meditation sessions and one study session. The schedule also includes teachings on Engaging in the Bodhisattva’s Deeds on Thursday mornings, teachings on The Foundation of Buddhist Practice on Friday evenings, and three Bodhisattva’s Breakfast Corner talks each week. Watch the weekly teachings live on Vimeo Livestream here or the edited teachings on YouTube here.
We also perform four pujas each month—two Lama Chopa pujas, one Four Mandala Offerings to Cittamani Tara puja, and one Medicine Buddha puja. There are also our fortnightly posadha ceremonies where we confess and restore our monastic precepts, and chanting ceremonies every Saturday evening.
We take walks in (and shovel) the snow, and watch the deer, turkeys, and various birds that hang out with us in the winter. Internally, each day is different as we contemplate the Dharma and do our best to integrate it into our lives.
Although we are in retreat, the time has come to decide if circumstances are conducive to begin building the Buddha Hall. After much planning by the Buddha Hall committee, the community discussed the opportunity to start construction this year—everyone enthusiastically decided that we should go ahead!
We are almost done planning the lighting and acoustics. The electrical engineer will then make his plans, and our contractor, John Young from Young Construction Group, will be able to give us a fairly accurate estimate of the cost. The funds people have already offered for the Buddha Hall will give us a good start and we will be inviting your generosity to keep construction going.
Meanwhile, sculptor Peter Griffin has begun to make the two side statues for the main altar. We’ve seen photos so far and they’re beautiful. He wants to do some more work on them before we post photos on the website.
The snow must melt and the land dry first, so the exact construction date this year isn’t set with the contractor yet. Preparing the site will come first, and then digging the foundation. More details will come soon. Watch our most recent update video here.
5 Million Mantras on the Day of Miracles
Since 2019, Abbey friends have regularly practiced the Shakyamuni Buddha meditation—which includes reciting the Buddha’s mantra—and dedicated the merit of their practice to the Abbey’s Buddha Hall project.
Last year, we set a goal of 5 million mantra recitations and have been keeping track on the Abbey website. On the recent Day of Miracles, we did it! More than 120 people signed on throughout the day to join in hourly Shakyamuni Buddha practice sessions, culminating in a big final session with nearly 100 people. Collectively, these meditators reported over 200,000 recitations of the mantra on that one day, taking us well past the 5 million mark!
The practice day brought much joy and heartfelt gratitude for the chance to create virtue together. Several people expressed hope that the international group of meditators can someday practice together in the new Buddha Hall.
Special thanks to the Sravasti Abbey lay-led practice group for leading this effort. The group meditates together daily and is currently doing the Green Tara practice with us from afar. An Abbey monastic leads on Saturdays. Write Kathy if you’d like to join them.
We are so inspired by everyone’s practice that we decided to continue the mantra recitation. Our new goal is 7 million by summer 2021. Go here to learn how to join in. May the Buddha Hall inspire people to develop love, compassion, and wisdom for eons to come!
Lunar New Year Celebration
Keeping the retreat schedule strictly, our Lunar New Year celebration has been modest. Nonetheless, for the first time, the Abbey community broadcast the Lunar New Year puja we offer each year at the request of Friends of Sravasti Abbey Singapore (FOSAS) to dedicate for those who have made prayer requests for the New Year. See photos of the puja here.
Buddhists in Southeast Asia also have a custom of paying respect to the monastic community over the Lunar New Year and requesting blessings. FOSAS and Dharma friends from Malaysia did so with the Sravasti Abbey community via Zoom before the puja. Ven. Chodron led the group in generating aspiring bodhicitta, which is a true blessing for ourselves and others.
After that, the Abbey community did the Four Mandala Offerings to Cittamani Tara puja joined by international friends on YouTube. Watch the recording here. Venerable Sangye Khadro also gave a short talk about celebrating Lunar New Year here.
Ven. Chodron will give two online talks hosted by FOSAS and Malaysian Dharma friends in April on “Life After the Pandemic: It Depends on Us.” Learn more about the talks here.
New Insight Timer Course and More
We’ve been posting meditations led by Ven. Chodron and other Sravasti Abbey monastics on the Insight Timer app for a few years now, and their team recently invited us to produce a short course for their platform.
We’re delighted to share our first free 10-day Insight Timer course on “Working with Jealousy” led by Ven. Tenzin Tsepal, who was grateful for the opportunity to confront the disadvantages of jealousy and create helpful meditations on self-acceptance and rejoicing. Take the new course here. You can listen to other guided meditations by Ven. Chodron here and by Sravasti Abbey Monastics here.
With the help of volunteers, we’ve also been able to post edited versions of last year’s retreats on the Sravasti Abbey YouTube channel. Watch the teachings from the Concentration Retreat 2020 here, and the 37 Practices for Troubled Times Retreat here. Ven. Chodron’s talk last month for the Yale Buddhist Sangha on the importance of kindness in the world and in our minds is now available on her website here.
Practicing with Illness and Death
Nearly 200 people made prayer requests for the February Medicine Buddha puja, and close to 80 people joined in. Ven. Jampa led the puja over Zoom, and at the end many participants shared their gratitude for being able to practice together for themselves or their loved ones dealing with illness and death.
The next Medicine Buddha puja is on March 14. You must register in advance to get the Zoom link. Sign up here.
We’ve also posted new articles on how to bring physical and mental illness into our spiritual practice:
- Ven. Chodron shares how she practiced before and after her recent hip surgery here.
- Cheri writes about using the Dharma to face her chronic illness here.
- Ven. Jigme responds to a request for advice on practicing the Dharma when one has a mental illness here.
Sravasti Abbey was contacted recently by the Center for Children and Youth Justice based in Seattle, WA. The center is in the process of compiling a resource map of organizations in Pend Oreille County that are safe and welcoming for LGBTQ youth, with the purpose of giving that information to their partner organizations who work in child welfare in the area. Learn more about their work here.
Ven. Samten had a delightful phone conversation with Lily, the center’s program coordinator, who was happy to learn that Sravasti Abbey was created for everyone and people do not have to be Buddhist to visit. Ven. Samten expressed our enthusiasm to be included in the map, with the hope that when our doors eventually reopen, we will continue to be a place where everyone can connect with teachings on wisdom and compassion in a warm and respectful environment. Lily assured us that we will be on their map!
- Wisdom Publications edited their Wisdom Dharma Chat with Ven. Chodron last year into an episode for the Wisdom Podcast, which you can listen to here. In it, she discusses her latest book authored with His Holiness the Dalai Lama, In Praise of Great Compassion, which is an excellent resource for generating love, compassion, joy, equanimity, and bodhicitta. She reads passages from the book about these topics and speaks about how they have affected her personally. Learn more about the book here.
- Two incarcerated people wrote about their bodhicitta practice. Al turns to bodhicitta no matter what is going on around him, good or bad. Daniel turns to bodhicitta to transform the experience of living in a space with four concrete walls. How these two men practice is amazing and inspiring. Read Al’s reflection here and Daniel’s poem here.
- Abbey friend Linnaea shares how her generosity has blossomed since Covid in “Giving as Dharma Practice.” Read an interview with her here.
- This short excerpt from the book Awaken Every Day by Ven. Thubten Chodron reminds us how “Refuge Gives Us Hope.” Read it here. Learn more about the book here.
New Translations in Russian and Hebrew
- Approaching the Buddhist Path is now available in Russian. Learn more at the Friends of Sravasti Abbey Russia website here.
- Yael Shalev and a team of Dharma friends in Israel have translated three of Ven. Chodron’s free distribution books into Hebrew. Download the Hebrew translations of Seven Tips for a Happy Life here, Transforming our Daily Activities here, and Working With Anger here.
Here’s what’s happening online in the next few weeks:
Plus regular ongoing teachings:
- Engaging in the Bodhisattva’s Deeds with Ven. Thubten Chodron streamed live on Thursday mornings, 9 am Pacific Time.
- The Foundation of Buddhist Practice with Ven. Thubten Chodron streamed live every Friday night, 6:15 pm Pacific Time.
Check the Abbey Events page for 2021 schedule updates