Usually, our eNews in the middle of winter retreat is sparse. What do we do every day? Awake, meditate, eat breakfast and clean up, meditate, eat lunch and clean up, (maybe take a walk), meditate, drink tea, study, have optional medicine meal, meditate, go to sleep.
On the outside, there’s not much to tell you. But on the inside a lot of change is going on as people purify their minds, create merit, and plant the seeds of realizations in their mindstreams through studying and listening to teachings.
But this mid-retreat eNews will be different with more to share. See photos of Abbey life in retreat here.
Bhikshuni Thubten Chodron & the Sravasti Abbey Community
Compassion for Ukrainians and Russians
First, let’s face the bad part. All of us are shocked and horrified by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
We have Dharma friends in Ukraine and are concerned for their safety and welfare and that of everyone in Ukraine. We also have Dharma friends in Russia who oppose what is happening.
One of them has started a Tuesday evening Buddhist practice group to pray and dedicate merit for peace. The practice is in Russian and if you are interested in joining, let us know and we’ll put you in touch with them.
You can also find a list of organizations providing humanitarian aid to Ukraine on the NPR website here.
Although it may be tempting to feel angry, frightened, or helpless in this situation, let’s use the Buddha’s teachings to keep a balanced mind and cultivate love and compassion for everyone on all sides of this conflict.
Why? Because all of us are under the influence of afflictions and karma. Compassion doesn’t mean weakness. In fact, it makes the mind clear so that we can make wise decisions and do whatever we can to ease or stop suffering.
Read His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s “Hope for Dialogue to Restore Peace in Ukraine.”
Read about “Understanding and Transforming Difficulties” here in a short excerpt from Ven. Chodron’s book Good Karma.
The Buddha Hall
Now, for the good news (drum roll)…
We got the building permit for the Buddha Hall!!!
Remember, we’re in a rural area and don’t have city conveniences such as a water system, septic system, electricity, telephone, internet, and so on to hook up to. We have to install all this infrastructure while fulfilling the same rules and regulations for a commercial building like those in Manhattan.
(Do you feel sorry for us yet? Actually all the rules and regs are for our safety.)
But the work is going ahead with joy and enthusiasm. We feel privileged to create a building that will honor the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha. It will enable countless beings now and in generations to come to learn, practice, and experience the benefits of the Buddha’s liberating teachings.
To help us build the Buddha Hall, we have a fantastic architect, engineers, a great contractor, and a wonderful team at the Abbey working on this together.
After over three years of designing the Buddha Hall and its necessary water and septic systems, getting Health Department permits and addressing State Environmental Policy Act concerns, and meeting all the details of commercial building regulations—all of this during a global pandemic—on 2/22/2022 the Building Department finally gave us the permit.
Naturally we jumped for joy (literally)—you have never seen the energy of a group of peaceful meditators change so fast!
We were so excited that we wanted to break ground immediately and headed out to the building site. Then watch what happened next!
That effort didn’t last too long before we decided it was more practical to wait for the snow to melt and returned to our meditation cushions.
The next step is for the contractor to get bids from all the sub-contractors, at which time he will give us a not-to-be-exceeded estimate of the cost of the project. That will hopefully take about a month. After that, we wait for the county to remove the road restrictions. In rural areas the roads get pretty soggy after the snow melts, so large trucks aren’t permitted to drive on them. That will hopefully happen in late May or early June.
Meanwhile, a talented Tibetan artist in Dharamsala has completed the Manjushri thangka for the main hall’s altar. Read about how the buddhas seem to arrive before the buildings at the Abbey and see photos of the Manjushri thangka in process here.
British sculptor Peter Griffin continues his work on the two side statues of Venerables Ananda and Mahaprajapati, also for the main hall’s altar. He may come to the Abbey (his studio is in France) to make the central statue of the Buddha. We’ll work that out in the upcoming months.
During our three-month winter retreat, guests can join the monastic community in practice for the first month. That concluded on February 3 with a Dorje Khadro fire puja and go-around where the departing participants shared their experiences and reflections.
All of them benefited from doing retreat, discovering things about themselves and practicing the mind training teachings to subdue the afflictions. See photos of the end of one-month retreat here.
The group of guests was especially nice this year—almost all had been to the Abbey before, so they slid into the daily schedule without much difficulty. In fact, someone commented that the guests felt like community members in terms of attending all the sessions and helping with the everyday jobs to keep the Abbey going in the winter—shoveling snow, washing dishes, and so on.
A few guests have remained for the entire three months—two are doing the three-month Vajrasattva retreat and one has joined the Medicine Buddha retreat. And of course the monastic community is still in retreat. Those doing retreat on the Medicine Buddha are in the Meditation Hall, while those doing the Vajrasattva purification retreat are in the chapel.
Ven. Chonyi’s poem captures her experience of the Medicine Buddha Winter Retreat. Read “On Fairy Shrimp… Just Like Me” here.
Lunar New Year Celebrations
What better way to mark a new year than to make a commitment to practice ethical conduct? On the first day of the Lunar New Year, Gyatso, a new lay trainee, took the eight anagarika precepts and donned the blue Abbey anagarika uniform.
Our friend Renato joined in from Mexico. He had also requested the eight anagarika precepts, which he will keep as a householder. Winter retreatants Juan and Karen took the opportunity to take refuge and renew their precepts, respectively. We all rejoiced at their sincere aspirations.
Lunar New Year is also a time of great celebration in Southeast Asia, and our Dharma friends there share their joy with us in many ways.
We were touched by the generosity of the Butterworth Lay Buddhist Society in Penang, Malaysia, whose members offered us a special New Year’s Day lunch.
A few days later, Friends of Sravasti Abbey Singapore, Malaysia, and Indonesia met our community over Zoom to send their New Year wishes and make offerings to the sangha.
Then we offered a Lama Chopa Guru Puja, which was livestreamed for everyone to join online. It was a wonderful way to share our Dharma aspirations and create the causes for happiness together.
Medicine Buddha Puja
Every month, the Abbey does a Medicine Buddha Puja dedicated for all those who are ill, injured, or deceased.
This month on March 13 at 10:30 am Pacific Time, we will dedicate the Medicine Buddha Puja especially for healing and peace between Russia and Ukraine and all those affected by the conflict.
Note the the usual time is changed to allow Dharma friends from Ukraine and Russia to join if they can.
We invite people to join the puja on Zoom and to send in the names of people you’d like everyone to dedicate for. In February, 145 people registered for the puja!
Please register here.
Buddha Bear Visits the Abbey
We’ve missed having visitors at the Abbey in this time of pandemic, but a visit by our new friend, Buddha Bear, almost made up for it.
Ven. Chodron was inspired by a video greeting from a friend’s family to create a short video introducing the Abbey to kids.
Sravasti Abbey Friends Education
The spring semester of the Sravasti Abbey Friends Education (SAFE) online program begins April 18.
For new students:
Registration for SAFE Module 1A begins at 9 a.m. Pacific Time on March 28. The registration link will be posted here.
For returning students:
If you successfully completed a SAFE course in December 2021, you are automatically enrolled for the subsequent course in Spring 2022.
If you have taken some time away from the SAFE program and want to return, please write our office to enroll.
SAFE participant Aaron told us how his studies helped to infuse his transcontinental flight with bodhicitta. Read his reflection, “Flying with Bodhicitta,” here.
New Books in Spanish and Bahasa Indonesia
Awaken Every Day
Ediciones Dharma in Alicante, Spain has published Awaken Every Day by Ven. Chodron in Spanish! You can get the book here. They’ve translated and published several of Ven. Chodron’s books over the years. If you read Spanish, check out the rest of the Ediciones Dharma website.
You can also read Spanish translations of The Library of Wisdom and Compassion by His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Ven. Chodron. Ediciones Amara in Menorca, Spain is in the process of publishing the entire series. Check out the Ediciones Amara website here.
Gavin Discovers the Secret to Happiness
Penerbit Dian Dharma in Indonesia has translated Gavin Discovers the Secret to Happiness by Albert Ramos into Bahasa Indonesia. They are generously offering the book for free distribution. Albert, who is a Dharma practitioner in prison, could not have imagined that his book would be translated and distributed in Indonesia!
- Happy Losar! Tibetan New Year falls on March 3 and we wish all our Tibetan and Tibetan Buddhist friends lots of joy in the Dharma! Losar marks the beginning of the 15 Days of Miracles. Learn practices to celebrate the Day of Miracles here.
- Venerable Chodron’s talk on “The Path to Self-Acceptance” hosted by mindfulness meditation teacher Merve Karakus in Turkey is now available online. Watch the talk in English here and with translation into Turkish here.
- Venerable Chodron’s interview with the Seattle Anxiety Specialists on meditation and anxiety is now available as an episode on their podcast, “The Seattle Psychiatrist.” Listen to it here. Watch the interview here.
- Vens. Jampa and Kunga produced another great video about the highlights of 2021 at the Abbey. It’s short and shows us in all four seasons. Watch the video here.