The days are slowly getting longer and sunnier as we’ve entered the second half of our winter retreat.
Externally, nothing much new is happening, and every day is pretty much the same: awakening with a bodhicitta motivation, followed by five meditation sessions interspersed with periods for study, rest, meals, and clean-up.
Internally, however, we are deepening our understanding of impermanence, dukkha, and selflessness as we practice mindfulness of our bodies, feelings, and minds. Amid the silence of retreat, the Abbey still offers teachings, meditations, and pujas online.
Realizing the preciousness and rarity of retreat, we dedicate the merit from our practice so that all beings may have similar opportunities in the future. We also continually reflect on the kindness of you who support the Abbey in countless ways and help the Dharma to flourish year-round!
Bhikshuni Thubten Chodron & the Sravasti Abbey Community
Winter Retreat Continues
The community has entered the second half of winter retreat after bidding farewell to our guests in early February.
The one-month retreatants were a lovely group sincerely committed to learning the Dharma and growing their practice. See portraits of them here. Three retreatants also took refuge and precepts with Venerable Chodron (see photo at right).
As usual, retreatants participated in a Dorje Khadro fire puja to mark the retreat’s end and purify all negativities. They built and burned a large scorpion made of black sesame seeds, representing their afflictions and other hindrances, and left with aspirations to continue their practice. We wish them all the best and hope they will join us again in the future! See end-of-retreat photos here.
Meanwhile, the half of the community that had been in full retreat has now emerged to offer service for part of the day, allowing the other half to devote all their energies to meditation. Monastics have given many Bodhisattva’s Breakfast Corner talks describing their mindfulness practices, which you can watch here.
You can still sign up to join our winter Retreat from Afar, which currently has over 450 participants. Find the registration link and retreat resource info here.
Buddha Hall Update
The framers have almost completed framing the lower level of the Buddha Hall, which makes visualizing specific rooms and their uses much easier. It also adds to our joy and enthusiasm for what the completed building will offer us and future generations of practitioners.
Ven. Samten gave a guided tour for our one-month retreatants before they left. They were delighted to imagine doing retreat in the Buddha Hall in the future. You can take the virtual tour, too. Watch it here.
The focus of construction this month has been stacking Faswall blocks to form the walls of the upper floor. Warmer days in mid-February eased the working conditions, but daytime melting turned roads into skating rinks overnight as temperatures dropped below freezing.
Melting snow also brought road restrictions. To protect easily damaged country roads, concrete trucks and the pump had to arrive and finish their job before 9 am. Fortunately, they are used to working in the dark in winter and there are spotlights onsite.
Then on February 20, a rapid drop in temperature, snowfall, icy road conditions, 30 mph wind gusts, and a wind chill as low as -15 F paused construction for two days. But that hasn’t stopped us from doing retreat, and our meditation and study schedule go on as usual!
See the latest Buddha Hall construction gallery here.
Artwork for the Buddha Hall
While in India, Tenzin Ngodup, the Tibetan artist who painted the Manjushri thangka for the Buddha Hall offered by Ralph Jimenez and Winnie Young, presented to Vens. Chodron and Damcho the thangka of Maitreya Buddha that was sponsored by Ven. Tsepal.
These two paintings will reside to the right and left of the Shakyamuni Buddha statue on the main altar. Ngodup-la’s artistry has really brought these two important lineage holders to life. Below is a photo of our community rejoicing at the thangka’s unveiling.
Ngodup-la responded to our thanks by saying, “Thank you so much for appreciating my joyful and peaceful work. It really helps me to boost my energy towards painting. I also consider painting to be my little Dharma practice. May all sentient beings achieve happiness.”
Geshe Dadul Namgyal at the Abbey
The Abbey is delighted that Geshe Dadul Namgyal, a Lharampa Geshe who speaks excellent English, has accepted our invitation to be one of the resident teachers at the Abbey. How fortunate we are!
Geshe-la wrote the note below to let you know the good news:
I have known Sravasti Abbey, its Founder and Abbess, Ven. Thubten Chodron, and the community of genuine practitioners under her guidance, for a long time now. Yes, the community has grown considerably over the years since my very first visit in 2009.
So also, the depth and breadth of their spiritual knowledge and practice, as well as generosity with their time and energy in the service of others worldwide, have grown immensely in those years. I visited the Abbey several times before and have long developed a sincere admiration for the integrity and transparency by which they live, practice, and conduct their day-to-day administration.
During those visits, the Abbey and its community kindly invited me to move here and become a resident, not just once or twice, but several times, including a written letter and even in the form of a song. In June and July 2022, I stayed at the Abbey as a long-term guest for much needed rest and relaxation. Since I had a regular job that I enjoyed and valued so much at Emory University’s Compassion Center, I could not readily accept the kind invitation at those times as much as I had wanted to.
However, recently, my health went down and got to a point when I wasn’t able to do justice to the duty entrusted to me, and so I naturally decided to seek voluntary resignation from the job at the start of the 2023 year. Luckily, the doors to the Abbey were still open despite my health condition, and its pristine environment was an additional incentive to decide without doubt to finally relocate here.
I have since been feeling better and receiving generous care at the hands of all community members. I look forward to becoming a useful addition to the community in any way possible, as well as improving my personal practice.
Lunar New Year Celebrations
On February 20, the Abbey celebrated Losar, the Tibetan New Year; 2150 is the year of the water rabbit. We offered a special long-life prayer for His Holiness the Dalai Lama, drank Tibetan butter tea, ate sweet rice, and had our own variation of “guthuk,” where people received a funny word about their personality in a chocolate dumpling.
Geshe Dadul joyfully explained Losar traditions in a two-part BBC. Part 1 includes a description of traditional items offered on the altar, including khapse, and Part 2 includes an explanation of the Tibetan saying “Tashi Delek.”
At the end of January, we celebrated the Chinese New Year with a livestreamed Cittamani Tara puja. You can watch it here.
Artists in Prison
Wesley and Keith worked together to design and crochet a beautiful throw blanket for Ven. Chodron to show their appreciation for the teachings—both books and DVDs—they’ve received from the Abbey’s prison project. Note the lotus with the syllable OM in Sanskrit in the center.
You can view more Dharma artwork done by our friends in prison here on Venerable Chodron’s website.
Sravasti Abbey Friends Education (SAFE)
SAFE is a facilitated online study program to explore the Buddha’s teachings. Courses are progressive, starting with a deep introduction to meditation practice and the Buddhist worldview, followed by courses on karma, refuge, renunciation, bodhicitta, and the six perfections.
Registration for SAFE 1A will begin March 27, 2023. The registration form will go live that day on the SAFE webpage. Everyone who successfully completed a SAFE course this past fall has been automatically enrolled in the next course.
If you have taken some time away from SAFE and would like to resume your Dharma studies, please write to office[dot]sravasti[at]gmail[dot]com. All SAFE courses begin April 17, 2023.
Tushita Talks on Lama Yeshe & 2023 Dalai Lama Global Vision Summit
In celebration of Losar and the Days of Miracles holiday, Vens. Chodron and Sangye Khadro gave online talks for Tushita Meditation Centre on the impact that Lama Yeshe had on their lives and practice. They first met him and Lama Zopa Rinpoche while living at Kopan Monastery in the late 1970’s.
Also in March, Ven. Chodron will share Dharma wisdom, along with 20 other speakers, in the 2023 Dalai Lama Global Vision Summit, sponsored by the Lion’s Roar Foundation. Go here for registration and information.
There are many more 2023 activities on our Events Calendar, and more will be posted soon. Go here for a Quick Look.
- Two more talks from Ven. Chodron’s recent trip to Singapore have been posted: “Free Yourself From Attachment: Teachings on Shantideva’s Engaging in the Bodhisattva’s Deeds” at Pureland Marketing and a book launch of “In Praise of Great Compassion” at Poh Ming Tse Temple.
- Lion’s Roar posted the essential points of a talk Ven. Chodron gave on cultivating bodhicitta here.
- The French translation of the free distribution version of Working with Anger is now ready! Thank you to Karine Guillemette who translated it and Christian Charrier who checked it. Read it here.
- The first volume of 365 Gems of Wisdom, containing daily motivations for January through March, has been published by Kong Meng San Phor Kark See Monastery in Singapore for free distribution. You can read it here.
- Daniel’s brush with death gave a whole new view to his Retreat from Afar meditations. Read about his “Surprise Meditation on the Mindfulness of the Body” here.
- Make your offerings with PayPal! Abbey donors may be happy to know that we can now accept your gifts through PayPal. Check out the link on the Donate page of SravastiAbbey.org.
Here’s what’s happening in the next few weeks:
- Jan 6–Apr 3: Retreat from Afar on the Four Establishments of Mindfulness
- March 5: Compassion in Action with Ven. Thubten Chodron on Zoom
- March 12: Medicine Buddha Puja on Zoom
- March 16-20: Dalai Lama Global Vision Summit 2023, including Ven. Thubten Chodron (Day 4)
- March 22: Contestable Times Roundtable with Ven. Thubten Chodron on Zoom
- April 5, 12, & 19: The Search for the Self with Ven. Thubten Chodron on Zoom
- April 9: Kathina, End-of-Retreat, & Volunteer Appreciation Celebration in-person & online
Plus regular ongoing teachings:
- Rice Seedling Sutra with Geshe Yeshe Thabkhe streamed live, Thursday mornings, 9 am Pacific Time.
- Samsara, Nirvana, and Buddha Nature with Geshe Dadul Namgyal filling in for Ven. Chodron, streamed live, Friday evenings, 6 pm Pacific Time. Now streamed on YouTube.
- Engaging in the Bodhisattva’s Deeds with Ven. Thubten Chodron streamed live, Saturday mornings, 8 am Pacific Time. Now streamed on YouTube.
Check the Abbey Events page for more!