Dear Friends,

As the days are gradually getting longer and the sun is making an appearance more often, the snow is melting and there are inklings of the coming of spring.

Together with this, our winter retreat is entering its last phase, and we’re making good use of our time purifying negativities, and creating virtue.

As His Holiness the Dalai Lama emphasizes, we’re focusing on generating bodhicitta and cultivating the wisdom realizing the ultimate nature. May your practice be dedicated toward these as well.

See the latest photos of Abbey life here.

Bhikshuni Thubten Chodron & the Sravasti Abbey Community

Happy Losar (Lunar New Year)!

The Abbey celebrated the Lunar New Year online with FOSAS (Friends of Sravasti Abbey Singapore), followed by a Cittamani Tara Puja. See photos from the celebration here.

The Asian custom is to hold oranges in each hand as you wish one another good health and the fulfillment of all your virtuous aspirations in the new year.

We do this over Zoom, although we by and large forgo the mountains of food that appear on a typical Asian New Year’s Day. We share our new year’s aspirations with all of you, wherever you are in this world. Watch the puja here.

Did you ever wonder what His Holiness the Dalai Lama says to Tibetans on Losar? Listen to his advice for the Tibetan community, especially those who live in Tibet. Of course, when he encourages them to have a kind heart, that advice is for all of us. This is the Abbey’s message to everyone for Lunar New Year as well.

One of our Israeli friends said she discovered that the war exists inside of her—the battling feelings she has about the conflict in the Middle East. Seeing that world peace cannot come about through legislation (although good laws and policies help!), she said that each of us must calm our own minds, especially our greed, anger, and self-centeredness, and to cultivate compassion and love for all others.

Monastic Ceremonies

In addition to our annual winter meditation retreat, the Abbey also does a retreat called “varsa” that is stipulated in the Vinaya, the monastic discipline. The two retreats overlap for a few weeks, but we completed the varsa a few days ago, along with the pravarana, a ceremony in which each monastic asks the community for feedback about their activities during the retreat.

We’ve found that these monastic rites established by the Buddha have a special power to strengthen our bonds as a community and to act on our mission to create peace in a chaotic world.

We pray that the next varsa ceremonies will occur in the Posadha Room of the Buddha Hall! Go here to learn about this special room and how you can help fulfill this vision.

Kathina Celebration

The Buddha also said that those who have completed the varsa and pravarana receive special privileges. This is illustrated by the kathina, a rite in which the “robe of merit” is offered to the community. Traditionally in Asia, kathina is a day of festivities in which lay followers offer necessities and useful tools and supplies to the saṅgha. There is often a procession, which in Thailand is led by an elephant (a real one!!). The Abbey has modified this to having a moose lead our procession (a drawing, not a real one!). It’s a better fit for our environment.

The kathina is Sunday, March 24. All are welcomed for our first public event of 2024! Find more information here.

Memorials for Ven. Minjia and Mummy Max

After the pravarana rite, the community had a memorial for Ven. Minjia and Mummy Max, both Buddhist nuns who made a profound impact on the Buddhadharma in their surroundings.

Ven. Minjia was a Chinese monastic from Taiwan, who was instrumental in spreading monastic life in the USA as well as in Taiwan. Ven. Chodron met her in 1989 when Ven. Minjia lived at the American Evergreen Buddhist Association in Bellevue, near Seattle. Ven. Minjia kindly shared her wisdom and expertise in monastic training with us in the Abbey’s early years, especially by participating in the important role of the achaarya, or instructor, in several of the first ordinations given at the Abbey. Watch a talk she gave to our community in 2013 here and see an interview with her here.

The memorial was also for Mummy Max, one of the original foreigners who helped Lama Yeshe and Zopa Rinpoche establish Kopan Monastery in Nepal. Her life story is fascinating, and her devotion to the lamas and the endless help she gave them in the early years has fostered many Dharma centers and sincere practitioners in its wake. Watch her reflections about meeting the Dharma and the lamas here.

Buddha Hall Update

Mudding and Taping

“Mudding and taping” is the main activity on the Buddha Hall site right now. It’s the process that joins pieces of drywall into a single solid wall and prepares the way for painting. The interior of the Buddha Hall must maintain a certain temperature to ensure that the mudding sets. Temporary heat comes from industrial heaters, which need to be checked daily.

One snowy, icy weekend evening, Jason from the construction crew came up to the site. Using the forklift, he transferred a fuel tank from the industrial heaters to the back of his truck to be refilled with diesel. He’s doing this every weekend to check that the heaters are running. Just now Jason told us, “I am so committed to this job, I have been here for more than a year now and I want this to be well done.”

The foreman of the drywall crew who specializes in mudding and taping has been very pleased to work on the decorative circular ceiling insert in the east vestibule and on the other places that have half moon windows. He has told us that he loves this work and the challenges of these curved surfaces inspire him to make the work beautiful. Watch Jake at work in this short clip. Thanks to all on this dedicated crew!

With the sheetrock mounted on the walls, the rooms now look like rooms, no longer just framed-in areas. So now our minds start to imagine the statues on the altars and thangka paintings of the Buddhas and bodhisattvas on the walls. Find all video clip updates here.

The railing has been installed on more sections of the deck. The view is spectacular.And more

Deck railing is being installed in segments. Take a look. The east side will be completed last so the forklift can deliver equipment and materials to the upper floor. Exterior doors have been hung, and wiring for the AV equipment has been pulled to all the rooms that will have AV systems.

When the weather improves, the crew will again work on putting all the outdoor infrastructure in place. While we seldom are aware of the infrastructure—the water system, electricity, septic system, fire suppression, WiFi lines, and telephone connections—we can’t use the building without it.

Right now, this work is on hold because the ground is soggy at this time of year and what used to be gravel roads around the Abbey have become mud roads. But come spring, the excess water will dry up and backhoes and excavators will again swarm the land.

See the latest construction photo gallery here


Posadha Room

In the last days of February, five Abbey siksamanas, accompanied by Vens. Chodron and Damcho, headed to Taiwan. Assuming they meet no obstacles, the five nuns will return as fully ordained bhikshunis. Ven. Damcho will be their interpreter for the seven-week program, and Ven. Chodron will be one of the senior bhikshuni witnesses for their ordination.

We aspire to someday give full ordinations at the Abbey, but many conditions must come together first, beginning with a completed Buddha Hall with its Posadha Room. Clearly recognizing the ordained sangha’s essentail role in preserving the Dharma,The Pema Chodron Foundation has awarded a grant toward sponsoring the Posadha Room, and Friends of Sravasti Abbey invite your help. Learn more here.

Ven. Chodron explains the Posadha Room in this short video.

Sharing the Dharma

  • Although we do not host courses during winter retreat, Ven. Chodron and Ven. Sangye Khadro gave several online talks. Both of them were at Kopan Monastery in the early days (1970s) and were requested by Tushita Retreat Centre in Dharamsala to speak on “The Kindness of the Guru” and to tell stories about Lama Yeshe and Zopa Rinpoche. Ven. Chodron’s talk is here and Ven. Khadro’s is here.
  • Ven. Chodron also spoke to a class at Yale entitled “A Life Worth Living” where she shared about her decision to ordain as a Buddhist monastic although her family didn’t agree. But our parents grow up if we give them time, and after some years her family saw the value in her work.
  • Ven. Sangye Khadro taught a short course on “Introduction to Tantra” for Thubten Norbu Ling Center in Santa Fe, NM. They explored the differences between the Sutrayana practices of Mahayana Buddhism and the unique practices found in Vajrayana, or Tantra, which is also part of Mahayana—a path to attain full awakening for the benefit of all beings.
  • Ven. Sangye Khadro is also giving a weekly online class on chapter four of Maitreya’s Ornament for Clear Realization for Tse Chen Ling Centre in San Francisco. This course will last for three months, and is part of the FPMT Basic Program. So far, we have had a brief overview of the fourth chapter, then started focussing specifically on the thirty-seven harmonies with enlightenment, especially the first four of these—the four establishments of mindfulness. Register for the class with Tse Chen Ling.
  • Ven. Damcho gave a talk on “Paving Your Way to a Smooth Life and Beyond” to a live audience at Buddhist Fellowship Singapore via Zoom. She spoke about the qualities of a precious human rebirth and how to create the causes to attain one. The talk will be posted later this year. Meanwhile, watch a talk she gave for them last year on “When Nothing Goes Your Way.”

Sravasti Abbey Friends Education (SAFE)

Sravasti Abbey Friends Education (SAFE) is a facilitated online study program to explore Buddha’s teachings. SAFE offers a step-by-step training through eleven 12-week courses, beginning with SAFE 1A.

SAFE’s spring session begins April 29 for all courses. Registration for SAFE 1A opens on April 8. You’ll find the registration form on our website here.

SAFE 1A fills up quickly, so we advise that you sign up as soon as the registration form is posted on April 8 or a day or two afterwards to ensure your place in the class.

If you completed a SAFE course last semester, you are already registered for the next one. If you have taken some time away from SAFE and would like to resume your studies, please write to [email protected] before April 10, 2024.

BBC Book: Submit Your Favorites

Sarah Conover and Betsy Wharton are continuing to gather Bodhisattva’s Breakfast Corner (BBC) talks to include in a written collection for publication. They write:

We appreciate the recommendations we have received so far and are still combing the archives to find a broad selection of excellent talks. We’d like to include 2-3 talks presented by each of the Sravasti Abbey monastics. 

If there are BBC talks that have touched you, supported you in your practice, or illuminated the Dharma for you, please send them our way. Please send your recommendations by email to Betsy Wharton at [email protected]. Write “BBC Suggestions” in the subject line of your email, and include the YouTube link to the recommended BBC. 

Changes in Emails from Us"

You might notice that the “from” email addresses on emails like this eNews have changed. No worries—you can still reach us at [email protected]. The changes were made to better authenticate emails, so you know they are really from us.

As we made these changes, we discovered that some of your replies to us had gone to an inactive address. Oops!

We deeply regret that we missed your emails. If you wondered why we never got back to you, that is why. If you still have unanswered questions, please write the office.

More News

  • Longtime Abbey offsite volunteer Meg Wilson shares how she nourishes compassion in her junior and senior English students. Read “Compassion in an OK Classroom.”
  • Despite having a life sentence without parole, Daniel rejoices at his good fortune of meeting the Buddhadharma. Read it here.
  • Northwest Dharma News published a nice profile of Ven. Jendy Shih, who was instrumental in organizing and participating in the Abbey’s ordinations over the first 15 years. Read “Sister Jendy: A Unique Buddhist Monastic Leader” here.

Upcoming Events

Here’s what’s happening in March:

Now – Apr 11, Thursdays: Ornament for Clear Realization with Ven. Sangye Khadro on Zoom, hosted by Tse Chen Ling

March 17: Medicine Buddha Puja with Abbey monastics on Zoom, 7 pm Pacific Time

March 24Kathina & End of Retreat Celebration with the Sravasti Abbey Community, in person and streamed beginning at 9 am Pacific Time

April 2: How to Be Courageous and Kind with Ven. Sangye Khadro, in person, North Idaho College, Coeur d’Alene, 6:30 pm

Plus weekly teachings online:

Middle-Length Lamrim with Ven. Sangye Khadro, streamed live on Friday nights; 5 pm PT on March 1 & 8; 6 pm beginning March 15

Transforming Problems into Happiness with Ven. Tenzin Tsepal, streamed live Thursdays at 8 am Pacific Time through March 7, then 9 am through April 16

Check the Abbey’s Events Page for more talks, retreats & courses!