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That song about April showers is true this spring at the Abbey, and the May flowers are about to bloom. Snowbells—the delicate yet hearty flowers that are the first to appear in spring—peek out above the autumn leaves, followed soon after by bright violet Siberian irises and yellow crocuses. Watching the process reminds us of impermanence.

In the meantime, the Abbey springs into its post-retreat activities and receives a variety of wonderful guests. We hope you will visit too.

May the freshness of spring nourish the seeds of compassion in your heart!
Bhikshuni Thubten Chodron and the Sravasti Abbey Community

On the Road

April was a month of traveling for many of us. Venerable Tarpa visited her parents in Florida, and seven Abbey residents attended Maitripa College’s two-day seminar on the “Heart Sutra” in Oregon. The five that drove had excellent Dharma discussions and practiced Non-violent Communication exercises in the car.

Afterwards Venerable Chonyi and I went to Seattle where we saw many old Dharma friends. I gave Dharma talks at Monroe Prison, American Evergreen Buddhist Association (Chi Yuan Temple), and Dharma Friendship Foundation. It was a short but very busy visit, and we were well cared for by our kind hosts.

Five nuns went to Southern California for His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s Yamantaka initiation. We felt so fortunate to be able to attend this, as well as His Holiness’ public talk. We thank Gaden Shartse Thubten Dhargye Ling for organizing these precious events that inspired and boosted our practice. I also gave a talk at the Buddhist Society at the University of California at Irvine. The students and faculty did an excellent job of organizing and it was very well attended. I was especially happy that my 90-year-old father, my sister, and teenaged niece attended.

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Welcome and Farewell

We welcomed Venerable Samten upon her return from Taiwan where she received bhikshuni ordination. The Abbey now has six fully ordained nuns.

We also welcomed Katerina (Katya) Korish to the Abbey. Born in Belarus, Katya has been working in the US for years. She also speaks Russian, Chinese, and Belorusian, so with Dani’s German and Venerable Yeshe’s French, we’re becoming a multilingual community. Meanwhile some Mexican friends have been translating the SAFE program into Spanish.

Jack and Susan, both of whom have been long-term guests at the Abbey, have left on personal business before returning to the Abbey. Ana Lorena from Mexico, Antonio from New York, Jesse from Montana, and Becky from California all spent time with us this month to offer service and practice with the community.

We bid a (hopefully temporary) goodbye to Jon, who has been a resident at the Abbey for over a year and a half. Jon is in his mid-twenties and has a school loan that needs to be repaid before he can fulfill his aspiration to ordain. Returning to the east coast to get a job and continue his practice, he will keep in touch with the Abbey. Before leaving he made a beautiful video about monastic life for people who are considering ordaining at the Abbey, which we’ll post on YouTube soon.

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Chenrezig Hall

As the community grows and as the number of guests who want to attend programs and retreats at the Abbey increases, we have outgrown the facilities in Ananda Hall. We hope to begin construction this summer on Chenrezig Hall, which will provide a large kitchen and dining room, more accommodations, a chapel, media room, work room, and so forth. It will also free up Ananda Hall to become admin, which will enlarge our very scrunched office space now.

We have been interviewing contractors, and a team of nuns are checking their references and going to look at buildings they have done.

We are also learning about commercial kitchens and some wonderful friends are helping in this area. While in Seattle, Venerable Chonyi and I visited Great Sun Corp., a kitchen supply business, where they gave us many good ideas about equipment and arrangement. Some other friends in Wisconsin who owned restaurants for many years are also giving us excellent advice.

It’s very exciting to build something from scratch and think of how to make it green, efficient, and have it meet our needs now and in the future. And as those of you who have visited the Abbey know, it is wonderful to think of a spacious and comfortable dining room.

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Chenrezig Mantra Recitation

To support people to cultivate compassion and to generate merit for Chenrezig Hall, we’re encouraging Abbey friends far and wide to take part in Chenrezig practice and mantra recitation. There’s been great enthusiasm for this, with over 100,000 recitations already reported. We invite all of you to join in.

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Sravasti Abbey Friends Education

Our new online Dharma study program is really taking off. We rolled out Course 2 on “Renunciation and the Determination to Be Free” at the beginning of the month. 14 people are doing it and 35 new people are doing Course 1, “Introducing the Buddha’s Teachings.” They are energetic and committed students, and many have told us how much they appreciate the program. The next semester will begin in early October. If you’re interested, take a look at the website and sign up by writing the SAFE coordinator.

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Sharing the Dharma Day

April’s Sharing the Dharma Day began with setting our bodhicitta motivation to share the Dharma with the thought to become fully awakened to help liberate everyone. Many new people from Spokane and local towns came for the first time. We meditated on sending love and compassion to ourselves, one another, and all others everywhere. Using the book Buddhism for Beginners, Venerable Samten shared the story of the Buddha’s life. We had an abundant vegetarian potluck and then formed discussion groups to look at what specifically inspires each of us in the Buddha’s story. We discussed how we could grow that inspiration in our lives. After the day ended, we received two notes.

Rick wrote: “I attended Dharma Day yesterday, and I want to thank you. You gave me something, I’m not sure what it is, and I feel different, I’m not sure how – all I know is that today I experienced joy a few times (inexplicably!). I’m thinking I might have discovered something – it’s raining today, but the sun is out! How about that! I can’t thank you enough, and I’m looking forward to visiting again!”

Ken wrote: “We wish to thank everyone for their warm welcome today. We could certainly feel the love and compassion. I am already looking forward to the next Sharing the Dharma Day. We have both been on a spiritual quest for many years. I marvel at how causes and conditions brought us to the Abbey today.”

Please join us for the next Sharing the Dharma Day on Sunday, May 6th. Here is the link to all the information you might need.

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Forgiveness Retreat & North Idaho College Talk

The forgiveness retreat at the end of the month was a great success. People really took the Dharma in and applied it to their lives to heal relationships and bring peace. Asking thoughtful questions in the teaching sessions, they also shared their reflections and personal experiences with forgiveness in the discussion group. Ananda Hall was full with 38 retreatants eating there, and some people took advantage of the sunshine to eat on the deck. Photos will be up soon.

A professor at North Idaho College, with help from Coeur d’Alene Dharma Friends, organized a talk for college students and the public on “Living Buddhism in Daily Life.” The hall was overflowing, and here too people listened attentively and asked great questions. We rejoice at being able to spread the Dharma!

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Other News

Our 2011 Annual Report is now ready. Highlights include over 400 video teachings and short talks posted to YouTube and last year, receiving over 100,000 views! The report was beautifully designed by our friend Lydie from France.

Video teachings are now a lot easier to find. Tara Shaw volunteered her organizational skills to index the Abbey’s two video sites. Happy browsing!

Meditation classes have resumed at the Unitarian Universalist Church in Spokane with Venerable Jigme and Venerable Samten in the lead. Come join in on Mondays at 6:30.

If you have a few days (or longer) and would like to explore spiritual community and the beautiful outdoors of the Inland Northwest, the Abbey welcomes your visit. We’ll be working in the gardens, clearing the forest, and refurbishing the Meditation Hall this summer and volunteer support is needed. We hope you will plan to visit soon!

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