Spring weather is refreshing with bright blue skies and sunshine that alternates with clouds and nourishing rain. Once winter retreat ended, we returned to our usual schedule and welcomed visitors to the Abbey again.
Vens. Semkye, Yeshe, and Nyima are busy cleaning up the garden, Ven. Losang is repairing buildings, Ven. Tarpa is dealing with infrastructure issues such as our new well and upgraded water system, and Ven. Tsultrim is taking care of other concerns to make sure everything runs smoothly.
Enjoy our Spring Abbey life photos here.
Bhikshuni Thubten Chodron & the Sravasti Abbey Community
Homage to Great Compassion
Just a few weeks ago, we learned that Geshe Yeshi Lhundup from Drepung Monastery in India was visiting the US.
We immediately requested him to come and teach at the Abbey. A week or so later, here he was, teaching us Chandrakirti’s homage to great compassion from his Supplement to the “Treatise on the Middle Way,” the meaning of which is unpacked in Tsongkhapa’s Illumination of the Thought. Watch the teachings here.
Geshela speaks English well, and in addition to his talks over five days, we had lively Q&A sessions. We hope he will return in many future years to complete the text. See photos here and enjoy Geshela’s Bodhisattva’s Breakfast Corner talk here.
First Sharing the Dharma Day of 2019
About 50 people gathered for our first Sharing the Dharma Day of 2019, a joyful reunion with new and old friends from the surrounding area. See photos here.
Guest teacher Ven. Sangye Khadro gave the Dharma talk on “Being Responsible for Our Emotions,” from An Open-hearted Life by Ven. Chodron and psychologist Dr. Russell Kolts. She emphasized that we can change our negative mental habits, that we have choice in how we respond to disturbances, and also discussed the futility of blame. Watch her talk here.
The potluck lunch was delicious—as always—and most people stayed for the afternoon discussion where we explored our own negative mental habits and what it would mean to take responsibility for them. The next Sharing the Dharma Day is May 5.
Whitworth University Students Offer Service
Twenty-two students and two staff members from Whitworth University’s Dornsife Center for Community Engagement came to the Abbey to explore self-care and reflective practices.
We took the group to Manjushri’s Meadow where they quickly learned the skills of limbing, lopping, and hauling wood. Working together in nature was a wonderful respite from electronic devices, and joyous effort abounded as students and residents exchanged questions and shared about our lives. See photos here.
Ven. Samten gave a Bodhisattva’s Breakfast Corner talk on self-care. See it here. After lunch, we shifted gears into a guided meditation on self-compassion, followed by a discussion on practices that help us to maintain self-care and balance. We were all touched by the students’ kind and thoughtful orientation towards the world.
Teachings in North Idaho
Spring Public Talk at North Idaho College
Fresh out of Winter Retreat, Ven. Chonyi gave a public talk on “Belonging: The Connection We All Need” at North Idaho College (NIC). She reflected on our innate desire to be part of something larger than ourselves and touched on the loneliness epidemic in American society. Her talk involved the audience in lively discussion and interaction, exploring ways to overcome feelings of isolation and increase meaning in our lives. Watch the talk here.
The next day, Vens. Jampa and Losang attended Dr. Laura Templeman’s World Religions class at NIC for a Q&A. Questions ranged from how to practice compassion to advice on how to connect with others in meaningful and beneficial ways.
Easter at North Idaho Unitarian Universalist Church
True to their principle of drawing wisdom from all spiritual traditions, the North Idaho Unitarian Universalist Fellowship (NIUU) in Coeur d’Alene invited Ven. Chonyi to give their Easter sermon. She spoke about secular ethics and the shared human values of compassion, love, and kindness, drawn from His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s Ethics for the New Millennium. The NIUU congregation, active in numerous beneficial causes, was grateful and inspired to hear His Holiness’ thought: “I am convinced that human nature is basically gentle, not aggressive. And every one of us has a responsibility to act as if all our thoughts, words, and deeds matter. For really, they do. Our lives have both purpose and meaning.”
Earth Day Vigil
Every six months, US organizations hold Earth Day vigils to express care for the planet, and Vens. Semkye and Jampa joined in Spokane’s Spring event. It was a wonderful chance to meet with other spiritual and environmental communities—to learn, inspire, and support each other in efforts to raise awareness about environmental protection.
As Earth Day approaches its 50th anniversary next year, let’s continue to do whatever we can to protect our environment. See photos here and watch Ven. Jampa share about Earth Day here.
Interfaith Sharing at the Jewish Synagogue
Ven. Chodron spoke to a group of about 10 teenage girls at Temple Beth Shalom as part of the synagogue’s program to educate youth on other religious traditions. After a short introduction to Buddhism, the students’ inquisitiveness burst forth with one question after another on topics ranging from body image to rebirth to intoxicants to immigration to the mind as the source of happiness and suffering!
It was inspiring to meet this group of intelligent young women. Combined with our experience with the great young people who visited the Abbey from Whitworth University, we are encouraged by the young people coming of age now.
Building Peace Through Kindness at Gonzaga University
Vens. Chonyi and Samten attended one day of Gonzaga University’s Fifth International Conference on Hate Studies, which this year focused on “Building Peace Through Kindness, Dialogue, and Forgiveness.” In addition to learning about research and initiatives to understand and counteract hate movements worldwide, the nuns offered a meditation workshop to introduce a powerful antidote to hate.
They led about 20 conference participants through four steps of meditating on the kindness of others—reflecting on the kindness of parents and friends, family and teachers, strangers, and difficult people. Participants were visibly moved by the meditation, which stimulated further discussions between sessions. The Abbey made good connections with scholars, researchers, and activists who are each, in their own way, taking steps to create peace in a chaotic world. Watch Ven. Chonyi’s talk about the conference here.
Buddha Day Celebration in Prison
Vens. Jigme and Nyima attended the Buddhist study group’s annual Buddha Day celebration at Coyote Ridge Correctional Facility, joining over 40 inmates and volunteers. It was a day of rejoicing, gratitude, and prayer, with the inmates building a mandala with colored grains of rice. Three men took refuge and the five lay precepts. The group has clearly made great strides in their practices due to volunteers from the TriCities (including Abbey friend Tanya Lasuk) visiting weekly to lead their Buddhist studies and teach Nonviolent Communication.
Among the participants were men from Vietnam, Cambodia, Guam, Lebanon and Mexico. They were generous and gracious hosts; friendly, talkative and receptive. They shared their love of the Dharma and their resources, gifting the nuns and volunteers with Dharma books and lunch. At the end of the ceremony, all joined to dissolve the mandala and dedicate the collective merit. Watch Ven. Nyima’s sharing on the celebration here.
Travels in Asia
Ven. Chodron, with Ven. Damcho as her assistant, traveled to Taiwan to participate as a witness in the full ordination ceremony at Fu En Si Temple in Taiping. This is Ven. Damcho’s second report.
Everyone at the full ordination has been incredibly kind, generous, and welcoming. Ven. Chodron has been so full of Dharma joy, especially to see all the new bhikshunis (including Ven. Tsepal) when they had just received the full ordination. She’s been moved to tears on many occasions. We’re making lots of prayers for all Western and Tibetan nuns to be able to take the full ordination and receive Vinaya training and teachings.
After the ordination platform, we travelled to Luminary Buddhist Institute, founded by Bhikshuni Master Wu Yin. There, Ven. Chodron gave two talks to 21 enthusiastic young nuns from Myanmar, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Taiwan. Listen to the talk on the curriculum in Tibetan monasteries here, and the talk on Chandrakirti’s homage to great compassion here.
We then headed to Manjushri Vihara where we met with Ven. Minjia and Ven. Chodron taught on the “Eight Verses of Thought Transformation,” which you can listen to here. Ven. Chodron was happily surprised to meet Ven. Yinkit who had participated in an ordination at the Abbey years ago. We talked a lot about temple construction as Ven. Minjia and Ven. Yinkit are both building temples, and the Abbey will soon start planning for a much-needed Buddha Hall/meditation hall/library.
Next, we flew to Hong Kong where Ven. Chodron gave private Dharma instructions and a public talk on “How to Have a Happy Mind,” which is posted here.
A New Bhikshuni
The Abbey’s Ven. Tsepal was one of the nuns ordained at the Fu En Si Temple ordination program, making her our 13th fully ordained monastic. She valued her training and was especially touched by the great kindness of the many people involved in making the ordination possible. She also felt fortunate to have Ven. Chodron and Ven. Master Wuyin as bhikshuni witnesses and Ven. Damcho’s translations.
Videos of the full ordination program are also on the web: watch the opening introduction here, the novice ordination here, and the best part, the full ordination here. About a week after that, all 130 new bhiksus and bhiksunis, plus the ordination masters and the guides, went on alms round in Taiping City—that video is here.
A Temple-Library Is on the Horizon
Four Abbey nuns recently met with the architect who designed Gotami House and Chenrezig Hall as we take the preliminary steps to construct a new temple and library. The day before, the entire community walked out to the site to begin to imagine the future building.
Over several years it has become increasingly obvious to us that the present Meditation Hall is too small for the growing monastic community and the rising number of people attending courses and retreats at the Abbey.
Stay tuned for further developments!
Bhiksuni Changshen, who participated in the Living Vinaya in the West course at the Abbey last year, wrote an article about the program that was published in the MDPI Journal. Read the article here on “Living Vinaya in the United States: Emerging Female Monastic Sanghas in the West.”
Study guides are now available for some of Ven. Chodron’s books and ongoing teachings. Individuals can use them, and they are ideal for starting a study group on one of the books. Download the guides here and check back for more in the future.
We’re happy to let all Vietnamese Dharma students know that Buddhism: One Teacher, Many Traditions by H.H. the Dalai Lama and Ven. Chodron is now in Vietnamese. Read it here or here. You can find other Vietnamese Dharma resources here on Ven. Chodron’s website.
Ven. Chodron also gave a webinar on Buddhism: One Teacher, Many Traditions for Institute Vajra Yogini in France. Watch the webinar recording here with French translation.
Read what Ven. Pende has to say about Give Yourself a Chance!” here. This is something all of us can practice.
Madhurima from India tells of her spiritual journey and her wish to volunteer her skills to the Abbey. Read her article here.
Stephen shares how taking the tiniest step in his practice gradually leads to big results. Read his reflection here.
Al, a Buddhist who is incarcerated in North Carolina, was deeply affected by the tragedy of the killings at mosques in New Zealand and seeking love as the cure to violence, he wrote a poem. Read it here.
May all of us be as passionate as Greta, a sixteen-year-old student, about counteracting climate change. Watch her speech here.