After having spring weather with deep blue sunny skies in late February and early March, we’ve had a wet spring.
The rain has been more than welcome: it’s good for the forest and gardens and helps in the summer when the risk of forest fires rises.
See photos of April Abbey life here.
Bhikshuni Thubten Chodron & the Sravasti Abbey Community
Concluding Winter Retreat
Our annual three-month meditation retreat concluded on April 1 with a Dorje Khadro fire puja to burn up misdeeds and negativities. We imagine these obscurations taking the form of black sesame seeds that have been sculpted into a scorpion. These are then offered to the deity Dorje Khadro visualized in the fire, who happily consumes them.
The previous day, we had a go-around in which the participants of the two concurrent retreats—one on Vajrasattva, the other on Medicine Buddha—shared what they learned about the Dharma and came to understand about the workings of their own minds and during retreat. Each person also shared what they will take with them and incorporate into their daily practice as they transition into the more active part of the year.
Listening to each person’s experience was inspiring; it was evident that everyone had a productive and fruitful retreat and succeeded in calming their minds and clarifying their understanding of the Dharma. This was definitely an opportunity to rejoice at everyone’s virtue.
Juan, who was with us for the first month of retreat, shares Ten Lessons from a Spiritual Child that he learned meditating on Medicine Buddha.
Kathina is an annual ceremony stemming from the time of the Buddha to celebrate the sangha completing the varsa (rains retreat). This ceremony links the sangha to lay followers through the practice of mutual generosity—the sangha giving teachings and Dharma advice, and the lay followers taking the teachings to heart and supporting the sangha.
The Abbey has done the kathina ceremony in several previous years. It begins with a procession with people bearing offerings for the sangha and continues with an invocation of all the Buddhas and bodhisattvas. Then, there is a talk describing the history and meaning of kathina—this year given by Ven. Chonyi. The bhikshuni sangha then accepts the robe of merit.
The giving of the kathina robe was especially touching this year. The Friends of Sravasti Abbey in Singapore and Malaysia (FOSASM) provided the robe and wanted all the merit from this offering to be dedicated especially for the end of the war in Ukraine and for world peace. To that end, representatives of FOSASM joined the ceremony on Zoom to make the dedication of merit.
Julia, a Dharma friend of the Abbey who lives in Dnipro, Ukraine, offered the robe to the sangha. While she recited an offering verse from a bomb shelter via Zoom, onsite at the Abbey, a local Dharma friend also named Julia from Russia and her husband Dan made the physical robe offering to the abbess.
May the line from a dedication verse by Shantideva be realized: “And may people think of benefiting each other.”
Sharing the Dharma Day & End of Retreat Puja
The April Sharing the Dharma Day was the first one in a long time where we were able to welcome guests. For us residents, seeing friends and supporters is always a joy.
After a potluck lunch, we did the Green Tara practice led by Ven. Sangye Khadro as a way of creating merit that was dedicated to all the volunteers.
Without so many dedicated volunteers to help us in so many ways—from offering food to fixing Internet and computer problems to taking down dead trees and clearing debris from the forest to prevent fires—the Abbey would not be able to exist or to share the Buddha’s Dharma with the world. It was our privilege at the end of the Tara meditation to give small gifts of appreciation to some of our kind volunteers.
See our first Sharing the Dharma Day of 2022 photos here.
The Buddha Hall
The Buddha Hall project continues to unfold. We’re learning a lot about the realities of supply chain and other issues in the current construction environment.
We are steadily moving forward with the artwork, which is very inspiring. The sculptor Peter Griffin has completed the initial work on the statues of Venerables Ananda and Mahaprajapati Gotami, which will be beautiful.
He is now working on the Buddha statue. Due to its large size, it will be made in parts and shipped to the Abbey together with Venerables Ananda and Mahaprajapati Gotami. See new photos here.
We also ordered from Nepal the Dharma Wheel and the two deer that will grace the entrance of the Buddha Hall, as well as the ganjira—the decorations on the roof common to all Tibetan temples. These will take approximately one year to make and have delivered to the Abbey.
Meanwhile, the Manjushri thangka for the altar in the main hall is complete and will be hand-delivered in August when a Singaporean friend comes to visit us.
Compassion + Technology
Every spring and fall, the North Idaho College Diversity Council asks Ven. Chodron to give a talk relating values such as love and compassion to contemporary developments in society.
This spring, Ven. Chodron spoke on “Compassion + Technology,” taking social media as an example of how our fascination with technology can lead to unintended negative consequences.
In her talk, Ven. Chodron also responded to the college’s common reading resource, Automating Inequality by Virginia Eubanks. Instead of pinpointing technology as the source of social ills, however, she focused on how the self-centered thought is at the root of social injustice.
As long as we see our own happiness as more important than that of others’, we will use the tools that we develop to benefit ourselves and those we care about instead of extending our concern to society as a whole.
The students asked excellent questions about how to have a balanced relationship with social media and bring about social change to benefit others. Watch the talk here.
Teachings with Ven. Sangye Khadro
Awakening the Kind Heart Retreat
Ven. Sangye Khadro led the Abbey’s first retreat of the year on “Awakening the Kind Heart.” We were happy to welcome the eight guests who attended in person and 62 participants online.
Ven. Sangye Khadro taught on the main obstacles to kindness, the benefits that accrue from developing loving-kindness, and the kindness of others. She also unpacked verses from “Tale of a Wish-Fulfilling Dream” by Nagarjuna on how to develop a feeling of closeness to all sentient beings culminating in bodhicitta.
Some participants were moved to tears while meditating on the kindness of their mothers and others who had deeply touched their lives. The retreat was a wonderful start to what we hope is a year full of visits by many guests. Watch the archived teachings and meditations here.
Ven. Sangye Khadro also gave three talks on “Awakening the Kind Heart” for the Thubten Kunga Ling Center in Florida. Two more talks will follow in May. In these teachings, she covers how to cultivate the four immeasurable thoughts—loving-kindess, compassion, empathetic joy, and equanimity—qualities that are very much needed in our troubled times! Watch the talks here.
She also resumed her monthly online talks to the local Sandpoint Sangha. This year the theme will be compassion and lojong—training the mind to be less self-centered and more altruistic—by going through the “Eight Verses of Thought Transformation.”
In addition, she began teaching a weekly class on tenets for Abbey residents. She will cover the views of the four main schools of Buddhist philosophy—what they say about phenomena, mind, conventional and ultimate truths, how to progress on the path, and so on.
Studying tenets is a helpful way to gradually expand the mind and ready it for the teachings on emptiness taught by the highest school, Madhyamaka Prasangika. Listen to the teachings here.
2021 teachings by Ven. Sangye Khadro have been posted on ThubtenChodron.org. Watch the “Peaceful Living, Peaceful Dying” retreat teachings here, and the three-part “Know Your Mind” retreat series here.
Talks Around the World
Monk Chat with Empty Cloud Monastery
Empty Cloud Monastery invited Ven. Chodron to be part of a “Monk Chat,” a weekly program in which their monastic community and friends send in questions for monastics to answer.
Monastery co-founder Bhante Suddhaso facilitated the session, fielding a long list of stimulating questions that Ven. Chodron responded to with skill and joy.
While Empty Cloud Monastery practices in the Theravada tradition, the questions posed were common to monastics in all traditions, such as how to foster harmonious community life and relate to a spiritual mentor. There were practice questions too, about meditating on emptiness and how nirvana is understood in different Buddhist traditions.
Ninety minutes passed quickly, and everyone rejoiced in the opportunity for practitioners from different traditions to engage in this virtual discussion. Watch the Q&A session here.
New Series on Following in the Buddha’s Footsteps
Ven. Chodron began a new series of monthly talks on Following in the Buddha’s Footsteps, Volume 4 of The Library of Wisdom and Compassion, which she is co-authoring with His Holiness the Dalai Lama. The talks are hosted by Vajrayana Institute in Sydney, Australia. The group requested her to teach on the first four sections of the book on refuge and ethical conduct.
Ven. Chodron read sections from the first chapter on “The Entrance to the Buddhist Path” and “Reasons for Taking Refuge in the Three Jewels,” reminding us to get in touch with our purpose for practicing the Buddhist path and not to get distracted by the latest New Age fad. Watch the first talk here.
The next talk will be on May 21 at 6 pm Pacific Time/ May 22 at 11 am AEST. Register with Vajrayana Institute here.
Awaken Every Day in Singapore
Singapore Buddhist Mission’s youth group is using Awaken Every Day by Ven. Chodron as a resource for their weekly meetings. When Ven. Damcho met with the youth leaders who will be facilitating the sessions, she was impressed by their sincere motivation to support each other and share what has moved their hearts about the Dharma. Find information about their sessions on the Singapore Buddhist Mission’s website here.
Offering Service Saturday
A small but well-seasoned crew of local volunteers came for the April Offering Service Saturday.
The group continued with fire mitigation in Veseka’s Meadow, a beautiful glade of grasses and ponderosa pines close to the Abbey buildings. They limbed branches higher up and thinned struggling smaller trees. This will now allow more sun and rain to reach the ground.
In the main flower garden, Christopher, a new volunteer who is experienced with chainsaws, quickly removed some diseased and overgrown trees and shrubs, opening the garden to more light and air.
To complete the work, the community will step up and remove the mass of limbs and firewood off both sites to reveal healthy meadows and gardens.
New Book: Searching for the Self
Searching for the Self, Volume 7 of the Library of Wisdom and Compassion by His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Ven. Chodron, will be released on May 17, 2022. It is the first of three volumes that give an in-depth presentation of the topic of emptiness and dependent arising.
Tibetan scholars have praised the new book. Geshe Lhakdor, director of the Library of Tibetan Works and Archives in Dharamsala, India, wrote, “Searching for the Self will help to open your wisdom eye to investigate emptiness. With that understanding, you can fly in freedom without grasping at illusory objects.”
Bhikshuni Jampa Tsoedron, religion professor at the University of Hamburg, calls it the masterpiece of the Library of Wisdom and Compassion series. She writes, “(The book) not only deals with the heart of the Buddhist view on emptiness, which distinguishes it from the great monotheistic religions, it also discusses the approaches of Pāli and Chinese Buddhism on the ultimate nature.”
She continues, “It enables Buddhists worldwide to speak in one voice about important issues that concern all of us today. At the same time, it gives non-Buddhists fresh insight into the world of Buddhist thought and practice.”
If you’re looking for an introduction to the first six volumes of The Library of Wisdom and Compassion, Ven. Chodron’s talks—one on each volume of the series—for Jewel Heart Center in 2021 are now available to watch here.
Advice from the Wise
- In Courageous Compassion, Volume 6 of the Library of Wisdom and Compassion, His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Ven. Chodron explain “The Basis for World Peace.” Read their advice here.
- His Holiness the Dalai Lama gives advice to the younger generation in this adorable and moving short video. Watch it here.
- Ven. Chodron wrote to someone wanting to take monastic ordination about the benefits of living in a monastic community after receiving full ordination. Read her advice here.
Transforming Adversity into Joy and Courage
- Cheri shares more of her experience dealing with a painful disease and discovering a wonderful world. Read her reflections here.
- Our friend Ramesh shared this powerful talk by Zarlasht Halaimzai, an Afghan refugee living in the UK who started an organization called Amna to bring healing and psychosocial support to refugees. She not only talks about her personal experience of war trauma and how it led to her life’s work, but brings in how colonialism and the war industry are feeding chronic conflicts worldwide and what ordinary citizens can do to help in the smallest ways. Watch her TED talk here. Learn about Amna here.