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Our late dry summer has finally given way to autumn rains, and the thirsty forest and gardens are rejoicing. As the blazing fall colors begin to fade we reflect on impermanence and re-commit to make the most of our present opportunity to deepen and live in the Dharma.

May we welcome life’s changes like we welcome the beauty of autumn.

Bhikshuni Thubten Chodron and the Sravasti Abbey Community

Chenrezig Hall

Ater a couple weeks delay waiting for the foundation permit, permit, permit, permit, George and team got to work as soon as the permit arrived. First they poured the footings. A few days later the retaining wall, which forms the back of the building, rose up 10 feet; next, the stem walls came into sight. Then, almost miraculously, the entire site was cleaned up just in time for our October 6 celebration of commencing to build Chenrezig Hall. The huge piles of dirt all around were backfilled, and even the bulldozer was parked unobtrusively.

he next week they began to lay the Faswall, the first row being very time consuming because it had to be laid completely flat and even with 90 degree angles at the corner. Now the exterior walls are a full story high, and George Weaver’s crew is steadfastly working through the return of the rains.

Venerable Samten is making video clips of all the action. Take a look at Jeremiah explaining all about Faswall. You can keep up with the entire video collection on our video page.

On the support side of things, we have four more weeks to meet the $100,000 Compassion Match, with over $74,000 offered so far. The merit-making activity to recite 21 million om mani padme hum mantras is moving forward, too, with over 16 million recitations reported. We welcome your participation.

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8th Annual Buddhist Monastic Gathering

Four Abbey monastics—Venerables Semkye, Chonyi, Jigme, and Yeshe—attended the annual gathering of Western Buddhist monastics. This year the five-day event, with participants from a variety of Buddhist traditions, was held at Deer Park, a monastery under the guidance of Thich Nhat Hanh, in Escondido, CA. This year’s theme, How to Develop and Sustain Bodhi Resolve—with Joy—in Challenging Times, offered rich opportunities to examine internal and external obstacles in our monastic lives and to delve into the many avenues for cultivating the sustaining factor of Dharma joy.

Venerable Bikkhu Bodhi’s work in Buddhist Global Relief (BGR) provided much of the inspiration for this gathering. Founded to address hunger and chronic malnutrition, BGR supports projects around the world that provide emergency food aid and promote greater food productivity at the grass-roots level. In a highlight of the week, monastic gathering participants happily joined in a silent “Walk to Feed the Hungry,” circumambulating Grape Day Park in Escondido.

The gentle mindfulness practices of the Deer Park community pervaded the gathering, and the Abbey nuns returned with many ideas and much inspiration to enact some of their simple methods for sustaining community harmony. The nuns also appreciated our many private conversations with monastics from other communities and other traditions, reinforcing our own “bodhi resolve” and broadening our understanding of the Buddha’s beautiful sangha and how the Dharma is growing in the West.

You can read more in Venerable Chonyi’s article about the monastic gathering by clicking here, and photos will be up soon.

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October 6 Celebrations

Honoring Venerable Chodron’s 35th Monastic Anniversary and the Commencement of Building Chenrezig Hall. This bright Saturday morning began with 45 attendees honoring Venerable Chodron for having lived as a monastic for 35 years. Venerables Samten, Semkye, and Jigme talked about the significance of Western monastic sangha. Venerable Chodron told a few stories of the “good ole days” in Nepal and India in the 1970s and ‘80s, helping people appreciate their good circumstances now. We then did a White Tara practice wishing her and all our teachers long and healthy lives so they can continue to teach and guide us.

After a delicious lunch, which Juliet and Venerable Yeshe spent days preparing, we gathered

together again, this time with Tim, our architect, and George, our contractor. Venerable Tarpa, our construction manager, gave a short introduction and then gave the floor to Tim and George to talk about Chenrezig Hall and to respond to people’s questions about it. It was very moving to hear Tim share how working with the Abbey has affected and inspired him. Among other things, we are the only clients that ever read the fine print in the contract. But more than that, Tim is excited to be part of helping the community come into existence and grow.

Then, visualizing a 35-foot tall Chenrezig in the middle of the building site (that will be the height of the building when it’s completed), we filed outdoors and circumambulated the site three times while chanting om mani padme hum. There was something very special about that, and the image of a huge Chenrezig still appeared in our mind’s eye as we walked by the site days later.

Check out the photos here

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Winter Retreats

Those of you who have been following the Abbey for some time know that each winter we set aside three months for silent retreat that guests can join the community in doing. This year, because Venerables Chodron, Jigme, and Samten will attend HH the Dalai Lama’s teachings in South India and Venerables Semkye and Chonyi will go on pilgrimage to ancient Buddhist sites in India, the program is a bit different. We are pleased to be able to welcome you to the following retreats at the serene, peaceful ambience of the Abbey in winter.

Come welcome the New Year with a Vajrasattva retreat at the Abbey December 28 – January 1. A few Abbey residents will continue Vajrasattva retreat immediately after this. Let us know if you would like to join them (until March 4).

For those of you who would like to do longer retreat, join us to meditate on the four establishments of mindfulness January 14 – February 8.

And for those who would really like to delve into the richness of the four establishments of mindfulness practice, join us for seven weeks, January 14 – March 4.

As in previous years, you can do Retreat from Afar, doing one meditation each day. Since we’re building Chenrezig Hall this year, the Retreat from Afar will be the Thousand-Arm Chenrezig retreat. However, if you prefer to do the four establishments of mindfulness for Retreat from Afar, that is also fine.

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A New Book

Don’t Believe Everything You Think, a 21st century commentary to the “Thirty-seven Practices of Bodhisattvas” by Venerable Thubten Chodron, is now in print! The book is filled with real life stories of how people put these verses into practice in their daily lives. A great book for people new to the Dharma or for those who aren’t Buddhist—as well as longtime thought training practitioners—it brings these ancient verses alive with meaning.

The book is published through the Snow Lion imprint of Shambhala Publications and is currently available from the publisher and at the Abbey. General release through Random House, Amazon, and other distributors is slated for January 8.

In conjunction with the book release, Shambhala posted an interview with Venerable Chodron on the their blog.

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Out & About Sharing the Dharma

The Abbey monastics have continued the meditation class at the UU church in Spokane, extending it for several more weeks due to popular demand, and Venerables Jigme and Samten are offering a month-long series of Dharma talks for the Coeur d’Alene Dharma Friends.

I’ve been invited to a number of places to give talks: the Coeur d’Alene Rotary Club requested a talk on “Creating Peace in a Chaotic World,” and I gave the sermon at two services one Sunday morning at the Unitarian Universalist Church on “Radio Rap” or how to deal with the often repugnant public discourse broadcast on US media these days. People were very involved in these and a lot of good discussion ensued.

I also gave a talk to a packed auditorium at North Idaho College, where students and people from Coeur d’Alene were hungry to hear of new ways to work with old habits. We’ll get that talk on the web soon, as a lot of people enjoyed it. The talk at Maitripa College in Portland entitled “Can You Have Samsaric Happiness and Nirvanic Bliss at the Same Time?” was also well attended. The very receptive audience asked lots of good questions.

Venerable Chonyi gave a weekend of talks on developing bodhicitta at Treasure Valley Friends (TVDF) in Boise, where she also visited with prison inmates at the Idaho Correctional Center. The TVDF group studies together weekly, and they readily engaged in juicy discussions. The TVDF board also organized a special event to raise funds for Chenrezig Hall, and Venerable Chonyi joined in the Sunday morning chanting service at Boise’s Vietnamese temple, where she enjoyed visiting the two resident nuns.

Venerable Chonyi also visited Dharma Friendship Foundation (DFF) in Seattle, speaking about transforming problems and cultivating joyous effort. I was the resident teacher at DFF for 10 years, and most of the Abbey’s current monastics began their Dharma studies through that center. It’s always a delight—on both sides, it seems—when Abbey monastics share the Dharma with old and new friends at DFF.

Venerable Tarpa recently completed training at Airway Heights Correctional Center to become an official volunteer serving our local prison’s Gateless Sangha. This group has been well supported for many years by volunteers from Spokane’s Chogdud Gampa-Padma Ling, and includes a number of dedicated, longtime practitioners. In her October visit, Venerable Tarpa taught on the stages of the path, which elicited wonderful questions and discussions from the inmate group. Venerable Tarpa will visit four times a year, coordinating her teachings with the Padma Ling volunteers.

Venerables Semkye and Tsultrim were invited to Spokane’s annual “Bark for Life”—a walk event for dogs and their owners to raise funds and awareness in the fight against cancer—and blessed a couple dozen pups while they were there.

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More News

The Department of Religion and Culture of the Central Tibetan Administration has been holding a three month meeting of Vinaya experts from the four Tibetan traditions to do research in the monastic code to see if it’s possible to introduce the full ordination for women ( bhikshuni) into the Tibetan tradition. They invited nuns from the Committee for bhikshuni Ordination to attend, so Venerable Jampa Tsedroen and I traveled to Dharamsala to participate.The presentations went well, and the Tibetan monks praised Venerable Jampa’s scholarship.

Venerable Jampa and I have also had the opportunity to see some of our teachers and to visit Tibetan nunneries and watch the nuns debating. I will stay on in India to attend HH the Dalai Lama’s two-week lamrim teachings in South India.

Edwin Rutsch from Center for Building a Culture of Empathy interviewed me on “Empathy and Compassion.” It’s nice to have people in our world working towards a culture of peace and harmony.

I did a series of short Bodhisattva Breakfast Corner talks on trust and healing from broken trust that you may be interested to watch.

Photos from the one-week Chenrezig retreat are now on the website.

Bodhisattva Breakfast Corner talks are now categorized by topic in playlists on the Abbey YouTube channel, making it much easier to find the archived talk or theme you’re looking for.

We’ve had several long term guests recently. Susan and Ruby, both here about two months, just departed, but Ruby hopes to return soon. Sherran is with us for two months this autumn, and she and Ruth did a fantastic job canning plums from our neighbor’s orchard. James was here for two weeks and Elliot for one—both had a great time working in the forest. The monastics went to the forest whenever we could get away from our computers—it’s so invigorating to work in nature and it’s great exercise too!

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