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After a beautiful Indian summer in October, with its crisp air and clear skies, we received the first snow of the year on Oct 28. It has melted already, and did not obscure in the least the blazing autumn colors of the tamarack, birch, alder, and maple trees.

May the clear sky remind us of the clear light nature of the mind, and may the autumn colors warm our hearts with compassion.

Bhiksuni Thubten Chodron and the Sravasti Abbey Community

More Buddhas Come to the Abbey

Chenrezig Hall is slowly filling up with Buddhas, even before the community moves in. We welcomed our second Kuan Yin statue from China—Kuan Yin manifesting as Samantabhadra—which now graces the multi-purpose room (renamed “Kuan Yin’s room”) in Chenrezig Hall.

The statue of the Buddha for the altar in Chenrezig Hall’s splendid new dining room also arrived. Venerable Yeshe made a beautiful backdrop for that statue as well as lovely curtains for the altar.

Thanks so much to the several kind friends in Asia who searched for, checked out, and helped to ship these Buddha statues to their new home in the West.

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Chenrezig Hall

Work on Chenrezig Hall continues. In the previous e-news we told you about the water damage that resulted from testing the fire suppression system. That has now been repaired and we are focusing on the remaining items needed to get that all-important Certificate of Occupancy: stair rails, finishing the outside staircase, a “bridge” from the Meditation Hall to the upper deck of Chenrezig Hall, the platform lift, and numerous other details that our county requires.

We’re also ordering and installing the necessary equipment for the commercial kitchen that the Health Department specifies.

Meanwhile, John and Kenny are doing a great job in shaping the land so that the rainwater runs away from the building. They’re also spreading gravel in front of the hall, and any day now we’ll be replanting the meadow that was dug up to install the septic system.

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Our 10th Nun

Ruby Xuequn Pan, 29, has been living at the Abbey for over a year and this month received the novice ordination. She’s our first nun from Singapore—we’re hoping more will come—and now we have a wonderful diverse sangha: 1 German, 2 Canadians (one French-Canadian), 1 Singaporean, and 6 Americans.

Taiwanese bhikshunis Venerables Minjia, Jendy, and Jenying came from Seattle to aid in the ordination as they have for our previous ordinations. The ordination went very smoothly, and Venerables Jampa and Tsultrim led meditations in Ananda Hall while the bhikshuni sangha did the ceremony in the Meditation Hall.

About 35 guests attended, and after the ordination and the lunch offering, we had a Q&A where the nuns shared their parents’ responses to their ordination and how they worked with those. The day was a joyous occasion and there was lots of merit to dedicate at the conclusion.

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Sharing the Dharma Day

About 45 people attended October’s Sharing the Dharma Day. The teaching on karma was from Don’t Believe Everything You Think (you can watch it here) and the afternoon discussion explored how understanding karma and its effects gives us the ability to create the causes for the kind of life we want to have now and to create the causes for liberation and full awakening as well.

Eleven attendees were members of the Social Adventurers, a meetup group in Spokane, Washington. Comprising people of all ages, the group meets for social interactions and adventures of discovery, and they chose the Abbey for one of their outings. They had a fruitful day learning about karma and engaging in rich discussions. We hope to see more social adventurers up here at the Abbey!

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Geshe Thupten Dorje’s Visit

Geshe Dorje, a monk from Drepung Monastery and a college professor at University of Arkansas, visited the Abbey for several days.

The course was on The Seven-Point Mind Training, and Geshela’s talks focused on the first point: train in the preliminaries. Outside of the sessions Geshela told stories of his family’s escape from Tibet into Bhutan, and then his life and monastic training in India, which people found very interesting. Twenty-three people attended the teachings, which were given in English.

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Attending Teachings in New York

Venerables Tarpa, Tsultrim, and Jampa rejoiced in the opportunity to attend teachings by H.H. the Dalai Lama in New York City from October 18-20. His Holiness taught on the “Heart Sutra” and the wisdom chapter of Shantideva’s The Guide to the Bodhisattvas Way of Life, and also gave an empowerment for the Buddha Establishing the Three Pledges, a form of Chenrezig.

In his teachings, His Holiness emphasized how important it is to remove our wrong perceptions of all phenomena through right understanding. He encouraged participants to cultivate a strong motivation of compassion and to study and practice continuously. You can watch the teachings online.

Venerables Tsultrim and Jampa also attended a talk by the first female geshe, Geshe Kelsang Wangmo, at the Tibet House in New York. Born and raised in Germany, Geshe Wangmo received the geshe degree in 2011 after completing her studies at the Institute of Buddhist Dialectics in Dharamsala. Speaking on “What is the Self?” Geshe Wangmo emphasized that all our negative emotions and difficulties stem from our misapprehension of reality, which can be removed through the study and practice of Buddhist philosophy. Venerable Jampa was delighted to express her gratitude to her directly in German.

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19th Annual Western Buddhist Monastics Gathering

Venerables Tsultrim, Jampa, and I attended the 19th Annual Western Buddhist Monastic Gathering, held at City of the Dharma Realm, a Chinese temple in Sacramento. Attended by monastics from the Chinese, Tibetan, Japanese Zen, and Theravadin traditions, we met for 5 days in harmony, discussing topics of common interest. The theme this year was monastic formation—that is, how monastics are trained and how they learn the precepts, monastic etiquette, and the liberating Dharma teachings.

Venerable Tsultrim spoke on the panel in which seniors and juniors exchanged perspectives, and Rev. Master Meian from Shasta Abbey and I did a session entitled “Training and Being Trained: The View from the Abbess’s Seat.” In breakout groups we discussed a variety of topics including the use of the Internet in monasteries, gender equality, and practicing Vinaya (monastic discipline) in the West.

I shared a little about the gathering in two Bodhisattva’s Breakfast Corner talks, which you find here (#1) and here (#2).

I think the Buddha would be very pleased with his disciples from various Buddhist traditions meeting together in mutual support and friendship.

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Giving Teachings in Missoula

Almost every year I visit Osel Shen Phen Ling in Missoula, MT, and as it is driving distance, we also make it an outing for some of the Abbey residents.

This year the center asked me to give a public talk and a weekend seminar on the thought training poem, “The Wheel of Sharp Weapons,” and Venerables Semkye, Jigme, Yeshe, and Damcho also came. This text decisively points out the drawbacks of our self-centered thought and self-grasping ignorance and teaches karma in a very personal and practical way. You’ll find the first talk here, and the rest will follow soon.

It was a real delight to focus intently on these topics with earnest Dharma friends. And since folks from the Missoula center often visit the Abbey, it was good to connect with them again.

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More News

Photos from the Chenrezig retreat in September are up for viewing.

The Abbey now has a blog in Russian! Venerable Lobsang Tenpa has been keen to transcribe and translate our Bodhisattva Breakfast Corner talks into Russian and has set up this blog to spread the Dharma to Russian speakers. Enjoy!

We were delighted that three Singaporeans visited the Abbey in October—Shop Fong, Richard and Joline. All three were present for Venerable Damcho’s ordination and Shop Fong very kindly cooked for Dagri Rinpoche’s course and the one-week Chenrezig retreat that followed.

Other guests came for the ordination and stayed afterwards to offer service: Venerable Damcho’s college roommate Cynthia, and Rachel, Joanna, and Heather to name a few. They were quite a crew taking in the firewood from the forest—this was a new experience for the folks from Singapore where they have three seasons: hot, hotter, and hottest.

Suh and Koh Eng visited us at the end of the month, bringing boxes of food. They cooked Chinese food, which all of us like, almost nonstop, and all of us noticed the genuine delight they had in serving others and making offerings. Very inspiring!

If you want to learn more about Buddhist nuns, the University of Hamburg is offering an online course on bhikkhuni/bhikshuni ordination. It’s in English, has excellent speakers, and is free of charge, so sign up!

And speaking of Buddhist nuns, the Abbey has developed a relationship with the nuns from Gebchak Gompa in eastern Tibet. A friend recently visited them and sent these photos.

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