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It’s fall for sure. The grouse are back—they nest in the Abbey trees every fall and winter. The moose, deer, and bears are preparing for winter too, and the squirrels and chipmunks are squirreling things away. The colors are spectacular.

While walking in the forest, Venerable Samten saw a large moose with a rack—must be Daddy moose—and the next day Alvaro, a guest, saw Mama Moose and Baby Moose on a forest trail. The people weren’t afraid of the moose and the moose weren’t afraid of the people either, so they met and parted on good terms.

Life continues on at the Abbey.

Bhiksuni Thubten Chodron and the Sravasti Abbey Community

In the Local Community
Venerable Semkye

Venerables Semkye and Chonyi made a presentation at the First Presbyterian Church of Sandpoint as part of the church’s “Peacemaking through Community” series that invited speakers from several faith traditions to talk about their beliefs and practices. The Abbey’s Buddhist talk drew the largest attendance of the series. From the sincere questions and heartfelt exchange it was clear that the values of loving-kindness and compassion are universal, and that people of all faiths or no faith at all can support one another to foster these qualities in ourselves and in society.

Venerables Tarpa and Semkye attended the Opus Prize Foundation Awards hosted by Gonzaga University in Spokane. Every two years the Opus Foundation awards monetary prizes to three individuals engaged in sustainable, faith-based entrepreneurial endeavors that bring positive change in their communities. This year’s nominees were remarkable in the scope of their involvement with the people they serve—from the untouchables of Chennai, India to the children and families living in the slums of Bangkok, to the families of formerly incarcerated women in Brooklyn, NY. Each one exhibited amazing courage and joy in the face of great odds. All the nominees deeply feel that they are the real beneficiaries as they experience the great kindness of the people they help. The awards will help all of them continue their virtuous activity for years to come. Venerable Tarpa talks about the prize here.

Venerables Semkye, Chonyi, Jigme, and Samten continue to lead fall classes at the local Spokane Unitarian Universalist Church and with the Coeur d’Alene Dharma group. Both groups are exploring compassion based on Living with an Open Heart, the book Venerable Chodron co-wrote with psychologist Russell Kolts. The book explains Buddhist as well as psychological approaches to developing compassion and offers easy-to-chew-on oct14abbeylife14.jpgreflections with each chapter. Every week students have been sharing examples of how they really are living with more open hearts. The Abbey nuns are too!

Venerable Chodron gave a talk, “Courageous Compassion,” at North Idaho College. The Q&A session following the talk was especially poignant, with people speaking openly of the pain they feel over the violence in the world. How do we cultivate compassion for perpetrators too? How do we have compassion for people who could have prevented world situations from deteriorating but did not act? We also discussed the difficulty caused by our expectations and wishes for an easy-to-enact solution to each violent conflict, disease, and so on. In a complex world where events occur due to a multitude of causes—some of which we are unaware of—to dream of a simple solution is unrealistic. How, then, do we maintain an optimistic attitude and help those we can help without the quick results we long to see? Video of the talk is here.

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Prison Dharma

On October 25th Venerable Tarpa returned to Airway Heights Correction Center near Spokane to visit the Buddhist group there. The men had requested teachings on karma, which was a thought-provoking experience for all! One participant commented, “I like that you make this all so easy to understand.” Another mentioned that it was in finding Venerable Chodron’s books that he really started to turn his life around; previously he had been involved in gang life.

Visiting prison groups is just one way the Abbey supports individuals through our various prison programs. We are also involved in written correspondence, providing Dharma materials, sending a quarterly Dharma newsletter, and facilitating their participation in the annual Retreat from Afar.

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Out & About in the USA

Treasure Valley Dharma Friends in Boise hosted Venerable Semkye for talks on being a receptive student and how to establish a healthy relationship with a spiritual mentor. The sharing centered around the importance of taking time to choose a mentor and the qualities to look for in a teacher, including a strong practice of ethics, concentration, and wisdom; vast knowledge of the scriptures; and joy and compassion in teaching others. From the student’s side, open-mindedness, intelligence, interest, attentiveness and respect for the teacher and the teachings are crucial qualities to develop. Discussions continued during the break times and proved helpful to everyone.

Venerable Chodron’s fall travels included giving a talk on “Living with an Open Heart” at Land of Medicine Buddha in California and then leading a retreat, with Venerable Chonyi’s assistance, on “Awakening Joy” —developing joyous effort—at Vajrapani Institute. She also gave a series of talks on “Four Establishments of Mindfulness” at Maitripa Institute. It’s wonderful to share the Dharma with so many different people in different places, and it was also great to see many old Dharma friends and meet many new ones. Click on the links in this paragraph to listen to audio recordings of the various talks. Video of the Maitripa teachings will be available soon.

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20th Annual Western Buddhist Monastic Gathering

The annual gathering of Western Buddhist monastics brings monastics from various Buddhist traditions together as friends. This year monastics from the Theravadin tradition (wearing Thai and Sri Lankan style robes), the Vietnamese Chan tradition, Japanese Zen tradition, Shambhala tradition, and several Tibetan traditions were present. (See Venerable Chodron’s Bodhisattva’s Breakfast Corner (BBC) talk about the gathering here.)

Many of us have been attending these gatherings for years and are friends—in fact when beginning the Abbey Venerable Chodron consulted with many of them about how to run a Buddhist monastery in the West. The program was held at Thich Nhat Hanh’s monastery, Deer Park, in Escondido CA, where we received their gracious hospitality and where we also joined in their mindfulness practice of pausing when hearing a bell, be it the chime of the clock or the ring of a phone.

Some of the topics we discussed were translation of Dharma texts and writing Dharma books in English, traditional Buddhism and “secular Buddhism,” ordination and training of monastics, relations with lay people, and teaching in the West. We also did our fortnightly confession and restoration of precepts, as well as a walk to feed the hungry to draw attention to Buddhist Global Relief (BGR). Check out the BGR website, where you can practice generosity to support their wonderful work.

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Buddhism: One Teacher, Many Traditions

We just received copies of the newly released Buddhism: One Teacher, Many Traditions, co-authored by H.H. the Dalai Lama and Venerable Chodron! Venerable Chodron talks about the “new arrival” in this BBC talk.

The purpose of the book is for the various Buddhist traditions to learn more about each other: to appreciate our commonalities as well as our diversity, so that we can work together to share the Dharma with others. Learn more about the book, its contents, and read its endorsements here. You can also read Bhante Gunaratana’s foreword here.

You can order the book on Amazon or directly from Wisdom Publications. Venerable Chodron tells the story behind book in this video.

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Abbey Life

Clinton has moved to the Abbey, with the intention to begin training for monastic ordination in the future. We welcome him! His mother came to visit for a few days too and we were happy to meet her.

A few days after he arrived, another small kitty appeared on our doorstep. Unlike Sonam who is feral and still lives in the barn, Mudita came into the Ananda Hall with little coaching and within an hour was fast asleep in Venerable Yeshe’s lap. Maitri and Karuna are checking out the new resident.

The Abbey residents and guests had a lot of fun “swarming”—that is, working on an immediate project all together—when Stuart arrived with a U-Haul full of furniture and plants donated by a Seattle family that was moving. It was dark outside, so some people held lanterns while others navigated getting the heavy furniture out of the truck and still another group carried the lighter items in pairs. Within an hour it was done and all of us felt very happy working together in this way. Plus the furniture and plants are beautiful and we appreciated the donors’ kindness in sharing these with the Abbey.

WWOOF-ers Jordan, Chelsea, and James have been helping us a lot in the forest and garden as we prepare for winter, and Brian has returned to help as well. While we had balmy weather at the beginning of October—perfect weather for working in the forest—it turned wet and cool towards the end of the month. But the golden color of the tamaracks and the blazing red of the maple trees makes for a beautiful time in the forest.

Abbey Life photos are here.

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Forest Work

The forestry company that began thinning the trees and clearing the debris in the 23 acres of our forest we call “Milarepa’s Mile,” has had to stop their work.

Loving a challenge, they took the project on eagerly, but the steep slope was difficult to navigate with the mulcher, and the number of trees to be mulched wound up breaking the machine. They finished about half of the area, and now the forester from the Dept. of Natural Resources will help us figure out how to finish the rest.

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The Passing of Khensur Jampa Tegchok Rinpoche

Our beloved teacher, Khensur Jampa Tegchok Rinpoche, passed away on October 29 in India.

Rinpoche has been one of Venerable Chodron’s teachers since 1982, and he came to the Abbey twice, each time teaching Nagarjuna’s Precious Garland.

An outstanding scholar and practitioner, Khensur Rinpoche is also the author of Transforming Adversity into Joy and Courage and Insight into Emptiness.

We pray that he will quickly appear amongst us again and that we may study and practice under his guidance.

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Other News
Pet blessing

Janet writes about the experience of hosting the Abbey community on a visit to the Ross Creek Cedar Grove and Kootenai Falls.

Julia shares this account of how her Dharma practice helped her through a difficult medical check-up.

Venerable Damcho’s reflection from the week-long Chenrezig retreat talks about healing the past—war, family, and our own patterns of disconnecting—leading to self-acceptance and the inner space to cultivate compassion.

The Friends of Sravasti Abbey Annual Alms Bowl Rummage Sale and Pet Blessing was a wonderful effort that brought welcomed support for the Abbey food fund. Thanks to all the Coeur d’Alene and Spokane friends that made it possible, including Traci, Bob & Danna, Cheri, Jim, Cindy, Sarah & Doug, Mui, Kuni, Belinda, Cathleen, and David & Janet! (Not to mention the pets.)

We’ve added two events to the 2014 calendar. You’re invited to join us for the annual Christmas Day reading of Shantideva’s Guide to a Bodhisattva’s Way of Life, which you can do in person at the Abbey or participate from afar. Then you can come welcome the New Year with a time of offering service and going deeper into the Vajrasattva purification practice. Click the links for details and write the office to sign up.

It’s also time to sign up for the Manjushri Retreat from Afar, which starts January 13 for one-month and three-month options! We hope you’ll join us!

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