As you may have heard, we had two days of snow toward the end of September—unheard of in Newport at this time of year. This was followed by another snowfall in early October.
Meanwhile, autumn’s glorious colors are all around as we harvest the last of the apples and prepare the gardens and orchard for winter.
See photos of Abbey life in October here.
Bhikshuni Thubten Chodron & the Sravasti Abbey Community
Ven. Chodron in New York and London
Ven. Chodron traveled to New York where Dan Harris, co-anchor of ABC’s Nightline and Good Morning America Weekend Edition, interviewed her for his Ten Percent Happier Podcast.
Ven. Chodron began the interview by leading Dan in generating a compassionate motivation. As a result, he became intrigued about examining the motivations behind our actions. He also asked about rebirth and patriarchy in Buddhism, among other things.
The intended topic for the interview was Ven. Chodron’s new book, The Compassionate Kitchen, but they never got to it. Consequently, Dan invited her for another interview the next time Ven. Chodron visits NYC. Stay tuned for the podcast broadcast date.
Ven. Chodron also taught at Shantideva Center in Brooklyn, where they had a fruitful exchange about identities, especially in light of Nāgārjuna’s teaching on emptiness in Precious Garland, detailed in Practical Ethics and Profound Emptiness by Khensur Jampa Tegchok. Teachings will be posted soon.
She then went on to London, where she gave two talks at The British Library. Her talks centered on introducing Buddhism and Buddhist principles in preparation for the Library’s special exhibit on ancient Buddhist texts. During a tour of the Library, she asked the curator about creating good library spaces and organizing books in anticipation of the new library that will be part of the Abbey’s Buddha Hall.
The Buddha Hall
Plans for the design of the future Buddha Hall are progressing well. During a recent meeting with Tim Wilson, our excellent architect, a question about natural light in the main meditation hall arose.
Tim went back to the drawing board, and Abbey monastics brainstormed alternatives as well. We combined our ideas and came up with a really good design. The delight of working together with others in harmony and pooling our ideas to arrive at a great plan was so rewarding.
We were also deeply moved by the kindness of an American nun who recently attended a retreat at the Abbey. Although her finances are very limited, she offered $2500 as a matching grant to construct the Buddha Hall. She said, “It’s not a huge amount, but I want to contribute what I can.” Her spontaneous generosity coming from a compassionate motivation touched us. We want everyone who contributes to the construction of the Buddha Hall to do so with a virtuous and loving motivation that creates great merit.
Read about Ven. Khando’s offering here. See more about the Buddha Hall here.
Sharing the Dharma Day
Sharing the Dharma Day (SDD) offers an opportunity for visitors, friends, and family to engage with the Abbey and with Buddhism.
On October 6, Ven. Jigme skillfully taught on the importance of love and compassion from An Open Hearted Life. The afternoon discussion explored our lack of self-compassion when observing our mistakes or facing difficulties. We also identified specific antidotes. See October SDD photos here and watch the teaching here.
Ven. Tsepal’s younger brother (who is not Buddhist) visited the Abbey recently and participated in Sharing the Dharma Day. Upon returning home, he wrote: “It was the highlight of my year visiting you and the Abbey. I see why you are so happy there. I enjoyed the connections I had with your fellow monastics. I’ve taken home some small amount of wisdom from the weekend. You inspire me to be a better person!”
Talks in Coeur d’Alene
North Idaho College
Venerable Chodron visited North Idaho College to speak about “Connecting with Integrity.” She linked the key terms “connection” with the ability to communicate effectively, and “integrity” to the mental factors of integrity and consideration for others.
She encouraged the 100-plus people present—students and the broader community—to abandon harmful speech and to communicate in ways that are truthful, bring harmony, and encourage kindness in the world. Watch the talk here.
The next day, Venerables Samten and Lamsel visited Professor Laura Templeman’s World Religions class to answer questions that ranged from Buddhist cosmology and different classes of beings, to Buddhist funeral rites, to the meaning of the “awakening mind.”
The Joy of Love in Turbulent Times
The Unity Spiritual Center invited Venerable Chodron to speak about “The Joy of Love in Turbulent Times.” The audience was engaged as Ven. Chodron talked about the Buddhist notions of love and compassion—especially cultivating them toward all beings whether we like them or not, whether we know them or not.
She also discussed how anger prevents this by giving us a false sense of power and motivating us to speak and act in ways that bring unwanted results. We hope those in the audience will remember what they heard and apply it in their lives.
Offering Service Saturday
October’s Offering Service Saturday was a lot of fun with volunteers working in several areas of the Abbey, from the veggie and flower gardens to the forest, kitchen, and many other activities. The forest crew was the largest, and together we limbed many trees, chipped wood, and hauled away the waste left by the loggers who took down the dead trees in Manjushri’s Meadow.
There was an invigorating team spirit with everyone working together for a common purpose. There’s much more to do before winter, but the change in just one day is noticeable. See photos here.
Sandra Williams—an activist, lecturer, filmmaker, and entrepreneur, with an extensive background addressing issues of discrimination, equity, and social justice—came to guide the Abbey community in a diversity training. She got everyone involved in questioning the lenses through which we look at ourselves and others.
Talking about her own biases as well as the importance she places on her own identities, Sandy led us in discussion, exercises, and Q&A, then joined us for lunch. She said she found the community to be more diverse than she had expected and that she was impressed that everyone was so forthcoming and self-aware. We learned a lot and will continue to reflect on the issues we covered.
Several months ago, volunteers and the chaplain of the Airway Heights Correctional Center Buddhist group met at the Abbey to plan a new study and practice program, which included surveying the participants.
Responding to survey feedback, Venerables Tarpa and Losang taught the Confession to the 35 Buddhas purification practice during their September and October visits to the prison.
The men are enthusiastic about the practice and find doing purification with the four opponent powers, visualization, recitation, and prostrations meaningful.
The Abbey’s prison project also mailed about 300 copies of Unlocking Your Potential: How to Get Out of Your Own Way, a small book by Ven. Chodron and Calvin Malone. Designed to help incarcerated people reflect on their thoughts and actions, it is an interactive book with lots of questions to contemplate and exercises to do.
If you would like to contribute to mailings—we hope to send the book to the 1000+ incarcerated people who have contacted us—donations are gratefully accepted. When you give—which you can do here—please specify in the comments box or on your check that your donation is for the prison project.
Out and About
Dharma in Salt Lake City
Abbey friend Kathy Elton organized several Dharma presentations in Salt Lake City, Utah. Venerable Chonyi traveled there to meet with a fledgling Abbey-related study group, give a public talk, and a day-long Dharma workshop.
A mediator by profession, Kathy also organized a co-presentation on equanimity for attorneys and mediators. Together, Kathy and Ven. Chonyi shared the Dharma in secular terms with a room full of about 50 professionals who are not Buddhist and who deal with conflict daily. The audience willingly focused on their breath together in silence at the beginning and were intrigued to hear the simple but profound premise that every being is motivated by the wish to be happy and to avoid suffering. Presenters and participants agreed it was a fruitful session.
Venerables Jigme and Lamsel offered a meditation workshop at the Souls Center in Spokane. They gave instruction on how to settle the body and mind and use the breath to develop concentration, and then led a meditation on loving-kindness for oneself.
The afternoon discussion focused on the meaning and practice of self-compassion. Participants shared how meditation has enhanced their well-being and deepened their understanding of themselves.
Seven Tips for a Happy Life
At the request of longtime Abbey friend Bon Wakabayashi, Venerables Semkye and Nyima offered an evening class at nearby Riverside High School. Over four consecutive Mondays, a small and enthusiastic group of local residents reviewed and reflected on Seven Tips for a Happy Life, a free distribution booklet written by Venerable Chodron.
The group connected readily with the material and with each other via reflections, meditations, and group discussion. Alpha, Bon’s faithful English Cream Golden Retriever, attended the class too and gave lots of love and attention to everyone.
Spokane UU Meditation Class
Abbey nuns continued to lead the weekly class at the Spokane Unitarian Universalist Church, where they are studying Venerable Chodron’s Taming the Mind. Monastic-led classes continue until December 9.
Virtual Morning Practice Group
Do you struggle to get up and do your morning practice regularly? An enthusiastic band of Sravasti Abbey lay followers have created a daily morning Dharma group and they invite you to join them. The group meets every morning (weekends included) on the Zoom app at 6:30 a.m. (MST)—the same time that the Abbey residents begin their daily practice.
The group has been going and growing for several months now, and folks participate from several time zones. To join, follow the Zoom link or email Kathy. She will send an outline of the practices and more information on the Zoom app. There is no required commitment to join this group; just log on and connect when you can.
It’s time to sign up for the 2020 Retreat from Afar, January 3 to March 27. Commit to at least one session of the Shakyamuni Buddha practice each day, add a Lamrim meditation, and stay in touch as the Abbey goes into retreat. Learn details here and read about how to prepare for the retreat here. It’s a great way to stabilize your practice, as you can see from reading about Lynne’s “life-changing Retreat from Afar”.
Check out the article by Jhado Rinpoche Reinforcing Ordination in Daily Life” in the monastic section of ThubtenChodron.org.
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