Dear Friends,

The leaves begin to change colors and the warmth of summer becomes the fresh air of autumn. Likewise, some of our activities change, while others do not.

We’re preparing for winter—removing dead wood and branches from the forest, planting grass seed where the lawn was dug up to put in a drain, filling the furnace room with firewood, and cooking apples and plums to eat during the winter.

Meanwhile, our Dharma practice remains steady and our confidence in the Buddha’s teachings increases. May you enjoy the beauty of autumn and the beauty of the Buddha’s teachings too.

See photos of October Abbey life here and here.

Bhikshuni Thubten Chodron & the Sravasti Abbey Community

Illumination of the Thought

We’re privileged to have Geshe Yeshi Lhundup teach Tsongkhapa’s Illumination of the Thought three times a week for six weeks. This lengthy text, which Geshela has been teaching us in installments over the years, is one of Tsongkhapa’s treasured texts explaining the ten perfections (paramitas).

Thus far, Geshela has given commentary on the chapters on ethical conduct, fortitude (patience, forbearance), and joyous effort (diligence). Geshe Dadul Namgyal is also at the Abbey and the two geshes are giving three review sessions each week. Need we say what a joy this is?

Watch the archived teachings or tune in live through November 11 on YouTube here.

Sharing the Dharma Day

We were delighted to welcome a wave of old and new Dharma friends for October’s Sharing the Dharma Day. Ven. Tsepal led the morning meditation on the day’s topic, “Compassion and Personal Distress” from An Open-Hearted Life by Ven. Chodron and Dr. Russell Kolts. Watch the meditation here.

Ven. Chodron then gave a powerful talk on the difference between compassion and personal distress. When we see or hear about others’ suffering, we may feel overwhelmed with worry and distress and mistake these reactions for compassion.

However, when our hearts are compassionate, our focus remains on the other person(s). With personal distress, our focus shifts to ourselves, and the accompanying feelings of helplessness and hopelessness hinder us from helping others at that moment.

The discussion group that followed delved into our own experiences of personal distress and how to rebalance our minds so we can reach out and benefit others when they most need it. Watch the talk here. See photos here.

Join us for the November 13 Sharing the Dharma Day—the last one for 2022—in person or online. Learn more here.

The Buddha Hall

The Buddha Hall is gradually arising out of the big hole that was once a meadow. It’s exciting to watch. See photos here.

Walls Went Up

A lot of progress has been made since the pouring of the stem walls of the Buddha Hall on September 28. The next day, Everett Concrete started stripping the wooden supports for the pour, revealing one-foot thick walls (some were 16’ high, others were much lower) and eight columns to support the south portion of the deck.

Pipes Were Laid

The Young Construction team began to set the Faswall blocks on the east, north and south sections of the building. These will form the outer walls of the Buddha Hall. Concurrently, the excavation team began to dig trenches for the pipes and conduit that will carry water and power throughout the building. Learn more about Faswall here.

And Water Tanks Went In!

To meet fire suppression requirements for the Buddha Hall, we needed to add four new water tanks to our present water system. The excavation team got the tanks in just in time, as our weather began turning to rain with some snow flurries.

Each tank weighs 30,000 pounds, so timing was critical for getting them up the steep incline to the upper meadow before the road turned into a mud slick.

The truck driver’s skill, as well as the great care of the excavation team and an engineer from Sewell Engineering, ensured that the tanks were all set at the right depth.

Stay Tuned for More

Next steps include: pouring cement into the Faswall blocks, finalizing preparations to pour the slab, installing the pipes on the water tanks, and burying the tanks.

Watch the Buddha Hall: Walls & Faswall video to see the construction progress.

$500,000 Challenge

More than 600 donors have made offerings toward matching the $500,000 Ground Breaking Challenge, and we are almost halfway to the goal. The deadline is December 18, Lama Tsongkhapa Day.

By matching this challenge, we create $1 million toward Buddha Hall construction this year. That’s a big percentage of the $3.5 milllion still needed to complete the Buddha Hall in 2023.

In his Lamrim dedication prayer, Lama Tsongkhapa wrote:

“In regions where the supreme, precious teaching has not spread
or where it has spread but then declined,
with my heart deeply moved by great compassion,
may I illumine this treasure of happiness and benefit.”

By building this Buddha Hall together, we help establish the Buddha’s precious teachings in a new land where it has never spread before. You can make an offering—one time or monthly—here.

Dharma Outreach

Teachings on Refuge

Ven. Chodron continued with monthly talks on refuge from Following in the Buddha’s Footsteps, Volume 4 of The Library of Wisdom and Compassion, for Vajrayana Institute in Sydney.

After covering the ten powers of the Buddha last month, she taught on the eighteen unshared qualities of the Buddha, encouraging us to reflect on what it might be like to have these marvelous qualities to inspire our Dharma practice.

Don’t miss the final talk in this series on November 19 in the US/ November 20 in Sydney. Register on the Vajrayana Institute website here. Watch last month’s talk here and this month’s talk here.

37 Harmonies with Awakening

Ven. Sangye Khadro’s weekly online class on the 37 Harmonies with Awakening—taught for Thubten Norbu Ling in Santa Fe, New Mexico—continued throughout October. At present, Ven. Khadro is focusing on the four establishments of mindfulness, which is the topic of this year’s Winter Retreat and Retreat from Afar. Watch archived teachings here. To join in live, register here.

Atisha’s Jeweled Garland

Ven. Chodron completed a four-part series of talks on Atisha’s Jeweled Garland, requested by Jewel Heart Nijmegen in Holland. These talks dwelt on topics that are easy to understand but not so easy to practice, even though they are critical if we want to abandon negativity and create goodness in the world.

The first talk covered remedies to doubt, lethargy, and laziness in our practice. The second talk addressed mindfulness and conscientiousness. The third talk dealt with overcoming pride and developing transparency, and the fourth talk advised us on methods to overcome the eight worldly concerns and cultivate satisfaction and kindness. Everyone wanted to continue the text in the future.

The series will be broadcast online by Gompa Tibetan Monastery Services next year.

Working with Emotions

Ven. Sangye Khadro taught a weekend course on “Working with Emotions” for Kalachakra Center in Paris that focused on antidotes we can use to manage emotions that disturb our mind, such as anger, attachment, and fear. Abbey residents attended, too. The course included meditations on some of the antidotes and lively, informative discussions. Watch for edited recordings on our YouTube channel soon.

Peaceful Living, Peaceful Dying

Ven. Sangye Khadro also taught the course “Peaceful Living, Peaceful Dying” for Togme Sangpo Buddhist Group in Scotland. She looked at ways to prepare ourselves for death and help others who are dying. All the participants were women living in the U.K. and the U.S. The group had a number of intimate and meaningful discussions because one participant was terminally ill, another’s father was close to death, and others shared recent experiences of losing close friends or family members. Watch for teachings on the YouTube channel.

Local Groups Meeting Online

Ven. Khadro continues her monthly online meeting with the Sandpoint (Idaho) Sangha on “The Eight Verses of Thought Transformation.”

Abbey nuns continue their weekly Spokane Monday night meditation class over Zoom. They are studying An Open-hearted Life by Ven. Thubten Chodron and psychologist, Dr. Russell Kolts.

School Outreach

North Idaho College

Ven. Chodron kept up her connection with students at North Idaho College and the broader college community, offering a talk via Zoom entitled “Building Confidence and Resilience with Joy.” She spoke about developing genuine self-confidence based on having a good motivation instead of being attached to what others think of us. The 50-plus participants listened keenly and students asked practical questions about how to deal with difficult people and overcome negative self-talk. Watch the talk here.

Nan Tien Institute

Every year, Nan Tien Institute, a Buddhist college in Australia, invites Ven. Chodron to be part of an online module on “Foundational Texts in Humanistic Buddhism.” When she was in Sydney in 2019, Ven. Chodron recorded lectures for the course about Shantideva’s Engaging in the Bodhisattva’s Deeds, and she offers a live Q&A session for the students after they watch the lectures. She also joins an online panel with other course lecturers from different Buddhist traditions to respond to students’ queries. As with past years, students from all walks of life and different ages asked rich questions ranging from how rebirth works, to how to live with wisdom and compassion.

Western Washington University

Ven. Khadro met online with a class studying Women and Religion at Western Washington University where she spoke briefly about how she began studying Buddhism and why she decided to become a monastic. She then answered questions from the students who were interested to know how her parents reacted to her becoming a Buddhist monastic, how Buddhism differs from Catholicism, what it’s like living at the Abbey, and so on.

Sandpoint High School

Two groups of monastics connected with an Anthropology class at Sandpoint High School in Idaho via Zoom. Monastics led a short meditation and motivation and spoke about their journeys to ordination and how Buddhism has improved their lives.

Students’ questions covered the Four Noble Truths, the Abbey’s daily schedule, and challenges of monastic life. The nuns were inspired to share the Dharma with young people who are searching for meaning and purpose in their lives.

Interreligious Activities

Religious Liberty for All

The Abbey extended its interfaith outreach at an event to promote religious freedom and tolerance at Spokane’s Salvation Army Headquarters. While the Abbey regularly shares in interfaith activities, this was our first invitation from conservative Christians.

Ven. Chonyi joined a key leader from the Mormon Church, pastors from a Seventh-day Adventist Church and a non-denomntational evangelical church, and a Catholic priest for a 45-minute panel discussion.

The organizers were eager for Buddhist participation and welcomed Ven. Chonyi warmly. She seemed to be the only non-Christian in the crowd of about 50 people. Afterwards, several people told her they had learned a lot from hearing a Buddhist perspective. Spokane FāVS reported on the event. Read about it here. Photo is by Cassy Benefield, Spokane FāVS.

North Idaho Unitarian Universalist Service

Ven. Chonyi gave the Sunday sermon over Zoom for the North Idaho Unitarian Universalist fellowship in Coeur d’Alene. The topic, “Naturally Good or Born Sinners?” explored spirituality, religion, and secular ethics. Ven. Chonyi drew from the 14th Dalai Lama’s book, Beyond Religion: Ethics for a Whole World, which makes a brilliantly reasoned case for grounding 21st century ethics in universal human values like love and compassion.

Interfaith in Newport

Ven. Semkye meets monthly with an interfaith group closer to home in Newport. Since the Abbey is located in a conservative part of the country, it’s important that we reach out and be involved with our community, regardless of religious or political orientation. Together, the group has made a banner lauding diversity and kindness and hung it around town.

Healing the Earth

Vens. Semkye, Kunga, and Dekyi attended an environmental vigil at Old Mission State Park in Cataldo, Idaho organized by Faith Leaders and Leaders of Conscience of Eastern Washington and North Idaho.

Speakers included a local Catholic nun and priest, and representatives from the Silver Valley Community Resource Center, which raises awareness of health dangers associated with pollution left by mining industries in the area.

Abbey monastics spoke in support of their efforts, emphasizing the importance of interfaith dialogue on social issues. The nuns especially enjoyed connecting with Catholic sisters who have been advancing environmental issues for decades.

Connecting with Carmelite Sisters

Every year, Vens. Tarpa and Semkye meet with our Catholic Carmelite friends and neighbors, Sisters Nancy and Leslie, for an informal interfaith dialogue. The nuns share a deep respect for each other’s traditions and way of life. This year they celebrated the publication of Sister Leslie’s book about St. John of the Cross. They also made prayers for each other, and appreciated the sisters conducting a Carmelite mass in honor of St. Teresa, which was dedicated to Ven. Tarpa’s Catholic family and her recently deceased sibling.

Offering Service Saturday

There was a great collection of enthusiastic volunteers at this month’s Offering Service Saturday.

They made good progress on clearing dead wood and limbing branches in an area of the forest called Snow Diamond as part of our fire mitigation work. People had fun doing this, and that area of the forest looked so much nicer afterwards.

Meanwhile, another group made rolls of mantra to put inside the new statues that artist Peter Griffin has sculpted for the main altar in the Buddha Hall. See photos here.

Our next Offering Service Saturday is on November 5. Learn more here.

Online Conferences

Prison Mindfulness Summit

Online learning opportunities continue to abound in this time of Covid, including a recent five-day Prison Mindfulness Summit. Ven. Chodron was one of more than 28 speakers on the program. Dr. Fleet Maul, founder of the Prison Mindfulness Institute, interviewed her about her work corresponding with and teaching the Dharma to people in prison for decades. You can access all the recordings here.

Dharma in Daily Life Conference

Ven. Chodron also recorded a short talk on how to put the Dharma teachings we hear into practice in daily life for a virtual Dharma in Daily Life Conference, hosted by Vajrayana Institute in Australia. Watch conference recordings here.

More News

  • Sravasti Abbey celebrated our 19th birthday this year. Vens. Chodron, Semkye, and Jigme shared what it was like to move in on October 17, 2003. Watch their reflections here and here.
  • Ven. Chodron was invited to write an article, “Compassion Manifesting in Skillful Means,” for a special edition of the peer-reviewed journal Mindfulness. She discusses what compassion is and is not, how to generate compassion, and the meaning of skillful means in a Buddhist context. The article speaks to academics and researchers in contemplative studies, as well as spiritual practitioners. Read the full article here, shared as part of the Springer Nature Content Sharing Initiative.
  • Ven. Sangye Khadro spoke on why people ordain as monastics at Ven. Ngawang’s ordination last month. Watch her talk, “We Ordain to be Happy,” here.

  • Ven. Sangye Khadro’s teachings from the How to Meditate 2022 retreat at Sravasti Abbey are now available on YouTube. Watch them here.

  • Ven. Nyima’s Spanish teachings on thought transformation for Ganden Shedrub Ling in Puerto Rico are also available on YouTube. Watch them here.

  • Sign up now for the winter Retreat from Afar. Better yet, join us in person for the One-month Winter Retreat. Both retreats focus on the four establishments of mindfulness.

Upcoming Events

Here’s what’s happening in the next few weeks:

Plus regular ongoing teachings:

Check the Abbey Events page for much more.