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Summer is just beginning to change into autumn, though fall’s spectacular colors haven’t yet come. May the warmth of summer remain in our hearts as we share compassion with all beings.
Bhikshuni Thubten Chodron and the Sravasti Abbey Community

Concentration Retreat & Sharing the Dharma Day

The Labor Day retreat on Cultivating Concentration had a full house with almost 40 people in attendance. Held in silence, this retreat enabled all of us to calm our minds and deepen our meditation.

In addition to Dharma talks and meditation in the hall, a favorite daily activity was the session of alternate walking and sitting held in the garden. One group circumambulated the Buddha statue in the garden slowly, another walked around Ananda Hall a little more quickly, and a third group circumambulated a larger trail which included the site for Chenrezig Hall. Meditating in the garden, in the sun or shade, reminded us of how the disciples at the time of the Buddha practiced.

Sharing the Dharma Day also saw a full house with many new visitors coming to experience the Abbey. The topic for this Sunday’s SDD was “Science, the Mind, and Creation,” a topic that spurred a lot of good discussion and exchange of thoughts.

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A New Monastic and a New Anagarika

Venerable Jendy and two other Chinese nuns came to the Abbey to assist in the ordination. In the days before, they spoke with Terri and other Abbey residents who are in training, giving wise advice about how to prepare to become a monastic. Here is a summary of their discussions.

On September 6 Terri received both the novice and training ordinations (sramanerika and siksamana) and became Venerable Thubten Tsultrim (Venerable Ethical Conduct of the Buddha’s Doctrine). Many local supporters came to celebrate the ordination of the Abbey’s eighth monastic. They attended the beginning and end of the ordination ceremony—the actual ordination being only for bhiksunīs. Everyone enjoyed a wonderful lunch and then had the opportunity to ask questions and discuss the Dharma with our guest nuns. Elycia, a Singaporean who attended Exploring Buddhism, wrote a poem in honor of the ordination.

Jack Hillie first visited the Abbey for the young adult program, Exploring Buddhism, in 2011. Since then he has returned to the Abbey a few times to practice and offer service with the community, as well as to attend two Exploring Monastic Life programs and two Exploring Buddhism programs.

Twenty-six years old, Jack requested to take the eight anagarika precepts for a year, and his wish was granted on September 17. Many of us have since commented how he looks so much better as an anagarika! Jack gave a Bodhisattva Breakfast Corner talk about taking the precepts.

For those of you who would like to know more about monastic training at Sravasti Abbey, Jon made a great video (narrated by Peter Aronson, our old friend from Dharma Friendship Foundation).

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Chenrezig Hall

We broke ground on Chenrezig Hall on August 23, with bulldozers moving dirt all over the property, the end result being a big hole where Chenrezig Hall will be built. Then followed a period of waiting; it took longer to get the foundation permit than we expected, but once it arrived, the concrete footings were poured.

In the meantime the Faswall arrived (watch the video). This is a green building material that will last for centuries. It is great insulation and carpenter ants and mice don’t like to live in it!

Concrete for the 10-foot retaining wall—the back wall that is dug into the hillside—was poured during the last week of September. Next week we expect to pour the stem walls. We also hope to complete the insulation of the back wall and the drainage system behind it so that some of the mountains of earth can be relocated as backfill.

The building process has been very exciting for the community. Chenrezig Hall will be the hub of activity when it’s completed, with a new kitchen and dining room, more guest rooms, a chapel, workroom, media room, and more.

A kind, anonymous donor has offered a $100,000 matching gift, which will double all donations made from now until December 1. Meeting the match will be a big boost for the Abbey. If you’d like to join in making it happen, click here.

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Chenrezig & Compassion Retreat

We had a full house for the one-week Chenrezig and Compassion retreat at the end of September. What a great group! They were sincere, dedicated, harmonious, and listened attentively to the teachings on how to cultivate the altruistic intention of bodhicitta.

In the teachings about love—the wish for all sentient beings to have happiness and its causes—we discussed in depth just what happiness is and what its causes are. This prompted many intriguing discussions: all of us want happiness, but what is it? What are the various kinds of happiness? These teachings will soon be up in audio and video form for you to enjoy. Photos will be up soon too.

Work on Chenrezig Hall continued during the retreat, without one disrupting the other. The day before the retreat ended all of us gathered to watch them pour the 10 foot retaining wall, while we reflected on the kindness of others and how we are dependent on them for everything we have and use.

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Guests Galore

We welcomed many visitors to the Abbey during the summer and autumn. Among those were Richard and Jolene from Singapore, who enthusiastically joined in the Abbey daily program. Since Singapore is an island-city-country, they have had little opportunity to live in open, natural spaces and so welcomed working in the garden. They “progressed” from there to working in the forest, helping with our forest maintenance program. Take a look at them carrying logs and riding in the back of our forest truck “Haroldina,” named for its previous owner.

Laresa, from Sandpoint ID, who has attended many Abbey programs and stayed with us many times over the years, came to bid us good-bye before leaving on her two-year placement in Ethiopia as a Peace Corps volunteer. We sent her off with love and a few Dharma books and hope to see her upon her return.

Our neighbor Jo visited us again, bringing with her a portion of the ashes of her deceased husband, Pat, to spread at the Abbey. Pat and Jo have been instrumental to the growth of the Abbey; years ago Pat sat us down and asked us, “Who are you serving? How do you want to grow? What do you need to do to grow?” In doing so, he got us going on building Gotami House, with an eye towards constructing Chenrezig Hall in the future. Pat died of cancer last year, and we all miss him greatly. We’re glad that his memory is with us in the form of his ashes, which Jo thought he would want spread in the foundation of Chenrezig Hall. And so it was.

We were all happy to welcome old friend from Seattle Mike Schafer to the Abbey, and Venerable Samten’s sister and brother-in-law, Cheryl and Paul, also visited us.

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International Bhikkuni Day

The Spokesman Review, the Spokane daily newspaper, announced International Bhikkhuni Day, an event co-hosted with the Alliance for Bhikkhunis and the Unitarian Universalist Church.

Slowly, but surely, in our part of the country people are learning about Buddhism and its monastics. About 40 people listened as monastics shared their personal experience of setting forth on the path. We then had small group discussions reflecting on how the stories applied to everyone’s lives and paths.

I gave a talk on Universal Responsibility to remind us all that compassion and kindness are everyone’s responsibility, followed by more small group sharing. The friendship everyone felt for each other was palpable. SpokaneFAVS: Faith & Values covered the story and published photos and video of the Dharma talk.

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More News

We are grateful to the Conover family for hosting the Abbey’s once-a-year “Community Day,” where we take a day away from the Abbey to relax in nature. The family kindly invited us to their home on Hayden Lake where we went kayaking, boating, hiking, resting, and enjoying each others’ company. The beauty of the sparkling lake refreshed us, and the friendship nourished us.

Our new monastic, Venerable Tsultrim, tells us about the lion of pride. There are some new Bodhisattva Breakfast Corner talks on current events: healing from war and animal liberation. There is also a written reflection about animal liberation. Julia shares her experience of speaking to a child who has cancer.

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