- Geshe Yeshe Thabkhe and the 400 Stanzas
- Sharing the Dharma Day
- Chenrezig Retreat and Parting from the Four Clingings
- Forest Project
- A New Book!
- A New Website!
- Other News
The changing of the seasons is becoming more evident day by day at the Abbey as twilight comes earlier and dawn a little later. The bush is turning yellow, but the leaves on the deciduous trees have not turned color yet. The warmth of summer is present in midday, but we need another light cover when sleeping.
Meanwhile, the long term guests—Christiaan, Nate, Brian, and Austin—who had spent a good part of the summer with us, departed. New guests came too—Stephen, Howard, Alvaro, and others—and we were delighted that Kathleen (Zopa), a former resident, visited us for three weeks.
After an active summer, the community enjoyed two wonderful outings to local sites: a day of rest on Hayden Lake in Idaho and a journey to the old growth Ross Creek Cedars and Kootenai Falls in Montana.
Abbey life continues.
Bhiksuni Thubten Chodron and the Sravasti Abbey Community
Geshela taught the first 100 verses last summer and continued with the next 100 this summer. At the conclusion of the teachings, we immediately invited him to come the next two summers to continue these precious teachings. In the intervening year, it is now our responsibility to reflect on and practice what Geshela and Aryadeva so kindly taught us.
Joshua Cutler returned to serve as Geshela’s interpreter. Joshua has been Geshe Thabkhe’s student for 35 years, and he’s a wonderful scholar in his own right. His care and precision enriched the great wisdom Geshela brought to us.
In addition to teaching at least four hours every day for a week, Geshela did two extensive Q&A sessions with us. He taught with such vitality and compassion, and although he has difficulties with his legs and walks with a cane, he walked up the hill from the teacher’s cabin to the meditation hall with joy in his steps.
We had another lovely Sharing the Dharma Day in September with 40 people in attendance. This month we explored this verse in the “Thirty-seven Practices of Bodhisattvas”:
Though you lack what you need and are constantly disparaged,
Afflicted by dangerous sickness and spirits,
Without discouragement take on the misdeeds
And the pain of all living beings—
This is the practice of bodhisattvas.
The Dharma talk centered around the difference between how we usually handle such situations—with anger or with self-pity—and the way to train ourselves to respond to them with compassion (wishing others to be free from suffering and its causes) and love (wishing others to have happiness and its causes). In the group discussion in the afternoon, we applied the meaning of this verse to our own lives. This enabled all of us to share the habitual ways we deal with everything-going-wrong and our fledgling attempts to shift our mental focus towards a more realistic and beneficial way of seeing things.
The group attending the Chenrezig retreat was a very earnest one. Many of the guests had been to the Abbey before and others had watched teachings on YouTube and so were familiar with how we practice. This enabled the group to delve into the teachings on “Parting from the Four Clingings” on a deeper level.
The text is powerful and to the point, giving much inspiration to develop the three principal aspects of the path and engage in the Chenrezig practice. All the retreat teachings are online.
The discussion groups were potent with people sharing how they apply the teachings in their daily lives.
Several of the “thubtenchodron dot org migration team”—the group of volunteers working on the new website (see below)—were here for the retreat too. They knew each other due to emailing online while moving material from the old site to the new one, and this was the first time many of them had met in person. They greeted each other like old friends. They were happy to meditate together and have a break from looking at computer screens.
Brian, the Abbey community, and our wonderful volunteers this summer have made great progress in thinning a portion of the forest on the Bodhisattva Loop.
Several of us go in as the “advance crew,” pruning branches, removing dead trees, and cutting down the small trees that contribute to the overcrowding and competition for water and sunlight in the dense forest. Then Brian comes in and takes down the bigger trees that our chainsaw-wielding nuns—Venerables Semkye and Samten—buck up. Then the rest of us come in and stack the wood so it can weather in the forest or toss it in our ’77 Chevy truck named “Haroldina” and take it down to our parking area.
It’s great fun doing this and good exercise too. In addition, we have many good Dharma discussions among the trees and build community spirit by cooperating together on this big project.
Al and his crew from Timber Ventures have begun working on the 23 acres in the area of our forest we call “Milarepa’s Mile” because of its remoteness and steep slopes. His crew cuts the excess trees and then the masticator that Al operates so adroitly chews them up and spews out the remaining pieces to decompose on the forest floor. It’s impressive to watch, and in some places we can now see light on the forest floor where none could penetrate before.
We are grateful to a benefactor who supports forest health for enabling us to hire Al and his crew, and the Dept. of Natural Resources will also chip in to help us cover the costs. We’re appreciative because this part of the forest requires skill and equipment that we lack.
Venerable Chodron’s latest book, Buddhism: One Teacher, Many Traditions, will be available on November 11, published by Wisdom Publications. His Holiness the Dalai Lama is the lead author, and Venerable Chodron worked with him on it for a number of years, editing his teachings and researching other Buddhist traditions.
The new book intends to bring the various Buddhist traditions closer to each other by learning each other’s teachings and practices.
Mandala Magazine interviewed Venerable Chodron, who spoke of how the book came into being and how writing it transformed her perspective on the Buddha.
Venerable Chodron’s website, thubtenchodron.org, has grown to thousands of pages of teachings and articles since it was first established by volunteers in Singapore over 10 years ago.
After years of adding new Dharma content, it was time for a completely new website, which we just launched: the all-new ThubtenChodron.org.
Peter Aronson did a terrific job of designing the new site, adding many features that make it easy to use. It has a beautiful new lay-out and works well on any device — Mac, PC, smartphone, or tablet. There’s an efficient search function, the newest articles always appear at the top of the home page, and there’s now an integration of audio, video, and text articles.
More than 40 volunteers have helped to “migrate” the thousands of audio and transcribed teachings and articles into the new site. Each volunteer goes through a 3-hour training course and exam to work on the WordPress site, and the volunteers devote hours each week to creating and proofreading posts.
About 30% of the website material has been migrated to the new platform. The remaining 70% is archived at archive.thubtenchodron.org and the team is steadily transitioning that material to the new site too.
Watch Venerable Chodron’s Bodhisattva’s Breakfast Corner talk about the site launch where she shares a letter from volunteer coordinator Heather Duechsher about her experience of this project.
We’re still looking for volunteers to help with the site migration to WordPress, especially people who are proficient in Spanish. If you would like to be part of this virtuous project to make the Dharma accessible to the world online, please email vtcwebsitecoordinator and let us know how you’d like to help.
And do take some time to browse the new site. People are really loving it.
An article in the Northwest Dharma Association News tells about the opening of Chenrezig Hall.
Commenting on his poor concentration and wandering mind, Michael wrote a poem showing how our addiction to the Internet distracts us from Dharma practice.
Our local Dharma classes are beginning their fall sessions. The Buddhist meditation class at the Spokane Unitarian Universalist Church begins October 6 for a 6-week session, and classes in Coeur d’Alene start October 17. Both will rely on Venerable Chodron’s book, Living with an Open Heart, co-authored with Eastern Washington University Professor Russell Kolts. Find the details in the schedule below.
Friends of Sravasti Abbey are hosting the Annual Alms Bowl Rummage Sale on Saturday, October 4 to benefit the Abbey food fund. These volunteers regularly make food offerings to sustain the community, and the annual rummage sale supports that effort. The sale is at the Spokane Unity Church at 29th and Bernard from 8 am to 2 pm. Venerables Samten and Jampa will also be there to offer pet blessings from 9 to 11:30. To offer used items or to volunteer your time, write Tracy.