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The smoky air from the fires cleared in September, and the kindness and hard work of many firefighters have contained most of the fires. The fires are strong and though contained, many will continue to burn for months. The Abbey community enjoyed doing their evening meditation in the upper meadow to watch the super blood moon as we welcome autumn. See September’s Abbey Life photos here.

Bhikshuni Thubten Chodron and the Sravasti Abbey Community

The Abbey Plans for the Future

As the Abbey is establishing the Dharma and sangha in the USA, we’re also preparing for future generations of monastics and lay practitioners. Thus it’s important for us to protect the quiet at our present site, nurture the natural setting, and make sure there is access to good building sites when we are ready to grow. In this light, we are engaged in purchasing a neighboring property!

Those of you who have been to the Abbey may remember that just before you start climbing the hill, there is a small house on one side of the road and a pond on the other. The people who own the house and land have had a “for sale” sign on it for a long time,and we’ve often talked about how good it would be for the Abbey to secure that land.

A few weeks ago we made an offer and after some negotiating, we settled on the price of US $250,000 to buy the 57.23 acres, including house and open water sources. We have done water, septic, and well tests and had a house inspection. This week there are a few odds and ends to take care of, and hopefully by the end of the week or the beginning of next week, escrow will close.

Having this land will be a good buffer for the Abbey, so no one can build a shooting range there or construct a big house where people play loud music all hours of the day and night. The land is very good for building as it’s right on the road, so that will make it easy for us to expand in future years. And it has a stream and pond (with turtles), which are important with climate change. Most of the land is grassland, with forest higher on the hills.

For those of you interested in living near to the Abbey, there is now a house for you to stay in! We’ll also use the house for offices in the future.

– VTC

Would you like to help lay the groundwork the Abbey’s future? Click here. (Be sure to choose “general donations” and note in the comments box that your gift is for the new property.)

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Concentration Retreat

About 40 people attended the three-day silent retreat over Labor Day. Everyone appreciated the peaceful atmosphere that silence provides and used this opportunity to deepen their meditation.

Venerable Chodron taught from Nagarjuna’s commentary on the six perfections found in the Chinese canon. The chapter on meditative stability focused on how entanglement with sense objects creates distraction in meditation and contained some amusing but to-the-point tales of the dangers of letting our minds go wild with attachment. Watch the teachings here.

People also found the afternoon session that included alternate periods of walking and sitting meditation helpful. Photos are here.

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Chenrezig Comes Home

When Chenrezig Hall was being designed, our friend Bev Brecht offered to make two stained glass windows of Chenrezig for us. Bev is the artist who made the stained glass window of Mahaprajapati Gotami, the Buddha’s step-mother and the founder of the bhikshuni order, in Gotami House. Naturally, we enthusiastically accepted her kind offer, and over the last two years she worked diligently to create the first window, One-Thousand-Armed Chenrezig.

Just before the “Madhyamaka Through Metaphors” retreat, Bev brought the window from her home in South Dakota to the Abbey. Before it was installed in the wall above the altar in the dining room, she explained in detail how she made it—drawing the arms herself, putting crystals on his ornaments, choosing the perfect type and quality of glass for each portion, firing it in a kiln. That, together with seeing the beautiful finished product, induced a feeling of awe in us. Learn more about Bev’s process here.

We disassembled the altar in Chenrezig Hall and moved all the statues to keep them safe. Then Tanya and Bev carefully lifted the circular stained glass window up to Rick and Venerable Losang, who were standing on scaffolding. They then lifted it and, with Venerable Tarpa’s skilled guidance, placed it in the window. Once the sealant dried and the statues were put on the altar again, we gathered around and consecrated the new image by invoking all the Buddhas and bodhisattvas to abide there. See the photos of the installation process.

Chenrezig radiates in different ways throughout the day, depending on the sun’s angle. Please come and see it for yourself; we really can’t describe it to you!

– VTC

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Madhyamaka Through Metaphors

After requesting Geshe Dadul Namgyal for seven years to return to the Abbey to teach, we were delighted that he taught a three-day course on “Madhyamaka Through Metaphors.”

Geshela’s understanding of American culture and of Madhyamaka philosophy are both excellent, so when they merged as a PowerPoint presentation with photos that exemplified the metaphors in the classical Tibetan texts, it really grabbed everyone’s interest.

Geshela was delighted with the progress he saw at the Abbey since his last visit in 2008, and praised the Abbey’s establishment of a monastic community that conducts the major vinaya rites. Very friendly and outgoing, Geshela enjoyed sharing his knowledge at meal times and during walks in the forest. The monastics had a private session with him, too, that we appreciated greatly.

-VTC

Watch the teachings and guided meditations here. Photos are here.

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Sharing the Dharma Day

We had another nice crowd for September’s Sharing the Dharma Day. It’s really wonderful to see the same people returning each month and bringing their friends with them.

This month’s verse from the poem, “The 37 Practices of Bodhisattvas,” was on far-reaching fortitude:

To bodhisattvas who want a wealth of virtue
Those who harm are like a precious treasure.
Therefore, towards all cultivate fortitude
Without hostility—
This is the practice of bodhisattvas.

People really resonate with verses concerning anger and how to subdue it. The afternoon discussion groups brought this out as people were asked to reflect on a situation in which they got angry, the behavior that anger prompted, and ideas about how to see those who harm us as being like a precious treasure.

People are looking for solutions to their problems and are thankful for the opportunity to learn and discuss how the Dharma relates to their daily lives.

– VTC

Watch the talk here and enjoy photos here.

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Prison Outreach

Despite prison bureaucracy and all the other obstacles that can arise, the Buddhist group at McNeill Island Special Commitment Center successfully petitioned for, acquired, and constructed a “pagoda”—a six-sided, half-walled gazebo—as a sacred space in the prison yard for meditation and other spiritual activities. Venerable Chonyi joined guests from the Zen tradition, prison officials, and Buddhist residents to help them celebrate in a daylong “Buddhist Banquet and Pagoda Dedication.”

Metta—loving-kindness—was the theme for the day, and several men shared their experiences in developing it. They especially noted the care of one particular Buddhist inmate, whose compassion inspired them to try his methods for themselves. One man described his journey to overcome hatred and concluded, “This Buddhist stuff really works!” For Venerable Chonyi, their stories illustrate the transformative power of one person’s kindness. She talks about the pagoda dedication day on Bodhisattva’s Breakfast Corner here.

Venerable Tarpa visited our local state prison on September 26th. That particular visit was noteworthy for the goodwill and harmony among the various religious traditions that share the religious activities building. She explained, “Before and after sessions, there is a mixture of folks from many world religions all together, all smiling, all respectful, and all celebrating their chosen spiritual path. To be able to share joyfully together in this way is a lesson for us all.” Venerable Tarpa shares her reflections on Bodhisattva’s Breakfast Corner here.

Cheri, the volunteer who helps us send Dharma books to the incarcerated, says that there has been an increase in requests. One man tells another, the word gets around, and many want to read the short, concise Dharma books we send them. Venerable Jigme says there are nearly 900 inmates in our database now. We send a quarterly newsletter to them, and many of them participate in the Retreat from Afar each winter.

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September Work Party

On a beautiful day, 20 people enjoyed a good time offering service at the Abbey.

Groups went into the forest, both in the morning and afternoon. The sawyers took down some trees and the rest of the guys—and a few women too—had a great time forming an “assembly line” to stack the bucked-up logs.

Other people worked in the veggie garden and cleaned windows, both of which look much better now. Another group made malas (prayer beads) for inmates, while some others made a delicious lunch that everyone enjoyed.

Many thanks to everyone who came—we really depend on volunteers’ help—and especially to Sarah and Doug who had the idea of once-a-month work parties. The next will be Saturday, October 31. See photos of all the amazing efforts here!

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In the Community

Venerable Chodron gave the Sunday talk at the Gardenia Center a few days ago. Many people thanked her afterwards for the wake up call, one person saying, “Thanks for the kick in the pants!” Watch the talk, “Love Does No Harm,” here.

Venerable Chodron also spoke to a full house at North Idaho College on “Loneliness in a Time of Connectivity.” Her sharing of views on technology and spirituality, and why she became a nun, opened a rich discussion with students and folks from the community. Watch the video here. The next day, Venerables Jigme and Damcho returned to the college for Dr. Laura Templeman’s World Religions class where, for the third year running, they fielded questions on Buddhism from enthusiastic students.

Our meditation classes continue on Monday nights at the Unitarian Universalist Church in Spokane and we will be sharing the Dharma with the CdA Dharma group in the coming months. Check the schedule below for more info.

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More News

Read Ken’s story about his big, fat, self-centered thought.

Venerable Chodron turned 65 in September. Listen to the song the community sang to wish her happy birthday, and take a look at the letter she got from the cats.

Many visitors came again this month—some for just a few hours or days, and others for a few weeks. We rejoiced in seeing our old friends Zopa and Cheryl, who stayed on after retreats, and appreciated the help of Barbara, Steven, Colin, and Venerable Samten’s sister Cheryl and brother-in-law Paul, among others. Hsiao Yin from Singapore is still with us and continues to share her steady practice.

Help Wanted: Do you love to cook? You’ll never find a more appreciative audience than Abbey residents and retreatants. We especially seek volunteer cooks for this week’s Tara retreat (October 2-9), Venerable Chodron’s 2-week course November 2-16, and the one-month winter retreat, January 15-February 12. Write the office if you’d like to know more.

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