The season is changing moment by moment as the daylight grows shorter. So, too, our minds change in each moment.
Let’s make this momentary change one that brings more compassion to our lives and the lives of others.
See photos of September Abbey life here.
Bhikshuni Thubten Chodron & the Sravasti Abbey Community
The Perfection of Generosity Retreat
The Abbey community was delighted to welcome many guests to the Labor Day retreat on the Perfection of Generosity. Ven. Chodron taught from The Great Perfection of Wisdom Treatise by Nagarjuna, which is found in the Chinese but not the Tibetan canon.
We discussed the giving of material goods, respect, protection, and the best generosity, the giving of the Dharma. In doing so, we looked closely at the notion of “mine.”
What makes something mine? How does our view of an object, relationship, or person change when we say they are mine? And how does concretizing the notion of “mine” confine our heart and prevent it from experiencing the joy of sharing and giving?
Three brothers from the Woodbury family, one of whom was accompanied by his wife, brought their mother’s ashes to the retreat. Together with some of the Abbey monastics, they went to Sukhavati, a knoll on our property named after Amitabha’s Pure Land, and spread her ashes there one evening. It was moving to hear them tell stories about their mother and express their love and gratitude for her kindness.
We rejoice in welcoming a new monk into our community!
On September 27, Stephen Taul became Ven. Thubten Ngawang (“powerful speech”). Ven. Jian Hu, former abbot of the Chung Tai Zen Center in California, served as the preceptor, and Geshe Dadul Namgyal served as the instructor. Both monks are bilingual and carried out the ordination rites in English without a hitch.
Many local lay friends know Ven. Ngawang well, as he moved from Atlanta to Spokane some years ago to be closer to the Abbey. Some of them came to rejoice in the occasion.
Since much of the ceremony is conducted by the fully ordained sangha, Ven. Sangye Khadro offered a talk for novices, trainees, and guests about the value of ordination. After a delicious lunch prepared by Kuni’s Thai Cuisine, Ven. Jianhu and Geshe Dadul gave a Q&A session, bringing a rich close to a day filled with Dharma joy. See photos here.
The Buddha Hall
Our First Concrete Pour!
The first half of September saw the hole in the middle of the meadow transform into the footprint of the Buddha Hall. The construction team built the footings and, at last, the concrete began to pour. It was a joyful moment, as we’ve been waiting years for the Buddha Hall to take shape. Watch Ven. Samten explain why watching concrete pour out of a tube can be so moving here. See photos here.
Sculptor Peter Griffin’s three central statues for the main altar of the Buddha Hall are gorgeous. He’s now guiding us in the overall design for the altar, which is complex. Ven. Ngawang was an architect before coming to the Abbey and has made computer images of various design options, which have been helpful as we make these critical decisions. Stay tuned for the latest updates here.
Inspired by the Buddha Hall
Abbey friends near and far have been inspired by our vision for the Buddha Hall. Local friend Julia was amazed to see the construction site when she came up for Sharing the Dharma Day. Read her reflection, “The Hole of Possibility” here.
Joline came to visit all the way from Singapore and shared many ideas on how the Friends of Sravasti Abbey Singapore could support the building of the Buddha Hall.
Ven. Damcho’s old friend Zihan, who is trained as a filmmaker, also came to give our PR team a crash course on making videos about the Buddha Hall.
There are so many ways everyone can contribute to the Buddha Hall— visiting and offering service, making prayers and dedications, or helping us to meet the Ground Breaking Challenge. Three Abbey supporters have challenged us to match their $500,000 gift by December 18 (Lama Tsongkhapa Day). Join in to support the Buddha Hall here.
Teachings by Ven. Chodron
Ven. Chodron continued with monthly teachings on refuge for Vajrayana Institute in Australia, explaining the ten powers of a Buddha and how to reflect on them to enrich our sense of confidence in the Three Jewels. Watch past teachings here. Register for upcoming teachings here.
At the request of the Jewel Heart Center in Nijmegen, Netherlands, Ven. Chodron is giving a series of four talks on Atisha’s Bodhisattva’s Jewel Garland. She prefers to go slowly through this rich and practical text that explains the virtuous mental states to cultivate and the unwholesome ones to abandon. Recordings will be posted next year. The final talk is on Monday, October 3. Register for it here.
Ven. Chodron also gave two short online talks on “Transforming Intellectual Knowledge into Compassionate Action” for Tushita Mahayana Meditation Centre in New Delhi. She rejoiced to connect with old Dharma friends at the center and to share the Dharma with the Indian community. She gave practical examples of how to apply teachings that can initially seem abstract, such as lists of mental factors and their definitions, by identifying them in our personal experience and transforming our mind. Watch the first talk here and the second talk here.
Teachings by Ven. Sangye Khadro
Ven. Sangye Khadro began teaching a new weekly online course for Thubten Norbu Ling in Santa Fe, New Mexico, on Chapter 4 of Maitreya’s Ornament for Clear Realizations. This chapter includes an explanation of the 37 harmonies with awakening—essential practices for all Buddhists. The course focuses on the four establishments of mindfulness: mindfulness of body, feelings, mind, and phenomena.
Watch past teachings here. Register for the course here. These teachings will be an excellent resource for people doing the Abbey’s One-Month Winter Retreat or Retreat from Afar on the Four Establishments of Mindfulness. (More on that below.)
Ven. Sangye Khadro also participated in a webinar on “Meditate with Compassion” with Victoria Coleman, director of the Foundation for the Development of Compassion and Wisdom, and Scott Snibbe, longtime student and teacher at Tse Chen Ling center in San Francisco and founder of “A Skeptic’s Path to Enlightenment” podcasts. Watch the talk here.
Like Ven. Chodron, Ven. Sangye Khadro has a long-term connection with Tushita Meditation Centre in New Delhi and gave an online talk on “Cultivating the Heart of Kindness and Compassion (and the Four Immeasurables).” Watch the talk here.
Ven. Sangye Khadro concluded the Abbey’s in-house class on Buddhist tenets. This was the first time some Abbey residents have studied this subject. The class has supported their understanding of teachings by the Dalai Lama, Ven. Chodron, and others when they refer to the positions of various Buddhist tenet schools on topics such as the basis, path, and result. Listen to the teachings here.
She also continued her monthly online meeting with the Sandpoint Sangha.
Sharing at Covenant United Methodist Church
Ven. Monlam and Abbey friend Christine presented an introduction to Buddhism at the Covenant United Methodist Church in Spokane. Ven. Monlam talked about the benefits of cultivating virtuous qualities and realistic perspectives so that we can create the causes for happiness and be of benefit to others. Christine shared how her study and practice of Buddhism has helped her become a more compassionate person and embody Christian values as well. Watch the talk here.
Mindfulness Immersion Program at Gonzaga University
For many years, the Abbey has had religious exchanges with Gonzaga University, a Catholic university in Spokane. Since 2018, Abbey monastics have participated in the annual graduate-level Mindfulness Immersion Program—part of Gonzaga’s Leadership Studies program—which involves guided meditations, teachings from Buddhism, and discussion. This year, Ven. Tarpa gave a talk and led meditations via Zoom on the four truths and the way in which monastic life supports mindfulness. The enthusiasm of the professors and the participants’ interest and probing questions are always inspiring.
Presentation for Zen Peacemakers
Ven. Semkye gave a presentation via Zoom for the Zen Peacemakers on “Spiritual Sustainability, Bearing Witness, and Taking Action.” She described how the Abbey stewards the earth through wise and kind forest management practices and using environmentally sound building practices. In this way, Dharma practitioners integrate core Buddhist principles such as dependent arising, joyous effort, fortitude and wisdom into seemingly worldly endeavors. Watch the presentation here.
Offering Service Saturday
The volunteers for Offering Service Saturday this summer have been wonderful. We value their help as well as their good nature and their being part of the Abbey community.
Jon has been tutoring some Abbey monastics on how to use the chainsaw. The results have been good with a few more dead trees taken down, their wood bucked up to be used as firewood in the winter.
Other volunteers helped process our crop of apples to make applesauce, a breakfast treat during the winter months. Others helped in the veggie and flower gardens. Thank you everyone!
The next Offering Service Saturday is on October 8. Learn more here.
Sharing the Dharma Day
This month, Ven. Damcho led the opening meditation before the talk, asking people to remember a time when they tried to help someone but got frustrated because the other person was uncooperative. What does this say about our compassion? How can we strengthen our fortitude in such situations so that we can have a truly open and compassion heart? Watch the meditation here.
Ven. Chodron then spoke on Chapter 55, “The Importance of Consistency” from An Open-Hearted Life. When acting with compassion, rather than displaying a big burst of occasional, grandiose gestures, it’s more valuable to be consistently open to others so that they may approach us when they would like help. Compassion requires sensitivity; it’s not pretending to be Mr. or Ms. Fix-It who steps in and tells others what to do. Watch the talk here.
Join our next Sharing the Dharma Day online or in person on October 16. Learn more here.
- Ven. Chodron celebrated her birthday this year with our growing community and menagerie of Buddha Bear and eight auspicious animals (Loving Lamb, Bodhi Bug, Magnanimous Mouse, Yogi Bear, Rosita Bear, Fortitude Fox, Happy Hedgehog, and Persevere Prairie Dog). See photos of the birthday party here. Meet Buddha Bear and her teaching series here.
- You may have noticed that ThubtenChodron.org has been down a lot lately. WordPress no longer supports the site’s theme, so Ven. Damcho is guiding the effort to design and build a new site. Developers at Webpop Design have done a great job. Now, dedicated volunteers are working hard to migrate content. We hope to share the new ThubtenChodron.org with you soon!
- We are excited that Geshe Yeshe Thabkhe will begin a series of weekly teachings on the Rice Seedling Sutra, Buddha’s profound teachings on the laws of karma and dependent arising. Geshe la will draw from his own commentary on the text, which includes Indian and Tibetan commentarial sources.. Watch it on YouTube Live beginning November 10. Learn more here.
- It’s time to think about the annual Winter Retreat—either joining live for the One-Month Retreat January 6 to February 5, or for the Retreat From Afar, January 6 to April 3. This year we will focus on the Four Establishments of Mindfulness, cultivating mindfulness of body, feelings, mind, and phenomena in terms of self and other to generate renunciation and bodhicitta. Learn more.
Here’s what’s happening in the next few weeks:
- Oct 1-2: Working with Emotions with Ven. Sangye Khadro on Zoom. Hosted by Centre Kalachakra in France.
- Oct 3-Nov 11: Illumination of the Thought with Geshe Yesi Lhundhup in person and on YouTube, 9-10:30 am Pacific Time.
- Oct 3: Bodhisattva’s Jewel Garland with Ven. Thubten Chodron on Zoom 10:30 am Pacific Time. Hosted by Jewel Heart Nijmegen, Netherlands.
- Oct 7: Dharma in Daily Life Conference with Ven. Thubten Chodron and other speakers online. Hosted by Vajrayana Institute in Australia.
- Oct 8: Offering Service Saturday in person
- Oct 15-16: Peaceful Living, Peaceful Dying with Ven. Sangye Khadro online. Hosted by Togme Sangpo Buddhist Group in Scotland.
- Oct 16: Sharing the Dharma Day in person and online
- Oct 18: Building Confidence and Resilience with Joy with Ven. Thubten Chodron on Zoom
- Oct 22: Refuge, from Following in the Buddha’s Footsteps, with Ven. Thubten Chodron on Zoom
- Oct 23: Medicine Buddha Puja on Zoom
Plus regular ongoing teachings:
- Ornament for Clear Realization, Chapter 4, with Ven. Sangye Khadro on Zoom on Wednesday evenings, 6 pm Pacific Time, till Nov 30. Hosted by Thubten Norbu Ling, Santa Fe.
- Engaging in the Bodhisattva’s Deeds with Ven. Thubten Chodron streamed live on Thursday mornings, 10 am Pacific Time.
Check the Abbey Events page for much more.