Some of you may have wondered what happened to the Abbey community after the ordination on September 16. The answer is simple: all of us (except two people) came down with Covid! Since then we have maintained isolation, meditating, and doing group pujas on Zoom from our rooms.
Ven. Damcho and Tenzin (Kenryuu) kept things going, and then “Kindness”—the newly-inaugurated Covid cooking crew composed of Donna, Danna, Margaret, Janet, Cappy, Chris, and others—brought delicious cooked meals to the Abbey daily.
We sent them thank you notes and they thanked us in return:
“Thank you for the lovely sentiments. We know your gratitude is genuine and so kind. We just hope that everyone recovers well and quickly. It is our great pleasure to be able to offer some small assistance in helping our beloved Dharma friends at any time, but especially during this crisis❣️”
“It is a great pleasure to be able to support the Abbey. I am grateful that I was able to do so.”
Fortunately, none of us got so ill as to require hospitalization, but those of us 60 and over discovered another advantage of aging—we were able to get Paxlovid, a wonderful new medicine against viruses. We’re all slowly recovering now.
Bhikshuni Thubten Chodron & the Sravasti Abbey Community
Two New Nuns
Lest you think that the Abbey was hit by an evacuation from nearby forest fires and a Covid outbreak without a break, we had a wonderful, inspiring pause between these two challenges.
It came in the form of the sramaneri and siksamana ordinations of Ven. Puntsok (Anagarika Munsel, Sydney Cohn) and Ven. Pelgye (Anagarika Dronsel, Yap Xin Yi Yvonne), and the siksamana ordination of Ven. Karya from the Dharmadatta Nuns Community in Virginia.
All three nuns are young and have great potential. Ven. Puntsok’s parents came for the ordination—we’re always very happy when parents visit the Abbey—and two friends from Singapore came to see Ven. Pelgye become a nun. There was a joyous feeling in adding two new monastics to the Abbey—now there are 24 of us!
See pics from the ordination.Photos are by Gen Heywood Photography.
The Abbey’s 20th Anniversary
The Abbey’s 20th anniversary is around the corner. We’re delighted to share this celebration with you on October 15, 10 am-3 pm. Click here to register your in-person attendance.
You’ll see “old” videos and listen to us reminisce and recount the serious as well as the hilarious events that happened.
The morning session will also be streamed on YouTube.
In preparation, you may want to read Ven. Chonyi’s interview of Ven. Chodron as she looks back over the Abbey’s first 20 years: Sravasti Abbey: A Dependent Arising.
The Buddha Hall
With the onset of autumn, construction on the Buddha Hall has speeded up in hopes of finishing several projects before the rain begins. See the most recent photo gallery.
Lots of Progress!
Regarding infrastructure: crews poured concrete for the sand filter in the septic system, the electrician and his crew are active in the main building, and the stucco men are doing their thing.
The big news is about the geothermal field for our heating-cooling systems, which involved tearing up the upper meadow to put in sets of 28 pipes. It is now complete.
The walls, interior framing, trusses, and part of the roof on the teacher’s wing and Metta Cabin (at the end of the garden) are complete. Here’s a video clip of the north side of the Buddha Hall with the preparation for stucco and the framers and roofers at work on the teacher’s wing.
Here’s a clip of the speedy team shingling the north side and the teacher’s wing. Watch them compact the structural fill to build the retaining wall on the west side of the Hall (the sand filter is in the background). You can stay up to date on construction by watching update videos here.
Holy Objects Update
For those of us who don’t understand the vocabulary of construction, the really exciting things are the holy objects waiting for the Buddha Hall (read a post about them here).
Due to your kind donations, the paintings of the 21 Taras that Ven. Pema commissioned have been framed. Although in storage until the Tara Room is finished, the thangkas are stunning (see photos here).
The ganjiras (roof ornaments) and Dharma wheel and deer that will adorn the parapet have finally arrived (don’t ask about the hassle to get them here). There was great excitement opening the crates revealing the incredible detail the metal artisans brought out in them. They will go to an auto shop painter to make the copper ornaments look like gold.Don’t miss the video about them here.
Meanwhile the structural engineer, the contractor, and a Tibetan friend are cooperating to find the best way to mount the ganjiras on the roof.
The Best Anniversary Gift
Speaking on behalf of the Abbey’s friends, Heather said, “Your gifts will join with others in a salute to the Abbey’s two decades of service. It’s our gift to the Buddha Hall!” See her video here.
All Buddha Hall offerings from now until the end of 2023 will be considered anniversary gifts.
International Bhikshuni Varsa Ends
Venerable Tsepal represented the Abbey during the final weeks of the historic International Bhikshuni Varsa in India, July 28 to Sept. 16.
Sponsored by His Eminence Drikung Kyabgon Chetsang Rinpoche, the 6-week half varsa brought 128 nuns from 10 countries to share the Dharma and learn from each other. Read our post about the background and first weeks of the Varsa here.
Ven. Tsepal led the nuns in learning the closing varsa ceremony, the pravarana. After weeks of living and practicing together, the pravarana opens the door for nuns to comment on one another’s behavior.
Ven. Tsepal explained how to do the ritual, led a discussion on how to give and receive feedback, and met with language groups individually to make sure they understood the format of the closing ceremonies. “By the end of the varsa,” she reported, “all the Vinaya rituals could be performed with amazing harmony and joy.”
Abbey nuns are grateful to have been a part of such an important event, a milestone for nuns worldwide. Read a full report here.
Retreat on the Six Perfections
Geshe Chodrak led a beautiful Labor Day weekend retreat on the bodhisattva perfections, emphasizing the perfection of ethical conduct.Retreat pics are here.
He covered the four immeasureables and the two methods to develop bodhicitta: seven-point cause and effect and equalizing and exchanging self and others. He also focused on the three types of ethical conduct: restraint from non-virtue, gathering virtue, and working for the welfare of sentient beings.
Discussion groups and Q&A sessions focused on applying ethical guidelines to situations in daily life. Geshe Chodrak concluded the retreat by encouraging everyone to focus on developing a good heart and left us with newfound appreciation of the connection between ethical conduct and bodhicitta. Watch the teachings on YouTube.
Offering Service Saturday
Offering Service Saturday (OSS) was another enthusiastic day of protecting against potential forest fires. Having just returned after a one-week evacuation that left 126 homes and acres of forest near us burnt, we put fire mitigation at the top of our list for OSS days.
Jon worked wonders with the chainsaw, Tenzin learned to use the saw-on-a-pole to cut dead branches high in the trees, and others pulled out dead trees and branches. Another crew rolled mantra that will be put inside the ganjira decorations on the Buddha Hall.
Everyone had a great time, and together we accomplished a lot!
Rain, hail, snow, or Covid, Abbey monastics are committed to sharing the Dharma.
- Geshe Chodrak and Ven. Chodron participated in a panel organized by the Portland Reception Committee to celebrate His Holiness’s Four Commitments. Geshe-la spoke about the important dialogue between Buddhism and science, while Ven. Chodron spoke on Tibetan language, culture, and environmental protection. Watch the panel here. (All of it except for Ven. Chodron’s talk is in Tibetan.)
- Ven. Chodron gave an online talk to Vajrayana Institute in Australia on “Awareness of Our Body and Speech” in which she focused on how to use our speech wisely and kindly to point out others’ good qualities and helpful actions and to heal misunderstandings. Mindfulness that monitors our motivation for speaking and the effects of our speech on others is a good way to deepen our understanding of ourselves and transform our relationships with others. Ven. Chodron also spoke on “Open Heart, Clear Mind” for the Metta Convention organized by the Metta Centre in Australia.
- Ven. Sangye Khadro has been actively teaching online and in person. She spoke on “Cultivating Kindness” for Innercraft, an online platform offering talks and courses on meditation from different spiritual traditions.She also began teaching a 12-week online course on Seventy Topics—the main subject matter of Maitreya’s Ornament for Clear Realization—for the Tse Chen Ling center in San Francisco. This text clarifies the details of the bodhisattva’s path explained in the Buddha’s Perfection of Wisdom Sutras.Ven. Sangye Khadro also began a weekly series of talks for local people at the Create Arts Center in Newport entitled “Courageous and Kind.” Her talks share Buddhist wisdom on how to transform our minds and lives to be more peaceful, happy, and positive.She gave her monthly talk for the Sandpoint Sangha, continuing with the theme of how to prepare for death.She also taught a workshop for Kalachakra Center, Paris entitled “A Glimpse into Emptiness,” and gave a short talk on “Compassion for Oneself, Compassion for Others” for the Metta Convention in Australia.
- Watch this short film by The New York Times to see why the Abbey’s prison project is dedicated to helping the incarcerated.
- A recent letter that Connor wrote to Ven. Jigme shows the results of our work with the incarcerated. His words are powerful.Read them here.
- Daniel, who is incarcerated in California, has been corresponding with Ven. Chodron for years and avidly reads every Dharma book we send and asks for more. In a recent letter to Ven. Chodron, he spoke about his delight and determination to practice no matter what environment he lives in. Read his letter here.
A New Book
Appearing and Empty, a new book by His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Ven. Chodron and published by Wisdom Publications, just came out. It’s the ninth volume of their series The Library of Wisdom and Compassion, and the third volume on the topic of the ultimate nature, the emptiness of inherent existence.
About the book, Roger Jackson said, “Incisive, illuminating, and highly readable, ‘Appearing and Empty’ is a welcome addition to the bookshelves of followers of the Dalai Lama and students of Buddhism everywhere.”
Joan Halifax wrote, “This extraordinary book is a treasury of wisdom from two great teachers.”
Buddhist Global Relief
Buddhist Global Relief (BGR) is a wonderful international organization inspired by Bhikkhu Bodhi to feed those who lack food security and to educate children who lack proper schools.
In 2023, thanks to the generosity of their supporters, BGR is supporting 60 projects in 20 countries—feeding hungry people, educating children, providing vocational opportunities for women in need, and supporting smallholder farmers in increasing their productivity and climate-resilience through environmentally sustainable agricultural methods.
With your support, BGR will continue to grow so that they may help provide more people with the fundamental material support needed for a healthy life. Their major inviting generosity program for the year, “Creating a World That Works for Everyone,” is coming up October 28 from 10 am – noon PT. Click here to register, fundraise, or donate.
- The Abbey community delighted in cooking lunch to honor the kind families that took in Abbey monastics during the wildfire evacuation. Of course, ten monastics in the kitchen at once to prepare a meal was a meagre attempt to repay the kindness of our hosts. It was nothing in comparison to their kindness in taking us in with little notice and caring for us for a week.
- Local religious newspaper The Fig Tree published Ven. Samten’s account of the community’s evacuation due to the Oregon Road Fire in August. Click here to read her article “Sravasti Abbey finds welcoming hosts.” You can also see photos from the evacuation.
- Venerable Chodron’s upcoming teaching tour in Asia includes stops in Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Taiwan. Visit ThubtenChodron.org to see the full schedule.
- Starting October 6, please check our Events Calendar for the start times of the Samsara, Nirvana, and Buddha Nature classes on Fridays, as the community will be watching the second part of Geshe Thabkhe’s commentary on the Diamond Cutter Sutra on Tuesdays and Fridays in October at 4-6pm PT.
- You can now watch Ven. Chodron’s June and July talks for the Vajrayana Institute on our YouTube channel (click the titles): “Transforming Knowledge into Action” and “Overcoming Obstacles to Practice.”
- Some British politicians meditate and say it makes them better politicians. Read about it here.
Here’s what’s happening in October:
September 10-October 22: BuddhaFest with Ven. Thubten Chodron on Zoom, hosted by Lion’s Roar
October 1: Meditation on Love with Ven. Thubten Chonyi in Coeur d’Alene, ID, hosted by North Idaho Unitarian Universalist Fellowship
October 2-30, Mondays: Courageous and Kind with Ven. Sangye Khadro and Abbey monastics at Create Art Center in Newport, WA
October 4: Four Thoughts that Turn the Mind to the Dharma with Ven. Thubten Chodron on Zoom, hosted by Innercraft
October 5-26, Thursdays: 70 Topics with Ven. Sangye Khadro online, hosted by Tse Chen Ling
October 7-8: Good Grief Retreat with Ven. Sangye Khadro, online only
October 7: Open Heart, Clear Mind: Buddhism for Modern Life with Ven. Thubten Chodron on Zoom, hosted by The Theosophical Society in America
October 8: A Matter of Life and Death Workshop with Ven. Sangye Khadro in Singapore, hosted by Amitabha Buddhist Centre
October 10: Kindness in Practice with Ven. Thubten Chodron on Zoom, hosted by North Idaho College
October 13: Dharma in Daily Life Conference with Vens. Chodron, Sangye Khadro & Damcho on Zoom, hosted by Vajrayana Institute in Sydney
October 15: Sravasti Abbey’s 20th Anniversary Celebration!
October 21: Offering Service Saturday with the Sravasti Abbey community
October 21: Cultivating a Healthy Sense of Self with Ven. Thubten Chodron on Zoom, hosted by Vajrayana Institute in Sydney
October 21-22: A Glimpse of Emptiness with Ven. Sangye Khadro on Zoom, hosted by Togme Sangpo Buddhist Group Scotland
October 22: Medicine Buddha Puja with Abbey monastics on Zoom
October 27: Dharma Talk Forum “Karma and Rebirth” with Ven. Thubten Chodron in Seattle, hosted by Seattle University Center for Ecumenical and Interreligious Engagement (CEIE)
October 27: Making Mindfulness Meaningful with Ven. Thubten Chodron in Seattle, hosted by Dharma Friendship Foundation
October 31-December 17: Teachings with Ven. Thubten Chodron in Asia
Plus regular ongoing teachings:
- Samsara, Nirvana, and Buddha Nature, streamed live, Fridays. Check Events Calendar for start time.
- Engaging in the Bodhisattva’s Deeds with Geshe Tenzin Chodrak (Dadul Namgyal), streamed live, Thursdays, 9 am Pacific Time
Check the Abbey’s Events Page for more!