- Dagmo Kusho Sakya’s Visit
- Don’t Take Things for Granted
- Exploring Monastic Life
- Sharing the Dharma Day
- Forest & Garden
- Other News
Life at the Abbey featured an unusually hot August that followed an unusually hot July.
The garden loved the sunshine, while Abbey residents and guests appreciated the geothermal cooling system in Chenrezig Hall in the daytime and the cool and peaceful ambience on Chenrezig Hall’s deck in the evenings. A few thunderstorms moistened the earth, and the end of the month was pleasantly warm.
We have a beautiful new video about the “Beauty of the Abbey.” We hope you enjoy watching. May it inspire you to visit soon!
Bhiksuni Thubten Chodron and the Sravasti Abbey Community
The Abbey once more had the opportunity to host Dagmo Kusho Sakya for four Dharma-filled days in which she taught refuge and “The King of Prayers,” gave the Manjushri jenang and teachings, and taught us how to do the sur (aroma offering) practice, which we did in the garden. Check out the photos.
Dagmola’s presence is a teaching in itself, and we saw how Dharma practice manifests in a person who has traversed many obstacles in life.
Born in Tibet and married to Dagchen Rinpoche, the head of the Khon lineage of the Sakya tradition, Dagmola had to flee Tibet with three young children and soon found herself having to make a new life for her family and the Sakya tradition in Seattle.
Now 80 years old and author of Princess in the Land of Snows, Dagmola shared her Dharma wisdom with us in her own humble and compassionate way that touched everyone’s heart. She showed us the video celebrating the 30 year anniversary of Sakya Monastery in Seattle, which contains interviews with many family members as well as long time Dharma students. Here we saw the perseverance of many people contributing to the spread of the Dharma in the West.
At the conclusion of her teachings, we hung prayer flags in the garden. Nate and Rafael climbed trees and ladders, while others helped navigate where the flags would be hung. It was a group project where everyone had a lot of fun.
You can see some of the talks on the Abbey YouTube channel.
For the second time this summer we had a wild windy storm that knocked down trees, sparked fires, and took out the power. Our power usually goes out four or five times a year, but never for more than a few hours. However, these storms set the record for us: 12 hours without power in the first storm and 48 hours in the second. It was a very good teaching in not taking things for granted and adapting to conditions, and it gave us a nice break from email and our computer work. Of course, opening the inbox once the power was back on was overwhelming!
The group of people gathering for our annual Exploring Monastic Life differs each year. Some years the people are mostly curious; other years most people aspire for ordination. This year’s group, ut tenth, was the latter.
Seven people—3 in their 20s, 1 in their 30s, and 3 in their 40s—joined Abbey monastics in the in-depth internal investigation that living a monastic life entails. Topics included our attitudes towards money, romantic relationships, the meaning of success, and how we use our speech. The daily teachings are here.
The EMLers were so enthusiastic about all the activities (even doing chores!) that it was a joy for the community to have them with us. The group bonded quickly and easily, and people were remarkably open and comfortable talking about their own aspirations and doubts. Our days were full with meditation, teachings, discussion groups, and offering service. We had a lot of fun and much laughter as well.
Our evening walks in the forest at the time of the full moon provided quiet, calming time after full days. The EML program concluded with hilarious skits and with a touching go-around in which each person expressed what he or she learned and was taking away with them. We wish this EML group much joy in their Dharma practice and hope that some will take the joyous step of becoming monastics.
This month’s Sharing the Dharma Day focused on the verse in the “Thirty-seven Practices of Bodhisattvas” that says:
If an equal or inferior person
Disparages you out of pride,
Place her, as you would your spiritual teacher,
With respect on the crown of your head—
This is the practice of bodhisattvas.
This verse is a real “ego squasher,” isn’t it? The teaching focused on why such people are like our spiritual mentor, even though regarding them as such is the last thing in the world we want to do after they disparage and offend us. But that’s precisely what we must do to overcome our own conceit. This doesn’t mean we lose our self-esteem. We have to develop honest and realistic self-assessment that doesn’t take others’ comments personally. At the same time, we want to be free of our self-centered egotism that thinks we’re the greatest, because that attitude creates problems in our relationships now and induces us to create destructive karma that brings us suffering in the future. See Don’t Believe Everything You Think for more on this. The video of the talk is here.
Our forest work is going ahead joyfully, with Brian, a Dharma student and a sawyer, spending 8-10 days a month at the Abbey. We have lots of firewood ready for the winter and will share some with those in need in our local community. With many people working together in the forest, the clearing of debris and the thinning of trees is going more quickly, and great Dharma discussions occur while we’re working together.
One day we went to the work site and the containers were in disarray. The water container was toppled and the container with snacks was torn open. The next day Venerable Jampa walked by the site and saw a brown bear there; he or she had come back to see if we had replenished the goodies, but was sadly disappointed and scampered away.
The veggie garden is giving us lot of yummy squash, beans, and greens this year, and we had a huge crop of translucent apples. We made enough applesauce to last through the winter and will share the surplus apples with friends and the local food bank.
We had many guests in August who stayed at the Abbey for several weeks: Nate, Christiaan, Austin, Bill and Marianne to name a few. They became part of the community and offered service enthusiastically, enabling us to complete several maintenance projects such as oiling the barn and writing studio, painting, and fixing the shower. The best was the group working together to hang prayer flags—what a joyous project that was! We enjoyed sharing the teachings, Dharma discussions, and laughter with all our guests as well.
Our precious teacher, Geshe Lhundrup Sopa, founder and principal teacher of Deer Park Dharma Center in Madison, Wisconsin, passed on and entered meditation on clear light on August 28. He had been Venerable Chodron’s teacher since 1977, and he taught at the Abbey in 2009. (The photo at right was taken about 2001.) For decades—with joy, enthusiasm, wisdom and clarity—he kindly taught many Westerners and Tibetans the Dharma. We are so fortunate to have known Geshela, and we pray to be his students in future lives as well.
Venerable Chodron happily attended H.H. the Dalai Lama’s teachings on Guide to a Bodhisattva’s Way of Life in Hamburg, Germany. The trip was made possible due to the kindness of the Tibetan Center Hamburg, who invited her to give two evening talks and participate in a panel on Women and Buddhism during H.H. the Dalai Lama’s visit.
The fall session of our Sravasti Abbey Friends Education (SAFE) online learning program starts September 29. Many people tell us they are really deepening their practice and understanding of the Dharma through these courses. Check out the offerings here and write the SAFE Coordinator to sign up.