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The temperatures were in the 100s at the beginning of August—(we were sure happy to have geothermal air conditioning in the Chenrezig Hall!)—and “cooled” to the 80s later in the month, which made working in the forest lovely. The brush turned yellow and red in early August, at least a month ahead of time, due to the drought, but we had bumper crops of plums and translucent apples, which we made into applesauce.

Rains finally returned in the final days of the month, for which we rejoiced. May it help to quench the fires that rage throughout the Western U.S. as we practice to quench the fires of our afflictions.

Bhikshuni Thubten Chodron and the Sravasti Abbey Community

A New Monk!

Brian Lawson, who has been attending courses at the Abbey for a couple of years now, moved here in late 2014 and has been an anagarika since January, 2015. He requested novice (sramanera) ordination recently, and we were fortunate to be able to arrange for him to become a monk with Venerable Hsin Tien as the preceptor at Fa Sheng Temple in Seattle on August 10. Photos are here.

Venerable Thubten Losang will continue to live and train at the Abbey as our 11th monastic. While the nuns reside at Gotami House, Venerable Losang will stay in the men’s wing of Chenrezig Hall. We welcome him to the sangha! – VTC

(Read his bio on the Meet Monastic Community page of sravasti.org.)

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The Svatantrika-Prasangika Debate

Dr. Guy Newland and his daughter Becca spent about ten days with us. Guy has taught at the Abbey several times, and the course he taught this year was fascinating. Twenty-five people attended.

Speaking about the history of the Svatantrika and Prasangika subdivisions of the Madhyamaka views in both India and Tibet, Guy also explained the various ways that Chandrakirti’s texts can be read, leading to very different views of the ultimate truth. The two-hour sessions flew by, as Guy is a vibrant speaker who packs a lot of information into each sentence.

The discussions at meal times were also animated as we shared our different perspectives. When he left, Guy commented on the monastics’ increased level of understanding of the subject matter compared to previous years. We told him this was due to Jeffrey Hopkins’ kindness in teaching us in weekly classes on the philosophical tenets and also from studying Aryadeva’s Four Hundred Stanzas over the last two years. Photos are here and you can watch Guy’s teachings here. – VTC

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Exploring Monastic Life

This, year, 10 people joined the Abbey’s 11 residents for the Exploring Monastic Life (EML) course. The diversity of people from different backgrounds—two French-Canadians, one Euro-Canadian, one German, one French, one British, and two Singaporeans—made for interesting conversations.

Each morning there was a talk on monastic life and the vinaya, followed by a group discussion. Here topics ranged from our religion-of-origin to seeking approval to romantic relationships and more.

In the afternoons, we offered service: working in the forest, preparing the apples from our tree to make applesauce, transcribing teachings, planting flowers, tending the veggie garden, and other projects. The offering service periods provided time for informal discussion of Dharma points and for people to share their spiritual journeys and thoughts.

On the last day we did skits, a Sravasti Abbey tradition at the end of long courses. They were hilarious as always as we made fun of ourselves. This was followed by a final go-around when participants summarized what they learned about the Dharma and themselves during the program and what they will take away with them. You can watch videos of all the EML teachings and enjoy the photos.

The EML group became so much a part of the Abbey community that when some of them left after the two and a half week course, we felt like community members were leaving. Some participants have stayed on afterwards, which we welcomed. – VTC

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Sharing the Dharma Day

The August Sharing the Dharma Day occurred in the middle of Exploring Monastic Life so the broader Abbey community and the EMLers got to meet and share the Dharma together.

Over 40 people came to share the day with the 11 resident monastics. The morning began with meditation, followed by a talk on the perfection of ethical conduct, explaining the verse from “Thirty-seven Practices of Bodhisattvas” quoted in my book, Don’t Believe Everything You Think:

Without ethical conduct you can’t accomplish your own well-being,
So wanting to accomplish others’ is laughable.
Therefore without worldly aspirations
safeguard your ethical conduct—
his is the practice of bodhisattvas.

Instead of the usual discussion time in the afternoon, we had a welcoming for Venerable Thubten Losang. He spoke of his motivations for ordaining and the ordination ceremony. Then the audience asked him and the other monastics questions about monastic life and about their personal stories. This was especially moving as monastics spoke openly about their journeys—including their difficulties and joys.

You can watch the Dharma talk here, and the sharing with Venerable Losang and the Abbey nuns is here. – VTC

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Prison Work

Venerable Tarpa returned to Airway Heights Correctional Center to visit the Buddhist group and share the Dharma.

The usual format for visits is to have a prepared talk but give lots of time for discussion. The students are now incorporating analytical meditation based upon the teaching of the day, and at their request, Venerable Tarpa is exploring the Eightfold Noble Path with them.

One highlight of this meeting was the sincere spiritual questioning that some of the men are doing as a result of the Dharma discussions. For example, one man said he thought deeply about the previous meeting’s topic and has begun to expand his motivation to extend beyond the happiness of this life.

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A Trip to Moscow (Idaho, that is)

Jay Feldman from the Philosophy Department at the University of Idaho has become a regular at the Abbey in the last year. Eager to make a connection between the Abbey and UI, he invited Venerable Chodron and other Abbey residents to visit Moscow for three days.

Jay worked very diligently to get the word out about the visit and the turnouts at the talks were amazing: over 225 people for the public talk on “Wisdom and Compassion in Daily Life” (video is here), over 130 at the lunchtime talk at the university, “Cultivating Peace from the Inside Out,” and over 100 for the book signing at Book People for An Open-Hearted Life by Russell Kolts and Venerable Chodron.

People were so interested and enthusiastic to hear the Dharma, and the eight people from the Abbey that went to Moscow had a great time making new friends. In addition to the above events, we also enjoyed an informal get-together with the minister and other leaders from the UU Church in Moscow and a small group meeting with staff doing great work in student services from UI and Washington State University. Photos are here.

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Online Retreat with Tricycle

Tricycle Magazine is running a four-session on-line retreat featuring Venerable Chodron’s teaching on “Recognizing and Transforming Jealousy and Envy.”

The first teaching, “Know Jealousy for What It is,” is free. The remaining three sessions are for Tricycle subscribers only. Everyone can access Part 1 here.

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Wildfires

Many of you have written to express concerns over the state of emergency the federal government declared in Washington State due to the many wildfires here. We appreciate your care and support.

For three weeks the sky was gray, filled with smoke day and night, making working outside very difficult. So far we have been safe, although some Dharma friends in Omak had to evacuate their homes. End-of-month rains have aided the firefighting efforts and cleared the air, but fires blaze on. We continue to make prayers for the safety of all affected people, animals, and the beautiful lands and forests.

We will put new info on our Facebook Page if the situation changes.- VTC

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Offering Service Saturday

Offering Service Saturdays have quickly become a favorite event at the Abbey. Spearheaded by our friends Doug and Sarah, these monthly activities invite volunteers to come work together for one day each month.

In spite of smoky air and high winds, 12 volunteers turned out this month, including a crew from our nearby Life Designs program for young adults. Air quality was poor, so we opted mostly for indoor projects. Doug skillfully turned a novice peach-canning crew into pros, while Tracy led a mala-making group that strung prayer beads for prisoners. One young man from Life Designs was so excited about the prayer beads that he took a mala back home so he could recite mantras himself.

We also rolled mantras, turned the compost, harvested and cleaned beets, installed a few shelves, and contributed to a delicious potluck lunch, accomplishing a lot of service in a short time. Before everyone went home, we meditated together and shared the merit from our activities.

There are two more Offering Service Saturdays this year: September 26 and October 31. Come join in the fun!

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Other News

In summer, many guests join us for longer stays. In August we welcomed Roberta, Sean, Sherran, Jay, Barbara, and many others, as well as Kuni and her family from Thailand who came to cook and offer service for the day.

Stephen returned to Atlanta after his summer-long visit, while Lana, Hsiao Yin, and Jonny remained for a while longer. We have welcomed their help and their practice. Check out photos about August Abbey Life.

Venerables Yeshe and Chonyi traveled to Madison, WI in July to take part in Deer Park Monastery’s Summer Program of teachings with Jangtse Choje Rinpoche. They returned with renewed inspiration to study and practice. Photos are here.

We are grateful to the many people who took part in the Annual Alms Bowl Garage Sale held in Coeur d’Alene. All proceeds benefit the monastic food fund at the Abbey. As we say in our prayer for accepting food offerings, “Your generosity is inspiring and we are humbled by your faith in the Three Jewels.” We will do our best to practice well to be worthy of your offering”. Thank you so much.

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