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For about five weeks, our skies were filled with smoke from the forest fires burning in California, Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia. Some days the air quality level was hazardous and it was recommended that people go outdoors as little as possible.

With concern, we think of the frightened animals in the forests and the people who have had to evacuate their homes. All this happened after and during extraordinarily higher temperatures in August, even reaching to 106F!

End-of-the-month rains finally cleared the skies, and fall is in the air as we prepare for the Labor Day retreat and H.E. Ling Rinpoche’s visit next week. May all beings have clean air to breathe and clear hearts of loving kindness.

Bhikshuni Thubten Chodron and the Sravasti Abbey Community

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Meetings with His Holiness the Dalai Lama

After several years, Ven. Chodron met with His Holiness the Dalai Lama to clarify difficult questions related to The Library of Wisdom and Compassion, a multi-volume presentation of the stages of the path for modern readers that she is co-authoring with him.

Following a preliminary meeting, His Holiness arranged for her to meet with respected teachers from the Institute of Buddhist Dialectics to go over her questions in greater detail. After a number of intensive sessions, the group reported back to His Holiness, who gave further clarifications. It was a rewarding series of meetings. Unfortunately, there were no photos!

His Holiness was also pleased to see a presentation of the Abbey and learn about all the teachings we receive and the social outreach that we do.

En route to the meetings, Ven. Chodron and trip assistant Ven. Damcho stopped in New Delhi where Ven. Chodron met with old friends at Tushita Mahayana Meditation Centre. Arriving in Dharamsala in the monsoon rains, they spent a few days acclimatizing and connecting with friends, including Serkhong Rinpoche and nuns from Jamyang Choling Institute. Dharamsala is something of a spiritual home for Ven. Chodron, as she studied there for many years.

Ven. Chodron will give teachings at various centers in the coming days before attending His Holiness’ teachings on Buddhapalita’s Commentary on the Fundamental Wisdom of the Middle Way.

See India photos here.

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Rejoicing with Geshe Yeshe Thabkhe

In the August enews we told you about the wonderful course where Geshe Yeshe Thabkhe taught us Pramanavarttika, Indian master Dharmakirti’s “Commentary on the Compendium of Reliable Cognition.” (Watch Geshe Thabkhe’s teachings here.)

At the conclusion of the course we read a praise to Geshela, which we filmed and sent to him. We were touched by his reply:

“Thank you everyone, for your prayers for my long life. I also will pray for your long lives too. I rejoice in all the efforts you are making with your study, contemplation, and meditations, especially of these classic Buddhist Texts.

“In particular, for those of you who are renunciates, residing in America, this makes your efforts even more special. I also feel great joy in our special Teacher & Student relationship that we all are sharing together. All of your endeavors will be most beneficial to the Buddha’s Teachings now and into the future. I will try every year, to teach all of you as long as possible, with the help of Joshua & Diana. Sending you all my warmest regards, Geshe Thabkhe.”

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Exploring Monastic Life

A fantastic group of 15 people—seven nuns and eight sincere practitioners—took part in our annual Exploring Monastic Life course. The teachings are on our YouTube channel, beginning with this first one on The Spread of Buddhism and Monastic Life.

In addition to daily teachings on Vinaya and monastic life, the discussion groups were very rich, with people looking deeply into issues that could affect their wish or ability to live as monastics. These included our relationship to authority, to money and career, and to family and societal expectations.

Our time together was filled with informal Dharma discussions, offering service together, and lots of laughter, including the outrageosly funny and creative final skits. See photos here and here.

Read His Holiness’ poem “The Joy of Monastic Discipline” and Stephen Taul’s chanting of three of the verses here.

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Sharing the Dharma Day

About 50 people gathered for meditation, a Dharma talk, potluck, and discussion at the August Sharing the Dharma Day.

Drawing from An Open-Hearted Life by Ven. Chodron and Dr. Russell Kolts, Ven. Tarpa spoke about the “Compassionate Understanding of Emotions,” explaining that difficult emotions arise spontaneously through a variety of causes and conditions, and not because someone deliberately wishes to have an afflicted mind. When we recognize this fact in ourselves and others, it’s easier to develop compassion.

In the afternoon discussion, led by Ven. Jigme, we looked more closely at how to develop compassion for ourselves when we are overwhelmed by afflictive emotions. Photos are here.

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Offering Service Saturday

The Abbey’s core supporters came for Offering Service Saturday this month, despite the smoky air. They helped with all kinds of tasks—building maintenance, weeding the veggie and flower gardens and processing herbs, while Sarah oversaw the lunch.

Volunteers also helped prepare colorful flower pots for Ling Rinpoche’s upcoming visit. And Ken took a whole lot of paper and plastic to our local recycling center.

We joyfully accomplished a lot while connecting with each other and the Three Jewels. See photos here.

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Nuns and Other Guests

After a wonderful Exploring Monastic Life program, the Abbey swiftly returned to our regular daily schedule, and we welcomed a stream of guests.

Ven. Sangye Khadro arrived for a two-month visit and will lead the Labor Day Concentration Retreat in early September. She will also give some of the live-streamed teachings on Friday nights. Watch her first lovely teaching on Suffering and Compassion on our Livestream channel.

Ven. Zi-Chi from Luminary Temple in Taiwan visited us for a month to experience a Western monastery. She happily shared many teachings on topics that included how to use the Dharma instruments in Chinese chanting, mindful exercises, and monastic life at Luminary Temple. Ven. Zi-Chi gave three Bodhisattva Breakfast Corner talks: Lessons and Joys of Monastic Life, Giving Advice Skillfully and Compassionately, and Walking on the Path Joyfully. Many Abbey residents said how much they had learned from her visit.

Ven. Pellha from the Netherlands also stayed on for a few weeks after EML. Trained as a Tibetan translator and interpreter, she offered her skills to the Abbey during her time here. A number of lay guests joined us too, including Matt from Oregon, and Patti Jo and Desmond from different parts of Indiana. Over their months-long visits, they all contributed richly to Abbey daily life.

We enjoyed a rare visit from our friends Sister Nancy and Sister Leslie, Carmelite nuns whose many years of spiritual practice inspire us. And Abbey nun Ven. Pende was surprised with a visit from high school friends, some of whom she hadn’t seen in 38 years! They attended junior high and high school together in Vietnam and somehow managed to arrange a reunion in the US that included a pilgrimage to the Abbey.

All of this is captured in Abbey life photos here.

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More News

We’ve had occasion to do special prayers and pujas for several people connected to the Abbey, including Ven. Semkye’s older sister, Jane, who passed away during the Exploring Monastic Life program.

Ven. Semkye was glad she could attend her sister’s death, applying the Dharma to support Jane and her family. Jane made several visits to the Abbey and had offered her wide-ranging skills as a volunteer. The community had a warm connection with her. Ven. Semkye brought the experience onto the spiritual path, and gave three Bodhisattva Breakfast Corner talks to share her insights: My Sister Is Dying, My Sister Has Died…, and Who Do You Think You Are?

Ken talks about fighting the fire of hopelessness with the cooling water of appropriate action and the taking and giving meditation.

We received a beautiful poem dedicated to the Abbey by one of the inmates we correspond with.

Luis shares two more poems, “Poem of Human” and “Swordsman’s Spirit.”