The summer heat was here for a few weeks, then hastily gave way to cooler and shorter days. We are still enjoying generous harvests from our orchards and veggie garden—apples, plums, and tomatoes. The herb garden is also giving us basil, parsley, rosemary, and oregano.
In challenging times, people tend to get creative. That’s been the case for us too as the Abbey has adapted our residential programs into online events.
Our tech team, in particular, has done a fantastic job learning to use Zoom to make these programs interactive. As a result, people from all over the world are able to meditate, hear the teachings, and discuss the Dharma together.
Bhikshuni Thubten Chodron & the Sravasti Abbey Community
Gift of Forgiveness Retreat
At the end of July, Ven. Chodron led a two-day retreat that focused on forgiveness. With insightful candor, she explained the benefits of forgiveness and shared how to begin to let go of our anger.
Ven. Chodron especially explained how forgiveness comes from strength and courage, not weakness, which touched people at a very personal level. Participants told us the retreat helped them to forgive themselves as well as others.
Sharing the Dharma Day
“Compassion and Empathy” was the theme of this Sharing the Dharma Day, based on Chapter 33 in An Open-Hearted Life (also published as Living with an Open Heart). Ven. Chonyi led a meditation and then Ven. Chodron spoke on the topic, which generated a lot of questions.
The afternoon discussion was also lively, as people thought about how to practice these teachings during a pandemic: How do we keep our hearts open without getting burnt out? What’s the difference between compassion and being a people-pleaser?
So many people tell us how much they enjoy and benefit from the way the Abbey does discussion groups. It leads to deep sharing and openness as participants listen and learn from one another.
Exploring Monastic Life
Our annual Exploring Monastic Life (EML) program was revamped to accommodate restrictions due to the pandemic. Instead of being a residential program, where participants get the experience of living in a monastic community, the group met on Zoom for 11 half-days of Dharma talks and discussions.
The upside was that many people who otherwise would not be able to travel to the Abbey could join the EML program. As a result, we had a record number of participants—28 in total—who came from 10 countries, including India, Israel, Singapore, New Zealand, Canada, Poland, the Netherlands, Lithuania, Germany, and the US.
At the Abbey we treasure diversity. It adds depth to the discussions as everyone sees that, on the one hand, we are all alike as human beings, and on the other, we come from different cultures and backgrounds. We can learn so much from one another! People appreciated how everyone shared so openly and freely in the discussion groups. This is characteristic of Abbey discussions groups, but was especially valued this time because socializing and sharing with others has been restricted during Covid times.
In addition to Ven. Chodron’s daily teachings, Abbey monastics gave Bodhisattva Breakfast Corner talks about monastic life. Find those talks and read Ven. Jigme’s view on the freedom of living in community here. Watch the morning meditations from EML here, and see photos here.
Online Dharma Outreach
Abbey monastics also teach a meditation class through the Unitarian Universalist Church in Spokane. This class has been going on for 12 years and has now shifted to Zoom, where they are discussing Awaken Every Day by Ven. Chodron. Participants appreciate these classes very much, and the respect is mutual. Abbey nuns praise the participants for their openness and willingness to question their habitual emotional patterns and actions.
Ven. Sangye Khadro continues her monthly Dharma talks with the two Sandpoint (Idaho) Dharma groups. Ven. Nyima’s mind training class in Spanish also continues via Zoom, with participants joining from Puerto Rico and several Spanish-speaking countries.
Ven. Chodron has been teaching various Dharma groups in Indonesia. She gave two talks in August for Wihara Ekayana in Jakarta. Watch her talk on “Living the Buddha’s Teachings in the 21st Century” here. The second talk will be posted soon.
In addition, Wihara Dharmakirti in Palembang hosts online teachings by Ven. Chodron on “The 37 Practices of Bodhisattvas” once every two weeks at 7:30 pm Pacific Time. Find details here. The first talk, “Living Wisely,” covered the first four verses.
Lamrimnesia, a group dedicated to preserving and spreading the Lamrim teachings in Indonesia, asked Ven. Chodron to speak on her two books, How to Free Your Mind (to be aired September 2 here) and Cultivating a Compassionate Heart (to be aired September 3 here).
Ven. Chodron’s website now has an Indonesian language section. Her talks are given in English, with consecutive translation.
Ven. Sangye Khadro continues her series of twelve talks and meditations on the Tibetan Buddhist classic “The Seven-Point Mind Training,” hosted by Amitabha Buddhist Centre. The mind training teachings, lo-jong in Tibetan, show us how to transform our mind so we are less angry, selfish, greedy, arrogant, and confused, and more compassionate, altruistic, calm, and wise. For info on how to join via Zoom go here and watch archived talks here.
The Buddha Hall
Construction on the Buddha Hall hasn’t yet begun due to the pandemic and the economic situation it has caused, but the Buddha Hall team at the Abbey is continuing to refine details on the building plan.
New information from the acousticians has arrived and will be incorporated, and next week (hopefully) some soil tests will be taken in preparation for the geothermal heating system. But we have yet to decide the size of the computer screens where Dharma talks can be broadcast in the three meditation halls. So many details! Learn more about the Buddha Hall project here.
Meanwhile, we’re improving the septic system for Ananda Hall to conform with government regulations for a public facility. We know it’s important to protect people’s health, even though it means having a part of the garden torn up for a while!
Two New Books
As we mentioned in the last enews, In Praise of Great Compassion, the fifth volume in the Library of Wisdom and Compassion by H.H. the Dalai Lama and Ven. Chodron, is now available as of August 11! The book focuses on the altruistic attitude of bodhicitta, presenting views from the Pali, Chinese, and Tibetan traditions. This volume is about opening our hearts to others and generating compassion, joy, and fortitude. Learn more here.
Pearl of Wisdom, Book III is now available in pdf form on Ven. Chodron’s website. This book is a collection of Kriya (Action) Tantra practices for practitioners who have received the appropriate jenang (subsequent permission rite) that enables them to do the self-generation. It includes the sadhanas of Thousand-Armed Chenrezig, Manjushri, Vajrapani, Green Tara, White Tara, and many more.
Medicine Buddha Puja
The Abbey is now offering a monthly Medicine Buddha Puja on Zoom. Medicine Buddha practice can help us develop inner strength, resilience, and confidence to move forward as we direct healing to all in need.
A participant in last month’s puja told us:
“I work in a medical setting, and lately I’ve gotten stuck on the fact that many patients end up seriously declining and dying. This has become particularly discouraging during the time of Covid-19.
“(During the puja) I felt especially inspired by the requests to Medicine Buddha, as they made me step out of my thinking of healing that is usually so limited to a single lifetime. Even the tiniest suffering is to be alleviated, but I believe the ultimate healing is liberation, and that is why Buddha is called the Supreme Physician.”
The next puja is Sunday, September 27 at 7 pm Pacific Time. Find details and the registration form here.
Sravasti Abbey App Early Access Release
The app includes daily quotes from Venerable Chodron and others, plus the Shakyamuni Buddha sadhana with guided audio recordings to support your daily meditation practice. More than 20 volunteers generously contributed their skills with love and care to bring this project to fruition.
With your help in testing, we will get a stable public release out soon for the benefit of all sentient beings!
Inviting Generosity for Computer Equipment
Since the Covid-19 pandemic has pushed all Abbey programs online, we’ve stretched our aging computers to the max.
To continue to share the Dharma with you, we need two new computers with better processors to support the livestream process: an Apple Mac Mini and a 21.5 inch Apple iMac.
If you’d like to support this project, we—and everyone who joins in—would appreciate your help. You can make an offering here, and write “new computers” in the comments box.
If offerings exceed the cost of these purchases, we’ll apply extra funds towards audio-visual equipment for the future Buddha Hall.
The Abbey has been, and will always be, dependent on volunteers. A few have served in their volunteer roles for the entire existence of the Abbey, including our finance team: Leak Kosik, accountant, and bookkeeper Susan Mitchell. Now, after 17 years, Susan is moving on and recently resigned her position. She wrote:
“This isn’t a goodbye, but it’s the end of an era—seventeen years of a particular relationship with the Abbey and each of you monastics. Thank you for your friendship and for consistently inspiring me through your choice to ordain, your dedication to your practice, and your willingness to give your lives to the Dharma. I’ve been blessed and genuinely moved by your faith and courage.
“I will really miss witnessing the Abbey’s particular manifestation of the power and effect of the Buddhadharma, including the mindfulness of the way offerings are honored and used by the Abbey, and the generosity of people all of the world who make offerings to the Abbey and sustain the Dharma and the Sangha. This relationship is so beautiful and remarkable. It never ceases to open my heart and leave me in awe.”
From our side, we appreciate Susan and all our volunteers very much. Although we can’t list here all the volunteers that so kindly assist the Abbey, we dedicate our merit for you twice a month when we do the Lama Chopa puja. Without you, it would be very difficult for us monastics to do everything that needs to be done here.
Thankfully, Leah continues as our accountant. Claudia Martinez-Castanon joins us as our new volunteer bookkeeper. Welcome, Claudia!
Please Stay Safe
We encourage everyone to follow CDC instructions. Please keep social distancing and wear masks. Especially because you’ve had the great fortune to encounter the Buddha’s teachings, it’s important to protect your precious human life and the lives of others. One of our friends and supporters sent us the following story (with names changed):
“A week or so back, we requested that you say prayers for the health and long life of our neighbors, Shauna and Paul. They had both been sick with a fever but tested negative for Covid-19. Shauna’s birthday was coming up, so they had a birthday party for her, which was attended by many folks in our neighborhood (we did not go). We heard that no one wore masks or practiced social distancing.
“After the party, both Shauna and Paul were hospitalized for Covid-19. Shauna recovered but Paul passed away last night. How sad! It seems like tragedy has to strike close to home before some people take this pandemic seriously. It is not a hoax!! We’ve heard false negative tests can be as high as 20%, so if you’re sick, please stay home and take care of yourself.”
We encourage all US citizens to register and vote in the November election. Vote early if you can to ensure that your ballot arrives in time to be counted. The upcoming election is very important for the future of the country and for democracy, so please make voting a priority!
Going & Coming
Amid the pandemic, one of our resident Canadians, Thubten Yeshe, requested leave to visit her native Quebec. After a few months with family and friends, she has decided to remain in her homeland. She has offered her many talents at the Abbey for nine years, and we will especially miss her cooking and knack for creating beautiful spaces. We send our best wishes for her continuing in the Dharma.
Meanwhile, after a two-week quarantine, Nicole has joined us for monastic training. She had planned her move from Atlanta well before the coronavirus hit and, despite the pandemic, decided to follow through. Ven. Losang continues to be on medical leave, but is doing well and stays in close contact.
Listening to His Holiness’ teachings
The Abbey community has been more than delighted to watch the online teachings that H.H. the Dalai Lama has been giving. Topics range from secular ethics, science, and Buddhism, to dependent arising and many more. See his schedule here and tune in here at the appropriate time for the live teaching.
SAFE Class 1A
There’s space for 24 more folks to join the Sravasti Abbey Friends Education (SAFE) intro class. SAFE distance learning courses allow participants to study, meditate on, and discuss the Dharma in a virtual community. Visit here for more info, or write the SAFE Coordinator to sign up. Classes begin Monday, September 14.
Morning Meditation & Mantra Recitation
Beginning September 12, Abbey monastics will lead the morning meditation over Zoom on Saturdays at 5:30 a.m. Pacific Time. We’re joining the existing online meditation community hosted by Kathy Elton. Write Kathy for registration info.
We’re still accumulating Shakyamuni Buddha mantra recitations (nearly 3.75 million so far!) and dedicating the merit to remove obstacles for global healing, peace and justice, and for the Buddha Hall project. Please join us.
Ven. Nyima advises how we can take the Dharma as medicine in this article, “Are We Good Patients?”
Here’s what’s happening online in the next few weeks
- September 2: Say Goodbye to Living in Fear, a pre-recorded talk with Ven. Thubten Chodron for the Nusantara Dharma Book Festival in Indonesia, 5-6:30 am Pacific Time
- September 3: Everyone Can Become Kuan Yin, a pre-recorded talk with Ven. Thubten Chodron for the Nusantara Dharma Book Festival in Indonesia, 5-6:30 am Pacific Time
- September 5-7: Labor Day Concentration Retreat on Vimeo Livestream and Zoom
- September 18: White Tara Long Life Puja to celebrate Ven. Thubten Chodron’s 70th birthday on our Vimeo Livestream channel, 6:15 pm Pacific Time
- September 19-22: Sorting Out Tenets with Geshe Dadul Namgyal on Vimeo Livestream and Zoom
- September 27: Medicine Buddha Puja via Zoom, 7 pm Pacific Time
- September 29: Survival of the Most Cooperative, a public talk with Ven. Thubten Chodron for North Idaho College, 6:30 pm Pacific Time
Plus regular teachings
- Engaging in the Bodhisattva’s Deeds with Ven. Thubten Chodron streamed live on Thursday mornings, 10 am Pacific Time
- The Foundation of Buddhist Practice with Ven. Thubten Chodron streamed live every Friday night, 6:15 pm Pacific Time
- Seven-Point Mind Training with Ven. Sangye Khadro, hosted by Amitabha Buddhist Centre, Singapore and streamed over Zoom on Saturdays beginning July 11 – September 26, 7 pm PTPacific Time
- El Adiestramiento Mental with Ven. Thubten Nyima, hosted by Ganden Shedrub Ling, Puerto Rico and streamed over Zoom every other Wednesday beginning July 8 – September 23, 4 pm Pacific Time
- The 37 Practices of Bodhisattvas with Ven. Thubten Chodron, hosted by Wihara Dharmakirti Palembang, Indonesia and streamed over Zoom every other Saturday through December 26, 7:30 pm Pacific Time
See what else is coming up in 2020