Photos from the Archive
Not only does the Abbey have 20 years of history, it also has an archive of over 26,000 photos! Looking through these photos, we see themes of both impermanence and consistency. The Abbey has grown and the residents have aged, but the values that guide all our activities remain the same.
Abbey traditions and values have a history of much longer than 20 years. Our teachers instruct us based on the teachings that they received and have practiced over decades. Many aspects of our daily life are based on Chinese or Tibetan monastic traditions that have existed for thousands of years. Our rites and rituals can be traced directly back to the Buddha’s teachings and how he established the ordained sangha over 2000 years ago.
When Venerable Chodron travels, she pays her respect to her teachers, such as Kyabje Ling Rinpoche. The 7th Ling Rinpoche visited the Abbey in 2018 and taught the community and guests. Abbey monastics have a close link to the Ling Rinpoche lineage, since it was the 6th Ling Rinpoche who gave novice ordination to Venerable Chodron in 1977. He named her “Thubten,” after his own lineage, and “Chodron,” which means “the lamp of the Dharma.” When we ordain at the Abbey with Venerable Chodron, we also receive the name “Thubten.”
Venerables Semkye and Monlam both had their heads shaved in Ananda in preparation for ordination. Chinese bhikshunis assisted in giving ordination until 2018, but now the Sravasti bhikshunis can perform the ordination themselves. The head shaving ceremony is a special time where the whole community, including guests, can be together and celebrate the virtue of the ordination candidate.
The community always rejoices when a group takes refuge and precepts with Venerable Chodron! An important step in our Buddhist journey is taking refuge and lay precepts with a qualified spiritual mentor. Some guests who did this are now monastics – see if you can spot them in the pictures! Others choose to renew their refuge and precepts, or to take additional precepts (which is why some people keep showing up).
What We Bring to the Community
On the ultimate level, we do not exist inherently. On the conventional level, we each bring certain skills and talents to the community. In addition to utilizing and growing the abilities that we come with, we also develop new areas of ourselves.
Venerable Tsultrim and Karuna have had a close relationship for over a decade, but her heart is big enough to love all of the cats! Her generosity and and practice of caring for others is a model for us all.
Not-yet-Venerable Chonyi took part in Friends of Sravasti Abbey board meetings in the early days, helping to organize the lay supporters who sustained the Abbey. Now she facilitates team meetings of monastics and anagarikas.
The Always-Changing Abbey
Twenty years ago, “Sravasti Abbey” was Venerable Chodron and two cats in one main building. The community—both monastic and feline—has grown since then, as well as the number of buildings to house and support them. The online teachings and events that the Abbey provides has increased too. In the coming years, the Buddha Hall will enable us to expand capacity for our in-person offerings and further enhance what we can give online.
The first Abbey residents were Venerable Chodron and the two cats: Manjushri (pictured) and Achala. While the feline population has grown to four, the human monastics now far outnumber the cats. We make sure the cats see holy objects, hear teachings, and avoid harming others. May they have a precious human rebirth where they practice the Dharma with us!
Maitri was not one of the original cats at the Abbey, but she has been here since 2010. She lives with Venerable Chodron, but receives walks from many different people. Maitri has gotten to know many new members of the community this way, seeing them first in blue (as anagarikas) and later in red (as monastics).
Venerable Tarpa has supervised all of our building projects, and Venerable Chodron always has a hands-on approach. Venerable Samten also played a major role in supervising the building of Prajna Cottage, and coordinates with Young Construction and the various subcontractors on the Buddha Hall.
There are many similarities between Chenrezig Hall and the Buddha Hall. Both are designed by Architect Tim Wilson, are constructed from Faswall blocks, and use geothermal heating and cooling. Each building is dependent on the kindness of others: the construction crews, engineers, and everyone who supported the construction financially. While the community utilizes and enjoys these spaces every day, we know they are a home for all sentient beings to come and practice the Dharma.