Ven. Thubten Semkye shares the history of our beautiful stained glass windows.

Our Stained Glass Windows

One of the uniquely western touches at Sravasti Abbey is incorporating the use of stained glass to show the enlightening qualities of the holy beings in physical representation. Over the years Beverly Brecht, a stained-glass artist and Dharma practitioner from South Dakota, has offered three stunning stained-glass windows to shine in the Abbey.

“I can make you a window.”

Bev met the Abbey through one of Venerable Chodron’s long-term Dharma students in 2008. She felt drawn to contribute after hearing of Ven. Chodron’s wish for a stained-glass window in Gotami House, the new nuns’ residence. Bev submitted a portfolio of her glass work to Ven. Tarpa, and her generous offering was accepted

During the construction of this window I realized that I was not simply giving a gift to the Abbey.

I was giving a gift to countless people who would see this window at the Abbey for years to come….people I would never know and who would never know me.  I realized that this window might inspire them in their practice, might help them to actually visualize Chenrezig in their practice.

– from Bev’s 2018 essay “Increasing My Practice of Generosity”

The Gotami window was installed in 2009. In subsequent years, Bev created two more windows, both for Chenrezig Hall: Thousand-armed Chenrezig, installed in 2015 in the dining room, and Four-armed Chenrezig, installed in 2018 in the Kuan Yin Room.

As a practitioner herself, Bev brought her own practice directly into the design and construction of the windows. These offerings are a beautiful expression of her faith in the Three Jewels. Over the years, as long as these Abbey buildings are in use, they will inspire many others to awaken the love, compassion, and wisdom within themselves.

The creation process is like meditation for me. It’s even better than meditation. It’s almost like an out of body experience.

I get into a state of mind where I don’t really know what time it is or I’m not that aware of my body. I’m just working and so focused on everything that I’m doing—cutting a piece of glass or figuring out how the work is going.

It’s hard to explain. It’s like the very best meditation that I ever have.

– from a 2017 interview with Bev “Creative Process: Like a Meditation

September 2009

The first window was placed in the upper tearoom of the nun’s quarters, Gotami House. It is an image of Mahaprajapati Gotami, the Buddha’s stepmother and the first bhikshuni.

Bev personally drove this holy works of art cross-country in her car due to its fragile structure. Installing it required several strong yet careful people.

September 2015

It only seemed fitting to have a stained glass of Thousand-armed Chenrezig when the community decided to build Chenrezig Hall. The Buddha of Compassion would look upon the virtuous activities anticipated in the new hall with his loving compassionate gaze.

Once again, Bev drove the stained glass from her studio and once again the community was stunned by its intricacy and beauty as we had been with the Gotami glass window. With a few strong careful hands, the piece was placed in the west wall of the dining room.

September 2018

The last of the three stained glass windows offered by Bev came in the form of Four-armed Chenrezig, a joyful aspect of the Buddha of Compassion holding a large wish fulfilling jewel. The light from the eastern sun is stunning and brings the glass window to life.

I don’t just think about His Holiness when I do these windows. I think about everyone at the Abbey. I think about all the people who will see these windows and be inspired by them. I think about that a lot.

It’s never about me.

I just feel like the pencil. I don’t feel like the mind or the brain; I’m just the pencil.

There’s all this great energy focusing on and through me, and it translates into this window.

– artist Bev Brecht