History & Mission

How It All Began – Founded in 2003

One nun and two cats moved to the new Sravasti Abbey in October 2003. Many dreams and plans went before it, and much effort has followed. That’s when our history begins.

Ven. Chodron's first view of the property that became Sravasti Abbey.

Mission

Sravasti Abbey supports a flourishing monastic community where learning and practicing Buddha’s teachings on ethics, non-violence, compassion, and wisdom—then sharing them widely—cultivates peace in the hearts of individuals and the world.

We seek to preserve Buddha’s teachings, to root them deeply in Western soil, to share them with others, to build an enduring sangha, and to serve sentient beings for as long as space remains.

History Highlights

Ven. Thubten Chodron, a Buddhist nun since 1977, dreamed of creating a monastic community in the US for many years. With the blessing of His Holiness the Dalai Lama and the advice of many of her teachers and senior monastics of several Buddhist traditions, she founded Sravasti Abbey in 2003.

The Abbey ordained our first novice nun in 2006, who went on to become our first fully ordained nun (bhikshuni) in 2008.

By 2011, our community included five ordained nuns, surpassing the requisite number that allowed us to begin our bi-monthly posadha confession and restoration of monastic precepts, which has continued ever since.

In 2014, we instituted our first annual varsa (rains retreat) and pravarana ceremony to end the retreat, thus fulfilling all the monastic rites that the Buddha prescribed for a fully functioning sangha community. Learn more about the monastic rites here.

Today, with a resident community of 23 monastics and Buddha Hall construction well underway, Sravasti Abbey continues to fulfill its mission in countless ways to create peace in a chaotic world. See further history highlights below.

You can see photos of the Abbey’s development since 2003 in our Photo Gallery archive.

Khensur Wangdak Rinpoche blesses the land, high point in our history.
Ven. Thubten Tarpa is the first monastic ordained at the Abbey.

Detailed History

Origins

The seeds for Sravasti Abbey were planted in 1993 at a Western Buddhist Teachers’ Conference with His Holiness the Dalai Lama. There, Ven. Thubten Chodron and other Western monastics shared openly about the difficulties that they faced in the West, where there is little understanding and support for Buddhist monks and nuns.

By the end of Jetsunma Tenzin Palmo’s presentation, His Holiness the Dalai Lama wept. He told the Western monastics not to wait for the Tibetans to provide for them, but to go ahead and start their own monasteries. There’s a video of their historic meeting. This was a turning point for Ven. Chodron and her dream of developing a Buddhist monastic community.

His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s words gave Ven. Chodron the confidence to work towards creating a community where Western monks and nuns could live and practice together, without having to worry about obtaining the four requisites of food, clothing, shelter, and medicine.

Co-organizing the Life as a Buddhist Nun conference in 1996, where Chinese and Tibetan monastics taught the Vinaya to Western nuns, also helped her to see how a Western monastic community might take shape. Ven. Chodron submitted a list of names for a future monastery to His Holiness the Dalai Lama, and he chose “Sravasti Abbey.

With a name from His Holiness the Dalai Lama, there was no turning back. After a false start in Missouri, Ven. Chodron’s Dharma students in Idaho began helping her to search for land nearby to build a monastery.

Finding the Property

After attempts to found Sravasti Abbey in Missouri and Idaho, Ven. Chodron first viewed the 240 acre property near Newport, Washington in August of 2003. Within a few months, the purchase was made and Ven. Chodron moved in with her two cats, Manjushri and Acala.

Some of Ven. Chodrons’ students from Seattle, where she had been the spiritual advisor to the Dharma Friendship Foundation for 10 years, formed the Friends of Sravasti Abbey (FOSA) to support the Abbey’s development.

Founding Principles

Ven. Chodron had articulated the key principles that would steer the Abbey’s course for residents and guests to develop a Monastic’s Mind. Over numerous meetings, the FOSA drew up operating systems that are still in practice. Many of the core members eventually moved to the Abbey. Some of them ordained as monastics and dedicated their lives to develop the Abbey and the Dharma in the West.

In the first years, several of Ven. Chodron’s teachers came to bless the land, including Khensur Wangdak Rinpoche. He declared happily, “It’s very fertile here. This place could support 10,000 monastics!” See this history in our Photo Gallery archive.

Growth and construction

Over the years, the Sravasti Abbey community has grown steadily. Meet the community here. Growth has led to the construction of more buildings to house an increasing number of residents and guests.

We celebrated our 10th anniversary in 2013 with the consecration of Chenrezig Hall, which has a commercial kitchen, dining room, and more rooms for guests. In 2015, we purchased adjacent acreage with a house and outuildings, named Tara’s Refuge, which will support the Abbey’s future growth.

Today in 2023

Now, as we approach our 20th anniversary, the Abbey is building the Buddha Hall, a two-story temple and library that we hope will serve resident monastics and lay guests for thousands of years. The monastic community has grown to includes 19 nuns and 4 monks.

Here are highlights of how Sravasti Abbey shares the Dharma, bringing benefit to friends around the world:

  • Offering retreats, courses, and teachings and opportunities for visitors to immerse in Buddhist monastic life for short or long-term visits.
  • Supporting The Library of Wisdom and Compassion book series, a 10-volume treasury, co-authored by H.H. the Dalai Lama and Venerable Thubten Chodron and published by Wisdom Publications.
  • Posting short daily talks and collections of teachings on the Sravasti Abbey YouTube Channel. With over 7,000 videos, it received over 700,000 views last year.
  • Our Prison Dharma outreach offers spiritual support to over 1,000 inmates in the USA
  • All Abbey programs are offered freely. We are supported completely by the generosity of others.

Join us in creating the causes for the Dharma to continue to flourish in the West, to create peace in a chaotic world.

Latest Teachings

Newest Photos

Thank you to every lovely monastic and lay friend who participated in this cultural exchange! May all beings benefit greatly from this.
Monthly eNews & eTeaching
Find out what's happening at the Abbey.
Learn from books by Ven. Thubten Chodron.

Sravasti Abbey

692 Country Lane
Newport WA 99156 USA
[email protected]
509-447-5549