You’ve probably read about the record-breaking heat in the Western US, where the Abbey is located. Experts say such extreme temperatures would not be possible here if it weren’t for the human influence of climate change.
Here at the Abbey, the grassy meadows that are usually green until the middle or end of August started drying up in mid-July. The shrubs in the forest, which generally turn yellow in late August or early September, were bright orange by mid-July. All the trees, plants, and wildlife are crying out for rain, but little has fallen for a long time.
Under Ven. Tsultrim’s guidance, our Operations Team set up a fire evacuation plan and we’ve had drills. Three short blasts of the horn means grab your knapsack and a kitty and head for the cars to leave immediately. Two long blasts means meet in Chenrezig Hall because there’s enough time to put Barricade on some of the buildings and move some holy objects into the storage room before leaving.
Guy & Ruth Gifford also came out to assess our building structures and landscaping for possible ignition points in case of wildfires in the vicinity, especially embers traveling as far as a mile. Guy is the state fire prevention and Firewise coordinator for our region, and Ruth is knowledgeable about fire safety as well. The Abbey’s Operations and Grounds teams will implement a number of their recommendations to increase the safety of the Abbey residents and buildings.
See photos of Abbey life in July here.
Bhikshuni Thubten Chodron & the Sravasti Abbey Community
Medicine Buddha Retreat
The weeklong Medicine Buddha retreat was the first one in over a year and a half where we hosted residential guests. We were very happy to see old friends and meet new ones.
This group was especially cooperative—everyone came on time to every sessions and maintained silence, which gave everyone the opportunity to go deeper in their meditation.
Ven. Chodron taught about the Medicine Buddha practice in the mornings, including the explanation of the Medicine Buddha’s twelve unshakable resolves. In the afternoon we had discussion groups to explore such topics as “What does healing entail?” and “What unshakable resolves do you want to pledge when you enter the bodhisattva path?”
In a second teaching session in the afternoon, Ven. Chodron taught Nāgārjuna’s Letter to a Friend, emphasizing how to put Nāgārjuna’s teachings into practice in our daily lives. And of course there were meditation sessions morning and evening and some afternoons as well.
See retreat photos here. Watch meditations and teachings here.
The Buddha Hall
The civil engineer and architect are finishing the changes to the building plans since we moved the construction site a little to the northwest to take advantage of flatter land there. It’s taken them a while to figure out the design for the lower parking area so that it meets ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) requirements.
After the stormwater, septic field, and architectural site designs are updated, we will turn in all revisions to the various agencies that are part of the permitting process before construction can begin.
The Buddha Hall is considered a commercial building, and since Pend Oreille is a rural county where there are not many commercial projects, the permitting process may take longer than usual.
Meanwhile, almost all of the log cabin at the far end of the garden has been removed to make way for Metta Cabin, where Ven. Sangye Khadro will live. It will be built at the same time as the Buddha Hall to save time and money. See photos of taking down the old log cabin here.
British sculptors Peter and Denise Griffin have also been working hard on the first statue for our future main altar in the Buddha Hall. Peter, the main artist, is bringing Venerable Gotami to life in their workshop in France. Meet Venerable Gotami here.
Read more about the future Buddha Hall in the Northwest Dharma News here. There are photos there of the present Meditation Hall and our dining room that now doubles as a meditation hall when we have many guests and when the weather is hot.
June & July Sharing the Dharma Day
During the last weekend in June, we were delighted to welcome local guests to our first in-person Sharing the Dharma Day in a year and a half. Many of our friends and supporters—all of whom were vaccinated—enjoyed meditation, a Dharma talk, and group discussions as all of us sheltered from the record-breaking heat in the Inland Pacific Northwest.
Ven. Chodron taught about “Helping Ourselves and Others to Feel Safe,” chapter 40 in An Open-Hearted Life. She emphasized learning to reduce our suspicious conceptualizations that make us feel threatened. By changing our thoughts about others and doing even small actions to put others at ease, we create a feeling of safety inside ourselves.
An animated discussion about how to do this followed in the afternoon, as participants at the Abbey and on Zoom shared their reflections on feeling safe and the benefits of creating safety for self and others. Watch the meditation here and the teaching here.
Instead of teaching on the next chapter for July’s Sharing the Dharma Day, Ven. Chodron spoke again on “Compassion and Empathy” (chapter 33). While empathy is the basis for compassion, we can never really understand another person’s experience. However, we can come close if we listen with acceptance, respect, and an open mind.
Sometimes our own memories and/or habitual emotional patterns get triggered when listening to others relate events in their lives. At this time, we’ve fallen into personal distress—our focus has become ourselves, whereas empathy focuses on others. Empathy doesn’t try to solve others’ problems or give them advice; it listens with understanding. Because empathy is free of judgments, it can spark compassion wishing others to be free of suffering. Watch the meditation here and the teaching here.
See photos of July’s Sharing the Dharma Day here.
Teachings by Ven. Sangye Khadro
- Ven. Sangye Khadro began the second part of a Lam Rim teaching series for Thubten Norbu Ling in Sante Fe using The Easy Path as the basis for the course. She is going through teachings in the middle scope. Participate via the center’s website here. Watch past teachings here.
- She continued teaching “The Wisdom of Ultimate Truth” for Root Institute in India. This month, they looked at dependent arising as a reason for proving that things are empty of inherent existence and studied Chandrakirti’s sevenfold reasoning for understanding the emptiness of the person. Register here to watch on Zoom or on YouTube here.
- Root Institute also invited her to give a talk on Wheel Turning Day. She told the story of the Buddha’s first teaching from the Sutra on Setting in Motion the Wheel of Dharma, which speaks of the four truths and eightfold path. Watch the talk here.
- She offered a talk on the kindness of sentient beings for the Buddhist Channel in Indonesia, based on the Mata (Mother) Sutta from the Pali Canon. In this sutra, the Buddha spoke about all beings having been our mother, our father, and so on. This acts as the basis for the inspiring meditation that is part of the sevenfold cause and effect method for cultivating bodhicitta. Watch the talk here.
- With the Sandpoint Sangha, she continued going through Chapter 6 of Shantideva’s Engaging in the Bodhisattva’s Deeds, learning many practical tools for decreasing anger and increasing fortitude.
Teachings by Other Abbey Monastics
- Ven. Tsepal is offering four monthly online talks on the four immeasurables for Cascade Hermitage. Watch the first talk on loving-kindness here. Cascade Hermitage, a retreat for Buddhist monastics and laity, is the vision of Abbey friends Sarah Conover and Douglas Robnett near Winthrop, WA. Learn more.
- Ganden Shedrub Ling in Puerto Rico continues to host the mind training class taught by Ven. Nyima in Spanish. Learn more.
- Although Abbey monastics cannot do our usual prison visits to share the Dharma, we continue sending reading materials to incarcerated people around the country. We also correspond with many of them and answer their Dharma questions. It is very rewarding to witness their growth and change. You may want to read some of their writings here.
- Abbey monastics continue the weekly Zoom class offered in association with the Unitarian Universalist Churches of Spokane. We’re studying How to Be Compassionate by His Holiness the Dalai Lama. Register for the class here.
Supporting One Another
Death and Impermanence
Ven. Semkye’s sister, Jane, died three years ago. Ven. Semkye hoped to have the family come to the Abbey to scatter Jane’s ashes on our forest ridge called Sukhavati or the Land of Great Bliss, the name of Amitabha Buddha’s pure land. However, with Covid lockdowns that wasn’t possible, so the Abbey community supported her instead. We walked with Ven. Semkye to Sukhavati, where we recited “The King of Prayers” and White Tara’s mantra as all of us scattered a handful of ashes.
Ven. Chodron offers the refuge and precepts ceremony a few times each year, often at the conclusion of a retreat. In certain situations, if there are people who want to take refuge and precepts but cannot come to the Abbey because of illness or finances for travel, they can join online. There was such a ceremony at the end of the Medicine Buddha retreat. However, our internet stopped working just before the ceremony was to begin. A second ceremony, scheduled later for the online group, ran smoothly.
Gratitude for Online Community
At retreats and courses, we have discussion groups that help people integrate the Dharma teachings they’ve heard into their lives. The Abbey has a special way of doing these groups that help people open up and develop Dharma friendships.
Jean wrote, “I want to thank the Abbey for continuing online teachings and specifically the Zoom discussion groups. I do not have a local Buddhist group and the Zoom discussions have given me a greater sense of connection to others traveling the same path.”
“I tend to feel a sense of trepidation about participating in the discussions and have come to realize that this is the result of my ego, not always being eager to reveal my afflictions. However, these discussions are in fact a very safe place for such revelations and I have gained a lot from having to reflect on the questions and to put those reflections into words. Yesterday’s Sharing the Dharma Day discussion was particularly helpful for me and my often inflated ego.”
We are also grateful to the Young Buddhist Association Malaysia for offering training for the Abbey video team and friends from FOSA-Singapore in a new live streaming software. This will help our video team prepare for the new system in the Buddha Hall. We rejoice in the international collaboration!
Our work in the forest is progressing slowly this summer, due in part to smoky days and not as many volunteers. But a lot was accomplished on July’s Offering Service Saturday.
Many dead trees had been taken down last autumn and now we are removing their branches and taking some of them to another area where they can be bucked up and used for firewood this winter.
Everyone had fun doing this, especially riding in the truck as it bumped along forest roads. And working together brings a wonderful feeling of harmony and collaboration. The next Offering Service Saturday is August 28. Fully vaccinated folks can write the office to learn how to join in.
We’ve enjoyed having more visitors this summer.
Rashika, who has been following teachings closely online, was delighted to be able to return to the Abbey in person. Sal, who participated in Exploring Buddhism for Young Adults in June, made a trip out to see the Abbey for herself and was not disappointed.
Ryder and Naomi, who have been close to the Abbey since before they were married, came for a short visit with their two children, ages 8 and 10. The next day Scott, who has attended Ven. Chodron’s retreats before the Abbey began, came with his wife Rachel and two teenage daughters.
Cheri, who paints the beautiful stones that you might have seen at the Abbey, came for lunch and told us that spending time at the Abbey was like being in Sukhavati, Amitabha Buddha’s pure land. If you are fully vaccinated and would like to visit, make an appointment via our website.
Online Events by Partners
Living Vinaya film screening and discussion
Filmmaker Harsha Menon documented the “Living Vinaya in the West” course, the first-ever Vinaya training for an international group of nuns held at the Abbey in 2018. She will discuss and screen the film for the Kathmandu University Center for Buddhist Studies at Rangjung Yeshe Institute. Join via Zoom on August 1 at 6 am PT.
Meeting ID: 851 2038 3738
Asian Americans Under Attack: How Would the Buddha Respond?
Sravasti Abbey is co-sponsoring an online panel with 15 Dharma centers to explore Buddhism’s unique approach to racial discrimination and violence: not to fight hatred with hatred. Four Asian Americans who practice Tibetan Buddhism will give brief presentations followed by time for questions and comments. Join via Zoom on August 15 at 2:30 pm PT.
Meeting ID: 842 1195 4025
- Sravasti Abbey Friends Education (SAFE) classes resume on September 13, 2021. Registration opens on August 16. Write to the SAFE coordinator to register. Learn more about the program here.
- Ven. Chodron was invited to join the advisory board of Dharma Gates, a nonprofit organization dedicated to opening pathways into formal meditation training for young adults. Learn more about them here.
- Guided meditations led by Ven. Sangye Khadro for the Exploring Buddhism for Young Adults 2021 course are now available online. Listen to them here, here, and here.
- Mindfulness is very popular now. How does it relate to Buddhism? Read Ven. Chodron’s article on “Buddhist Mindfulness and Secular Mindfulness” here.
- Stephen wrote a beautiful poem, “Clarity, Confidence, and Courage” as the antidotes to confusion, self-doubt, and fear regarding our Dharma practice. Read it here.
- Ven. Tsultrim’s Bodhisattva’s Breakfast Corner talk, “What a Cliché!” had us doubled over in laughter. We aim for the moon in our Dharma practice, but expecting to get oil from sand with a snap of the fingers, we neglect to create the causes for awakening and fall flat on our face. But have hope; if Charlie Brown can become a Buddha, so can we. Watch the talk here and follow Ven. Tsultrim’s clever text here.
- If you understand Russian, watch Ven. Chodron’s talk about His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s qualities and her encounters with him here. And if you don’t, the English versions are here and here.
Here’s what’s happening online in the next few weeks:
Plus regular ongoing teachings:
- El Adiestramiento Mental with Ven. Thubten Nyima, streamed live every other Wednesday, 4 pm Pacific Time/ 7 pm Puerto Rico Time.
- Lam Rim: Study, Reflect, Meditate, Part Two with Ven. Sangye Khadro streamed live on Thursday mornings, 8:15 am Pacific Time, ends August 19.
- Engaging in the Bodhisattva’s Deeds with Ven. Thubten Chodron streamed live on Thursday mornings, 10 am Pacific Time.
- Wisdom of Ultimate Truth with Ven. Sangye Khadro, streamed live on Friday mornings, 7 am Pacific Time/ 7:30 pm Indian Time, ends August 6.
- Samsara, Nirvana, and Buddha Nature with Ven. Thubten Chodron streamed live every Friday night, 6:15 pm Pacific Time.
Check the Abbey Events page for much more