eNews November 2021 – Sravasti Abbey


Dear Friends,

Beautiful fall colors abound at the Abbey now, and we’ve finally gotten some rain—a whole week of it! Some days are cold and windy, others are sunny. Autumn is like the minds of sentient beings—up and down, always changing.

We’ve moved some of the flowers that wilted in the summer’s heat inside, where they can show their colors. The deer are as hungry as ever, and though we haven’t seen the bears, we know they’re stocking up for winter.

The white turkey has returned—she and the black turkeys live peacefully together, as do our black and white cats. They’re smarter than human beings in this regard.

See photos of autumn colors at the Abbey here and Abbey life in October here.

Bhikshuni Thubten Chodron & the Sravasti Abbey Community

Pramanavarttika Teachings

The Abbey was once again treated to teachings by Geshe Yeshe Thabkhe, who has taught at the Abbey for many years. This year he continued the teachings on the second chapter of Dharmakirti’s Pramanavarttika.

This chapter contains the reasoning showing the Buddha as a reliable guide on the path to full awakening. In doing so, Dharmakirti goes into detail about many auxiliary topics, including the sixteen aspects of the four truths of the aryas. Watch the archived teachings here.

The teaching was planned for eight days, but Geshela wanted to finish the chapter, so he taught for an extra four days. And he’s 91 years old with a very sharp mind! We marveled at our fortune not only to hear these teachings, but also for the kindness of Katrina Brooks, the interpreter who did an excellent job in translating the teachings into English. Enjoy photos here.

Buddha Hall

Our local health department and the state health department received the final plans for the septic system and are reviewing them. We’re awaiting their approval.

Tim, our architect is working on refining the building plans to meet the strict building code we are required to follow. Our county considers the Buddha Hall a commercial building and thus holds it to the same building standards as a high rise in Manhattan.

For example, they are requiring an elevator instead of a platform lift, along with many other changes that will raise the cost. We have appealed to our local building inspector, but he wants us to follow the commercial building code exactly.

Meanwhile the Tibetan artist in India, Tenzin Ngodup from the Institute of Tibetan Thangka Arts, is progressing with the beautiful painting of Manjushri he is making for the main altar. Watch the video here.

And folks are still doing the Shakyamuni Buddha practice and reciting the Buddha’s mantra in support of the Buddha Hall project. We’ve passed 7 million recitations! Join the effort here.

Teachings by Ven. Chodron

Working with Anxiety

Ven. Chodron led a weekend workshop on “Working with Anxiety” for FPMT Mexico. Participants doubled up with laughter as Ven. Chodron exposed the shenanigans of the self-centered thought that gets us all worked up about all things related to me, myself, and I.

People resonated with Ven. Chodron’s many anecdotal examples in the teachings, which were translated consecutively by Abbey nun Ven. Nyima. Between teaching sessions, Ven. Nyima offered guided meditations in Spanish as well. Watch the course here.

Who is Tara?

The Rainbow Body Sangha in India consistently meditates on Tara and has great faith in this manifestation of the Buddha’s omniscient mind. After reading Ven. Chodron’s book, How to Free Your Mind: The Practice of Tara the Liberator, the group requested Ven. Chodron to speak about Tara. They listened enthusiastically as Ven. Chodron explained the symbolism of Tara’s physical form and meaning of receiving her blessing.

Blessing or inspiration is not something an external Buddha gives to us while we relax. Rather, the principal ways the Buddhas benefit us is by giving teachings. Then it is up to us to employ logic and reason to examine the teachings deeply. In that way the teachings are integrated with our mindstream and will have a powerful effect on our being and how we live. Watch the talk, “Who is Tara?” here. The latest talk, “Healing Anger with Tara,” is here.

The Library of Wisdom and Compassion

Ven. Chodron continues a series of weekly talks requested by Jewel Heart Center on the Library of Wisdom and Compassion. Since she discusses a different volume of the Library each week, the topics of the talks have been diverse, ranging from the meaning of “blessing” in Buddhism to buddha nature to Nāgārjuna’s proof that the Three Jewels exist. Register for the talks here.

Teachings by Ven. Sangye Khadro

The Human Spirit Training Program

Ven. Sangye Khadro began teaching the winter semester of the Human Spirit Psychoanalytic-Buddhist Training Program held in Lod, Israel. She’s been on the faculty since 2016. This year, she’s teaching via Zoom.

There are two groups of students: one is in its final semester of the seven-year program, and the other is in its fourth year.

The senior students are learning the lamrim (the graduated stages of the path to awakening), using Yangsi Rinpoche’s Practicing the Path. The junior students are learning the details of true duhkha and true origins, along with the four establishments of mindfulness.

Watch the talks and guided meditations for the junior students here.

A Fearless Heart

Ven. Sangye Khadro taught a weekend course for Kalachakra Centre, Paris on A Fearless Heart by Thubten Jinpa. She discussed and led meditations on ways to cultivate compassion, both for oneself and others, and how to deal with obstacles to compassion, such as self-centeredness, fear, and despair. The teachings were translated into French and will be posted shortly.

The Easy Path to Omniscience

The third and final part of the lamrim course on The Easy Path to Omniscience for Thubten Norbu Ling in Sante Fe started up in the first week of October. Ven. Sangye Khadro is now teaching the path of the bodhisattva. It’s so inspiring to go through the different methods for developing bodhicitta and the actual practices of bodhisattvas as summarized in the six perfections. Register for the class here. Watch the teachings here.

Sandpoint Sangha

In her monthly session with the Sandpoint (Idaho) Sangha, Ven. Sangye Khadro completed Chapter 6 of Shantideva’s Engaging in the Bodhisattva’s Deeds. At the request of founder Frank Ostaseski, the group is now studying the topic of dependent origination. Ven. Sangye Khadro began with the general meaning of causal dependence and also touched on the twelve links of dependent origination.

Community Outreach

Partners in Change

A group of psychologists in Midland, Michigan asked Ven. Tarpa to help with staff training through teachings on meditation. Partners in Change: Psychological & Community Services, has a staff of about 30 professionals. Their ongoing training and supervision include emphasis on self-care and self-exploration.

In their weekly meetings from October to November, Ven. Tarpa guides meditations and explores Buddhist teachings that intersect with modern psychology, followed by discussions. As you might expect, the participants are very good listeners.

Youth Emergency Services

Ven. Jigme has been presenting Nonviolent Communication (NVC) methods to the four employees of Youth Emergency Services, a nonprofit in Newport, Washington that supports youth who are homeless or at risk. The staff are very enthusiastic about NVC. They apply it to situations with the youth they serve and even in their families. It’s apparent that a ripple effect of effective, kind communication is touching many lives just through classes for four people in the community.

Ongoing Teachings with Abbey Monastics

Monday Meditation Group

Abbey nuns continue to offer a Monday evening meditation class via Zoom, co-sponsored by the Unitarian Universalist Churches of Spokane. They are reading and discussing How to Be Compassionate by His Holiness the Dalai Lama. Each class begins with a short guided meditation before the nuns delve into a teaching, open the floor for rich discussions, and then close with more meditation. Register to join the class here.

Lay Practitioners’ Practice Group

The lay practitioners’ practice group started by Abbey friend Kathy continues to meet on Zoom twice daily to meditate together. An Abbey monastic leads the session on Saturday mornings and takes questions after that. In addition to helping each other sustain a regular meditation practice, the group has supported members through grief and loss. They will join the Abbey in doing the Medicine Buddha Retreat from Afar starting January 2022 as well. Learn more about the lay practitioners’ practice group here.

Spanish Dharma Class

Ven. Nyima continues to teach the Spanish Dharma class hosted by Ganden Shedrub Ling (GSL) in Puerto Rico. They have been moving slowly through Mind Training Like Rays of the Sun, Nam-kha Pel’s commentary on the Seven-Point Mind Training, savoring the material and taking time to meditate on the important points. Participants are very dedicated to the Dharma and eager to transform their minds. To join in, find the Zoom link on the GSL calendar here.

Sharing the Dharma Day

This month, Ven. Chodron read chapter 44 on “Considering Perceived Threats and Needs” from An Open-Hearted Life. She touched on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and went into an interesting discussion on needs and wants. Watch the teaching here.

When we mistake our needs and wants, we may box ourselves into misery, feeling our needs aren’t being met when actually it’s our attachments that aren’t being fulfilled. When we can identify our wants that stem from clinging and attachment, we have more power to re-balance our emotions by letting go of the wants.

Differentiating our needs and our wants is not so easy, and we’ll continue to discuss that topic in the next Sharing the Dharma Day on November 7. Learn more about it here.

Ven. Sangye Khadro also led a meditation on self-forgiveness, which you can watch here.

Offering Service Saturdays

After hot and dry summer weather severely restricted our forest work, we were able to host four Offering Service Saturdays in October.

About a dozen dependable Abbey friends masked up and joined us in felling dead trees and removing tree limbs for fire prevention around Abbey buildings. They also helped with burning forest debris, maintaining our gardens, and readying the Abbey for winter. We offer our heartfelt thanks and rejoice in their abundant merit! We greatly appreciate the invaluable support we receive from our volunteers.

We also hosted a special Offering Service Saturday for people interested in rolling mantras. The new Buddha Hall will house many statues, large and small. Each statue will be filled and consecrated in the traditional way, including thousands of printed mantras rolled around a small piece of incense and wrapped in yellow cloth. Rolling mantras is a very hands-on meditative practice that contributes to creating the Buddha Hall.

Six fully vaccinated, socially distanced masked guests rolled mantras on tables outside on the south deck of Chenrezig Hall. Luckily, the weather cooperated and everyone had a great time. Some people even took mantras home to continue rolling. If this piques your interest, keep an eye on the Abbey’s eNews. We’ll announce more mantra rolling events in the spring and summer when the weather warms up.

The Abbey’s 18th Birthday

The Abbey celebrated its 18th birthday on October 17. We watched the video we made at our 5th birthday in 2008 and were astonished by all we accomplished in those first five years.

And now at age 18, we rejoice that we’ve been able to share the Dharma with so many people nationally and internationally with live teachings, residential courses, livestreamed and archived teachings, the SAFE online program, courses and discussion groups held on Zoom, sending speakers to local events and to give teachings at other Dharma centers, and more.

The Kindness of Others

Ven. Semkye had some excitement as she was driving to the dentist’s office in Coeur d’Alene when the dashboard lights started flashing. Fortunately she made it to the dentist office before the car stalled in the middle of their parking lot.

Our dentist, Dr. Benjamin Babcock, who takes wonderful care of all our teeth, and his staff all helped push the car to the edge of the lot. After Ven. Semkye’s dental work was completed, the car miraculously started again and one of the dental assistants followed her to the car dealership to make sure she got there okay.

Talk about the kindness of others!

Bhiksunīs in the Tibetan Canon

Our Dharma sister Ven. Jampa Tsedroen (Dr. Carola Roloff), a bhikṣuṇī and professor in Germany, recently published her research on the bhikṣuṇī ordination rite in the Tibetan canon.

Dr. Jay Garfield from Smith College and Harvard Divinity School wrote:

Prof. Roloff has offered an enormous gift to Vinaya scholars, to scholars of Tibetan Buddhism, to the monastic community, to scholars of women in religion, and most of all to Buddhist women both lay and monastic with the publication of Buddhist Nuns‘ Ordination in the Tibetan Canon.

The editions and translations of important texts concerning the ordination of women are erudite, comprehensive and clear. They will be invaluable primary resources for anyone interested in the issue of the restoration of the Tibetan nuns’ full ordination lineage. Prof. Roloff’s analysis of the legal and religious issues and her argument for the procedure for the restoration of this lineage are meticulous and convincing, setting a new standard for argument in this important debate.

You can get the book here.

More News

  • The Sravasti Abbey community wrote a short paper and made a video to share what our Buddhist monastic community is doing to protect the environment and reduce climate change. Watch the video, “Environmental Protection and the Six Perfections” here. Read the article here.
  • The Dalai Lama Global Vision Summit 2021 on “The Power of Compassion” sent out a link to a new short video of His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s message for global responsibility. It’s a lovely 3-minute inspiration. Watch it here.
  • Ven. Losang shares how our lay or monastic precepts are guardrails and guides for ethical conduct. Read The Guard Rails of Precepts here.

Upcoming Events

Here’s what’s happening online in the next few weeks:

Plus regular ongoing teachings:

  • Library of Wisdom and Compassion with Ven. Thubten Chodron, on Zoom every Wednesday, 4 pm Pacific Time/ 7 pm Eastern Time through November 10.
  • El Adiestramiento Mental with Ven. Thubten Nyima, on Zoom every other Wednesday, 4 pm Pacific Time/ 7 pm Puerto Rico Time.– Class moves to 3 pm Pacific Time starting November 17.
  • Lam Rim: Study, Reflect, Meditate with Ven. Sangye Khadro, on Zoom every Thursday, 8:15 am Pacific Time/ 9:15 am Mountain time through November 18.
  • Engaging in the Bodhisattva’s Deeds with Ven. Thubten Chodron streamed live on Thursday mornings, 10 am Pacific Time. – Class moves to 9 am Pacific Time starting November 11.
  • 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


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