eNews September 2021 – Sravasti Abbey


Dear Friends,

As you probably know, this summer has seen record heat in the Western USA. This has brought drought, forest fires, and hazardous smoke levels in the air. Climate change is real!

We’ve been managing okay with all this, but it’s sad to see our animal friends suffer. The forest and our flower and veggie gardens have also dried up, and weeds have taken over. But things will change again, and hopefully we’ll be able to restore the greenery in the future.

The last twelve days of August had beautiful weather and no smoke! We enjoyed walks in the forest and were especially happy to share the lovely weather with those who came for Offering Service Saturday. (Everyone worked outside and stayed safely distanced.)

With the rising surge of Covid cases due to the Delta variant, our state governor has issued a mandate for everyone to mask up in public spaces. In response, we are once again closing our doors to visitors for the time being. Watch Ven. Jigme’s talk on why we’ve closed again here.

We’ll continue to share the Dharma with you online and look forward to seeing you there.

See photos of Abbey life in August here.

Bhikshuni Thubten Chodron & the Sravasti Abbey Community

Exploring Monastic Life

Over 20 people attended the annual Exploring Monastic Life program (EML) this year. Half were here in person, and the other half attended online from Europe, Brazil, Mexico, Singapore, and elsewhere. See photos here.

What Ven. Chodron teaches during EML differs each year. This year, she used some sutras to present general points and elaborated on them with contemporary examples. Watch the teachings here.

Ven. Chodron focused a lot on the importance of having the correct motivation for becoming a Buddhist monastic and for keeping the precepts and training rules after ordination. Monastic life is not just about following precepts. It’s an attitude toward life, a worldview that helps us to direct our body, speech, and mind in beneficial directions and to virtuous activities.

After a few days to “warm up,” the participants did a ceremony to request training. They formally stated to the resident sangha that they sought monastic training for the duration of EML. Afterwards, participants and Abbey residents who were observers had the opportunity to share and rejoice in one another’s virtuous aspirations.

It is very rare to be with a group of people where this can be done with knowledge that the others understand and support your practice. There were some tears and touching moments—the kind of understanding and compassion that bring us together as a community.


Three days after EML ended was a joyous day at the Abbey. We held a previously planned ordination in which Nicole took the novice (sramaneri) and training (shiksamana) precepts, becoming Ven. Thubten Rinchen. Stephen, Stacy, and Sydney—each of whom has previously visited the Abbey for several months—took the eight precepts and became anagarikas (the ones who wear blue outfits at the Abbey).

Andrea from Colombia, who is part of the Dharmadatta Nuns’ Community, also became a novice, Ven. Thubten Trinlay. Ven. Chodron was the preceptor, Ven. Sangye Khadro was the instructor, and Ven. Tarpa was the guide. All bhikshunis at the Abbey were in attendance to form the sangha.

For three days prior, the candidates learned about the ordination ceremony, which was conducted in English. Ven. Chodron explained each phase of the ceremony and the following day we rehearsed it. In this way, Nicole and Andrea knew clearly how to think during each step.

The day of the ordination was clear and sunny, and everyone gathered in Ananda Hall to take part in the hair shaving. The bhikshunis took turns shaving the heads of the female candidates, and Ven. Losang shaved Stephen’s head while everyone chanted “Homage to our root teacher, Shakyamuni Buddha.”

Everyone, including guests, attended the introduction and dedication of the ordination ceremony. Only the bhikshuni sangha, Nicole, and Andrea could be present for the actual ordination ceremony. Watch Ven. Chodron’s Bodhisattva’s Breakfast Corner talks on the verses of rejoicing from the ordination ceremony here and the verses of dedication and refuge here.

The morning concluded with photos and offerings, including a special lunch made by our friend Kuni, who owns a Thai restaurant in Spokane. The meal was co-sponsored by the Friends of Sravasti Abbey in Singapore and Malaysia, who also generously offered our meals throughout EML. The newly ordained were radiant, and everyone experienced the joy of engaging in virtue. Enjoy the photos here. And more here.

Know Your Mind Part 2

Venerable Sangye Khadro led the second part of the Know Your Mind course over a weekend. She first reviewed material from Part One on the types of awarenesses. Those videos have been edited and posted here. She then went on to discuss primary minds and mental factors. Teachings and meditations from both Parts One and Two are archived here.

Of the 51 mental factors usually explained in the Tibetan tradition, Ven. Sangye Khadro covered the five omnipresent, five object-ascertaining, and eleven virtuous mental factors. Participants were especially inspired to explore the virtuous mental factors and how to increase their power to create more merit.

Stay tuned for Part Three, November 13-14, where Ven. Sangye Khadro will teach on the remaining mental factors. Learn more about the online course here.

Sharing the Dharma Day

The August Sharing the Dharma Day centered on two chapters in An Open-Hearted Life by Ven. Chodron and Dr. Russell Kolts that got everyone involved in observing how we communicate. Watch Ven. Chodron’s talk on compassionate communication here, and Ven. Sangye Khadro’s guided meditation on compassion for our enemies here.

Chapters 41 and 42 proposed that we recall an uncomfortable situation and first observe how we usually would describe it to our friends. Then we looked at it again and only told the facts without any interpretation or use of emotive descriptive words.

This woke us all up to the fact that we impute and project so much on simple events, seeing them in terms of ME. We interpret innocuous situations as harmful to ME and get angry. We take a neutral quality or casual gesture as super attractive and attachment flares up. And when someone tries to point out that perhaps our perception was incorrect, we may explode in anger or go away and sulk in self-pity.

We could empathize with others because all of us are subject to this self-defeating behavior. And we could have compassion for others because we know that everyone wants to be happy and not create problems where none exist. Everyone left with a lot to think about and practice in their daily lives.

Join us for our next Sharing the Dharma Day online on September 12.

Buddha Hall

Things are progressing with the Buddha Hall: Our architect has completed therevisions to the building plans, and the civil engineer has redesigned the septic system, grading plan, and stormwater plan as required. The contractor is now looking over these plans before they are submitted to the health department. Minor changes in the electrical site plan are also in the works.

We received a touching note along with a donation for the Buddha Hall from a young man who visited the Abbey a couple of years ago:

“It is so encouraging to see you practicing the good path in this chaotic and unstable world. Your words and conduct inspire me to do better in my life. Simply knowing that you all are living a life of ethical conduct, meditation, and wisdom together as a community, gives me hope for future generations and for the future spread of the Dharma. Please continue your virtuous activities for a very long time. May your practices bear great fruit, and may you always overcome every obstacle. May you live happily and harmoniously!”

Meanwhile, Tenzin Ngodup, a thangka painter based in Dharamsala, has started working on a thangka of Manjushri, the Buddha of Wisdom. It will be part of the altar in the main meditation hall. Watch him prepare the canvas for the thangka here and here. You can also take a look inside his studio here.

Local Community Connections


Ven. Semkye gave the homily for an Inland Northwest Unitarian Universalist Community (aka Soul Weavers) service on Zoom. The topic was “The Practice of Patience: The Calm in the Storm.”

Ven. Semkye focused on how patience or fortitude can keep our minds and hearts steady during this unsettled time. By pacifying our anger and fear with patience and kindness, we can bring calm to ourselves and serve as a beacon of calm for others.

Ven. Semkye has also been part of a small interfaith group in our local town of Newport. Recently, the group decided to offer local residents free, bright vinyl banners with welcoming and warmhearted messages for those who live in and visit Pend Oreille County.

The banners have the simple phrases,“Welcome Diversity,” “Practice Harmony,” and “Show Kindness,” and can be hung in front yards, businesses, and churches. The first 60 banners were quickly taken, and the interfaith group will offer more in the near future. The group continues to work on small projects that foster a sense of community and connectedness.

Youth Emergency Services

Ven. Jigme is offering classes on nonviolent communication (NVC) to the staff of Youth Emergency Services (YES), where she also serves as a board member. They meet weekly to learn NVC in order to improve communication with each other and with the youth they serve. It has been a stressful time during Covid, and YES has innovated many ways to stay connected with the kids. Over the last year, getting food to families has been the most pressing concern. At one point, YES was providing an average 70-90 food baskets a week to youths and families in need.

Dharma Outreach

Teachings by Ven. Sangye Khadro

  • Ven. Sangye Khadro completed the second part of lamrim teachings on The Easy Path for Thubten Norbu Ling in New Mexico. This month, they studied the twelve links of dependent arising and looked at ways to start undoing these factors that keep us stuck in cyclic existence. The course resumes with teachings on the great scope on October 7. Check it out here.
  • She also concluded a series of ten talks on “The Wisdom of Ultimate Truth” for Root Institute in India. The final talks covered how to use Chandrakirti’s sevenfold reasoning to investigate the sense of an inherently existent I. She then looked at the importance of combining compassion and wisdom using the three types of compassion explained in Chandrakirti’s Supplement to the Middle Way. Watch the talks here.
  • The Sandpoint Sangha continued studying Shantideva’s Engaging in the Bodhisattva’s Deeds with Ven. Sangye Khadro. This time, they looked at another argument that Shantideva makes for respecting all beings, even those who do harmful actions. These beings are cherished by all the buddhas, and if we get angry at and harm any sentient being, we’re harming those the buddhas love more than themselves. The group discussed how such reflections could be helpful in changing our attitudes toward the Taliban, as well as annoying colleagues. One woman shared how studying the chapter on fortitude has helped her to deal with a difficult neighbor; their relationship has been completely transformed and she was very grateful!

Talks by other Abbey monastics

  •  Ven. Damcho spoke on “Walking the Path of Wisdom and Compassion,” for the Singapore Buddhist Mission’s weekly fellowship circle on Zoom. She reflected on the four messengers that prompted Prince Siddhartha to renounce the palace life and shared the events that inspired her to ordain as a Buddhist monastic. She also encouraged participants to reflect on the messengers that have fueled their own spiritual practice. Viewers from Singapore and elsewhere appreciated the chance to consider what brings them meaning in life.
  • Ven. Nyima continues to meet twice monthly via Zoom with students from Ganden Shedrub Ling in Puerto Rico. The group is reviewing the Seven-Point Mind Training text by Geshe Chekawa, based on its commentary, Mind Training Like the Rays of the Sun, by Nam-kha Pel. Practitioners from Costa Rica, Chile and Colombia are also participating. Learn more about the teachings here.

Gavin Discovers the Secret to Happiness

Sravasti Abbey is delighted to publish our first children’s book, Gavin Discovers the Secret to Happiness through Amazon Kindle Create. The book is written by Albert Ramos, a Dharma practitioner behind bars who has studied for many years under Ven. Chodron’s guidance.

The story revolves around a dog named Gavin who believes that happiness comes from cool toys and chasing cats. Gavin’s life changes when he meets Bodhi, a wiser, older dog suffering from illness, who teaches him the secret to true happiness. Delightful illustrations by Miguel Rivero add color to the humorous and moving tale.

Watch Venerable Chodron introduce the book here. Learn more about the book here.

More News

  •  We’re looking for a volunteer who’s familiar with ReactNative to help us get the Sravasti Abbey app onto the iTunes store. Experience with Expo development would be a plus. If you can help, please write to communication [dot] sravasti [at] gmail [dot] com.
  • For all of you who speak Czech, a talk Ven. Chodron gave on the Four Noble Truths has been translated into Czech by Vladimir Hajduk. Enjoy it here.
  • Ven. Chodron responded to an Italian Dharma student who felt desperate and hopeless after his mother had a stroke. Read Ven. Chodron’s suggestions on how to care for yourself and the other person when a dear one has a medical emergency.
  • Photographer and ordained minister Rev. Gen Heywood did a photo story on the Abbey for Spokane Faith and Values. Read it here. See more of Gen’s beautiful photos of the Abbey here.
  • Save the Date! Buddhist Global Relief’s (BGR) Action to Feed the Hungry is coming up. The online West Coast edition is October 2, featuring talks by BGR founder Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi, Ven. Thubten Chodron, and other Buddhist teachers. You’ll also hear about BGR’s many projects to ease the suffering of chronic hunger and poverty around the world and learn how you can help. Details coming soon on the BGR website.

Upcoming Events

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

Plus regular ongoing teachings:

Check the Abbey Events page for much more


Don’t Stop Here

More To Explore


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