Young Adults Explore the Dharma at Sravasti Abbey

The monastic community joined the young adults for daily teachings with Ven. Chodron.

Young Adults Explore the Dharma at Sravasti Abbey

With a clamor of enthusiasm, eight young adults ages 17 to 28 assembled at Sravasti Abbey in June for the fourth annual Exploring Buddhism for Young Adults program. For one week, the seven laypeople and one monastic, balanced equally by gender, lived the intensity of spiritual community, bringing their life questions to the Dharma and taking the Dharma more deeply into their lives.

The young adults kept the same daily schedule as the resident monastics, practicing morning and evening and offering service in the afternoon. Ven. Thubten Chodron, founder and abbess of Sravasti Abbey, gave teachings on the Buddhist worldview, beginning with an explanation of the mind and how ignorance and other afflictions distort reality.

Ven. Chodron also led group discussions focused on applying the teachings to daily life. The group delved quite deeply into gender role stereotypes, an investigation that culminated in a hilarious end-of-course skit with each person caricaturing a stereotype of the opposite sex.

The visiting monastics watched salmon climb the fish ladder at Bonneville Dam.

Sharing and bonding occurred during the group discussions.

Ryder Delaloye attended with his wife, Naomi, both 27. “We wanted to develop a stronger connection to Venerable Chodron and the abbey,” Ryder said. The couple heads to Thailand soon on a two–year teaching contract.

“Dharma practice is the most important thing in my life,” Ryder explained. “Without it, everything else falls apart. Through living in community with other young adults at the abbey, I was able to see that my personal experiences and challenges are not unique, and that I fit in within a very special spiritual community.”

Ven. Jampel, the abbey’s 25–year–old male monastic, took part in the program, while the abbey’s female monastics delighted in one-on-one conversations with the young adults.

“I think of all the monastics as spiritual guides,” Naomi said. “I sometimes label my practice ‘less than,’ that I’m ‘just a loopy lay person’ trying to work with my mind, so it’s good for me to hear how the monastics are working through their own stuff.”

Dharma practice is also a priority for Jen Clifford of Seattle, 28, “I’ve noticed that if I don’t meditate every morning my day doesn’t feel complete,” she explained. With that in mind, she went to connect with other practicing Buddhists her age.

“I find it rare to find people in their twenties practicing the Dharma. I was hoping to find friends that had similar questions and struggles as I do,” she continued. “The abbey’s young adult program was the best and possibly the only way to have this connection.”

Many in the group took part in the refuge and precepts ceremony on the final day. Dharma brothers and sisters, they parted with the promise to keep the conversation going via the Internet and a hope to return next year.

Contributor: Thubten Chonyi.
Photos: Thubten Jigme.