Welcome to the Leaflet

The Leaflet blog provides:
. Innen's weekly comments from a Dharma perspecti
ve
• the up-to-date practice calendar for our Red Maple Mindful Living Centre,
• links to our Tendai family of centres

For more on RMS, or Tendai Canada, visit www.tendai.ca
For more on the Red Maple Mindful Living Centre, click the link on the right border


Sunday, December 29, 2013

LOOKING OUT, LOOKING IN

LOOKING OUT, LOOKING IN

For most of us, the threshold between years is like Janus, the Roman’s two-headed protector-god of the entry-way, an experience of looking out and looking in. We reflect on what we have done, and not done, how we have changed and not changed, and what possibilities lie before us. A fine symbol for this time of year is Akashaloka, the Realm of Infinite Possibilities, the name for our mini-temple, here at the Old Schoolhouse . This reminds us that, regardless of what has happened in the past twelve months, we are entering something new, something pregnant with unimaginable possibilities.
It may feel uneasy to allow such breadth of possibility, yet when we look at our lives of the past year - sudden deaths, locations to new homes and tragic-comic events in our public sphere - possibilities are infinite indeed. 


Our Dharma faith is characterized by an assumption that our lives are nested within and flowing along with the activity of the Buddhas. This assumption likewise presumes that outcomes are not within our control, but are rather the fulfillment of the Buddha vows. Therefore, as we prepare for the coming year, we need not become obsessed with specific accomplishments or goals, but rather sustain our commitment to the aspirations of wholesome living that constitute our practice.
 

This is not to promote a throwing up of hands and “let go and let God”, as they say in A.A. We cannot sidestep our own responsibilities for action. Our faith is directed at awakening and this is not about waiting by the sidelines. We don’t cause awakening, ours or anyone’s, this is prideful and mis-informed. We are instead called to harmonize our actions and choices with the activity of the Buddhas, because we already and always are the dynamic and unfolding activity of the Buddhas. When, from the perspective of this threshold, we cast our eyes down the decreasingly clear vista of 2014, we ask ourselves how and what will this year be. We are invited to do so from the Dharma perspective of infinite possibilities;  to direct ourselves at what actions and intentions will fulfill the commitment to all sentient beings.

Yours in the Dharma,                           
from Akashaloka,                   
Innen, doshu
om namo amida butsu               
       

http://www.ottawacitizen.com/life/ask-the-religion-experts/index.html

Sunday, December 22, 2013

WINTER AND WHITEBOARDS

WINTER AND WHITEBOARDS
 
It was a wonderful celebration of our year-end last Saturday. Friends and family from all over the Valley came by to practice and share together -deep bows to all. We schedule a formal service hiatus now, in part because of typically unpredictable weather and, in part, because of the obligations of Christmas among our community. When we next meet, it will be on the other side of the shortest day, the end of one year and the unfolding of a new one, and the start of our second decade of practice.
 

This time of hiatus and passage was reflected earlier today when I was out pushing some of the tons of fresh snow in our yard. I recalled the dazzling red, orange and green diversity we enjoyed only a few months ago, a multi-coloured world now replaced by little other than white on white on white. One of our family visitors actually  looked up at the white wall in the Jizo garden and said it looked like a “snow-nami” about to swamp us with some giant wave of whiteness. This time of year has that quality to it - wiping clean this year, like brush across a white board, so that we stand ready to write our future year. Our pack of multi-coloured markers lies open, waiting for each of us to add some new line, shape and colour to this landscape.

Yours in the Dharma,                          
from Akashaloka,                  
Innen, doshu
om namo amida butsu        


Read the Religion Experts for this week at:              

http://www.ottawacitizen.com/life/ask-the-religion-experts/index.html

Sunday, December 15, 2013

JODO-E

Jodo-e

With all of the fuss and political correctness about what to call or say at this time of year, those of us on the Dharma path can remember that our important date occurs early in December, usually around the 8th. Bodhi Day celebrates the enlightenment of our historical founder, Shakyamuni Buddha, some 2500 years ago. It is an important date all over East Asia, a key celebration on the Buddhist calendar.


In many countries Bodhi Day or, as we in the Tendai tradition call it, Jodo-e, includes marking the event with coloured lights and candles. This provides us with an opportunity to re-interpret some of the familiar Western/Christian celebration traditions in a way which speaks to us.  We can likewise display such lights, and understand them as symbols of the moon and morning star which figure so prominently in the Buddha’s awakening narrative. 


It is crucial for us to find such ways to make our faith resonate with our present context. We ought not merely imitate what happens in Japan or Korea, as if this is the correct way. All symbolic activity arises from what speaks to practitioners in our own time and place.
May this Jodo-e period remind all of us of the remarkable event of the Buddha’s awakening and call us to find ways to make that present in and through our daily lives.


Yours in the Dharma,                          
from Akashaloka,                  
Innen, doshu
om namo amida butsu               


Check out my column in the Ottawa Citizen        

http://www.ottawacitizen.com/life/ask-the-religion-experts/index.html


                  
   

Sunday, December 08, 2013

VIEWING AND REFLECTING

VIEWING AND REFLECTING

In the past few weeks I have been asked what I thought of my experiences in Japan. This proved impossible for me to answer until just a few days ago. I found I was so immersed in the experience and in the experiencing that I was not able to shift into any reflective mode. All my senses and cognitive capacities were set on absorb, so the mechanisms of meaning-making were idling. In fact I deliberately avoided engaging in such reflection. It seemed out of place to be doing so while the experience was still unfolding. Now, with a week or so between me and the direct experiences, I can start to ask some questions and consider some metaphors to make sense of it all.
Coincidentally, our community is set to engage in our annual reflection. During this time we look back over the past 12 months and review what we have done to fulfill the intentions we set for ourselves last January. In our January gathering we will present the intentions for 2014. This review is an essential aspect of how we practice.
On my travels I read the new book, Scarcity, (Mullainathan and Shafir) a radical new proposal for how we can understand how the human mind works. Although the theory is pure Western psychology, it is entirely compatible with Buddhist ideas about the human sense of lack, what we call dukkha. They suggest that we are poorly served when we become “captured” by short-term shortages. We tend to narrow our perception and behave in ways which re-create the same distortions of life which we are caught up with. They emphasize the need to step back from urgencies of life, to look at what our long term aspirations may be. When we do this, we make better decisions and are less likely to become overwhelmed by our lives. In short, we need to shift between pure experience and the reflection of what such experience might mean for us.


om namu amida butsu,
Innen, doshu

Sunday, November 17, 2013

THRESHOLDS

THRESHOLDS

Leaving one’s home is a key narrative in Buddha-dharma. Most obviously, it points us to Shakyamuni’s night-time flight from wealth , family and privilege, the start of his long awakening process. Commonly, it is often how we describe the beginning of a monastic life, renunciation, whether that is permanent or time-limited. Pilgrimage is another example where we move purposefully away from our home, leaving all of its familiar comforts for a new life of simplicity. In all cases it is a change of direction, a severing of life patterns with clear and structured intention. These are what Turner calls “liminal” acts, that is, they are determined choices we make to cross over the thresholds of our lives and set out onto some new path.
In a few days I will undertake my own brief home-leaving as I join my companion priests for the Tendai Symposium on Hiei-zan, the mountain complex which is our shared centre. In this case, I am leaving my secular home to take up temporary residence in our tradition’s spiritual home. For a few of the party, this is a return to a place of their training, friends and memories. For me it remains a sketch, drawn from others’ stories, from Internet images and legends I have read of Saicho, Ryogen and thousands of other dharma-ancestors.
Ours is a wanderers’ tradition, from that mythic home-leaving of Shakyamuni through innumerable less momentous travels. For each of us, whenever we set off from the safety of our home, we are called on to recognize the transience of that place. We are not our property, estate or town. Leaving home, be that temporary or permanent, requires that we, like Shakyamuni, reach deep within for that which sustains us on the journey.
This home-leaving of mine is thick with apprehension and excitement - a foreign landscape, language, culture. Interestingly,  it comes on the other portentous threshold of this month and year, the tenth anniversary of our Red Maple Sangha. I am crossing that threshold, leaving a remarkable period that marked the establishment of one of the world’s great religious traditions in our country, our Dharma legacy. What I will walk back into I can only guess. Many of you will cross this new threshold with me.  In spite of the apprehension about both of these thresholds, I bring with me our vision and my own insatiable curiosity about this Way of ours. Shall we see what unfolds on this journey?

Yours in the Dharma,                          
from Akashaloka,                  
Innen, doshu
om namo amida butsu                      

To view this week’s Religion Experts Column, go to:
http://www.ottawacitizen.com/life/ask-the-religion-experts/index.html


<Week of Nov. 17  >                  
   

Sunday, November 10, 2013

BUDDHISM AND HUNTING

BUDDHISM AND HUNTING

It is not difficult to find the full range of online and print responses, from utter condemnation to broad approval for hunting, fishing and other animal husbandry activities. I’d like to post a few remarks from our perspective as a sangha located in our Renfrew County. Here is an economy which relies on animal husbandry industry and where seasonal hunting and fishing thrive. The County is dotted with dairy, beef, pork and poultry operations. The County virtually shuts down in mid-November when hunting starts. These activities contribute economically but also, perhaps more importantly, contribute food to many families. For these reasons, we can’t simply make some broad ahistorical moral judgement and say they have to be banned because they lead to suffering.

Let’s consider a few points:
1. Buddhism avoids blanket “thou shall/not..” moralizing. Of course it promotes non-harm (a-himsa), compassion (karuna) and what is called wholesome action, in general. In some orders and in some nations, Buddhists, especially monks and nuns are required to be vegetarian and to go to extraordinary lengths to avoid harming living beings (see #3 below). But Buddhism reminds us , monks or not, that all our actions occur within the flow of karma. Therefore, any harming of living beings, either deliberate (eg. hunting, trapping, killing mice in the basement) or tangential  (Eg. Working in the fur industry, buying/eating animal meat for food), has some form of consequence for us. I won’t wade into an explanation of karma here, but only to remind us that karma is not an accounting system where any given act gets “paid for” with any given consequence. Our participation in an harming behaviour requires a certain de-sensitizing on our parts, de-sensitizing us to the suffering of other beings. This penetrates our lives and will sets us up to be less sensitive, compassionate and attentive in other parts of life. This will encourage the kind of self-focused behaviour that leads to our sense of dissatisfaction in the first place. This will keep us blinded to our true being. That is a compromise we have to be aware of and enter into at our own peril.
2. A very wise teacher of mine, who grew up on an American animal-raising farm, notes that human beings are, from a Buddhist perspective, a special class of beings, separate from animals. However, he also adds that in practical terms we remain members of the family of mammals, those who are both hunters and the hunted. Part of the circumstance of our lives as conditioned beings is the necessity that, in some way, large or small, we are part of the network of hunting/hunted. This distressful situation is intimately part of the suffering we find ourselves facing and seeking to escape. He advises that it is not whether we kill but how we live with that.
3. In some Buddhist nations there is a distinction between certain kinds of animals -vertebrates, for example, who are considered “beings” and must be avoided for food. On the contrary, others, like fish or crustaceans, say shrimps or molluscs, like clams, don’t belong to the class of sentient beings, that is, they do not experience suffering, and can be consumed. Some distinguish between beef and deer, goats and dogs. This seems like hair-splitting and self-serving.
On the other hand, vegetarian living and avoidance of animal keeping is limited to some countries , and in others is limited to clergy. In Sri Lanka, a Theravada nation, Buddhists don’t have much of an animal industry, whereas, in Tibet, a Vajrayana country, vegetable crops are weather prohibitive and meat eating and dairy farming is necessary for survival. The general public are not condemned for this since they are considered lesser practitioners than clergy. In most Asian/Buddhist nations, the avoidance of meat raising/eating is as much an economic decision as a moral one.
All of this to say, any prohibitions against animal husbandry, meat-eating and hunting/fishing is very complex for us as Buddhists. There is no universal ban to compare with Jewish/Muslim bans on pork and shellfish. Each practitioner needs to delve into the issue as part of our examination of the form of all of our life activities.

REMEMBERING

REMEMBERING

All across Canada people are participating in a day of remembrance, but what exactly is this remembering? What is memory? Where do memories come from, where are they when we are not remembering? Are they like files in some giant file drawer buried in the attic of the mind? Are they replicas of experience or are they collages of pieces of experience, assembled on the fly?
In our mindfulness practice, we are repeatedly attending to our lapses of attention and reminding ourselves to come back to the breath, the step or the recitation. True mindfulness is this remembering , literally re-minding ourselves, shifting away from habitual wandering thoughts and establishing a mind of open awareness.
If we consider Buddhist teaching, we are instructed that our aspiration is not one of figuring anything out. It is not an analysis, calculus or theorizing. We are not seeking anything new or unknown. We are remembering. The Buddhas teach that we are now and have always been the complete presentation of Awake Awareness, we are its display and its play. Our challenge as practitioners is to recognize that somehow we have forgotten this rather important piece of information. We are called to remember who and what we are. With that recollection we can reconnect with our purpose, our values and their appropriate expressions in our practice.

Yours in the Dharma,                          
from Akashaloka,                  
Innen, doshu
om namo amida butsu


View this week's Religion Experts Column:   

http://www.ottawacitizen.com/life/ask-the-religion-experts/index.html

Monday, November 04, 2013

TURNING THE CLOCK BACK

 TURNING THE CLOCK BACK

Tonight is the annual turning the clock back, one of the oddest, least explicable rituals of our modern lives. All the usual explanations about factories in the war, farmers at harvest or whatever, do not provide much sense as to why we continue to do this. Perhaps its value is to remind us of the plasticity of time.  Like a magician’s sleight of hand, in the stroke of a legislative or imaginative pen, we can declare that, an hour of our precious lives has been removed, held somewhere for six months and then magically inserted back to the flow of Time.
Even after some six thousand years we are still generating new theories of what time is, and I won’t pretend I can explain any of them in any convincing way! This past year we have been exploring the great parables of the Lotus Sutra, our most important religious text. Many who read it will be baffled by the unfamiliar concept of time it assumes. In the Lotus, time is inconceivably long, it uses terminology unknown in the West to try to suggest the length. The point of this is not to propose a measuring stick but to assert its non-measurability, and in some ways to suggest the obsession with such measure is a waste of...time.  Along with an eerily modern concept of the flexibility of time and space, the Lotus presents time as non-linear, dynamic and unpredictable. It also presents time as purposeful, that is, it views time as the canvas on which the Buddhas unfold eternal Dharma, making time less of a mechanical framework and more of an instrument of awakening.

Yours in the Dharma,                           
from Akashaloka,                  
Innen, doshu
om namo amida butsu
   

Sunday, October 27, 2013

INNEN’S TRIP TO JAPAN

INNEN’S TRIP TO JAPAN

On November 20, I will be joining several other Tendai sangha leaders from the US (including New York, Washington DC, California and Hawaii), Europe (Denmark and Italy), Brazil and India to participate in a symposium examining the current state of our tradition in the world. The symposium is scheduled from November 27-29 and will be held at our spiritual centre, Mount Hiei, just north of Kyoto. I will be travelling with this group which is headed by our Dharma master, Ven. Monshin Naamon, sensei. The event, titled Emerging Tendai -Teaching Outside of Japan and its Future, marks the 40th anniversary of the overseas mission of Tendai Buddhism since it resumed its activities after World War II.
The Tendai Mission of Hawaii (Hawaii Betsuin) was established in Honolulu, Hawaii on November 25th, 1973 with the determinations of many people within and outside of Tendai Buddhism of Japan. The light of Dharma of Tendai Buddhism which was halted due to the Pacific War was lit abroad once again. Over those forty years Tendai-shu has spread to various locations in the United States and to other parts of the world, such as India, Brazil, England, Denmark, Italy, Canada and Australia, with Hawaii Betsuin and New York Betsuin as its centers. Those outside of Japan are in environments where presenting Tendai Buddhism is not an easy task. The experiences and visions of those who have been involved in Tendai Buddhism abroad, may provide insight in the future of our organization in Japan as well as in international societies in the 21st century.

I have been invited to prepare and present a short slide show describing the history of Red Maple in Canada, the growth of Tendai Canada over the past few years and the challenges we, along with other non-Japanese groups face in bringing Tendai-shu to our corners of the world. On either side of the symposium, we will have some free time to explore some of the religious and cultural sites around Tokyo and Kyoto. I look forward to sharing this once-in-a-lifetime adventure with all of my Tendai Canada friends at our December Mahasangha Brunch on Saturday, December 14 at the Old SchoolHouse in Renfrew.

For more details, see - Invitation to Tendai Symposium

Yours in the Dharma,                          
from Akashaloka,                  
Innen, doshu
om namo amida butsu    

               

BETWEEN LIFE AND DEATH

BETWEEN LIFE AND DEATH

Hallowe’en, as an old European festival, confronts us with death. It takes numerous forms, some more religious, some more frightening, but all have this deathly feature.  Interestingly, it comes not too far off the Japanese festival of Obon  (the Fall equinox,  about 3-4 weeks earlier), which similarly proposes an intersection of the realm of living beings and “hungry ghosts”.
We did an exercise at this Saturday’s Contemplative Walking practice exploring this. We circumambulated a section of the building which required passing through 4-5 different doorways and along several different walls - some bright and windowed, others dark. As we passed through each door we were to visualize ourselves passing through transitions from this to the next life, whatever that might mean. Each of us interpreted this uniquely, but we all experienced  repetitions,  familiar patterns of growth,  letting go,  moving on. Everyone commented on the “liminal” experiences too. These are what we feel as we pass over thresholds (limins) between stages of life, or, to extrapolate, what we may one day experience as we face the doorway between life and death.
Modern commercialization has converted Hallowe`en into a playful cartoon, hardly what we refer to in our chants as “this Great Matter of Birth and Death”. The more we take the Dharma promise seriously, the more we understand that neither death nor life are linear or exclusive experiences, but rather layered ones, distinguished by our perceptions, or lack thereof. Imagining Hallowe’en or Obon lets us drop our fixed belief that death  follows and is utterly different from life and experience the transparency of the two.



 Read this week's Religion Experts article 
 
Yours in the Dharma,                          
from Akashaloka,                  
Innen, doshu
om namo amida butsu

Sunday, October 20, 2013

NEW RESOURCES FROM OUR DC FRIENDS

Hi Sangha and Friends,

Here are two exciting  new resources from the Washington DC Tendai sangha.

An introduction to sutra service  

This is an article explaining the service we perform here called the ReDedication


Lotus-Sutra-Study-Guide

This is a Chapter-by-chapter commentray from Jikan Anderson, the leader of the sangha. Full of his usual mix of wit and insight.

in the Dharma, 
Innen, doshu

THE COMING AND GOING OF TREES

The Coming and Going of Trees

There’s a row of poplar trees, just over the stone fence beside the vegetable garden which grows and re-grows every year. We cut dozens of one inch saplings every year to keep them from shading the garden. This generates about as much emotion, ( mostly grumpiness) as mowing an over-grown lawn. Then, there are the sad tree losses, like our old apple tree that split in half from a snow-load or the one that disappeared one afternoon , along with several cedars and pines, in the process of creating a new septic bed. We’ll miss the protection from the west winds and for the tart fruit provided free of charge and labour every fall.


The other kind are the giants, like the handsome maple outside the kitchen window. We watched it start to die, in patchy limbs, over the time we’ve been here. Each day as I walk past it now, aware of the decision made, I recall the cooling shade it cast over the kitchen or the bird feeders it hosted.  It is time to bring an end to its reign over the front yard.
The coming and going of these silent friends and neighbours is part of the landscape drama that includes grasses, annual flowers and mushrooms.  It’s a never-ending one, punctuated by the loss of such landmark trees, faithful old-timers who seem, at times, to be permanent features, like the stones and rivers. Their passing serves to remind us how precious it all is.


om namu amida butsu,
Innen, doshu 

 Read this week's Religion Experts article

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

INTERFAITH STATEMENT ON QUEBEC CHARTER

Hi Sangha and Friends,

I received this statement (partially quoted below) which represents a response from multi-faith leaders across Canada. I certainly add my vioce to this.

While the neutrality of the state in religious matters is a principle that helps to ensure the equality of all people and all faiths, and while Quebec most certainly has the right to its own self-identification, we strongly believe that secular institutions do not require the prohibition of personal religious symbols in order to provide fair and equal access and services to all citizens. Rather, we celebrate the diversity of a truly pluralistic society. It is in the freedom of diversity for all faiths and those of no faith tradition that there is justice for all.

The Canadian Interfaith Conversation encourages the Quebec government to reconsider its proposed ban on religious symbols in the public service. Requiring individuals to abandon certain religious practices and essential parts of their identity creates an atmosphere of intolerance and inequity and will undermine the egalitarianism and the sense of the unity that the Quebec government wishes to uphold with this move.

The Canadian Interfaith Conversation is an advocate for religion in a pluralistic society and in Canadian public life. We want to promote harmony, dialogue and insight among religions and religious communities in Canada and all Canadians, strengthen our society’s just foundations, and work for greater realization of the fundamental freedom of conscience and religion for the sake of the common good and an engaged citizenship throughout our country.

in the Dharma,
Innen, doshu

Sunday, October 13, 2013

GIVING THANKS


GIVING THANKS

This weekend we celebrate Thanksgiving in Canada, reflecting on the harvest of our lives, both literal and symbolic. We are grateful for tomatoes and squash, but also good health and family. Surprisingly, gratitude is not included in the six paramitas to which we aspire as Buddhists. However, the more we frequent a Buddhist environment, the more we recognize gratitude in that space. The most obvious symbol  is  the standing bow or gassho, which is how we greet each other, how we enter/leave a practice space,  how we acknowledge the presence of a Buddha or Bodhisattva image, how we thank each other, and many more expressions. In Indian contexts, the same gesture is called namas-te, and carries all the same meanings as the Japanese gassho. 

 
Unlike the tip of the hat (acknowledging a class difference) or the handshake (releasing a weapon hand), the gassho contains a profound statement of belief. It represents our acknowledgment that the other or their actions are the active presence of the Buddha, not a symbol, they are, in fact, the presence of the Buddha. We bow to affirm the activity and presence of all the Buddhas in our everyday lives.
Those exploring Buddhist practice from a Western background may find such a gesture offensive, or at least an anachronism, behaviour from a past when class distinctions prompted such deference. The more we take seriously that, on the one hand, we are all equal in our future Buddhahood, and, on the other, great teachers have lived and died to make the Dharma available for our awakening, the easier it becomes to express our thanks in this simple gesture.




Yours in the Dharma,                           
from Akashaloka,                   
Innen, doshu
om namo amida butsu


Sunday, October 06, 2013

KOKORODO


KOKORODO

This morning we began the first of what will be monthly extended walks, a practice called kokorodo. The intent of this practice is to push the form of our walking beyond the slow circular one we are familiar with in the zendo. That form, called kinhin is “just walking” and is itself a moving version of zazen, our sitting practice. Kokorodo isn’t just a pleasant walk over natural trails, it too is an extension of other practices, like zazen and kinhin.
In Japanese, kokoro means something like spirit or heart. In fact, our Heart of Whitewater group in Pembroke was named using a Zen phrase “heart like water” (mizo no kokoro), which describes someone whose heart or spirit is free to flow where it will, unencumbered by worldly concerns. So, our kokoro-do, that is the practice of kokoro, is a fluid wandering over our natural landscape, released from and unimpeded by our usual worldly concerns.
Kokorodo is another opportunity to transform an ordinary activity into a practice experience, where we can immerse ourselves in the larger flow of the natural world, without an agenda or plan. As with our indoor practices, we bring nothing special to it and take nothing away from it. We allow the practice to transform us without a scheme or strategy. Kokorodo does not require a map or end-point, it is a process of engagement, one where we open our own hearts to the heart of the world.

Yours in the Dharma,                          
from Akashaloka,                  
Innen, doshu
om namo amida butsu   

Sunday, September 29, 2013

IMAGINE

Greetings to all,
      
IMAGINE

Imagine there's no countries
It isn't hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people living life in peace

You, you may say
I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one
I hope some day you'll join us
And the world will be as one


    from Imagine, by John Lennon,
    first released this week, 1971  
   

We humans are blessed with two distinct thinking capacities, rational and imaginative. One creates order, structure and predictability; the other creates randomness, possibility and the deliberate toying with and even shattering of our comfortable and reliable world. Most of us have some experience of what life can be like when one or the other dominates. There is need for both to be robust and balanced.
In biology, the ‘imago’ is the last stage an insect attains during its process of growth and development. It is the stage in which the insect attains maturity. Perhaps we can consider that imagination has to do with that stage in our own maturity when, having set out patterns of structure and order, we can enter into play with our world. In 20th century psychology, Abraham Maslow proposed a “hierarchy of needs” for humans, where basic needs of food, safety, shelter and so on needed to be secured for us to develop. He concluded his proposition with a designation of the final stage in our development being one of self-fulfillment, of creativity, the stage of exploring possibilities. Imagination, then, is the central tool for us to achieve what is our full possibility, the capacity not just to think outside the box, but to live and act in novel, creative and meaning-generating ways.
It is only be allowing ourselves to consider what life would be beyond the rigid structures of “nation” or “religion” that we can open ourselves up to possibilities that take our lives beyond the suffering-infused experiences we already have. As Buddhists, we are even called to imagine there is no permanent self, no ultimate distinction between you and I. We perform all of our various practices partly for discipline and structure, but finally, we are reaching for our “imago”, our final stage, where we fulfill our dream, “where the world will be as one”.
              
Yours in the Dharma,                          
from Akashaloka,                  
Innen, doshu
om namo amida butsu                      

<Week of October 1  > 
                 
   

Friday, September 27, 2013

ART OF BEING FALL RETREATS

Art of Being Fall Events

The Art of Being, facilitated by Brian Roche, is a one-day meditation
retreat for beginners as well as experienced meditators. The retreat allows
for plenty of direct experience of meditation as well as discussion and
feedback from the group.

Using the most ancient and simple techniques, return to your natural
state... relaxed, alert and still.


All day retreats are held in Eganville at "The Space Between" at a cost of $30.
Upcoming dates are:
October 5 - still some spaces left
November 2

Contact: marjoriemanion@hotmail.com

PH: 613-622-7926

Saturday, September 21, 2013

SHUGYO: BODY-MIND TRAINING

Greetings to all,
      
SHUGYO:  BODY-MIND TRAINING

Shugyo is an important term in our practice, one which distinguishes the methods of ordinary instruction from Dharma instruction. Monshin sensei has noted that shugyo is “mind-body training in which physical training masters the techniques perfectly so that the practitioner's body internalizes the techniques completely as second nature... (it) consists of two phases: repeated somatic training (such as posture and movements) and internalization”.
          
We have this term “muscle memory” , which describes how the repetition of an action, such as how you learn to ride a bicycle, is retained more strongly than reading a manual, for example. Its not that our muscles have memory, but that certain patterns are deeply encoded in our brains and retrieved easily and strongly through repeated performance. The performance then becomes automatic, as it were, by-passing the analytics of reason. We don’t have to think our way through repeat performance, we have to release those rational tendencies and allow the body to communicate directly with the stored memory.

It is for this reason that we understand our pedagogy is not one of lectures. Only the most introductory practice skill can be acquired by reading books or watching videos. If we wish to transform practice into the form of our life’s activities, we must associate with a more advanced practitioner who can transmit their own shugyo to us. Practice grows by this transmission to us and the gradual intensification of our own guided practice until those methods, as Monshin sensei reminds, are internalized as second nature.

Yours in the Dharma,                          
from Akashaloka,                  
Innen, doshu
om namo amida butsu                                           
    

.

Monday, September 16, 2013

CALM IN THE FACE OF SUFFERING

Greetings to all,

CALM IN THE FACE OF SUFFERING

I recently spoke with someone who went through a tragic loss in their life and felt they had fallen short of a Buddhist expectation for a calm and peaceful mind. There was a large “should” hanging over them but an equally large pain deep inside. As Buddhists, we aspire to certain virtues. What might come closest is the fourth of the Four Immeasurables, upekkha (equanimity), an even-mindedness amid experiences of pleasure and pain. This does not mean a coldness or indifference, but rather a state of dynamic balance where we are not agitated.


This virtue is not an absolute, but an aspiration. The extended training which is our practice will regularly display how we behave up to or less than our aspiration. We must begin somewhere and, like all training, it is a process where we grow and develop over time.
All Buddhist virtues apply, not just calm or upekkha. The most central one is karuna (compassion), our capacity to open ourselves to our own and, more importantly, the pain of all sentient beings. It is this awareness of the common experience of all beings which inspires us, as it does all Buddhas and bodhisattvas to set out on the Dharma path. As with any burden, we will struggle as we come to understand its meaning, we will stumble as we learn to carry it and we will grow to be able to carry it with a calm and peaceful mind too.

Yours in the Dharma,                          
from Akashaloka,                  
Innen, doshu
om namo amida butsu    


           
               
   

Monday, September 09, 2013

MINDFUL MOVEMENT MONDAYS

MINDFUL MOVEMENT MONDAYS

Ray is leading a mindful movement series (two of them actually). It will proved time for walking and sitting practice as well as teaching you a very simple tai chi set. Its called the 10-Form Set and its a snap to learn in the three sessions we provide.
 
Sessions are
Mondays  5.30-7.00 pm
WBCHC Site
20 Robertson Dr.
BEACHBURG
 
The sessions are free and in two separate series, 1=Oct 23, 30, Nov 7; 2= Nov 22,29 and Dec 05

I have scheduled it for two sets of evenings. If you would prefer a morning group, let me know and, if we have a committed group of 4 people, I will add a Monday morning series as well.

I’d appreciate your passing this information to anyone who may be interested in either the movement series.
To register 613-582-3685

Sunday, September 08, 2013

BEING A GOOD PERSON

Greetings to all,
       
BEING A GOOD PERSON

People say “I’m not really into religion, all its about is being a good person”.  While I would never disagree on the importance of being a good person, I would point us as Buddhists to the full teaching of the historical Buddha and centuries of our teachers. They tell us the Buddha-path is three distinct arenas - ethical living, wisdom and practice. 


Ethical living is what we mean by trying to be a good person, and it is based on what we call the precepts. Some of us are familiar with our version of these through regular recitation. Wisdom or insight is the deep understanding we have, far beyond any mere conceptual knowledge. It is our penetration into the four Truths that Shakyamuni provided for our study which explain the nature of suffering and our escape. Finally, we are told that we need to engage in a practice. We may strive to be good people, but we also need to enact our insight through some structured activity. Insight is not something acquired once and then placed in a frame on the wall, like a diploma. Insight derives from our moment-by-moment practice and is re-affirmed through the continuing engagement in that practice.


Neither of these three can stand alone. They inform and extend into the others. It would be handy if we could simplify it down to "be a good person", but this begs the question - what makes a good person? That can only be answered from our insight. For Buddhists this means an appreciation of the interconnectedness of all beings, the commonality of our suffering and our awareness of the impermanence of all conditioned existence. Buddhist teaching does not posit any absolute moral principles, like "Love thy neighbour". Moral principles emerge from insight, we enact ethical behaviour from our understanding. Furthermore, we can only sustain and deepen this insight from which we derive morality out of a sustained and disciplined practice.

Yours in the Dharma,                           
from Akashaloka,                   
Innen, doshu
om namo amida butsu

Sunday, September 01, 2013

Greetings to all,
      
CAUTION PEACOCKS

Like a summer breeze made visible
Luminescent blue peacock tail
Sweeps across pavement


Commuting to work along most of the main roads of eastern Ontario over the past 25 years I would have thought I had seen every conceivable mammal cross the road in front of me. Last week, heading home from my job in Beachburg, I had to skid my brakes to avoid a large male peacock. That was a first!
Week after week and month after month I’ve driven that same road and its easy to get lulled into a mindless ride, same old - same old. This little wake-up suggests a larger lesson. So much of our lives we take for granted, with no expectation of novelty or change. Blurring that which does not fit into our usual view is a favourite strategy of ego. It robs us of the richness and variety of our moment-by-moment experience. Like teenagers we respond to our lives with a yawn and a “Boring”.
All our forms of wholesome attention practice, formal and informal, prompt us to shatter that flatness with the legendary sword of insight. We cut through the tedium and the predictability to let the brilliance of our experience shine through.
The term we know is open attention. This means we adopt a perspective which suspends conclusions and judgements, one which is persistently seeking a wider and a deeper experience. This open attention is dynamic and flexible, stretching and collapsing as we need it to. It will of course collapse spontaneously whenever we become reactive and shut our awareness down. We drift into distant memories, emotion-driven reactions or lumbering ruminations on meaning. Then we must let go and begin again - where is my breath, where are my feet?
In Indian mythology, peacocks are symbols of undying devotion. We are immersed in the ocean of endless and unlimited love that is Amitabha. Keep your eyes on the road, you can’t miss it.

om namo amida butsu 
                 
Innen, doshu

Monday, August 26, 2013

Greetings to all,
      
START WHERE YOU ARE

Almost every practice session we get at least one new person, who has no experience with our way of practicing and often with little knowledge of Buddhism. Frequently they describe this as a challenge at least, a barrier at worst.
Its rather like my experience of driving to work daily. No matter how fast I might drive and regardless of the speed limit, there is always someone who wants to go faster and does. I used to compete with racers, grumble at them for passing me, grumble about the speeding tickets it cost me. Eventually I realized that it was not a race and all that mattered was me getting to the office safely and on time.
In our engagement with Buddhist teaching and practice there will always be someone who is more experienced, more knowledgeable, someone we admire or aspire to be like. There will be things we don’t understand, endless practices to learn and master. As with my work drive, it is not a race and requires no competition. The common Buddhist image of entering the stream applies well here. Each of us will step into this stream of the Dharma when and how we can. What matters is not how well we navigate the stream but that we get ourselves wet. There will continue to be growth and set-backs, questions and insights.
The crucial element, we are told so often, is shinjin, the depth of our confidence in the ever-present support and guidance of innumerable Buddhas and bodhisattvas. They have vowed to ensure the success of our efforts. We need not worry about what we don’t understand, the fine points of teaching or practice. What matters is our sincerity and our single-minded persistence.                              

Yours in the Dharma,                          
from Akashaloka,                  
Innen, doshu
om namo amida butsu  
                   
Hi Sangha and Friends,

Starting this week, we'll be using this blog a little differently. We have been sending out a weekly announcement of practice and news, so that will show up on This Week at Red Maple tab above. We're still re-working the Mokugyo and it will be re-incarnated (because of its good karma) as an online newsletter only and will be a new tab above.

This space will be weekly posts of observation and comment on Dharma issues and topics.
We invite your suggestions and questions and will try to incorporate them as much as possible.

in the Dharma, Innen, doshu
Om namu amida butsu