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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, 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