OTHER PAGES ON THE LEAFLET

Monday, December 29, 2014

THE YEAR BEGINS

THE YEAR BEGINS
As we leave behind this calendar year, we also leave behind our reflections on that year. It is now time to begin the conversations about directions for the coming year. We have completed our move and reestablishment of our practice space, creating numerous new opportunities in
 Pembroke. As sanghas do, ours continues to change and develop according to the needs and interests of its members. Our sangha remains part of the international Tendai community, which is also growing and changing, prompting us to attend to those larger currents in the presentation of Buddha Dharma.
We have a two-part commitment as the representative of Tendai in Canada. On the one hand, as with all our fellow sanghas, we are charged with presenting the teachings and practices of our faith in a manner consistent with our 1200 year old tradition. On the other, we do so in a unique Ottawa Valley context, with its own needs and understandings. We have traditions and rituals to preserve but we are also obligated to respect, as we are taught, that there are innumerable ways to present Buddha Dharma, using what we know as skilful means to meet those who seek the Dharma where they are at.
We will spend some time over the month of January in collectives and individual conversations in search of these new directions. At the end of the month, as we begin the Chinese new year, the Year of the Ram, we will announce our intentions for this coming here. I encourage everyone, regardless of the length of their participation in our sangha, to participate in these discussions or to contact me directly with recommendations for what will best serve their needs.
No matter how you calculate the calendar for this year, may I wish each and every one prosperous and insightful year of learning and practice.

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

Sunday, December 21, 2014

LOOKING BACK -III

LOOKING BACK -III

Last weekend a few of us spent the afternoon exploring the past year in a very structured manner. We began reflecting on what intentions we had for the year, then identified who contributed and very specifically, what spiritual intentions we had this past year. We finished up with identifying the momentum which we experience as we move into our coming year. This is our preparation for an intention-setting exercise scheduled for January.
This workshop came at the end of my own reflections on my personal and Red Maple’s collective year. I was struck at the huge changes which characterized this past year. This included the closing of our space in Renfrew and the establishment of our temple space in Pembroke. I didn’t have any sense of the same level of change for the coming year but could recognize the flow of momentum into 2015.
I was also struck by the impact of the many people who have contributed over the past year. People who have participated in practice and events, who helped with packing and re-settling, who contributed ideas, advice and encouragement.
I was particularly reminded that this reflective exercise is one of looking at intention, direction and momentum, not tallying up accomplishments. We must always be careful not to get caught in claiming credit for events and successes. We apply our efforts in a larger context, one which includes the efforts of countless other beings. Of course this includes our friends and supporters, but as Buddhists, we cannot ignore the efforts of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. Our process is not to “set our goals” but to align ourselves with the expressed intentions of those beings, to collaborate with them for the benefit of all.

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

      
                  
  

           

Friday, December 12, 2014

Looking Back-Again

Looking Back-Again

This past week has been our annual celebration of the Buddhist holiday known as Bodhi Day, December 8. This is the date reserved for the remembrance of the final awakening of Shakyamuni Buddha, some 2500 years ago. This marks the culmination of his many years of practice and exploration into the nature of human experience and lead us to his presentation of the first turning of the wheel of the Dharma. As religious festivals go, and in spite of the significance of this event, this day hardly seems to generate the same kind of excitement that you would expect for the turning point in the history of a religion. Compared with Easter, Passover or Eid, this day, while acknowledged as important is not especially celebrated.

This is not to suggest that the date or events are unimportant, only to indicate the peculiar form of its celebration. I have already written elsewhere that, in spite of the efforts of the politically-correct, to associate Bodhi Day with the other religious days that fall around the end of December, to suggest that we can roll this in with a hearty Happy Holidays is rather absurd.

On another note, as we in this Sangha engage in our annual year-and reflection, we are all encouraged to look back again, so that we can appreciate the momentum of our intentions and actions. In doing so we can reference our future orientation to the clear trajectory established in months past. I will be posting our year-and review in the tab above, and in late January, will revise that to include our intentions for 2015. We welcome all comments and suggestions for this process of review and intention.

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

      
                  
  

           

Friday, December 05, 2014

MALAS

MALAS

I was into Ottawa last week to see some old friends and I had some opportunity to go back to 3 Trees, the Nepali and Tibetan gift store ( http://www.3treesottawa.com/ ). Its been one of the main destinations for me to pick up authentic Asian items. I have found Buddha-rupas , gongs,
(see below) incense, cushions and altar items there. While there I picked up an assortment of reasonably priced 27-bead malas which are now available at the Centre.
Some people like malas (also called rosaries or nenju) because they are attractive fashion accessories. Meditation practitioners know them primarily for their use in practice. The two most common uses are presence and counting. They provide a tactile presence for our hands while we practice. You don’t have to do anything special with them. Their weight and texture keep attention in the belly region. For those who want to perform any repetitive practice, be that counting breaths or reciting mantras, the mala allows for simple counting.
The ones we have are quite simple, in that they are a circle of 27 beads with a larger one to mark the pivot point. More elaborate ones have side strings which allow for counting multiples and intermediate count markers. The Tendai tradition uses a flat bead instead of a round one. There are 108 bead and enlarged bead versions used in extended chanting situations.

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


Saturday, November 29, 2014

SUTRA CLASS - TRANSLATION

SUTRA CLASS - TRANSLATION
http://nathanbauman.com/odysseus/wp-content/uploads/2011/06/Lotus-flower-black-and-white-I.jpg
At our Lotus Sutra class today we were discussing the huge problems associated with the translation of this sutra. We know it was originally written in several versions in Sanskrit, little of which is available to us today. We know it was translated into Chinese over 5 centuries after the Buddha’s passing. This presents several challenges. Sanskrit is a word-based language, grammatically similar to the Romance languages, like Latin, French and Spanish. Chinese relies on less precise ideograms or symbolic images. It is more related to Japanese, Korean and other ideogram languages. We also know that the Chinese translators didn’t approach the task as we would. There concern seems to be to capture the teaching spirit rather than a word-for-word approach we use in the modern West.  Now, it has been translated from that into several generations of English. This means going back from an ideogram language to a word-based language, and where the language references are probably a millennium apart. We have to keep a very flexible and open mind when we study sutra like this. It was never intended to be read as “the word of God”, so we have to have to allow for a range of meanings and form a learning relationship with it, rather than trying to decipher its precise meaning.

By the way, we have really enjoyed the lecture series Zoketsu Norman Fischer did on the Lotus. Its in 5 parts here:
http://everydayzen.org/teachings/2004/lotus-sutra-talk-1-5?&title=Lotus&sort=date

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

                          
                  
  

           

Monday, November 24, 2014

RETREAT TALK

RETREAT TALK NOV 22

Here is the early afternoon talk I delivered at the retreat this weekend.
Each of us has our own routine of practice which may include sitting practice, walking practice, study, recitation and so on. These are activities where we set aside a short period of time perhaps once, perhaps twice in a day. We may do this daily or several times a week. This afternoon we have decided to dedicate an extended period of time for practice. As with any kind of activity, giving over an intensive block of time will always produce an enrichment of our practice capacity. This is not to say that we become “better” at meditation, since ours is a practice of non-judgment. It’s more that, through this kind of retreat practice, we deepen the groove of our practice to allow us greater facility in any future practice.

In my earlier meditation career, which took place within the disciplines of Soto Zen, we would regularly set aside such time and refer to it as sesshin. This expression is built around the Buddhist term shin which is one of several words that direct us at the heart, that intimate center of our being. Participating in such an event encouraged us to become intimate with ourselves, that is, to let go of the usual boundaries, limitations or structures that we maintained to preserve a fixed identity. It also suggested intimacy in the sense of love and affection. It was a time for us to practice compassion, loving kindness and sympathetic joy for our fellow retreatants, but also for ourselves. The expression self-care is somewhat trivialized in modern life, but retreat experience is just that, the opportunity to care about and care for ourselves.

For the remainder of our retreat time this afternoon I encourage each of us to bring that spirit of self-care to this activity. Any moment of practice as well as any extended practice such as this calls us to intimacy. We are not here to bully ourselves, to feel sorry or afraid for ourselves. We are not here to acquire some secret wisdom. In retreat there is nothing to prove, no opportunity for either success or failure. As with any more mundane social experience, say lunch with a friend, we need not judge or evaluate, we need not set goals or objectives. We only need to attend and participate fully.

For the remainder of this first half of the retreat I recommend that you begin with accepting yourself exactly as you find yourself. Notice the tendency to set expectations and performance standards, as if someone will deliver you a certificate of excellence at the conclusion. Notice the tendency towards self criticism, with judgments, evaluations and comparisons. None of this is necessary or helpful. When we engage in any reflective process both the tools and the raw materials are the same, our own experience. We can’t get better ones, we can only refine what we have. Therefore, we begin where we are, as we are. Please enjoy this time.

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

Monday, November 17, 2014

REMEMBRANCE III -MEMORIAL

REMEMBRANCE III -MEMORIAL
Every year, in this 3rd week of November practice, we hold a Memorial Service. This is the opportunity we reserve to reflect on the guiding lives which have ended in the past year or so. In Asian culture, this remembering is instrumental in contributing to the afterlife of parents and grandparents, the whole of the family line. In our practice, we broaden that out to consider all beings, human and animal who have contributed to us in the past year and whose lives have ended.
In doing this we recall the deep connections and involvement we have with so many other lives. We remind ourselves of the impact of those we know and the countless we do not know by name.

In particular I express our concern at the present health of our Dharma brother, Thich Nhat Hahn. This Vietnamese Zen monk has touched so many lives and he is one of the most iconic of  post-Viet Nam War Buddhist people. He has been a key figure in my work on contemplative walking, being one of the few who has taken movement practices seriously. He has also been a giant in promoting mindfulness practice outside the Buddhist community. Latest news from his community, Plum Village in France, says the 88 year old Thay, as they call him, is in hospital and doing well. May you know peace, may you know wellness.

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

Friday, November 07, 2014

REMEMBRANCE II

REMEMBRANCE II

Buddhism is founded on the acknowledgment that there is no enduring self. We might then wonder, how can there be memories if there is no permanent self. This is addressed in classical Buddhist psychology by the assertion of what are called vasanas (mind seeds or habit-energy). These are subtle impressions which are deposited on the transient states of mind by actions and which lie dormant, like seeds. They may disappear or they may come to fruition by stimulating mental activity which leads to more action. Both the very subtle arising in the mind and the more concrete arising of actions have karmic consequences. Therefore, memories themselves have a karmic force, albeit rather light and subtle. These are retained and stored up in “storehouse consciousness” (Alayavijana) as a sort of latent energy ready to be set in motion. Vasana has the power of perfuming energies (don’t you just love that term “perfuming”?).  This perfuming or leaving impressions is sometimes known as sowing seeds. Since the beginningless past, sentient beings have created this energy through inappropriate dualistic discrimination.

Memories are conceived differently than in our Western psychology. Western theory especially in this computer age, tends to describe human memory as if it were similar to a CD or hard drive. We imagine thoughts, events, information as somehow being stored, in a more or less accurate manner. What we bring forth in memory is seen as having some representative value. Like pulling up a file on the screen, as it were. It is conceived as being fairly stable over time, so that we can talk about “recovering” memories, which are taken to be actual records of experience, which may be decades old. Interestingly, modern psychology is demonstrating that memory is less accurate than we had imagined. We are learning that human memory changes with time and need. People will “remember” events which never happened to them if there is a strong need to associate identity with some facts as if they were experienced.

Unlike Buddhist theory, we see memory as mostly neutral, more like a record of experience, free of momentum, and giving us data upon which we may or may not act. In Buddhist mind theory, memory seeds have potential for motivation and drive. They are like stored charges which can propel us to act in some way.

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

Sunday, November 02, 2014

FIVE REMEMBRANCES

FIVE REMEMBRANCES
As we begin November, we return for our annual month of remembrance. In the Upajjhatthana Sutta (Sutra of Contemplations) we are advised to remember these five facts on a daily basis.

  • 1. I am aging.
  • 2. I am vulnerable to becoming ill.
  • 3. I will certainly die    
  • 4. All that I claim as mine, beloved and pleasing, will become otherwise, will become separated from me.
  • 5. I am a karmic being; whatever I do, for good or for ill, I will experience the “fruits”.
None of this is news, but it bears re-considering and probably bears doing so daily.

These are the facts of life, as it were. For some, as has been a frequent interpretation by other traditions, is that this is pessimistic, hopeless - a real downer. That remains a complete misinterpretation and faulty judgment of buddhadharma. As we are learning from our current study of the Lotus Sutra, humans are not faced with a hopeless desperate situation. We are embedded in a condition with limits. The message of the Buddha is that we can transcend these limits through a combination of our efforts and the unceasing efforts of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. In fact, we are promised a certain liberation. This guarantee begins with our realization of the five remembrances.

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

Friday, October 24, 2014

WALKING IV

WALKING IV

It can seem like a conflict when we try to decide between walking practice and just going for a nice walk. This needn’t be the case. If you enjoy a brisk walk on a country path or a city park and recognize how valuable this is for your overall health, there is no need to sacrifice that for your mindfulness practice. When you go out, you can set aside a portion of the walk for a specific practice and once you have gone so far or for so many minutes, you can switch to a step-counting or recitative practice, such as nembutsu, for a period of time or distance.
Incorporating recitation is an especially strong way to join walking and practice. It is very simple and reinforcing to layer the rhythm of the chant with one’s stride. It does not have to be any particular pace, so you can fit it to whatever you are doing already.
If you are blending recitation into a longer walk, it is wise to reserve that practice for the part of the walk that is safest and with little decision-making. You don’t want to have to stop for a traffic light or be worried about transport trucks while chanting. It can be helpful to bring along a 108 or 27 bead mala (nenju) as well so that we stay alert to the number of recitations. You can do as many circles of the beads as you choose.
Finally, walking nembutsu is more than bringing a practice into your private walk. Since the beginning of Dharma practice, walking practitioners have understood that our recitation offers the reinforcement to our practice but, perhaps more importantly, we are bringing the sound of the Dharma to the route where we walk. Any presentation of the Dharma is meritorious and beneficial for suffering beings. We are not just walking because its nice to get out in the fresh air (although that’s true), we are walking and chanting because this is our expression of the Buddhaway for the benefit of all beings.



NEXT MONTH Our theme is Remembrance

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

Friday, October 17, 2014

WALKING III - WALKING AND SOUND

WALKING III - WALKING AND SOUND

Walking is a naturally rhythmic activity. Once you find your pace you will notice that cadence, that’s called the beats per minute (BPM). We can use this cadence to layer the practice we are doing. We can incorporate some auditory input at that BPM which will reinforce our walking practice and make it more stable and deep. The typical auditory methods we have are counting and recitations.

Counting is the simplest and it can be counting steps or breaths. When you are walking, if it is slower in pace, you can synchronize your step (usually alternate steps, as in every left step) with the breath. This would mean each time you plant the left heel and move forward, you do it with an out breath. In our temple practice, we may do this kind of slow pace walking and use the moktak (wooden drum) to maintain that cadence. This works well with a slow indoor pace, but becomes awkward as we increase the pace and BPM.

If the pace is faster, you can count the steps in between out-breaths. This would mean you count the left foot/out breath as 1, then count the subsequent steps to the next out breath. This might mean you count 1-2-3-4-5 steps (depending on your pace) and then another out breath and begin again. This kind of step/breath counting is a very supportive addition to outdoor walking which maintains your concentration. This is one of the simplest ways of layering breath, step and cadence.

Next week we’ll look at using recited phrases while walking.


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

Sunday, October 12, 2014

WALKING II -MINDFUL WALKING

Mindful Walking

When we think of mindfulness practice, we often assume it to be some form of seated practice. This is a real misunderstanding of the purpose and value of our practice. If we want to dive into the depths of our experience, then we have to recognize it is more like a buffet than a sit-down dinner. Mindful living strives to expose us to the deepest and richest experience of our lives - seated walking, happy, sad. We can’t choose only the sweet parts. That kind of preferential narrow-mindedness is what keeps us stuck in the usual and the unsatisfying.
We humans are homo ambulans, the walking species. We are fundamentally designed for movement. Although this is declining in present culture (much to the peril of our physical and mental health), we live most of our lives on the move. One foot in front of the other. This means that, if we want to experience our lives, we will experience it in motion. This brings us to walking practice.
As with any mindfulness practice, we have the formal and the informal. The formal is the careful and precise walking we do in our indoor practice space. It uses a refined posture and a deliberately slow pace. When we practice our body in motion, we enter that full experience of dynamic balance, shifting from centred points, from foot to foot. Informally, we bring that same spirit of active and dynamic inquiry to walking outdoors. It can be the Sunday morning stroll, a hike in the woods or the walk home from work, along urban streets. I am learning it can even be brought into the rigors of a speed-walking regimen.
Mindful living is not any single practice or posture, its a how we engage with the ever-changing kaleidoscope of our lives. We sometimes call our practice sessions "walk-sit-walk-sit", because this is how we meet ourselves in every day of our lives.   

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

       
                   
   

           

Friday, October 03, 2014

WALKING - 1

WALKING

Our theme for October is walking practice. Our monthly workshop will celebrate Walk-tober, an international event promoting the many benefits of walking. In this first talk, I want to look at the importance of posture and balance.
It might seem that there is a huge difference between the most common form of meditation, sitting practice, and various walking forms. However, the principles are actually similar. Whatever form of meditation or mindfulness practice we employ, several things are key, no matter the form:

  • groundedness; this is our solid connection with the earth, be that sitting on a mat or a chair or standing on our feet; posture is the means of ensuring this;
  • open awareness; this is our willingness to let go of judgements and preferences, to release distractions, so we can remain available to experience what is happening in our practice and to open to it over and over;
  • attention to breath; all practice forms use the breath as the anchor;
  • dynamic balance; regardless of the form, we never become rigid or frozen; there will be times of surprising stillness, but we also recognize that, as breathing humans, we will always experience a constant re-balancing of our posture.

Walking practices are exceptional in building these capacities in our practice.

  • groundedness - unlike sitting practices where our connection to the earth and physical stability may be taken for granted, in walking we are required to establish a firm connection through each step we take;
  • open awareness - unlike sitting practices, where there is normally little variation in the physical context, and the chief distractions are mental, when we walk we must attend to the whole physical space of our walking or risk stumbling or some other physical mistake;
  • attention to breath - in sitting, breath can slip into the background or otherwise over-taken by passing mind states; when we walk, as with any physical activity, it is difficult to do it smoothly if we aren’t coordinating breath and step;
  • dynamic balance - walking is by its form a balancing act, we are continuously shifting our balance from foot to foot; it calls us to establish balance over and over again

These are true no matter what walking practice you engage with. Over this month we will have opportunities to explore this directly in our practice.

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

      
                  
  

           

Friday, September 26, 2014

CALMNESS

CALMNESS

Lately we’ve been reflecting on the promise that mindfulness will make you all calm and peaceful. I’ve been reminding us that this is just nonsense. Mindfulness does not make you anything.  We do not act mindfully so we can get or be something. Its not like lifting big heavy weights which produce muscular enlargement or like studying French so you can speak a new language.

We are already fully capable of being attentive. We do it, more or less, in every single moment of our lives. The quality will vary depending on the susceptibility we have to distraction, to narrowing and to self-deception. Mindfulness is not acquiring anything new. In Indian language, it is a bhavana, that is how we cultivate what we are. This is an apt description because like cultivating an appreciation for Greek food or Country music, it is an expansion of our self-imposed limits to benefit from a wider and richer version of our already present experience and ability. When we cultivate a garden we begin with what we have and we work it, feed it and care for it so we can harvest what grows in these conditions. When we cultivate our attention, we similarly work it - we practice earnestly, we try new forms, we feed ourselves, and the harvest is a richer, deeper awareness of these moments of our lives.

The other point we return to with the promise of calmness is that when we set ourselves up to expect calmness and reject ourselves when we do not experience calm, we are just continuing the same discriminatory, non-accepting mind states which bring us so much distress. Both calm and agitation will arise in our practice, for the simple reason that they will arise in our lives. Neither is the real us, and the other some aberration. As our practice deepens, we will generally experience less agitation and more peace through the stability and flexibility and non-discrimination we have cultivated. This does not mean we have made ourselves calm. It means we are experiencing ourselves as calm without any fabrication, imposition or rejection.

When you come to your space of mindfulness, don’t  kid yourself that this is some magic space that will make you all calm, peaceful, spiritual or anything. We engage in practice to connect at our deepest level with who and how we are in that moment of our experience. The promise of calmness as a product is a reflection of our consumer culture where we see ourselves as missing something, what has been called a “sense of lack” or “scarcity”. This mindstate is the trap which ties is to a cycle of consuming to fill some imagined vacuum. Through our practice we are invited t experience that there is nothing missing. We are whole, complete and ever-changing. Calm may come but it may go as well. We sit to experience this from a place of attention and non-judgement.

Yours mindfully,                           
Ray

Sunday, September 21, 2014

PURPOSE

Greetings All,

Here is part of a talk I gave at the Unitarian Congregation on Sunday, September 21. The entire text is on the Dharma Talk Link above

PURPOSE AND INTENTION

Lets begin by exploring the meaning of purposefulness in Buddhist psychology. Not so differently from our own Western psychology, Buddhist psychology strongly interweaves purpose and intention or cetana. Buddhists see intention as part of the process whereby we construct and maintain our identity. Purpose isn’t something given to us or acquired, the way we acquire opinions from the news. It is how we understand ourselves, how we establish meaning. It emerges from the inner processes of our minds.
Purpose is more than an understanding too. We could see it as a bull’s-eye on a target and intention as the archer’s arrow. Like an arrow on a drawn bow, intention is a potential. Until it is released, it is just a stick of wood hanging in the air. For it to give us satisfaction, it must be converted from potential to activity. Intention must be converted into intentional action.
This is how it relates to our identity.
We all contain many ideas, dreams and fantasies. Purpose will remain in the realm of dreams, and will only provide us with that desire of dreams until we witness ourselves taking action. For it to truly define us, purpose must be where we observe ourselves engaged in intentional and purposeful action.
Some of you may know the Indian term karma. Commonly, this is understood as reward and punishment. As people say, “what goes around comes around”. Unfortunately, this is a completely wrong-headed understanding of the Buddhist term. Karma has nothing to do with cosmic justice or moral principle. Karma means that tendency people have to act the way they have been acting. If you are addicted to watching reality TV, then the more you do that, the more you will continue to do that, and the more you will experiences the consequences that go along with that particular form of time-wasting. Karma isn’t something attached to us that we have to use up. It isn’t something that punishes us by making us reborn as some lower life-form. Karma is more of a momentum of purpose, so when we engage in certain intentional action, we will continue to do so. The Buddhist message is that we will do this and be burdened by the dissatisfaction and sorrow that comes with it, unless we use our mental abilities and physical actions to act differently. This is the reason for the Buddha’s Eight-fold Path teaching.

May you all know peace

Innen doshu
Om Namu Amida Butsu

Sunday, September 14, 2014

AVOLOKITISHVARA MOVIE


AVOLOKITISHVARA MOVIE

I chanced upon a superb movie recently. Avolokitisvara (China, 2013) is a somewhat historical story that takes us back into the 9th century in China during the Tang Dynasty. We follow several parallel stories which intersect several times over the 100 or so minutes of the film. The political story is built on the usual court plotting and scheming of the Emperor and his inner circle. The main character is the Princeling, the Emperor’s illegitimate son who, by chance, is also the first in line for the throne. He is hiding out, pretending to be retarded, but has his own circle of supporters. 


http://chinesemov.com/images/2013/Avalokitesvara-2013-4.jpgAs the film opens, he is fleeing to a Buddhist temple, Mount Wutai. Near that same temple a few decades earlier, a poor but gifted rural potter created the unique green porcelain figure of Kwan Shih Yin (aka Avolokitisvara, Kannon, etc.). The day it is pulled from the kiln a baby appears floating in a basket on a lotus pond. She is named Little Lotus and adopted by the potter. As she ages, she and her older brother become living models of compassion. Little Lotus and her brother are at the temple when the Princeling seeks refuge there. If that isn’t enough, a Japanese monk named Hui-e has arrived from japan on a mission to retrieve the statue for the Japanese Buddhist sangha. Apparently his Queen believes it will bring the Japanese people together.
Much of the detail is based on historical events, the story itself is touching. It concludes with connecting the story with the actual Mount Putuo, a national treasure of Buddhism in China.

You can watch this movie, with English subtitles at this location:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xnVcnzAXNOo

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

Sunday, September 07, 2014

BRAVE NEW WORLD

BRAVE NEW WORLD
I was watching a 1980 film version of the Huxley classic, Brave New World, in pieces (it’s a 3 hour film) over the past week. This 1930's novel was required reading when I was in high school, along with its book-end , Orwell’s 1984. Both stories consider a distant future, the first in a world where blandness, ego-centricity and pleasure dominate; the other, where a different kind of blandness pervades, egos are obliterated in a grey sameness and pleasure is replaced by a devotion for the state brought to perfection in present-day North Korea.
          
I have frequently pondered on what the world would look like if Buddhist monastic values and structure were to predominate. I’m not convinced that the world-as-monastery would be a whole lot better than either of these literary fantasies. What the Buddha teaches us is the tendency of human beings to act out of the three kleshas, namely lust / greed, anger /aggression and stupidity /dullness. If governments and societies are composed of individuals with these values and behaviours, its hard to imagine a system which would achieve the perfection we imagine waiting for us at the end of the democratic, growth economics government experiment.

We need to recall that Shakyamuni was more of a radical than a reformer. He was not in any way proposing incremental change, guided development or anything that suggested that all we need to do is be better at what we are doing. The Dharma Way is not about being a “good person” , as so many would like it to be. The Dharma is fundamentally calling us to recognize the temporariness of all we know and believe about ourselves and our world. It calls us to open ourselves to infinite possibilities, including letting go of the mistaken clinging to this transient self and world.

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

Saturday, August 30, 2014

LABOUR DAY

LABOUR DAY

Although very few people actually acknowledge this weekend as a recognition of the struggles, accomplishments and contributions of working people,  it is Labour Day. Let me suggest this might also be a day to remind ourselves of the efforts and contributions of all beings. In our oryoki recitation we often will “This meal arises from the labour of all beings, may we remember there offerings”. What this reminds us is that each time we sit down to feed ourselves we can recall the incalculable chain of contributions made so that we may eat. From the people at the store who stock the shelves we can work back to delivery people, factory workers, pickers, farmers seed makers and the whole world of agriculture workers. Then multiply that times all the others for each item on our plate.
We may also recall that some of our food, especially meat and dairy in all of its forms comes to our table from the labour of uncounted animals or other beings, bees, birds, worms, beetles and on and on. Each has a contribution to make to that meal before us. With the humans we will often minimize this connection by saying “well they get paid for it” as if that balances off the debt. This cannot in any way even out the contributions of all those non-human beings, especially where our meal depends on their death.
Mealtime is but one way we can appreciate the efforts of so many beings. The greatest obscenity of the modern economic blindness is that we have dismissed the interconnection and contributions of animals, fish, birds, insects, trees, oceans and everything that is not rich, white males. Our existence is more than a web of beings, it is a web of interacting beings, each one contributing their unique efforts, their labours for the benefit of the whole.


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

Sunday, August 17, 2014

REFLECTIONS ON RELIGIOUS LIFE

REFLECTIONS ON RELIGIOUS LIFE

This week's Comment is part of a larger talk I shared at the Reflection2Action Retreat we held yesterday. The full text is available on the Dharma Talk Page here.

Within the ritual tradition in Buddhism, particularly our Tendai tradition, it is proposed that the reality we mentioned a few moments ago is impossible to experience or to communicate with through normal human actions. We are told that there are three ways through which that reality communicates with us. They are sacred chanting or mantra, particular postures or movements, mudra, and special visual patterns, mandala. If we wish to interact with that higher reality, then we must do so with those three capacities. If we are to agree that there is some reality beyond our individual human lives, then, it strikes me, we want to be alert to how we might connect with that reality. We cannot assume that this greater reality sees the human form and culture as being as advanced or special as we ourselves do, and that it must accommodate to our way of communicating. I think that, as we do with our mindfulness practice, we want to open ourselves to what is present beyond the confines of our limited bodily experience. We want to look for ways to reach deeper and deeper into the possibilities of human experience. With this in mind, it seems that religious activity, in addition to building community, offers us an opportunity to explore this realm, to move beyond our rather limited individual experience.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

ACCOMMODATION AND SEXISM

ACCOMMODATION AND SEXISM

A big story in this week’s news concerns some religious clerics who requested (and were given) special treatment by Canada’s Border Security. They apparently did not want to be checked over by any women staff for reputedly religious reasons. CBSA , as they have done before, it seems, accommodated their request. Is this a matter of accommodating religious beliefs, like women wearing face covering or those in uniform being allowed to substitute a turban for a cap?
All religions have their restrictions, and Buddhadharma is no exception.  For example, its part of the Theravadin monastic regime that they avoid being touched by anyone. I’m not sure why this might be. Buddhists don’t subscribe to theories of contamination. Our tradition began in part because of our great grandfather Shakyamuni’s rejection of the caste system and its discrimination. There is, of course, an acknowledgment that we can be distracted by being touched when we are engaged in meditative practice. Perhaps, some monastics sustain their practice so thoroughly that it even pervades airport travel. I don’t wish to pre-judge a situation, but I suspect we are once more dealing with another example of the claim that men can be corrupted or stained by contact with women. This is certainly present in some Buddhist traditions, and that is our mistake to challenge and correct.
Our Canadian society is great because we tend to respect those different from us. We do and do need to accommodate differing religious beliefs. This must not be unquestioning, however. We need to ask whether requests like these are driven by racism, sexism or other prejudices, rather than real religious orders. As Buddhists, if we are aware of such practices in practitioners of our Way, we are obliged to question and confront this where we find it.

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

Sunday, August 03, 2014

ROSARIES AND DEVOTION

ROSARIES AND DEVOTION
This week celebrates one of the greatest of the mediaeval Catholic figures, Saint Dominic. It was he who founded the Dominican Order in the early 113th century. They were famous for extreme self-denial and hardship, as well as their dedication to serving their community. For the Latin scholars out there, their name lead to a pun, The Dogs of God (domini canis). Dominican practice promoted the use of the rosary, such as reciting and counting the Hail Mary.

We can observe two parallels with our own tradition - the use of the rosary and the reliance a devotional and salvational practice form. In Buddhism, recitation, accompanied by use of a nenju or mala (rosary),  has been part of practice since the earliest times.

 In most print-limited cultures, people relied on repetitive formulaic recitation to hold the memory and precise detail of important religious teaching. Since the introduction of sutras, we have used sutra recitation, usually in a mono-chant form, to learn practice and share teachings such as our familiar Heart Sutra reminder “form is emptiness, emptiness is form”. Although Christianity was devotional from the beginning, the prominence of Mary, or what we call Marianism, emerged later.
In Buddhism, we also saw the early Dharma switch from a stark quasi-atheism to inclusion of an emphasis on a  personal relationship with Shakyamuni within a few hundred years of his death.

Tendai nenju or mala
Shakyamuni, as an object of devotion, and gradually devotion to the countless bodhisattvas, like the pseudo-Mary figure of Kwan-Yin, became one of the characteristics of later Buddhadharma. Only slightly later we see the emergence of a strongly devotional tradition around Amitabha Buddha, who, like Mary is seen as capable of intervening in time to assist our salvation. Like Marianism in Christianity, this Amidism or devotion to Amitabha has become the most practiced form of Buddhism in the world.

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

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Practice not location

Practice not location

We often will see that a particular temple or natural site is attributed with special power, and that we are best to reserve our practice for such places. It's as if there is some spiritual presence which is only available in that place and somehow what we do their matters more than other places. In our tradition, while there are numerous temples and natural locations that are treasured for their historical value, in themselves they do not contain special or magic power. Our tradition has always based on the value of anyone's practice in their intention, not on any external factors.

In our near future, we will be establishing a new practice space at the Marguerite Center. There is a familiarity in this location for us, since it has been one of our major meeting places for nearly a decade. However, what will be the most important for us will be our shared practice, not any piece of furniture or other decorative feature.

Over the coming months and years we will customize and rearrange our new practice space to suit the requirements of whatever practice we may be engaged in. As our practice community grows and evolves, new needs will also emerge. Likewise, our location will change to suit those needs.

In September, we will begin a new practice schedule, returning to the familiar and introducing some new practices. Our space at that time, will not be complete, just as it will never really be its final form. What will matter most is what we bring in our hearts and what we do when we are in that space.


In the Dharma,
Innen, doshu 
om namu amida bu

Sunday, July 13, 2014

DEER PARK SERMON DAY

DEER PARK SERMON DAY

This weekend, July 12-13, is the international celebration of Dhamma Day (Asalha Puja). Dhamma Day commemorates the "turning of the wheel of the Dharma" - the Buddha's first sermon - at the Sarnath Deer Park time. It was during this address that he first enunciated the Eight Steps to Satisfaction , what we consider to be the central instructional teaching of the Dharma. It presented eight activities in three categories which together form the path to complete awareness. (Read the steps: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Noble_Eightfold_Path ).

Coincidentally, this is one of the few “super moons” of the year. This is when the moon is closest to the earth, so the full moon appears extra large in the sky. (Read more here: http://www.theweathernetwork.com/insider-insights/articles/a-trio-of-super-moons-grace-our-summer-skies/31491/  ).

Since moving to our new urban home, we are struck by how few people we see in our neighbourhood who actually spend time out of doors, on their decks or in parks. I expect most of them are staring at screens, rather than the sky. It’s a sign of the degeneration of our relationship with the natural world that we have lost the rhythms of the sky and seasons. We check the weather websites rather than smelling the air or feeling the shifts in air pressure or watching the trees. Our Dharma grandfather, Shaka-sama, when he stood before the gathered disciples in the Deer Park and spoke of wholesome activity, urged us to practice full and complete mindfulness. This means experiencing things directly, as they are, rather than in a mediated - literally media-ted - fashion. We are beings of flesh and blood, sprung from earth and sky, not images on a screen.



in the Dharma,
Innen, doshu,
om namu amida butsu

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

HEY, WHAT'S THE TIME?

HEY , WHAT’S THE TIME?

I’ve missed writing this past month as we closed down the Old Schoolhouse after nearly eight years and I attended this year’s conference of the Canadian Association for Spirituality and Social Work. In many ways it feels much longer time than a few weeks.
Speaking of time, during that break I watched a fascinating film on YouTube called The Man from Earth. This tight 87 minute film from 2007 was shot with a cast of less than 10, entirely in one location, a small cabin in the mountains of California. It could easily be a stage play. The premise is a last minute farewell party for John Oldman, a 30-something academic in a local university. The party is thrown by his friends and fellow teachers, including a research assistant, a biologist, a psychologist and a paleo-anthropologist and a psych student. We are teased at first, but quickly come to realize that John is indeed an Old-man, 14,000 years old to be more precise. John, it seems, “suffers” from a condition which prevents him from aging beyond his present age. As a consequence he has survived for millennia.
I won’t compromise your enjoyment of the film beyond that. What kept me engaged was the exploration of the fluidity and variability of our concept of time. What is time exactly? Is it a fixed continuum and we flow through it, or is it some quality of our lives, or some variable of the changes that occur in our planet? The film poses these and many more questions. What particularly stayed with me is John’s articulation of the experience of a long view of our experience. He describes visiting the same places over and over again, of countless relationships, cultures and ethical standards. Those things we try to layer over with permanence - even the mountains and oceans - become something different from his perspective. We are left with a disturbing nudge in our confidence of our places in time.

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

       
                   
   

           

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

HEALING

HEALING
I earn my livelihood as a health professional and this health field has healing as its purpose. We're told that the words heal  and whole are related and the healing arts and sciences strive to make us whole again.I hear people talk about dharma practice or mindfulness as "healing work" too, but I wonder if that's really what we're doing. 
In Japanese Dharma, we use the term hongaku which means "original enlightenment". It proposes that our spiritual challenge is one of recognizing or, as we say, realizing that we have always been and always will be not-different from the 10,000 Buddhas. We have not lost anything, we are not incomplete, broken, sick or corrupted. Our human life is constructed from our mistaking this realm as in some way permanent. It is this mis-apprehension which brings about our suffering. So, what will bring us relief is insight and not some act of healing. We are not ill or broken, so we do not need healing or wholing.
When we slide into the language of healing and look for ways to respond, we reinforce the idea that something happened, and our prior wholeness has been compromised, we became un-healthy. This also reinforces a view of ourselves as diminished, as dis-eased - "we're just not ourselves these days".  As I take it, the Dharma message is different from such an illness or un-whole one. We are already full and complete, there is nothing out of place, dis-eased or incomplete. Even our lives within the conditioned realm of birth and death is a possible way to be. Its just that it comes with the consequences of suffering and death. In short, we are not being called by the Buddhas to "heal ourselves" but to realize our Buddha-nature.


in the Dharma, 
Innen, doshu

Thursday, May 29, 2014

COLOURS

COLOURS
We are surrounded by colours, natural and designed-in. Whether we practice indoors or “in the wild”, we will be interacting with a unique palette of colours. When we are establishing a personal practice space, we should consider what colours we are building into that. With our practice space at the Old Schoolhouse, for example, I deliberately chose certain highlights for emotional value. The main colour was a gold tinted white, with a gold highlight wall. This gold colour combines values of warmth, healing and energy. I used black and red, partly because these were the theme colours of the building, but also because red is the colour associated with Jizo bodhisattva, our “patron saint of walking”. It would have seemed ridiculous too, to not emphasize the red in our  Red Maple name. We also used lots of natural tones from bamboo, cedar and pine. Natural materials and colours keep our environment grounded in the natural world.
When we move into our new Centre in Pembroke, we will inherit a washed-out blue-green environment. This may have made sense in that room for its purpose, which was a hair salon. We will begin with that, but over the first few months will introduce a new palette, one selected for our contemplative purposes.

This is an interesting blog entry for ad designers. The graphic summarizes “The Psychology of Colours
http://blog.lightninglabels.com/color/5-tips-for-designing-full-color-labels/
                                          
Yours in the Dharma,                          
Innen, doshu
om namo amida butsu  
 

Sunday, May 18, 2014

STUFF

STUFF
This has been a weekend about our stuff. Dividing it into stuff to keep, stuff to sell, stuff to give away and stuff to toss. We lead lives surrounded by, knee-deep in, obsessed with and emotionally attached to our stuff. I’m reminded of the brilliant American comic, George Carlin who wrote:


This is my stuff, that's your stuff, that'll be his stuff over there. That's all you need in life, a little place for your stuff. That's all your house is: a place to keep your stuff. If you didn't have so much stuff, you wouldn't need a house. You could just walk around all the time. A house is just a pile of stuff with a cover on it. And when you leave your house, you gotta lock it up. Wouldn't want somebody to come by and take some of your stuff. That's what your house is, a place to keep your stuff while you go out and get . . . more stuff!
 

In actively disposing of and watching our stuff disappear there is a very tangible sensation of lightening in our lives. Its like the sensation we get in spring when the weather warms and you can hang up your coat, hat and mitts, leave the boots at the door and step out lighter and easier into the daylight.

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

Read the final Ask the Religion Experts column here
http://www.ottawacitizen.com/life/ask-the-religion-experts/index.htm

Sunday, May 11, 2014

WHAT IS SANGHA

WHAT IS SANGHA?

In the larger Tendai community we have been exchanging viewpoints on this question. Here is part of what I contributed.

Sam-gha - the translation for the word, sangha, comes from two roots - the second, the ‘gha,’ refers to movement; the first is a widely used prefix, sam-, meaning ‘together’. Think of words like sam-skara (elements acting together), samadhi (coming together of mental faculties) or sam-ut-pada (conditions forming together).

We should also keep in mind that Sanskrit, like its larger of language-family, is fundamentally verb-driven, so however we want to use sangha, we should keep in mind it has to do with com-ing together or act-ing together. It is not so much a noun or entity, but more like a process or activity. We could almost say what we are is “sangha-ing”. Westerners/Europeans construct our experience as nouns or things, setting ourselves up for the errors of permanence-mind.
Returning to basics in another way, sangha is first and foremost one of the tri-ratna, the Three Jewels, along with Buddha and Dharma. It is part of what we take refuge in during jukai. In a narrow sense it refers to certain groups of specialist-monks, although Mahayana has tended to view it more broadly, more like the term maha-sangha or so-dai. This seems to reflect the bodhisattvic perspective which suggests sangha as including all conditioned beings of the six realms, as well as the classes of buddhas and bodhisattvas. For me this is central because our mission (in the religious not corporate) sense is the liberation of all beings, and in that task we are called to align ourselves with the efforts of all buddhas and bodhisattvas. Our practice is always in the form of sangha, never solitary. Furthermore, a corporation or organization metaphor suggests we are somehow motivated by abstract internal corporate values and desires. This is patently not the case, as we, as Buddhists, are motivated by bodhi or bodaishin. We do not generate any vision statement or mission, we align ourselves with the activity of awakening because it is our understanding of who and what we are.


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

Read the this week’s Ask the Religion Experts column here
http://www.ottawacitizen.com/life/ask-the-religion-experts/index.htm

Sunday, May 04, 2014

ENDINGS AND BEGINNINGS

ENDINGS AND BEGINNINGS
The Buddhaway is defined by an acceptance of transience as the modality of our lives. Our practice is one of observing  experiences as they arise and pass away. We are called to attend to this flux and establish a posture of non-attachment. When we speak of non-attachment, we must be cautious not to mistake it for indifference, for neutrality or for a passive disinterest. Our awareness brings us the richness of life and death, not a boring flatness. We are recommended to be curious and observant, to inquire and explore. Our lives are an adventure, one which can illuminate the Dharma.
 





This weekend we marked an ending and a beginning. Our Dharma-home in Renfrew, which we called Akasha-loka, The Realm of Infinite Possibilities, has fulfilled it purpose, that of initiating a Dharma presence in this County. Now we recognize our purpose is best fulfilled in a new location, somewhat further West, where we have had a temporary and auxiliary space for almost as long. It would be absurd to say none of us feels sadness or excitement, that we are Buddhists after all and we shouldn’t feel such things. We are humans, and humans are blessed with the capacity to experience the panorama of our emotional life. To ignore such emotion would insult our humanity.
However, as Buddhists, we are attentive to the transience of our experience and of the places in our experience. We would be foolish indeed to expect any physical space to stay the same.
Like wise, we are disappointed to receive the announcement that the Religion Experts feature we have contributed to for almost 6 years will cease publication in a coupe of weeks. This has been an extraordinary means for us to explain the Buddhaway to a curious public, and to do so in a sort-of-dialogue with many other faiths.  Both of these endings introduce us to new beginnings, new possibilities for each of us to participate in bringing the Buddhaway into the community.


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

Read this week’s Ask the Religion Experts column here
http://www.ottawacitizen.com/life/ask-the-religion-experts/index.htm

Monday, April 28, 2014

THE BODY’S LANGUAGE

THE BODY’S LANGUAGE
We speak to each other using a shared vocabulary and grammar. This makes it possible for us to understand each other. Sometimes we have to learn a new language to communicate with others. I know this to be a difficult challenge from my recent efforts to learn enough Japanese to get by on my trip there. (Note of confession - I was largely a failure in this regard).
Our Dharma great-grandfather, Kukai, the founder of the Shingon tradition, proposed that we cannot know the Divine directly but that we can communicate using three different languages - body, speech/breath and mind. He based his teaching on three practice bases, each one being the language of those modes. Mantra (what we call recitation or chanting) uses the sounds we make with our breath. Mantra expresses sounds of letters, words and collections of words . What we take as the meaning of a phrase is not the mantra meaning. That lies in the expression of a universal sound, which is itself the expression of a particular energy or force, what we call Buddhas or Bodhisattvas. Mandala are cosmic landscapes, which we enter mentally through visualization. Mudra is specific hand positions, that likewise express universal energies.
These stylized and formal languages are captured in specific patterns of sound, movement and imagined space. We can also understand at an even more everyday level, the language of the body. When we touch a surface, when we walk along the ground, when we suddenly notice bright sunlight or the sound of a bird, we are understanding something of who we are. Before or even without conventional language, the body speaks to us, providing information about our experience. Our movement practices, such as the walking and chi-gong we perform regularly, offer us opportunities to hear and speak that language.


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

Read this week’s Ask the Religion Experts column here
http://www.ottawacitizen.com/life/ask-the-religion-experts/index.html

Monday, April 21, 2014

LOVING KINDNESS

Loving Kindness
In the discussion at this month’s Mahasangha, we examining the Metta Sutra, the Teaching on Loving Kindness. In part I said:
we do not reserve metta (loving kindness)for some and withhold it from others. The practice must be directed to all beings. In fact, this reminds us that our practice is for the service of all beings, not just humans, or people we like, or everyone in Canada. It calls us to serve and work for the liberation of all beings, humans and animals. Even in the world-view of that time it would include beings in the hell-realms, in the heavens as well. Metta begins with recognizing our inclusion in the vast universe of existence, and as with the Vow that has come to define Mahayana Buddhism, we vow to liberate all beings, in all times, in all spaces.

 
We also acknowledged that metta practice is, like nembutsu, is at once the simplest and most difficult of practices. The instructions are minimal and it does not require any particular location, preparation or equipment. On the other hand, it requires we have the sincerity, faith and determination to reach deep into our own hearts and direct our most heartfelt intentions for the benefit of others.


To see the whole talk on the Metta Sutra, click the link above

Sunday, April 13, 2014

RESILIIENCE

RESILIIENCE

During the presentation on resilience I did yesterday , I suggested two preliminary steps for the 6-element model of resilience (for more, see www.resiliency.com ). In addition to the six elements in the description (boundaries, expectations, bonding, etc.), I used a mindfulness lens to supplement two other elements - awareness and purpose.
Before we can engage in what resiliency theory calls “set clear and consistent boundaries”, we must begin with a deep and dynamic awareness of who this person is. This is not learned from a book or received on advice from another. This is only authentic when it results from a personal and rigorous inquiry into our own experience of who and what we are. That knowledge is self-affirming. It also shifts and changes over our lives, so it needs to be an ongoing inquiry - what we call our mindfulness practice.
For us to articulate high expectations, we must use the awareness we acquire to provide us with some clarity on the purpose of our lives, whatever that may be at that time. Expectations motivated by externally imposed shoulds or flawed awareness of our experience or needs powered by the three forces (kleshas) of aggression, greed and laziness, will lead us further down the path of suffering - our own and for others.
The model or framework of resiliency offers us a potent tool to reflect on in building our life competencies. The perspective of mindfulness, in my mind, deepens that frame even more.


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

Read this week’s Ask the Religion Experts column here
http://www.ottawacitizen.com/life/ask-the-religion-experts/index.html

      
                  
   

Sunday, April 06, 2014

OBSTACLES

OBSTACLES
At the retreat I was leading yesterday, someone asked about dealing with “emotional obstacles”, in particular how does mindfulness practice help. The main thing we need to remember is that obstacles only occur when there is attachment. If we become fascinated with some feeling state, memory or detail of emotional experience, there can be a contraction or compression of attention. This compacting produces the apparent shape and form of the obstacle, it appears to us as something real and permanent. That leads to struggle and more emotional experience as we become frustrated, upset or whatever reactions we get. That then repeats the activity and it becomes the next obstacle.
We can keep in mind the Zen expression, mizuno no kokoro or “heart like water”. Water does not recognize obstacles, its behaviour is that of flow and circumvention. It does not become attached to objects, it penetrates or goes around them. When we experience some apparently unresolvable emotional experience, one which arises as if it were an obstacle, our practice is best when it opens around that experience, like water around a large boulder or island. It is best when it saturates and dissolves the experience, that is, when we come to recognize the transience of that experience.


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

Read this week’s Ask the Religion Experts column here
http://www.ottawacitizen.com/life/ask-the-religion-experts/index.html

       

Sunday, March 30, 2014

RELIGION OR SCIENCE

BUDDHISM: RELIGION OR SCIENCE

You may hear that Buddhism isn’t really a religion, usually because it has no God or doesn’t need rituals and so on. Particularly in the West, there are those who want to equate it with a school of psychology,  cognitive psychology being the preferred type. Our Dharma friend , Dharmavidya David Brazier recently wrote on this and part of his comment is below.

“Buddhism is a religion. It has beliefs, rituals, altars, offerings, bells, candles, metaphysics, clergy, devotees, prayers, meditation, visions, visitations, celestial beings, other worlds, other lives, moral law, and salvation. All these are found in Zen Buddhism, in Theravada Buddhism, in Tibetan Buddhism, in Pureland Buddhism, in the other schools of Chinese and Vietnamese Buddhism, in fact, in all of Buddhism all over Asia. Buddhists probably burn more candles and incense than the Catholic Church. These are not degeneration or cultural accretions. The founder himself gave us robes, taught ritual and contrition, revealed other lives and worlds, and spoke with the gods. Secularised and rationalised variants of Buddhism exist, but it is these that are partial forms and cultural products of later derivation.

Sometimes it is said that Buddhism is scientific. This assertion would put Buddhism somehow within the frame of science, but Buddhism has much that would not fit into that frame. However, although we cannot really say that Buddhism is scientific, science is Buddhistic. Science is Buddhistic in that science is a way of knowing some things. Buddhism can accommodate everything that science perceives, but science can only perceive a fraction of what Buddhism encompasses, the fraction that appears within the frame that the restrictive rules of science impose.”

The full article is here:
http://amidatrust.ning.com/profiles/blogs/buddhism-is-a-religion  


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

Read this week’s Ask the Religion Experts column here
http://www.ottawacitizen.com/life/ask-the-religion-experts/index.html

        

                  
  

           

Sunday, March 23, 2014

DISASTERS

DISASTERS

Today’s dangerous and unseasonable snowstorm took our morning contemplation to explore the arising of disasters, crises and great losses in our lives. We reflected on what we experience in these moments and how often we wish to be spared from such extraordinary events. There is a clear physicality about these experiences. We often express our response in the breath, in body tension and tears or (surprisingly) laughter.
Although no one would wish for disastrous events or great losses, we all recognized that such experiences call us to reach deep into our resources to respond. We push ourselves to protect ourselves, to serve those we love or to be responsible citizens. In doing so, not only do we recognize capacities and strengths we might have missed, but we also refine and sharpen those skills and sensitivities. Each crisis prepares us to respond to the next one.
This is not universally true. It is clear that humans have their limits and repeated, extreme crisis response becomes what we know as trauma. Such experiences over-tax our capacities and damage our abilities and bodies.
Our practice activity, especially sitting mindfulness is too often construed as merely stress management or relaxation and we mistakenly shy away from experiencing or penetrating difficulties. This will stunt our practice maturity, which thrives on bringing attention to whatever arises in the space of body-mind-environment.
                                      
Yours in the Dharma,                          
Innen, doshu
om namo amida butsu  
                   

Read this week’s Ask the Religion Experts column here

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

Sunday, March 16, 2014

TIME AND CHANGE

This week marks our biannual ritual of pretending we can manipulate time through adding or subtracting an hour on specific magic days. Our world is criss-crossed with images of time - think of all the ways we refer to time. (See the link to a few below). Phrasings of time are part of the way we construct our world, its is one of our key building blocks of identity.
Christians distinguish between time as chronos and as kairos. Chronos is simple “clock-time”. Kairos refers to the right time or the fulfilled time. Within that faith, history is a straight line of time with an end and fulfillment. Kairos is the moment when purpose begins to be fulfilled. In Asian cosmology, time is seen as a field or cycle, with no perceivable start or conclusion. The figure of Kali, the Goddess of Time comes from Hindu tradition and has been borrowed for the Buddhist vision of the Wheel of Existence.


This Wheel or bhava-chakra establishes our lives as an unending cycle of grasping, compression and dissatisfaction. Although it is a flow, driven by the principle of karma, it is not a condemnation. What we are taught is that the Dharma and our practice of it is the assured way to escape from that cycle.

(Some time phrases:  http://www.ecenglish.com/learnenglish/lessons/time-idioms )


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

Read this week’s Ask the Religion Experts column here
http://www.ottawacitizen.com/life/ask-the-religion-experts/index.html