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



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



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