Monthly Archives: February 2015

Hollywood Treatment for Redemption – Gold Winner Book.

Title: Redemption, Author: Ian Prattis, Genre: Drama, Setting: The Hebrides Islands, Scotland, Pages: 138, Period: Mid-20th century, Best Medium for Adaptation: Feature Film X

Logline:

A Scottish islander with the tumultuous soul of a poet battles through tragedy and triumph in his search for true peace.

Brief Summary:

Callum Mor Martin lives on a quiet island in the Hebrides of western Scotland in the early and middle years of the twentieth century. He grows from a fey and precocious five-year-old to a grizzled man in his sixties, and experiences the numerous and often tragic fates of his family and fellow villagers. Callum Mor’s father, a gentle soul who dreams of being a writer, struggles with the unforgiving land to provide enough for his family. He is eventually broken in mind and spirit. Calllum Mor’s sister is driven into an unhappy marriage by their poverty, and his brother is murdered by the man he once considered his best friend. Callum Mor’s dreams of leaving the island to become a writer are dashed by his devotion to his aging mother, and he instead becomes a sturdy fisherman. He tries and fails to win the hand of his beloved, and spends many years as a suicidal embittered drunk. In the end, he is drawn out of his self-imposed exile by a small Glaswegian family who offer him unconditional love and understanding. Although the family is driven off of the island by the cruel machinations of a corrupt businessman, Callum Mor’s spirit is renewed, and he abides in peace, anticipating their return.

Redemption front cover

Synopsis:

In a tiny fishing village on one of the islands of the Hebrides, ten-year-old CALLUM MOR MARTIN steals away from school to join his uncle MICHAEL and OLD ANGUS on their boat as they fish for lobster. Unbeknownst to Callum, his teacher, MISS RACHEL MACDOUGALL, sees him escape and smiles to herself, unwilling to force him to stay in the classroom on such a beautiful day. Callum has a quiet, rare way about him that draws others and makes them want to share their time and tales with him; even gruff old Angus feels a tenderness towards the boy as they break from hauling up lobster creels to share sandwiches. Later in the day, Callum Mor returns home to regale his family with the story of his day. His mother ANNIE, sister MOIRA and brother DONALD dance and play music with him, sharing a joy not often seen in their hardscrabble home. The neighbor COLIN MCFADGEN stops by to join the warmth and merriment, and soon a procession of friends and neighbors arrive bearing music, poetry and whiskey, and a party is in full swing. Early the next morning, Callum Mor’s father ANDREW MARTIN returns home from the pub and smiles to see the remains of the party.

Five years earlier, Andrew works as a crewman on a cargo freighter. Away from home for three-quarters of the year, he aches to spend more time with his family and treasures even the smallest moments at home. However, the Martin’s croft isn’t rich enough to support the family, so he must work away from home. He remembers a beautiful day when the entire family works cutting peat for the winter; afterward, they eat and then bathe in the surf. Andrew knows he can no longer bear to be apart from his wife and children. He gives up his job and struggles to eke out a better existence on their homestead. The land is harsh, and Andrews turns to drink to quiet the desperation in his heart. In the present, Annie greets him, sweetly and sadly.

Several years later, fourteen-year-old Callum Mor is showing Miss MacDougall his friend – a playful young otter. Callum has watched the otter for three months, acclimating the inquisitive creature to his presence and describing him in his writing. Miss MacDougall sees a creative spark in Callum Mor and encourages it in every way she can, including hiking out across the island with Callum Mor to see the otter for herself. On his way home, Callum Mor stops in to see old Colin, who warns that salmon poachers often fish in the mouth of the otter’s loch.

Returning home, Callum Mor passes the still, silent figure of his father, slumped as always in a threadbare chair in front of the fire. Callum Mor’s memory turns to the days of his father’s downfall. Desperate at his inability to claw a living from the land, Andrew at last convinces Annie to sell one of her cows to build a coop and buy laying hens to sell eggs. He works with renewed energy at constructing the coop and installing the bedraggled hens. The same night the coop is completed, a storm blows in and tears the roof away. The entire family runs out into the teeth of the storm to re-secure the roof, aghast at the intensity of Andrew’s fury as he spits epithets at the sky. At last, the storm abates and Annie goes to clean her husband’s bloody and battered hands, but he shoves her down in a blind rage. Soon afterwards, the fury drains from him, and he stands looking at the shambles of the chicken coop. Annie leads him inside and installs him on the chair before the fire, where he remains. Annie tries to find help, but she is told that his mind is broken.

Despite this tragedy, the poultry business is successful and through Annie’s tireless efforts brings in enough money to keep the family afloat. Moira leaves the islands as soon as she’s able and loses touch with the family, while Donald joins the merchant navy. He has just returned a week ago for his first shore leave, and hasn’t been able to accept that his father is still sick. Back in the present, Callum Mor goes to bed with a prayer for his father on his lips. Sometime later, Donald returns home from the pub and stands before his silent father. He unleashes a drunken tirade of rage and abuse. Callum Mor and Annie rush out to calm Donald, and find that Andrew has died during the night. Later that year, Donald returns home again, bearing news that Moira has married a middle-aged insurance company manager and is living comfortably in Glasgow. She receives Donald coldly when he goes to visit her. Callum Mor’s bond with the otter has deepened, and he spends many hours watching the lively creature frolic and play. One evening, he tracks the otter out to the ocean shore, where he notices a dinghy gill netting; these are the poachers Colin warned him about. He spots the otter and is at first overjoyed, but the animal does not stir when he approaches, and he sees that its neck has been broken. He runs in a rage towards a poacher standing on the shore and attacks the large man, whom he later learns is called BRETT MACVICKER. One of the men on the boat stops Brett from beating Callum Mor: it is Donald, his brother. They take Callum Mor on board and move away from the beach to avoid capture by the constables and gamekeepers. Brett’s sympathy for the boy’s sadness is such that he orders Donald and the OTHER POACHER to turn around and retrieve the otter’s body. They bury the otter at sea, and explain that its death was an accident when it was caught in the nets. Later, Brett arrives at the Martin croft with a puppy for Callum Mor.

In the following months, Brett becomes a role model for the boy. He teaches him to fish and hunt all over the islands. Annie and Miss MacDougall are both distrustful of the dangerous Brett, and warn Callum Mor and Donald about him. Despite her misgivings, Miss MacDougall is lured by Brett to a party at his home, where he seduces her. Although she initially consents, he physically batters and emotionally degrades her, and the seduction becomes something akin to rape. She leaves bruised and disgusted. Donald finds her on the path home and returns to Brett’s home to attack him. In the brawl, Brett’s home is set alight. Brett lets the place burn because he wants to leave Scotland for good. He warns Donald that someday he will hunt him down and kill him. Later that year, Miss MacDougall tells Callum Mor that she’s getting married to an EDINBURGH NEWSPAPER EDITOR and he’ll have a job with the paper and place to live if he wants to leave. He’s overjoyed at the prospect but stays with frail Annie, unwilling to leave her all alone. Instead, he joins his Uncle Michael’s herring boat crew and grows to be a strong young man and one of the most skilled fishermen in the islands. During this time, Brett tracks Donald down in Montreal and strangles him, and is in turn hung for murder.

At twenty-two, Callum Mor fosters a relationship with Colin’s niece CATRIONA and impregnates her. He wants to marry her, but she refuses, fearing he doesn’t truly love her. She travels to Glasgow and has an abortion. Callum Mor tries to reconcile with her, but she leaves the island and his life. He doesn’t tell anyone about Catriona but he is changed for the worse and begins a long slide into depression. His decline reaches its nadir when he returns home one day from fishing to find Annie slumped by the gate, having died peacefully of a stroke. Callum Mor explodes in a despairing rage and begins to drink heavily. He continues to drink himself into oblivion every night for many years, throwing away his previous life. He rows out into bad weather to fish, challenging the ocean to finish him off. Callum Mor’s boat is swallowed but he washes ashore unhurt. Several decades later, a grizzled fifty-eight year-old Callum Mor is alone in his messy house. His drinking days are done, but he leads a simple, rough existence. He has avoided almost all contact with the outside world until the day his long-estranged sister Moira comes to see him. She and Callum Mor reconcile their differences. Moira is accompanied by her devious stepson JOHN MENZIE, who wants to buy part of the Martin land to build a shellfish factory. Callum Mor perceives that Menzies is driven by greed, not a desire to help the struggling economy of the island, and he refuses to sell the land.

Later that year, Callum Mor is disturbed by a knock on his door. A young hiker called TOM HAGEN is seeking shelter for his family from a storm. Callum Mor is reluctant but feels pity for Tom’s wife SIAN and their young daughter CATHERINE. He lets them stay the night and swiftly bonds with the family, emerging from his self-imposed isolation. They invite him to visit their home outside Glasgow that winter. When Catherine is lost in the hills during a sudden snowstorm, Callum Mor finds her and saves her from hypothermia. The family purchases a home on the island from John Menzie. Despite Callum Mor’s warnings to not trust John, Tom makes only a gentleman’s agreement on the ownership of the home, and Menzie arrives shortly to evict the Hagens. Callum Mor offers to help the Hagens build a home for themselves on his land, and they are overjoyed. Frustration soon sets in because Menzie and his ally, REVEREND MOYNIHAN, use their contacts to spread distrust of the newcomers. The Hagens return to Glasgow, despite Callum Mor’s assertion that the people of the island will regain their compassion over time. As he watches the ferry depart, carrying his newfound family away, Callum Mor is calm with the certainty that they will return. In the following weeks and months, one by one, the people of the island remember themselves and contribute to the construction of the home, moved by the quiet, ephemeral power of Callum Mor’s love and hope.

 

Excellent X

Good

Fair

Development Needed

Concept

Story X

Characters X 

Comments/Suggestions for Adaptation:

REDMPTION is a lyrical and moving tale of struggle, love, loss, transformation and hope. Its starkly gorgeous and remote island setting creates and reinforces the central themes of struggle, family, community and wonder at the beauty of the world, and its rich cast of characters offers numerous gripping interludes that brim with complex interpersonal drama. The book is short, but there is more than enough material here for a satisfying full-length film adaptation. If handled with the same care and grace as the novel, a film could be highly successful. The novel’s period and setting deftly capture a rural way of life that is rapidly vanishing from the western world; one ever present theme is that of economic hardship and encroaching industrialization versus the wild, natural beauty of the islands. If budget restrictions are required, a contemporary version of the story would not require major changes so long as those elements are carefully preserved. However, an adaptation would be best served by maintaining the mid-century trappings, which lend authenticity and the nostalgic mystique of a childhood forever lost.

The story centers on and is always connected to Callum Mor, but he is surrounded and influenced by a fantastic cast of family and fellow islanders. They provide a deep well of material; their conflicts and intrigues move the plot forward and offer a vast array of powerfully emotional individual moments. The story arcs of Andrew, Annie, Moira, Donald, Miss MacDougall, Brett and Catriona offer particularly beautiful and interesting counterpoints to one another and to Callum Mor. The characters’ hopes, desires and difficulties intermingle in a sad and realistic tapestry of human existence.

The narrative’s tone is generally quiet and introspective in the vein of Jarmusch’s BROKEN FLOWERS, but it is frequently punctuated by storms both literal and metaphorical. These interludes are capable of taking a potential adaptation to the heights of such grand romantic drama as THE ENGLISH PATIENT. Callum Mor and his people face many conflicts throughout the story, from poverty, mental illness, unwanted pregnancy, and battles with nature itself, to sexual assault and violent physical confrontation. A potential adaptation would have no difficulty keeping any prospective audience’s rapt attention on the action at hand, even as the deeper, more subtle messages of compassion and faith carefully unfold. Only the ending, if anything, could benefit from slightly less ambiguity; although the final scene of the villagers erasing their shame by building a home for the Hagens, compelled by Callum Mor’s peaceful faith, is an effective and striking image.

REDEMPTION would be well-suited to adaptation as a feature film. A film should retain the novel’s relatively complex web of conflicts, personalities and emotional undercurrents. If the book’s strengths are preserved, an adaptation has the potential to be a successful, intimate and intensely moving tale of human tragedy and triumph.

Recommendation:

Strongly Consider X

Consider

Consider with Development

A Speech from the Future.

Front Cover Trailing Sky Six Feathers

I am writing the final book in a trilogy, taking characters from Book 1: Redemption and Book 2: Trailing Sky Six Feathers and placing them on a new planet in the near future. The adventure allows me to look back on the factors that compromised life on Earth. Here is an extract from Chapter Two.

“Ten years earlier Dr. Tom Hagen gave a speech at the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland. Gathered before him were political and corporate leaders from around the world. He was an astrophysicist, engineer and prolific author. He wrote searing plays about human fragility and books for children to inspire them to care for the earth. These endeavors did not turn the tide of willful ignorance concerning drastic climate change despite his creation of detailed plans and scenarios to adapt the Industrial Growth Civilization that imperiled life on Earth. He was also the chef-de-mission of the International Space Agency’s PRIME 3 project to locate a suitable planet, as habitation on Earth was seriously compromised. The entire project was outlined in Space Agency folders that each member of the audience had before them. Dr. Tom Hagen was standing quietly at the UN podium in Geneva, readying to speak.  He had both good and bad news for his powerful and wealthy audience, deeply hoping that some of them would finance this late opportunity for survival of the human species.

Tom looked at his carefully researched notes then put them to one side. This speech, the most significant of his life, had to come directly from his insight and heart. He composed himself, standing still and silent at the podium He was six foot three inches of intense focus, dignified and alert. He took his glasses off and placed them on top of his notes. Sian, his wife, sitting off to one side of the podium smiled in relief. She knew what was coming. Tom paused and looked around at his audience, one he did not particularly like, but one he had to convince. He breathed deeply, waiting until he felt that icy steel of reason and vision within him, then he began to speak.

“In this very moment what is left of the population in Australia is being evacuated. The sand storms and volcanic eruptions in the interior and successive coastal tsunamis have brought an end to human occupation there. The inundation of Bangladesh, the Netherlands and coastal regions round the world are a direct consequence of the collapse of the Polar Ice Sheets, which increased sea levels by seven meters. Such cryogenic events have dislocated half the global population and ushered in plagues and pestilence that have eliminated ninety per cent of other species and directly threaten human survival. These are facts that cannot be refuted.”

Tom paused for several silent moments and made eye contact with the few individuals there who would support him. He breathed in and out slowly, gathering his steel and his wits. He saw that the facts he had just delivered registered with some and set the tone for what was to come. He slowly took a drink of water from the glass in front of him.

“In the early part of the twenty first century it was possible to make the leap to a zero-net-carbon world. Yet the opposite trajectory was chosen with a rapid increase in greenhouse gases as wealthy nations and economic enterprises doubled their production of fossil fuels. Did you not notice that food crops were destroyed by horrendous heat waves? Did you not realize that food riots and world panic trace back to one cause – the economic agenda of fossil fuel extraction? I do know you are clear about where your collective power was invested. It was in political, social and economic structures that centered on the fossil fuel complex, but did you discern that this collective agenda was destabilizing world order? I think not.”

There was another pregnant pause, as Tom allowed the indignation to arise from his audience then fade away.

“Do you remember the famous one liner from Bill Clinton that won him the presidential election, ‘It’s the economy stupid.’ You surely must, as you have put it whole heartedly into practice. That was the wrong direction. Your brand was, and is, a dysfunctional global financial system lurching from one disaster to another throughout the century. May I remind you of the obvious. The economy is a mere sub-set of the mother lode of ecology and you have successfully destroyed that base source. On your watch not only did financial collapses signal dangerous global watersheds, the world food system crashed as a consequence along with the chaos brought in by climate change. Nobody moved to ask different questions and find different answers. The usual suspects were hardly reined in. A few were assassinated, some rotted away in prison, while others died shallow deaths in gated communities. The anger of the populace has turned on their more powerful masters of capital and politics. At the extreme end of the spectrum of violence this anger has boiled over into lynching and murder of corporate and political leaders held responsible by eco-militias. The heinous actions of these black clad anarchists are certainly an extreme response to your control, lies and doublespeak. Nevertheless it is a response that makes none of you safe.

Look back over this century and you can see why such violence has emerged. Thousands of millions of people have died from thirst, starvation and disease.  Death arrived from every pestilence available, some of it created in your counter-intelligence labs. The countless millions who have died do not include the many wars waged over scarce resources, particularly water. The reason for such wars lies with your greed for money, control and power leading directly to the cascade of disintegrating eco-systems essential for the support of life. Government, industry, banks and financiers grew wealthy while they permitted a systematic breakdown of failing ecosystems on Planet Earth. Your collective and willful ignorance of warnings since 1950 served to discredit climate change scientists and oceanographers screaming that ocean eco-systems were disintegrating. You silenced and jailed citizens with the integrity to save the Earth. But it was never about the unanimity of scientists or free speech. It was about the brand of economics favored by your fossil fuel complex – a collective cabal of extraordinary power. You do know who you are, as you single mindedly created a powerful culture of denial about climate change and how it has impacted the cryosphere to such deadly effect.

Social order broke down in mid-century ushering in the overthrow of governments, the establishment of martial law and Nazism – all of which increased the desperation of populations worldwide who took to the streets in mass riots. In the vacuum of social order vicious warlords and militias took over many parts of the world. You have all suffered from the violence of so called eco-militias, which hunt down and string up in the streets those politicians and corporate leaders they hold responsible for the collapse of Earth’s eco-systems. Let me be clear – these eco-militias do not serve the Earth. They are pathological criminals on the loose, yet in many parts of the world they constitute an ever present danger. You and I have lost many friends and colleagues to the murders they have carried out. They are extreme, just as you are extreme. Somehow you inherited the Nero gene – fiddling with indifference while Rome burned. The entire planet has been allowed to burn on your watch. Perhaps at this late stage you can learn something from Rumi, the Sufi saint. He said, ‘Sit down and be quiet. You are drunk and this is the edge of the roof.’ Your policies and brand of economics have forced humanity off the edge of the roof and you can now see the consequences worldwide.

In Canada, Big Oil and government ran an incredible campaign to promote the Alberta Tar Sands. They produced images of reforestation, utmost safety, deep concern for wildlife, populations and clean water. This played to a receptive audience throughout the country. Decades later the northern rivers and lakes of Canada became a wasteland. Oil derivatives swiftly poured through interconnected waterways. Aboriginal populations that augmented their households with fish and game are no more. They either relocated or died. This format, however, provided an example that was quickly adopted by other governments and effectively torpedoed any form of transition to a sustainable, renewable economy.

The billionaires amongst you have well equipped and tightly defended underground bunkers to escape to – but I have bad news for you. The deep core drilling for oil and gas all over the world, particularly in fragile ocean beds, have compromised the tectonic plates at the center of the Earth. The tectonic plates are now moving faster and rising closer to the outer crust of Earth. Where they collide precipitates world-wide volcanic eruptions and earthquakes that will first of all destroy your underground bunkers. It is estimated that billions will die from the volcanic explosions and many of those surviving will likely die from poisonous gases and the inevitable tsunamis in every ocean. Fifty years ago seismologists provided the critical evidence that deep core drilling is directly associated with the rapid increase in global earthquake and volcanic epicenters. Tectonic plates ride on a fluid like core, known as the asthenosphere, and the tectonic plates that are now colliding trigger massive earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. Repeated warnings from scientists to ban deep core drilling were ignored, bringing the unspeakable into reality.”

Tom paused and took a deep breath before looking around the audience, connecting with all his heart to each person.

“I ask you at this late stage to do one last noble thing. Support the PRIME 3 space project to the tune of five billion dollars. That is what it will cost to build a new spaceship and create a viable outpost at Jupiter Station One. The very future of our species is at grave risk and presently lies in your hands. PRIME 3 is the last Hail Mary to begin anew without replicating the structures and policies that have led to the inevitable demise of Planet Earth.”

Tom stopped talking. There was no applause. No-one acknowledged him. He walked steadily to the side of the stage where Sian was standing with a look of sheer admiration at his bravery. She embraced him lightly and sweetly. She held his hand as they walked up the center of the UN forum. No-one would meet his eye. He strode purposefully as the rich, powerful and greedy studiously ignored him, or so he thought. Still, Sian sent a smile to everyone who appeared to be in some kind of shock, stasis or agreement. They passed through the security of the UN building and started to walk down the steps, glancing at Lac Geneva in the distance.”

Local and Global

I have been musing about this topic, particularly reflecting on the annual Ottawa Friends for Peace Day – now in its 13th year. See my blog on community activism: https://ianprattis.wordpress.com/2013/07/31/community-activism-at-work-in-ottawa/

I realized 15 years ago, when I founded Friends for Peace as the engaged arm of Pine Gate, that I was making a conscious choice to focus my energy and work on the local, my home city of Ottawa.  My focus was on mindfulness in schools, city environment, youth at risk and other local causes. On reflection I am astonished by the results – more true to say “blown away.” For at the local level there was continuity with great folk who helped make things happen.  There is now a two week Peace Festival in Ottawa that precedes the Friends for Peace Day – which is the final bookend of the Festival.  It has grown in ever increasing concentric circles. All have adopted some form of the Friends for Peace mandate – peace, planetary care and social justice. The foundation of mindfulness at Pine Gate trickles through the 50 some organizations we partner with.  All spontaneously brought about – no intention to do so.

sticker v41

At the same time I realize why I have resisted the pull and lure to go global.  There are folks who do this very well, some are good and some not so much – yet I decided to stay local so that deep powerful roots were put down that could well serve as a global example for other localities.  I offered a gracious decline to the many opportunities to travel and teach globally, as I felt that was not the arena that would make the difference I wished to see. There have been people from many cities around Canada and the world who accessed the Guidelines on the website www.friendsforpeace.ca  Of course the local and global inter-are, yet for me there was a conscious decision to place my energy at the local level, knowing full well that it would trickle through to the global. There is certainly a global aspect to our activities in terms of the projects actively supported elsewhere. Each year Friends for Peace presents Peace Awards to Canadian citizens who have devoted their lives to securing peace, planetary care and social justice.  That’s the mandate at www.friendsforpeace.ca  Past recipients include Grandfather William Commanda, Michael Monner and Tone Magazine, Marion Dewar, Max Keeping, David Smith, Irwin Cotler, Elizabeth May, Douglas Cardinal, Bruce Cockburn, Maha Rath Sam, Jack Layton and many others since our first Celebrate Peace Day in 2003.

Jack Layton with Dalai Lama

The funds raised from the day are used to issue Peace Grants to organizations, in Ottawa and internationally, that are making a real difference. Current projects in the city supported by Friends for Peace are the Multi-Faith Housing Initiative of Ottawa’s Interfaith Council, the Dave Smith Youth Treatment Centre, Child Haven International, and Peace Camp Ottawa, which brings Palestinian and Israeli teens together.  This is in addition to supporting the Physicians for Global Survival initiative to expand the mandate of the Canadian War Museum to include the creation of a culture of peace.  In Africa, the Nelson Mandela Children’s Foundation, the Congo Education and Schools project plus the Morungatuny Resettlement Program in Northern Uganda are also supported. In India a school, orphanage and medical centre was supported at the Ram Yoga Centre north of New Delhi. The major planetary care project was the campaign to make the Dumoine River watershed a protected conservation park. Friends for Peace also co-operates with other groups in Ottawa for the annual Ottawa River clean-up.  In particular we have supported youth organizations to burst on to the local scene.

For instance Orkidstra – www.leadingnotefoundation.org  – established in September 2007 gives children from under-served communities the opportunity to learn a musical instrument and sing in a choir. They are creating a quiet social revolution in the city. The Dandelion Dance Company – www.hannahbeach.com/dandelion – an Ottawa based youth dance theatre company explores social issues through movement. Their repertoire is driven by the experiences, reflections and passion of young women who range in age from ages 13 to 19, and include children’s rights, hunger, authenticity, bullying, stereotypes and inclusiveness. Both youth organizations perform regularly at the Friends for Peace Day.

The drive is to foster a strong cadre of people in the locality of Ottawa who can make a difference.  I talked about this when introducing the film “Fierce Light” to Pine Gate Mindfulness Community.  The film is pretty good but somewhat lacking in that it does not make clear that activism without spiritual depth and mindfulness soon runs out of steam. The activists burn out and become overwhelmed. The place to develop such depth of mindfulness is the local community and the continuity of inter-connecting with our partners across the city. And then noticing the many changes and transformation.

I remember the sage Krishnamurti – a true globalist – being in tears in San Francisco when he realized that his audience for the nth time were still asking the same questions – not having moved an inch from where they were the first time he spoke to them. I also wonder just how much our great teachers move the global sangha from where they were ten years ago. They certainly provide impact, yet that diminishes without a local energy focus to take the experience deeper.

I will reflect further on this – just giving you a heads up.

LET GO OR BE DRAGGED!

                                                         

I presented the Sutra on The Better Way to Live Alone to the Pine Gate Mindfulness Community on our First Saturday Mindfulness gathering in February 2015.

Pine Gate Meditation Hall

I really like the brevity and impact of this sutra. After reading it out to the sangha I used a series of quotes from elsewhere to get the sangha juices flowing.  I began the dharma talk with my favorite fridge magnet – LET GO OR BE DRAGGED – and then moved on to the quotes, which were read aloud by different sangha members. The discussion was illuminating with poignant and direct reflections on experience. I introduced Right View and the Eightfold Path into the conversation. Once Right Mindfulness and Right Concentration spark the engine of Right View so that views transform into insights, then there is a cascade of insight from Right View pouring into all thinking, speaking and action – the rest of the Eightfold Path. When our tired old stories prevail and do not transform into insights, then we have wrong views cascading through thinking, speaking and action. And that ensures the presence of suffering.

This eighteen line sutra is immense, as it contains the essence of the Buddha’s teachings about not getting imprisoned by past, future and present circumstances. They are all enslaving ghosts until we cultivate sufficient attention from the present moment. The key lines for me are:

“Do not pursue the past.

Do not lose yourself in the future.

The past no longer is.

The future has yet to come.

Looking deeply at life as it is

In the very here and now

The practitioner dwells

In stability and freedom.”

Buddha Picture

I also felt that Osho really nailed it in the first quote. I found this way of presenting the material to be novel and useful.

Quotes

There is a teaching on “The Better Way to Live Alone” which defines “living alone” to be the experience of having one’s mind free of thoughts about the past and future, but is instead focused on the “present moment.”  But I can live physically alone but not be alone at all. If my mind is full of memories of the past and thoughts of the future, I can live physically alone but not be alone at all. If my mind is full of memories of the past and thoughts of the future, I can live physically alone while dialoguing with the deceased, reliving a past conversation or some painful (or joyful) incident or experience. Or I can be mentally rehearsing or imagining some future conversation, some future event.

All of which is the antithesis of “living alone” if I am lost in these thoughts. On the other hand If I am aware and watchful of these thoughts, realizing I am having these thoughts in the present moment, then I am truly “living alone” – even if I am living with 100 other beings. And this leads me to my own “deepest core” of who I am. If I know this, I have the capacity to love

  • Osho

As a single footstep will not make a path on the earth, so a single thought will not make a pathway in the mind. To make a deep physical path, we must think over and over the kind of thoughts we wish to dominate our lives.

  • Henry David Thoreau

Happiness and suffering are dependent upon your mind, upon your interpretation. They do not come from outside, from others. All of your happiness and all of you suffering are created by you, by your own mind.

  • Kyabje Thubten Zopa Rinpoche

My Manifesto: My body and mind are not individual entities that I can do anything I like with – such as filling them with drugs, alcohol, hateful attitudes and violence.  My body and mind exist for future generations therefore I must be aware of what I put into them.  We must also exercise care and responsibility over what we allow into the minds and bodies of our children, to prevent murders from happening in our schools.  Furthermore, this care and responsibility is to prevent young people turning their consumption of violence in on themselves – in the form of suicide.  So we say NO to our children consuming violence through movies, video games, internet and hate concerts. At the same time we say NO to ourselves at engaging in violent and toxic interactions with them.  We must take steps to fill the ethical void, give our children the benefits of our full presence and learn to listen deeply to them so that positive steps are taken to eliminate murders taking place in our schools.

  • Ian Prattis