Category Archives: Peace

Vesak in Ottawa, May 5, City Hall 10am – 2pm

The roaring beat of Cambodian temple drums opens the day with a bang.  They are followed in procession by the monastic Sangha walking mindfully to their places next to the podium, led by Bhante Savath from the Cambodian Temple in Ottawa. From the monastic chanting all the way through to the finale – the day unfolds in a majestic way. City Hall is decorated with beautiful artwork, food tables and booths for Asian embassies and other community groups for this celebration of Vesak Day. It is always a stunning day.

Asian Buddhist communities in Ottawa – from Cambodia, Vietnam, Korea, Indonesia, Laos, Sri Lanka, Taiwan and Thailand – created this Vesak Celebration with Visita Leelaratna organizing the many parts of the day. He is the founder of this celebration. The first Vesak Festival in 2014 received guidance from three spiritual advisors – Master Bon Dat, Bhante Rath Sam and Dharmacharya Ian Prattis. They each come from different Buddhist traditions in Ottawa and three different countries – Vietnam, Cambodia, Canada. They established a common cause to spread the seeds of Buddha Mind across Ottawa by creating an atmosphere of generosity, humility and kindness.

The Vesak and Asian Heritage nature of the event brings messages from the Governor-General, Prime Minister of Canada, and the Mayor of Ottawa. This is a wonderful support for multi-culturalism and interbeing from all levels of government in Canada. The vigorous Lion Dance from the Vietnamese Youth Group always lights up the crowd. A talk on Loving Kindness is offered by the Buddha Meditation Centre in Toronto. Lawrence Greenspon also talks about his tour of Buddhist World Heritage sites in Asia. Connections are made, bridges are crossed and the organizers and audience went home very happy.

Here is some background about Vesak and the Buddha.

Buddhism is based on the teachings of Siddhartha Gautama, the Buddha, who lived and taught in India ca. 2,600 years ago. 550 million people in the world identify Buddhism as their religion or way of life.

Vesākha Day is the day Buddhists remember the birth, the enlightenment, and the passing away of the Buddha. The United Nations marks Vesākha Day as an official holiday, worldwide. As Buddhism spread from India, it was adapted to many cultures, and consequently Vesākha Day is celebrated in many different ways in various countries, such as China, Japan, South Korea, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Vietnam, Burma, Tibet, Bhutan, Thailand, and Nepal, the birthplace of Siddhartha Gautama.

Some will visit their local temple before dawn, to raise the official Buddhist flag, which represents a rainbow. Some may bring simple offerings of flowers, candles and incense, which serve as a reminder that just as the beautiful flowers will wither, and the candles burn out, so too is life subject to impermanence. In some countries, birds and animals are released in a symbolic act of liberation. Vesākha Day is therefore a time when we reach out across the various Buddhist traditions to celebrate, and to non-Buddhists to enjoy dialogue and harmony.

And that is what happens in Ottawa City Hall on May 5, 2019!

Engaged Practice

My understanding of the Order of Interbeing charter and the transmission ceremonies is that they presented me with the heart of the Buddha and the heart of Thay. In my experience of the transmission ceremonies with Thay – the 14 Mindfulness Trainings and the Dharma Lamp – I certainly felt Thay’s love and encouragement but also felt his steel. For me, this was never an invitation. My direct experience was that I was authorized by Thay to teach the dharma, build sangha and skilfully engage with the wider society and environment. In engaging with creativity, experimentation and skilfulness, I felt that

I was actualizing the spirit and the letter of the OI charter. Thay gave me a driver’s license and the keys to the car and I drove it as far and as fast as I could.  There was plenty of creativity and experimentation though I was initially lacking in skilfulness. In my sense of urgency I kept the gas pedal to the floor and went flat out at high speed – this was not wise.  I quickly learned that action followed consciousness, not the other way round and so I eased up on the gas pedal!

My grounding was in Pine Gate Mindfulness Community, founded by Carolyn and I in 1997 after my return from teaching meditation in India.  Sangha life was a subtle ebb and flow through a series of concentric circles.  At the core was the practice of sangha leaders (Carolyn and I), the next circle was senior OI members and aspirants, then a circle of sangha members committed to the Five Mindfulness Trainings, then a circle of sangha members young and old, and then extending to a vast circle beyond the boundaries of Pine Gate to the wider community.  The ebb and flow between concentric circles breathed us in and out and the energy generated became the basis of action.  A good alternative to keeping the pedal to the floor!

An unusual set of circumstances led to a particular form of engaged action. This is not a blueprint or a formula – just what arose from the depth of sangha practice in the midst of global crisis – the international war against terrorism and Global Warming.  The beginnings of Friends for Peace began with the outbreak of the Iraq war in 2003.  Friends from across the city of Ottawa worked together together and organized candlelit vigils all across the city prior to the outbreak of war.  Over 3,000 people responded to this hastily put together initiative.  We also organized a Peace Song Circle on Parliament Hill, the seat of Canadian government, to send the strong message that mindful living was preferable to the warlike alternative.  Pine Gate members provided the nucleus for this nascent movement.

The organization of this event was left in their care as I left for two months in India just before the event took place.  It was in highly competent hands. On a cold, wet March day in 2003 a sea of multi–colored umbrellas adorned the grounds of Parliament Hill.   Choirs from all over the National Capital Region were there to give their hearts for peace. Earlier that morning I had received news of the shock and awe bombing campaign of Baghdad – and was filled with anger and grief.  This was not the appropriate mind state to lead this event, so I took refuge in the sangha. Carolyn took care of all the final arrangements, while I did walking meditation in Pine Gate Meditation Hall to calm and look deeply into the causes of my anger and to let it go.  Then I could be peace.

The incessant rain symbolized the tears of Iraqi children, your tears, my tears. Young, old, multi faith and diverse – the faces in the rain moved me deeply as people sang, danced and stood up for peace.  The NOWAR group was due on Parliament Hill after us and they had a more violent agenda.  I had talked to their leaders and requested that they join us on the Hill but without noisemakers and slogans.  They came with anger after burning effigies of George Bush and Tony Blair outside the US embassy. We felt the anger of their demonstration as they joined us, then it suddenly calmed and dissipated as they sang and danced with us in the downpour. The Sufi Universal Dances of Peace group organized 5,000 people to do a dance, chanting “May Peace be With You and With You be Peace” in English, French, Hebrew and Arabic.  When the rain came down like a monsoon – nobody ran for cover.  We danced and sang for peace together. The NOWAR group meditated with us in silence at the end.

From the response to these events Friends for Peace was created and registered as a non profit organization with a mandate for peace, planetary care and social justice. It has a charter and a mandate.  All parts of the mandate are active with respect to outreach, support and action. The first thing put into motion was an annual Friends for Peace Day every Fall, which was a celebration of all that we stood for.  It had the feeling of a country fair with lunch kitchen, activist tables, Silent Auction, great entertainment and Peace Awards to prominent citizens who delivered their often very edgy Visions for planetary care, social justice and peace.  Peace Grants were also awarded to organizations making a real difference. This day has now grown into the final bookend of a two week Peace Festival in our city of Ottawa. The growth and enthusiasm is there because there are tangible results from each area of the mandate.  There is a new six storey apartment building for low income families downtown that we supported, there is a pristine watershed – the Dumoine River – that we helped to get protection for, there are direct results from our support of aboriginal rights in the apology from the Government of Canada to First Nations, there is the annual Peace Camp Canada bringing Palestinian and Israeli teens to Ottawa for a peace camp.  And much more that is unfolding – the promotion of Orkidstra and the Dandelions Dance Theatre,  Tibetan and Syrian resettlement in Ottawa and many other causes.

The consequences of engaged practice for Pine Gate are confidence, clarity and skilfulness. Friends for Peace now comprises a loose coalition of over 45 groups throughout the city – activist, environmental, peace, business, faith, cultural, schools, government – and they are a force to be reckoned with in a good way.  The former Mayor of Ottawa has described Friends for Peace as the face of the city he wants to see in the future.  That future is now! The present Mayor, Jim Watson, had this to say: “Friends for Peace is an outstanding organization that does very important work, promoting, strengthening and maintaining peace, planetary care and social justice within our communities and the environment.”

The confidence from doing all this has led to the sanghabody jumping into the river of the Buddhadharma and kindly carrying me along with them. This is all due to deep internal practice and intelligent engaged practice. The home of Pine Gate had a major eco-retrofit – solar panel to heat the hot water, low flush toilets, energy efficient furnace and wood burning fireplace, energy windows and doors, solar blinds on south facing windows, insulation, rain barrels and so on.  The neighbours and sangha are watching very closely and enquire about cost, rebates and results – and several have followed suit.  Our money is where our mouth is, as this is a planetary care project right at the heart of Pine Gate, which is also the heart of Friends for Peace. And on it goes all the way back to the hearts of Thay and the Buddha.

I have also planted an apple tree on the front lawn, so that as the fruit ripens passersby and neighbours with their children may just pick them and eat them. There are many ripe fruits on the sangha tree, especially young people. They are storming the barricades, transcending boundaries and breaking down barriers. I ask only one thing, that they hold out their hand and wait for me – because I am going with them.

 

The Australia Times Interview: Part Two

Interview with The Australia Times: Part Two

  1. You have a deep spiritual connection with Zen. How is your spiritual practice reflected in your poetry?

The focus on daily mindfulness from my Zen practice enables me to be still and clear. From this energy the poems and chapters emerge. I do my best not to write from a space of frustration or of wanting to get the writing finished. I wait until the energy of mindfulness is tangible – then creating the words and text becomes easy.

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2. What do you hope the reader will take away from your poetry?

The courage to believe that they can take steps to transform internally and then make a difference externally. The stories I tell in my poetry and books are offered as a gift to our planet. My purpose in life is to share my wealth of experience on how to live in harmony not just with ourselves but with the place we call home… Earth. I shed light on issues that will affect our world for generations to come. The example of my own challenging journey and personal transformation illuminates a path for others to expand their consciousness and chart the course for a future beyond the abyss. The human race does not need to be stuck with maladaptive options and patterns. We can and must transform. The key to change this deep freeze is Awakening, a spiritual relationship with self and Mother Earth.  My writing delivers a vigorous message about personal transformation in order to become different stewards of the earth and society. I’d like to consider Trailing Sky Six Feathers as the real life version of James Redfield’s best-selling fictional book The Celestine Prophecy. I have nine chapters – loaded with Insights and adventure, plus shamanic training over a period of three decades. Trailing Sky Six Feathers and Redemption are super unique, as they are drawn from my actual lived experience.  Reality based information is in high demand in today’s society, which provides the potential for my project to become a fresh, new icon for today’s hungry culture. Hungry, that is, for authentic transformation.

Front Cover Trailing Sky Six Feathers

3. In what ways has your writing changed you?

In a word – authenticity. I am not good at sitting down and writing four pages a day. I wait until the spiritual energy is present within me, then I write. Sometimes this is frustrating, as I want to get on with it, but when I do not stay still and wait – I simply write garbage! So I use the in between times to do research, edit and look for spelling mistakes and typos. When the energy is sparkling, the writing flows effortlessly.  I do not consider this as a necessary template for others. It is just what works for me to connect to the Muse within.  I trust that far more than any impatience.

Redemption front cover

4. As a peace activist, what do you consider the greatest challenge?

Organization and outreach. Here is an example:

Friends for Peace Canada started on a bitterly cold winter evening, as the Iraq war loomed. I received notice that a Peace Song Circle was happening on Parliament Hill. So I went, accompanied by my wife Carolyn and our dog. No-one else turned up. I remarked to Carolyn, “This is a good idea – it just needs to be organized.” She replied, “Let’s do it.” And so we did and created the nucleus for Friends for Peace Canada.  It quickly grew to a loose coalition of fifty organizations and we asked them to begin the peace process first of all within themselves, then to the community and the world.  Our mandate evolved so that we gave annual Peace Grants to local and international organizations making a real difference, as well as working in concert with other coalitions in the city for environmental and social justice issues.  I also decided at that time to concentrate my energy and efforts locally, feeling that these efforts could infuse global networks from the epicentre created here. I had received many invitations to be a global speaker and teacher, yet felt that a concentration on my home city of Ottawa was the primary focus. I responded to the many international invitations with a gracious decline. I was inspired to devote my time and energy to moving things just a little bit in my city, so that more good things could begin to happen spontaneously. As I soon discovered, there were many good friends across the city more than happy to make this possible.

We organized 5,000 participants at the Peace Song Circle on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, held on a miserably wet, cold spring day in 2003. A sea of multi-coloured umbrellas on a rain swept morning welcomed all those gathered. As other peace protests joined us and sang “All Within Me Peaceful,” the crowd covered the grounds of Canada’s seat of government, all meditating at the end in total silence as the rain poured down on our heads.  The pouring rain was strangely welcome, for it symbolized the tears of Iraqi children, my tears, your tears – transformed into hope through singing for peace with one another and experiencing deep peace.  There was a transformation of anger, anguish and violence into a determined clarity to be peace and to oppose war.  From there we know the wise actions to take.  Those who are waging war would do better if they knew better; but they don’t know better.

Every year since the relentless rain on Parliament Hill, the annual Friends for Peace Days have been memorable. We got rained and snowed on for several years on Parliament Hill, thunder and lightning at Alumni Park of Carleton University – before we moved inside to Jean Pigott Place in Ottawa City Hall. The response to this community activism has blown everyone away, as it went beyond any of our expectations!! The annual Friends for Peace Day is an awesome, diverse, unique Ottawa experience.  It is made possible by the generosity of volunteers and supporters and the diversity of Ottawa who show up to have a good time, be educated and inspired. The Friends for Peace Day creates an epicentre of intent and action – intense at times as people are moved to both tears and laughter. It is fun, poignant and direct. The intensity and joy ripples through the diversity – all generations, faiths and cultures in our northern city. The force of the epicentre roars through the community and activist tables, Muslim families, Asian groups, elders, young folk and the volunteers. The diversity of Ottawa gathers, listens, dances, laughs, cries – and takes home an unforgettable experience of hope and confidence. The family grows bigger each year. All Nations, All Traditions – A Circle of Friendship www.friendsforpeace.ca

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  1. What is your favourite quote?

Rumi’s wise words are most cogent: “Sit down and be quiet. You are drunk and this is the edge of the roof.”

Books Available at www.Amazon.com and www.BarnesandNoble.com  

Autographed Book – Order Through: http://www.ianprattis.com

THE LAST FRIENDS FOR PEACE DAY www.friendsforpeace.ca

This year the event was held in Jean Pigott Place, inside Ottawa City Hall, on Saturday September 26 from 11am to 3.30pm.  And what an event took place. Onstage the mellow harmonies from The Valley Men choir set the scene, followed by Romy Mounzer – Ottawa’s answer to Whitney Houston. Lalith Gunaratne spoke eloquently about reconciliation in Sri Lanka, a model to break down barriers and cross bridges of hatred and separation. The string ensemble from OrKidstra dazzled, as did the Awards and Peace Grant ceremony that honored the work of Jurme Wangda for Tibetan Resettlement and to Coleen Scott for providing education and opportunity for the Karen people in Thailand.

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The Circle of All Nations was a reality – represented by cultures, faiths, languages from across the planet. Kirtan from the Bhakti Connection, exquisite harp from Lucille Hildesheim and the Diversity of Color Miramba band brought the music and dance of Zimbabwe to close this year’s event at Ottawa City Hall. It was a fabulous day with the best ever performances. Everything excelled. We honored our elders, the many communities and the terrific volunteers who make it all possible. The support that poured in was unbelievable – donations to the Servery and Silent Auction by the diversity of Ottawa was heartfelt. Folk left full – not just with great food and bargains – but with a feeling that “YES” we can do it.

Thai Dancers

Friends for Peace is moving into a different focus, rather than the Friends for Peace Day, which takes up a lot of time and energy. We have decided to focus on specific projects with other organizations. For instance our first collaboration is with two church groups who are organizing events and awareness to bring Syrian refugee families to Ottawa. This is specific and the organizers are committed to making change. While the Friends for Peace Day provided great entertainment and brought community together – I would like to see more of a knock on effect. That – yes – folk are moving into action.  So we are entering a new phase, which I think will be exciting and more effective. Stay tuned.

Ian congratulating Orkidstra (2)

13th ANNUAL FRIENDS FOR PEACE DAY, OTTAWA, SAT SEPT 26

13th ANNUAL FRIENDS FOR PEACE DAY

Saturday, September 26, 2015, 12 noon – 4.00pm,

Jean Pigott Place, Ottawa City Hall                         

www.friendsforpeace.ca

Friends for Peace Day  is an awesome, diverse, unique Ottawa experience.  A day to celebrate the consciousness of peace, social justice and planetary care. Mayor Jim Watson said: “Friends for Peace is an outstanding organization that does very important work, promoting, strengthening and maintaining peace, planetary care and social justice within our communities and the environment.”  Friends of Peace has been an integral part of the Annual Ottawa Peace Festivals.

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2015 Peace Awards Ceremony honors Jurme Wangda, founder of Ottawa Friends of Tibet and Coleen Scott, founder of Karen Learning and Education Opportunity.  These organizations receive a 2015 Peace Grant for the incredible work they do. There are tables for community groups, treasures at the Silent Auction, fabulous food and a chance to connect with like-minded people. It’s a day for young and old as the diversity of Ottawa turns up for a great time. Friends for Peace Canada is a registered non-profit organisation. Entrance is by donation. All funds raised enable Peace Grants to be presented to organizations making a difference. The intent is to create a different form of peaceful expression to create infrastructure in our institutions that value peace and planetary processes.  Doors Open at 11.00am – browse the Silent Auction and Servery. Onstage program with music, speeches, and other talent starts at noon with The Valley Men Choir, Roumy Mounzer, Orkidstra, Dialog of Friendship, Lucille Hildesheim and others.

Ian congratulating Orkidstra (2)

The day builds confidence, hope, connections and fellowship. Come out and support this noble adventure. Building Community to Heal the World. Keeping Vision Alive. Taking Action. Celebrating.

Please join us for this important 13th anniversary.

The Century of the Daughters.

I have always thought of the present millennium as the century of the daughters. Not so much as a gender separate thing, but as attributes of a holistic, nurturing presence of mind. This is why, when researching my book Trailing Sky Six Feathers, I began my exploration of the Sedona region of Arizona with Oak Creek River – the feminine face of Water. This was one component of the Five Great Elements in Buddhist thought that I was familiar with: Earth, Water, Air, Fire and Space. I understood the sequence as the correspondence of all things to each other driven by the feminine vessel of enlightenment. Always, I waded into the water so I could feel with my feet the pulse of the arteries of the entire area. I would lie down on larger, flat, dry rocks in midstream or perch atop rock rills and watch the water swirl around my feet, feeling a great sense of familiarity with the universal feminine through this dramatic and melodious river.

Front Cover Trailing Sky Six Feathers

This connection with the feminine was naturally carried into my peace activism. I have been musing about this, particularly reflecting on the annual Ottawa Friends for Peace Day – now in its 13th year. I realized 15 years ago, when I founded Friends for Peace 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 above all else – on the empowerment of women. I am astonished by the results – more true to say “blown away.” For at the local level there was continuity with great women who helped make things happen.  There is now a two week Peace Festival in Ottawa that precedes the Friends for Peace Day – which has become the final bookend of the Festival.  It has all grown in ever increasing concentric circles. The foundation of mindfulness and the empowerment of women through the 50 organizations we partner with have taken root in our northern city. All use some form of the Friends for Peace mandate – peace, planetary care and social justice.

Each year Friends for Peace presents Peace Awards to Canadian citizens who have devoted their lives to securing peace, planetary care and social justice.  The majority of the Peace Award recipients are women. The funds raised from the day are used to issue Peace Grants to organizations, in Ottawa and internationally, and we make a point of honouring women who run organizations that make a significant difference.  In particular we have supported youth organizations to burst on to the local scene guided by magnificent people – I refer to these friends as Kick Ass women. For instance Orkidstra is led by Tina Fedeski –www.leadingnotefoundation.org  – which she established in September 2007. It 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 is the creation of Hannah Beach – www.hannahbeach.com/dandelion – this 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 make a difference and women are in the forefront of this endeavour.

Dr. Ian Prattis

Ian is an award winning author, scholar, peace and environmental activist.  As a Professor of Anthropology and Religion he taught courses on Ecology, Symbols, Globalisation and Consciousness.  As a meditation teacher he encourages people to find their true nature, so that humanity and the world may be renewed.  Ian is a Zen Teacher, giving talks and retreats round the world.

For Further Intel: http://ianprattis.com/Profile.html

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.

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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.

New Year Celebration at Pine Gate, Wednesday December 31, 2014

The most meaningful New Year’s Eve party in town at Pine Gate this Wednesday with a special tradition, which is the pinnacle of our yearly cycle.

Date:  Wednesday December 31, 2013

Time: 9.00pm – midnight

Place: Pine Gate Meditation Hall

Purpose: Ethical Dance for 2015

Program: Gather at 9.00pm, Recitation Ceremony 9.30pm, 11.00pm snacks and whooshing homework into the fire, mid-night Auld Lang Syne with fake champagne.

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The brash new year of 2015 meets the presence of the Bodhisattva revealed through a recitation of the Fourteen Mindfulness Trainings. This is a complete map of ethics to navigate the difficult times we are in. The trainings are a guiding light to pierce through the darkness that threatens humanity and the planet. How do we choose to behave towards one another when things begin to collapse? Will we be steady and generous or think only of ourselves?  Pine Gate’s response is –  ” Enter The Bodhisattva. ”  There is homework – write down all you wish to move on from and what do you wish to move to. Then whoosh it into the fire with community support to make it so!

HISTORICAL BACKGROUND:

The Buddha practiced Socially Engaged Buddhism giving dharma talks to people in society.  His first dharma talk emphasized the Four Noble Truths, the Middle Way and the Engaged Nature of mindfulness practice.  He formulated the Five Wonderful Precepts for lay practitioners, which evolved into the Five Mindfulness Trainings. In 4th Century AD in India the Brahma-Net Sutra was created.  It was known as the “Moral Code of the Bodhisattvas.”  It was translated by the Indian monk, Kumarajiva, into Chinese during the 4th century AD and contained 3 groups of precepts:

  1. Do not what is evil (Do not create suffering)
  2. Do what is good (Do wholesome actions)
  3. Do good for others (Help all sentient beings, be of benefit to all sentient beings)

Contained within the Brahma-Net Sutra are the10 major precepts of wholesomeness and 48 minor precepts.  This was practiced in China, Vietnam, Japan and Korea as an early expression of Socially Engaged Buddhism

In 14th century Vietnam, the Bamboo Forest Master (formerly King Than Nhan Tong from 1258 – 1308), went from village to village teaching the Five Mindfulness Trainings and the 10 Wholesome Precepts derived from 4th century India, strongly influenced by the Brahma-Net sutra and the Buddha’s initial dharma talk. In the 20th century, Socially Engaged Buddhism was renewed in Vietnam and extended to the West.  Thich Nhat Hanh ordained the first 6 members of the Order of Interbeing in February, 1966 .  The 14 Mindfulness Trainings of the Order of Interbeing contain the 5 Mindfulness Trainings, the Noble Eightfold Path and are a renewal of the earlier Bodhisattva Precepts.  Thay brought them up to date to be in tune with our times, in step with modern historical, socio-economic and cultural developments yet resting on the foundation provided by the Buddha and 4th century expressions of socially engaged Buddhism.  They are Thay’s gift and guidance to mindfulness practitioners.

A Different Christmas Tree

The wonders of Christmas represented through lit up Christmas trees are a delight for children and adults. Yet the reality is that the festive season is also a time of great distress for hard pressed parents and children in need.  To dissipate the angst felt by many at Christmas this simple meditation works well.

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A simple exercise for children (and parents) who are overwhelmed is to think of a tall tree being hit by a violent storm.  The winds make the tree top sway dangerously and branches may break off.  Yet low down on the tree trunk there is very little movement.  The lower trunk of the tree remains steady, in spite of the violent storm.  Dear young friend, now think of yourself as that tree and the violent storm as the upset and despair that overwhelms you at times.  If you stay in the tree top with your mind and your reactions, then surely something will break.  This is dangerous.  You will lose it, say and do things that can harm others and yourself.  Now remember the lower trunk of the tree that remains steady in the midst of the violent storm.

Place your two hands flat on your belly, below your navel.  As you breathe in, say to yourself:

“I am aware of breathing in deeply to my belly.”

As you breathe out, say to yourself:

“I am aware of breathing out slowly from my belly.”

Do this for ten to twenty breaths and feel the calm settle in, and notice that the storm of strong emotion or frustration is not so strong.  You are now in a position NOT to act with violence and malice towards others or yourself.  Do try this the next time you feel overwhelmed.  Do NOT then take the step to bring harm to yourself or to others.  Stop. Chill.  Put your hands on your lower belly and breathe in and out with awareness that your hands are placed on the lower trunk of you, as a tree.

 

Taking Refuge in The Five Mindfulness Trainings

Incense Offering by Carolyn                      

 The Fall Study Session at Pine Gate on Thursday September 4, 2014 begins with a Recitation Ceremony of the Five Mindfulness Trainings. Where did they come from?  They had to come from somewhere.  There are three major causes and conditions that permitted their emergence.  The first is the awakened mind of the Buddha; the second is the great skill of the Buddha as a teacher; the third is Thich Nhat Hanh’s insightful rewording of the Five Wonderful Precepts of the Buddha.  In a language that would appeal to the consciousness of the 21st century, the Buddha’s mindfulness trainings were renewed, in tune with modern historical, socio-economic and cultural developments.  So when we study and penetrate deeply into the mindfulness trainings we touch all three conditions, in particular the awakened mind of the Buddha.  At the same time we also touch our potential to be similarly awakened.

 

With the Five Mindfulness Trainings the Buddha communicated in a very precise way the ethical and moral basis of practice; of how to be with ourselves, with others and with the planet and society at large.  To be in touch with the Buddha’s awakened mind enables us to take refuge in the Three Jewels – the Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha – in a very deep way, so that something deep and very wholesome stirs in our hearts. 

 

Taking refuge allows us to transport our everyday reality with its disasters, joys, ups and downs, into the loving embrace of teachers such as the Buddha and Jesus.  Their teachings provide instruments for practitioners to travel from the Historical dimension of daily life and be refreshed by touching deeply the Ultimate dimension of the awakened mind of the Buddha and other fully enlightened beings. 

 

Taking refuge in the Dharma, practices, sutras and trainings brings to mind the pivotal exchange between Ananda and the Buddha.  As the Buddha was preparing for his bodily death his faithful attendant Ananda put a number of questions to the Buddha on behalf of the monastic community.  The Buddha had repeatedly encouraged his disciples not to take refuge in the person of the Buddha, but in the island of mindfulness within the self where the diligent practice of the mindfulness trainings would reveal their Buddha nature.  Still Ananda had to ask: “Who will our teacher be when you are gone?” to which the Buddha replied “The Mindfulness Trainings,” adding “They are your teacher even while I am alive.”

 

Taking refuge in the Sangha brings the Buddha and the Dharma to life.  Without the Sangha, the Buddha and Dharma cannot evolve to be relevant to the suffering of our times, which is quite different from the times of the Buddha.  In the latter part of his ministry the Buddha took great care to reconstitute himself in terms of the sangha, so that if you wanted to truly touch the Buddha and Dharma you had to do so in the Sangha.    Thich Nhat Hanh has repeatedly referred to sangha building as the noblest profession in the 21st century.

 

Ordinees

 

I am convinced more than ever before that the world needs a universal code of ethics.  The Five Mindfulness Trainings fill this void.  For me they are a guide and protector in moments of doubt, so that I see clearly and can take care of my own internal garbage.  This is the only way to deal with the potential terrorist that lurks deep within everyone’s consciousness.  To unravel the insidious internal knots caused by generations of ancestral habits, created from ignorance, vengeance and separation – this is the work of the new revolutionary of the 21st century, transforming terror and violence first within themselves and then within the world.  It is not a political or intellectual exercise, nor a matter of compromised treaties or ceasefires.  It is an internal transformation of consciousness at the very core of our being.  It takes mindfulness to do this and the Five Mindfulness Trainings provide the starting gate, a guidance system and a deep well of internal ethics to live by.  This is why I do my very best to live by these trainings.