Category Archives: Peace

Ottawa Buddhists Bring Harmony to Vesak Day

The roaring beat of Sri Lankan temple drums opened the day with a bang. They were followed in procession by the monastic Sangha walking mindfully, led by Dharmacharya Ian to their places next to the podium. The two beautiful MC’s, Liz and Queenie, from Pine Gate and the Vietnam Temple, guided the overflowing audience through a day of utter astonishment. From the monastic chanting all the way through to the finale – the day unfolded in a majestic way. Ottawa City Hall was decorated with beautiful artwork, food tables and booths for Asian embassies and other community groups for this first-time joint celebration of Vesak Day. It was a stunning day.

City Hall Vesak 2014

Pine Gate Mindfulness Community and Asian Buddhist communities in Ottawa – from Cambodia, Vietnam, Korea, Indonesia, Laos, Sri Lanka, Taiwan and Thailand – created this Vesak Celebration. The 2014 Vesak Festival received guidance from three spiritual advisors – Master Bon Dat, Bhante Rath Sam and Dharmacharya Ian Prattis. They each came 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. Organization meetings were held during the winter months in the various temples in the city and at Pine Gate.

Our MC’s announced the Vesak and Asian Heritage nature of the event before introducing messages from the Governor-General, Prime Minister of Canada, Premier of Ontario and the Mayor of Ottawa. This was wonderful support for multi-culturalism and interbeing from all levels of government in Canada. They fully endorsed this Vesak Day initiative, which was new to Ottawa and indeed new to Canada. Donations taken in on Vesak Day ($900) supported the education of young boys and girls in Cambodian orphanages. Education was seen as a vital antidote to the trafficking of children in that country. The Thai ambassador, Pisan Manawapat, gave a speech about the importance of Buddhism in his country and in Canada. Dharmacharya Ian gave the inspirational speech on Cyberbullying and Buddhist practice. The program continued with cultural performances from the Thai Dance Troupe, the Vietnamese hat dance performed by four delightful girls, and the graceful Happy Dance from Chinese seniors. Then it was time for a vigorous Lion Dance from the Vietnamese Youth Group to close the day. Folk remained to take food, visit and mingle. Connections were made, bridges were crossed and organizers, volunteers and the audience packed in to City Hall went home very happy. Confidence that Buddha mind was working well.

Vesak Day 2 - Cambodian Children chanting

Background about Vesak and the Buddha.
Buddhism is a religion 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 exactly what took place in Ottawa City Hall on May 4, 2014!

Vesak Day City Hall May 4 1

Overview: Trailing Sky Six Feathers

We are all staring into the abyss: climate change, ecosystem and financial collapse, nuclear breakdown, corruption, terrorism and anarchy. Instead of being eaten up by it all I say, “Awaken Spiritually,” as that transforms everything. We have made our world an unpredictable beast because we fail to work with it intelligently. We have to take back control of ourselves and this is a spiritual matter. Turning on the switch of awakening is a good idea right now.

Trailing Sky Six Feathers sheds light on issues that will affect our world for generations to come. This exciting Hero’s Journey is like Indiana Jones meets the Buddha with a dash of Celestine Prophecy. The story told shines light on the darkest elements of the human condition, including my own. This challenging journey has me stumbling through the first part of life, then standing strong in my own sovereignty in the latter part. In India, Arizona, France and Canada’s wilderness, I go to extraordinary lengths to transform four centuries of karma.

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I am an Editor, Poet, Professor Emeritus, Founder of Friends for Peace, Spiritual Warrior for Planetary Care, Peace and Social Justice. In this book I navigate past and present life experiences from brutal raids on Indian settlements in 18th century Arizona, insane sea voyages off the Scottish Hebrides in the 20th century to surrender to The Muse in the 21st century. These screenplay epics weave together to create inspiration for a wide range of spiritual seekers, environmentalists, Generation X, feminists, younger generation and academics alike.

We follow my journey to accept The Muse capable of transforming karma from violence and abuse to clarity and purpose. Readers will travel the pages as I learn to embrace The Muse, Trailing Sky Six Feathers, a South Western Native American wife and medicine woman in whose arms I died in 1777. She vows to find me to complete my purpose despite resistance from my highly intellectual mind in this lifetime.

My severe and challenging journey includes shamanic healings of childhood sexual abuse, guru training as well as a near death experience in an ashram in India. Trailing Sky Six Feathers initiates a dream vision in 2008 that caps my slow process of remembering a clear mosaic of experience stretching back in time two hundred and thirty one years. Over a period of thirty years, four extraordinary medicine people enhance my process of remembering, while Trailing Sky waits patiently from the distant past. I learn how to reconfigure my understanding of time, place, consciousness and Carl Jung’s psychology. I choose to listen to the feminine voice of Earth Wisdom rather than to the multitude of competing voices in my deep unconscious.

Readers will be inspired as they watch my intention and strength of purpose to transcend harmful patterns carried since childhood. Past life memories collide head on with the present, all thanks to the persistence of Trailing Sky Six Feathers, the Muse who refused to give up on me. Karma is reversed, the internal battles are over as I begin to live life as a Meditation for Gaia. The relentless shadowing by this engaging Muse brings understanding not only to me, but to anyone engaged in overcoming the darkness of their past.

This book caps my long-term fascination with consciousness. As a Professor of Anthropology and Religion I taught courses on Ecology, Symbols, Engaged Buddhism and Meditation Systems. I am a healer, mentor and educator, able to encourage people through example to find their true nature so that humanity and the world may be renewed. This story is 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.

Tipi

In 2010, after an intense internal dialogue with my Muse, Trailing Sky Six Feathers, I asked if I should write her story. There was a long silence that stretched into infinity until I finally heard her affirmation. I stood up and reached for my backpack and took out a writing pad. There was a gold plated fountain pen in the pack, rarely used. I inserted an ink cartridge into the pen and sat in a chair overlooking the sea and mountains on the west coast of British Columbia. Putting pen to paper I started to write the first line of this book:
“Put down your weapons, my husband,” she said quietly with steely insistence.

Death and Dying

In my family and culture there is very little discussion about death and dying, though as a child I did have an intuitive understanding. When my grandfather died I felt him as a tangible presence when he was in his coffin. I quietly whispered to this gracious being: “Go to Heaven now grandpa.” I also remember at his wake how upset I became by my relatives drinking, arguing and being disrespectful to one another. In tears I sought out my grandmother and complained that everyone was making it hard for my grandpa to go to Heaven. She listened carefully to me and wiped my tears away. Then walked into the living room of her house and with quiet authority asked everyone to go home. It was much later in life, once I was exposed to Buddhist teachings on death and dying, that I realized I was not such a crazy kid after all. I had cared for my grandfather’s consciousness after his physical death. Much later in life, I knew that preparation for death was also training for life, though I did not always pay attention to this insight.

I was intrigued by the opportunity for liberation at the time of death, though I could see clearly that my ego and habits were obstacles in the way. I did want to be able to merge my consciousness at the time of death with what the Sufis call “the great magnificence.” Or if I got confused and fearful at the time of death – to receive guidance to do so. I felt that if my death is aware, then in the final state of becoming, my consciousness would take a form that would serve Mother Earth and all sentient beings. I liked this idea of recycling – it appealed to the ecologist within me! This retraining was done fitfully, not in a consistent manner until just before I left for India. There, the preparation became a daily practice of being aware of universal consciousness totally prepared to merge with my pitifully weak and not-so-awakened-mind. My leap of faith was that these understandings about death and dying were all in my mind. This meant that in everyday living I could use my mind to take the steps to prepare for that final moment of merging with the wisdom mind of the universe and do this while I was alive. Perhaps the “alive” bit is the whole point!

Ian in India

During my training as a guru in India I became seriously ill, but was not surprised by the lack of panic. I clearly remember Saturday, December 21, 1996 as if it were yesterday. On that day I let go of all attachments to my body and surrendered to a sense of freedom never before experienced. Throughout the day and evening I read Thich Nhat Hanh’s The Blooming of a Lotus from cover to cover, practicing meditations that spoke to me. I was living in a small ashram in the city of Mumbai – reserved for saints and holy men. I did not qualify for either category, yet felt their grace close at hand. One humorous manifestation of that grace occurred one morning when I woke up to find a visiting Swami sitting by my bedside. He smiled broadly and helped me to sit up, then surprised me with his words: “We are all so happy that you have decided to die in India with us, if indeed you are to die. And we will be even happier if you live.” The Swami just beamed love and understanding to me. My reply, as best I remember, was to just say: “Me too!” He made me some tea with herbs, provided a blessing and then left. When I went to sleep that Saturday night I was content and happy. Diary entries chart the journey.

Thay Bowing (2)

CAROLYN’S DIARY
December 12, 1996:
Ian called. He is so sick that he can hardly talk and his voice is unrecognizable. A cold chill ran down my spine. He says he’s had surgery and that his systems are all crashing, one by one. But he’s not afraid. I believe he is not afraid of dying if that is what’s happening. What can I do? My first instinct is to go to India, to be with him, to care for him, but no, he says this is a journey he must go through alone. I am so worried. All I can do is surround him with light and love. And I pray, I pray that God will care for him, make him well and keep him safe. Dad is in the hospital dying from heart disease, two open-heart surgeries in the last month. The doctors are amazed that he is still living. I wonder if he is afraid to die. I’m being forced to look at death, my fears, at my attachments. I cry. Dad has been ill for many years and I know he will not likely survive this ordeal, but Ian. Ian is too young. His life work is not done. He still has so much to offer.

Ian speaks about the possibility of death with such calm. He’s not afraid, but I am. I don’t want to lose him. I am not prepared to let him go. Over the phone from India, Ian teaches me about no birth and no death, that we continue living in all that we touch, simply a different manifestation than our physical bodies. But this is too difficult for me to accept at the moment. I am attached. I do not want to let him go. Ian directs me to the teachings on impermanence and encourages me to meditate on the Buddha’s Five Remembrances: being of the nature to grow old, the nature to become ill, the nature to die, the nature for all things to change and knowing that we will be separated from those we hold dear and that our only true possessions are the consequences of our actions.

MY DIARY ENTRY, DECEMBER 20, 1996:
Prem Kutir Ashram, Mumbai, India
Feel weaker than ever this morning. Could hardly make it from my bed to the bathroom. Hope the saints who have passed through this little ashram are casting a protective eye over me. Perhaps they can cheer up Chotolal, the Nepali cook here, who has become quite anxious, especially as I have not had the energy or inclination to eat the special dishes he prepares. He is watching me write in my diary, so I will change hands and write with my left hand so he can laugh and feel less anxious about me. It worked!

Why have I become so ill? All my bodily systems have gone off line. Is there some major purification going on in my body, is there something I do not see? What lessons are there? Or are my days drawing to a close in the silence of this ashram? My blood tests from the hospital show that I am low and deficient in just about every category and the medications only make me feel worse. So many questions and worries yet they do not seem totally important. I ask them then they fade away. It is a bit strange. A few days ago, I collapsed and passed out while at dinner at Madhuma’s house. I know that she and her family would take me in, yet this saint’s refuge is where I feel most comfortable right now. The quiet and simplicity of the place speaks to me. I guess it allows me to prepare for death.
Have been in an almost constant state of meditation for weeks now. A deep quiet silence. Making entries in this diary is almost an interruption. Yesterday, Tom and Bev phoned from Tucson in the States and it was wonderful to talk to them. They sent prayers from the desert. Another friend, Barbara, from Michigan also phoned. She tunes into me very closely and was sufficiently alarmed to offer to fly to Mumbai and take me back to the States to get well in her home. Their love and care is very moving, but I know that whatever is to happen is to be here in India.

It was not easy to communicate this to Carolyn, but I do believe she understands. My prayer is that she does not suffer unduly. Have sent Chotolal to buy some cards and stamps for me. The cards are beautifully hand painted on pipal leaves with pictures of the Buddha, Krishna dancing and other such scenes. Want to make sure I finish my Christmas list. Sending Christmas cards to friends and loved ones. Feel such a calm about all this that would normally surprise the heck out of me. The calm is just there, sitting with me, just fine.
I know there is a distinct possibility I will not live beyond Christmas and want to send out a Christmas message from India:“Blessings and Love from Ian.” Writing the cards has exhausted me, but I feel satisfied and full, mission accomplished. Chotolal brought in a package of mail from Canada: letters and cards from family and friends, a framed photograph of Carolyn, my dearest friend and companion. Made me very happy, also made me cry as I thought of friends I may not see again. Yet they were strange tears, not full of sorrow or anything, just tears as I thought of loving friends.

I keep falling asleep very quietly then waking up very quietly. Sleep is like a light breeze that seems to visit now and then. Ate a little bit of dinner to allay Chotolal’s anxiety, but it is my supply of rice malt and vitamin C that is keeping me going. Chotolal placed some fruit and water on the table by my bed, then left to spend the next day with Nepali friends in another part of the city, taking my pile of Christmas cards to post. I am enjoying the silence and solitude, now that he has left. It is about nine o’clock in the evening and I am drifting off to sleep on gentle wings.

DIARY ENTRY, DECEMBER 21, 1996:
Prem Kutir Ashram, Mumbai, India
Waking up was easy, getting up was a struggle but did that in stages. The quiet and silence inside the ashram is quite palpable and almost visible. I remembered my shamanic training with White Eagle Woman. Had a dream about her during the night, but do not recall all the details. I do remember that she told me to construct a mental medicine wheel around me and include all my spiritual ancestors. Did that and feel an incredible constellation of energies, like millions of guardian angels from everywhere.

Took some fruit and returned to my book of meditations and began to read slowly, stopping frequently to close my eyes and feel the words. Have no sense of time or space today, as each meditation seems to move me with its own measure and carry me along. Feel such a deepening in my heart, all the way inside my body. Aware that there is no fear or panic, just a simple and happy acceptance. That is all that is there. I have never experienced anything like this. Have no thought of anything and feel deeply content for no apparent reason. Is this surrender? Peace with God? No flashing lights, visitations, or visions, only a quiet surrender and being with the inevitability of it all, whatever “THAT” is.

DIARY ENTRY, DECEMBER 22, 1996:
Prem Kutir Ashram, Mumbai, India
I woke up this morning, heard two crows saying hello from the tree outside the window. Feel so happy to be alive. Chotolal is singing in the kitchen and rattling his pots and pans, so I will celebrate this new day with a little breakfast. That will make us both very happy. A clear insight that this “death” is a spiritual one, as is the “rebirth.” I feel completely new this morning, as though I have been rewired and plugged into sockets with a bigger voltage. Part of my preparation to continue moving along the path of understanding.

Vesak Day Celebration in Ottawa

The Ottawa Vesak Day and Asian Heritage Month celebrations and ceremony, will be attended by Thailand’s Ambassador to Canada, His Excellency Pisan Manawapat, the Hon. Senator Vernon White, the Hon. MP Royal Galipeau, the Hon. Yasir Naqvi, Minister of Labour, MPP, Jack MacLaren, MPP, Mayor Jim Watson, Ottawa City Councillors Shad Qudri and Marianne Wilkinson and various diplomatic dignitaries on Sunday, May 4th at Ottawa City Hall. Event highlights include messages from the Governor General, the Prime Minister, and the Premier of Ontario. There will also be speeches by the Ambassador of Thailand, Mayor Jim Watson and the Founder of Vesak Day in Ottawa and Sirin Chairman, Visita Leelaratna. Through the efforts and collaboration of various inter-cultural groups, the Vesak and Asian Heritage Month festivities will also be attended by the Ottawa community at large. The celebrations will also feature Sanga chanting for World Peace, cultural performances and art displays from Ottawa’s diverse Asian communities.
Members of the public are welcome to attend the festivities at Jean Pigott Place, City Hall, 110 Laurier Avenue West from 13:00 to 16:30. Admission is free.

This is a unique opportunity for Ottawa to participate in the multi-cultural celebrations of Asian Heritage and mark Vesak Day which commemorates the Lord Buddha’s birth, enlightenment and passing. In addition, the occasion will be used for an inspirational talk on cyber-bullying by Carleton Professor Emeritus Dr. Ian Prattis, the Zen teacher at Pine Gate. The delivery of the official proclamation of “Vesak Day” by Mayor Jim Watson will be at 14:00. There will be a number of performances at the festivities. The Thai Dance Troupe of Ottawa (TDO), and People’s Choice Awards Winner 2009 sponsored by the Royal Thai Embassy will present the Homage to Lord Buddha, a fifteen minute journey through time, music, and dance which celebrates the Birth of Lord Buddha. Sri Lankan Hevisi drummers will lead the Sanga procession. Seniors from the Chinese Senior Support Centre in Kanata will perform a dance called Happy Together and a Vietnamese Buddhist youth group in Ottawa will perform the Lion Dance.

Thai Dancers

Light refreshments will follow the performance portion and from 15:30 to 16:30 attendees will be free to visit and enjoy the booths and beautiful art displays. A highlight of this special day will be the display of seven of the world’s most beautiful statues of the Awakened One: the Buddha, celebrating his message of peace. The day’s activities will wind down with “a day of compassion” which will encourage people to reaffirm their determination to practice loving-kindness.
Program: Ottawa City Hall, May 4, 1.00pm – 4.30pm
1:00 pm: Visiting Booths and Art Display
1:25 pm: Sangha Procession into the hall with Sri Lankan Temple Drums
1:30 pm: Canadian National Anthem
1:35 pm: MC Acknowledgements for Vesak and Asian Heritage
1:40 pm: Sangha Chanting for World Peace
2:00 pm: VIP Messages from:
1. Governor General, His Excellency the Right Honourable David Johnston: Hon Senator Vernon White
2. Prime Minister Stephen Harper: Hon MP Royal Galipeau
3. Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne: Hon MPP Yasir Naqvi
Speeches:
1. Thailand Ambassador to Canada, Pisan Manawapat ;
2. Founder of Sirin and Vesak in Ottawa, Visita Leelaratna,
3. “Vesak Day” Proclamation by Mayor Jim Watson
2:20 pm: Vietnamese Youth Group Dance
2:30 pm: Inspirational Talk on “Can We Stop Cyberbullying?” By Dr. Ian Prattis
2:45 pm: “Homage to Lord Buddha” Thai dance troupe
3:00 pm: Chinese dance group
3:15 pm: Lion Dance by Vietnamese Youth group
3:30 pm: THANK YOU – MC’s final statements
Refreshment and Visiting Booths and Beautiful Art Display until 4:30 pm
4:30 pm: End of Program
http://www.VesakinOttawa.com

Vesak Invitation May 4 20141 (2)

Pine Gate Mindfulness Community and Asian Buddhist communities in Ottawa – from Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos, Sri Lanka, Taiwan and Thailand – worked together to bring about the Vesak Celebration. The 2014 Vesak Festival had the good fortune to receive 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 for the Vesak Festival in Ottawa City Hall, Jean Pigott Place, on May 4, by creating an atmosphere of generosity, humility and kindness. Organization meetings were held during the winter months in the various temples in the city and at Pine Gate. The three advisors ushered in a consensus that donations taken in on Vesak Day would support the education of young boys and girls in Cambodia. Education was seen as a vital antidote to the trafficking of children in that country.
Buddhism is a religion based on the teachings of Siddhartha Gautama, the Buddha, who lived and taught in India ca. 2,600 years ago. There are an estimated 550 million people in the world who identify Buddhism as their religion or way of life. While most live in Asia, Buddhism is recognized as the fastest growing religion in Western societies.
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.
On Vesākha Day, Buddhist practitioners are encouraged to reiterate their determination to lead noble lives, to practice loving-kindness and to bring peace of mind to themselves and peace to the world. This is done by “going for refuge” in the Buddha (the human being, who through right effort, is able to free him/herself), the Dharma (the teachings the Buddha left for us), and the Sangha (the Buddhist community of monastics and lay practitioners, which has continued, unbroken, for 2,600 years).

Buddha Picture

In the West, the coming together of various cultures fosters ecumenism, which is one characteristic of the new Buddhism taking root here. 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.

Milarepa: Movie Review

I had the honour of opening the Ottawa Tibet Film Festival on March 21, at St Paul’s University in Ottawa, with a talk about the Milarepa film. Shot in the stunning Lahaul-Spiti region of Northern India next to the Tibet border, it evokes the stark beauty of the Himalayas.
Milarepa was the first Tibetan to attain liberation in a single lifetime. His life offers a provocative parallel to the cycle of violence and retribution consuming today’s modern world. We can all identify with Milarepa as a human being with flaws. The same flaws as us – and then some! This is not a story of high lamas or reincarnation of the Buddha – it portrays dharma about ordinary life, encountering the human weaknesses and adversity that provide the engine to drive us to awaken. It is a story about ordinary people who become extraordinary through their ordeals and transformation. The name Milarepa ties this together very nicely. Mila means great man, Repa means –cotton clad one. So in his dharma name – Milarepa contains the ordinary with the great.

Milarepa Photo

H.H. the Dalai Lama was reduced to tears at seeing this film about a 11th century saint, revered in Tibet as a National Hero. But one with a very dark and flawed past. Named Thopaga at birth, we see how his life is turned upside down on the death of his wealthy father. His uncle and aunt squander his inheritance and force his mother and himself into a life of poverty and destitution. In despair, anger and revenge his mother sends him to train with a master sorcerer. He excels in the dark arts, so much so that he is able to rain down a terrible storm and rock landslide on his village when his uncle and aunt are holding a marriage ceremony for their son. He kills 35 people, children, women and men. His aunt and uncle escape the carnage and send a party after him. Milarepa declares that he can kill them all and sends another rock slide their way to scatter his pursuers.

Yet he is harrowed to the bone by his deeds, the direct consequence of his anger and vengeance. The story of greed, sorcery, vengeance and murder also has redemption and awakening woven into it, the reason for the Dalai Lama to be deeply moved by the film. Milarepa from 11th century Tibet provides a vivid reflection of the tumult and agony of present times. Violence, revenge, murder, all these ingredients can be found around the world – the Middle East, Syria, Egypt, Ukraine, Venezuela, Thailand and North Korea to mention only a few. What Milarepa provides is proof that we can transform adversity through deep redemption and awakening. No matter how dark and demonic our mind – we can transform it. The film comes to an end at the point where Milarepa sets out to seek his teacher of a different way – Marpa the Translator who was the spiritual heir of Naropa. He endures terrible ordeals and this is the staple of the sequel film that is not yet released. Part II as it were.

In the 1990’s H.H. the Dalai Lama and Francisco Varela collaborated to bring the Mind and Life Conferences into existence. They still continue to this day. They brought advanced meditators and neuroscientists together to study the mind and consciousness. Their joint experience and research turned science on its head, as they were able to share the finding that the mind was malleable, capable of change and transformation with the application of meditation, solitude, dharma practice and deep introspection.
Marpa the Translator on meeting Milarepa demanded to see a display of his sorcery. This was done, at which point Marpa refused to teach him until he went through a series of brutal ordeals. He had Milarepa build a stone tower and then forced him to take it down – three times in succession. The fourth multi story tower he had Milarepa build still stands at Lhodrag in Tibet. All the while Marpa taunted Milarepa, referring to him as the Great Magician to constantly remind him of his past sins and the harm he had done. He pushed Milarepa to the limits of his body and mind in the intent of purifying him of his past evil deeds.

Marpa knew what he was doing, completely in accord with the much later findings of the Mind and Life conferences. He also knew that Milarepa was his spiritual heir. Milarepa tried to leave several times and then became aware that he was the author of his own misery. Marpa was unwavering in his seeming cruelty. Relentless and ruthless until he saw changes take place in Milarepa’s mind. It took twelve years, with protracted time alone in utter solitude in the Tibetan wilderness. Milarepa lived in caves and survived on eating nettles and drinking snow melt. His mind settled and at the age of 45 he entered into full awakening. He attracted followers from far and wide and taught first of all from Drakar Taso cave – the White Rock Horse Tooth cave – and then from other caves before becoming a much sought out wandering teacher.

He left an unusual legacy – the Songs of Milarepa. When asked a question from a disciple he would go very still and the answer would emerge from deep in his mind in the form of song. He would put aside their questions about devas, gods and hungry ghosts and return the listeners to a clear understanding of the dharma, and present them with the task at hand, which was their awakening – and here were the tools to do it. His songs were beautiful dharma talks laying out a clear path of emancipation for his followers. The bottom line from Milarepa was always that the path of enlightenment is open to all, no matter how dark and dreadful the past.
A disciple once asked him if he was an emanation from a past Buddha. Milarepa provided an immediate “No”– that such a notion would deprecate the monumental ordeals and suffering he had transformed to enter full awakening. Frank Sinatra has a song for Milarepa – “He Did It His Way, In His Lifetime!”

Milarepa photo 2

Ian is the Zen teacher at Pine Gate Mindfulness Community and the Founder of Friends for Peace. He gives talks and retreats around the world, though prefers to stay local to turn the tide just a little bit so that good things happen spontaneously in his home city of Ottawa.

The Three Advisors for Vesak

The 2014 Vesak Festival to be held in Ottawa City Hall on Sunday May 4, 2014 had the good fortune to receive 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 for the Vesak Festival in City Hall on May 4, by creating an atmosphere of generosity, humility and kindness. The planning of the program, participants and networking all went very smoothly. Organization meetings were held in the various temples and mindfulness centres in the city.

Ian Prattis  Director of Programing of Vesak In Ottawa talking about the goals and plans2 (2)

Support for these efforts of multi-culturalism and interbeing came from all levels of government in Canada. The Governor General, Prime Minister, Premier of Ontario and Mayor of Ottawa fully endorsed this initiative, which is new to Ottawa and indeed new to Canada. Other Buddhist communities in the City of Ottawa also came out in support. The three advisors ushered in a consensus that donations taken in on Vesak Day would support the education of young boys and girls in Cambodia. Education was seen as a vital antidote to the trafficking of children in that country. It was recognized by the three advisors that future events would focus on different causes.
The manner of patience, goodwill and sage counsel from the three advisors provided the glue of integration for an exciting adventure to unfold in Ottawa for the Celebrating Vesak Day.

Vesak Invitation May 4 20141 (2)

Co-ordinating Vesak Day in Ottawa, May 4, 2014

At Pine Gate Mindfulness Community http://www.ianprattis.com/PineGate/index.html we are co-ordinating Buddhist communities in Ottawa-from Vietnam, Thailand, Sri Lanka, Cambodia, Taiwan-to celebrate Vesak on May 4, 2014, in Ottawa City Hall 1.00pm – 4.30pm. Friends in the Ottawa region may wish to mark this date in their calendar. The website for the event is at: http://www.vesakinottawa.wordpress.com
This is a new venture for Ottawa and represents a willingness to cross traditional boundaries and to recognize the quality of inter-connection. Not just with different Buddhist communities but with non-Buddhist citizens in the city. The program includes cultural performances, a Vesak Proclamation from the Mayor of Ottawa, Jim Watson, and an inspirational talk to show the relevance of Buddhism to 21st century realities. I will give a talk about Cyberbullying and Teenage Suicide. Cyberbullying is a new phenomenon for our times, scarcely twenty years old. It coincided with the ramification of cell phones, chat rooms, ipads and the internet. This created an ecosystem of interruption technologies that many teens have become addicted to. In less than a generation the world has been fundamentally changed and we have yet to catch up with its consequences. Governments, school boards, parents and councillors are scrambling to deal with it. Parenting skills and legal restraints have to adapt radically in order to protect our young children.

Vesak Invitation May 4 20141 (2)

The practices that can calm troubled teenage minds are derived from the teachings of the Buddha. They are tried, tested and true, totally relevant to 21st century realities of cyberbullying. In modern day Canada it is intelligent to refer to them as Mindfulness Practices, which complement the efforts of all levels of government, from City Hall to the Federal Government. There are many school boards with apps for anti-cyberbullying, dedicated educators and concerned parents offering their skills to deal with the spectre of cyberbullying.

Vesak Invitation May 4 2014 Program (2)

Here are some insights about Vesak Day prepared by Lisa Karuna from Pine Gate.
Buddhism is a religion based on the teachings of Siddhartha Gautama, the Buddha, who lived and taught in India ca. 2,600 years ago. There are an estimated 550 million people in the world who identify Buddhism as their religion or way of life. While most live in Asia, Buddhism is recognized as the fastest growing religion in Western societies.
Vesākha Day is the day Buddhists remember the birth, the enlightenment, and the passing away of the Buddha. The lunar calendar is central to Buddhist tradition and it is believed that these events each took place during the full moon of vesākha (Pali) or vaiśākha (Sanskrit), which is simply the ancient name of April–May of the lunar calendar.
The United Nations marks Vesākha Day as an official holiday, worldwide. Local communities will choose a date together, as close to the full moon as possible, often on a weekend, allowing the community to be fully present.
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.
Generally, on Vesākha Day, Buddhist practitioners are encouraged to reiterate their determination to lead noble lives, to practice loving-kindness and to bring peace of mind to themselves and peace to the world. This is done by “going for refuge” in the Buddha (the human being, who through right effort, is able to free him/herself), the Dharma (the teachings the Buddha left for us), and the Sangha (the Buddhist community of monastics and lay practitioners, which has continued, unbroken, for 2,600 years).
On this day, we renew our commitment to the precepts, which help us to live a moral life that contributes to our well-being and the well-being of others, which includes giving our time and resources to those in need.

In the West, the coming together of various cultures fosters ecumenism, which is one characteristic of the new Buddhism taking root here. 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.

Advisors of Vesak in Ottawa 2014 - from left - Venerable Master Bon Dat -  Dharmacharyaia Ian Prattis - Bhante Sam Rath Viriyad (2)

Photo of Advisors for the event, from Left to Right Venerable Master Bon Dat, Dharmacharya Ian Prattis, Bhante Sam Rath Viriyad

Indigenous Elders Statement

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Indigenous Elders Statement

This statement reflects the wisdom of the Spiritual People of the Earth, of North and South America, working in unity to restore peace, harmony and balance for our collective future and for all living beings. This statement is written in black and white with a foreign language that is not our own and does not convey the full depth of our concerns.

The Creator created the People of the Earth into the Land at the beginning of Creation and gave us a way of life. This way of life has been passed down generation-to-generation since the beginning. We have not honored this way of life through our own actions and we must live these original instructions in order to restore universal balance and harmony. We are a part of Creation; thus, if we break the Laws of Creation, we destroy ourselves.

We, the Original Caretakers of Mother Earth, have no choice but to follow and uphold the Original Instructions, which sustains the continuity of Life. We recognize our umbilical connection to Mother Earth and understand that she is the source of life, not a resource to be exploited. We speak on behalf of all Creation today, to communicate an urgent message that man has gone too far, placing us in the state of survival. We warned that one day you would not be able to control what you have created. That day is here. Not heeding warnings from both Nature and the People of the Earth keeps us on the path of self-destruction. This self-destructive path has led to the Fukushima nuclear crisis, Gulf oil spill, tar sands devastation, pipeline failures, impacts of carbon dioxide emissions and the destruction of ground water through hydraulic fracking, just to name a few. In addition, these activities and development continue to cause the deterioration and destruction of sacred places and sacred waters that are vital for Life.

Powerful technologies are out of control 

and are threatening the future of all life

The Fukushima nuclear crisis alone is a threat to the future of humanity. Yet, our concern goes far beyond this single threat. Our concern is with the cumulative and compounding devastation that is being wrought by the actions of human beings around the world. It is the combination of resource extraction, genetically modified organisms, moral failures, pollution, introduction of invasive species and much more that are threatening the future of life on Earth. The compounding of bad decisions and their corresponding actions are extremely short-sighted. They do not consider the future generations and they do not respect or honor the Creator’s Natural Law. We strongly urge for the governmental authorities to respond with an open invitation to work and consult with us to solve the world’s problems, without war. We must stop waging war against Mother Earth, and ourselves.

We acknowledge that all of these devastating actions originated in human beings who are living without regard for the Earth as the source of life. They have strayed from the Original Instructions by casting aside the Creator’s Natural Law. It is now critical for humanity to acknowledge that we have created a path to self-destruction. We must restore the Original Instructions in our lives to halt this devastation.

The sanctity of the Original Instructions has been violated. As a result, the Spiritual People of the Earth were called ceremonially to come together at the home of the Sacred White Buffalo Calf Pipe Bundle. These Spiritual Leaders and those that carry great responsibility for their people from both North and South America came together with the sacred fire for four days at the end of September 2013 to fulfill their sacred responsibilities. During this time it was revealed that the spirit of destruction gained its’ strength by our spiritually disconnected actions. We are all responsible in varying degrees for calling forth this spirit of destruction, thus we are all bound to begin restoring what we have damaged by helping one another recover our sacred responsibility to the Earth. We, the Original Caretakers of Mother Earth, offer our spiritual insight, wisdom and vision to the global community to help guide the actions needed to overcome the current threats to all life.

We only have to look at our own bodies to recognize the sacred purpose of water on Mother Earth. We respect and honor our spiritual relationship with the lifeblood of Mother Earth. One does not sell or contaminate their mother’s blood. These capitalistic actions must stop and we must recover our sacred relationship with the Spirit of Water

The People of the Earth understand that the Fukushima nuclear crisis continues to threaten the future of all life. We understand the full implications of this crisis even with the suppression of information and the filtering of truth by the corporate owned media and Nation States. We strongly urge the media, corporations and Nation States to acknowledge and convey the true facts that threaten us, so that the international community may work together to resolve this crisis, based on the foundation of Truth.

We urge the international community, government of Japan and TEPCO to unify efforts to stabilize and re-mediate the nuclear threat posed at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant. To ensure that the Japanese government and TEPCO are supported with qualified personnel and information, we urge the inclusion of today’s nuclear experts from around the world to collaborate, advise and provide technical assistance to prevent further radioactive contamination or worse, a nuclear explosion that may have apocalyptic consequences.

The foundation for peace will be strengthened 

by restoring the Original Instructions in ourselves

Prophecies have been shared and sacred instructions were given. We, the People of the Earth, were instructed that the original wisdom must be shared again when imbalance and disharmony are upon Mother Earth. In 1994 the sacred white buffalo, the giver of the sacred pipe, returned to the Lakota, Dakota and Nakota people bringing forth the sacred message that the winds of change are here. Since that time many more messengers in the form of white animals have come, telling us to wake up my children. It is time. So listen for the sacred instruction.

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All Life is sacred. We come into Life as sacred beings. When we abuse the sacredness of Life we affect all Creation

We urge all Nations and human beings around the world to work with us, the Original Caretakers of Mother Earth, to restore the Original Instructions and uphold the Creator’s Natural Law as a foundation for all decision making, from this point forward. Our collective future as human beings is in our hands, we must address the Fukushima nuclear crisis and all actions that may violate the Creator’s Natural Law. We have reached the crossroads of life and the end of our existence. We will avert this potentially catastrophic nuclear disaster by coming together with good minds and prayer as a global community of all faiths.

We are the People of the Earth united under the Creator’s Law with a sacred covenant to protect and a responsibility to extend Life for all future generations. We are expressing deep concern for our shared future and urge everyone to awaken spiritually. We must work in unity to help Mother Earth heal so that she can bring back balance and harmony for all her children.

New Book Testimonials

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Final stages for Trailing Sky Six Feathers: One Man’s Journey with his Muse. The manuscript is edited – by the professional editing eyes of Lisa Fugard. The platform and Book Proposal is in good shape thanks to Julie Colvin. These two maestros have been so necessary on the journey to completion.  Last steps in the 231 years for this work to percolate. To pique your interest – I post some of the testimonials received so far. There is one more to come, hopefully, from a best selling author. Keeping my fingers and toes crossed on that one. The recent Writers Retreat in Sedona was a marvellous space to do the hard work.  And later relax in the Universe’s Cathedral in Red Rock country.

PRAISE FOR TRAILING SKY SIX FEATHERS

Dawn James. Author of “Raise Your Vibration,” Speaker, Consultant, Sound Healer, Teacher. www.raiseyourvibration.ca

 “I feel what they feel; I hear what they hear”… as Ian Prattis eloquently captures the inner dialogues of his characters as they face emotional upheavals, unplanned events and brilliant realizations of personal and spiritual power. In Trailing Sky Six Feathers: One Man’s Journey with His Muse you find yourself walking beside each character with each turning page, joining them on their journey until together, we reach the final destination of discovering our true nature and purpose in life. A must read!

Dr. Tom Hynoski. Philosopher, Chiropractor, Community Builder.

I look forward to the exploits of this time traveler, Eagle Speaker, who lives in the far off mountains of inspiration. Trailing Skys’ final words to her husband chilled my body and warmed my soul. Love is inter-dimensional and Trailing Sky will follow it just as the great migratory flocks follow the unformed path across the sky. Much thanks for sharing this with me. Namaste.

Bob Allen. Founding CEO and Chief Story Teller at Ideas Orlando – Independent film studio – off shoot of Disney. 1992 – 2001 VP Disney Production Services Orlando.

I am familiar with both Ian’s oral style and his writing as a mentor and Buddhist teacher. But this is a new voice, a very fresh and captivating voice and it offers a narrative that will engage audiences. Ian’s character – for that is really who the teller is here – permits him the objectivity of time and distance and he rewards us with a transparent honesty that makes us part of this journey – which of course we are all on.

Melissa Studdard. Award winning author of “Six Weeks to Yehidah,” Editor of Criterion, Professor of English Literature, Radio Show Host Tiferet Talk Interviews

A thrilling adventure spanning four centuries, Ian Prattis’ Trailing Sky Six Feathers: One Man’s Journey with His Muse renders nothing less than a complete transformation of karma. In addition to weaving a narrative that will captivate readers from the first page to the last, Prattis tells a story of depth and substance, one that, through example, has the potential to activate healing and promote understanding. This is the story of determination, of humanity’s true nature and greatest potential, of how we can live in harmony.

Peace Ambassadors

Peace Ambassadors

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As we prepare for the 11th Friends for Peace Day in Ottawa City Hall (See blog on Community Activism at Work in Ottawa), I recall our first Day in the autumn of 2003. Our two activist speakers scratched at the last minute due to illness.  As a backup I did my best to step into their shoes.  In the pouring rain this is what I said:

 

“I want to talk to you about our children and the kind of future we create for them.  Do we teach them peace?  Or through neglect do we allow violence to flood their minds, hearts and consciousness so they learn war?  Even worse, do they live out our own personal wars expressed through our violent attitudes, speech and actions towards them?  I ask every adult here, particularly men, and in our country to deal with their internal wars so that only the best in us is passed on to our children, not the worst in terms of violence. How do we deal with our internal wars, hatreds and fears that constitute our Wild Mind?  We must stop running; stop hiding behind our addictions and busyness.  We come to a stop, look deeply into the eyes of our children and make a commitment to face our internal demons and transform them by stepping on to the path of compassion.  Not by transmitting our wars and internal afflictions to the children of the world.  We need community for this, to support us in sacred ceremony, meditation and creative spirituality so that we raise our consciousness by retraining our minds, through refining our speech, attitudes and actions.  We show our children the way to peace by learning to be it.  Since 9/11 the level of hate and violence globally has increased dramatically.  Excessive violence has been used to suppress violence.  This is not the way to proceed.  There is no “them” and “us.”  We either learn to live peacefully together or we all suffer and die together.

All violence is injustice and we have to teach our children the truth about war.  Not about winners and losers, but about the long term suffering on both sides.  It is only citizens of the world standing together for peace and saying “No to War” that will stop it.  But the hatred grows and the suffering increases.  What can we do as individuals to change this?  We go to war – with ourselves. First of all we must uproot the violence and war within our minds.  To prevent war we nurture non-violence.  We practice meditation and prayer in daily life to transform the poisons within our minds and within our nation.

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We enter into true peace negotiations by learning the methods of deep listening, of respectful and non-violent communication. By understanding and bringing our mindless, selfish agendas to a stop.    We create peace by knowing that compassion is the antidote to violence and hatred.  We must also make peace with Mother Earth.  If we injure Mother Earth, we injure ourselves.  Our civilization has caused such deep harm to the earth that we humans may soon become an endangered species. We have imposed so much neglect and ignorance upon the Earth.  The solution is not political or economic – these are secondary.  The primary solution is spiritual.  Every faith and spiritual tradition must renew its  ethics and responsibilities and honour the interconnected nature of humanity with Mother Earth.  We must make it clear to our political and corporate leaders that the violence they commit in our name is no longer acceptable.  We must hold them to account and influence them with our clarity, wisdom and courage.  The actions we take now are shaping the possibilities for future generations.

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So here is our challenge.  Today, in the pouring rain and thunder storms we have experienced peace, a deep peace shared between many traditions, cultures and religions.  This experience evaporates into nothing if we do not translate it into action.  Begin the work on yourselves today, so that your attitudes, speech and actions become an example to your children, friends and communities.  Take the practical steps to make peace with Mother Earth in terms of what you consume and support.  Then represent your community, in coalition with other communities, to political and corporate leaders.  Show clearly that we are choosing peace and harmony within ourselves, within our communities and with Mother Earth.  Together we can do it.

We are Ambassadors of Peace after all.”