Tag Archives: Buddhism

Authentic Tapestry.

I was humbled by the reviews of “Our World is Burning: My Views on Mindful Engagement.’ Critics reinforced my attempt to create an authentic tapestry about the state of the world and how we could best engage with it. I could only draw from my experience and hope that would be enough for the reader. My approach to life comes through experience, crises, difficulties and joys that may have common ground with many readers. To the best of my ability, I endeavor to follow Gandhi’s principles of ahimsa and the teachings on mindfulness. These are the guidelines and foundations for my peace and environmental activism. I live very simply as a planetary activist. I am a Zen teacher, also a recognized guru in India. My initial task is to refine my own consciousness – to be a vehicle to chart an authentic path. The focus on daily mindfulness from my Zen practice enables me to be still and clear. From this energy the poems and chapters emerge.

My activism is a result of my internal work. Steadiness, clarity and compassion are within me. I prefer the still-point, uncoloured by the excess of ego and desire for recognition. Such a still-point permits me to be free in my own sovereignty, no matter what I am doing. It also propels me to serve the planet and humanity by creating bridges and pathways of harmony. As an anthropologist, I was fortunate to encounter many story tellers across North America – Dene, Hopi, Ojibwa, Algonquin, Inuit – to mention a few. Their poetic recounting of myths and history had a deep impact upon me. I would say that without poetry, cultures implode. Over a period of thirty years, four extraordinary medicine people enhanced my process of remembering the power of the poetic voice. Through their mentoring I learned how to reconfigure my understanding of time, place and consciousness. I also chose to listen to the feminine voice of Earth Wisdom rather than the multitude of competing voices in my deep unconscious. This shows up in my writing.

My books are epic tales that seamlessly weave together to create inspiration for a wide range of fellow spiritual seekers, environmentalists, Generation X and Y, feminists, students and academics alike. I recognized early on that global citizens are staring into the abyss – yet instead of being eaten up by it all, I say to them: “Awaken Spiritually,” for 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 the switch of awakening seems to be a good idea right now. That is the prod and direction of my poems and books. We just need to touch the sacred in ordinary experiences of daily life to find the courage and determination to transform.

My writing delivers a vigorous message about personal transformation in order to become different stewards of the earth and society. In the Sixteen Essays of Our World is Burning, I offer reality-based information that is in high demand in today’s society, which provides the potential for my projects to become fresh, new icons for today’s hungry culture. Hungry, that is, for authentic transformation. It takes training, practice, intelligence and creative vision to find the drive to create a tangible spirit of cooperation, the willingness to share and be supportive, and learning how to cross the bridges of conflict. This thread of understanding finds a place in every essay in Our World is Burning.

You can order “Our World Is Burning” ($19.95) and receive one FREE autographed copy of New Planet New World; or Redemption; or Trailing Sky Six Feathers; or Failsafe; plus a Meditation CD as a thank you. Indicate which item you would like, though it depends on inventory what can be sent. http://ianprattis.com/OurWorldIsBurning.html

 

Our World is Burning – Even More Reviews

Barbara A. White, M

  • Barbara White
  • Ian writes with a monastic lyricism that is disarmingly invigorating, and ideologically and pragmatically (that is the point) empowering. Ian is a “meme” catcher, a “meme weaver” of cross–cultural and pan-generational challenges and continuities. Like Franklin with his fabled key on a high flying kite, Ian is standing in the rain capturing lightning bolts. Gird yourself! Our World is Burning is a lightning bolt and it will singe your Western incredulity and cynicism.
  • Michael B. Macdonald, Film-maker, Associate Professor at MacEwan University

I was introduced to Ian Prattis when he was founding Friends for Peace. I was deeply engaged in a personal struggle to articulate a way of living that was committed to ant-oppression, anti-war and anti-inequality. Ian helped me understand that fighting against injustices needs to be built around the cultivation of new ways of being, being together and being on the planet. I began to learn about the importance of consciousness in the struggle to want less, want peace, love. Ian’s vision is complex and important. His ideas are rich and rewarding if you take the time to sit thoughtfully with them. Ian is committed to changing the world, and unlike those who may wait for a new world to come, Ian has developed practices to bring a new world into being. My hope is that this book will be read widely, and ideally, in community.

  • Jana Begovic, Author of “Poisonous Whispers”

Ian Prattis’ essays reflect the essence of his character. A steward of Gaia, in his opening essay “Our World Is Burning” Prattis engages in a dialogue with a nine-year old boy who is terrified of growing up in a world that will burn up. With touching gentleness, Prattis assuages the boy’s fears and paints an image of the role the boy can assume in contributing to the forces of good in the world. Prattis shines the light on the path of mindful living by outlining a series of steps we could all adopt in our effort to reduce the negative imprint on Earth. His other essays exude profoundly inspirational messages and sound the alarm bell, but also light the torch of hope, and possible redemption of a landscape of potentially apocalyptic darkness. This book is a gift.

  • Tonya Pomerantz, Creator of Puddle Jump Coaching

Ian Prattis’ essays on mindful engagement are a crucial read.  Open, honest, down-to-earth and authentic, Prattis shares his stories of family and community. His style of writing is inviting; welcoming the reader on a global journey filled with love, compassion and growth. The reader embarks on a magnificent ride; one full of reflection, a strong support system and above all, mindfulness. I felt inspired after reading these essays. This book should be read by government officials and policy makers. His writing is accessible, not overpowering. We want to continue reading and being part of Prattis’ world. This collection of essays is a gift to the global community.

 

  • Ginette D’Aoust-Castonguay, Wellness Facilitator

After reading this rich collection of essays all conveying pragmatic life lessons, I found Our World Is Burning: Essays on Mindful Engagement to be a profound yet comprehensive guide. It is capable of igniting a spark deep within us as well as inspiring the reader to be present and step up to the challenge.

You can order “Our World Is Burning” ($19.95) and receive one FREE autographed copy of New Planet New World; or Redemption; or Trailing Sky Six Feathers; or Failsafe; plus a Meditation CD as a thank you. Indicate which item you would like, though it depends on inventory what can be sent. http://ianprattis.com/OurWorldIsBurning.html

Reviews of Our World is Burning.

The book has been hovering around #1 in Environmental books in Amazon.ca over the past week. Thrilled and blown away by that. https://www.amazon.ca/Our-World-Burning-Mindful-Engagement/dp/1988058244/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=&sr=

Here is a sample of early reviews that were quite humbling. The critics liked the authentic tapestry I was creating.

  • Jacqueline Schoemaker Holmes, PhD

Dr. Ian Prattis is a visionary and leader in the world of engaged Buddhism. This book reads like an invitation. Ian provides what we need in troubled times – clear guidance, practical steps to take, and a warm and open hand in a world that so many fear is becoming too cold and distant. Ian’s writing gifts us with the impossibly perfect teachings of interconnection and heart opening. In this book, Ian makes an excellent contribution to existing commentary on world change and inspires action through the wisdom of his engaging story-telling.

  • Jim Ebaugh, Founder of Water in the Wave Community

Dr. Prattis has been a voice, a teacher, a passionate advocate for the earth and all her species for decades and long before the word eco-dharma entered our vocabulary. His books transcend time and space. Ian Prattis was at the forefront of awakening to the threat that climate change posed to our home and our mother – the Earth. Ian’s books are a creative, imaginative read as we struggle to find a new paradigm for our culture – away from rampant, unfettered consumerism and global corporate oligarchies demanding ever increasing short term profits at the expense of earth and all her species. Prattis leads the way in this collection of essays.

  • Peggy Lehmann, Author and Medium

Ian’s essays on mindful engagement are an overview of a lifetime’s work that started with a younger version of himself and a goal of saving the world. Through his books Redemption, Trailing Sky Six Feathers, and New Planet, New World readers saw glimpses of the man and his message both evolving and growing to new levels of spiritual understanding. At a time on earth when hope is badly needed, Ian’s essays have universal appeal, assuring us that a better world is possible and that each of us must contribute to its creation.

  • Melissa Studdard, Author and Poet

Amidst the fear, greed, and pain of our burning world, there is a cool garden where you can recover hope for posterity and cultivate your best life. Ian Prattis’ words are one of the surest pathways to that garden. Both analytically rigorous and fearlessly honest, this book is a must read for anyone asking, “What can I do?”

  • Anita Rizvi, Therapist

Dr. Ian Prattis, with the vision of a Prophet, the heart of a Buddha and the mind of a master Story Teller, offers a timely gift to humanity as our poisoned collective psyche, reflected in the deterioration of our ecosystem, is poised to burn on the pyre of global consumption…. In the midst of it all… a Teacher has come… Now, pick up a copy of Our World is Burning and watch evil leave the room.

 

You can order “Our World Is Burning” ($19.95) and receive one FREE autographed copy of New Planet New World; or Redemption; or Trailing Sky Six Feathers; or Failsafe; or Meditation CD as a thank you. Indicate which item you would like, though it depends on inventory what can be sent. http://ianprattis.com/OurWorldIsBurning.html

Press Release – Our World is Burning.

Our World is Burning: My Views on Mindful Engagement

OTTAWA, ONTARIO – This book examines our fragile future and offers an alternative way of living based on Mindful Engagement. In sixteen essays Ian Prattis offers examples of how to respond to the most serious social, economic, environmental and personal challenges of the Twenty-First century. He advocates mindfulness practice to cultivate awareness as an ethical framework to guide actions, to create steadiness and equanimity, and to replenish body, mind and spirit. This book offers a lightning bolt that will singe incredulity and cynicism. Our World is Burning is Dr. Ian Prattis’ life work.

Anita Rizvi, Therapist

Dr. Ian Prattis, with the vision of a Prophet, the heart of a Buddha and the mind of a master Story Teller, offers a timely gift to humanity, as our collective psyche, reflected in the deterioration of our ecosystem, is poised to burn on the pyre of global consumption. In the midst … a Teacher has come… Now, pick up a copy of Our World is Burning and watch evil leave the room.

Melissa Studdard, Author and Poet
Amidst the fear, greed, and pain of our burning world, there is a cool garden where you can recover hope for posterity and cultivate your best life. Ian Prattis’ words are one of the surest pathways to that garden. Both analytically rigorous and fearlessly honest, this book is a must read for anyone asking, “What can I do?”

Please visit http://ianprattis.com/OurWorldIsBurning.html for more information.

Our World is Burning: My Views on Mindful Engagement by Dr. Ian Prattis

Price: $19.95 CDN – published by Manor House, 192 pages.

ISBN 978-1988058 -24-5

Available at:  http://ianprattis.com/OurWorldIsBurning.html

Soon on Amazon, on Indigo/Chapters (Spring 2018)

About the Author

Ian Prattis, Zen Teacher, Anthropology Professor Emeritus, peace and environmental activist, was born in the UK. He has spent much of his life living and teaching in Canada. His moving and eye-opening books, essays and poetry are a memorable experience for anyone who enjoys reading about primordial tendencies. Beneath the polished urban facade remains a part of human nature that few want to acknowledge, either due to fear or simply because it is easier to deny the basic instincts that have kept us alive on an unforgiving earth. Prattis bravely goes there in his outstanding literary work. A stone tossed into the waters of life.

Through The Eyes of a Terrified Boy

My grand-nephew James was recently celebrating his birthday, yet he felt awful and very sad about being nine, wishing he could stay five years old forever. When asked why, he replied that if he could stay five then the Earth would not explode. His lips quivered and the tears welled up in his large brown eyes. He said, “I don’t want to grow up and live in a world that is burning.” In the silence that stretched between us I could not say that my generation will fix things. He was much too intelligent for such placebos. So I spoke to him about the mindfulness community I created and the deliberate steps taken for planetary care. We simplify, make do with less, share and adapt. Our intent is to create environmental leaders and that includes him. “Why not become a leader for your generation?” I asked him. He thought about that intensely and asked what else did the community do?

            I pointed out that we encourage Voluntary Simplicity and Community Ethics as a way of life. We start with the Earth. Our big organic garden produces an abundance of vegetables, apples and flowers that are shared with neighbors and community members. It is a solace for me to spend time with the Earth, observing bumblebees and butterflies while gardening with assistance from neighborhood children. At the back of the garden is a beautiful fountain that murmurs ‘midst the flowers, which are picked and sent to the elderly folk living on our crescent. A solar panel on the roof fuels the hot water system. Everything else is as eco-friendly as we can make it for our fifty year old bungalow with a meditation hall in the basement. Our focus is on mindfulness in schools, city environment and teens at risk. I admitted to James that I am blown away by the results, for at the local level there were great women who helped make things happen.

“You mean girl power?” asked James incredulously.

“Exactly that,” I replied and told him that I have written elsewhere that the present millennium  is the century of the daughters, not so much as a gender separate thing, but as attributes of a holistic, nurturing presence of mind.

The idea is to foster a strong cadre of people in Ottawa to make a difference for the betterment of society and the Earth Mother. Women are in the forefront of this endeavor. They are the heart that holds the living waters and that heart is the dynamic epicentre that leads to effective action. James was taking it all in. He knew instinctively that major changes were needed. I intimated that when enough of us change, then we will be in charge. I told him about a speech I gave about violent and pathological consumption. His sharp mind held on to every word as I pointed out that festive occasions like Christmas provide opportunities for the best and the worst within us to come out and play. Yet kindness is quickly overshadowed by selfishness and consumer madness. We need to re-assess, as it is time to move on from being self-absorbed and distracted.

“How?” he asked again, as he really wanted to know. So I gave him a list.

Locate in something bigger than oneself; a humanitarian cause, respecting the earth, making our thinking better, being kinder and more generous. How about examining our habits about gift giving and learn to give gifts that make a difference?  I pointed out to James that I no longer buy Christmas gifts, instead present gift certificates that provide items like education for a girl in Afghanistan, micro-loans for female led families, rebuild forests in Haiti, literacy packages and mosquito nets where needed, support for Habitat for Humanity and so on.

One boy on the crescent where I live has received such gifts from me for several years. For his most recent birthday he asked all his friends not to give presents, but to bring a donation for the Ottawa Humane Society that looks after hurt animals. All of his friends brought donations, a splendid sum of one hundred and eighty dollars. They all went together to the Humane Society and happily handed their bag of cash to the surprised staff. This resonated with James.

“James, the greatest gift we can give to ourselves and others at this time of global crises is Sharing and Caring. It involves stepping onto what the Buddhists call the Bodhisattva Path.” I explained that a Bodhisattva was a person who stayed in the global mess and did their best to awaken the minds and hearts of people. I firmly stated that it is time for the Bodhisattva-within-us to enter the 21st century as the example for action. It takes training, practice, smartness and creative vision.

“You mean like Jedi training?” he enquired. I nodded with a smile. I referred briefly to my years of training in ashrams and monasteries in India and France. I confided that the real kicker for me was the time spent alone in the Canadian wilderness. I promised to talk to him about this at some future time.

Then he asked, “So what is the big deal about violent consumption?” I replied that it totally dominates our planet, mind and body. “How do we change this mad destruction of the planet?” James exclaimed. I wondered how best to explain matters to him, yet trusted his intelligence.

I said, “We must come to a stop, locate ourselves in stillness and make different choices by examining our minds, consumption patterns and then see how we actually participate in creating these terrible disasters.”

“Just how?” was his one line mantra.

“You can start by making friends with your breath,” I said. James looked up at me quizzically. “You just bring your focus to your in-breath, then on your out-breath. Really concentrate and do this ten times. This kind of focus peels away anxiety, frustration and anger so that you become calm and clear. Try it with me and notice the difference for yourself.”

He did so, nodded and grinned with agreement. I told James that we do know how to reduce our ecological footprint. We also know that taking care of the earth and the oceans takes care of ourselves. We must begin it now for the future is shaped by the actions we take at this moment. I looked at James and indicated that was plenty for him to digest, but he yelled, “No, I want to hear more.”

I could not turn away from his eagerness. I mentioned that if rampant consumption remains our deepest desire we will have a degraded planet that will certainly blow up. His fears were correct. Valentine’s Day, Easter, Christmas, Mother’s Day and so on are targeted by the captains of industry for optimal retail returns, and pathological consumerism is fuelled to the max. At Christmas we are far removed from remembering the significance of this spiritual celebration. Endless economic growth, the mantra of modern civilization, provides a promise of expectations being met without any awareness of consequences for our own health or the health of the planet.  If we do not simplify, make do with less and change, then the vicious downward spiral to a burning world would definitely occur.

“Is this your Buddhism?” James then asked.

I smiled, “The Buddha was very smart. He taught that the world is always burning, but burning with the fires of greed, anger and foolishness. His advice was simple; drop such dangers as soon as possible. What the Buddha taught was that it was the unskillful speech, selfish feelings, negative mental formations, wrong perceptions and badass consciousness that burned the world.

James laughed, “Did the Buddha really use the term badass?”

I grinned and said that was my embellishment.

“Is climate change our basic problem then?” he asked.

I paused for a moment before replying. “The basic issue is whether we can adapt to climate change. You know about the 2015 Paris Accord on Climate Change as we have discussed it before.” James nodded. “It was an exceptional step by the international community, dedicating their intent to prevent global temperatures from rising a further 1.5 degrees. What was missing from all the deliberations and press releases was a candid recognition of the “Cascade Effect,” a notion from ecological science. Tipping points in sea level rise and temperature connect to tipping points in air pollution, which connect to tipping points in polar ice melt, boreal forest wildfires and triggers further tipping points that create deforestation, desertification and so on in a relentless cascade that cannot be stopped. The reality in front of us is not the reversal of Climate Change. The question is about learning how to adapt to the consequences of Climate Change.”

I emphasized to James that the disasters all over the world reinforce each potency to explode. Whether it is wildfires, floods, landslides, volcanic eruptions, hurricanes, tsunamis, millions of aquatic creatures dead on beaches, it goes on relentlessly. The media and news reporters cast science to the wind when they report the drama and hype of terrible things happening world-wide but rarely tell the truth that, “Here is another manifestation of Climate Change.” News programs are often showbiz and full of fake news, so the general public are not educated by the media about the terrible realities happening on our planet.

I continued speaking on a personal note, “So James, the challenge for me is to be in society, but as a still island of mindfulness. Take small steps at first, then larger ones. We just need to make essential changes in energy use, diet, language, media and outreach. Voluntary Simplicity is a good starting place. It means making deliberate choices about how we spend time and money rather than living on the automatic pilot of busyness. Enjoy being simple and living modestly by shifting our perceptions just a little bit.  Just look deeply into what we do with time, money, clutter and our choices, and change.  The world will follow.”

I assured James that we are equal to the task and chose not to hold back anything from him. He is an unusually bright boy and asked questions and demanded clarification. Yet I knew he had grasped what I had said. He came up to me as I was leaving and whispered in my ear that my chat with him was his best birthday present ever.

 

Some Recent Dharma at Pine Gate

First Saturday Mindfulness Gathering February 7, 2015

“The Better Way to Live Alone.”  Your homework is to study this interpretation by Osho, and do a reality check on your streams of habitual thought.

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

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

–        Osho

Pine Gate Meditation Hall

 

This Moment Heals All Moments, Thursday Jan 29 & Thursday Feb 5, 2015

Crises of History require a similar response – be mature, present, steady and above all – do the necessary internal work. Develop “impermanence” and “signlessness.” The Buddha provides instruments, practices and teachings to get there. As do the Wisdom of the Elders. We cannot tame the mouth until we have tamed the mind. We cannot adapt to Climate Change until we change our mindset. Put into reality the Art of Deep Listening and find the way to be present with our consumption. Are we even aware of the toxins pouring through our senses OR are we trapped by self-absorption and distraction? Need to Let Go Big Time – organic gardening in the mind. Listen to the Ocean – Universal Consciousness.

 

Putting Foundation Teachings into Action, Thursday, January 22, 2015 .

The last two weeks provided a review of Buddhist foundation teachings. What do we do with them now? Come out on Thursday February 22 to see how the foundation teachings have been placed in education, medical care, social services. And ask why not in government, business, police, community. This evening is about turning the Dharma Wheel of Action.  Mindfulness and Concentration provide the insights for Right View, which then guides Thinking, Speaking and Action. The why and how of making the Noble Eightfold path alive in everyday life.

Thay Bowing (2)

Pine Gate Volume 14, Issue 1: Winter 2015

…….is a blockbuster, in a new format created by Br. Yves. It is in blog form on Word Press to encourage feedback and interaction. Each article is a blog from Article 1: Sacred Moments through to Article 16: About Pine Gate. A different navigation process but well worth the while.  A deep bow of gratitude to Yves and all the contributors.

Go to: http://pinegate.wordpress.com/pine-gate-newsletter-volume-14-issue-1-winter-2015/

2014 New Year’s Eve – Wednesday, December 31, 2014

You are invited to the most meaningful New Year’s Eve party in town. On New Year’s Eve there is a special tradition at Pine Gate.  We welcome the new year of 2015 with 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!

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.

Righteous Anger, November 8, 2014 at Fish Lake Sangha, Orlando

Righteous Anger: Gaza and Israel. All such conflicts require the active and intentional cultivation of Zen Mind. Chop Wood, Carry Water motif to navigate the pitfalls of hatred, distraction, violence, past wounds. We deal with the fundamental pollution – in the human mind. Making the world better requires that we make our minds better. The task is to make our thinking better – stop running around so we are seen to be doing good. Navigate more skillfully. The Four Brahmaviharas meditation a good tool. All children’s songs an effective antidote. Chop Wood, Carry Water – stillness and clarity.

A recent protest in Antigonish, N.S. supporting Gaza produced yelling hate, violence and anger. There was a woman standing apart with a list in one hand and purple chalk in her other hand. She was carefully and quietly writing down on the edge of the sidewalk of Main Street, Antigonish, N.S. the names and ages of every child killed in the Gaza bombardment.  Question: Which protest do you think had the most impact?

Collapse and the Bodhisattva, November 1, 2014 at Fish lake Sangha, Orlando

Breakdown of Industrial Growth Society. Staring into the abyss. No limits, no maturity. Newton, CT massacre and gun control, pre-adult males with mental illness – the Carry Movement and “ammosexuality.” Immaturity – NOT defense of 2nd amendment rights.

STOP; RE-ASSESS; ENTER THE BODHISATTVA – NOW. Interbeing, non-discrimination. No Time To Lose. Shantideva’s unwavering encouragement from the 8th century. Buddha Mind. “Ego” is very disappointed with Awakening – so let us all disappoint the ego.  Heed the Hopi Prophecy of 2008.

photo12

 

Zen Practice at Pine Gate, October 23, 2014

Zen Practice has a very practical nature – Chop Wood, Carry Water – and being aware of precisely doing it. The cultural origins from China and Japan do not necessarily travel well to western countries, so I have adapted the form somewhat and kept the essence. Total silence for three rounds of – sitting meditation, walking meditation, stretching meditation. We listen to the bell calling us back to our true selves for guidance, listen to our breathing and through the disciplne of this practice we settle into a deep calm and harmony with everything around and within is.  The deep silence during three rounds of sitting meditation, walking meditation, then stretching meditation. The silence deepens as we settle gently into the quality of our mind. Nowhere to Go, Nothing to Do. The simplicity and elegance of silence. The cadence of sitting with breathing in and out, the flow of walking with breath – in and out, the joy of stretching with breath in and out. Then repeat the entire cadence three times. Planting seeds.

The Dharma and the Sangha October 16, 2014

The Dharma And The Sangha begins with the conditions leading to the Buddha’s first dharma talk and the intention to offer the dharma through appropriate vessels that are skilfull instruments to guide understanding – with a clear emphasis that the Raft is not the Shore.  The talk ends with a story about levels of deep listening inspired by an adventure Ian and his son experienced in the drug underworld of Glasgow, Scotland.  In between, a tapestry unfolds of skilfully creating sanghas as the masterpiece of your life in the manner of the Buddha, so that we may touch the original artist of the masterpiece through sangha building.  The emphasis is on creating sangha cornerstones and the concrete example of Pine Gate Sangha and Friends for Peace in Ottawa is a reference point for activism based on sangha cornerstones.

On Being Splendid

When a friend asks – “How are you?” – we tend to automatically reach for a standard descriptor such as “Fine”; “Not Too bad” or “Could Be Worse.” Our automatic pilot rarely delivers uplifting, generous responses. Something obstructs us from replying “I am splendid” or “I am feeling absolutely marvellous.” If we should make such an extraordinary response, we would not really believe it. A serious problem exists that requires investigation. Let me begin by breaking “Fine” down into an acronym:
F – Freaked out
I – Insecure
N – Neurotic
E – Elsewhere.
It is possible to choose other somewhat depressing terms, though I choose the Buddha’s Four Clay Pots metaphor as a starting point for this investigation.

The Buddha categorized his listeners into four different kinds of clay vessels. The first clay pot has holes at the bottom, so whatever is poured into it goes right through the bottom into the ground. No matter what wise skilful teaching or practice is offered to clay pot person number one, absolutely nothing is retained. The second clay pot is one that has many cracks in it. If water is poured in, it all eventually seeps out. The teachings may be retained for a short while, yet sooner or later they are completely forgotten. The third clay pot is one that is completely full. Water cannot be poured into it because it is already full to the brim. A person with characteristics of this vessel is so full of views, self-righteousness and wrong perceptions that they cannot be taught anything about the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha. Then there is the fourth clay pot – an empty vessel without holes or cracks, empty of views and attitudes. We may recognize that at different times we occupy one or another of the first three pots and thus strive to move to pot number four. How can we do this?

Buddha Picture

To be completely empty of a separate self, as the fourth clay pot, is what our mindfulness practice leads to. On the way there we are bound to have views and attitudes, but may be significantly empty enough to take in the teachings and practices that can move us along the path of awakening. Step by step we let go of clinging and attachment to views and re-build our minds so that equanimity and peacefulness arise. We discover that the art of Being Present is what all of the Buddha’s teachings, practices and trainings lead to. From this vast tool kit of transformation we then use intelligent awareness to work with strong emotions and let go of all clinging and their damaging consequences. The trio of Mindfulness, Concentration and Insight become our best friend, as we step into freedom from brainwashing. I touch base with the Shambhala Warrior training to address the matter of “Being Splendid.”

What does it take before we can relax into our inherent goodness and be authentically “Splendid”? In the teachings brought to the west by Chogyam Trungpa there is a strong emphasis on Shambhala warrior training. The fifth and final level is the sense of splendidness. It is preceded by four interconnected levels:

1. Being free of deception by recognizing afflictive emotions and discerning habit energies.
2. Truly entering the freedom of being present in each moment.
3. Embracing the vision of sacredness of ourselves and the world.
4. Bringing mind and body together because we are grounded and in harmony with the world around us. (Sakyong Mipham, 2011, Shambhala Sun, November 2011)

In the fifth level, building on these prior steps, we attain confidence in our inherent goodness and simply radiate the energy of splendidness. This visceral sense of unyielding trust in our inherent goodness, of being splendid, enables us to become spiritual hubs and beacons of an extraordinary nature. All the great spiritual masters had this sense and shared it without deception or ego. This power of transformation comes from a place of steady well-being, strength and confidence in our ability to be brilliant and to shine in the face of any adversity. Linji refers to this phenomenon as being rooted in our own sovereignty as Thich Nhat Hanh reminds us in his excellent account of Master Linji in Nothing to Do, Nowhere To Go – Parallax, 2007. Sakyong Mipham rounds out the sense of being splendid through his emphasis on being present in everything we do, choosing to no longer hide behind habitual patterns and old memory tapes. A lack of splendidness simply attracts sorry-ass individuals to ourselves and they become complicit with our hiding patterns. It makes better sense to have the lucidity to train ourselves to be splendid rather than close down and hide.

Cymbals at vesak

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

Dharma Detective Investigates Great Difficulties

TOOLS: Center in Mindfulness
: Taking Refuge: Deep Looking/ Deep Listening
: Skills to Garden in the Mind
STAGE ONE: Locate Difficulty in Time & Space
: Sangha Eyes: Deep Looking/Deep Listening
STAGE TWO: Remember Feelings
: Use of Teachings & Practice
STAGE THREE: Deep Looking into Blaming and Complicity
: Understanding, Impermanence and Transformation
STAGE FOUR: Deep Reflection
: Learning Curve

Start by recognizing the mind-state that causes suffering, be prepared to stop and skilfully look deeply into suffering by placing it within a practice of mindfulness. Just these initial steps can prevent us from being hooked and taken down by strong emotions and wrong perceptions. The tools are not those of intellectual self-analysis where we rationalize our suffering away. To recognize the significant elements of our suffering we need mindfulness, concentration and insight. Above all else we need to locate in heart consciousness – that still place of calm that is available by first of all stopping and then centering in mindfulness. This is so your mind-state is calm and grounded for the investigation.

Your time of great difficulty – locate it. What happened, where and when? What was the time frame? What do you think caused it – was it something in you or were the causal elements also around you? Do your best to establish the nature of the different factors that caused you to suffer at this difficult time in your life. Know also that your perceptions and recollections of the situation may well be skewed, so it is wise to take refuge in sangha eyes, to find out from dharma brothers and sisters just how you were at that time in terms of your actions and reactions. In this first step of being a dharma detective there is the importance of being grounded, of deep looking and of relying on sangha eyes to remember clearly.
Christmas Dharma Talk

Stage Two takes the process deeper. You have recognized your suffering but do you remember how you felt at that time? Did you become overwhelmed by it all or did you apply the practices and teachings in any way? Were there dharma friends available to help you or did you not seek help because you had lost faith? We need courage with this part of the inquiry, for it leads to the very difficult next stage of looking deeply into how we tend to take refuge in blaming instead of taking refuge in the Three Gems. We have to be a “Hercule Poirot,” truly a dharma detective, for now in Stage Three we list in our notebook how we blamed – the other, the situation, the Buddha, Jesus – even God! How did you lash out during your suffering? How did you try to harm and discriminate against the one you hate and any one else who got in the way? Did you shut them out or run away? Did you seek complicity with someone to help share your hate?

We all love our dramas, so much so that we tend to seek out someone to agree with our suffering – but there is no support in that, as only deeper suffering ensues. Were you lucky enough to find true support, someone steady to direct you to a greater understanding of the particular hell you are investigating? Did you come to an understanding that blaming, punishment, shutting off, running away, seeking complicity – none of these are motivated by understanding and compassion? Did you begin to realize that suffering is impermanent and that understanding and compassion illuminates impermanence, that this is the way out? If you have these realizations then progress is surely being made.

The Fourth Stage is a process of deep reflection on what would you do now, if faced with a similar situation. From the investigation of your time of great difficulty can you identify a learning curve that will enable you to not repeat the same mistakes? You may see for yourself the value of taking refuge in sangha eyes to guide your perceptions; of taking refuge in the practices, mindfulness trainings and sutras for guidance in order to apply the energy of mindfulness to the energy of suffering. This exercise is a wonderful one that all of us can do. The practice of mindfulness comes alive as a highly strategic set of tools and skills to produce transformation of the suffering caused by difficult and painful circumstances. Life is full of crises, curve balls and disasters. But even so, we do not have to be overwhelmed, hooked and crushed by them. Mindfulness practice helps us. Understanding and compassion hone our skills so that we become excellent gardeners of the mind.

The importance of taking refuge is to make fully alive the reality that we inter-are. We are never alone once we realize that Interbeing is a basic law of nature and of the Universe. Our scale of difficult circumstance runs through a vast range. The suffering and pain can be from a divorce, a son addicted to drugs, loss of a job, the death of a loved one, childhood abuse or brutal discrimination. The suffering can also be there from the situation in the Middle East between Palestinians and Israelis. The dharma detective operates well in all domains – personal, national, international – providing an instrument to focus our mindfulness, concentration and insight to whatever difficulty we suffer from.

Ian is the resident Zen teacher at Pine Gate Mindfulness Community in the west end of Ottawa, Canada. Teachings and dharma study are offered on Thursdays 7.00pm – 9.00pm.
Pine Gate Meditation Hall

Swooshing at New Year’s Eve

“Swooshing” anyone?

At Pine Gate on Tuesday, December 31, 2013, 9pm – midnight

“Swooshing” is a technical term for Renewing Buddhism.  For New Year’s Eve at Pine Gate there is homework.  Write down on a piece of paper all that you wish to leave behind and where you want to move to.  This can be personal, global, or both – just as you choose.  After the recitation ceremony on Tuesday December 31 we go upstairs for snacks and fellowship. The fire will be lit and then you place your homework in the fire and “swoosh” – it burns and goes up the chimney taking your intentions out to the universe.  You can read it out if you wish or just “swoosh.” Fake champagne is served at mid-night!

“Swooshing” means letting go, releasing stuff, establishing good intentions.

With community support for all of the previous.

Remember it is a matter of – LET GO OR BE DRAGGED!

You are invited to the most meaningful New Year’s Eve party in Ottawa. On New Year’s Eve there is a special tradition at Pine Gate.  We welcome the new year of 2014 with a recitation of the Fourteen Mindfulness Trainings. (See below) 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 you wish to move to. Then swoosh it into the fire with community support to make it so!

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Date: Tuesday December 31, 2013.

Time: 9.00pm – midnight.

Place: Pine Gate Meditation Hall.

Purpose: Ethical Dance for 2014.

Program: Recitation Ceremony 9.30pm.

11.00pm: snacks and swooshing homework into the fire.

Mid-night: Auld Lang Syne and fake champagne.

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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 the 4th Century AD in India, the Brahma-Net Sutra (Sanskrit: Brahmajala Sutra) was recorded.  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.  Thich Nhat Hanh 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 Thich Nhat Hanh’s gift and guidance to mindfulness practitioners.