Category Archives: Buddhism

Falling in Love with Your Breath

Wind and Wave, by Franz Stuck (1863-1928). Public domain via Wikimedia

 

What is your relationship to your breath? Something to contemplate…. on the yoga mat, on the meditation cushion, on the subway or in line at the grocery store.

To think of your breath as the Beloved – how would  you treat your Beloved? Would you restrict or obstruct it? Would you push it? Would you let it become ragged? Would you indulge one part of it but not another?

Or would you surrender to and enjoy each breath in all its fullness. With gentleness. With trust. With love.

 

“In Chan [Chinese Zen], you fall in love with the breath.

You think about the breath while you’re sitting, eating, and walking. After you finish your work, you think about the breath. The breath comes to your mind. You want to get close to the breath. There is a tenderness, sweetness, and intimacy that you want to share with the breath. You want to give your time to the breath; you want to give your whole self to the breath. You want to take care of the breath.

The breath, being your most loyal and loved one, will not desert you. It will not stop searching or looking for you when you are lost. It will find you; all you need to do is just be still.

When you cannot find the breath, you don’t get angry, in the same way that when you cannot find the person you love, you don’t get angry; you just keep thinking: Where is she? Similarly the breath, being your most loyal and loved one, will not desert you. It will not stop searching or looking for you when you are lost. It will find you; all you need to do is just be still, and it will come to you by your side.

Give yourself to the breath as if you are giving to the person you love. Give it your life. Your everything. Have this kind of intimacy, longing, and fondness for the breath. Forgive the breath when it becomes short and rough. Do not rise up in anger against it. Accept the breath as it is. Love and accept it.

Falling in love gives you energy. It is the same when you fall in love with your breath. You think about the breath when you wake up. You are enthusiastic. You have energy.

Falling in love with your breath is called the meditation of love. People sometimes think that in Buddhism love is something that is frowned upon and relationships are no good. This is because relationships necessarily involve attachment and grasping, and Buddhism often teaches us to detach.

Chan teaches us to love with no attachment. To care without imposing. To love in the way we love the breath.”

~ Chan Master Guo Jun, from “Essential Chan Buddhism: The Character and Spirit of Chinese Zen”

 

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Dharma with David Gluck

David

Mondays from 7-9pm, June 10, 17, 24 and July 8

Whitby Central Public Library – 405 Dundas Street West, Whitby, ON

David Gluck will be leading a discussion group on a book by His Holiness the Dalai Lama this summer at the Whitby Public Library. Join us for four Monday nights as we explore together His Holiness’ book Illuminating the Path to Enlightenment. The text is available in its entirety for free from the incredible Lama Yeshe Wisdom Archive, which says:

“About one thousand years ago, the great Indian pandit and yogi, Dipamkara Shrijnana (Atisha), was invited to Tibet to re-establish the Buddhadharma, which had been suppressed and corrupted for almost two centuries. One of Atisha’s main accomplishments in Tibet was his writing of the seminal text, A Lamp for the Path to Enlightenment, in which he extracted the essence of all 84,000 teachings of the Buddha and organized them into a clear, step-like arrangement that makes it easy for any individual practitioner to understand and practice the Dharma. This genre of teachings is known as lam-rim, or steps of the path, and forms an essential part of every school of Tibetan Buddhism.

In this book, His Holiness the Dalai Lama gives a commentary to not only Atisha’s revolutionary work but also to Lines of Experience, a short text written by Lama Tsongkhapa, who was perhaps the greatest of all Tibetan lam-rim authors. In bringing together Atisha, Lama Tsongkhapa and His Holiness the Dalai Lama, this book offers readers one of the clearest and most authoritative expositions of the Tibetan Buddhist path ever published, and it is recommended for those at the beginning of the path, the middle and the end. This is the first time a major teaching by the Dalai Lama has been published for free distribution.”

David Gluck began his study and practice of yoga and dharma in 2001. In 2003, he became a certified Jivamukti Yoga Teacher, studying directly under Sharon Gannon and David Life. He has worked professionally as a teacher of Yoga and Dharma since that time, and has taught and led retreats both nationally and abroad. His fortune of having been able to study with many gifted teachers worldwide brings richness to his classes surrounding the philosophy and tradition of yoga. The most inspirational of these teachers are Dharma Mittra, Ruth Lauer-Manenti, Jeannine Woodall, Ram Dass, author Douglas Veenhof and His Holiness, The Fourteenth Dalai Lama. In addition to teaching Asana, David has taught many courses in philosophy from both the Buddhist and Yoga traditions, including the Lamrim, the Hatha Yoga Pradipika and much of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras. He is also a gifted musician and experienced Kirtan artist.

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Buddhism 101 starts this Sunday!

Please download the course outline and reading from the attached link. Download Course Materials

If you need a ride from Toronto, please email me at smileymadsen@yahoo.ca. We have space for you!

And a reminder that drop-ins are most welcome for this course. Come to one or all of the classes.

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Buddhism 101

Buddha headshot

Dharma Essentials 1: The Three Principal Paths

with Rhondda Smiley

NEW DATES!  Sundays from 11am – 1pm, from April 14 to May 5

Are you interested in Buddhism but overwhelmed by all those lists (The 4 of This, The 8 of That…) and don’t know where to start? Join us over four Saturday mornings for an overview of the complete Buddhist path. Find out how to follow the steps to enlightenment and blissful living.

Each class leads with an open discussion based on readings translated from original ancient Tibetan texts that are time tested and go back at least 2500 years. These include instructions on the steps to creating the good life and will include a short guided meditation designed to empower any spiritual practice and enhance your life.

Everything you need to know to begin, renew, or enhance your spiritual life! No previous background in Buddhism required.

at Bikram Yoga Toronto East – 111 Island Rd. Parking and entrance at rear. www.bikramyogatorontoeast.com

Offered by donation – what you can give happily.

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Bodhisattva Heroes #1: Little Cottontail

No matter what we aspire to, we need some real honest-to-goodness heroes to inspire us along the way. Our spiritual life is no different.

Where you might have plastered your bedroom walls with posters of Michael Jordan or Jimi Hendrix (or in my case Mikhail Baryshnikov) to fuel your pursuit of greatness in your youth, you need to know who your bodhisattva heroes are on your spiritual path. A bodhisattva is a warrior saint, one who is fixed on achieving the ultimate spiritual goals of this life, for the benefit of others. Look for their stories, find the ones that come to life for you, and return to them when your practice needs some juice to keep going. Go ahead and put up their posters!  I can think of a certain someone I know whom I like to think has a picture of Arya Nagarjuna – undefeated heavyweight champion of Buddhist emptiness – up in his locker at work. Perhaps this will be a continuing series here, and I’ll issue Bodhisattva trading cards – mix ’em, swap ’em, trade ’em, and collect ’em all!

arya nagarjuna

If its Eastertide, I know it must be time for me to revisit one of my most loved bodhisattva heroes – Little Cottontail Mother, from “The Country Bunny and the Little Gold Shoes”, by DuBose Heyward (illustrations by Marjorie Flack). I was drawn to this book when I was a kid. As I raise my own daughter, I find the Dharma in so many children’s books, and this one is no exception. Little Cottontail’s story has some intriguing parallel’s to that of the Buddhist deity Green Tara. Neither heroine is swayed from their virtuous aspirations despite being discouraged from attaining these goals as women. In fact, they both reach the goals through a uniquely feminine expression. And both have twenty-one helpers.

country bunny

Did you know that there is not one, but five Easter Bunnies? They must be the kindest, the swiftest and the wisest of all the bunnies. When one gets too old for the job, Grandfather Rabbit chooses a successor. Every little bunny dreams of growing up to be an Easter Bunny. Little Cottontail shares this dream, though she is ridiculed by the fancy white and big, strong jack rabbits. Then one day, much to her surprise there were twenty-one Cottontail babies to take care of. She turns her attentions to raising her babies (did I mention she’s a single mother?). But when they are grown she tells them, “now we are going to have some fun”. Each of her twenty-one offspring is given a job in taking care of their home and family – cooking, cleaning, mending, gardening, making music or pictures.

When the time comes for the newest Easter Bunny to be selected, she is chosen as the wisest, kindest, swiftest and also cleverest bunny, as demonstrated in her ability to care for her family and home. She spends the night before Easter travelling the world to deliver eggs to little children. As the night wears on, Grandfather Bunny calls her, and presents her with the very loveliest egg of all (“it glittered like a diamond”). He tells her, “Because you have such a loving heart for children, I am going to give you the best but hardest trip of all, but if you get there you will give more happiness than any other Easter Bunny.”

country bunny 2

She is to carry this egg to a sick boy at the top of an icy peak, over two rivers and past three mountains. She makes the arduous journey, but just before reaching the summit, slips, tumbles and injures her leg. Still she tries to get up to complete her task, as the sun is rising and she knows how sad the little boy would be without his egg. Grandfather Bunny appears to help her, proclaiming her not only the wisest, kindest, and swiftest, but also the bravest bunny, and gives her a pair of magical gold shoes. With these she alights and delivers her treasure.

country bunny 3

You know those days when, if everything works like you’ve planned it, if every traffic light cooperates, you just might get everything you need to done and make it to the daycare on time for pickup? Those are the times my friend April quips, “where’s my cape?” I take my inspiration from Little Cottontail. She is a shining example of virya, or the Perfection of Joyful Effort. She models this goodness for her children, too. Household chores are fun, and everyone has a contribution to make –  the ones who paint pictures to pretty the place up are as important as those who make the beds. In the colourful retro illustrations, you can fairly see their home gleam, and hear the music and laughter that must fill the air of their country cottage, where they “never have a tear or cross word”. When her path becomes rough, and almost too much to bear, she rises up, powered by her consideration for another, by her bodhicitta. In that moment, she experiences the grace that allows her to attain her goal.

So…. who are your spiritual heroes? How can you see their goodness reflected in your own heroic story?

But if you’ll please excuse me now – the hour is growing late, and I have some Easter eggs to deliver….

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Happy 20th Birthday, ACI!

butterlamps

HAPPY BIRTHDAY ASIAN CLASSICS INSTITUTE! Tonight in New York City, ACI celebrates 20 years of sharing the Dharma, in freely offered courses, with modern translations of ancient texts that make wisdom accessible and relevant to our lives today. Over 300 teachers worlwide have continued what Geshe Michael Roach started. Immense gratitude to Geshehla, for this priceless gift. Special thanks to Lama Cliff Spencer for his kindness in teaching all 18 courses of the ACI curriculum. Thank you to all the precious teachers who have taught ACI curriculum here in Toronto – David Gluck, Jeannine Woodall, Kimberley Theresa Lafferty, Ted Lafferty, Venerable Alistair Holmes, Anita Soutendam and Shadi Mogadime.

“Here in the age

Of degeneration

You made every effort

To gain great learning;

You threw away

The eight worldly thoughts

And so made use

Of Your leisure and fortune.

Savior, we rejoice

We are glad, happy deep inside,

For what you have done,

So good and powerful.”

~ from the Ganden Hlagyama, A Thousand Angels in the Heaven of Bliss

For more information, visit http://www.acidharma.org.

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Lama Shadi Mogadime returns with The Great Ideas of Buddhism Part II – ACI Course 17

Shadi Mogadime headshot

I’m very excited to announce that Lama Shadi Mogadime of 3 Jewels Vancouver will be returning to Toronto to teach ACI Course 17: The Great Ideas of Buddhism, Part II, over two weekends in January. This is a rare opportunity for in-depth study of Buddhism with a remarkable teacher and experienced practitioner.

This course is an overview of ACI Courses 6-10, serving as either an introduction for those new to Buddhism, or as a review for those who have previously taken these courses.  Topics covered include: The Diamond Cutter Sutra, Bodhisattva Vows, Death and the Realms of Existence, The Ethical Life (Vinaya) and The Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life.

The Asian Classics Institutee is dedicated to the study and personal practice of the original teachings of the Buddha. The Institute was established by Geshe Michael Roach under the spiritual direction of Khen Rinpoche Geshe Lobsang Tharchin, a distinguished scholar and master of Buddhism from Tibet.

Shadi Mogadime is a certified Yoga Instructor, Master Coach, Buddhist Philosophy Teacher, and Mentor.  She has studied many spiritual traditions and modern modalities to the level of mastery including Neuro-linguistic Programming (NLP), Reiki, and Shamanism.  She has over 15 years of Buddhist studies including the completion of all 18 Asian Classic Institutes courses along with a rigorous 7-year program in advance studies at Diamond Mountain University and with her heart teacher Lama Sumati Marut.  Shadi served for over three years as Lama Marut’s Assistant, Tour & Business Manager.  She is the publisher of AwakeningJournal.org (the ezine about retreat) and works in the community as a fundraising consultant to non-profit organizations of all types.

At Bikram Yoga Toronto East – 111 Island Road, Toronto ON www.bikramyogatorontoeast.com

Offered by donation – what you can give happily. Course materials available for free download at http://www.acidharma.org/aci/online/onlineformal.html. Please contact me at 416-523-9542 or smileymadsen@yahoo.ca to pre-register or if you have questions about the course.

Class 1 – Fri Jan 18 from 7-9pm

Class 2, 3 & 4 – Sat Jan 19 from noon-9pm

Class 5 – Fri Jan 25 from 7-9pm

Class 6, 7 & 8 – Sat Jan 26 from noon-9pm

Class 9 & 10 – Sun Jan 27 from 10am-4pm

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Je Tsongkapa’s Day

je-tsongkhapa-sons-190-253

Today, Saturday December 8, is Je Tsongkapa’s Day on the Tibetan calendar. This is a day to honour and celebrate our teachers.

Je Tsongkapa (1357-1419) is Tibetan Buddhism’s greatest teacher. Known as The King of the Dharma, Je Tsongkapa is unparalleled in his acheivements as a spiritual practitioner, teacher, scholar, author, debater, and more.  A man of a thousand different faces, who mastered many different paths. He was the teacher of His Holiness the First Dalai Lama, and founder of the Gelupka school of Buddhism, the lineage of all the Dalai Lamas to the present day.

A traditional offering to our teachers on this day is 1000 lamps, to signify the light that Je Tsongkapa and our lineage teachers shine on the path to freedom, banishing darkness, suffering and ignorance with each and every teaching. Don’t despair if this is beyond your means or ability. In our minds, we have within our power the ability to give anything and everything that we can conceive of. When we do so, we also plant powerful seeds towards actually becoming beings who have an unlimited capacity to give to others.

On this day, we can reflect with gratitude on all the teachers who have graced our lives – those who taught us to walk and talk, to read, those who taught us important life lessons along the way, and those who have shone their wisdom on how to live a meaningful life. How have they changed our lives? What would our lives be like without their presence? Today is an auspicious day to ask them to continue to teach us in all the ways that they do, and to stay in our lives always.

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