Category Archives: Dharma

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!

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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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Shamatha Retreat with Douglas Veenhof in BC

While most of what’s on this site are Dharma, yoga and meditation events in and around the Greater Toronto Area, this is a very special event that begs to be shared.

Join Three Jewels Vancouver from March 15 to March 24 (a 4 day option of March 15-18th is also available) on a Shamatha retreat in Squamish, British Columbia led by popular teacher and author Douglas Veenhof.

For over 2,500 years, Buddhist meditators have considered developing single-pointed concentration as the prerequisite for progress on the path to liberating wisdom. Shamatha is that step-by-step progression of meditative techniques for training our unruly and drowsy minds to be perfectly attentive to the present moment of experience.

The enthusiastic response to his weekend intensive at Three Jewels Vancouver last fall inspired them to create a retreat with all the support, instruction, and inspiration needed to make a leap in the stability and clarity of your attentional skills.

Douglas Veenhof is a former mountain guide, an award-winning journalist, and the author of White Lama, the acclaimed biography of Yoga pioneer and Tibet explorer, Theos Bernard (Harmony Books, 2011). He has studied and practiced Buddhism for more than twenty years and graduated with honors from the seven-year program of advanced Buddhist studies at Diamond Mountain, the academy founded by Geshe Michael Roach and Lama Christie McNally. He has been interviewed on both radio and television and is currently at work on a new book examining his own spiritual experiences in light of contemporary theories of consciousness.

The retreat is intimate (maximum 25 students), and whether you are just beginning to meditate or are a long-time practitioner looking for the keys to go deeper, this is a great opportunity to learn, ask questions, and enrich your practice.

Early bird tickets are now available via Eventbrite. http://www.eventbrite.ca/event/5226757372#

And keep your eyes peeled for a visit by Lama Doug to Toronto later this spring….

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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

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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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9 Steps to Sanity: how to start & maintain a daily practice

Saturday, December 1 from noon-3pm

Are you looking to start a daily practice, but don’t know where to start? Have you tried in the past but found yourself unable to keep it going?

Join me for a fun afternoon where we will cover 9 practices to create a framework for a daily spiritual practice. Put any or all of them to use immediately for more sanity, balance and happiness. You will leave knowing how to start – and better yet – maintain a daily practice.

Includes 2 guided meditations. No experience required – bring your beginners mind!

Offered by donation – what you can give happily. Meeting in a private residence near Broadview & Danforth. Call 416-523-9542 or smileymadsen@yahoo.ca for directions.

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