Sakyadhita Canada
NEWSLETTER 
   APRIL, 2016

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IT'S JUST THE FROSTING 
by Rev. Konin Cardenas, Guiding Teacher at Ekan Zen Study Center and Empty Hand Zen Center 
(Friend & Supporter of Sakyadhita) 
Recently, as part of the preparations for the Buddha's Birthday celebration at the temple I lead, I went to the bakery to buy a cake. The gentleman behind the counter and I spoke in Spanish, as I asked about the freshness and ingredients in each variety that was on display. There was vanilla cake with white frosting, chocolate cake with mousse inside, "yellow" cake with chocolate frosting, and a red velvet cake with lovely dark red frosting. I chose the chocolate mousse cake, thinking that would please most of the sangha. A koan dialogue ensued. 
Without any suggestion from me that this was the occasion, the man asked, "¿Le escribo Happy Birthday?" ~ "Should I write 'Happy Birthday' on it?" 
I replied, "Si, por favor." ~ "Yes, please." 
He asked, "¿Cual es el nombre?" ~ "What is the name?" 
I smiled and replied, "Buddha - B U D D H A" 
Then he asked , "¿Hombre o mujer?" ~ "Man or woman?" 
I paused. Surely he couldn't write the proper answer on the cake. Then, I realized what he meant. 
I asked, "¿Me estas preguntando que color quiero para el nombre?" ~ "Are you asking me what color I want for the name?" 
He nodded. 
"En blanco por favor." ~ "Use white, please," I said. 
Returning with the cake he asked, "¿Es una persona?" ~ "Is it a person?" 
Pausing for an instant, I replied "Si." ~ "Yes." 
He looked at me expectantly, wanting to know more. Again I reverted to the conventional, thinking that he was not asking for a koan. 
"Es una persona que nació hace mas de 2500 años." ~ "It's a person that was born more than 2500 years ago." 
Another expectant look was followed by the final question, "¿Es una ofrenda?" ~ "Is it an offering?" 
I nodded, smiled and said, "Si, es una ofrenda." ~ "Yes, it's an offering." 
This last question made it clear to me, and perhaps to both of us, that he had understood something about the nature of Buddha by having this exchange. 
To be sure Buddha is not just the individual who was born in the Lumbini Garden in Nepal around 563 BC. Buddha, as understood in our school, is awakened nature. It is both male and female, neither male nor female. It embraces, yet is not defined by, any gender or agender. Buddha doesn't always look pink or blue, or taste like chocolate or vanilla. Buddha is a person, in fact every person. Yet Buddha is inconceivably more vast than any one being. And so we make an offering, with its limits and simple flavors, to express our appreciation of that which is so much more. 
     Happy Birthday Buddha!

VESAK 2016
 
Vesak is a holy day celebrated by Buddhists.  It represents the birth, the Nirvana (enlightenment) and the Parinirvana (death) of Gautama Buddha. 
Vesak Day usually falls in May, on the 15th day of the fourth month of the Lunar Calendar.
On Vesak Day, temples are decorated with flags and flowers. Devoted Buddhists and many observers of the faith congregate at their temple where monks chant the sutras, and people sing hymns to celebrate the Buddha, the Dharma (his teachings) and the Sangha (his disciples).
Worshippers bring offerings of flowers, candles and incense. These offerings demonstrate that the believers accept that life, like the offerings, is subject to decay and impermanence.
Buddhists believe that performing good deeds on Vesak Day will multiply merit and it is often a day when Buddhists perform acts of generosity that can include taking goods to the poor and needy, and making gifts to charity. These acts of generosity are also known as Dana.
The main theme of Vesak Day is to practice love, peace and harmony as taught by the Buddha.             

VESAK CELEBRATIONS

Vancouver BC
May 29th, 9:30-6 pm.
BCbuddhistfestival.com

Mississauga ON.
Sat. May 28th
vesakcelebration.com

Vancouver BC
Sat. June 4th
unitedsangha.org
604-248-6176

Halifax
Sunday May 22nd.
atlanticbuddhist.com
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Not-Self as True and Beneficial

The Buddha's doctrine had much in common with the prevalent ideas of his time.  As did other contemporary traditions, he taught the value of a strong moral code founded on virtue, and of making spiritual practice an integral part of daily life. Where his teaching sharply diverged was in the concept of Not-Self.   Upon Awakening, he saw that the conventional way that we view all things, including our self, is nothing more than a clever delusion.  Although it appears that things have a solid existence, which we perceive as a self, whether it be a Universe, a person, or an insect, in fact what is seen is a conglomerate of aspects. In the case of a Human Being, these aspects, known as aggregates, are: form, feeling, perception, mental formations and consciousness, all dependent upon clinging.  He formulated his teaching in such a way as to make the intellectual understanding of Not-Self relatively easy to grasp. By a systematic evaluation of each aggregate, they can be seen as both impermanent and not under the control of a self.   As practice deepens, not only the truth of this assertion, but also the benefit, becomes clear.
The Buddha frequently pointed out that his path is a gradual path, and if followed, it leads to liberation from suffering --- the complete eradication not only of the delusion of self, but also of greed and hatred. To facilitate this, starting at the beginning is essential.  The beginning is purifying one's virtue.  Virtue is defined as: refraining from taking what has not been given; refraining from taking life; refraining from inappropriate speech and livelihood; as well as refraining from substance abuse and sexual misconduct.  To do these things, one must have a very strong intention to do so.  If one identifies as a self, it becomes very challenging not to act in ways that glorify and protect that self, thus, making virtuous behavior difficult, if not impossible. However, when the concept of self is deeply contemplated, it becomes evident that identification with it becomes an obstacle, not a benefit; resistance to Not-Self is weakened. Working towards an abiding experience of Not-Self then becomes a highly valued urge to allow practice to deepen even further. The benefit of this is clear. When one starts seeing things as, "not me, not mine and not myself", the understanding becomes universal; all things can be seen as impermanent, unsatisfactory and not-self, opening the mind/heart to seeing with Wisdom. 
Wisdom brings to mind not only an understanding of conventional reality, the way that we usually see things, but an understanding of --- rather, the experience of --- consciousness not attached.  We usually experience consciousness tied to conventional reality, attached to things, but the Buddha also taught that there is consciousness unattached.  This consciousness is clear and radiant. This consciousness is outside of conventional reality and does not partake of things at all.  The purpose of the Buddha's path is to enable those who follow along to reach the end; the emersion in Unattached Consciousness; the end of suffering. Peace and joy are inherent in the experience of Not-Self, no matter how brief. As the Buddha pointed out, to get there it takes practice, persistence, and determination, but it is do-able and worth doing.  The process is gradual and each insight into the truth of Not-Self leads to deeper and longer emersions into a state of mind where virtue is not practiced but is inherently present; simply because there is no self seeking aggrandizement or protection.  Self is such a little thing when compared to Not-Self. The Buddha claimed that the liberated enter into and live in the Divine Abodes; loving kindness, compassion, equanimity, and sympathetic joy; where would one find a self in these states? Wouldn't a consciousness imbued with them be enough? Truly, Not-Self, although it sounds like a loss, a big loss --- the loss of self --- is actually the biggest win imaginable.
 
Sãrani
                                                                          
DHAMMA FOLLOWER IN MYANMAR
 March 2016, by  Sharon Gravelle
In March, I had the chance to visit Myanmar. I floated up the Irrawaddy River on a cruise boat and toured the Inle Lake Region before returning to Yangon. As I looked around, stupas were one of the most prominent features in the landscape of this devoutly Buddhist country. I saw everything from ancient brick domes shaped as if stacks of harvested rice to the 325 foot tall golden Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon. Being from Alberta, I was amused to see both oil derricks and stupas together on the riverbank near the Bagan archeological zone. I also saw many of the important temples and Pagodas in the country and many Buddhas. 
Daily alms rounds by monks in maroon robes and nuns in pink robes were another common sight. The monks and nuns were sometimes accompanied by very young noviciates. The little ones, I learned, are often orphans who have been taken in by the religious orders. Having never been to Southeast Asia before, I was startled by the poverty that I saw and surprised that the people could support so many monastics. Despite their lack of material comforts, Myanmar people are warm and friendly. Almost everyone broke into a wide smile at my greeting of "Mingalaba," and many wanted to take my picture as well. 
It is interesting to see how ordinary people practise Buddhism. One of our local guides explained that as the summer school holidays were just starting, he and his 10-year-old son would soon be off to a monastery for temporary ordination and a retreat. As per custom, he had had to ask his wife's permission before going. In addition, to his great disappointment, his 13-year-old daughter had declined the offer of going to a nunnery because she did not want to shave her head. 
Another guide in Mandalay explained how he had tried at least seven times to do a temporary ordination, with varying rates of success. The first time he was so young that he got homesick, even after his dad joined him, so he ran back to see his Mom. Another time, the stray dogs barking in the alley alerted the Abbott to 
his escape when he sneaked out to see a soccer final on television. He told us he intended to attempt a retreat again soon. 
As a member of Sakyadhita Canada, I was particularly interested in the lives of the nuns and lay women in Myanmar. I learned that nuns do not get as much respect as monks for a variety of reasons but that things are slowly changing for the better. This may partly be because Myanmar is opening up to the world after decades of military dictatorship. 
Wah Wah, our guide in Yangon, said there are now highly respected female monastic scholars like Daw Yuzana Nyani, a lecturer at the International Theravada Buddhist Missionary University in Yangon. Wah Wah said that she herself would become a nun after retiring from guiding. 
During my trip, I was also able to help lead meditations onboard the Irrawaddy Explorer with fellow Vipassana practitioner, Mary from B.C., whom I met for the first time in Myanmar. Doing a candlelit evening Meditation on Loving Kindness was especially lovely, an experience made even richer by taking place in a land that has nurtured Buddhism for so many centuries. 
Sharon Gravelle

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