Fusion of Faiths

fusion of faithsStudents from the grade 6 religion class at Joan of Arc Academy experienced the Buddhism section of their studies live in a recent field trip to Sati Saraniya Hermitage. Our afternoon together included meditation time and a question/answer session about monastic life which touched on the common ground of our great spiritual traditions.

We chanted verses of blessing and protection to wish them well and, in turn, were showered with generous offerings of food items, flowers, soaps and other thoughtful gifts. Meeting this way in kindness, generosity, respect and openness was an opportunity for greater understanding and friendship, not to mention the joy and gratitude that flowed in both directions while rescuing their school bus when it got stuck in the mud!

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Strength in Community

Caring for the earthWe invite you to join us for a potluck shared meal and a day of mindful work and Dhamma practice together at Sati Saraniya Hermitage on Sunday, April 26th.

Arrive 8:00 to bcgin at 8:30 am
Meal & clean-up: 11:30 am – 1 pm
Meditation & Dhamma Talk: 1 – 3 pm

Work/Practice Bee Aspirations

  • Connect with good friends on a peaceful Spring day at Sati Saraniya,
  • Work with mindfulness and sit together in the beautiful meditation hall,
  • Rejoice in the ancient teachings and our Dhamma practice.

BRING * BUG HAT & BUG SPRAY* and some food to share!
**TOOLS TO BRING IF YOU HAVE: loppers, shovel, rake, boxcutter!

PROJECTS PLANNED
1. Cover ground around kutis with mulch
2. Cut back prickly ash bush
3. Clear obstructive weeds near Temple
4. Clean Temple windows
5. Oil (preserve) supporting posts around exterior of meditation hall
6. Prepare ground and spread sand in front of temple to sew clover seeds
7. Share a meal, afternoon meditation and Dhamma talk

We look forward to working and practising together!

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Sanctuary

winter feeder
Just as birds leave no tracks in the air
there are those whose minds do not cling
to what they receive –
their focus is the signless state of liberation
that to others is indiscernible.

Just like birds who leave no tracks in the air
there are those whose minds are freed
of greed and hate
unconcerned about food or shelter –
their focus is the signless state of liberation.

Like birds in the sky that leave no tracks,
they move unhindered on their way.”

                                                                                          Dhammapāda, 92-3 (adapted)

All winter long, on the darkest days, when shrill winds whip across the world and the earth is thick with snow and ice, these tiny winged friends appear. Time and again, they happily feed on what is given, taking their turns, and singing their thanks and praises.

As we venture into the unknown terrain of the heart, they teach us what is possible – even in harsh conditions.  How blessed we are to undertake this interior pilgrimage, well-cared for by the kindness all around us, provided with alms food, warm clothing, shelter, medicines, and seclusion from worldly activities.

Yet, at times, we feel blinded and shaken by the relentless clout of craving or erratic mental weather, and the search for true refuge seems beyond our reach. In such precarious moments, how can we sustain our footing?

We look to the Buddha himself, a human being who, by his own example, taught us that we can know the signless, the Deathless, that unsurpassed freedom and peace of heart.

     “Friends, it is through not understanding, not penetrating the Four Noble Truths that I as well as you have for a long time run on and gone round the cycle of birth-and-death. What are they? By not understanding the Noble Truth of Suffering, we have fared on, by not understanding the Noble Truth of the Origin of Suffering, of the Cessation of Suffering, and of the Path Leading to the Cessation of Suffering, we  have fared on round the cycle of birth-and-death.”

     “And by the understanding, the penetration of the same Noble Truth of Suffering, of the Origin of Suffering, of the Cessation of Suffering, and of the Path Leading to the Cessation of Suffering, the craving for becoming (sorrow’s root) has been cut off  . . . the support of becoming has been destroyed, there is no more rebirth.”

                                                                        Mahāparinibbbāna Sutta, Digha Nikāya 16                                                                         The Great Passing: The Buddha’s Last Days

Hearing his words, we carry on, guided by the Buddha’s map of consciousness. We calm the mind, summoning greater integrity, gratitude, and contentment to heal and protect it. Loving-kindness and compassion add radiance, joy and uplift while mindfulness serves as our trustworthy compass.

Should we stumble or lose heart, wise reflection helps us rekindle our resolve and trust enough for one more step, a new moment, another breath. We keep going – restored, nurtured, and single-minded – gently steering our way forth again to an ancient refrain of thanksgiving: “Namo tassa bhagavato arahato, sammāsambuddhassa.”*

We learn that sanctuary is here – letting be, going inward, sweeping away the cobwebs and detritus of lifetimes in search of that Dhamma jewel.

And every morning the chickadees return, reminding us to persevere; whatever storm, whatever trial or obstacle, just to patiently endure and stay on course, as long as it takes.

Ayyā Medhānandī

*Pāli phrases meaning: homage to the blessed, noble and perfectly Enlightened One

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Ethical Footprint

new kutiA prevailing theme of the Buddha’s own life and teachings resounds for his disciples across more than two and a half millenia. Repeatedly, he extols the virtues of dwelling in the wilderness, exhorting us to devote ourselves to solitude, seclusion, and meditation so that we can realize Nibbāna, the Deathless.

 1. “Thus have I heard. On one occasion the Blessed One was living in the Kuru country where there was a town of the Kurus named Kammāsadhamma. There he addressed the bhikkhus thus: “Bhikkhus.”—“Venerable sir,” they replied. The Blessed One said this:
2. “Bhikkhus, this is the direct path for the purification of beings, for the surmounting of sorrow and lamentation, for the disappearance of pain and grief, for the attainment of the true way, for the realisation of Nibbāna—namely, the four foundations of mindfulness.
3. “What are the four? Here, bhikkhus, a bhikkhu abides contemplating the body as a body, ardent, fully aware, and mindful, having put away covetousness and grief for the world. He abides contemplating feelings as feelings, ardent, fully aware, and mindful, having put away covetousness and grief for the world. He abides contemplating mind as mind, ardent, fully aware, and mindful, having put away covetousness and grief for the world. He abides contemplating mind-objects as mind-objects, ardent, fully aware, and mindful, having put away covetousness and grief for the world.
4. “And how, bhikkhus, does a bhikkhu abide contemplating the body as a body? Here a bhikkhu, gone to the forest or to the root of a tree or to an empty hut, sits down; having folded his legs crosswise, set his body erect, and established mindfulness in front of him, ever mindful he breathes in, mindful he breathes out…”

Majjhima Nikāya 10. Satipaṭṭhāna Sutta:
The Foundations of Mindfulness

Due to the extremes of Canada’s winters, and as bhikkhunis, we do not use the roots of trees as a resort, but we have empty huts. Thanks to the kind generosity of our community, this winter we have two wood kutis* styled after the early settlers’ log houses – apart from a smaller footprint of 108 square feet, metal roof and modern double-hung windows. The locally-grown pine logs are dovetailed in traditional fashion and built to last for generations of meditating monastics.

We are happy to be testing them during our winter retreat. They are superbly suited to forest-dwelling and contemplative practice. Though designed for sustainability and care of the earth, above all, inside these tiny spaces we are eager to reduce the kilesa* footprint in our minds.

*kuti: meditation hut
*kilesa: mental hindrance ie. greed, hatred, delusion, anxiety, restlessness, pride, selfishness…

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Daughter of the Buddha

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On July 5th, one week before the start of our annual vassa or rains retreat, Acala – Naomi Brown from England – took anagarika ordination in the temple at Sati Saraniya Hermitage. A small gathering of our community members watched her request permission to live the homeless life. Soon afterwards, she emerged with head shaved, wearing the signature white robe of a postulant, prepared to undertake the first phase of training as a monastic.

We were moved to witness this act of profound commitment to the holy life. For every one of us, it nourishes the aspiration for spiritual awakening and brightens our resolve to persevere on this path of prudent happiness.

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Unexpected Blessings

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After the solitude of our winter retreat and the return of bright spring days, we decided to follow the ancient Buddhist practice of walking for alms to receive spontaneous offerings of food from the community. On Saturday mornings, we have been going pindapat in the Perth Farmers’ Market. We stand between the colourful displays of fruits, plants and home-made products where vendors and passers-by exchange friendly greetings. Time and again, our alms bowls have been overflowing with generosity – a sign of the warm reception and interest people express in our way of life and local presence.

These last few weeks have also been a time of receiving new visitors to the Hermitage, notably Ayya Anandabodhi, co-founder of Aloka Vihara in California. Not only is she the first bhikkhuni we have hosted for an extended visit, but we also share more than 20 years of spiritual friendship as nuns. It was rich and meaningful for our community to have her with us and to hear her teach the Dhamma.

We also welcomed visits from several women interested in monastic training. One of them, Denise Morrison of Pennsylvania, presented us with a special gift – a portrait she painted of Arahant Mahapajapati Gotami, the Buddha’s aunt and surrogate mother. This life-like portrayal of our first elder bhikkhuni and ancestral mother is now framed and mounted in our vestibule.

One of our guests, Naomi Brown of the UK, spent a few weeks with us. She is not new to monastic life, having served for 15 months in monasteries both in England and the USA, including Amaravati and Aloka Vihara. During her stay, Naomi took a spiritual name, Acala (the Pali word for ‘unwavering’), and requested anagarika ordination – living as a homeless one. Her wish to formally receive the eight precepts, wear the white robes and have her head shaved by her 50th birthday will be fulfilled on Saturday, July 5, 2014, in the meditation hall at Sati Saraniya Hermitage.

Acala’s devotion to the teachings of the Buddha stirs us to reaffirm our own aspiration for awakening. We remember how rare and precious it is to live dependent on the kindness of others and to commit ourselves to truth, harmlessness, greater wisdom and compassion.  When we reflect in this way, every day for us is filled with blessings.  These act like a scaffold that sustains us through the many spiritual trials and hurdles that must be overcome.  In turn, what we receive, we give back.

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First Things First

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Just as a deep lake is clear and still, even so, on hearing the teachings and realising them, the wise become exceedingly peaceful.      Dhammapada 82

Every year has been auspicious for our community and 2013 was no exception. We will remember it as the year the Temple was completed, rising in the footprints of four ancient barns that stood sentinel for a century at the top of our driveway. And we remember the many inaugural events we hosted inside the meditation hall – a first day of gratitude to parents with the Tisarana Sangha, a first ordination ceremony, and a first residential retreat on the theme of ‘Death and Dying’.

We also remember the joy of our first mornings of pindapat along the rural lanes of Lanark County. Following the spirit of the Buddha going for alms in village India more than two and a half millenia ago, we walked mindfully in silence with our alms bowls to the homes of dear devotees to receive a meal offering and chant blessings.

During the last five months, the palpable stillness and beauty inside the meditation hall created a welcome haven for many overnight guests, stewards and local friends who joined us for evening and weekend practice sessions. For the first time, this year it will become sanctuary for our three month winter retreat.

By taking this time to stop and devote ourselves to meditation, we practise balancing the pace and demands of our commitments. Instead of focusing outwardly, we give ourselves to the vital work of looking within. Instead of singling out the ‘firsts’ of our past year, or of our life, and remembering them as special, we see and investigate our experience moment by moment.

We discover that every breath is its own ‘first’, a new beginning in which awareness grows clear and deeper truths are revealed. These are the seeds of peace and wisdom that stopping and studying our own hearts can foster.

May each of us remember to stop – no matter how compelling or important our activities, or how much enjoyment they bring. Devotion to the higher mind will yield a greater happiness, a deeper peace, and a viable refuge from the world.

May we all strive to purify our hearts and bring forth more loving-kindness and compassion in this world.

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