Choosing Buddhism : The Life Stories of Eight Canadians
Coherent Identifier 20.500.12592/rnxm0b

Choosing Buddhism : The Life Stories of Eight Canadians




Mauro Peressini presents the experience of Canadians who chose to convert to Buddhism and to embrace its teachings and practices in their daily lives. Choosing Buddhism presents the life stories of eight Canadians who first encountered Buddhism between the late 1960s and the 1980s, and are now ordained or lay Buddhist teachers. In recent census records, over 300,000 Canadians identified their religious affiliation as Buddhist. The great majority are of Asian origin and were born into Buddhist families or were Buddhist at the time of their arrival in Canada. Since the late 1960s, however, the number of Canadians converting to Buddhism has doubled every decade, and this demographic now includes more than 20,000 individuals. The eight Canadians whose life stories are featured in this book are among the very first to have chosen Buddhism. Their first-hand accounts shed light on why and how people convert to a religion from such distant shores. Choosing Buddhism also offers contextual material that complements the eight life stories. This material enriches the reader's understanding of the life stories by offering additional information on the meaning of the Buddhist notions mentioned and by providing the broader historical and spiritual contexts that underpin the biographical accounts. While Choosing Buddhism will be of interest to specialists because of the first-hand accounts, it is primarily aimed at a wider audience interested in Buddhism, religions or spirituality in general. It will also be of use to teachers whose courses touch upon any of these subjects. By combining life stories and contextual material, and placing an emphasis on the concrete experiences of Canadians with whom readers can identify, this book is an introduction to Buddhism and to what it means to lead a Buddhist life in contemporary Canada.--$cProvided by publisher.

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Includes bibliographical references (pages 429-433) and index
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Canadian Electronic Library (Firm)
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Issued as part of the desLibris books collection
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P47 2016eb
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1 electronic text (xvii, 446 pages)
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Mode of access: World Wide Web
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Ottawa, Ontario
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canada anthropology biography buddhism buddhists history social history social science cultural buddhist converts

Table of Contents

Cover 1 Title 3 False-title 5 Copyright 6 Abstract 7 Résumé 8 Table of Contents 11 Acknowledgements 19 Introduction 21 The Life Story of a Project 21 An Introduction to Buddhism 27 The Narrators 28 Methodology 29 Part I: Contexts 31 The Text Boxes 31 The Glossary 32 The Commentaries 32 Conventions for Pali, Sanskrit, Chinese, Japanese and Tibetan Words 32 Bibliographic Sources on Buddhist Spirituality 33 Abbreviations Used in This Book 33 PART I – Contexts 37 CHAPTER 1 – Buddhism: Origins, Diversification, Teachings and Practices 39 The Origins and Diversification of Buddhism 39 Buddhist Teachings and Practices: An Overview 42 The Question of Suffering and Its Causes 42 The Ultimate Nature of Reality 45 The Other Aspect of Awakening: Compassion 55 Buddhist Training and Practices 57 Nirvana 69 CHAPTER 2 – Buddhism in Canada: An Overview 73 Before 1967 73 After 1967 74 The Appeal of Buddhism in Canadian Society 75 A Favourable Context 77 The Multiple Ways of Being “Buddhist” 81 PART II – Life Stories 87 Chapter 3 – Ajahn Viradhammo 89 A Fundamental Childhood Experience 89 “That’s Not It!” 90 Travelling to Gain Understanding 91 The Road to India 91 A State Beyond Suffering 93 Introduction to Monastic Buddhism 94 Loss of Direction 95 Back on the Path 95 Box 1 S´amatha-Vipas´yana 96 Becoming Ajahn Chah’s Student 98 Box 2 Ajahn Chah (1918–1992) 99 Monastic Life 100 Working with Ajahn Sumedho 101 Box 3 Ajahn Sumedho (b. 1934) 103 Monasticism—Its Benefits for the Mind and the Heart 104 Box 4 The Four Noble Truths 105 Bringing the Dhamma to the West 107 The Death of Ajahn Chah 111 The Return to Canada 111 A Monastery in Canada 111 Box 5 Interdependence Between Monastics and the Laity 112 At the Heart of It 116 A Rewarding Life 117 Commentary 118 Chapter 4 – Jim Bedard 123 A Doubting Thomas 123 The Martial Arts 124 An Intuitive and Experiential Christian Practice 125 Mysterious Energies and Unanswered Questions 126 The Ocean in a Cup 127 Letting Go of Christian Beliefs 128 The Appeal of Zen 129 Box 6 Zen Buddhism 130 Meeting Roshi Philip Kapleau 132 The First Sesshins 133 Formal Training 134 Roshi Sunyana Graef: A Change of Tone 135 The Turning Point 136 Facing Death 138 Box 7 Impermanence and the Three Characteristics of Conditioned Existence 140 A Timeless Peace 141 A Glimpse of the Process of Death 142 Box 8 Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, Buddha-Fields and Pure Land Buddhism 144 Seeing into Some Old Karma 148 Moving Away from Zen 150 A Different Approach: Theravada Buddhism 152 Concentration and Mindfulness 152 Box 9 The Noble Eightfold Path 153 Box 10 Mindfulness Meditation 157 Cultivating Loving Kindness 159 Meeting Ajahn Viradhammo 159 Teaching at Satipaññaˉ Insight Meditation Toronto 160 The Benefits of Knowing Zen and Theravada 161 The Intention of Relinquishment 161 To Be or Not to Be Buddhist: That’s Not the Question 162 Commentary 163 Chapter 5 – Albert Low 169 The Origin of a Question 169 The War 170 Experiences that Pointed to Something Else 171 Doctor Nothman’s Group 173 A False Start: Scientology 174 The Move to South Africa 176 Breaking Away from Scientology 178 A Time of Crisis 180 Georges Ivanovitch Gurdjieff 181 Hubert Benoit 183 A Second Kenshoˉ: Me-as-Centre/Me-as-Periphery 185 Box 11 Koans 186 From South Africa to Canada 188 Introduction to Zen Practice 190 Box 12 Hakuun Yasutani Roshi (1885–1973) 192 The First Sesshin 194 Dread 196 Yasutani and Kapleau Part Ways 200 Box 13 Roshi Philip Kapleau (1912–2004) 200 A Sesshin at the Rochester Zen Center 203 Awakening 204 Life at the Rochester Zen Center 207 Disagreements with Philip Kapleau 211 Teaching in Montreal 215 The Relocation of the Montreal Zen Group 216 Receiving Full Transmission and the Birth of the Montreal Zen Center 219 The Montreal Zen Center Today 220 In the Benevolent Hands of a Bodhisattva? 222 Commentary 222 Chapter 6 – Taigen Henderson 231 Childhood in Ceylon 231 A Difficult Return to Canada 233 Wanderlust 234 A Need for Fundamental Change 235 Searching through Drugs 237 Encountering Zen and Discipline 237 Resistance 238 Beginnings 239 Transformation While Living at the Toronto Zen Centre 240 Box 14 Precepts 241 Back to Samsara 242 A First Crisis at the Toronto Zen Centre 243 A Perfect Storm 244 Back to Practice 245 A Second Crisis at the Toronto Zen Centre 245 A First Kenshoˉ 246 Leadership Transition at the Toronto Zen Centre 246 The Toronto Zen Centre’s Second Life Under Roshi Sunyana Graef 247 Box15 Roshi Sunyana Graef (b. 1948) 248 Box 16 Kyoˉsaku 250 Deeper Practice and Ordination 252 Becoming the Teacher of the Toronto Zen Centre 253 Commentary 255 Chapter 7 – Zengetsu Myoˉkyoˉ 259 A Christian Childhood 259 Leaving the Family 260 Challenges 260 The First Encounter with Zen 261 A Life-changing Experience in Indonesia 262 Jumping into Rinzai Zen Practice 264 Box 17 Joˉshuˉ Sasaki Roshi (1907–2014) 264 Box 18 The Main Schools of Japanese Zen 267 The First Sesshin 268 Further Training in California 270 The Return to Canada 271 The Path to Ordination 271 Zen and the Question of Gender 275 Serving as Head Monk at the Cimarron Zen Center 276 Establishing a Zen Centre in Montreal 279 Community Involvement 283 A Time for Change 284 The Challenges of Zen Practice in the West 286 Commentary 287 Chapter 8 – Louis Cormier 293 A Poor but Happy Childhood 293 A First Encounter with Religion 294 Taking Responsibility for One’s Actions 294 The First Negative Experience with Catholicism 295 Questioning Beliefs 296 Learning about Impermanence 297 Suffering and Compassion 298 Breaking with the Catholic Church 299 Liberation Through Poetry 300 Encountering Buddhism for the First Time 301 Early Buddhist Practice 302 A Visit to the Rochester Zen Center 304 From Zen to Tibetan Buddhism 305 Box 19 Taking Refuge 305 Box 20 Tantras 307 A Profusion of Masters 311 The Vancouver Experience 313 The Illusion of the “Self” and Helping Others 314 A Sect 315 Breaking Away 317 An Interval 318 Starting Over 319 Box 21 Geshé Khenrab Gajam (1928–1993) 320 Normal Buddhist Practice 322 In-Depth Study of Sacred Texts 323 Twenty-Four-Hour Retreats 325 The Tibetan Buddhist Temple 326 Lessons in Humility 329 Parting Ways 329 The Death of Geshé Khenrab 332 Teaching at the Tibetan Buddhist Temple 333 Leaving the Tibetan Buddhist Temple 336 A Need for Perspective 337 A Long Way to Go 338 Commentary 340 Chapter 9 – Kelsang Drenpa 345 A “Natural” Spirituality 345 Seeing Others Suffer 347 Encountering Buddhism for the First Time 348 A Deeper Commitment 350 Box 22 Saˉdhana and Mahaˉmudraˉ in the Higher Tantras 352 A First Meeting with a Second Teacher 357 Box 23 Geshé Kelsang Gyatso (b. 1931) 358 Box 24 The Practice Centred on a Deity (Saˉdhana) 360 The Death of Geshé Khenrab Gajam 364 Choosing a New Teacher 366 Box 25 The Main Schools of Tibetan Buddhism 367 An Unexpected Proposal 370 The Inauguration and Evolution of the Kankala Buddhist Centre 370 Ordination 372 Challenges Faced by the Centre as It Evolved 375 A Presence Behind the Walls: Working in Prisons 379 The Kankala Buddhist Centre Becomes the Centre de Méditation Kadampa Montréal 381 Meaning 381 Commentary 383 Chapter 10 – Tsultrim Palmo 387 From Poland to Canada 387 Symptomatic Depression 389 Encountering Buddhist Practice 390 Box 26 Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche (1939–1987) 391 Further Practice and Ordination as a Novice 393 Box 27 Pema Chödrön (b. 1936) 395 Box 28 Kalu Rinpoche (1904–1989) 398 Gampo Abbey’s Early Days 400 Full Ordination and the Traditional Three-Year Retreat 403 Teaching at Gampo Abbey 407 Retirement and Illness 410 Commentary 412 Appendix 415 Appendix 1: Albert Low’s First Kenshoˉ at the Rochester Zen Center 417 The Rohatsu Sesshin 417 Kenshoˉ 419 Afterword 422 Appendix 2 423 Glossary 425 Bibliography 449 Index 455