Wednesday, July 10, 2013


Still looking at options here; I'm yet leaning towards returning to Winnipeg in order to regroup and try again. The gist of it is that we seem to have been overly-enthusiastic in our efforts to start a monastery. First, we admit to rushing into choosing this location - though the problems we've faced with the building here aren't insurmountable, they have certainly put a damper on our collective enthusiasm. Then Jared left, and the already challenging task of organizing food for the centre every morning became a fair strain on people's resources. Finally, with the realization that obtaining charity status will take some months yet, it seems we really aren't ready for what we have undertaken.

I don't think this is really an admission of defeat - if we had found the perfect place to start a monastery, I wouldn't hesitate in encouraging everyone to buckle down and bear with the difficulty or motivate more support for the project. I don't think anyone believes that we have found such a place. The setting here is nice enough, not too far from Winnipeg, yet not too close; a large, well-treed lot not far from the main highway. But the house does have some significant flaws and even though we could work to correct them, I think we will have stretched ourselves too thin in the process, with no immediate ability to replenish. This sort of thing is common in real estate, no? Find a property, inspect it, decide it's not worth it, try again.

On the other hand, if we had prepared ourselves for the difficulties of such a place - obtaining charity status first, solidifying and expanding the membership of our organization and board of directors, and obtaining widespread and dedicated support for the organization, then I'm pretty sure we could have made this location work well for us in the future. Without any of this going into the project, I'm not sure we can expect it all to suddenly materialize (besides charity status, of course) without actively cultivating it, something that may not be possible outside of the city. It seems more likely that it would continue to be a burden on our core group of supporters until something or someone snapped. I'm thinking particularly of the harsh winter, forcing supporters to brave ice and snow early in the morning just to bring us food; not having a vehicle or driver in case of emergencies, etc., etc.

So, if we do decide to return to Winnipeg, it wouldn't be in an admission of failure, it would be a decision against a certain course of action that we have not yet taken (we haven't, after all, purchased the property yet) - an admission that we aren't yet capable of such a move, and maybe for the better if we can find a property less challenging or once we are more better prepared.

We may still stay here; everything is uncertain, of course. I'd personally like to be able to stay in nature; it's not that moving to the city is somehow appealing to me. So too, we have put quite some effort into this location that we would be abandoning. I just think we have to recognize that we are not ready for the challenge this particular piece of property presents at this moment in time. It seems like far greater things can be accomplished, as many of us have reiterated, in the city, while we are still a fledgeling organization. And, to be fair, we have put this property to great use while we were occupying it - four students have completed foundation courses here, one advanced review course, and several more have undertaken partial courses.

So, that's that. Bleh. Not that this is something that I enjoy talking about. :) Back to dhamma, then, shall we?

Just a reminder that I'll be in Ontario August 22nd to 28th, unless plans somehow change (floods, plague, etc.). Let me know if you're interested in that.

I've started writing fiction. Seem odd? In defence, the Buddha himself used fiction to teach the dhamma; take the Janapadakalyani Sutta (SN 47.20):
Thus have I heard. On one occasion the Blessed One was living among the Sumbhas, where there was a town of the Sumbhas named Sedaka. There the Blessed One addressed the bhikkhus thus: “Bhikkhus!”

“Venerable sir!” the bhikkhus replied. The Blessed One said this:

“Bhikkhus, suppose that on hearing, ‘The most beautiful girl of the land! The most beautiful girl of the land!’ a great crowd of people would assemble. Now that most beautiful girl of the land would dance exquisitely and sing exquisitely. On hearing, ‘The most beautiful girl of the land is dancing! The most beautiful girl of the land is singing!’ an even larger crowd of people would assemble. Then a man would come along, wishing to live, not wishing to die, wishing for happiness, averse to suffering. Someone would say to him: ‘Good man, you must carry around this bowl of oil filled to the brim between the crowd and the most beautiful girl of the land. A man with a drawn sword will be following right behind you, and wherever you spill even a little of it, right there he will fell your head.’

“What do you think, bhikkhus, would that man stop attending to that bowl of oil and out of negligence turn his attention outwards?”

“No, venerable sir.”

“I have made up this simile, bhikkhus, in order to convey a meaning. This here is the meaning: ‘The bowl of oil filled to the brim’: this is a designation for mindfulness directed to the body. Therefore, bhikkhus, you should train yourselves thus: ‘We will develop and cultivate mindfulness directed to the body, make it our vehicle, make it our basis, stabilize it, exercise ourselves in it, and fully perfect it.’ Thus, bhikkhus, should you train yourselves.”

-- Bodhi, trans.

Granted, I'm going a bit beyond this in writing a book, but it has shown the potential of providing a unique opportunity to teach dhamma by way of narrative. Anyone who has read the dhammapada or jataka commentaries should understand this well. If you're still sceptical, check it out. I first posted it on thinking that would somehow be better than putting it on my weblog - at first I wasn't sure if it would be better to write under a pen name... anyway, it's here now:

So far, there is the prologue and first chapter. I'm not actually sure I'll ever finish it, but it does look promising so far. Let me know if you're an editor willing to edit.
most truths are fiction
life a mirage, death a fraud
suffering, peace real