old news

Still waiting for some decisions here, but there seems to be some need to let the broader community of people who wonder what I’m up to know what I’m up to, so…

As mentioned, there are some issues with the property we’ve chosen; some fairly significant repairs/upgrades have to take place if we’re going to stay here.  Good news is the projected size of the property is now 40 acres, instead of 15.

There are other issues, though, including mortgage approval, financing, and running a meditation centre outside of the city.  The mortgage issues are what we are waiting on now, but even if the mortage is approved, we still have to be sure we can run the place.  The main issue there, from my point of view, is lack of a registered charity, which means inability to accept donations for the centre.  This, along with a paucity of dedicated supporters of the project (understandable given the timeframe) has made it quite a burden on the few hardcore supporters we do have.

All of this has made me suggest that we might be better off moving back to Winnipeg for the time being; when we were there, we saw much more consistent support and enthusiasm, which, again, is to be expected.  Though 50 km is hardly remote by Canadian standards, providing food and maintanence has been challenging.  For a fledgeling organization, we may have bit off more than we can chew.  That’s what we’re discussing now.
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Certain Uncertainties

Sorry for not posting anything here in a while (10 days!), it’s just been a bit busy in real life. First, the property thing isn’t as simple as thought; the property we decided on turns out to be too big for a residential mortgage, so either the group puts $80,000 as a down-payment or we find another property. The group has about $50,000 on-hand, so it’s not really feasible at this point. Also, interest rate would be higher as it would be considered a commercial loan. There may be a way around this, but we’re looking at other (smaller) property as well now – yesterday saw some 5 acre parcels, but nothing that really fit the bill – nothing that compared with the first property, anyway. Today we’re going to see another that looks a little more promising. Anyway, still optimistic and the group of people supporting this project have promised that one way or another it will happen.

Tuesday I joined a Visuddhimagga study session at the Dharma Centre in Winnipeg. Met Lama Gerry and his community; nice group, intending on joining every week.

Saturdays I’ve started Monk Radio again, for anyone who hasn’t yet heard. Check http://radio.sirimangalo.org/ for local time. I’ve also returned to Google Moderator for posting questions (actually somehow I thought they shut it down…), so you can post and vote on questions all week here:

http://www.google.com/moderator/#15/e=2057be&t=2057be.40

Wednesdays (I need a schedule! Oh, wait, I have one, here) I’ve agreed to start giving talks in Second Life again at the Buddha Centre. At its best, SL is a great platform for teaching; at its worst, well, I don’t really know how low it can go… let’s hope it works out well. Visit here for the location information and here if you don’t know what Second Life is (hint: you need a good graphics card and a stable Internet connection).

Jared finished his first course quite successfully, so he’s on track for novice ordination. Last night he asked me for an ordination date and I suggested April 1st (it’s Easter Monday, so a holiday). Otherwise Visakha Puja, but it’s late this year. Maybe waiting another three months would be good for him? Uncertain.

That’s all I can think of for now. More when uncertainties become certain (i.e. past).

FTW

And you thought Buddhist monks weren’t up on internet memes.

FTW – For The World. Okay, not really, but this is. Today we had a meeting of what will probably become the new board of Sirimangalo International in Canada. We agreed unanimously to go ahead with acquiring the land I posted about yesterday to set up a meditation centre in Manitoba.

So, that’s news – if nothing crazy bad happens, in a few months we should have five rooms for meditators of both genders and a large forested land for the cultivation of peace, happiness and freedom from suffering.

One thing we need is a steward; someone to arrange food, mainly. If anyone would like to take on this role for a time, please do let us know. You’d have to complete a month of meditation with us first, so it would have to be a multiple-month commitment. Sounds like we already have someone for June and maybe long-term, so there may be no need. The reason I’m putting it out is two-fold – first, always nice to have a backup, considering how important a role it is, and second, the more the merrier 🙂

If possible, we will try to focus more on long-term meditators than short-term courses, but all are welcome. I’m sure I’ll be teaching Pali to long-termers and training instructors in meditation, so lots to do.

Another thing we’ll have to look at is how much of a meditation centre we can support financially. I can’t get involved with finances, but I can say that without proper funding, we may have to keep the scale of the centre down. The group undertaking to purchase the land in question have been beyond generous, and it wouldn’t do to leave it up to them to cover maintenance costs as well. I’ll try to find some time to rejigger org.sirimangalo.org in the near future as well for the purpose of clarifying our budget.

That’s all; some good news for your rejoicing pleasure. I’ll put up an application form on the canada.sirimangalo.org page in the near future, so keep in touch and join our Canada mailing list if you’re interested in discussing our plans with us. For the world! (Yes, it really means “For The Win” – it’s an expression of exultation, which fits just as well here).

Peace 🙂

Friday & Saturday

Below is a copy of the latest email to our Canada mailing list – if you want to join the list, visit

http://www.sirimangalo.org/cgi-bin/mailman/listinfo/canada

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Dear Friends,

I have confirmation on a hotel room Friday night at Days Hotel at the following address:

240 Belfield Road
Etobicoke (Ontario), M9W 1H3
Canada
Phone: +14162418513

It’s right near the airport, so that is convenient for me to make my flight, but I was also thinking it might be helpful to let us meet and maybe have a dhamma discussion / talk and meditate together.  If someone has a better place to meet, I have a few TTC tokens now so I can get around – and I know someone was willing to drive me around as well; otherwise, maybe we can shoot for around 7 PM meeting in the lobby of the Days Hotel? 

Also, Saturday morning I’ll be at the hotel until 11 AM if anyone wants to come for a morning meditation.

Part of the reason for meeting is to make connections before heading to Manitoba, so there will be something to come back to Ontario for in the future.

Please respond to canada@sirimangalo.org (hit “Reply All”) so we can discuss as a group.

Blessings to all,

Yuttadhammo

Let’s See

Lots of news… first, my brain seems to have rewired itself following the dengue fever, so apologies if this comes out muddled.

It looks like I’ll be in Canada in January… Ajaan wants me to go quickly and set up a monastery as soon as possible.  He said April is too late to start.  No time like the present, for sure.  From the sounds of it, he knows he can help me right now, and the future of course is not sure.

So, I get to trudge through snow again… hoping to get some thicker robes before then.

I’ve been thinking about all the good places we have now, and it seems like a good idea would be to spend some time in each.  So, if possible, I’ll be setting up some kind of rotating schedule, where I’m based in Canada most of the year and travel to Asia during the winter months.  I wouldn’t need to worry about extended visas then, just spend a couple months a year in Thailand and the same in Sri Lanka.

The reasoning is that, while neither country has been overly helpful with visas or monastic affairs, both have been very welcoming as a teacher.  The hope is that Canada will provide the freedom to set up a base, and the other countries can be used for scheduled retreats, where students can join at set times of the year.

sirimangalo.org needs some restructuring, hopefully that can be done in Canada.  Sorry if the info right now is confusing or incomplete.

We’re going to make some effort to decide on a place to set up a base in Ontario.  We’ve been talking here about whether renting a house somewhere as a temporary monastery might be a good start.  There is also support to potentially buy a small piece of land somewhere if we can find a suitable place… if anyone has any connections or suggestions in this matter, please get in touch.

Eva’s here with her daughter, a beautiful little girl of four who was in her womb when last she came to practice with me. Ajaan says she has potential.  She’s already doing walking and sitting with her mother.

Going to the forest on 26th.  Maybe taking some monks along, and someone from USA joining us.  Back to Bangkok around Jan 15, then off to Canada before 23rd.

Been spending the last month practicing and being with my teacher… helping with reporting, eating my one meal with him, etc.  Just like old times.  Been quite refreshing, but still tired more than usual.  Surely subzero temperatures will help wake me up.

That’s about it… still a bunch of videos to  publish on YouTube from SL, look for them over the next weeks.  Oh, and someone recently alerted me to the fact that I now have 10,000 subscribers on YouTube… that’s pretty wow.  Guess that’s a reason to keep making videos. 

Otherwise, more when travel plans, etc. are settled.

Peace to all.

Help Wanted

Tonight is the time for our regularly scheduled Q&A session on YouTube. Not happening. No particular reason comes to mind, but that the impetus to broadcast has disappeared from the mind.

Some interesting thoughts; first, about deciding on a place to live… is Sri Lanka the right place? Really like it here, no question about that, but not so sure it will be the right place to continue. It all has to do with other people, really; if it were just me, there would be no need to even think about moving. But in order to accommodate others, I need to be stable myself; here, as in Thailand, there seems to be no budging on the don’t-let-the-foreign-monk-run-the-monastery issue. Maybe that’s not even the problem; to really do this sort of work, I’m thinking a native passport would be necessary. There are many problems that can’t be tackled by a visitor – I can’t sign for people’s visas, for one, and I can’t get beyond the slightest bit out of line without fear that someone is going to decline to help extend my visa (think ordaining women, e.g.).

Another thought is about spreading the dhamma; asking myself what it would take to dispel the apathy that has taken over in that regard. Maybe it will pass, but it’s not even so interesting to write blog posts anymore…

Makes me think I need help 🙂 no, not so much mental as physical.

The first step in starting a Buddhist community is of course locating a place. I have the great fortune to have two monasteries at my disposal, one in Thailand and one in Sri Lanka. I have the great misfortune of being neither Thai or Sri Lankan. In non-Buddhist countries this wouldn’t really be a problem, but in Buddhist countries it makes me ineligible to run a monastery, provide visas for students, etc.

Wondering if there is anyone out there in say Ontario, Canada who would like to help set up a monastery on my home turf… wondering if there’s anyone out there in any non-Buddhist country with those sort of intentions. Sad in a funny kind of way how impossible it is to do Buddhist work in Buddhist countries. Not fully formed are these ideas. I’ve always thought about moving to a non-Buddhist country; we almost started a place in California after all… but now with the online community, I wonder if we could actually pull it off without relying on cultural Buddhists to support and control it?

Which brings me to another thought, that physical help has to be physical. Our online community is great, a real encouragement that there are good people out there interested in the same things I am. But it’s missing the physical. That’s what the online hangouts were supposed to add, but they didn’t really, not from my point-of-view. See, I still remember Doi Suthep, where we had ten to fifteen meditators from ten to fifteen different countries in intensive meditation practice every day. There is a real energy in such a setup.

What I think I need is a team. A group of people who are “here”, where ever that winds up being. So, besides seeking out ideas on a place to build a community, I’m looking for a community.

See, what I’ve noticed is that applicants for ordination tend to think of ordaining as just constant meditation with a little bit of study. So, they try that for a bit and find it so overwhelming they disrobe (or change their minds before ordaining) and leave. So, I’m not looking for people who want to run away from the world by ordaining, I’m looking for people who want to live. I don’t know how to better put it, but what I mean is people who are dedicated to meditation but as a means of understanding life… their life, not some hermit on a mountain’s life. People with skills, brains, brawn, whatever, who want to learn how to use their talents mindfully, not run away from them and pretend to be a saint.

It would be really nice to have a camera person, silly enough as it sounds. Because videos are a great way to spread dhamma, as we’ve seen, but it’s so silly having to set it all up to record yourself. We could use people who have knowledge about construction and computers, budgeting and scheduling; heck, whatever you are, the point is to take you as you are and put your life to good use. Maybe you think your life is being put to good use already; such people need not apply! For those of you who think, like I thought many years ago, that you are wasting your life, or not living up to your potential, come, make a career choice you won’t regret!

You see? The idea is to find people who want to really live their lives as Buddhists, not run away and hide in a forest for a while before deciding it’s just too extreme. I think the best way to approach ordaining is to take it as a means to learn about who you are, not to become someone else. It would be nice to find people who want to ordain with such an approach, but ordination is not really necessary, depending on where this all winds up happening… if it happens.

One thing that has become pointedly clear is that if you don’t do something, there is no reason to think it will happen. More specifically, life isn’t a Hollywood movie. There is no happily ever after waiting at the end – it might turn out like a Shakespearean tragedy… life often does. I can’t say that Sirimangalo International is going to be a great organization, worthy of my teacher’s namesake, but that seems no reason to be afraid to try.

So, come, let’s try something new. The worst outcome will be death; but it’s the only inevitability you’ll have to face – non-profits don’t pay taxes, after all.

I’m opening up two new forum threads to see who is interested, even just to offer thoughts, suggestions, etc. The first is on where to start:

http://forum.sirimangalo.org/topic/where-to-start/

The second is on who wants to help:

http://forum.sirimangalo.org/topic/who-wants-to-help/

Join the conversation… if nothing comes of it, no worries 🙂 life is good, all is well, I’m really happy living a life of relative indolence these days. Indolence doesn’t seem so bad when no one is asking you to do anything 🙂

Peace to all.

org. site cleanup

Hi all,

I’ve merged the “info” and “home” pages, re-arranged the the pages from random order to Home->How it works-> Donations->Budget->Volunteers->News. I have also added a separate hosting section in the budget page. Hopefully this makes the site more readable. Your feedback is welcome!

Best,
Peter

April update

Hi guys,

Just wanted to let you all know that we have now gotten the grant approved for the Ekayana Magga Aranya, and the final steps in the administrational side of things are done – at least the part I can comment on, I know we have other hard working people, kudos to you as well 🙂

If you don’t know what I am talking about, just head over to the Org.Sirimangalo.Org page and check it out.

I thought it would be good to formally let you all know (this is formally), since the last post was only making clear that the process had begun. This essentially means, all is good and we can feel happy that ven. Bhante, Ayya, meditators and the monastery are supported by the goodness of the quite wonderful thing this organization/community has turned into.

Thanks to everyone for the continued interest and support, may you all find peace, happiness and freedom from suffering.

Meta
Simon

Out With The Old, In With… More Of The Old?

The more things change, the more they stay the same, so the saying goes.  Worth keeping in mind; in the world of sankhara, the new is ever as the old.  On the other hand, this is what Buddhism attempts to address, in a sense; we strive for the unattained, a goal of extreme profundity, given the incalculable span and diversity of our existence.

In this sense, true change is to be welcome; more of the same would be just more samsara.

Much is changing here in new ways.  But first, some sad news; Nagasena is no more.  Maybe one day he will rise from the ashes with a new name and new robes, but the fire there is out now. It was a long time coming, but he disrobed on Monday, with the idea of finding greener pastures elsewhere.  May he find contentment.

So much for the old.  New news, though, is in the many people who have come together from around the world to work together on our organization.  I just want to say thanks and let it be known the burden-sharing is much appreciated, and will allow me to dedicate more time to teaching and less to administrating. 

This feels like something truly new, a system in place that will run itself and support a global teaching platform with sirimangalo.org as its base.  The potential for goodness is immense; may it come to fruition!

More new, we will replace a disenfranchised male novice with a super gung-ho female novice – Sumedha will always stick in my mind as the only one brave enough to complete our meditation on the roof during a lightning storm.  Today finished her all-night meditation for a second night, and said she hasn’t showered in a week.  Hardcore.

It’s new enough to ordain a male novice, but a female one?  I can hear the criticism already; I’ve heard it many times before.  What started with accusations when the first woman yogi came here to meditate (it was said we were sleeping together in the caves – true enough, her in one, me in another) may easily escalate into a full-scale scandal.

Never being one for prudence, however, I’m focused on the greatness of ordaining people who are keen for it.  The trip with Nagasena, though, has made me pause a bit, and we’ve agreed to make things a little clearer with Sumedha, like if we ordain you and get you a long-term visa, we do expect you to stay ordained and, yes, practice according to our teachings.

The moment I arrived in Sri Lanka marked a new chapter in my life; it gave me the hope that maybe I could find a culture that would accept me and which I would find acceptable.  After all the trouble with the aristocratic Thai and American cowboy cultures, I was truly in doubt.  Now, with everything coming together and very little standing in the way (save the unknown future), it’s hard not to feel some encouragement that maybe, just maybe, something new will be born from this samsaric mass of all that is old and rehashed.

On that note, a double haiku (a haitwo) to make up for missing last week’s:

old, tired, broken
clinging in desperation
mind makes new the old
bright, shiny and new
out of the ordinary
mind that clings no more