Snow Lion: The Meditation Shop

Meditation Cushions & Meditation Essentials Since 1978

Mindfulness Meditation Classes in Toronto

Weekly Mindfulness Meditation drop-in classes are offered in Toronto. Teachings are secular-based but drawn from Buddhist meditation sources.

Mindfulness Meditation classes are offered by donation. Attend as you can. No registration necessary. Everyone is welcome.

For more information and location: torontomindfulnesscommunity.org.

Life is available only in the present. That is why we should walk in such a way that every step can bring us to the here and the now.

- Thich Nhat Hanh

Buddhism began in India about 2,500 years ago. Around the year 566 BC, a Prince named Siddhartha Gautama was born in the small kingdom of Kapilavastu. His father was King Suddhodana and his mother was Queen Maya.

Soon after Prince Siddhartha was born, wise men predicted that he would become either a great enlightened being or mighty king. When the father heard this, he was deeply disturbed., for he wanted his son to become only a great ruler. He told Queen Maya, "I will make life in the palace so pleasant that our son will never want to leave and he will stay and eventually become king."

At the age of sixteen, Prince Siddhartha married a beautiful princess, Yasodhara. The king built them three palaces, one for each season, and lavished them with luxuries. They passed their days in enjoyment and never thought about life outside the palace.

Siddhartha became disillusioned with palace life and wanted to see the outside world. Unbeknown to his father, he made four trips outside the palace and saw four things that changed his life. On the first three trips, he saw sickness, old age and death. He asked himself, "How can I enjoy a life of pleasure when there is so much suffering in the world?"

On his fourth trip, he saw a wandering monk who had given up everything he owned to seek an end to suffering. Siddhartha was moved by this monk and decided to follow the ascetic path.

Leaving his kingdom and loved ones behind, Siddhartha became a wandering monk. He cut off his hair to show that he had renounced the worldly lifestyle and called himself Gautama.. In his search for truth, he studied with the wisest teachers of his day. None of them knew how to end suffering, so he continued the search on his own.

For six years he practiced severe asceticism thinking this would lead him to enlightenment. He sat in meditation and ate only roots, leaves and fruit. At times he ate nothing. He could endure more hardships than anyone else, but this did not take him anywhere. He thought, "Neither my life of luxury in the palace nor my life as an ascetic in the forest is the way to freedom. Overdoing things can not lead to happiness. " He began to eat nourishing food again and regained his strength.

On a full-moon day in May, he sat under the Bodhi tree in deep meditation and said. "I will not leave this spot until I find an end to suffering." During the night, he struggled with many temptations. As the struggle ended, he realized the cause of suffering and how to remove it. He had gained the most supreme wisdom and understood things as they truly are. He became the Buddha, 'The Awakened One'. From then on, he was called Shakyamuni Buddha.

After his enlightenment, he went to the Deer Park near the holy city of Benares and shared his new understanding with five holy men. They understood immediately and became his disciples. This marked the beginning of the Buddhist community.

For the next forty-five years, the Buddha and his disciples went from place to place in India spreading the Dharma, his teachings. Wherever the Buddha went, he won the hearts of the people because he dealt with their true feelings. He advised them not to accept his words on blind faith, but to decide for themselves whether his teachings are right or wrong, then follow them. He encouraged everyone to have compassion for each other and develop their own virtue, "You need to do your own work, for I can teach only the way."

Shakyamuni Buddha died around 486 BC at the age of eighty. Although he has left the world, the spirit of his kindness and compassion remains.

The Buddha realized that that he was not the first to become a Buddha. "He said, There have been many Buddhas before me and will be many Buddhas in the future. All living beings have the Buddha nature and can become Buddhas." For this reason, he taught the way to Buddhahood.

The two main goals of Buddhism are getting to know ourselves and learning the wisdom teachings. To know who we are, we need to understand that we have two natures. One is called our ordinary nature, which is made up of unpleasant feelings such as fear, anger, and jealousy. The other is our true nature, the part of us that is pure, wise, and perfect. In Buddhism, it is called the Buddha nature. The only difference between us and the Buddha is that we have not awakened to our true nature.

1. Nothing is lost in the universe
The first truth is that nothing is lost in the universe. Matter turns into energy, energy turns into matter. A dead leaf turns into soil. A seed sprouts and becomes a new plant. Old solar systems disintegrate and turn into cosmic rays. We are born of our parents, our children are born of us.

We are the same as plants, as trees, as other people, as the rain that falls. We consist of that which is around us, we are the same as everything. If we destroy something around us, we destroy ourselves. If we cheat another, we cheat ourselves. Understanding this truth, the Buddha and his disciples never killed any animal.

2. Everything Changes
The second universal truth of the Buddha is that everything is continuously changing. Life is like a river flowing on and on, ever changing. Sometimes it flows slowly and sometimes swiftly. It is smooth and gentle in some places, but later on it snags and rocks crop up out of nowhere. As soon as we think we are safe, something unexpected happens.

Once dinosaurs, mammoths, and saber-toothed tigers roamed this earth. They all died out, yet this was not the end of life. Other life forms like smaller mammals appeared, and eventually humans, too. Now we can even see the Earth from space and understand the changes that have taken place on this planet. Our ideas about life also change. People once believed that the world was flat, but now we know that it is round.

3. Law of Cause and Effect
The third universal truth explained by the Buddha is that there is continuous changes due to the law of cause and effect. This is the same law of cause and effect found in every modern science textbook. In this way, science and Buddhism are alike.

The law of cause and effect is known as karma. . Our thoughts and actions determine the kind of life we can have. Every moment we create new karma by what we say, do, and think. If we understand this, we do not need to fear karma. It becomes our friend. It teaches us to create a bright future.

The Buddha said,
"The kind of seed sown
will produce that kind of fruit.
Those who do good will reap good results.
Those who do evil will reap evil results.
If you carefully plant a good seed,
You will joyfully gather good fruit."
- Dhammapada

Things are not always the way we want them to be, but we can learn to understand them. When we get sick, we go to a doctor and ask:

  • What's wrong with me?
  • Why am I sick?
  • What will cure me?
  • What do I have to do get well?

The Buddha is like a good doctor. First a good doctor diagnoses the illness. Next he finds out what has caused it. Then he decides what the cure is. Finally he prescribes the medicine or gives the treatment that will make the patient well again. This is like the Four Noble Truths.

The Four Noble Truths

  1. There is Suffering - Suffering is common to all.
  2. Cause of Suffering - We are the cause of our suffering.
  3. End of Suffering - Stop doing what causes suffering.
  4. Path to end Suffering - Everyone can be enlightened.

1. SUFFERING: Everyone suffers from these things

Birth - When we are born, we cry.
Sickness - When we are sick, we are miserable.
Old age - When old, we will have aches and pains and find it hard to get around.
Death - We feel deep sorrow when someone dies and most fear our own death.

Other things we suffer from are:

Being with those we dislike,
Being apart from those we love,
Not getting what we want.
Getting what we want and then worrying about losing it is also suffering

All kinds of problems and disappointments that are unavoidable.

The Buddha did not deny that there is happiness in life, but he pointed out it does not last forever. Eventually everyone meets with some kind of suffering.

He said:

"There is happiness in life,
happiness in friendship,
happiness of a family,
happiness in a healthy body and mind,
... but when one loses them, there is suffering."

- Dhammapada

2. THE CAUSE OF SUFFERING

The Buddha explained that people live in a sea of suffering because of ignorance and greed or attachment. They are ignorant of the law of karma and are greedy for the wrong kind of pleasures. They do things that are harmful to their bodies and peace of mind, so they cannot be satisfied or enjoy life.

For example, once children have had a taste of candy, they want more. When they can't have it, they get upset. Even if children get all the candy they want, they soon get tired of it and want something else. Although, they get a stomachache from eating too much candy, they still want more. The things people want most cause them the most suffering. Of course, there are basic things that all people should have, like adequate food, shelter, and clothing. Everyone deserves a good home, loving parents, and good friends. They should enjoy life and cherish their possessions without becoming greedy or attached to them.

3. THE END OF SUFFERING

To end suffering, one must cut off greed and ignorance. This means changing one's views and living in a more natural and peaceful way. It is like blowing out a candle. The flame of suffering is put out for good. Buddhists call the state in which all suffering is ended Nirvana. Nirvana is an everlasting state of great joy and peace. The Buddha said, "The extinction of desire is Nirvana." This is the ultimate goal in Buddhism. Everyone can realize it with the help of the Buddha's teachings. It can be experienced in this very life.

4. THE PATH TO END SUFFERING:

The path to end suffering is known as the NOBLE EIGHTFOLD PATH. It is also known as the MIDDLE WAY.

  1. I resolve not to kill, but to cherish all life.
  2. I resolve not take what is not given, but to respect the things of others.
  3. I resolve not engage in improper sexuality, but to lead a life of purity and self- restraint.
  4. I resolve not to lie, but to speak the truth.
  5. I resolve not to cause others to take substances that confuse the mind, nor to do so myself, but to keep my mind clear.
  6. I resolve not to speak of the faults of others, but to be understanding and sympathetic.
  7. I resolve not to praise myself and disparage others, but overcome my own shortcomings.
  8. I resolve not to withhold spiritual or material aid, but give them freely where needed.
  9. I resolve not to indulge in anger, but to exercise control.
  10. I resolve not to revile the Three Treasures-Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha-but to cherish and uphold them.

From: Lotus in the Fire: The healing Power of Zen. Written by: Jim Bedard

There are special ceremonies for taking refuge with the Three Refuges and the Ten Precepts. (For a Buddhist, taking refuge is the first step on the path to enlightenment. Even if enlightenment is not achieved in this life, one has a better chance to become enlightened in a future life.)