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"On my part, I remain committed to the process of dialogue. It is my firm belief that dialogue and a willingness to look with honesty and clarity at the reality of Tibet can lead us to a viable solution."

Area Buddhists look forward to Dalai Lama's Toronto visit

October 18, 2010

The Record
October 16, 2010

WATERLOO, Canada — They sit cross-legged on
cushions on the floor, some in the lotus
position, with their eyes closed in silent mediation.

The only voice heard, amplified by a microphone,
is that of spiritual director Susan Child. She is
leading a Buddhist group session in which
participants are encouraged to understand their
minds through guided mediation. This eventually
leads to inner freedom and happiness, says Child.

A wooden mallet against a cast-iron bowl signals
the session. The first few moments of the
meditation focuses on feeling the body, from
breathing to sitting, and an awareness of one’s
body from the spine, stomach, shoulders to the face.

“Your mind will be distracted. There will be
idleness, sleepiness, but gently return to awareness to your body sitting,
your belly softening and relaxing, feeling your
body breathing,’’ she tells the 18 participants at the Waterloo Riverview
Dharma Centre on King Street South earlier this week.

The weekly course is about cultivating the mind
to find peace amidst the stresses of everyday life, says Child.

This is what the Buddha spoke about more than
2,500 years ago when he sat under a tree in deep
meditation and received enlightenment. His
teachings of understanding the mind have been
practiced for generations, beginning in the East
and today by millions in the West.

Next week, the spiritual leader most often
associated with Buddhism — the Dalai Lama — will speak in Toronto. He is
expected to address the material world we live in
and the basic human issues of suffering and how to strike a balance
between materialistic life and a spiritual life.

Child, along with some friends from Waterloo
Region, will attend the talk on Friday and his
teaching session on Saturday.“Just being in his
presence . . . He is playful, preaching kindness and love,’’ she said.

Child, who’s heard the Dalai Lama speak three
times, the last time when he visited Toronto in 2004, said “it will be a

blessing in itself to receive the direct transmission of his teaching.

“His wisdom is deep and his teachings rattle you to the core,’’ she said.

Child was born in Sudbury into a Catholic family.
Her mother died of breast cancer when she 14 and she soon left the


“My faith as a Catholic was not active, it was
not alive for me,’’ said the 58-year-old Waterloo woman.

In her 20s, she explored Islam, Hinduism and
other Christian faiths but it was Buddhism that
resonated with her. She was attracted by the
questions of suffering and why humans crave and
desire more than what they have.

Buddhism was particularly appealing to her
because it was free of dogma, no creator God and
it’s about direct experience for each individual who practices the faith.

She’s received teachings from a monastery in Sri
Lanka and participated in Buddhist retreats in France, England,
Massachusetts and California.

In 1999, she started the Waterloo Riverview
Dharma Centre out of her home, and then moved the
centre to Allen Street and since 2007 the centre
has been located above a storefront on King Street South.

Buddhism is about cultivating the mind, creating
awareness and being able to relate to an
experience of being a human being, says Child.
It’s not only a faith, but a philosophy, a way of
life to attain peace and happiness, she said.

“It gives us the tools to be more present, more
connected to others, to be more present in life,’’ said the former nurse

A central concept for Buddhists — regardless of
what form is practiced — is the four noble truths. The truths deal with
why human beings suffer, why they are not happy
with their lives and what is the cause of their feelings of dissatisfaction.

The Buddha’s teachings say that craving — also
known as attachment to desires — is where the root of suffering is found.

The Buddha spoke about craving — known as Tanha —
and how as human beings we are unaware of how we
are controlled by desire, Child said.

“We live with an underlying feeling of
dissatisfaction of life. This moment is not good
enough or I want more,’’ she said.

To understand the four noble truths, one must
understand the existence of suffering — also
known as dukkha, how it arises, how it can end
and understanding the path to extinction of
suffering. Because things are impermanent, always
changing, attachment to them is futile and leads to suffering.

Through mediation, one can develop the skills
over time to be free of pain, said Child.

“They are stored memory in the body and brain,’’
she said. “We develop skills to be with it (pain) and then let it go.’’

“I teach what the Buddhist taught that there is
freedom from suffering,’’ said Child, who
mediates daily each morning for about four hours,
a practitioner of the Theravada Buddhism.

According to Buddhist tradition, the Buddha lived
in northeastern India nearly 2,500 years ago. He
was born into a wealthy family but became
disillusioned with life and became an ascetic at
the age of 29, leaving his wife and son in about 534 BCE.

While mediating under a tree, he is said to have
attained enlightenment in which he achieved complete destruction of

ignorance and selfishness and could see his past lives.

He could have entered nirvana, a place of
indescribable bliss, but chose to stay in the
world and spread his teachings. He taught for 45 years and died at 80.

Today a temple marks the spot under the Bodhi
tree where Siddhartha Gautama Buddha attained his
awakening and became enlightened in Bodhgaya, India.

There are two major schools of Buddhism.
Theravada, known as “the way of the elders,” is
the more traditional branch of Buddhism which
emphasizes monasticism and attaining enlightenment through individual effort.

Mahayana, known as “the greater vehicle”
developed after Theravada. The Mahayana goal is
for a being to attain enlightenment, but to stay
in the cycle of rebirth to help all beings become
enlightened before entering nirvana.

Theravada is widespread in Sri Lanka and
Southeast Asia, whereas Mahayana is found
throughout East Asia, including China, Korea and Japan.

Stephanie Hong, director of the sub-chapter of
Buddha’s Light Centre, located upstairs at the
Lotus Tea House on Regina Street North in
Waterloo, follows the Mahayanan school of
Buddhism, what she describes as Humanist Buddhism
in which Buddhist teachings are shared with the community.

Hong, who came to Canada from Hong Kong in 1976,
grew up Catholic. She became a Buddhist after
moving to Waterloo and attending the Fo Guang Shan Temple of Toronto.

She’s also attended retreats in Los Angeles and
New York and has heard her teacher, the Venerable
Master Hsing Yun of Taiwan speak in Dallas last year.

Hong was attracted to Buddhism because of the sense of peace it brought to her.

“I began to understand how people feel and it
wasn’t just about myself,’’ she said.
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