Cover

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Title

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pp. ii-iv

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Abstract

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p. v

This book explores the experience of Canadians who chose to convert to Buddhism and to embrace its teachings and practices in their daily lives. It presents the life stories of eight Canadians who first encountered Buddhism between the late 1960s and the mid-1980s, and are now ordained or lay Buddhist teachers. In recent census records, over 350,000 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 ...

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Résumé

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pp. vi-viii

Ce livre porte sur les expériences vécues de Canadiens qui se sont convertis au bouddhisme et qui ont intégré ses enseignements et ses pratiques dans leurs vies quotidiennes. Il présente les récits de vie de huit Canadiens qui, après avoir rencontré le bouddhisme entre la fin des années 1960 et le milieu des années 1980, sont devenus des enseignants bouddhistes laïcs ou ordonnés. Selon les recensements récents, plus de 350 000 Canadiens se déclarent bouddhistes aujourd’hui. Ces personnes sont en grande majorité d’origine asiatique et pratiquaient cette religion avant leur arrivée au Canada, soit ...

Table of Contents

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pp. ix-xiv

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Acknowledgements

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pp. xv-xvi

I would like to start by thanking the many Buddhist practitioners I met while doing the research from which this book evolved, and especially those whose life stories are at the heart of the book. The many hours they devoted to our meetings and the information they gave me were invaluable. I must mention, in particular, Kelsang Drenpa and Louis Cormier, who agreed to read the sections on Buddhism and more specifically on Tibetan Vajrayaˉna Buddhism. Their comments were illuminating. All the thanks in the world would not suffice to express my appreciation to Paula Sousa for the tremendous work she has done ...

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Introduction

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pp. 1-17

Let’s admit it right from the start: this book is an experiment. Its main part consists of eight life stories of Canadians who converted to Buddhism and whose daily lives are largely shaped by the teachings and practice of this spirituality. Since these are first-hand accounts, they may be of some interest to experts on Buddhism in Canada and North America. However, this book was also written with a wider audience in mind, one whose members may have widely varying knowledge of Buddhism and its history in Canada. That is why the life stories are accompanied by ...

PART I – Contexts

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CHAPTER 1 – Buddhism: Origins, Diversification, Teachings and Practices

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pp. 18-52

Buddhism is not a revealed religion. It is not a religious doctrine or dogma based on the word of a god or a suprahuman entity revealed to humans in a sacred text. Even though, in all schools of Buddhism, the term “Buddha” refers to all past, present and future beings who have attained full awakening and omniscience, and even though such beings often refer to a reality that transcends the human...

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CHAPTER 2 – Buddhism in Canada: An Overview

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pp. 53-66

Even though publications on various aspects of Buddhism in Canada have become more common in recent years,1 and Buddhism has been present in Canada for over one hundred years, a detailed history has yet to be written for each region and the country as a whole. Despite this gap, it is generally agreed that there are at least two major phases in the history of Buddhism in Canada: the period preceding 1967 and the period after....

PART II – Life Stories

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Chapter 3 – Ajahn Viradhammo

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pp. 68-102

My parents were born in Latvia, but they fled the country in 1944, during the Second World War. After the war, they ended up in the American sector of Germany, where my brother and I were born, in a refugee situation. I was born in 1947 and my brother two years earlier. My parents were obviously looking for a place where they could start up again. Although they were passionately European, they...

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Chapter 4 – Jim Bedard

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pp. 103-148

I was born into a Catholic family and was taught to pray at an early age. That is a gift I’ll always be grateful for. My mother was the one who initiated the prayers in our family. I think if children are born into a very materialistic family, focused on material values, they don’t see that there is another dimension to reality and don’t open themselves to this possibility. For us, that was a given. We were taught about God and learned to pray. We were told that divine help is available and that there is more...

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Chapter 5 – Albert Low

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pp. 149-210

How did it all begin? Why did I embark upon a lifelong spiritual quest? The answer to those questions lies, to some extent, in my childhood and adolescence, when I already felt a deep dissatisfaction with life as it presented itself to me. I always had the feeling that there had to be more to life. That dissatisfaction can be explained in part by the circumstances in which I grew up. I was born in 1928, in Canning Town, a very poor district of London, England, located within the sound of St. Mary-le-Bow’s bells, which makes me a cockney. Canning Town was on the eastern boundary of the London County Council (LCC). I mention...

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Chapter 6 – Taigen Henderson

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pp. 221-238

You might say that I was introduced to Buddhism very early in my childhood. My father was a project manager and worked on aid projects in foreign countries. In 1954, when I was five, we went to Ceylon, which is now known as Sri Lanka. We lived in Colombo, on the edge of town. In the early fifties, it was fairly common for foreign-aid workers to live in a compound. There, they would find themselves in more familiar surroundings, but almost walled off from the society in which they lived. My parents...

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Chapter 7 – Zengetsu Myoˉkyoˉ

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pp. 239-272

I grew up in a large family in Aylmer, Quebec, a small town that was half French and half English, located near Ottawa. I had five sisters and one half-sister. It was quite a busy household. My grandmother was Anglican, and a couple of times, she took us, her granddaughters, to the Anglican church. For us, it was very different from the Presbyterian church my parents belonged to. My father, his brothers and my grandfather were all elders2 in Aylmer’s small Presbyterian church. This figured significantly in my upbringing. I had to go to church and Sunday school until I was fourteen. I often think...

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Chapter 8 – Louis Cormier

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pp. 273-324

I was born into an Acadian family in New Brunswick. My father served in the army during the Second World War and then in the Korean War. Upon his return, in 1952, he became a logger. My mother worked as a cleaning lady for a while and then stayed home to look after her children. At first, we lived in the woods, in a small unheated one-room log cabin that my father had built with the help of friends and some of my mother’s relatives. It was near the village of Collette, about an hour north of Moncton. We did not have running water, so we drew it from a stream. I recall it being very cold in the...

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Chapter 9 – Kelsang Drenpa

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pp. 325-366

My parents, my two older sisters and I were a close-knit middle-class family and, on the whole, my childhood was happy and peaceful. I was a quiet child with various interests; I loved reading, music, gymnastics and dance. A born leader, I liked to stage plays and Olympic games. I was also very drawn to animals and nature. In my early childhood, I dreamt of buying a forest and living on a mountain in the Himalayas. I remember having a tendency to observe others when I was about eight or so. Quite often, for example, while engrossed in an activity...

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Chapter 10 – Tsultrim Palmo

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pp. 367-395

I was an only child, but I can’t say that I was spoiled. I was only six when the Second World War broke out in 1939. My father was a career officer in the Polish army, and I saw him for the last time when he went to war; he died in battle. My mother and I were forced to leave our home twice: when the Germans invaded Poland, and when they fled the country and the Soviet occupation began. During the war years, we lived with seven or eight different families. I witnessed scenes of torture and..

Appendix

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pp. 395-404

Glossary

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pp. 405-446