Critical Dharma for Thinking Minds
The small city of Halifax is blessed with a rich variety of Buddhist practice lineages and traditions. Even in my short time here, I have been able to learn and practice Buddhism in several different lineages. I had a year of intensive practice at the Shambhala Centre, a second year of study at Nalandabodhi, and a third year of practice and study with Atlantic Theravada Buddhists. Because ATB is sharing it’s new temple space with Zen Nova Scotia. I have also had a chance to become acquainted with Zen practice, although I am certainly not schooled in the study of Japanese Zen. Atlantic Soto Zen uses space at the Dalhousie Mulitifatith Centre for their practice. Our city is also graced with the Chan Buddhist Association, Eastern Land Buddhist Association, a Pure Land community, and Water and Waves, in Tich Nhat Hanh’s tradition. There are at least four Tibetan sanghas in Halifax: Shambhala, Nalandabodhi, Siddartha’s Intent, and Karma Kagyu. And there are many other small Buddhist communities around the Atlantic region.
So it came to mind, as I was planning to go back to Massachusetts to visit my family for a couple of weeks, to look into attending a program at the Barre Center for Buddhist Studies in Barre, Massachusetts. The Barre Center was founded in 1976 as a retreat centre for the Insight Meditation Society. Although it was founded in the Theravada and Insight Meditation tradition, it has evolved into a multi-lineage study and practice centre that hosts teachers from all Buddhist traditions. Teachers from all over the world come to this tiny village in the woods of central Massachusetts to teach and train practitioners in wide range of practice traditions.
What I like about the Barre Center is that there is no one prescribed path for its members. It’s an open centre that offers a wide range of courses and retreats in all lineages, traditional and contemporary. You can choose whatever courses or retreats you would like to attend, and craft and individualized path of spiritual development for yourself.
Someday I would like to see a similar multi-lineage centre in Halifax. It would be a place where all the rich diversity of Buddhist dharma and practice would be offered, drawing on all the teachers and practitioners in the area. This great diversity is a huge and untapped resource for Buddhist practice in Atlantic Canada. Sometimes Buddhist practice in Halifax has a kind of “rabbit warren” feel: each group is nestled in its own space, with its own members, competing for membership with each other. Instead, I would like to see practitioners in Halifax come together across lineage and tradition, and share with each other our incredible richness. It would be something like a Atlantic Institute for Buddhist Studies. Perhaps it could be developed at Saint Mary’s University Religious studies program, through its association with the Atlantic School of Theology. Or it could be developed as an independent institute.
We could develop a much richer environment of practice and study for everyone if we joined together to establish a multi-lineage centre for Buddhist studies in Halifax. Someday, maybe, when we’re ready to make those connections, this vision will become a reality.
Ambedkar Society of Halifax