A Western Buddhist's Travels

Sightseeing & detours on the path of enlightenment

Archive for the tag “Canada”

Daily Prompt: Origin Story

Why did you start your blog? Is that still why you blog, or has your site gone in a different direction than you’d planned?

Photographers, artists, poets: show us BEGINNINGS.

Origin can be  defined as 1. The point at which something comes into existence or from which it derives or is derived. So lets take a trip down memory lane. I started the blog as a way of sharing ideas, posing questions, and hopefully solving a problem or two along the journey.

For those of you who have wondered why the Blog is titled A Western Buddhist’s Travels, and yet the site is keiththegreen.wordpress.com, well here’s the answer. If you look at my page, my tag line is “Sightseeing & detours on the path of enlightenment” so there’s the first clue. The blog was initially called Keith The Green’s Blog, as I definitely try to lead a low environmental impact lifestyle. However as I posted I realized that most of my decisions are based not on being green, but on not doing harm to other beings or the environment. Buddhism and environmentalism go hand in hand quite easily in daily life.

For those who haven’t read Sweet and Sour Cabbage Rolls, my about me page, let’s go back even further into the origin of this blog, before it was even conceived.  I grew up in Western Canada, in a household that mixed East and West. Asian and European, with in the British influenced culture of the 60’s and 70’s when Canada was still a largely homogeneous culture. Multiculturalism was beginning to sprout, the second-growth was just developing. There used to be a joke that to be considered a real town, instead of a village meant you had a Chinese restaurant in your town. Most Canadian cities had a Chinatown, some of which have survived, and others have vanished. Vancouver and Edmonton China-towns were a familiar place to me, growing up.

I was at the first Heritage Days festival in Edmonton 38 years ago this weekend. When the Province of Alberta declared the first Monday in August as a holiday to celebrate our heritage, and for two years a small festival was held at Fort Edmonton Park. Today with over 60 pavilions and over 80 ethnic groups, it draws over 350,000 visitors every year. You have a chance to see performances of singing, dancing, with the traditional clothing from each country. Plus you get to sample delights from every corner of the world. My parents taught me to respect all cultures and religions, while being proud of my heritage. I would always tell people about this great celebration, and encourage anyone to visit at least once. So if you are close enough to Edmonton, Alberta, Canada this weekend, make the trip. However I hereby absolve myself of any weight you gain from sampling the delicious delicacies offered. Admission is for the low price, of a voluntary donation to the food bank.

So you might say the origin of the blog started years before the internet, I just had to wait for the medium to catch up, so I could share the wonderful journey life is. So well the blog’s name has changed, and so does the content, the purpose, and goal has remained the same.

Edmonton Heritage Day’s Website 

For more Origins click below:

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2013/08/02/daily-prompt-beginnings/

Thinking outside the housing box!

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Cities around the world are struggling with growing populations of homeless individuals and families. Also there is a large number of couch surfers, and young people moving back home, after having lived independently. In some cultures the tradition was to remain at home until marriage, but even that has begun to change in many countries. The challenge is providing a place where these people can live that is affordable.

Affordable housing is not emergency shelters, hostels or rooming houses in most countries. What is affordable housing defined as, depends on the country, Canada and the USA commonly defines it, as housing that does not exceed 30% of a families gross income. Australia defines it as a minimum of a 20% discount to the prevailing market rate for the area, for lower or middle income earners. The United Kingdom defines it as those households whose needs are not met by the market. India sets the definition at 40% or less of the household income.

Here in Vancouver Canada and indeed most of the major cities of Western Canada affordability comes at a high price. In February 2012 the Burn’s Block was renovated into micro lofts, of approximately 226 square feet each, which is considered small here in Canada, they were quickly snapped up at a price of $850/month utilities included for furnished suites.  The median cost of a 1 bedroom apartment within Vancouver is $1350/month utilities not included.

At the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, BC Hydro showcased a home of the future with energy saving ideas and efficient design features. This inspired Atira a social housing society in Vancouver to think outside the box, in providing social housing at a cost of $82,000/unit for hard construction costs. This compares to $220,000 for just slightly larger units built by Atira in Vancouver, using more traditional methods. How did they keep the costs down, well they used standard shipping containers as the basis. Yup those ones you see around businesses, on trucks, trains and ships around the world as the building blocks. They have been used as site offices on construction sites for years, so it’s not that much of a stretch to imagine them as a shell for a house.

Could this be a way to help those in the lower income brackets of our societies have safe, affordable accommodation, time will tell, however it is a step forward.

For more information please visit the links below:

Story on the Burn’s Block

Containers as homes

Cost of living comparisons

Are your goals and ambitions leading to happiness?

Ask people what would make them happy, and depending on what the persons age is, and where  person lives you might get a different answer. Ask a child and they might say an ice cream on a hot summer day. The same child a few years later, playing in their first sports tournament, might say they want to win. Ask them when graduating from High School, and many might say a date for the prom. As a young adult with their post secondary degree, the answer would be a career that is challenging, and rewarding. When that person is getting into what they hope is a lifelong relationship, the list probably will have several goals, some of which will vanish when the first child arrives. A child has been born, and now some of the parents hopes and dreams are focused on the child, in many cultures it is what the child or even the grandchildren in that culture achieve that determines your success. Later in life, the goals may simply be to be free from the daily aches and pains, or they may include a bucket list that has to be filled.

As a Buddhist, when doing actions during the course of my day, I not only keep in mind my own aspirations, but also the benefit and welfare of others.  Rather than pray for something to happen, I have a firm and strong aspiration that a thing be accomplished. An initial wish, is reinforced with firm determination and a strong desire. Unlike a prayer or supplication, a wish has more the attributes we would find in meditation or contemplation. This causes the wish to become a desire, which permeates the mind, causing it to focus on accomplishing the goal.

Individually we can focus our minds to achieve happiness, but what about as a family, each person with their own desires? If the family has a common set of values to base their decisions on, then harmony is much easier to accomplish. It doesn’t matter if those core values are defined from following Islam, Christianity, Judaism, Sikhism, Buddhism, or any other path, as almost any of these have the same core values. The approaches are different, and we may not agree with the path another chooses, but we should respect their choice. As the Dalai Lama has stated:  “It is better to stick with the wisdom traditions of one’s own land than to run from them pursuing in exotica what was under your nose all the time.”

As we look a lager groups from the family, to our community, to our nation and finally our planet, happiness for all is more difficult to contemplate, and even more so to achieve. Yet, it is within the grasp of all of us, to achieve this ambitious goal. H.H. The 14th Dalai Lama, presented us with a way of looking at Buddhism, as consisting of three parts. In his view Buddhism can be divided into Buddhist science, Buddhist philosophy, and Buddhist religion. Of the three he says Buddhist religion is concern of Buddhists, while the science and philosophy portions can and should be shared with all. This with the view that wisdom can be found in all religions, as well as science, gives us a way of building on our common values and believes, while learning and adopting the best practices from other paths.

Look at the world today, and we see it becoming more fragmented. We see it defined as East and West, North and South, or first through third worlds. You have the generation gap, including Baby Boomers, Generation X, Generation Y to name a few. Yet unlike earlier times, we have larger houses, with smaller families, and fewer generations under the same roof becoming the norm. In the past the grandparents were a valued member of a household, helping with the running of the house, and acting as mentors to the children. Today in an ever increasing part of the world, the elderly are shuffled off to care homes, retirement villages, seniors lodges and other terms to describe the isolation from their offspring. Children are left with neighbors, and more commonly in day cares or after school care. Then we wonder why there is no continuity to the family.

Nations are preoccupied with the development of a larger Gross Domestic Product, or more commonly referred to as G.D.P. Companies move production and services to other jurisdictions within the same country or to another country to take advantage of lower wages, less government regulation, laxer environmental standards, all in the name of maintaining or preferably increasing the return to it’s shareholders. For a look at the role consumers play in this dance, check out my  29 April 2103 post. Sometimes companies use legal methods to lower their taxes, by locating an office in a jurisdiction with a lower tax rate, as recently confirmed in a Canadian court ruling. Alberta loses battle for 120 million in corporate taxes. It is more common to use off shore offices to carry this out.

Yet there are hopeful signs, like a star in the night sky. I will leave you with the words of a person who I have written about as someone I admire, David Suzuki and a post from the organization he helped found: Tiny Bhutan redefines progress.

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