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Today marks our third year celebrating World Down Syndrome Day.

This year we saw the further need to advocacy groups to raise awareness for both individuals,
and families of those with Down Syndrome.  This year in Toronto we experienced issues with police officers mocking and making fun of individuals with this condition.  An online campaign raised close to 100,000 signatures petitioning against a Netflix comedy that makes fun of the word “retarded” and individuals with Tri 21.

This is the age of social awareness.  We experienced the #METOO movement, and social media campaigns showed the world that they have a stronger voice than ever.

Hopefully this strong voice of social awareness transcends to special needs groups such as those with Down Syndrome.  As we continue to stand for equality in moments where needed, we hope that at

at every step we can change at least one person’s view and perspective along the way.


This year we delivered a box of crayons to our daughter’s daycare for every child in her class.

On the box there is the message:

We are a box of crayons

Each of us unique

But when we get together

The picture is complete

We hope that this is a message that will resonate with a child as they grow, so that in future generations, those with special needs are looked at just like everyone else;

Because we are all different in this world, and we are all equals.

Happy World Down Syndrome Day

Kohai Otanez

Posted in Announcement, Newsletter

Simple Squat Exercises

Here are two great simple squat exercises. Videos courtesy of HealthFX Toronto.

Squat to Row Exercise:

Single Leg Squat to Row Exercise:

Posted in Health and Wellness, Newsletter

The Heart Sutra Will Change You Forever By Karl Brunnholzl Partt 4

The Epitome of Compassion

Why is it called the “Heart Sutra”? It has that name because it teaches the heart of the Mahayana, primarily in terms of the view. However, the basic motivation of the Mahayana is also implicitly contained in this sutra in the form of Avalokiteshvara, the great bodhisattva who is the embodiment of the loving-kindness and compassion of all buddhas. It is actually the only Prajnaparamita Sutra in which Avalokiteshvara appears at all, and in it he is even the main speaker. Thus, the Heart Sutra teaches emptiness through the epitome of compassion.

It is often said that, in a sense, emptiness is the heart of the Mahayana, but the heart of emptiness is compassion. The scriptures even use the phrase “emptiness with a heart of compassion.” It is crucial to never forget that. The main reason for Avalokitesvara’s presence here is to symbolize the aspect of compassion and to emphasize that we should not miss out on it. If we just read all the “nos” and then get hooked on the “no path” of “no self” and “no attainment,” it gets a little dreary or depressing and we may wonder, “Why are we doing this?” or “Why are we not doing this?” In fact, the heart essence of the Prajnaparamita teachings and the Mahayana is the union of emptiness and compassion.

The epitome of compassion

Reading with a Soft Heart

If we look at the larger Prajnaparamita Sutras, we see that they teach both aspects extensively. In addition to teaching about emptiness, they also speak about the path in great detail, such as how to cultivate loving-kindness and compassion, how to do certain meditations, and how to progress through the paths. They do not always say “no,” but also sometimes present things in a more positive light. Even the Heart Sutra, toward the end, comes up with a few phrases without “no.”

Without developing a soft heart and compassion, which like water softens our mental rigidity, there is a danger that the teachings on emptiness can make our hearts even harder. If we think we understand emptiness, but our compassion does not increase, or even lessens, we are on the wrong track. Therefore, for those of us who are Buddhists, it is good and necessary to give rise to compassion and bodhichitta before we study, recite, and contemplate this sutra. All others may connect with any spot of compassion that they can find in their hearts.

Soft Heart before Reading
Finding a soft heart before we read the sutras

Let Go and Relax

In yet another way, we could say that the Heart Sutra is an invitation to just let go and relax. We can replace all the words in this sutra that go with “no,” such as “no eye,” “no ear,” with all our problems, such as “no depression,” “no fear,” “no unemployment,” “no war,” and so on. That might sound simplistic, but if we do that and actually make it into a contemplation on what all those things such as depression, fear, war, and economic crisis actually are, it can become very powerful, maybe even more powerful than the original words in the sutra.

Usually we are not that interested in, for example, our ears and whether they really exist or not, so with regard to contemplating what emptiness means, one of the basic principles of the Prajnaparamita Sutras is to make the examination as personal as possible. It is not about reciting some stereotypical formula or the Heart Sutra without ever getting to the core of our own clinging to real existence with regard to those phenomena to which we obviously do cling, or our own egoclinging.

Posted in Buddhism, Health and Wellness, Meditation, Newsletter, Niei Chi


Posted in Life Strategy, Meditation, Newsletter, Philosophy

Stephen Hawking, science’s brightest star, dies aged 76

The physicist and author of A Brief History of Time has died at his home in Cambridge. His children said: ‘We will miss him for ever’

His family released a statement in the early hours of Wednesday morning confirming his death at his home in Cambridge.

Hawking’s children, Lucy, Robert and Tim, said in a statement: “We are deeply saddened that our beloved father passed away today. He was a great scientist and an extraordinary man whose work and legacy will live on for many years. His courage and persistence with his brilliance and humour inspired people across the world.

“He once said: ‘It would not be much of a universe if it wasn’t home to the people you love.’ We will miss him for ever.”

For fellow scientists and loved ones, it was Hawking’s intuition and wicked sense of humour that marked him out as much as the fierce intellect that, coupled with his illness, came to symbolise the unbounded possibilities of the human mind.

Hawking was driven to Wagner, but not the bottle, when he was diagnosed with motor neurone disease in 1963 at the age of 21. Doctors expected him to live for only two more years. But Hawking had a form of the disease that progressed more slowly than usual. He survived for more than half a century.

Hawking once estimated he worked only 1,000 hours during his three undergraduate years at Oxford. In his finals, he came borderline between a first- and second-class degree. Convinced that he was seen as a difficult student, he told his viva examiners that if they gave him a first he would move to Cambridge to pursue his PhD. Award a second and he threatened to stay. They opted for a first.

Those who live in the shadow of death are often those who live most. For Hawking, the early diagnosis of his terminal disease, and witnessing the death from leukaemia of a boy he knew in hospital, ignited a fresh sense of purpose. “Although there was a cloud hanging over my future, I found, to my surprise, that I was enjoying life in the present more than before. I began to make progress with my research,” he once said. Embarking on his career in earnest, he declared: “My goal is simple. It is a complete understanding of the universe, why it is as it is and why it exists at all.”

He began to use crutches in the 1960s, but long fought the use of a wheelchair. When he finally relented, he became notorious for his wild driving along the streets of Cambridge, not to mention the intentional running over of students’ toes and the occasional spin on the dance floor at college parties.

Hawking’s first major breakthrough came in 1970, when he and Roger Penroseapplied the mathematics of black holes to the universe and showed that a singularity, a region of infinite curvature in spacetime, lay in our distant past: the point from which came the big bang.

Penrose found he was able to talk with Hawking even as the latter’s speech failed. Hawking, he said, had an absolute determination not to let anything get in his way. “He thought he didn’t have long to live, and he really wanted to get as much as he could done at that time.”

In 1974 Hawking drew on quantum theory to declare that black holes should emit heat and eventually pop out of existence. For normal-sized black holes, the process is extremely slow, but miniature black holes would release heat at a spectacular rate, eventually exploding with the energy of a million one-megaton hydrogen bombs.

His proposal that black holes radiate heat stirred up one of the most passionate debates in modern cosmology. Hawking argued that if a black hole could evaporate, all the information that fell inside over its lifetime would be lost forever. It contradicted one of the most basic laws of quantum mechanics, and plenty of physicists disagreed. Hawking came round to believing the more common, if no less baffling, explanation that information is stored at a black hole’s event horizon, and encoded back into radiation as the black hole radiates.

Marika Taylor, a former student of Hawking’s and now professor of theoretical physics at Southampton University, remembers how Hawking announced his U-turn on the information paradox to his students. He was discussing their work with them in the pub when Taylor noticed he was turning his speech synthesiser up to the max. “I’m coming out!” he bellowed. The whole pub turned around and looked at the group before Hawking turned the volume down and clarified the statement: “I’m coming out and admitting that maybe information loss doesn’t occur.” He had, Taylor said, “a wicked sense of humour.”

Hawking’s run of radical discoveries led to his election in 1974 to the Royal Society at the young age of 32. Five years later, he became the Lucasian professor of mathematics at Cambridge, arguably Britain’s most distinguished chair, and a post formerly held by Isaac Newton, Charles Babbage and Paul Dirac, one of the founding fathers of quantum mechanics.

Hawking’s seminal contributions continued through the 1980s. The theory of cosmic inflation holds that the fledgling universe went through a period of terrific expansion. In 1982, Hawking was among the first to show how quantum fluctuations – tiny variations in the distribution of matter – might give rise through inflation to the spread of galaxies in the universe. In these tiny ripples lay the seeds of stars, planets and life as we know it.

But it was A Brief History of Time that rocketed Hawking to stardom. Published for the first time in 1988, the title made the Guinness Book of Records after it stayed on the Sunday Times bestsellers list for an unprecedented 237 weeks. It sold 10m copies and was translated into 40 different languages. Nevertheless, wags called it the greatest unread book in history.

Stephen Hawking’s big ideas … made simple

Hawking married his college sweetheart, Jane Wilde, in 1965, two years after his diagnosis. She first set eyes on him in 1962, lolloping down the street in St Albans, his face down, covered by an unruly mass of brown hair. A friend warned her she was marrying into “a mad, mad family”. With all the innocence of her 21 years, she trusted that Stephen would cherish her, she wrote in her 2013 book, Travelling to Infinity: My Life With Stephen.

In 1985, during a trip to Cern, Hawking was taken to hospital with an infection. He was so ill that doctors asked Jane if they should withdraw life support. She refused, and Hawking was flown back to Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge for a lifesaving tracheotomy. The operation saved his life but destroyed his voice. The couple had three children, but the marriage broke down in 1991. Hawking’s progressive condition, his demands on Jane, and his refusal to discuss his illness, were destructive forces the relationship could not endure, she said. Jane wrote of him being “a child possessed of a massive and fractious ego,” and how husband and wife became “master” and “slave”.

Four years later, Hawking married Elaine Mason, one of the nurses employed to give him round-the-clock care. The marriage lasted 11 years, during which Cambridgeshire police investigated a series of alleged assaults on Hawking. The physicist denied that Elaine was involved, and refused to cooperate with police, who dropped the investigation.

Hawking was not, perhaps, the greatest physicist of his time, but in cosmology he was a towering figure. There is no perfect proxy for scientific worth, but Hawking won the Albert Einstein award, the Wolf prize, the Copley medal, and the Fundamental Physics prize. The Nobel prize, however, eluded him.

He was fond of scientific wagers, despite a knack for losing them. In 1975, he bet the US physicist Kip Thorne a subscription to Penthouse that the cosmic x-ray source Cygnus X-1 was not a black hole. He lost in 1990. In 1997, Hawking and Thorne bet John Preskill an encyclopaedia that information must be lost in black holes. Hawking conceded in 2004. In 2012, Hawking lost $100 to Gordon Kane for betting that the Higgs boson would not be discovered.

He lectured at the White House during the Clinton administration – his oblique references to the Monica Lewinsky episode were evidently lost on those who screened his speech – and returned in 2009 to receive the presidential medal of freedom from Barack Obama. His life was played out in biographies and documentaries, most recently The Theory of Everything, in which Eddie Redmayne played him. He appeared on The Simpsons and played poker with Einstein and Newton on Star Trek: The Next Generation. He delivered gorgeous put-downs on The Big Bang Theory. “What do Sheldon Cooper and a black hole have in common?” Hawking asked the fictional Caltech physicist whose IQ comfortably outstrips his social skills. After a pause, the answer came: “They both suck.”

Hawking has argued that for humanity to survive it must spread out into space, and has warned against the worst applications of artificial intelligence, including autonomous weapons.

Hawking was happy to court controversy and was accused of being sexist and misogynist. He turned up at Stringfellows lap dancing club in 2003, and years later declared women “a complete mystery”. In 2013, he boycotted a major conference in Israel on the advice of Palestinian academics.

Some of his most outspoken comments offended the religious. In his 2010 book, Grand Design, he declared that God was not needed to set the universe going, and in an interview with the Guardian a year later, dismissed the comforts of religious belief.

“I regard the brain as a computer which will stop working when its components fail,” he said. “There is no heaven or afterlife for broken-down computers; that is a fairy story for people afraid of the dark.”

He spoke also of death, an eventuality that sat on a more distant horizon than doctors thought. “I’m not afraid of death, but I’m in no hurry to die,” he said. “I have so much I want to do first.”

What astounded those around him was how much he did achieve. He leaves his three children, from his first marriage to Jane Wilde, and three grandchildren.

Posted in Announcement, Newsletter, Philosophy, Science

Who Was Buddha?

Introduction to Buddhism
by Geshe Kelsang Geasto

Posted in Audio, Buddhism, History, Mediation Resources (Web), Meditation, Newsletter, Niei Chi, Philosophy, Philosophy (menu)

Grading Results – March 15, 2018

CMAC-Crest-Hi-Res-whitebg - Classical Martial Arts Centre - Toronto Central Region

Karate-Do: Adult

1st Kyu
Derek Ketelaars
J. Carlos Renderos
Lou Piccioni
Greg Baldwin (E)

5th Kyu
Anna Alchoujian
Danilo Peres
Shannon Pole (S)

Karate-Do: Youth

1st Kyu
Malcolm Hamilton
Benjamin Boritz (S)

5th Kyu
Bianca Disca

Karate-Do: Children

5th Kyu
Abdullah Bawazir
Daniela Sevilla
Georgia Wallace
Ivy Wallace

Outstanding Performances:

Malcolm Hamilton
Benjamin Boritz (S)

We expect through diligent study, training and application, there will be further progress in the future.

Posted in Announcement

Do Not Regret Getting Older


Posted in Health, Health and Wellness, Life Strategy, Newsletter, Philosophy

Hanshi’s Note

Zen and the art of non-attachment.

This is a concept highly misunderstood and I think worth reviewing at this moment in time to help everyone with the daily chaos we all encounter. Everyone has been observing and dealing with erratic behaviours in people lately at work, home, while driving, etc.; people’s attitudes and emotions are up and down, all over the place…like the weather.

There are many factors contributing to these mood swings but the bottom line is you do not want to become the beast you defend yourself against, you do not want to get caught up in others hang-ups. You do not want to waste energy trying to make sense of others non-sense. This is where the concept of non-attachment comes in. We live in the third dimension and there will always be a physical component, biological or otherwise; in actuality, we will have a physicality all the way up to and through the fifth and sixth dimension, it will be in the seventh where light and sound forms totally take over. Non-attachment in the Zen perspective means to let go; when you go through a bad experience do not attach your self to the negative aspect. Learn the lesson gain the insight and power on without the negative emotional experience.

Happiness is truly the degree with which one controls their life and this means what’s happening with your mind and emotions. Believe it or not there is a battle in this reality to control what you think and feel. Budo trains one to take back control of these aspects then direct the spirit to express the truth of self and see the truth of reality. The goal of life is to live in agreement with nature. Act in accordance with circumstances; if your will power is not working then use your won’t power ie: release attachment to any negatives, do not allow them to hold you back and get on with the task at hand. This is mastery of self then you can move on to mastering the reality you want to manifest. First heal the self then manifest. Train to be at your best and bless the rest.

Let your light show the way and the dark show your stars. Make your mark in reality by hitting it with a clear mind and cultivated spirit free from being attached to any thoughts or emotions that are non productive. When the going gets tough the tough get creative. To really see, move the C in reacting to the front of the line so you are creating!

Hanshi Platt

Posted in Life Strategy, Meditation Resources, Newsletter, Niei Chi, Note from Hanshi Platt, Philosophy, Zen Story

Qi Gong and Meditation Seminar

Posted in Announcement, Buddhism, Health and Wellness, Life Strategy, Meditation, Newsletter, Philosophy
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