Giving Bodhi Meditation a Russian Voice
By Katya Razumova, Toronto
Varied Interests and Passions
I was born and raised in Moscow, Russia, and I graduated university as a linguist and an ESL teacher. In 1991, I immigrated to Toronto, Canada with my two small children and began working as a professional simultaneous interpreter and translator for many businesses, sports and ballet stars, hospitals and the government of Ontario. The highlight of my career was interpreting for one of the previous Premier of Ontario, Bob Rae, in several high-level meetings. In my spare time, I volunteered for the Russian Church, hospitals and immigrant population. After studying psychotherapy and beginning a practice in Toronto, I lived for eight years in the United States, where I worked as a social worker as well as at a variety of other jobs, while continuing to translate for major pharmaceutical companies and hospitals. I came back to Toronto in 2006 and have resumed my psychotherapy practice. I also run a translation business, in addition to heading up a classical music and opera agency and production company. My interests are many and include a passion for travel, opera, music, Nature and reading. But mostly I am interested in people, in their complexity. Living in multicultural Canada, I can satisfy all those interests. All I need is enough energy and this brings me to my newest adventure – Bodhi Meditation.
Bodhi Meditation’s Early Days in Toronto
I initially came to the Toronto Bodhi Meditation Center when it was tiny, in September 2011, after having been introduced to it by my old friend, talented TCM practitioner Dr. Wu. She had discovered it and found it interesting in its energy and healing aspects. Dr. Wu had shown me Bagua and I was intrigued enough to sign up for a Retreat. I attended mostly for spiritual reasons as I was always in search of a meaningful practice and spiritual guidance. I used to go to a Russian Orthodox Church, but eventually stopped because of what I thought was politics, and a certain negativity that distracted me from the more spiritual aspects. I have always read Buddhist literature and found its message appealing, but never thought about it as a way of practice for me, mostly reading about its philosophy and some meditation and mindfulness techniques. I have also visited a lot of Buddhist temples in Japan and China, and found them very peaceful and beautiful.
The Prayer That Is Prostration
At the beginning, since Bodhi was not introduced to me as a Buddhist practice and there was very limited English translation available, I could literally only feel with my heart that it was something that interested me. In practical terms, along with The Meditation of Greater Illumination, I was shown how to do prostration. Bodhi instructors explained that prostration is an exercise that could help my back and that it’s also great for managing the ego. I came to like practicing prostration as a very humble and serious way to pray, and noted that it is practiced in every tradition. In fact, only after learning this practice have I truly felt what it means to pray – effectively and in the right spirit. I also fell in love with the beautiful movements of Bagua as demonstrated to me at the Center, even though, despite my admiration for it, it was pretty hard to get it right and in my opinion I looked pretty funny performing it!
Greater Illumination in a Russian Voice
What probably gave me a deeper insight into Greater Illumination and the mystical aspect of the practice was the opportunity given to me by Anna (our first director, who was very nice to me but could only communicate by giving hugs, which she did generously) to translate it into Russian and record my own voice-over. I must add that unlike many people initially attracted to Bodhi Meditation for health reasons, I am a relatively happy and healthy person, but since I work as a psychotherapist with people who have various emotional problems, and I’ve also worked extensively as a medical interpreter and social worker with many sick people, I always look for ways to improve how I can be of service to others.
The turning point for me came when Master Nicolas of Vancouver Center came to Toronto to help open a new, larger Center. A friend translated only a few words from his teaching, but I got a sense of a deep spiritual connection to the practice through powerful chanting at the end of his talk. After, I was introduced to him and, despite his being super-tired, Master Nicolas talked to me for enough time to explain some things and make a passionate case for my coming to Vancouver to attend the Second and Third Level Retreats. He kept insisting, quite mysteriously, I thought, that even though I did not yet know it myself, I would be able to help a lot of people. I am very grateful now that so many people took time to talk to me, to see something special in me and to eventually bring me to Vancouver Center.
Turning Point in Vancouver
When I finally sat on a red cushion in Vancouver Center for the first time, I could immediately feel the energy in the room. Even before that, the authentic loving attention of many Bodhi Meditation volunteers had really touched me, as it does so many “Western” people. I had not felt this kind of atmosphere in any church or temple before. And after I heard the first teaching by Grandmaster JinBodhi, I was hooked – I felt right at home with his message. He was speaking about my problems, about my patients’ problems, and I could relate to his philosophy, humor and kindness.
By the time the vows ceremony came to pass I had no worries about becoming a disciple. In fact, the day of the ceremony felt like a birthday to me and I will never forget it. I think it is so rare and difficult in our day and age to find such a compassionate and powerful teacher. In the Christian Church, there were also enlightened people like him, called saints, but somehow in that tradition they are recognized mostly after they die. So to find an enlightened being who can actually teach and guide me is precious.
I also had a very interesting experience of a direct connection with Grandmaster JinBodhi. I was doing Bagua at the Medicine Buddha Hall of Vancouver Bodhi Meditation Center every morning at five a.m. It was so special, and I was lucky to be trained and nurtured by Kim, who I think is a treasure and who elevated my practice to new heights. His powerful prayers during closing exercises after practice are unforgettable. One morning while practicing Bagua around a tree, I literally found myself face to face with Grandmaster JinBodhi. I was not sure what to do, so I bowed respectfully and kept on practicing. Master started showing us the moves and it was very exciting to learn from him. Immediately a very kind lady, Betty Wei, appeared to help me with language interpretation. I was able to ask a question about energy and Master took my hand to feel my energy. That, in combination with eye contact with him, was very powerful, and a mystical teacher-disciple connection was definitely established. During that Second Level Retreat, I was really touched by the obvious compassion of the Master, the way he walks the talk, and leaves no doubt that practicing what he teaches will lead to the cultivation of my soul.
The healing methods we were taught, and our ability to start practicing them right away, were very impressive. It was very helpful to meet a lot of new friends, and many conversations with English-speaking Chinese practitioners taught me a lot. I was also able to record my Russian translation/voice-over in a professional studio with the Bodhi Meditation team – another profound experience, and source of dedicated and interesting people who have since become friends. The energy I was getting while practicing was such that I only needed to sleep for three or four hours at most, started fasting spontaneously and stayed vibrant during the long days. In fact, it was then that I started to feel what having various levels of energy in my body physically meant.
After I returned to Toronto, I started noticing my increased energy and improved intuition, as well as a new feeling of love toward everything. My patients commented that they benefited from my surprisingly deepened perception, and I feel that my heart is more open and compassionate. I can help people much more effectively. In fact, the desire to help is so strong that it is hard to contain. I’ve had several successful healing experiences during which I was able to alleviate my friends’ pain.
A New Teacher Steps Forward
In December of 2012, I spent the whole Christmas and New Year break at the Third Level Retreat. The experience has transformed me and opened another new dimension. The teachings by the Master and the senior teachers from various Centers were very inspiring, as was getting to know some of their personal stories. It was nice to reconnect with many fellow practitioners and meet the ones from around Asia. The discussions were serious and related to our everyday practice, how we can fit it into our lives, how to better connect to others and introduce the practice to new people, especially the ones from non-Asian backgrounds. The days were very long and everybody was sleep-deprived, but so refreshed and reenergized at the same time. The amazing thing to me is that despite being so different from the multitude of Chinese people present, despite my lack of Mandarin and other obstacles, I felt accepted and I totally “got” the Master’s message. By the end of the Retreat, I had stopped noticing any differences. Indeed, during Greater Illumination practices, I distinctly felt closely related to everybody in the Center – to everybody in the world.
As was predicted by my instructors, I’ve started teaching an English Bodhi Meditation class in Toronto, surprising myself more than anybody else. I want to acknowledge the help I’ve received from the well-established English/translation program in understanding the essence of the teachings and everything that goes on at Vancouver Center. Bodhi Meditation instructor Rita George has been absolutely instrumental in helping me with materials and coaching, leading me to try my hand at teaching.
I look forward to continuing to grow in the light of Grandmaster JinBodhi.