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Contemplating meditation’s benefits

LEWISTON – Is it the soft lighting, incense and quiet background music, or does Burt Fatta instantly put strangers at ease with his quick smile and calming, radio-quality voice?

Either way, a step into Fatta’s comfortable “meditation center” in his Lewiston home is an invitation to find refuge in one’s busy life through the art of meditation.

Fatta said he’s been studying religion, philosophy and psychology for many years, which he believes has helped him aid others in finding their own paths in life. Beginning this afternoon, he will broaden his audience with a new cable television show, “The Art of Meditation,” which premieres at 4 on LCTV Channel 20. The first episode of the 10-part series will be repeated at 10:30 p.m. Monday.

“If this helps even a few people, that’s wonderful,” he said. “Mission accomplished.”

Eva Nicklas, artistic director for the Lewiston Council on the Arts, has known Fatta for years.

“Burt Fatta is very knowledgeable about the Zen Buddhism approach to life, and he teaches us how to quiet our minds and open our hearts through the practice of meditation,” Nicklas said. “He generously opens his home to ‘seekers’ who are looking for a more mindful way to live, and he teaches us how we can calm the thoughts that are constantly swirling around in our minds. It’s not an easy practice … but it’s simple.”

Fatta recently sat down for a wide-ranging chat about philosophy, religion and meditation.

How did you find Buddhism?

I was married at the time, and my wife had a very demanding job and was struggling, and I bought tapes to help her. I started to listen to them also and thought, “Gee, I like these.” I had always been interested in psychology. So I bought another tape and another. People were always quoting Buddha. I had always been a lover of wisdom. So I started buying books and studying Buddhism. I found I had always felt this way, and something clicked. I thought, “It’s me.’’ That all started in 1998.

How did you become an instructor?

In 2000, my wife and I split up, and I was feeling horrible, but something drew me to the Temple of Ten Thousand Buddhas (which is located in Niagara Falls, Ont., and can be seen from the Robert Moses Parkway). I met Sei Fu and sat and talked with him, and he was the kindest man I had ever known. I’d go there every Sunday, and this nice monk would sit and talk with me.

After a time, he said, “Would you like to be a Buddhist?” And I said I would be honored. He said, “Today is the day you take refuge,” which is very much like being confirmed in the Catholic Church, and your master gives you a name. He was so wonderful to me, and I felt so deeply honored.

He gave me the name “Wei bo.” It’s a Dharma name that gives you something to shoot for. “Wei bo” means “mind gold wood.” “Mind gold” is wisdom, and “wood” is for a wooden bowl. He said, “You are to become a bowl of wisdom.” He chose a wooden bowl, which is shapeable and common. I said, “That is a very good name.” And so that I didn’t get too big of a head over it, he said, “It’s a very small bowl. I am very endeared to him. Sei Fu is a title, and his name is Master Shan Quang, which means “bright mirror.”

Eventually, Sei Fu said to me, “Go out and teach.” It was time to do it, not just learn it.

How do you spread the word of meditation?

I’ll talk to anyone. I’ll talk to individuals or to groups, or I’ll do seminars. This is my time to give back because wonderful people helped me when I was floundering in the waters of philosophical confusion and at my lowest point. I do what I can to be of some service.

You are about to launch a new cable television show – how did that come about?

I was asked to do this. Eva Nicklas told me, “You ought to make this available to the public.” We filmed the show right here, and it was sponsored by Mangia Café, the Silo and Lovely Nails and LCTV – people who had vision. I call it “TV that’s good for you.” I think it will help inform people, but it’s also entertaining and can help people in the practice of meditation. It’s for beginners and for those who are more advanced. It’s for those who just want to be happier.

What’s the format?

On the first three shows, Dr. Bradley Kaye, who has a doctorate in philosophy, and I go back and forth and talk about meditating in a philosophical way. He was very kind to do this. He gave the show an intellectual credibility.

What is your definition of meditation?

It’s not what a lot of people think it is. It is being completely present at all times, 24 hours a day. You can sit on a cushion or chair or bench, as we do here, and meditate to a bell, but real meditation is when you get off of that cushion and know that when you get your buttons pushed, it’s your own judgments and thoughts that are pushing those buttons. True meditation is having your finger on the pulse of your life. It’s about becoming more mindful.

When your mind is focused, you are aware of everything going on around you and inside of you. You are in control of your life.

What’s a common misperception about meditation?

People will come to me and say, “I believe in this particular religion. Is it OK if I meditate?” I say, “Of course!” … This is not a religion. There are three basic tenets: First, do good; second, don’t do bad things; and third, keep your mind pure.

Every avatar that’s been born on this planet and founded a religion has said, “Do good things and love one another and be kind.”

That just sounds like good common sense … I think the majority of people are on the same page and know to love one another and not judge one another.

What are your future plans?

I would love to do a radio show someday where people could call in and talk ... I’m not looking for followers or to convert anybody. If people belong to a religion, to an “ism,” I say, just be a good one. If we’re all doing what we’re supposed to be doing, you shouldn’t be able to tell us apart.

Know a Niagara County resident who’d make an interesting question-and-answer column? Write to: Niagara Weekend Q&A, The Buffalo News, P.O. Box 100, Buffalo, NY 14240, or email:

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