Joanne Broatch, the founding teacher of the Saskatoon Insight Meditation Community 18 years ago, died in Vancouver on Saturday, April 15. Joanne led Insight Meditation Retreats in Saskatoon annually for 10 years until the last one, which was held at Ancient Spirals in 2009.
Joanne had a full householder life before she became a dharma teacher. She raised five children as a single parent, was a high school teacher, and later, a writer and editor. Her householder experience gave her a no nonsense practical approach to her dharma teaching. She was introduced to Buddhism and meditation through the annual desert retreats led by Jack Kornfifield, who became her teacher and mentor. She travelled to the California desert to attend those retreats for many years before studying any dharma texts or books. That came later, after she had developed trust in the Buddha’s teachings through her own direct experience and understanding, and this she shared with her students.
She encouraged and supported our edgling Saskatoon Insight community from the time of the first retreat in a yoga studio in Saskatoon’s north end, through the many subsequent retreats in Queen’s House, a venue she enjoyed, a place her own parents had frequented when the family lived in Saskatoon in Joanne’s high school and university years. She had a deep appreciation of the prairies and prairie people. She worked graciously with the personnel of St. Peter’s Abbey, Prairie Ursuline Convent and Queen’s House. Her warmth and good humour and compassion made her and our community welcome.
She encouraged, and in fact insisted on, the importance of a regularly scheduled sitting group to support the deepening of Buddhist practice and the development of a community. She had a hands-on approach to be a guiding teacher. In a letter to the sangha in 2007 on the importance of retreats she said:
“The most important relationship in the Buddhist tradition is the symbiotic relationship between the members of the sangha, the sangha as a whole, and those who teach.
The Buddha’s first teaching, before he taught morality, was generosity and the sangha is where we practice it most consciously: in community with one another; in offering help and ideas; listening and giving attention in other ways; assisting at gatherings; supporting events, retreats and teachers.
Has there ever been any other religion, or organization that has lasted for over 2600 years without a head office, CEO or payroll? Well, this is it and you are it.”
Joanne was a friend and a guide in the early years of the Saskatoon Insight Meditation community. We were blessed by her teachings and presence, and are grateful that her legacy here continues to flourish and grow.