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August 18, 2008

Why I Love the Olympics

I have to admit that I have been glued to the TV in recent days watching the Olympics. I never realised before that I could care so much about cycling, gymnastics, or even sailing. The viewing experience has been sweetened by the fact that Team GB (Great Britain) has been winning many more medals than usual. My near obsession with the Olympics made me wonder why it is that I love sport so intensely. What is about watching someone run 26 miles in just over two hours or 100 metres in less than ten seconds (9.69 seconds in the case of Usain Bolt, the Jamaican gold medallist) that is so compelling? Is it vicarious exercise, enabling me to justify not bothering to keep fit? Or is it just a distraction, allowing me to live through the dreams and successes of others and so neglect my own aspirations? More »
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August 14, 2008

Notable Documentary: The Sacred Sites of the Dalai Lamas

I recently had the chance to see the documentary movie The Sacred Sites of the Dalai Lamas: A Pilgrimage to the Oracle Lake. Directed by Michael Wiese, Sacred Sites follows a group of pilgrims on their journey to Lhamo Lhatso, the Tibetan lake of visions. The voyage is told from the point of view of Steve Dancz, a film score composer, who incidentally is also the narrator, cameraman, and music composer for the documentary. He is joined by his teacher and guide Glenn Mullin, and Bhutanese monk Khenpo Tashi. With Dancz providing the voice of the awe-inspired traveler, and Mullin and Khenpo Tashi offering insight, they make their way through Nepal and Tibet, visiting a variety of temples, stupas, monastaries, and caves along the way. More »
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August 14, 2008

Nicholas Kristof: After Olympics, Tibet

More cautious optimism on some kind of solution: The Chinese leadership and the Tibetan government in exile have delicately discussed a possible visit by the Dalai Lama to China, nominally to commemorate the victims of the earthquake in Sichuan Province in May. That would be the first meeting between the Dalai Lama and Chinese leaders in more than 50 years and would give enormous impetus to resolving the Tibet question. The opportunity arises in part because of the Dalai Lama’s public acknowledgement last week for the first time that he could accept Communist Party rule for Tibet. More »
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August 14, 2008

Ask Sylvia Boorstein and Ask Grgeory Kramer

Have a question for the Vipassana teachers Sylvia Boorstein or Gregory Kramer? Ask them here and here! More »
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August 13, 2008

Beijing Basks in Olympics as Dalai Lama Tours the Globe

His Holiness the Dalai Lama is now in France and of course was recently with John McCain, who surely needs some spiritual guidance. (Someone should make sure the Senator knows it's the Georgia with Tblisi, not Atlanta, that's involved.) The DL, incidentally, is McCain's senior, but not by much. The Dalai Lama fears for Tibet after the Olympics end and the world's attention wanders back from China to whatever else on the tube. More »
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August 13, 2008

London, Gate 6; Tokyo, Gate 11; Kushinagar, Gateless Gate

The Indian state of Uttar Pradesh wants an airport at Kushinagar to serve the "Buddhist circuit." Kushinagar is where the Buddha attained parinirvana. Wikipedia: As the scene of his death, [Kushiniagar] became one of the four holy places declared by the Buddha (in the Mahaparinibbana Sutta (ii. More »
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August 12, 2008

Opening Ceremonies

So maybe the Opening Ceremonies weren't all they seemed, what with the lip-syncing and "pre-recorded" fireworks. But it's hard to tell what's real in the era of Photoshop and other digital manipulators. More »
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August 12, 2008

Money, Sex, War, Karma

I am currently reading David Loy’s sensationally titled Money, Sex, War, Karma: Notes for a Buddhist Revolution. It is probably the most thought-provoking book on Buddhist themes that I have read for several years. MSWK comprises a series of fourteen essays that address major cultural, political, economic, and spiritual issues from a Buddhist perspective. The book is written in a direct, urgent, yet almost conversational style. Topics include money, time, Karma, sex, attention, ecology, food, and war. More »
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August 11, 2008

Police State 2.0?

Naomi Klein discusses how China used the Olympics as a chance to tighten security. Activists in China now find themselves under intense pressure, unable to function even at the limited levels they were able to a year ago. Internet cafes are filled with surveillance cameras, and surfing is carefully watched. At the offices of a labor rights group in Hong Kong, I met the well-known Chinese dissident Jun Tao. He had just fled the mainland in the face of persistent police harassment. After decades of fighting for democracy and human rights, he said the new surveillance technologies had made it "impossible to continue to function in China." Mikel Dunham on the question of Indian vs. Chinese influence in Nepal. More »
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August 11, 2008

Ten Thousand Mistakes

There’s little of Buddhist liturgy or ritual these days that I find indispensable. Still, I follow a daily pattern of chanting the Heart Sutra, a praise for Avalokiteshvara, the Three Refuges, and the Bodhisattva Vows, along with the traditional bowing and ringing of the gong. I couldn’t tell you why I continue to do so. I think I once had reasons but if so I’ve forgotten what the reasons were. I no longer ask why I’m doing any of this or feel any need to know. I just do what I was once taught to do—and none of it feels essential. It’s ironic that the one element of Buddhist liturgy that I do find indispensable is not among those I observe daily. I entered the path of Zen because I was weary of the hurt and pain I somehow managed to cause myself and others, and I thought that Zen might help me to cease from it. The truth is I felt guilty. Old wrongs of mine would rise up in memory, prior events of sometimes forty or fifty years earlier, and I would cringe at the recollection. It’s puzzling to me what sorts of memories come to haunt me in this way, seemingly minor lapses in kindness that might seem insignificant to others but somehow loom large among the things I wish I hadn’t done. More »
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August 10, 2008

By the half-light of burning republics

While the world watches the Beijing Olympics, Russian forces attack Stalin's hometown in Gerogia. More »
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August 08, 2008

8/8/08 arrives

As China defends its right to deny visas to "activists" such as former U.S. Olympian Joey Cheek, who has spoken out on Darfur, and a new generation of Tibetans challenges the Dalai Lama's stand vis a vis China, let's honor the memory of the 1988 Burma uprising, twenty years ago today. Plus, you'd never know it from the media coverage, but there are protests around the world today as the Games begin. More »
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August 07, 2008

Realpolitik from the Dalai Lama?

Nicholas Kristof: For the first time, the Dalai Lama is willing to state that he can accept the socialist system in Tibet under Communist Party rule. This is something that Beijing has always demanded, and, after long discussion, the Dalai Lama has agreed to do so. “The main thing is to preserve our culture, to preserve the character of Tibet,” the Dalai Lama told me. “That is what is most important, not politics.” The ball is now in China's court, indeed. But if the Olympics don't make them soften, what will? More »
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August 05, 2008

China seeks "absolute security" in Tibet for Olympics

A UN envoy, Tomas Ojea Quintana, is visiting the Irrawaddy delta in Burma to check on the conditions there. He also met with senior members of the State Sangha Organization but no details of the discussions were released. Meanwhile as expected China is intensifying its crackdown on Tibet as the Olympics loom closer. More »
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August 05, 2008

Professor Nimbus and the Mick

Michael Sloan's creation, Professor Nimbus, has a full count on Mickey Mantle. What kind of pitch do you think he'll throw next? More »
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August 05, 2008

Driver distracted by bee killed two girls

I was on the train to work last week when I looked over to see a girl reading a local newspaper. The article she was studying was headed, ‘Lorry driver “distracted by bee” killed two girls’. Intrigued by this, before stepping off the train I picked up the now discarded copy. According to the trucker’s story, he had become distracted by a bee in his cab and so had veered off course, ploughing into oncoming cars, and killing two young women. In the words of the judge, who presided over a trial for dangerous driving, ‘It is something that might happen to anyone’. The trucker was convicted of dangerous driving and sentenced to four years in prison. Yet his true sentence is life: he will have to live with the knowledge that his actions, no matter how unintended, resulted in the cutting short of two young lives. More »
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August 04, 2008

Meditation and Your Immune System; Erik Davis; Dukkha

The latest on meditation from research at UCLA: It may help your immune system. Danny Fisher interviews Cambodia scholar Erik Davis. And Wisdom Quarterly on Dukkha: Five Painful Facts. More »
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August 04, 2008

Nepal and China; 21awake

Mikel Dunham has a good piece on Nepal's brutal protest crackdowns, not suprisingly done at the request of China. And check out the cool new blog 21awake, with its awesome opening image of a security camera. The more security cameras we have, the safer we'll all feel. More »
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August 04, 2008

More on China's lack of press freedom; Salzberg; Solzhenitsyn

More on China's anxious mix of almost-freedom (for foreigners) and increased repression (for its own citizens.) A German rights-group criticizes the IOC for its role in the press restrictions. Sharon Salzberg has a new blog post at Huffington Post. And the literary giant Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn has died. From his Times obituary: He wrote that while an ordinary man was obliged “not to participate in lies,” artists had greater responsibilities. “It is within the power of writers and artists to do much more: to defeat the lie!” More »
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August 02, 2008

IOC intervenes to allow unfettered internet access for reporters

Just don't let any Chinese citizens near those censorship-free zones! Repressive governments always fear their citizens, and with good reason. More »