December 22, 2013

Tricycle's Top 13 of 2013

A compilation of this year's heavy hitters

It was a good year. And to showcase just how good, we've put together the crème de la crème of Tricycle in 2013. From the story of how Tibetan Buddhism really came to America, to the hilarious ups and downs on the path to enlightenment, to HHDL as an angry Marxist, our list below (with clickable images!) has it all. This year, we also introducted Tricycle Original Shorts and featured 12 eclectic teachers in our online retreats. Let us know if we missed anything and what your favorites of 2013 were in the comments section. And Happy New Year!

From the magazine:

The Examined Life: The lessons of Zen monk and professor Seido Ray Ronci inspire the student in all of us

Tricycle Original Short: Timeless wisdom and martial arts from Shifu Shi Yan Ming, a 34th generation Shaolin monk transplanted to New York City

The Art of Being Wrong: Novelist Henry Shukman explains why being wrong can be the best thing that ever happened to us

A Question of Faith: Scientist Rupert Sheldrake questions the dogmas common to his profession

Context Matters: Warning: Don’t assume that Buddhism transcends cultural mores. An exclusive interview with Buddhist scholar David McMahan 

From Russia with Love: The Bourne Migrancy—the action-packed, politically fraught journey of how Tibetan Buddhism first came to America

A Life Too Long: One family's journey through the labyrinth of modern medicine's war on death

Okay As It Is, Okay As You Are: Zen teacher Merle Kodo Boyd recalls her journey from the segregated South to the meditation hall

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Enlightenement: A uniquely uproarious account of the agonies and ecstasies of quieting the mind

Sex in the Sangha... Again: Four accomplished Buddhist teachers discuss what exactly is causing sex scandals in the sangha and how external change must come from within

From the blog:

10 Misconceptions about Buddhism: You think you know, but you have no idea: the little-known truths behind the big ideas of Buddhism

We Are Not Kind Machines: Scholar, author, and meditation master Lama Jampa Thaye doses out a radical rejection of scientific Buddhism

The (Justifiably) Angry Marxist: The Dalai Lama speaks on the usefulness of anger and the resonance between Marxism and Buddhism, calling himself a Marxist

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CDAN1's picture

Re #10 : The Dalai Lama states unequivocally that Buddhism is the only path to Enlightenment? wow.
Flies in the face of what he is quoted as saying, "I always tell my Western friends that it is best to keep your own traditions. Changing religions is not easy and sometimes causes confusion. You must value your won tradition and honor your own religion." I have personally seen him speak 9 times I have seen him in many many webcasts. And his talks totally reflect this same view. My thoughts may be narrow, but lead me to only to conclude that if I read your viewpoint together with his quote that he wants to keep Buddhism rather elitist, which is not at all in keeping with his message. The Buddha is also credited with saying, "Believe nothing, no matter where you read it, who said it, no matter if I have said it, unless it agrees with your own reason and your own common sense." Dalai Lama also reflected this view in his talks that I have attended. You are Buddhist scholars. I am not. However, my own reason and 26 years of studying Buddhism, direct experiences, and common sense can only bring about a skeptical half smile from me. And, for me, discredits the entire article in areas where their perceptions of the other 9 misconceptions may indeed be accurate.

josiedixon's picture

i find this thread quite remarkable ... does anyone moderate these pages?

Joanna Piacenza's picture

We do. And we're happy to let the conversation ebb and flow as long as it remains tasteful.

Joanna Piacenza

Wisdom Moon's picture

Okay, I made my points; there's really no need to continue the discussion as it seems to be leading to more and more bitter comments and personal attacks. Thanks for reading and replying to my points, it's been an interesting discussion.

Happy New Year everyone!

Dolgyal's picture

Unfortunately you slipped up and posted on buddhism-controversy-blog as Lineageholder your alter-troll ego and the the exact same post moments later as Wisdom Moon, so we know for certain the two names are interchangeable. If you are so attached to multiple false identities that you believe they are real and compartmentalized, you perhaps would benefit from counseling.
All of those allegations you made that I cited are on public view on the NKT sponsored WSS Anti-Tibetan hate websites that you promote and participate in constantly. In any case I feel it is absurd to think one could make a personal attack on a false identity.

Danny's picture

The Dali Lama here makes a clear distinction between two types of anger. Things are rarely "black or white", Wisdom Moon, it's just not that simple.
There are also very clear and compatible lines to be drawn between Marxist dialectic thinking and Buddhist philosophy and practice. There is quite simply no way to separate our social formations and political practices from the constructed nature of self.
Even Pope Francis is critical of an "unfettered capitalist market", and in praise of many concepts in Marxist thought.
Your comment seriously brings into question your understanding of Marxism, and I would also suggest, Buddhism.

with metta

Wisdom Moon's picture

Hi Danny,

Things are very black and white when it comes to delusions. No Buddhist would ever justify or promote anger. What the Dalai Lama seems to be talking about is wrath which is as far away from anger as you can get. Wrathful actions are compassionate. Compassion and anger are opposites. Anger is destructive, compassion is constructive. These things are made very clear in Buddha's teachings.

Tenpel's picture

Maybe, Wisdom Moon, you are stuck a bit too much in terms.

Personally I would draw a distinction between anger and hate. Hate wishes to harm, anger is just upset about a thing. What is condemned by Buddhist scriptures is hate with the meaning, to wish to harm; and wishing to harm and wishing to protect from harm are mutually exclusive. The Dalai Lama doesn’t speak about hate nor does he justify hate.

If you read what the Dalai Lama says he is referring to what you explain as "wrathful actions" but he just uses different words:

"Here the issue is how to deal with anger. There are two types of anger. One type arises out of compassion; that kind of anger is useful. Anger that is motivated by compassion or a desire to correct social injustice, and does not seek to harm the other person, is a good anger that is worth having. For example, a good parent, out of concern for a child’s behavior, may use harsh words or even strike him. He may be angry, but there is no trace of any desire to hurt him.

"Japanese temples often enshrine the fierce manifestation of [the Buddhist deity] Acala. [Opens his mouth to make a face like an angry deity.] But Acala has that fierce expression not out of hatred or a desire to harm sentient beings, but out of concern for them, to correct their mistakes, like a parent’s desire to correct a child’s mistakes. As you rightly mentioned, anger brings more energy, more determination, more forceful action to correct injustice."

So what the Dalai Lama is referring to when he defines "good anger" is "Anger that is motivated by compassion or a desire to correct social injustice, and does not seek to harm the other person". If you follow this explanation it becomes clear that the Dalai Lama doesn’t justify anger in the sense of hate that wishes to harm but is referring to a "forceful action" motivated by compassion, a wish to protect from harm. In NKT you call these actions "wrathful actions".

So what seems to be confusing for you is the use of the term "anger" in that context. I can understand this confusion but it just comes from a clinging to words and not understanding their meanings in a certain context.

Wisdom Moon's picture

Where there is anger, there is blame, and where there is blame there is a wish to harm. In the Lorig presentation of mental factors there is no mention of hatred, just anger. This is defined as:

'A deluded mental factor that observes its contaminated object, exaggerates its bad qualities, considers it to be undesirable, and wishes to harm it.'

Hatred is more aligned with resentment which is mentioned. Both are harmful.

I think we need to be precise about the terminology, otherwise we allow ourself permission to develop delusions, thinking this is somehow useful. Shantideva says:

There is no evil greater than anger,
And no virtue greater than patience.

'Compassionate anger' is therefore a confusing term and refers to something that doesn't exist. It's like saying "cool fire"

Dominic Gomez's picture

Just curious, WM. How are you handling the anger you vent with your posts? You seem consumed by it.

Wisdom Moon's picture

So disagreement is imputed as anger now? It's impossible to disagree with something with valid reasons without being perceived as angry?

I guess that's how it is in our mixed-up internet world. I do get angry, of course, but I'm not angry about this. Sorry you see it that way.

Dominic Gomez's picture

I can virtually see the steam rising from your scalp. ~:-[
It's New Years, WM. It doesn't behoove the Buddhist to end one chapter of life and begin the next in such a state.

wilnerj's picture


That's odd. Since I shave my head, not that I have much hair to take off, I see steam rising from my pate in the mornings after taking a shower. And I am not even a monk! :)

Have a healthy and happy new year to you.

Dominic Gomez's picture

And all the very best to you and yours in 2014, Wilnerj.

Dolgyal's picture

So you mean its an oxymoron like "New Kadampa Tradition''
When you say you don't hate the Dalai Lama does that mean you mean you will retract and apologise for your many divisive statements over the last few years that he is a terrorist, Nazi, Muslim and so forth?

Wisdom Moon's picture

I never said any of those things and I don't hate the Dalai Lama, that's your misperception. Yes, I criticise the Dalai Lama where I notice that his words and actions do not accord with Buddha's teachings.

He has caused a massive sectarian schism in the Buddhist world and you say that I'm divisive?

Dominic Gomez's picture

Compassionate anger. Two sides of the same coin. That they are mutually exclusive is an illusion.

Wisdom Moon's picture

There is no such thing as compassionate anger. Saying that anger can be compassionate is like saying that fire can be cool and soothing or that darkness can be light. They are two completely different mental factors (you can check any presentation of Lorig to see if this is true) and they have completely opposite natures. They are not compatible on any level.

Dominic Gomez's picture

If you drive, do you recall an adult teaching you how when you were a teen? Compassionate anger.
Two different mental factors like crying when you're mad, laughing when you're scared. People aren't robots, turn on...turn off.

Wisdom Moon's picture

I'm sad to see that Dalai Lama's endorsement of anger, contrary to Buddha's teachings, making the top 13. Anger is a delusion and its only function is to harm and great Buddhist Masters such as Shantideva have given methods to remove it. Shantideva doesn't think that anger is justified - the Dalai Lama is alone in thinking that it's useful. It's also crazy that he claims to be a Marxist - no Pure Spiritual Teacher would claim allegiance to any socio-political or economic system. Buddha wouldn't claim to be Marxist. Marxism is a samsaric invention and Buddha was about liberation and enlightenment. This is really proposterous and it seriously brings into question the Dalai Lama's understanding of Buddhism.

Tenpel's picture

Wisdom Moon, see my reply above. I think you are too much clinging to terms as they are being used in NKT, and in NKT there is a great deal of black-and-white thinking.

The Dalai Lama just uses the term anger in a different way than NKT followers are used to but if you read carefully his statement what he explains as "positive anger" is what is explained in NKT as "wrathful actions". No big deal actually just different terms.

With respect to being a Marxist, again, first of all in earlier contexts the Dalai Lama said "I am a half-Marxist", making clear that he does not agree with all ideas of marxism (e.g. like "religion is poison") but with some ideas like that all beings have equal rights and that there should be no people who are rich at the costs of poor etc. He mainly identifies good concepts in Marxism he feels to be correct and thereby he points out that Marxism is not bad per se but also has to offer good things. What is wrong with this? A Buddhist should be able to see the good things in other things. Why should a "Pure Spiritual Teacher" not see good things in other things and point these out?

The concept of that "pure practitioners" should not be involved in politics is a political concept of Kelsang Gyatso which he uses to give himself supremacy against others and this concept excludes the fact that also the Buddha and Nagarjuna gave advice to kings and where therefore "involved in politics" (not to think about that the Buddha in his earlier lives as a Bodhisattva was different times a king and therefore a politician.)

"When a society comes together and makes decisions in harmony, when it respects its most noble traditions, cares for its most vulnerable members, treats its forests and lands with respect, then it will prosper and not decline…" – The Mahaparinirvana Sutra

Wisdom Moon's picture

The Dalai Lama's words are dangerous because they justify anger by conflating it with compassion - this is simply incorrect. When people act of out wrath there is not the slightest trace of anger in their minds and their actions are therefore pure, being concerned only for the welfare of the person they are acting on behalf of. Compassion cherishes others whereas anger wishes to harm them - how can they be compatible when they are opposites? Anger is an impure state of mind and not to be tolerated for any reason. This is what Buddha says too. There is no such thing as "positive anger" in the Sutras.

You say "black-and-white-thinking", I prefer to say precisely defined terminology and clear explanation. The Dalai Lama's explanation not only lacks clarity, in my opinion, it is actually incorrect. He's saying that anger can be useful and justified - Buddha is not saying that; quite the opposite. Please show me in the sutras where Buddha encourages people to develop anger in order to help others.

Dolgyal's picture

Here is an experience with an anger problem that puts NKT in context.
"I just spent two months in Brazil volunteering for the New Kadampa Tradition International Temples Project... And was threatened with violence on three occasions by the monk in charge of the project. Others were also singled out for verbal abuse by this nut case. Be carefull before you volunteer for the NKT!! While in Brazil the monk in charge of the building project (picture attached, man to the left of Kelsang Gyatso) on three occasions threatened me with physical violence in order to "break through my self cherishing." "If you do it like that I will hit you in the head with a hammer and you had better believe that I will do it." On another occasion he described to me how quickly he could kill me. It is my understanding from others who were on the project that his verbal assaults are typical of his behaviour, they have been ongoing for many years. The morale of the people on the building team when I arrived in Brazil was rock bottom. This person was verbally abusing people seemingly at random. Verbal threats were a daily occurance. "Who is going to get it next?" was the question every day. People were being terrorized by this mans anger and rage. The Brazillian construction workers were cussed at repeatedly. He told myself and another American that if we did not work the way he wanted us to we could pack our bags "and get the fuck out". This was in the middle of Brazil, in a country where we do not speak the language. He also said this to the whole assembly of workers.

His managers, when they arrived from Britain, both told me that I should take it on the chin... There was no rational discussion of the possibility that his behaviour may be unacceptable."
If you are involved in the NKT, or are interested in becoming involved, educate yourself before you do!!!
NKT e-mail:
Tell them what you think of a person calling himself a Buddhist monk threatening to kill people! (it is my understanding that this person has a violent background and has been in prison for violent crimes.)
If you are interested in practicing Buddhism educate yourself before you step near the NKT!

Dolgyal's picture
Dear Wisdom Moon: Like your perverse views, not everyone regards noxious plastic, spray painted gold at the ‘Manjusri Kadampa Studio’ as anything other than poison. Spreading this plastic kitsch art internationally is a central part of the cult's pyramid scheme commercial strategy.
“Polyester resin is toxic and produces a terrible odour, so adequate space, ventilation and other safety measures are needed. The liquid resin mixture has a catalyst added to begin the hardening process. Commonly used catalysts include methyl ethyl ketone peroxide, which can be highly volatile, and the less-hazardous benzoyl peroxide. Toxic chlorinated solvents released can contaminate groundwater and degrade the atmosphere. Castings keep on stinking for months: indeed off-gassing will be an ongoing cause of indoor air quality degradation. In the finishing process dust from sanding poly resin can be toxic as well as the spray painting process. And of course there is the not insubstantial carbon cost to ship this religious kitsch abroad. NKT has clearly invested a lot of money in its purpose built studio building, the results of this quasi-industrial enterprise are dubious from a Buddhist point of view if it uses harmful toxic industrial methods.”

Wisdom Moon's picture

And this is relevant how?

Dolgyal's picture

What is relevant is that the New Kadampa Tradition, for whom Wisdom Moon is recruiting, is schismatic, greedy and simply a commercial cult like Hare Krishna or Scientology.
Readers are well advised to cautiously research this splinter group for themselves.

Wisdom Moon's picture

I'm not recruiting for anyone, I'm simply explaining that the Dalai Lama's understanding of anger is contrary to Buddha's teachings. People idolise the Dalai Lama but it's more important to analyse the accuracy of his statements just as Buddha encouraged us to do. He said "do not accept what I say just because I am called Buddha" - the same applies to the Dalai Lama. Blind faith is not acceptable in the twenty first century.

Dolgyal's picture

That slogan (which may or may not be genuine) equally applies to western devotees who idolize Kelsang Gyatso, whom they dubbed "the third Buddha."
Wisdom Moon is duplicitous: he has stated he hates the Dalai Lama, which rather colours his rhetoric.

Wisdom Moon's picture

Please don't misrepresent me. I do not hate the Dalai Lama as he is my kind mother, however, many of the things he says in relation to Buddhism are incorrect and he has also caused a schism in the Sangha which is most unfortunate. It's not personal, believe me, but your response to my valid criticism is somewhat extreme.

Dolgyal's picture

Wisdom Moon speaks with forked tongue: just yesterday he wrote "I find it sad that the Dalai Lama has used the occasion of giving precious Lamrim teachings to promote his political agenda and to make further attempts to destroy the precious lineage that these teachings come from. Furthermore, he is enacting the supreme hypocrisy of talking about non-sectarianism whilst promoting a sectarian agenda.
Dalai Lama, stop lying!"
Why do you not just abandon your Don Quixote quest, you are tilting at political windmills that do not exist. Intellectual honesty would you require you stop spinning NKT/WSS personal attacks (complete with scriptural quotes) and just be honest.

Dolgyal's picture

Wisdom Moon has been and remains a conniving politician - sorry, but that's how it is. Your puppet mater Kelsang Gyatso must be very pleased with your activities. Which of his posh chateaus, castles or priories is the high lama residing in now?

Dolgyal's picture

Wisdom Moon: Now you are lying and you know it, you are only posturing for better p.r. results. Elsewhere, your surreal characteristion is that th Dalai Lama is (and I quote) "the worst dictator in the modern world" Really, I'm extreme? In any case your ill informed opinions are of little consequense. I prefer human foibles like admitting to anger over impossibly 'perfect' fanaticism. Here's a little fact to consider: the supposedly immaculate Trijang had sexual relations with a woman in Lhasa. She later resided in Ghoom, West Bengal but has since passed away. At least he was human.