Tricycle - Awake in the World The Online Tricycle Magazine Blog http://www.tricycle.com/ en Wed, 02 Sep 2015 10:49:33 -0400 Wed, 02 Sep 2015 14:59:24 -0400 10 Steps to a Mindful Wedding http://www.tricycle.com/blog/10-steps-mindful-wedding <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="http://www.tricycle.com/sites/default/files/images/blog/Tzelnic-Marriage.jpg" width="570" height="857"></p><p>On July 25th my fiancée, Courtney, and I got married. It was truly incredible, partly because now I never have to say the word <i>fiancée</i> again. While other people said girlfriend or boyfriend, husband or wife, for 14 months we used this flowery French term that made it sound like we were constantly one-upping everyone. “Oh, you got married in a hotel? My fiancée and I are getting married in a barn in Vermont.” Even the mundane began to sound pretentious: “My fiancée and I had cereal for breakfast.” (And of course we used Dom Perignon instead of milk.)</p><p>Thankfully, those days are over. My <i>wife </i>and I are newlyweds, but before we become oldlyweds, I wanted to pass on the lessons we gleaned from the experience of the wedding itself. Courtney was raised in the Shambhala community, and I have been a Zen practitioner for the last dozen years, so the celebration was mostly secular with a splash of dharma. Despite some bumps along the way, this proved to be a winning recipe. Therefore, in true Mahayana fashion, I wanted to share our experience, bumps and all, for the benefit of all beings (but particularly for those beings with weddings on the horizon). What follows are my 10 steps to a mindful wedding.<br><br><b>1. Plan.</b></p><p>As far as the planning process was concerned, my approach was that of a bullfighter facing a raging bull: step to the side and thereby dodge any danger, stress, or linen debates. What I didn’t realize was that stepping to the side left Courtney out there to get metaphorically gored. I thought I was being generous in getting out of the way and letting her plan her perfect day. Really, I was abdicating responsibility and creating mass confusion about the details of what was <i>our</i> day.</p><p>Like tying your shoes or learning to ride a bike, planning a wedding is one of those things that you can only truly understand by doing. By the time the wedding day arrives, you almost wish you could start over with the knowledge you’ve acquired in the preceding months. Of course, unlike tying your shoes or riding a bike, you’ll only be getting married once (divorce rate statistics be damned). So heed the advice of someone who has been there: at the start of the process sit down and set clear expectations about how everything will unfold and who will be responsible for what. As I said in one of my vows: “Should we ever undertake an event of this magnitude again, I vow to be at least three times as helpful.” I probably should’ve said 300.<br><br><b>2. “Before enlightenment, chop wood, carry water. After enlightenment, chop wood, carry water.”</b></p><p>Our officiant, Wayne, is one of the coolest guys I know. He has a bonsai tree business, is a minister in the Shambhala community, and speaks with a perfect blend of sarcasm and depth. When it came to details like the marriage license, however, he just wasn’t interested. Thus, after Courtney and I obtained our marriage license, he never asked for it, and we totally forgot to give it to him. Then, in the aftermath of the wedding, the license disappeared. This meant that upon returning from our honeymoon, Courtney and I had to go back to the town clerk and obtain a new license. Technically, this means we are on our second marriage.</p><p>Before marriage, obtain a license. After marriage, turn in the license.<br><br><b>3. Watch your parents’ pill intake.</b></p><p>This one might be hyper-specific to my parents, but here goes: the Tuesday before the wedding, as we sat down to breakfast with my folks, my dad took his usual concoction of morning pills. Fifteen minutes later he was stumbling around knocking over furniture like a man who had just downed five Ambien. This is because my dad had in fact just downed five Ambien. Since we didn’t know that, the ensuing hours were mostly terrifying . . . but also kind of hilarious. If you’ve never seen your dad roll around on the front lawn with a smile on his face, insisting he is completely fine, then passing out mid-sentence, well, it will certainly keep your mind off the wedding. There was a bright side: on the ride home from the hospital, I thanked my dad for the powerful reminder about the importance of family just days before the wedding. It was a lesson I’ll never forget, and one he can’t quite remember.<br><br><b>4. Have Great Faith . . . and Great Doubt.</b></p><p>Prior to the wedding, Courtney’s Great Doubt was that the weather would be poor, forcing us to move the welcome party and ceremony indoors. I, on the other hand, had Great Faith—not that the weather would be perfect but that whatever happened would become part of the joyful narrative of our wedding day. We had a rain plan, after all. In the end, the weather was eerily perfect. The welcome party started at 5 p.m. on Friday and the rain let up at 4:30, giving way to a rainbow. The clouds that were supposed to lead to a gray Saturday were instead replaced by radiant sunshine.</p><p>I have no idea what kind of karma resulted in this situation. But I fully believe Courtney and I appeased the weather gods by each playing our necessary roles (I guess this was the least secular part of the process). Expect the worst and hope for the best, and if necessary, divide those tasks.<br><br><b>5. “When you sit, sit. When you stand, stand. Whatever you do, don’t wobble.”</b></p><p>I’ve seen plenty of wobbly grooms. I’ve seen plenty of nervous grooms. I was hoping to be neither. So the day of the wedding, as I was getting dressed, I had a glass of cognac. Minutes before the wedding, Wayne had Courtney and I gather for a last-minute check-in and a glass of sake. It allowed us time to decompress and steal a little sanity before the madness. I highly recommend it.</p><p>Following the ceremony, I paced myself on the drinks until it was time for the dance party. Then I had a few in rapid succession and let myself go. Pace yourself. And then don’t pace yourself. Just don’t wobble.<br><br><b>6. Take a moment.</b></p><p>One piece of advice I’d heard from several people prior to the wedding was to take a moment with your spouse, step back, and appreciate all the people who have gathered there for you. As I mentioned, Courtney and I got married in a barn—which is so on trend that at the start of the wedding it was hip and by the end it was passé—so after the cocktail hour we went up on the second level, looked down at all of our friends and family, and shared a moment of appreciation. It was truly special. And as an added bonus we got to wave down at everyone like a royal couple.<br><br><b>7. Let go.</b></p><p>You know the story: two Zen monks are walking along and find a woman unable to cross a river. One monk lifts her up and carries her across. Hours later the other monk, astonished that the first monk forbade the monastic rules about touching a woman, scolds his companion. To which the first monk says, “I only carried her across the river. You’ve been carrying her all day.”</p><p>Once the day arrives, you’ve done all you can to arrange it to your liking. There is nothing more you can do. So quit carrying the woman across the river (unless, for some reason, there is a literal river that the bride needs help crossing). Don’t try and orchestrate anything, don’t get involved in the nitty-gritty. Just let go.</p><p>On our wedding day, since I’d done so much research into the band, and since we’d booked such a great one, I became very adamant in convincing people to leave the beautiful veranda and bar and return to the dance floor. I spent way too much time and energy running around demanding that everyone “cut a rug.” Looking back, not only did I embarrass myself with my antiquated phrasing, I wasn’t able to let go and follow the energy of the evening. It is my only regret from our wedding day.<br><br><b>8. Be aware of impermanence.</b></p><p>It’s all temporary. Not your marriage, of course—that will last ‘til death do you part and, depending on your particular beliefs, potentially long after. I mean the wedding weekend. It is not longer than a typical weekend. It is not shorter. It is like a flock of birds landing on a tree and taking off again at the sound of thunder . . . only the tree is a barn in Vermont, and hopefully there is no thunder.</p><p>Heading into the weekend Courtney and I both reminded ourselves of how temporary this experience would be. She did it to brace herself for the inevitable end, and I did it so as not to freak out. It was one of the reasons we knew Wayne would be the perfect officiant for us. During a wedding weekend for another couple the summer prior, we bonded with him over our shared recognition that even though it was only Saturday, and we were at a bar enjoying a great live band, the weekend would soon be over. The looming end tinged all the joy of the experience with a streak of sorrow. Luckily, that is how I prefer my joy. Being aware of impermanence gives you all the more reason to appreciate what you have right now.<br><br><b>9. Breathe.</b><b>&nbsp;</b></p><p>As the crucial hour arrived, and Courtney and I stood at the altar under the brilliant sunshine, I found that contrary to the preoccupied terror I had imagined feeling, I was completely calm and present. I felt my breath rising and falling, I felt a cooling breeze, and I felt a mosquito crawl up my wrist and take a few freebies that I couldn’t stop since I was holding my soon-to-be-wife’s hands in front of 130 people.</p><p>I would like to attribute this calm to all that time spent on the sitting cushion, but Courtney, who does not routinely meditate, felt it too. All I know is that when it counted, we were able to be present, and I will forever be grateful for that. So remember to breathe. Should you stop breathing, hopefully you are marrying into a family of doctors.<br><br><b>10. Get the hell out of dodge.</b></p><p>Come Sunday you will find yourself beset by a powerful inertia. I’ve never felt anything quite like it. Courtney and I were about to take off for a week in Canada, and suddenly we had no desire to move. All we had to do was pack up and hit the road, and yet this process took hours. My final piece of advice may be the most practical: have your honeymoon bags packed ahead of time. Then—mindfully, of course—flee.<br><br><b>Alex Tzelnic</b> is a Zen practitioner and writer living in Cambridge, Massachusetts. His essays have appeared in <i>Killing the Buddha </i>and <i>The Rumpus</i>.</p><p>Photograph by <a href="http://www.maureencottonweddings.com" target="_blank">Maureen Cotton</a></p><hr><p><strong>More at Tricycle:</strong></p><table border="0" cellpadding="8" cellspacing="10" width="550"><tbody><tr></tr><tr><td scope="col" valign="top"><p><a href="http://www.tricycle.com/blog/12-things-you-should-never-say-sick"><img src="https://www.tricycle.com/sites/default/files/images/12-things.png" alt="" width="270" height="180" border="0" style="display: block; border: none; outline: none; text-decoration: none;" class="colimg2"></a></p><span> <b>12 Things You Should Never Say to the Sick </b></span><p align="left"><a href="http://www.tricycle.com/blog/12-things-you-should-never-say-sick" style="font-size: 12px; font: normal 11px/12px arial,tahoma,sans-serif; color: #ffffff; text-decoration: none; border-radius: 3px; -webkit-border-radius: 3px; -moz-border-radius: 3px; background-color: #d7272e; border-top: 6px solid #d7272e; border-bottom: 6px solid #d7272e; border-right: 14px solid #d7272e; font-weight: bold; border-left: 14px solid #d7272e; display: inline-block;">READ THE POST →</a></p></td><td scope="col" valign="top"><p><a href="http://www.tricycle.com/blog/conscientious-compassion"><img src="http://www.tricycle.com/sites/default/files/images/Conscientious-Compassion.png" alt="" width="270" height="180" border="0" style="display: block; border: none; outline: none; text-decoration: none;" class="colimg2"></a></p><span> <b>Conscientious Compassion </b></span><p align="left"><a href="http://www.tricycle.com/blog/conscientious-compassion" style="font-size: 12px; font: normal 11px/12px arial,tahoma,sans-serif; color: #ffffff; text-decoration: none; border-radius: 3px; -webkit-border-radius: 3px; -moz-border-radius: 3px; background-color: #d7272e; border-top: 6px solid #d7272e; border-bottom: 6px solid #d7272e; border-right: 14px solid #d7272e; font-weight: bold; border-left: 14px solid #d7272e; display: inline-block;">READ THE POST →</a></p></td></tr></tbody></table> 46797 Wed, 02 Sep 2015 10:49:33 -0400 Tricycle - Awake in the World A Gleeful Foreboding http://www.tricycle.com/blog/gleeful-foreboding <p><img src="http://www.tricycle.com/sites/default/files/images/blog/GS01004118.jpg" width="570" height="885" style="display: block; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;"></p><p>It’s strange how much modern people secretly crave weather-related disasters—the blizzard that shuts down a city, bringing travel and commerce to a halt, the tropical storm that knocks out power, leaving millions in the dark. People of earlier centuries rightly feared such events and earnestly prayed to be delivered from them. Now there's an excitement that begins building the moment we hear of such a storm.&nbsp;</p><p>That the larger storms sometimes turn deadly does little to chasten our feelings of anticipation. Part of it is the knowledge, gleaned from a century of experience, that things will soon go back to normal. Another is the paradox of media reports, which transform terrible events into a form of nightly entertainment while pretending to inform. In the meantime, provided no one we know has suffered harm, there's some comfort in having nature force our hands. It feels good to release our death grip on the steering wheel, and take up the snow shovel instead.&nbsp;</p><p>There's a tension between the part of us that wants to move along at speed, infatuated with our ever-proliferating array of screens and gadgets, and the part of us that deeply hates them, too. There's the part that doesn't want to be bothered with other people's lives and is therefore comfortable with the false proximity that social media affords. But there's also the part that is heartbroken at the loneliness and isolation of the life we are living—the part that requires medication and constant distraction just to endure it. If we can't stop ourselves from embracing the things we secretly hate and know to be bad for us, the question becomes what <em>will</em> stop us? Climate change is one answer. The end of oil would be another. In the meantime we have our storms.&nbsp;</p><p>It's a relief to have life placed on a real footing again, when it becomes about water and food, warmth and companionship. It's a relief, even if we can't do it for ourselves. Even if it lasts only for an evening or a day.&nbsp;</p><p>A few summers ago, as we were nearing the end of our yearly vacation, we heard that a hurricane was headed straight for Cape Cod. With only a day left on the rental house, we decided to make a dash for it rather than take the brunt of the storm. As it turns out, we'd have been better off staying where we were. Because instead of hitting the Cape, the storm struck a hundred miles inland, wiping out parts of the Catskill town just to the north of us and shutting off the power in our community for over a week.&nbsp;</p><p>Not only was the whole neighborhood plunged into utter darkness, the whole town was, too. A few people powered up generators, but the pinpricks of light they provided were powerless over that much darkness. There was no way they could prevail against the night.&nbsp;</p><p>People grumbled, but you could tell they were secretly delighted. They just didn't have the vocabulary to express it. Few of us know how saturated our minds and bodies are with light. Even fewer realize how profoundly modern media poisons the soul.&nbsp;</p><p>The storm brought down huge trees all up and down the road where we live. At night I'd have to climb over them just to complete my walk. I was sad to lose them, but there was something peaceful about the solid bulk of their bodies lying full across the road. The storm had been violent, but it wasn't a human violence. There was no callousness in it. Whatever is born will die, and those trees understood death better than a Buddha. Later they were removed piecemeal with a chainsaw by cutting them into manageable lengths and loading them into the backs of pickups that groaned audibly with the weight.&nbsp;</p><p>It was surprising how fast most people adjusted to the longer nights and earlier bedtimes. It was harder to make coffee without electricity, but most people had less need of it anyway. For the first time in months—in some cases, years—they were finally getting enough rest.&nbsp;</p><p>Friends who knew of my habit of waking up in the dark for a solitary ramble were suddenly interested in talking with me about it. Some reported strange dreams. A man I barely knew told me, "When the grid goes down, the mythical creatures return." He said it twice, like an incantation. The lit part of my mind dismissed what he was saying, but the dark part knew that it was true.&nbsp;</p><p>Our small town drifted together during those weeks, as neighbors who hadn't spoken in years shared meals and news with one another, helping with repairs and errands, and catching up on the hundred details of daily life that people share who live on the same road—or would share if they talked more often. Without phones there was no way to communicate without speaking face to face. But just as quickly the town drifted apart again, as people went back to the larger business of the world. The Internet was up, the interstate was open, and the TV came back on.&nbsp;</p><p>People's lives went back to normal after the hurricane was over and its devastation had been repaired or removed. But my own life never went back.</p><p>I would ask myself why later on. What about the hurricane left me unplugged from the worst, most addictive aspects of the culture, the hurricane that for most people was only a temporary glitch in the relentless technological advance of human life? In a word, it was <em>darkness</em>.</p><p>Our lives begin in the womb and end it in the tomb. Whatever light there is in the middle (and there’s more of it now than ever before) doesn’t change that basic fact. It’s dark on either side. And the billion-watt culture that passes for American life doesn’t change that. Occasionally, when the right storm comes along, we can still find ourselves at home in the dark.<br><br><strong>Clark Strand</strong> is a contributing editor to <em>Tricycle</em>. His most recent book is <em>Waking Up to the Dark: Ancient Wisdom for a Sleepless Age</em> (Spiegel & Grau), from which this essay has been adapted.</p><div><em>Gallery Stock</em></div><hr><p><strong>More at Tricycle:</strong></p><table border="0" cellpadding="8" cellspacing="10" width="550"><tbody><tr></tr><tr><td scope="col" valign="top"><p><a href="http://www.tricycle.com/blog/problem-religious-diversity"><img src="https://www.tricycle.com/sites/default/files/images/Religious-Diversity.png" alt="" width="270" height="180" border="0" style="display: block; border: none; outline: none; text-decoration: none;" class="colimg2"></a></p><span> <b>The “Problem” of Religious Diversity </b></span><p align="left"><a href="http://www.tricycle.com/blog/problem-religious-diversity" style="font-size: 12px; font: normal 11px/12px arial,tahoma,sans-serif; color: #ffffff; text-decoration: none; border-radius: 3px; -webkit-border-radius: 3px; -moz-border-radius: 3px; background-color: #d7272e; border-top: 6px solid #d7272e; border-bottom: 6px solid #d7272e; border-right: 14px solid #d7272e; font-weight: bold; border-left: 14px solid #d7272e; display: inline-block;">READ THE POST →</a></p></td><td scope="col" valign="top"><p><a href="http://www.tricycle.com/blog/5-reasons-i-havent-settled-buddhist-school"><img src="https://mlsvc01-prod.s3.amazonaws.com/70733099001/2b69d587-41b2-405e-a775-d148b0ad8fa7.jpg" alt="" width="270" height="180" border="0" style="display: block; border: none; outline: none; text-decoration: none;" class="colimg2"></a></p><span> <b>5 Reasons I Haven’t Settled On a Buddhist School </b></span><p align="left"><a href="http://www.tricycle.com/blog/5-reasons-i-havent-settled-buddhist-school" style="font-size: 12px; font: normal 11px/12px arial,tahoma,sans-serif; color: #ffffff; text-decoration: none; border-radius: 3px; -webkit-border-radius: 3px; -moz-border-radius: 3px; background-color: #d7272e; border-top: 6px solid #d7272e; border-bottom: 6px solid #d7272e; border-right: 14px solid #d7272e; font-weight: bold; border-left: 14px solid #d7272e; display: inline-block;">READ THE POST →</a></p></td></tr></tbody></table> 46792 Mon, 31 Aug 2015 15:45:48 -0400 Tricycle - Awake in the World Actualizing The Fundamental Point http://www.tricycle.com/blog/actualizing-fundamental-point <p class="p1"><img src="http://www.tricycle.com/sites/default/files/images/DogenMoon.jpg" width="576" height="432" style="margin: 7px auto; vertical-align: middle; display: block;"></p><p class="p1">As all things are buddhadharma, there are delusion, realization, practice, birth and death, buddhas and sentient beings. As myriad things are without an abiding self, there is no delusion, no realization, no buddha, no sentient being, no birth and death. The Buddha way, in essence, is leaping clear of abundance and lack; thus there are birth and death, delusion and realization, sentient beings and buddhas. Yet in attachment blossoms fall, and in aversion weeds spread.&nbsp;</p><p class="p2">To carry the self forward and illuminate myriad things is delusion. That myriad things come forth and illuminate the self is awakening.&nbsp;</p><p class="p2">Those who have great realization of delusion are buddhas; those who are greatly deluded about realization are sentient beings. Further, there are those who continue realizing beyond realization and those who are in delusion throughout delusion.</p><p class="p2">When buddhas are truly buddhas, they do not necessarily notice that they are buddhas. However, they are actualized buddhas, who go on actualizing buddha.&nbsp;</p><p class="p2">When you see forms or hear sounds, fully engaging body-and-mind, you intuit dharma intimately. Unlike things and their reflections in the mirror, and unlike the moon and its reflection in the water, when one side is illumined, the other side is dark.&nbsp;</p><p class="p2">To study the way of enlightenment is to study the self. To study the self is to forget the self. To forget the self is to be actualized by myriad things. When actualized by myriad things, your body and mind, as well as the bodies and minds of others, drop away. No trace of enlightenment remains, and this no-trace continues endlessly.&nbsp;</p><p class="p2">When you first seek dharma, you imagine you are far away from its environs. At the moment when dharma is authentically transmitted, you are immediately your original self.&nbsp;</p><p class="p2">When you ride in a boat and watch the shore, you might assume that the shore is moving. But when you keep your eyes closely on the boat, you can see that the boat moves. Similarly, if you examine myriad things with a confused body and mind, you might suppose that your mind and essence are permanent. When you practice intimately and return to where you are, it will be clear that nothing at all has unchanging self.&nbsp;</p><p class="p2">Firewood becomes ash, and it does not become firewood again. Yet, do not suppose that the ash is after and the firewood before. Understand that firewood abides in its condition as firewood, which fully includes before and after, while it is independent of before and after. Ash abides in its condition as ash, which fully includes before and after. Just as firewood does not become firewood again after it is ash, you do not return to birth after death.</p><p class="p2">This being so, it is an established way in buddhadharma to deny that birth turns into death. Accordingly, birth is understood as beyond-birth. It is an unshakable teaching in the Buddha's discourse that death does not turn into birth. Accordingly, death is understood as beyond-death.</p><p class="p2">Birth is a condition complete this moment. Death is a condition complete this moment. They are like winter and spring. You do not call winter the beginning of spring, nor summer the end of spring.&nbsp;</p><p class="p2">Enlightenment is like the moon reflected on the water. The moon does not get wet, nor is the water broken. Although its light is wide and great, the moon is reflected even in a puddle an inch wide. The whole moon and the entire sky are reflected in dewdrops on the grass or even in one drop of water.</p><p class="p2">Enlightenment does not divide you, just as the moon does not break the water. You cannot hinder enlightenment, just as a drop of water does not crush the moon in the sky. The depth of the drop is the height of the moon. Each reflection, however long or short its duration, manifests the vastness of the dewdrop and realizes the limitlessness of the moonlight in the sky.&nbsp;</p><p class="p2">When dharma does not fill your whole body and mind, you may assume it is already sufficient. When dharma fills your body and mind, you understand that something is missing. For example, when you sail out in a boat to the middle of an ocean where no land is in sight and view the four directions, the ocean looks circular and does not look any other way. But the ocean is neither round nor square; its features are infinite in variety. It is like a palace. It is like a jewel. It only looks circular as far as you can see at that time. All things are like this.</p><p class="p2">Though there are many features in the dusty world and the world beyond conditions, you see and understand only what your eye of practice can reach. In order to learn the nature of the myriad things, you must know that although they may look round or square, the other features of oceans and mountains are infinite in variety; whole worlds are there. It is so not only around you, but also directly beneath your feet, or in a drop of water.&nbsp;</p><p class="p2">A fish swims in the ocean, and no matter how far it swims, there is no end to the water. A bird flies in the sky, and no matter how far it flies, there is no end to the air. However, the fish and bird have never left their elements. When their activity is large, their field is large. When their need is small, their field is small. Thus, each of them totally covers its full range, and each of them totally experiences its realm. If the bird leaves the air, it will die at once. If the fish leaves the water, it will die at once.&nbsp;</p><p class="p2">Know that water is life and air is life. The bird is life and the fish is life. Life must be the bird and life must be the fish. You can go further. There is practice-enlightenment, which encompasses limited and unlimited life.&nbsp;</p><p class="p2">Now, if a bird or a fish tries to reach the end of its element before moving in it, this bird or this fish will not find its way or its place. When you find your place where you are, practice occurs, actualizing the fundamental point. When you find your way at this moment, practice occurs, actualizing the fundamental point, for the place, the way, is neither large nor small, neither yours nor others'. The place, the way, has not carried over from the past, and it is not merely arising now. Accordingly, in the practice-enlightenment of the buddha way, to attain one thing is to penetrate one thing; to meet one practice is to sustain one practice.&nbsp;</p><p class="p2">Here is the place; here the way unfolds. The boundary of realization is not distinct, for the realization comes forth simultaneously with the full experience of buddhadharma. Do not suppose that what you attain becomes your knowledge and is grasped by your intellect. Although actualized immediately, what is inconceivable may not be apparent. Its emergence is beyond your knowledge.&nbsp;</p><p class="p2">Mayu, Zen Master Baoche, was fanning himself. A monk approached and said, "Master, the nature of wind is permanent, and there is no place it does not reach. Why then do you fan yourself?"&nbsp;</p><p class="p2">"Although you understand that the nature of the wind is permanent," Mayu replied, "you do not understand the meaning of its reaching everywhere."&nbsp;</p><p class="p2">"What is the meaning of its reaching everywhere?" asked the monk again.</p><p class="p2">Mayu just kept fanning himself.</p><p class="p2">The monk bowed deeply.&nbsp;</p><p class="p2">The actualization of the buddhadharma, the vital path of its authentic transmission, is like this. If you say that you do not need to fan yourself because the nature of wind is permanent and you can have wind without fanning, you will understand neither permanence nor the nature of the wind. The nature of wind is permanent; because of that, the wind of the Buddha's house brings forth the gold of the earth and ripens the cream of the long river.<br><br><strong>Eihei Dogen</strong> (1200–1253) left Japan to study in China and then brought Zen Buddhism back to his own country. The seminal philosophical force of Japanese Soto Zen, Dogen Zenji is revered today for the clarity of his insights, for his passion, and for his poetry.</p><p>From <i>Zen Chants</i>, edited by Kazuaki Tanahashi. Translation of this excerpt by Robert Aitken and Kazuaki Tanahashi. Revised at the San Francisco Zen center and, later, at the Berkeley Zen Center. © 2015 <a href="http://www.shambhala.com/">Shambhala Publications, inc</a>.</p><p><em>Image: LadyDragonFlyCC/<a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/legalcode" target="_blank">Flickr</a></em></p> 46785 Thu, 27 Aug 2015 16:20:17 -0400 Tricycle - Awake in the World 12 Things You Should Never Say to the Sick http://www.tricycle.com/blog/12-things-you-should-never-say-sick <p class="p1"><img src="http://www.tricycle.com/sites/default/files/images/Bernhard-576.png" width="576" height="360" style="margin: 7px auto; vertical-align: middle; display: block;"></p><p class="p1">Even the most well-intentioned people often don’t know how to talk to the chronically ill. This is because we live in a culture that treats illness as unnatural. As a result, people have been conditioned to turn away in aversion from those who aren’t healthy, even though it’s a fate that will befall everyone at some point in his or her life.&nbsp;</p><p class="p2">The consequences of taking this unrealistic view of the realities of the human condition is that many people feel uneasy and even fearful when they encounter people who are struggling with their health. I admit that this was true of me before I became chronically ill. Now I find it as natural to talk to people who are chronically ill as I do to people who are the pinnacle of health.&nbsp;</p><p class="p2">I hope this list encourages people who know someone who is chronically ill to become more mindful of their speech. I also hope it will help those who are sick and those who are in pain feel less alone. I expect that those of you who are chronically ill will recognize many of the comments you’re about to read.<br><br><strong>1. “You look fantastic!”</strong></p><p class="p2">It’s a challenge to respond to comments such as “You look fantastic,” or the dreaded “But you don’t look sick,” because we know that the speaker is only trying to be nice. If we respond truthfully with “Well, I don’t feel fantastic” or “Thanks, but I feel awful,” the other person might be embarrassed or think we’re being ungrateful. I admit that I’ve never come up with a satisfactory response to this comment. I usually mumble “thanks” and try to change the subject.<br><br><strong>2. “You just need to get out more often.”</strong></p><p class="p2">One day, my husband and I were at an espresso place and a woman who knows I’m sick stopped and said to me, “You look so good!” My husband politely responded that actually, I was quite sick. When she then said to me, “You just need to get out more often,” I was at a loss for words. My husband told me afterward that he wanted to say to her, “You don’t heal a broken leg by going for a hike.” He held his tongue because he thought she might take it as an insult.<br><br><strong>3. “Give me a call if there’s anything I can do.”</strong></p><p class="p2">I’ve been on the receiving end of this well-intentioned comment many times. Not once has it resulted in my picking up the phone. The offer is too open-ended. It puts the ball in my court and I’m not going to hit it back, either because I’m too proud, too shy, too sick—or a combination of the three. I’m not going to call and say, “Can you come over and weed my garden?” But if someone were to call and offer to come over and do it, I’d gratefully say, “Yes!”<br><br><strong>4. “I wish I could lie around all day and do nothing.”</strong></p><p class="p2">A friend said this to me over the phone; it’s stuck in my mind all these years because it hurt terribly at the time. It may sound as if it couldn’t possibly have been well-intentioned and yet, given the tone of voice in which it was delivered, I’ve decided it was. I’m sure that my high-powered, overworked friend was genuinely thinking, “Lucky you to have so much leisure time.”&nbsp;</p><p class="p2">When she said it, I was still so sensitive about being sick—including being worried that people might think I was a malingerer—that tears came to my eyes. I wanted to scream at her, “You have no idea how it feels to be stuck in bed and have no choice but to do nothing!” Instead, I mumbled something and made an excuse to get off the phone because I could feel the sobs coming—which they did as soon as I hung up.<br><br><strong>5. “Disease is a message from your soul, telling you that something is wrong with your True Self.”</strong></p><p class="p2">This is an excerpt from one of dozens of emails I’ve received from people trying to diagnose or cure me. I must admit that I have no idea what the sentence means. Are the soul and the True Self different entities, and the one that is okay is sending a message to the other one saying that something’s wrong with it? Bottom line: This is not helpful. And while we’re on the subject of “not helpful,” another person said she’d help me get my health back—free of charge—by showing me how to perform a “soul retrieval.” Sigh.<br><br><strong>6. “My sister-in-law’s best friend had what you have and said she got better by drinking bottled water.”</strong></p><p class="p2">Little did this speaker realize that it’s just as likely that my own sister-in-law’s best friend had what I have and told me that I could get better if I <i>stopped</i> drinking bottled water! It would be such a relief if people understood that, despite their best intentions, we’re unlikely to want advice on treatments—unless we ask for it, of course. Most of us have spent hours on the internet, researching possible treatments. We know what’s available, and we know what we’re considering. When people offer treatments, especially based on anecdotal evidence, it puts us in a position of having to defend our treatment decisions.</p><p class="p2">Another piece of treatment advice that many of us have heard multiple times: “Have you tried sleeping pills?” Sleeping pills? Who hasn’t tried sleeping pills? Even healthy people do. Sleeping pills may be helpful for some people, but they are not a cure for chronic illness. Regarding any comment that starts with the phrase “Have you tried…”: If it’s available by prescription or as a supplement or even as Chinese herb, the odds are very high that I know about it and that I’ve tried it!<br><br><strong>7. “Do you meditate?”</strong></p><p class="p2">Yes, I meditate—although, depending on our relationship, this may be an intrusive question. Meditation and other stress-reduction techniques can help with symptom relief and with the mental stress that often accompanies ongoing pain and illness. However, they are not a cure for a physically based chronic illness.<br><br><strong>8. “Aren’t you worried that you’re getting out of shape from living such a sedentary lifestyle?”</strong></p><p class="p2">Uh...yes. Thanks for reminding me.<br><br><strong>9. “Just don’t think about it.”</strong></p><p class="p2">This comment left me speechless...but still thinking about “it.”<br><br><strong>10. “Are you eating enough fruits and vegetables?”</strong></p><p class="p2">As many as this one body can hold!<br><br><strong>11. “Have you googled your symptoms?”</strong></p><p class="p2">Let me count the ways.<br><br><strong>12. “At least you still have your sense of humor.”</strong></p><p class="p2">Thanks. Truth be told, however, I’d rather be a humorless healthy person.<br><br><strong>Toni Bernhard</strong> is a former law professor who has authored several books on dealing with chronic illness. She publishes regularly on her blog, "<a href="https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/turning-straw-gold" target="_blank">Turning Straw into Gold</a>."</p><p>© 2015 Toni Bernhard, <em>How to Live Well with Chronic Pain and Illness</em>. Reprinted by arrangement with <a href="http://www.wisdompubs.org/" target="_blank">Wisdom Publications, Inc</a>.</p><p class="p2"><em>Illustration by James Thacher</em></p><p class="p2"></p><hr><p><strong>More at Tricycle:</strong></p><table border="0" cellpadding="8" cellspacing="10" width="550"><tbody><tr></tr><tr><td scope="col" valign="top"><p><a href="http://www.tricycle.com/blog/problem-religious-diversity"><img src="https://www.tricycle.com/sites/default/files/images/Religious-Diversity.png" alt="" width="270" height="180" border="0" style="display: block; border: none; outline: none; text-decoration: none;" class="colimg2"></a></p><span> <b>The “Problem” of Religious Diversity </b></span><p align="left"><a href="http://www.tricycle.com/blog/problem-religious-diversity" style="font-size: 12px; font: normal 11px/12px arial,tahoma,sans-serif; color: #ffffff; text-decoration: none; border-radius: 3px; -webkit-border-radius: 3px; -moz-border-radius: 3px; background-color: #d7272e; border-top: 6px solid #d7272e; border-bottom: 6px solid #d7272e; border-right: 14px solid #d7272e; font-weight: bold; border-left: 14px solid #d7272e; display: inline-block;">READ THE POST →</a></p></td><td scope="col" valign="top"><p><a href="http://www.tricycle.com/blog/5-reasons-i-havent-settled-buddhist-school"><img src="https://mlsvc01-prod.s3.amazonaws.com/70733099001/2b69d587-41b2-405e-a775-d148b0ad8fa7.jpg" alt="" width="270" height="180" border="0" style="display: block; border: none; outline: none; text-decoration: none;" class="colimg2"></a></p><span> <b>5 Reasons I Haven’t Settled On a Buddhist School </b></span><p align="left"><a href="http://www.tricycle.com/blog/5-reasons-i-havent-settled-buddhist-school" style="font-size: 12px; font: normal 11px/12px arial,tahoma,sans-serif; color: #ffffff; text-decoration: none; border-radius: 3px; -webkit-border-radius: 3px; -moz-border-radius: 3px; background-color: #d7272e; border-top: 6px solid #d7272e; border-bottom: 6px solid #d7272e; border-right: 14px solid #d7272e; font-weight: bold; border-left: 14px solid #d7272e; display: inline-block;">READ THE POST →</a></p></td></tr></tbody></table> 46783 Wed, 26 Aug 2015 15:05:40 -0400 Tricycle - Awake in the World The “Problem” of Religious Diversity http://www.tricycle.com/blog/problem-religious-diversity <p><img src="http://www.tricycle.com/sites/default/files/images/blog/RayZimStairs.jpg" width="570" height="365" style="display: block; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;"></p><p>To tell the truth, I have no idea which element of my hyphenated identity as a Buddhist practitioner and a scholar of comparative religions is more prominent in my conviction that religious diversity, which also includes indifference to organized religions, is simply a normal, natural aspect of life. Yet I was brought up to think that it was a huge problem. At some point, fairly early in my life, it just became ludicrous to me to think that of all the people on earth, only a relatively small group of very conservative German Lutherans had their heads on straight and had all the correct answers to every difficult problem or existential issue. Truly, how much sense could that make! I did not have many resources with which to come to that conclusion—very little lived experience encountering much diversity, no like-thinking friends or mentors, and few books or other intellectual stimulation. But it just didn’t make sense to think that the group into which I was born was so superior to every other group on earth, or that other people didn’t feel affection for their own lifeways, whatever they might be. Given the ease with which I thought past the indoctrination I was given, I am somewhat impatient with people who buy into religious chauvinism—or chauvinisms of any kind.</p><p>John Hick is fond of talking about adopting a pluralist outlook regarding religious diversity as a Copernican revolution regarding religion that is necessary in our time. While I basically accept his idea, I would add that <i>overcoming</i> <i>our</i> <i>discomfort</i> with that diversity is critical in that Copernican revolution required for religious believers at this time. There are two parts to my claim. The first is that religious diversity is a fact, and it is also a fact that religious diversity is here to stay. There simply are no grounds to dispute those facts. The second part of my claim is that we need to find the resources and means to become comfortable with and untroubled by the fact of that diversity.</p><p>The sun does not revolve around the earth, and one’s own religion cannot be declared the One True Faith. These are equivalent statements, of equal obviousness and clarity, no matter what previous religious dogmas may have declared. It is as useless to hang on to the dogma that one’s own religion is the best because that is what one was previously taught as it would be to hang on to the dogma that the sun <i>literally</i> rises and sets because it appears to and because the Bible seems to say so. Religions always get into the most trouble when their dogmas lead them to deny facts on the basis of authority; but dogmas die slowly. I was amazed in the fall of 2011 to discover that some Jain pundits still declare that the earth is flat because that’s what Jain scriptures state. When empirical evidence is presented to them, they respond that some day science will catch up with their scriptures.</p><p>Exclusive truth claims and religious diversity are mutually exclusive; they <i>cannot</i> survive together in any harmonious, peaceful, and respectful way. Surviving religious diversity involves coming to a deep and profound realization that religious diversity is not a mistake or a problem. It does not have to be overcome, and there is no need to suggest that other traditions may have partial truth or to try to find some deeper, overarching or underlying truth that encompasses the many religious traditions. To accept this truth often requires profound inner adjustments, but they are not very hard to make in the face of obvious evidence.</p><p>What is such incontrovertible evidence regarding the naturalness of religious diversity? From the comparative study of religion, we learn that, no matter where or when we look in the history of humanity, people have devised a great variety of religious practices and beliefs. This diversity is both internal and external. That is to say, not only are there many religions around the world; each religion also contains a great deal of internal diversity. Even those religions that proclaim they are the One True Faith are internally very diverse. How could they imagine that someday there will be one universal global religion to which all people will adhere when they cannot even secure internal agreement about their own religion’s essentials? Why should we expect that in the future, such diversity would disappear and the religious outlook of one group of people would prevail over all others? That has the same cogency as expecting that most people would give up their native tongue to adopt another language for the sake of an ability to communicate universally. And, as I have argued in the past, having a universal language would actually be very helpful and make communication easier, whereas having a universal, common religion would not significantly improve anything. In fact, it would rob us of a lot of interesting religious and spiritual alternatives, a lot of material that is good to think with, in the felicitous phrasing of anthropologist Claude Levi-Strauss. It would be helpful if we could all talk about all those alternatives in a language we could all understand. It does not seem that we are likely to have that common language anytime soon. But diminishing the number of religious alternatives, per the vision of religious exclusivists, does nothing to enrich our human community. <b></b></p><p>However, the vast variety of data available from the cross-cultural comparative study of religion does not provide <i>theologically</i> the incontrovertible proof regarding the normality and naturalness of religious diversity that I am seeking. Those data are simply a fascinating kaleidoscope. They present us with facts but say little about how to value those facts. There would seem to be an obvious, simple theological justification for religious diversity available to theists and monotheists. I used to suggest to my Christian and theistic students that the deity they believed in had obviously created a world in which religious diversity rather than uniformity prevailed. One would think that for those to whom belief in a creator deity is important, the manifest world that the deity had created would be acceptable. But my students objected to that logic, saying they knew that God wanted them to stamp out religious diversity. Factual information is often unconvincing to those with settled theological opinions. Unfortunately for them, one of the most famous monotheistic justifications of religious diversity was from the wrong revealed scripture, so it didn’t matter to them. The Quran states:</p><blockquote><p>To every one of you we have appointed a [sacred] law and a course to follow. For, had God so wished, He would have made you all one community. Rather He wished to try you by means of what He had given you; who among you is of the best action. Compete therefore with one another as if in a race in the performance of good deeds. To God shall be your return, and He will inform you concerning the things in which you had differed. (Q. 5:48)</p></blockquote><p>Take out the theistic language, and this advice is not too different from what I propose.</p><p>On the other hand, what I propose is quite different from what the Quran says in one significant way; for we need to locate the rationale and need for religious diversity, not in what unseen and unknowable metaphysical entities such as deities might decree, but in how human consciousness operates. If we are to speak of Copernican revolutions in how we view religious diversity, I would suggest that we shift our focus from how we think of God and instead put much more emphasis in thinking about how and why we construct and accept the theologies we do. In other words, shift the gaze from theology to spirituality. Shift from looking to something external, even an external as abstract as Ultimate Reality, as the source of our religious ideas. Instead look to our own quest for meaning and coherence. As I am fond of telling my follow Buddhists who want to believe in strange, nonhuman origins for some of their texts, sacred books do not fall from some other world into our sphere, neatly bound between two covers. They are the products of cultural evolution and are accepted only because they seem coherent and helpful to humans. For those who are or want to remain theists, such a move does not jeopardize their belief system. Belief in an external deity is such an attractive alternative that most people prefer it to nontheism. In fact, in some forms of Buddhism, it can be hard to detect how Buddhists have remained true to the nontheistic origins, though more sophisticated exegesis of such forms of Buddhism can always rescue a nontheistic core. However, thinking there could be an <i>unmediated</i> text, creed, or religious practice—something independent of human agency—is not only a strange idea but also an idea that is devastating to flourishing with religious diversity.</p><p>Moving from theology to spirituality and human consciousness would be a realistic and very helpful move. It is also a typical nontheistic and Buddhist move. According to Buddhism, human minds create our worlds, both their problems and their possibilities. This is probably the biggest difference in the claims made by theistic and nontheistic religious, though a nontheist Buddhist would argue that theistic religions are actually created by their adherents, not by the deities they worship. (Interesting is that both Buddhists and students of comparative religions agree on the point that religions are products of human history and culture, not of direct divine intervention into history.) We have created our problems, and only we can solve them. That becomes something of a bottom line for Buddhists. We need to train our minds to be less attached, less mistaken, less shortsighted, and, most of all, less self-centered. After all, discomfort with religious others is a form of self-centeredness.</p><p>How do we take that perspective into solving the “problem” of religious diversity? First, I would argue that<b> </b>religious diversity exists because it is psychologically and spiritually impossible for all human beings to follow one theological outlook or spiritual path. We are not built that way. That’s just not how we are. Religious diversity, which is inevitable, natural, and normal, flows from our different spiritual and psychological inclinations. Therefore, inevitably, we will encounter religious others. Second, I would argue that the acid test of a religion’s worth lies with what kind of tools it provides its adherents for coping gracefully and kindly with their worlds and the other beings who inhabit them. Discomfort with religious diversity and the wish to abolish it is a psychological and spiritual deficiency arising in an untrained human mind, a mind that does not know how to relax and be at ease with what is, with things as they are, as Buddhists like to say. Solving the “problem” of religious diversity has much more to do with human beings’ attitudes toward one another than with somehow adjudicating their rather different theological and metaphysical views. Thus, I am suggesting that we should start, not with religious creeds and questions about religions or metaphysical truth, but with questions about how people are—different from one another—and about how well religions function to help them live with how they are.<br><br><b>Rita Gross </b>is a Buddhist scholar-practitioner and retired professor of comparative studies in religion.</p><p>From <i><a href="http://wipfandstock.com/religious-diversity-what-s-the-problem.html" target="_blank">Religious Diversity, What’s the Problem?</a> Buddhist Advice for Flourishing with Religious Diversity</i>, by Rita M. Gross. Reprinted with permission of <a href="http://www.wipfandstock.com" target="_blank">Wipf and Stock Publishers</a>.&nbsp;</p><p><em>Illustration by Ray Zim</em></p><hr><p><strong>More at Tricycle:</strong></p><table border="0" cellpadding="8" cellspacing="10" width="550"><tbody><tr></tr><tr><td scope="col" valign="top"><p><a href="http://www.tricycle.com/blog/12-things-you-should-never-say-sick"><img src="https://www.tricycle.com/sites/default/files/images/12-things.png" alt="" width="270" height="180" border="0" style="display: block; border: none; outline: none; text-decoration: none;" class="colimg2"></a></p><span> <b>12 Things You Should Never Say to the Sick </b></span><p align="left"><a href="http://www.tricycle.com/blog/12-things-you-should-never-say-sick" style="font-size: 12px; font: normal 11px/12px arial,tahoma,sans-serif; color: #ffffff; text-decoration: none; border-radius: 3px; -webkit-border-radius: 3px; -moz-border-radius: 3px; background-color: #d7272e; border-top: 6px solid #d7272e; border-bottom: 6px solid #d7272e; border-right: 14px solid #d7272e; font-weight: bold; border-left: 14px solid #d7272e; display: inline-block;">READ THE POST →</a></p></td><td scope="col" valign="top"><p><a href="http://www.tricycle.com/blog/conscientious-compassion"><img src="http://www.tricycle.com/sites/default/files/images/Conscientious-Compassion.png" alt="" width="270" height="180" border="0" style="display: block; border: none; outline: none; text-decoration: none;" class="colimg2"></a></p><span> <b>Conscientious Compassion </b></span><p align="left"><a href="http://www.tricycle.com/blog/conscientious-compassion" style="font-size: 12px; font: normal 11px/12px arial,tahoma,sans-serif; color: #ffffff; text-decoration: none; border-radius: 3px; -webkit-border-radius: 3px; -moz-border-radius: 3px; background-color: #d7272e; border-top: 6px solid #d7272e; border-bottom: 6px solid #d7272e; border-right: 14px solid #d7272e; font-weight: bold; border-left: 14px solid #d7272e; display: inline-block;">READ THE POST →</a></p></td></tr></tbody></table> 46779 Tue, 25 Aug 2015 10:33:38 -0400 Tricycle - Awake in the World Conscientious Compassion http://www.tricycle.com/blog/conscientious-compassion <p><img src="http://www.tricycle.com/sites/default/files/images/blog/BhikkhuBodhi_TRICYCLE.jpg" width="570" height="380" style="display: block; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;"></p><p>American scholar and Theravada monk Venerable Bhikkhu Bodhi might not receive the same high-profile press coverage as the Roman Catholic Church’s charismatic standard-bearer Pope Francis, but it is becoming evident to Buddhism watchers and commentators that his message is every bit as bold, eloquent, and sophisticated. The recent focus on Bhikkhu Bodhi and other courageous Buddhist leaders who are highlighting imminent threats such as climate change and global hunger might well be influenced by the popular resonance with the urgency with which Pope Francis speaks about the issues. Whatever the reasons, Bhikkhu Bodhi’s actions speak loudly for themselves. As the founder and chair of the humanitarian organization Buddhist Global Relief (BGR), his activist work centers specifically on the issues of climate change (he is a spiritual ambassador for the interfaith climate change movement Our Voices) and hunger relief.</p><p>“When we started BGR, we initially set our mission to help those afflicted with poverty, disaster, and societal neglect,” he says.</p><blockquote><p>But after a short time we realized that this was too vague and not practical. Even large, well-established humanitarian organizations like CARE and Oxfam have more precisely defined missions. As a tiny Buddhist organization, we could not tackle the whole range of human challenges on this planet without dissipating our energies.</p><p>I thus drew on my own experience in Sri Lanka and India, where I knew many people were suffering from malnutrition—though this problem is not as acute in Sri Lanka as it is in other countries. I also had read about the extent of global hunger, and it boggled my mind to realize that close to a billion people were suffering from food insecurity and that some six million a year died from hunger and hunger-related illnesses. I learned that it would take only about $40 billion a year to eliminate global hunger. Yet worldwide, governments pour perhaps a few trillion dollars annually into military budgets, while millions die of hunger. This struck me as a tragedy and pulled at my heart. The Buddha, in the&nbsp;<em>Dhammapada</em>, had said: ‘There is no illness like hunger,’ and he often stressed the merits of providing food to the hungry. Thereby I saw a close fit between traditional Buddhist values and a more precise mission for BGR.</p></blockquote><p>Bhikkhu Bodhi’s visibility in American public discourse over the past several years, especially as a representative of a “minority” religion in the US, is already impressive. In May this year, he was at George Washington University and the White House to discuss Buddhist civic engagement and the types of policies that Buddhists would like to see implemented. From a long-term perspective, however, Bhikkhu Bodhi doesn’t believe that the small number of Buddhists in the US as a discrete movement can have a significant impact on civic life.</p><blockquote><p>We are just a few ripples on the surface of the lake. Rather, in my view, our best prospects for giving&nbsp;Buddhist values a role in public affairs would be to join hands with other faith-based organizations that share these values. Rooted in our respective faiths we can present a collective front, advocating for greater social justice, ecological responsibility, a more peaceful foreign policy, and an end to racism and police violence against people of color.</p></blockquote><p>“This is especially necessary in the US,” he suggests, “since fundamentalist Christians have grabbed the moral high ground, advocating an agenda that seems driven more by bigotry and religious dogmatism than by true benevolence and care for the less fortunate.”</p><p>Many Buddhist leaders as well as voices from other faiths recognize that divided, the religions cannot form a united front on mitigating and transforming many of the selfish and destructive interests that are threatening to exhaust the planet’s resources.</p><p>“The major threat that I see today lies in the ascendency of a purely utilitarian worldview driven by a ruthless economic system that rates everything in terms of its monetary value and sees everything as nothing more than a source of financial profit,” he warns, echoing many similarly dire warnings from other religious public figures.</p><blockquote><p>Under this mode of thinking, the environment turns into a pool of “natural resources” to be extracted and turned into profit-generating goods, and people are exploited for their labor and then disposed of when they are no longer of use.</p><p>To resist these trends, I believe, we as Buddhists can be most effective by networking with others who regard human dignity and the integrity of the natural world as more precious than monetary wealth. By joining together, a collective voice might emerge that could well set in motion the forces needed to articulate and embody a new paradigm rooted in the intrinsic dignity of the person and the interdependence of all life on Earth. Such collaboration&nbsp;could serve to promote the alternative values that offer sane&nbsp;alternatives to our free-market imperatives of corporatism, exploitation, extraction, consumerism, and&nbsp;toxic economic growth.</p></blockquote><p>This will be no mean feat, and might be the greatest moral challenge posed to Buddhism and humanity as a whole in our time. To muster the energy to even begin building this united interfaith front, Bhikkhu Bodhi believes that Buddhists in the East and West alike need to nurture stronger humanitarian concern in their hearts.</p><blockquote><p>Western Buddhists—and I think this is probably largely true among educated Buddhists in Asia—take to the dharma primarily as a path of inward development that bids us look away from the conditions of our societies. If this trend continues, Buddhism will serve as a comfortable home for the intellectual and cultural elite, but risks turning the quest for enlightenment into a private journey that offers only a resigned quietism in the face of the immense suffering which daily afflicts countless human lives.</p></blockquote><p>He believes there are two primary moral principles involved in this effort. “One is love, which arises from empathy, the ability to feel the happiness and suffering of others as one’s own. When love is directed toward those afflicted with suffering, it manifests as compassion, the sharing of their suffering, coupled with a determination to remove their suffering,” he says.</p><blockquote><p>The other principle that goes along with love is justice. Some of my Buddhist friends have objected to this, saying that justice is a concept foreign to Buddhism. I don’t agree. I think the word <i>dhamma</i>, in one of its many nuances, can be understood to signify justice, as when the “wheel-turning monarch”&nbsp;is described as <em>dhammiko dhammaraja</em>, which I would render “a righteous king of righteousness,” or “a just king of justice.” In my understanding, justice arises when we recognize that all people possess intrinsic value, that all are endowed with inherent dignity, and therefore should be helped to realize this dignity.</p></blockquote><p>Bhikkhu Bodhi finally joins the two concepts to form a distinct ethical ideal.</p><blockquote><p>When compassion and justice are unified, we arrive at what I call&nbsp;<em>conscientious compassion</em>. This is compassion, not merely as a beautiful inward feeling of empathy with those suffering, but a compassion that gives birth to a fierce determination to uplift others, to tackle the causes of their suffering, and to establish the social, economic, and political conditions that will enable everyone to flourish and live in harmony.&nbsp;</p></blockquote><p>He invokes the idea of dependent origination to explain the need to see the interdependence between states of mind (particularly those governed by greed and delusion) and an economic system built on the premise of unlimited growth on a finite planet. Bhikkhu Bodhi concludes that if humanity is to avoid a horrific fate, a double transformation is necessary. First, we must undergo an “inner conversion” away from the quest to satisfy proliferating desires and the constant stimulation of greed or craving. But change is also needed in our institutions and social systems. Bhikkhu Bodhi suggests people turn away from an economic order based on incessant production and consumption and move toward a steady-state economy managed by people themselves for the benefit of their communities, rather than by corporate executives bent on market dominance and expanding profits.</p><blockquote><p>At its most radical level, the dharma teaches that the highest happiness is to be realized through the complete renunciation of craving. But few are capable of such a degree of detachment. To make the message more palatable, we have to stress such values as contentment, simplicity, the appreciation of natural beauty, and fulfillment through meaningful relationships, and the effort to control and master the mind.</p></blockquote><p>&nbsp;</p><p><i>A version of this essay first appeared in <a href="http://www.buddhistdoor.net/features/conscientious-compassionmdashbhikkhu-bodhi-on-climate-change-social-justice-and-saving-the-world">Buddhistdoor Global</a></i>.</p><p><em>Photograph by Tom Martinez</em></p> 46774 Thu, 20 Aug 2015 10:54:17 -0400 Tricycle - Awake in the World 5 Reasons I Haven't Settled on a Buddhist School http://www.tricycle.com/blog/5-reasons-i-havent-settled-buddhist-school <p><img src="http://www.tricycle.com/sites/default/files/images/blog/hats-2.png" width="570" height="356" style="display: block; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;"></p><p>What do you look for in a Buddhist tradition? What draws you in and makes you feel like one specific approach is your home? A charismatic teacher? Pragmatic meditation techniques? Elaborate rituals? Fancy man-dresses and sparkly beads? The opportunity to kung fu your enemies?</p><p>Want to know what I look for? Probably not, but here goes.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p>I look for perfection. Utter, complete, sublime perfection.</p><p>For the past 16 years or so I’ve been on an elaborate, grueling search for Buddhism’s immaculate vehicle, the tradition or lineage that will slingshot me to enlightenment without ruffling any of my admittedly messy feathers, the one that suits me to a T. Not too hot. Not too cold. Just right.</p><p>I’ve spent more time hunting this exquisite Buddhism than actually practicing, which makes me about as far from awakened as possible. I am literally unenlightening myself.</p><p>In my various half-assed involvements, I’ve stumbled through all three major divisions of meditation-based Buddhism popular in the US—Tibetan, Zen, and Vipassana. What I’ve learned is that they’re all just fine, and it’s not them, it’s me. I’ve put together the top five reasons I can’t seem to just pick one already and get on with it.<br><br><strong>1. Fomo.</strong></p><p>This one is just sheer anxiety. <i>Fear of missing out</i>, inculcated by digital technology, is a subtle plague gnawing at my attention. Sort of like when I’m at my desk, madly typing away at the next great comedic Buddhist masterpiece, and I wonder what’s happening on Facebook. Well, not exactly what’s <i>happening</i>. What’s happening is nugatory. But I’m <i>missing</i> it. What if, underneath the mean-spirited memes, owl videos, and blisteringly pointless arguments, there’s something important? Something I <i>need</i>? And here I am just working and earning a living like a chump.</p><p>Unfortunately, I’m the same when it comes to Buddhism. It’s hard for me to settle into just one thing when there are so many other things out there I may be missing. Shiny things.</p><p>No matter what tradition I’m in, I wonder what’s going on in all the others, if their approaches might be better. What if mine, delightful as it is, turns out to be wrong, and something else is right?</p><p>It’s a bit like at the gym. I have my steel-rolled oats for breakfast and then head over in an attempt to get all lean and at least partially mean. And while human bison in the back lift small planets and human gazelles gallop to svelte glory on their treadmills, I’m wondering whether I’m doing my yoga right. Maybe… a protein shake?</p><p>Every time I’ve focused on a particular approach, it’s because I believed it was the right one. Not right <i>for me</i>, but correct in general. And that mindset is what has subverted every serious attempt at dharma practice I’ve undertaken. There is no <i>right</i> one. This spiritual practice is about fit, not fact; method, not maxim.</p><p>But I kept missing that. Instead of choosing something and trying to understand its ups and downs, I left at the first down. I bounced from one tradition to another hoping I’d find some sublime bag of chips just waiting to be ripped open. There had to be something that was only ups and no downs, something with all the tasty answers. I just had to keep looking.</p><p>And I wasn’t even looking out of real dissatisfaction with my current situation. I was just too antsy to relax. I kept one eye on what I was doing and the other peeled for the next thing, the <i>better</i> thing that might come along.</p><p>Predictably, I never got very far. With one cheek on the cushion and one foot inching toward the door, it’s impossible to settle down and let the practice do its thing. The worst part of it is how capricious I eventually became. At first I was searching out of nervousness that I might miss exactly what I needed, somewhere vaguely “out there.” But eventually I realized I was looking because of a new, sneering cynicism. That’s because…<br><br><strong>2. Familiarity breeds contempt.&nbsp;</strong></p><p>Is Theravada too simple? Is Zen too chilly and austere? Is Vajrayana too mystical, scary, and outlandish? Where are my pants?</p><p>(See? It gets weird quick.)</p><p>I started my Buddhist journey in the Shambhala lineage because it was available. Its amazing mix of secular teachings and old-school Tibetan Buddhism was intoxicating. In addition, the vivid colors, weird-ass knives, screaming skulls, and snarling deities declared right up front that, much like Wu-Tang, this wasn’t nothin’ to fuck with.</p><p>I spent several years there and completed the first five levels of Shambhala Training, which is like getting your yellow belt. After that, I lived at a retreat center in Vermont in order to totally immerse myself. I discovered that this was a religion like any other with bureaucracy, hierarchy, secrecy, egos, superstitions, and misplaced devotion. There was plenty of good, too, but I was overwhelmed by the ersatz royal family and their quasi-military <a href="http://www.tricycle.com/feature/transmuting-blood-and-guts-my-experiences-buddhist-military">Vajra Guard</a>. I wondered whether this often-outrageous system might be incompatible with the modern world.</p><p>Then Zen sauntered by, with its clean lines, stripped down practice, and dark, emo robes. A few wild stories about ancient masters and I was ready to jump its bones and fondle its koans. It was so different from the extravagant world of Tibetan Vajrayana, so sleek, elegant, and indifferent. It played hard to get and I was intrigued.</p><p>I slunk to Zen’s non-approach and we had a one-night stand that turned into something more, something solid. Together, we heaped scorn on the ostentatious Tibetan path I’d recently escaped. We were so facile and free, so snarky and sage, and so downright mean sometimes. And all for the cause, all for some of that sweet, sweet <i>kensho</i>.</p><p>Zazen became my new thing, and its pure, unaffected elegance was a joy. Meditation sessions were filled with form and emptiness and all those other things. Everything clicked right into place like I was Tab A and Zen was Slot B. <i>That’s the stuff</i>, I thought. Or maybe said out loud in the zendo.</p><p>Five months later I was a bit miffed at Zen’s OCD. Can’t I just leave the occasional thought lying around my mind? Jeez. Lighten up. Grow a sense of humor and stop bugging me about polishing the mirror.</p><p>There wasn’t anything <i>wrong</i>, exactly, but Zen became sort of aloof and distant. Its ideas of liberation were mired in double-speak and its stylish simplicity seemed to mask a devilish complexity.</p><p>When I bumped into Vipassana, I wasn’t really looking for anything. I was sure Zen and I could work this out. Hey, we weren’t even on a break.</p><p>But it was tempting. Vipassana was very practical and unadorned and seemed like a straightforward shot through the drippy, spider-infested jungle of life. Zen felt like a clunky paradox compared to the smooth sensibility that drove Vipassana. And, really, the silly questions were getting to be too much.</p><p>So Vipassana and I got together within a mostly Theravada framework, and I was happy at first. But—you see where this is going…—Vipassana became drab and hollow. It lacked mystery and creativity. Over a few months the practice ground to a dusty halt and I wondered if maybe Vajrayana was the right thing all along. I wondered if maybe I’d jumped the gun kicking it to the curb. I wondered if maybe metaphors aren’t my thing.</p><p>But the crux of this issue really became clear once I realized…<br><br><strong>3. I have no idea what I want.</strong></p><p>Not much of a problem when you’re standing at a Redbox agonizing over whether to rent <i>Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2 </i>or<i> American Sniper</i>, but a pretty big deal when you’re trying to decide which brand of Buddhism to follow for the rest of your life. Especially when you’ve tried all the major titles and are still weighing your options.</p><p>Usually for me, it comes down to one basic conflict: religious Buddhism versus secular Buddhism.</p><p>I’ve been an atheist for most of my life. I lack belief in higher, supernatural, disembodied powers. I was initially attracted to Buddhism because it laid out a spiritual path for happiness that didn’t seem to rely on divinity. It was up to me. No one was judging my sins or administering punishments.</p><p>Then, naturally, I jumped right into Tibetan Vajrayana, which is probably the most religious, elaborate form of Buddhism, replete with monstrous dharma protectors, ritual, and reincarnated saints. Well done, me. Then came Zen, which still had rituals but didn’t focus much on things like rebirth and karma. Zazen was important; the rest would work itself out. That was more comfortable to me. Vipassana was even less religious. Despite traditional Asian Theravada’s relative conservativism, Vipassana and mindfulness could be practiced in an entirely secular fashion.</p><p>But everything has its flip side, and I don’t do well with flip sides. Vajrayana is flamboyant and peacocky but it’s also an ingenious system for practicing in the everyday world. Zen is subdued and streamlined but it doesn’t much emphasize ethics, kindness, or compassion. Vipassana can seemingly be removed from any belief system and still aimed at enlightenment, but it can appear desiccated and stale.</p><p>Rebirth, reincarnation, karma, hell realms, jealous gods: probably none of these things will ever make sense to me. I honestly doubt I’ll ever embrace the most supernatural nature of any Buddhism. But that doesn’t mean I want a purely deductive path based solely on what modern science can verify. In short, yes, I would absolutely love to possess my cake and devour it as well.</p><p>The deeper into a religious Buddhism I go, the more I yearn for total practicality. Yet when I’m involved in a devoutly pragmatic Buddhism, I always begin to gravitate back toward a more spiritual approach.</p><p>Is there a balance, you ask? Some delightful dharma concoction that blends the spiritual and the sensible together in a light and fluffy crust? Maybe. Or maybe it’s more a matter of personal approach and how I relate to the teachings. There’s no perfect approach out there, despite my long Bilbo-like journey to discover one. The longer I do this, the more I realize it’s my own views I have to break down. Which is a problem, considering…<br><br><strong>4. I don’t know myself that well.</strong></p><p>Not knowing what I want is one thing. I’ve done extensive—if superficial—research into what the main Buddhist schools have to offer. I have a solid, basic understanding of all their individual styles, attitudes, methods, strengths, and weaknesses. It’s perfectly feasible that I’d be able to make an informed decision.</p><p>But I haven’t, because I remain breathtakingly ignorant of my own self. Or lack of it. You know what I mean.</p><p>I have a unique personality that I’ve watched grow and change over 41 years. The fact that it’s illusory isn’t really the point. The point is that anyone with a modicum of insight and confidence would have pinned the tail on the donkey by now. They would have matched their own temperament with a suitable style of practice and just gone for it.</p><p>Instead, I’ve spent years avoiding getting to know myself, both consciously and unconsciously. I often hide the worst of myself from myself, and then spend precious energy convincing myself it isn’t so. Then, when I stumble across those evil little soul turds, I have to act all surprised, like I had no idea. It’s exhausting.</p><p>And this is where the irony slaps me in the crotch like a cricket bat. Had I spent more of the past two decades meditating—and not on this drunken scavenger hunt for Buddhist perfection—this wouldn’t be an issue. The reason I don’t know myself well enough to settle on a specific practice is because I haven’t spent nearly enough time practicing. When I write it down in black and white it seems even more ludicrous than when it was floating around in my head.</p><p>So far, I’ve been unable to reconcile the perceived inadequacies of whichever tradition I’m in. No matter how many pros it has, the cons bug the shit out of me. But it’s absurd to think that someday I’ll stumble across the consummate form of Buddhism that I’ll sink into like a warm whiskey hot tub, all troubles and sobriety whisked away. There will be irksome aspects to any religious, secular, or spiritual path one embraces.</p><p>I don’t want you to think I’m totally unaware of my own proclivities. There’s at least one thing I know damn well about me, and it’s the final reason I keep switching lineages. It stings to say it, but…<br><br><strong>5. I want to be a Buddhist hipster.&nbsp;</strong></p><p>You know that old joke, right?&nbsp;</p><p style="padding-left: 30px;"><i>How many hipsters does it take to screw in a light bulb?<br></i><i>It’s like, this really obscure number you’ve probably never heard of.</i></p><p>Buddhism is the only area of my life that demands hipsterfication. I don’t fit into skinny jeans, my mustache is attached to a beard, and I hate PBR, even if it’s wedged into a Neutral Milk Hotel coozy. But my smoldering ambition is to be part of a Buddhist group that is so far out on the fringe that it goes almost unnoticed. I have no idea where this desire came from, or why it should exist in my persona, which is lightly antagonistic toward hipsters at the best of times.</p><p>My Vipassana experience moved from the Bhante G. school of gentle sitting to “Hardcore” or “Pragmatic” dharma, sponsored in part by teachers like Daniel Ingram and Kenneth Folk, who champion the idea that with assiduous practice, enlightenment is not only possible but also probable. Many Buddhists find their <a href="http://www.wired.com/2013/06/meditation-mindfulness-silicon-valley/">assertions of enlightenment</a> much too loud and arrogant, which pretty much guaranteed I wanted to be part of it.</p><p>It was a pure ego trip and I admit it. Not many people knew about the Hardcore Dharma movement and it felt great to be a part of something surging through the underground, like I was an anti-establishment Buddhist, too cool for school.</p><p>Before that, I used Zen to set myself apart. But Japanese Zen is well recognized in America, even if its common image, summed up by the mindless phrase “That’s so Zen,” has little to do with its reality. But I practiced Son, <i>Korean</i> Zen. Granted, that’s because my town only <i>had </i>Korean Zen, but still. It’s a different beast, with practices and rituals many people—even Zen people—haven’t heard of. It occupies its own little corner of Mahayana, and I sat in that corner giggling about finding something a little off the beaten eightfold path.</p><p>I had tried to be a spiritual hipster even with Shambhala. Tibetan Buddhism has been big in this country ever since Richard Gere and the Beastie Boys got on board years ago. Tibetan flags became the new Che Guevara t-shirt and the Dalai Lama’s celebrity soon dwarfed poor Mr. Gere’s.</p><p>When folks found out I was essentially a Tibetan Buddhist, they instantly had a mental picture of what that meant: maroon robes, smiling bald guys, and the Dalai Lama, the ultimate smiling bald guy in maroon robes. I would yawn dismissively and reel off some abstruse monologue about the Kagyu and Nyingma schools of Tibetan Buddhism, how Chogyam Trungpa was a super-powered crazy wisdom master smashing spiritual barriers, and the Dalai Lama was nice, sure, but he wasn’t my guy. You’ve never heard of my guys, so don’t worry about it.</p><p>I was insufferable. Still am, in a lot of ways. When I look back on all the time I’ve wasted scouring the Earth and Internet for some Goldilocks version of Buddhism, I’m appalled. So many opportunities squandered, so many options carelessly dismissed, so many asinine stories now to tell. I think Big Daddy Dogen said, “There is the principle of the Way that we must make one mistake after another,” so maybe I’m just a Zen prodigy and no one is advanced enough to recognize it yet.</p><p>That’s doubtful, but I <i>am</i> changing. Close to two decades stewing in the depths of Buddhist thought, and some of it has sunk in just by osmosis. Even if I haven’t truly embraced one vehicle and accepted it, flaws and all, I’ve been changed on an atomic level. I’ve recognized that and begun to encourage it.</p><p>After emerging from the Hardcore Dharma movement and its gloriously breakneck, righteously rational, headlong sprint toward enlightenment, I’ve relaxed a little. I don’t feel I’m chasing liberation with that single-minded fervor. I’ve found something that I think will let me slow down and enjoy my practice, my life; something that celebrates the passion and creativity of this whole endeavor, every experience and every emotion.</p><p>It’s not perfect, of course. It’s just another method, with beauty and scars in equal measure. So far, that hasn’t bothered me like it has in the past. Once you get to know someone, explore them inside and out, and realize you’re in love, their scars can become their most attractive features. Maybe I can finally do that, finally fall in love with my practice. And maybe I’ll tell you about it someday, if we’re still friends after this article.<br><br><b>Brent R. Oliver</b>&nbsp;is a writer based in Lexington, Kentucky.&nbsp;</p><p><i>Illustration by James Thacher</i></p> 46737 Tue, 18 Aug 2015 10:32:55 -0400 Tricycle - Awake in the World The Disrobed Monk Who Provides Safe Haven to 85 Children http://www.tricycle.com/blog/disrobed-monk-who-provides-safe-haven-85-children <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="http://www.tricycle.com/sites/default/files/images/blog/Tashi-The-Monk-2.jpg" width="570" height="321" style="display: block; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;"><i>Lobsang Phuntsok, founder of the Jhamtse Gatsal community, with Tashi</i></p><p>For years, Lobsang Phuntsok, a Tibetan Buddhist monk, dreamed of creating a safe haven for unwanted children in Arunachal Pradesh, the remote Himalayan region where he was born in 1971. Now <a href="http://jhamtsegatsal.org">Jhamtse Gatsal</a>—Tibetan for Garden of Love and Compassion—is home to 85 children age 5 to 15, rescued from poverty, abuse, and neglect. Under Lobsang’s fatherly care, they are thriving in a family environment that offers love, compassion, and a first-rate education.</p><p>Lobsang, who was sent to Sera Je monastery in southern India at age 6 and later studied with the Dalai Lama before teaching in the US, now devotes himself fulltime to the children, determined to undo the damage of their early lives. Helping them, in turn, heals the wounds of his own painful past, Lobsang says.</p><p>In the award-winning film&nbsp;<i>Tashi and the Monk,</i> directors Andrew Hinton and Johnny Burke focus on five-year-old Tashi, the latest arrival at Jhamtse Gatsal. Very smart and very naughty, she “was taking her time to settle in,” as Hinton euphemistically puts it. Tashi throws tantrums, picks fights, and displays antisocial behavior hinting at the kind of abuse she has suffered. Over three months of filming, Hinton and Burke follow Tashi’s integration into community life—what Hinton calls “a gradual softening. Some of that feral quality, that anger and frustration was going.”</p><p>Though Lobsang is unquestionably the moral core of the film, the children sparkle. Most are Monpa, a Tibetan tribe that clearly carries genes for exceptional beauty, along with a rich cultural identity that the community nurtures.</p><p>Hinton’s film credits include music videos, indie features, and performance films. So how, I wondered, did he choose Jhamtse Gatsal as a subject?</p><p>“I was in India working on another project,” he explained, “and got an email out of the blue from a company that needed a filmmaker to go to a remote school and shoot a film for them. I went to Arunachal Pradesh and did the assignment. As I got to know Lobsang and the kids, I saw what a special community it was and realized there was a more interesting film to make.</p><p>“Lobsang’s life story is almost mythical,” Hinton continued. “He was abandoned at the moment of birth by a single mother who was ashamed to have gotten pregnant, and then he went through this journey of transforming from a troubled, angry, difficult child into a monk and an adult who used his negative experiences to help others.</p><p>“Jhamtse Gatsal is an amazing place,” Hinton added. “I was struck by the laughter, joy, and peace. Everything’s not perfect, of course; there are conflicts and upsets. But there’s a remarkable baseline energy of contentment.</p><p>“The most amazing thing,” Hinton said, “is that what Lobsang does is create and hold a space in which the children actually support and heal each other and show kindness.”</p><p>TASHI AND THE MONK<i> airs on HBO, Monday, August 17, 2015, at 8 pm EDT, 7 pm CDT. <a href="http://tashiandthemonk.com">http://tashiandthemonk.com</a></i><i>.</i><br><br><strong>Joan Duncan Oliver</strong> is a&nbsp;<em>Tricycle</em> contributing editor.<em><br></em></p> 46764 Sun, 16 Aug 2015 13:43:31 -0400 Tricycle - Awake in the World Don't Worry, Be Angry http://www.tricycle.com/blog/dont-worry-be-angry <p><img src="http://www.tricycle.com/sites/default/files/images/ThanissaraPic.png" width="570" height="380" style="margin: 7px auto; vertical-align: middle; display: block;"></p><p>Buddhists often shame each other for expressing anger. But getting in touch with our anger is vital.</p><p>If we aim to engage destructive social structures, as we must, our efforts will bring us into direct relationship with anger and outrage. At its worst, anger burns us up, injures others, or, when we repress it, collapses us into depression. In the spiritual realm, it can also become passive aggression, which either internalizes as the hyper-energized inner critic or projects out onto those who are "not following the rules.”</p><p>Women in particular—who are socialized over millennia to be accommodating, nice, pretty, and enabling—are shamed when they express anger. Rather than shaping themselves into pretzels in service of distorted and immature power—which leaves them muted, manipulative, frustrated, damaged, and damaging—women can recognize outrage at its root: the activated energy experienced in their bodies. This energy, when distilled into clarity and wisdom, burns away the dross of self-seeking desires and fears. It cuts through one’s subtle addiction to transcendent, calm states—an addiction all too common among dharma practitioners.</p><p>In the realms of Buddhist iconography and practice, we see the dynamic force of fierce feminine energy represented in the Vajrayana school, particularly in the female image of Vajrayogini. Known as the “Essence of all Buddhas,” she is depicted in a dancing posture similar to that of Shiva. She wields a sharp knife symbolic of her ability to cut through ignorance and illusions. Her hair is untamed and her face radiates a numinous, wrathful expression. She is wild. Her red body is ablaze with the heat of yogic fire and is surrounded by the flames of wisdom.</p><p>This portrayal signifies the gift of the protector feminine. If we are to undertake the blessed and grueling journey of the luminous, fierce, yet tender heart needed for our times, then anger is an asset. Looking on at the mindless destruction of the planet, how can we not feel outraged? While anger is an uncomfortable and difficult emotion, it serves a vital purpose: shocking us out of the stupid trivia of celebrity lifestyles and media dirges. We should be on a war footing, in the same way we might in the face of an alien invasion. Instead we are lost in distracted twaddle while a terrible destruction unfolds around us.</p><p>It is healthy to feel angry and enraged that the boreal forests of Canada are being stripped to make way for tar sands mining, to feel angry that the fossil fuel companies are determined to extract the last drops of oil, gas, and coal, whatever the environmental and human cost. Our anger tells us they are absolutely not to be trusted. They do not have our collective welfare at heart. Instead they funnel billions of dollars into campaigns and advertisements that misinform the public about the actual state of the planet.</p><p>It is important to feel upset, remorse, and anger at what humans have done. It means we have a conscience. In Buddhist understanding, the force of conscience is the guardian of the world.</p><p>It is important to let ourselves feel outrage rather than sanitize this raw emotion with spiritual speak or shame it as ignoble. Yet if we harbor or act out of anger, it almost always poisons us, diminishing our credibility and harming others. The late Thai Buddhist teacher Ajahn Chah recommended we "catch emotions in the net of mindfulness, and then examine them before reacting." Anger is a warning that something is invading and overwhelming us. If we don't take heed, disorder and destruction will follow.</p><p>Holding onto anger, however, is not sustainable. There is a fine line between feeling anger and being blinded by its energy. Anger can sometimes arise when we activate early patterning. This kind of upset needs careful tending.</p><p>Anger as a healthy response to injustice has a different quality. It is clarifying. In Buddhist teachings, particularly in Vajrayana Buddhism, so-called negative emotions mask pure essential energy. Once the coarser emotion is transmuted, the finer energy is distilled.</p><p>Anger is traditionally thought to be close to wisdom. When not projected outward onto others or inward toward the self, it gives us the necessary energy and clarity to understand what needs to be done.</p><p>If we prematurely condemn or repress anger because we think it unworthy to feel, then we will fail to transform it. The fullness of its embodied energy will remain unavailable to us. We won't be able to protect what needs to be protected; we will let what is most precious slip away.<br><br><b>Thanissara</b> is a Buddhist teacher and cofounder of Dharmagiri Insight Meditation Centre in South Africa.</p><p><em>From </em>Time to Stand Up<em>&nbsp;by Thanissara, ©&nbsp;2015 Sacred Activism, an imprint of North Atlantic Books.</em></p><p><em>Philippe Leroyer/Flickr</em></p><p></p><hr><p><strong>More at Tricycle:</strong></p><table border="0" cellpadding="8" cellspacing="10" width="550"><tbody><tr></tr><tr><td scope="col" valign="top"><p><a href="http://www.tricycle.com/blog/lost-capitulation"><img src="https://www.tricycle.com/sites/default/files/tile-07-03.png" alt="" width="270" height="150" border="0" style="display: block; border: none; outline: none; text-decoration: none;" class="colimg2"></a></p><span> <b>Lost in Capitulation </b></span><p align="left"><a href="http://www.tricycle.com/blog/lost-capitulation" style="font-size: 12px; font: normal 11px/12px arial,tahoma,sans-serif; color: #ffffff; text-decoration: none; border-radius: 3px; -webkit-border-radius: 3px; -moz-border-radius: 3px; background-color: #d7272e; border-top: 6px solid #d7272e; border-bottom: 6px solid #d7272e; border-right: 14px solid #d7272e; font-weight: bold; border-left: 14px solid #d7272e; display: inline-block;">READ THE POST →</a></p></td><td scope="col" valign="top"><p><a href="http://www.tricycle.com/blog/big-gay-history-same-sex-marriage-sangha"><img src="http://www.tricycle.com/sites/default/files/gay-07.png" alt="" width="270" height="150" border="0" style="display: block; border: none; outline: none; text-decoration: none;" class="colimg2"></a></p><span> <b>A Big Gay History of Same-sex <br>Marriage in the Sangha</b></span><p align="left"><a href="http://www.tricycle.com/blog/big-gay-history-same-sex-marriage-sangha" style="font-size: 12px; font: normal 11px/12px arial,tahoma,sans-serif; color: #ffffff; text-decoration: none; border-radius: 3px; -webkit-border-radius: 3px; -moz-border-radius: 3px; background-color: #d7272e; border-top: 6px solid #d7272e; border-bottom: 6px solid #d7272e; border-right: 14px solid #d7272e; font-weight: bold; border-left: 14px solid #d7272e; display: inline-block;">READ THE POST →</a></p></td></tr></tbody></table> 46752 Thu, 13 Aug 2015 13:56:57 -0400 Tricycle - Awake in the World Ken Jones, Welsh Author and Activist, Dies at 85 http://www.tricycle.com/blog/ken-jones-welsh-author-and-activist-dies-85 <p><img src="http://www.tricycle.com/sites/default/files/images/blog/kenjones.jpg" width="280" height="281" style="float: left; margin: 7px;">Ken Jones, a dharma teacher with the UK-based Western Chan Fellowship and an important voice in socially engaged Buddhism, left this dew-drop world Sunday, August 2, after a long illness, at the age of 85. His professional career was in higher education, supplemented by many years as a peace, ecology, and social justice activist. His Buddhist practice began when he realized that it was not enough to work for social emancipation: inner liberation was also necessary.</p><p>As a teacher in the lineage of the Taiwanese Chan master Sheng Yen and John Crook, Ken led many meditation retreats and workshops on various aspects of Buddhism. He was a founder of the UK Network of Socially Engaged Buddhists, and for many years was a member of the International Advisory Committee of the Buddhist Peace Fellowship. His most important book on socially engaged Buddhism is <em>The New Social Face of Buddhism: A Call to Action</em> (2003).&nbsp;</p><p>I was fortunate to become his friend and to be hosted by him and his Irish wife, Noragh, in their rustic home near Aberystwyth University, in his beloved Wales.&nbsp;</p><p>Ken was also an accomplished poet, whose haiku and haibun were awarded many prizes. A few of my favorite haiku are below:</p><p style="padding-left: 90px;"><br><br>Strolling for miles<br>arm in my pocket<br>hoping she’ll take it</p><p style="padding-left: 90px;"></p><p style="padding-left: 90px;"></p><p style="padding-left: 90px;"></p><p style="padding-left: 90px;"></p><p style="padding-left: 90px;"><br><br>Ageing address book<br>the living squeezed <br>between the dead</p><p style="padding-left: 150px;"></p><p style="padding-left: 90px;"></p><p style="padding-left: 90px;"></p><p style="padding-left: 90px;"></p><p style="padding-left: 90px;"><br><br>This fine evening<br>Stacking firewood<br>How simple death seems</p><p style="padding-left: 150px;"></p><p><br><br><strong>David Loy</strong>&nbsp;is a writer and teacher in the Sanbo Zen tradition and author of&nbsp;<i>A New Buddhist Path: Enlightenment, Evolution, and Ethics in the Modern World</i>. His last article for<em>&nbsp;Tricycle</em>&nbsp;was “<a href="http://www.tricycle.com/feature/world-made-stories" target="_blank">The World Is Made of Stories</a>” (Summer 2015).</p> 46749 Mon, 10 Aug 2015 11:13:06 -0400 Tricycle - Awake in the World Why Are Myanmar Nuns Not Granted the Same Respect as Monks? http://www.tricycle.com/blog/why-are-myanmar-nuns-not-granted-same-respect-monks <p style="text-align: center;"><i><img src="http://www.tricycle.com/sites/default/files/images/blog/800.jpg" width="570" height="380">A young Buddhist nun rides Yangon's circular train in June 2015.</i></p><p>Born of Buddhist parents and raised in a Buddhist environment, I grew up as a typical Myanmar Buddhist girl. Under the care of my grandmother, it was hammered into my brain that we should worship and pay the utmost respect to Buddhist monks in all circumstances. My grandmother instructed me, for example, to never sit on the same level as monks, but place myself at their feet. Yet in all the years of my childhood she never said a word about how to behave in front of Buddhist women who had become nuns.</p><p>It’s customary in Myanmar to make donations at monasteries during annual religious events and to donate to monks begging for alms on the street. I used to see my grandmother give rice and curries to monks every morning, before anyone had a chance to eat, and I learned that I should always offer food to the monks first. But when nuns came asking for alms she usually replied: “Sorry, please no offerings.” Only occasionally a nun would receive a spoonful of rice or a one-kyat note—this was at a time when the bus fare for a short trip cost around 50 kyats.</p><p>Thus, I learned early on that nuns do not deserve the same respect as monks. Later, I came to understand this is due to persistent conservative views of women in Myanmar society and in religious practice.</p><p>When I was a child, an aunt decided to become a nun for life. I remember thinking that it was embarrassing for a woman to become a nun and shave her head. It is common in Myanmar for children to have their heads shaved from time to time as mothers believe this will give them thick, beautiful hair. I always disliked having my head shaved—it happened to me only three times, and I would cry my eyes out every time.</p><p>But in recent years as I’ve grown older, and perhaps more mature, a new thought entered my head. I began to ask myself: Why, as a Buddhist woman, should I feel ashamed to shave my head when I become a nun?</p><p>So, earlier this year I decided that I wanted to overcome my old anxieties and became a nun for ten days during the&nbsp;<em>Thingyan</em>&nbsp;water festival in April. What I found during this experience is that nuns suffer not only a lack of respect due to negative, patriarchal views that still hold sway, but also a lack of public support.</p><p>I went to Shwe Min Wun Nunnery on Yangon’s Dhammazedi Road to be ordained. The living conditions of the ten poor nuns in the tiny nunnery shocked me. The one-story wooden building was small and cramped; there was no modern furniture and it had only one fan, two water tanks, a drinking water pot and bamboo sleeping mats.</p><p>Soon after the ordination I went to Tit Wine Monastery, a well-known religious centre in Yangon’s South Okkalapa Township, for a short meditation course. There I realized how different the living conditions are for monks when compared with nuns'.</p><p>The monastery was a grand, five-story building installed with modern electrical items, such as air-conditioners, electric fans, and water coolers, as well as a generator in case of power cuts. The nuns at Shwe Min Wun have to scoop up every drink of water they need, the monks at Tit Wine got a refreshing drink of cooled water at the press of a button.&nbsp;</p><p>Upon closer inspection there is no end to the differences between the facilities at nunneries and monasteries; the gap in living conditions is huge.</p><p>Monasteries can count on numerous generous donors looking to earn merit through donations, but nuns arriving in front of a house to ask for donations for their nunnery usually leave empty-handed. Even in Yangon, Myanmar’s biggest city, there are only a few donors for nunneries, so we can imagine how nuns in rural areas are struggling to get by.&nbsp;</p><p>Negative views of women and nuns can sadly be found in some of the centuries-old Buddhist practices in Myanmar. Women and nuns can often not visit the holiest parts of religious monuments like men can. Nuns are not allowed to give sermons at important events, only monks can.</p><p>We are taught to step aside when monks are passing by because it would be bad karma to even stand on their shadow, yet little regard is paid to a passing nun. People will give up their seats on buses for monks, but rarely for nuns.</p><p>Tazar Thiri, a life-long nun living in Yangon, told me, “I’ve met men and women who would refer to me as a layperson.”</p><p>As a Myanmar woman and a temporary nun, it is has been very disappointing to see nuns being treated like they deserve no more respect than ordinary laypeople, and to see them struggle to live with dignity just because of their gender.</p><p>I believe our society has wrongly presumed that nuns do not deserve the same respect and support as monks just because they are women. In fact, both monks and nuns are living strictly in accordance with the instructions of Lord Buddha and deserve an equal amount of respect.</p><p style="text-align: right;"><em>—Ei Cherry Aung, Myanmar Now<a href="http://www.myanmar-now.org/news/i/?id=c514a892-b4b1-4f9a-b255-3f906b885fe9" target="_blank"></a></em></p><p><em>©2015 <a href="http://www.myanmar-now.org/news/i/?id=c514a892-b4b1-4f9a-b255-3f906b885fe9" target="_blank">Myanmar Now&nbsp;</a><br>Image: Hkun Lat/Myanmar Now</em></p><hr><p><strong>More at Tricycle:</strong></p><table border="0" cellpadding="8" cellspacing="10" width="550"><tbody><tr></tr><tr><td scope="col" valign="top"><p><a href="http://www.tricycle.com/blog/lost-capitulation"><img src="https://www.tricycle.com/sites/default/files/tile-07-03.png" alt="" width="270" height="150" border="0" style="display: block; border: none; outline: none; text-decoration: none;" class="colimg2"></a></p><span> <b>Lost in Capitulation </b></span><p align="left"><a href="http://www.tricycle.com/blog/lost-capitulation" style="font-size: 12px; font: normal 11px/12px arial,tahoma,sans-serif; color: #ffffff; text-decoration: none; border-radius: 3px; -webkit-border-radius: 3px; -moz-border-radius: 3px; background-color: #d7272e; border-top: 6px solid #d7272e; border-bottom: 6px solid #d7272e; border-right: 14px solid #d7272e; font-weight: bold; border-left: 14px solid #d7272e; display: inline-block;">READ THE POST →</a></p></td><td scope="col" valign="top"><p><a href="http://www.tricycle.com/blog/big-gay-history-same-sex-marriage-sangha"><img src="http://www.tricycle.com/sites/default/files/gay-07.png" alt="" width="270" height="150" border="0" style="display: block; border: none; outline: none; text-decoration: none;" class="colimg2"></a></p><span> <b>A Big Gay History of Same-sex <br>Marriage in the Sangha</b></span><p align="left"><a href="http://www.tricycle.com/blog/big-gay-history-same-sex-marriage-sangha" style="font-size: 12px; font: normal 11px/12px arial,tahoma,sans-serif; color: #ffffff; text-decoration: none; border-radius: 3px; -webkit-border-radius: 3px; -moz-border-radius: 3px; background-color: #d7272e; border-top: 6px solid #d7272e; border-bottom: 6px solid #d7272e; border-right: 14px solid #d7272e; font-weight: bold; border-left: 14px solid #d7272e; display: inline-block;">READ THE POST →</a></p></td></tr></tbody></table> 46745 Fri, 07 Aug 2015 12:16:06 -0400 Tricycle - Awake in the World Black, Bisexual, and Buddhist http://www.tricycle.com/blog/black-bisexual-and-buddhist <p><img src="http://www.tricycle.com/sites/default/files/images/ZenjuPic4.png" width="570" height="318" style="margin: 7px auto; vertical-align: middle; display: block;"></p><p>OAKLAND, Calif. (RNS) When Zenju Earthlyn Manuel goes to teach somewhere for the first time, she often sees surprise in the faces of the students as&nbsp;she is introduced.</p><p>She doesn’t look like many of them expect. She isn’t Asian. She isn’t a man. And she isn’t white.</p><p>And getting them to acknowledge that her body—her “manifestation,” as she calls it—is different and a part of her experience is crucial to her teaching. If our bodies are sources of suffering, then we ignore them at our peril.</p><p>“When I have held and embraced who I am, how I am embodied, it has become a source of enlightenment, of freedom,” she said from a sunny corner window seat in her living room. Draped in a black monk’s jacket, she is a stark contrast to the white walls and white upholstery of the rest of the room.</p><p>It is an idea that she unpacks in&nbsp;<i>The Way of Tenderness: Awakening Through Race, Sexuality, and Gender</i>,&nbsp;her second book of dharma, or Buddhist teachings, published in February by Wisdom Publications. In it, Manuel, who follows the Zen tradition,&nbsp;calls on Buddhists not to ignore those ways they may be different, whether it’s because of their color, gender, or sexual orientation.</p><p>“These are the things you were born with,” she said, one hand resting on her chest. “Do you curl up and die or do you live with it?”</p><p>This idea—which she and others call a “multiplicity of oneness”—is somewhat controversial within Buddhism, where the teachings have tended to focus on moving beyond the physical to find the spiritual. But Manuel and a handful of other Western Buddhists—including a number of African-American teachers—are embracing the idea as crucial to enlightenment, a state free from anxiety that is the ultimate goal of Buddhism.</p><p>“There are two truths in Buddhism; one is relative and one is absolute,” Manuel said. “We tend to want to be in the absolute, where we are all the same, we are all one. But that is not where our suffering lies. Our suffering lies in the relative truth, in how we are embodied. So we have to acknowledge and explore these bodies to experience the absolute truth, the truth that we are one from the source of life. We can’t skip it.”</p><p>Jan Willis, a religion scholar and author of&nbsp;<i>Dreaming Me: Black, Baptist, and Buddhist</i>,&nbsp;said Manuel’s teachings might be considered controversial in mainstream Buddhism but cannot be ignored.</p><p>“Within the United States (Buddhist community), and especially from male convert practitioners, you hear, ‘You are making too much of that body and if you are really a Buddhist you have to transcend that,'” Willis said. “She is calling them on that. She is saying you have to deal with this first. And you do. When a black female lesbian body sits on a cushion, that is where her practice starts from, and you better take that into account.”</p><p>Manuel, 62, has had a multiplicity of lives, all of which inform her work.&nbsp;She is reluctant to discuss particulars, but her writings hint at violence, poverty and prejudice in her Southern California childhood. She has been an activist since the tumultuous 1970s—a way to vent her rage and frustration at the plight of American blacks—and has also known fear and rejection because she is bisexual.</p><p>She was raised a Christian but discovered Buddhism in 1988 when friends insisted she come to a meditation before they could go to dinner. She was hungry so, OK, I’ll meditate and then let’s eat, she recalled. A month later, she had her own Buddhist altar and sitting meditation practice.</p><p>But no amount of meditation erased her pain, she writes. At first, teachers suggested if she “dropped the labels” of African-American, of bisexual, of woman, she would “be liberated.” She wasn’t. She finally found what she calls “complete tenderness”—the experience of walking through her pain, knowing it, living with it, but not being controlled by it—by confronting her suffering caused by her upbringing and identity as an African-American bisexual woman.</p><p>Upon her ordination as a Zen Buddhist priest, she was given the name “Zenju,” which means “complete tenderness.”</p><p>Now, Manuel teaches a small circle of students, all of them women and many of them people of color, from her home above the Oakland flats. A small jade statue of Kuan Yin, a figure of mercy, shares a mantel niche with a figure of the Virgin Mary, a nod to her partner’s childhood Catholicism. Pride of place goes to an alabaster carving Manuel made of a wide-eyed woman emerging from the unforgiving rock.</p><p>“Women, people of color, anyone who is marginalized, who might be murdered for who they are—how does that group of people live a full life?” she asked. “That has always been my question and it is ongoing.”<br><br><strong>Kimberly Winston</strong> is a freelance religion reporter based in the San Francisco Bay Area.&nbsp;</p><p><strong>To see Zenju Earthlyn Manuel in action, check out her&nbsp;Tricycle<em>&nbsp;</em>Retreat: "<a href="http://www.tricycle.com/online-retreats/its-beyond-me-freedom-managing-your-life" target="_blank">It's Beyond Me: Freedom from Managing Your Life</a>."&nbsp;</strong></p><p><i>© 2015 Religion News Service. All rights reserved. No part of this transmission may be distributed or reproduced without written permission.</i></p><p></p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><hr><p><strong>More at Tricycle:</strong></p><table border="0" cellpadding="8" cellspacing="10" width="550"><tbody><tr></tr><tr><td scope="col" valign="top"><p><a href="http://www.tricycle.com/blog/across-expanse"><img src="http://www.tricycle.com/sites/default/files/tile-0715.png" alt="" width="270" height="150" border="0" style="display: block; border: none; outline: none; text-decoration: none;" class="colimg2"></a></p><span> <b>Across the Expanse </b></span><p align="left"><a href="http://www.tricycle.com/blog/across-expanse" style="font-size: 12px; font: normal 11px/12px arial,tahoma,sans-serif; color: #ffffff; text-decoration: none; border-radius: 3px; -webkit-border-radius: 3px; -moz-border-radius: 3px; background-color: #d7272e; border-top: 6px solid #d7272e; border-bottom: 6px solid #d7272e; border-right: 14px solid #d7272e; font-weight: bold; border-left: 14px solid #d7272e; display: inline-block;">READ THE POST →</a></p></td><td scope="col" valign="top"><p><a href="http://www.tricycle.com/blog/long-strange-trip"><img src="https://www.tricycle.com/sites/default/files/zigzag.png" alt="" width="270" height="150" border="0" style="display: block; border: none; outline: none; text-decoration: none;" class="colimg2"></a></p><span> <b>The Long, Strange Trip</b></span><p align="left"><a href="http://www.tricycle.com/blog/long-strange-trip" style="font-size: 12px; font: normal 11px/12px arial,tahoma,sans-serif; color: #ffffff; text-decoration: none; border-radius: 3px; -webkit-border-radius: 3px; -moz-border-radius: 3px; background-color: #d7272e; border-top: 6px solid #d7272e; border-bottom: 6px solid #d7272e; border-right: 14px solid #d7272e; font-weight: bold; border-left: 14px solid #d7272e; display: inline-block;">READ THE POST →</a></p></td></tr></tbody></table> 46735 Wed, 05 Aug 2015 14:37:12 -0400 Tricycle - Awake in the World Making the First Move http://www.tricycle.com/blog/making-first-move <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="http://www.tricycle.com/sites/default/files/images/blog/Johnson_friendship.jpg" width="570" height="380"></p><p>Saddled with backpacks, duffle bags, and pillows, the teens shuffle up to the table one by one to register for their weeklong meditation retreat. Their eyes flicker with hope and fear as they alternately scan their peers and stare at the floor, shifting their weight from side to side. It is hard to watch their discomfort, but even harder not to. There's something beautiful about the sincerity of their wish to connect with each other and something heartbreaking about their transparent efforts to conceal that wish.</p><p>At some point in the next few hours of icebreakers and name games and sharing of favorite bands and books, I see the scales begin to tip. The desire to know one another and be known suddenly outweighs the desire to hide or disappear, and the moment that happens gestures of generosity arise. Eyes become steady with interest; questions are asked and answered with kind curiosity; tight, nervous smiles relax and grow broad; hands are extended to help or to high five. Someone makes the first move to connect, and the other reciprocates. By the time tacos are on the table for dinner, groups of friends are forming, with even the cool kids beginning to show signs of warmth.</p><p>I will be one of their dharma teachers this week for <a href="http://ibme.info" target="_blank">Inward Bound</a>. They don't know it, but they are already mine.</p><p>Making friends is a process fraught with vulnerability, somehow especially so in Buddhist communities. Maybe it's because so many of us come to dharma centers a little bit broken open and raw from whatever life circumstance finally drove us their, admitting—yes, <i>dammit</i>—suffering exists and we want to be free. We arrive at the door with our little hearts in our hands, longing for care and companionship, only we've picked up the notion somewhere along the way that we must conceal this longing at all costs or risk rejection or humiliation.</p><p>I can't tell you how many years I hung out in dharma communities desperately wanting to connect with kindred spirits and all the while pretending I couldn't care less. I would usually show up just barely on time to classes and bolt out the door as soon as they finished so that I wouldn't have to actually talk to anyone.</p><p>It was several years since I had begun practicing meditation and attending courses regularly when I came across the Buddha's teaching on <a href="http://www.tricycle.com/online-retreats/admirable-friendship">admirable friendship</a>, which he identifies as “<a href="http://www.accesstoinsight.org/ptf/dhamma/sacca/sacca4/samma-ditthi/kalyanamittata.html">the whole of holy life</a>.” I had managed to write off the possibility of relating with other members of my sangha as optional, an extra credit kind of activity. But these teachings were clear: relational practice inspires and supports our collective steps along the eightfold path to liberation. I knew that I needed that kind of support in order to continue to grow spiritually. When I dropped below my fears of becoming vulnerable to others, I also became aware that I not only needed these relationships, I also <i>wanted</i> them.</p><p>My solitary dharma path had become lonely enough that I was willing to take a risk. And so I started putting some energy into what I've come to think of as the spiritual friendship practice of making the first move, which is really just a variation on the practice of generosity.</p><p>"Making the first move" most commonly refers to an action meant to initiate a romantic connection. Motivated by attraction, and perhaps also fueled by the cultural belief that romantic relationships can provide all the love that we possibly need, we become willing to take the risk of asking for a date or moving in for a kiss.</p><p>When it comes to making new friends, however, platonic attraction and shared interests often don't seem enough to move us to commit the gestures of kindness that might initiate a friendly bond, at least not among grown-ups.</p><p>I'm not sure why it's more socially acceptable to admit a longing for a romantic partner who shares our spiritual practice than the wish for a best friend who does, or why we believe that the former will ultimately be more satisfying than the latter. But I do know this: it is through the day-to-day, moment-to-moment interactions in my spiritual friendships that I have learned to give and receive unconditional love in a way I could only dream of experiencing in a romantic or sexual relationship. These relationships are supportive—and they are annoying. We check in, we call out, we mess up, we make it right, and we come into vivid contact with the truths of suffering, change, and interconnectedness in our lived experiences of each other.</p><p>As a gesture that manifests our fundamental non-separateness, making the first move in friendship is a practice of generosity. When we ask someone in the sangha how they're feeling on a particular day, or when we answer that question honestly, we demonstrate our understanding that all human beings sometimes feel good and sometimes bad, just like us, and we express our dedication to caring. When we smile and welcome the newbie or allow ourselves to be welcomed, we act out of our recognition that belonging is a common human need, one that is not an obstacle to, but in service of, waking up.</p><p>Observing the teens arriving on that first day of retreat, I was reminded of how I met the woman who is now my oldest friend. It was our first day of high school, and I was new in the school district and jumpy as a small bird, not knowing a soul. In the moments before our Spanish class started, Emily leaned over and asked if I would like her to draw a heart on my hand. I said yes, and she drew a tiny red heart near my right wrist with a marker, and we exchanged names. It was as simple as that.</p><p>There is far more love available to us in any given moment than we might be aware. And there is much, <i>much</i> more love in our hearts than we as adults have been conditioned to believe is appropriate to express. It would probably serve us all to get more deeply in touch with our inner teenager—hopeful, awkward, excited enough about the possibility of connecting with a kindred spirit that we’re willing to open up our hearts and make the first move.<br><br><i>For more spiritual friendship, tune in to Kate Johnson’s Tricycle Retreat</i>,<i> “</i><a href="http://www.tricycle.com/online-retreats/admirable-friendship"><i>Admirable Friendship</i></a><i>,” available to watch&nbsp;at any time.&nbsp;</i><br><br><b>Kate Johnson</b> is happiest when working at the intersections of spirituality, social justice, and creative practice.&nbsp;She lives in Brooklyn, NY.</p><p><em>Pascal Shirley/Gallery Stock</em></p><hr><p><strong>More at Tricycle:</strong></p><table border="0" cellpadding="8" cellspacing="10" width="550"><tbody><tr></tr><tr><td scope="col" valign="top"><p><a href="http://www.tricycle.com/blog/lost-capitulation"><img src="https://www.tricycle.com/sites/default/files/tile-07-03.png" alt="" width="270" height="150" border="0" style="display: block; border: none; outline: none; text-decoration: none;" class="colimg2"></a></p><span> <b>Lost in Capitulation </b></span><p align="left"><a href="http://www.tricycle.com/blog/lost-capitulation" style="font-size: 12px; font: normal 11px/12px arial,tahoma,sans-serif; color: #ffffff; text-decoration: none; border-radius: 3px; -webkit-border-radius: 3px; -moz-border-radius: 3px; background-color: #d7272e; border-top: 6px solid #d7272e; border-bottom: 6px solid #d7272e; border-right: 14px solid #d7272e; font-weight: bold; border-left: 14px solid #d7272e; display: inline-block;">READ THE POST →</a></p></td><td scope="col" valign="top"><p><a href="http://www.tricycle.com/blog/big-gay-history-same-sex-marriage-sangha"><img src="http://www.tricycle.com/sites/default/files/gay-07.png" alt="" width="270" height="150" border="0" style="display: block; border: none; outline: none; text-decoration: none;" class="colimg2"></a></p><span> <b>A Big Gay History of Same-sex <br>Marriage in the Sangha</b></span><p align="left"><a href="http://www.tricycle.com/blog/big-gay-history-same-sex-marriage-sangha" style="font-size: 12px; font: normal 11px/12px arial,tahoma,sans-serif; color: #ffffff; text-decoration: none; border-radius: 3px; -webkit-border-radius: 3px; -moz-border-radius: 3px; background-color: #d7272e; border-top: 6px solid #d7272e; border-bottom: 6px solid #d7272e; border-right: 14px solid #d7272e; font-weight: bold; border-left: 14px solid #d7272e; display: inline-block;">READ THE POST →</a></p></td></tr></tbody></table> 46723 Fri, 31 Jul 2015 12:01:52 -0400 Tricycle - Awake in the World The Light Is Always There http://www.tricycle.com/blog/light-always-there <p><img src="http://www.tricycle.com/sites/default/files/images/WangyalImage2.jpg" width="570" height="763" style="margin: 7px auto; vertical-align: middle; display: block;"></p><p>There is no better protection than the refuge of unbounded sacred space, infinite awareness, and genuine warmth. Any external source of refuge is ultimately unreliable. Looking for refuge in money or material possessions cannot protect you from the pain of loss, because everything you have will be lost to you someday. No matter how good your health insurance is or how healthy your lifestyle, sooner or later you will suffer from injury or sickness; eventually you will die. Finding your perfect soul mate cannot protect you from someday losing your beloved through separation, divorce, or death.</p><p>With the inner refuge, you are not depending on someone or something outside you to make you feel secure. The first refuge, unbounded sacred space, is a true support because it is unchanging, indestructible, beyond birth and death, and eternal. Whatever difficulties you face, the first refuge supports you in allowing your experiences and hosting them fully. The second inner refuge, the light of awareness, can never be diminished or extinguished by any cause or condition. Inner light is unceasing—forever luminous and clear. Even in the darkest of circumstances, you can trust that it is always there. You can also trust that the warmth of the third refuge is within you. It spontaneously arises from the union of openness and awareness. There may be moments when you feel emotionally cold and dark, when it seems that all the light has gone from your life. But your experience and inner truth are not in sync—the light is always there. At these moments, access to the inner refuge may seem distant, but a sense of trust may bring you a glimmer of the inner refuge that can lead to a shift in the darkness of your experience. Trust is a necessary companion on the path. There is no situation so bad that you can't turn toward the three doors. As you become more familiar with entering and abiding in the inner refuge, you will begin to trust in its healing presence.</p><p>We all long for that inner connection, just as a lost child longs to reunite with his or her mother. When you connect with the inner refuge, you can rest in that space just as a child rests in his or her mother's loving arms, feeling protected, safe, secure, complete.</p><p><b>Beyond the Ego</b></p><p>There is a Tibetan joke about a yogi who leaves his hermitage to get supplies. Afraid of getting lost in a crowded marketplace, he ties a red ribbon around his leg. As long as the ribbon is there, he feels secure. But at one point he looks down and notices that the ribbon has fallen off. He frantically runs back and forth through the market, yelling, "I'm lost! I'm lost! Did anyone see me? I'm the one wearing the red ribbon around his leg."</p><p>His reaction may seem quite silly to us, but most of us react in a similar way. We lose our job, or an important relationship comes to an end, and we feel lost. <i>Who am I</i>? We forget where we put our cell phone, and we panic and feel disoriented. <i>Where am I</i>? We have all experienced losing the red ribbon. But the truth is, we are never lost.</p><p>Drawing attention to stillness, silence, and spaciousness shifts your focus from feeding the insecurity of the ego to connecting with pure being. Anytime you identify with a sense of "I"—"I feel something"; "I have lost some­ thing"; "I am lost"—you are identifying with the wrong person. You are identifying with the ego, with your pain body, not with your true nature.</p><p>Being aware of the three doors is not work. In fact, the more effort you put into connecting with stillness, silence, and spaciousness, the more elusive the inner refuge seems. Connecting with the inner refuge is simply a matter of shifting your attention. If you are already still, be aware of stillness. When you are silent, hear the silence that is already there. Notice the spaciousness at the very center of your being. As you rest in awareness, you connect with your authentic self. The effort of seeking dissipates, and you <i>are</i> unbounded sacred space, infinite awareness, and genuine warmth—you <i>are</i> the inner refuge. The inner sacred space is so simple and close that if we search for it, we cannot find it. But it is always there for you, the source of all the elemental qualities you need. As the inner refuge, you are whole and complete in each moment.<br><br><b>Self-Guided Meditations: Retrieving from the Inner Refuge<br></b><i>Formal Practice</i></p><p>I recommend setting aside at least 30 minutes each day to sit quietly in meditation.</p><p>To begin, sit comfortably with legs crossed, spine straight, and chest open. If your physical condition does not permit such a posture, choose any upright position that is comfortable, open, and uplifting. Settle into your posture. Take a deep breath, hold it for a moment, and then exhale fully. Repeat several times. Then let your breath find a natural rhythm. Reflect on the element you need most at this time.</p><p><i>The first inner refuge:</i></p><p>Gradually bring your attention inward. Be aware of the stillness of your body from the crown of your head to the soles of your feet. Give your physical body loving attention. As your body rests in the warmth of awareness, every cell responds. Feel a sense of well-being from this caring attention.</p><p>Rest in stillness. If your mind wanders, gently bring it back. It is one thing to be physically still, another thing to be aware of that stillness. When you are aware of stillness, it will support you.</p><p>Through the doorway of stillness, gradually become aware of simply being open. This is a glimpse of the unbounded sacred space of the inner refuge. Trust this.</p><p>Rest in that refuge for as long as the experience remains fresh.</p><p><i>The second inner refuge:</i></p><p>Listen and hear the silence in and around you. Listen with your entire body. Feel the silence throughout your whole being.</p><p>Gradually, through the door of silence, allow yourself to experience a deep sense of peace. As you rest here, awareness of unbounded space dawns, fresh, clear, and lively, and you connect with authentic presence.</p><p>Rest here as long as the experience remains fresh.</p><p><i>The third inner refuge:</i></p><p>Draw clear and open attention to your heart. Be aware of the spaciousness at the center of your being. This space is like a clear, open sky.</p><p>You are that sky. Be aware of it, feel it, connect with it.</p><p>When the sky is clear, the sun shines and you feel its warmth. Allow a sense of warmth to arise within you. Feel and connect with that genuine warmth.</p><p>Appreciate this and rest here as long as the experience remains fresh.<br><br>From <i><a href="http://www.amazon.com/True-Source-Healing-Retrieval-Transform-ebook/dp/B00W4ARWMS/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1438284965&sr=1-1&keywords=the+true+source+of+healing" target="_blank">The True Source of Healing</a></i>, by Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche (July 7, 2015). Reprinted with permission of Hay House.</p><p><em>Image: just1snap/<a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/legalcode" target="_blank">flickr</a></em></p><hr><p><strong>More at Tricycle:</strong></p><table border="0" cellpadding="8" cellspacing="10" width="550"><tbody><tr></tr><tr><td scope="col" valign="top"><p><a href="http://www.tricycle.com/how-we-live/afterlife-sweating-desert"><img src="http://www.tricycle.com/sites/default/files/ruth-0701.png" alt="" width="270" height="150" border="0" style="display: block; border: none; outline: none; text-decoration: none;" class="colimg2"></a></p><span> <b>Sweating in the Desert </b></span><p align="left"><a href="http://www.tricycle.com/how-we-live/afterlife-sweating-desert" style="font-size: 12px; font: normal 11px/12px arial,tahoma,sans-serif; color: #ffffff; text-decoration: none; border-radius: 3px; -webkit-border-radius: 3px; -moz-border-radius: 3px; background-color: #d7272e; border-top: 6px solid #d7272e; border-bottom: 6px solid #d7272e; border-right: 14px solid #d7272e; font-weight: bold; border-left: 14px solid #d7272e; display: inline-block;">READ THE POST →</a></p></td><td scope="col" valign="top"><p><a href="http://www.tricycle.com/blog/across-expanse"><img src="http://www.tricycle.com/sites/default/files/tile-0715.png" alt="" width="270" height="150" border="0" style="display: block; border: none; outline: none; text-decoration: none;" class="colimg2"></a></p><span> <b>Across the Expanse </b></span><p align="left"><a href="http://www.tricycle.com/blog/across-expanse" style="font-size: 12px; font: normal 11px/12px arial,tahoma,sans-serif; color: #ffffff; text-decoration: none; border-radius: 3px; -webkit-border-radius: 3px; -moz-border-radius: 3px; background-color: #d7272e; border-top: 6px solid #d7272e; border-bottom: 6px solid #d7272e; border-right: 14px solid #d7272e; font-weight: bold; border-left: 14px solid #d7272e; display: inline-block;">READ THE POST →</a></p></td></tr></tbody></table> 46721 Thu, 30 Jul 2015 15:33:54 -0400 Tricycle - Awake in the World In Pursuit of Bird Poop http://www.tricycle.com/blog/pursuit-bird-poop <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="http://www.tricycle.com/sites/default/files/images/blog/Tonino_Hawk.jpg" width="570" height="380"></p><p>I graduated from college in the spring of 2008, just as the economy&nbsp;shuddered, gasped, and died.&nbsp;Not that the fatality mattered much to me at the time.&nbsp;Having spent the previous four years reading philosophy—Plato, Kant, Hume, and more Derrida than is likely healthy for a&nbsp;developing&nbsp;brain—I was borderline unemployable anyway.&nbsp;Or so I’d been told by the jerks in the Econ. Department.&nbsp;</p><p>As it turns out, a&nbsp;navel-gazer&nbsp;with his head in the clouds can actually make for a decent biological wildlife technician, once his gaze has been redirected to the duff underfoot and his view of the clouds blocked out by a baseball cap with one of those goofy sunburn-preventing neck flaps. Despite my lack of formal scientific training, I managed to philosophize my way onto a Forest Service research crew. Peace out, St. Augustine!&nbsp;Catch you on the flip side, Wittgenstein!</p><p>The&nbsp;<i>Accipiter&nbsp;</i>hawks of Arizona’s Kaibab Plateau, a 700-square-mile maze of ponderosa pine and Douglas fir just north of the Grand Canyon, never got the message about toxic loans, Wall Street’s rotten core, and systemic collapse.&nbsp;In their innocent, timeless way, they kept on keeping on. Kept on nesting and mating. Kept on flying and hunting. Kept on violently dismembering ground squirrels and defecating from the green heights.&nbsp;</p><p>Oh yes, defecating.&nbsp;The boss, a veteran ornithologist with a big belt buckle, bigger mustache, and a taste for “stogies” and Wild Turkey, was interested in avian demographics.&nbsp;That meant locating active breeding territories, tracking birds, and sending me out each morning to bushwhack a dozen or more miles in search of chalky white streaks of feces.&nbsp;It was a needle-in-the-haystack operation.</p><p>I thrashed up gullies thick with thorny locust.&nbsp;I stumbled with fatigue, swearing, sweating from pores I didn’t know existed.&nbsp;And, of course, I peed. And peed more—longer and clearer than I thought humanly possible. When laboring under the&nbsp;Cyclopean&nbsp;glare of Arizona’s midsummer sun, one must hydrate aggressively. After a couple of weeks without glimpsing a single speck of raptor sign, I began to wonder whether the Feds had hired me solely to water the forest floor. (Wildfire prevention, perhaps.)</p><p>Finally, on a particularly desperate afternoon in a remote and gnarly thicket, feeling certain that all was for naught and that I should have enrolled in graduate school—even Heidegger’s convoluted ontological discriminations would be better than this!—I unzipped my trousers for the sixth leak since lunch, looked down, and there it was,&nbsp;just beyond the toe of my boot.&nbsp;</p><p>Sweet, glorious turd.</p><p>Back in camp that evening, celebrating with a bonfire and a few generous nips from the Turkey bottle, I mentioned to my boss that if it had not been for the pee break I would have missed the whitewash that led me to the molted feather that led me to the prey remains that led me to the crying mama-hawk, the nest, the nestlings, and, at last, the precious data.&nbsp;He shot me a look over his mustache—simultaneously proud, amused, and totally serious—that spoke the words before they even left his mouth.</p><p>Swig of Turkey. “I’ve found more birds by sitting on a stump or tying my shoelace or going to the bathroom than I can count.”&nbsp;Puff of stogie.&nbsp;“If you’re in a rush—if you<i>&nbsp;try</i>&nbsp;too hard—you won’t see or hear a damn thing out there.”&nbsp;Crackle of fire. “And you won’t&nbsp;<i>learn&nbsp;</i>a damn thing either.”<br><br>In college, between confusing myself with the Greeks and Germans, I’d done some extracurricular dabbling in Buddhist texts, if only for the breath of fresh, Eastern air.&nbsp;“All Zen founders caution us about the vanity of doing ‘in order to,’” writes priest Robert Aitken.&nbsp;“Nan-yueh Huai-jang warned that if you do zazen in order to become a Buddha, you will never become one.”&nbsp;The poop-quest was a far cry from the Great Matter, but still, there did seem to be a connection.</p><p>To my delight, the remainder of the field season unfolded according to an elegantly simple pattern of drink, leak, hawk.&nbsp;And<b>&nbsp;</b>it wasn’t only hawks<b> </b>that emerged, but countless other easily overlooked details of the forest ecosystem as well.&nbsp;A dozen or more times a day, the end of my stream focused my awareness on porcupine quills, mountain lion tracks, crinoid fossils, Sego lilies, a bark chip in a spider’s web, a puff of pollen in the breeze, a shadow’s trembling contours.&nbsp;On something small and secret and special.&nbsp;On something that, for a single glowing moment, became everything.</p><p>During the worst financial crisis to hit the US in nearly a century,&nbsp;I had indeed been hired by my great and ailing country to water its public lands.&nbsp;My job, nay, my government mandate, was to pay attention, to empty my consciousness so that it could receive nature’s unexpected and infinite wonders. To get out of my own way.&nbsp;To be present and nothing but present.</p><p>What I had done, in other words, was find a bird by unzipping and letting go.<br><br><b>Leath Tonino</b>’s essays and interviews have appeared in <i>Orion</i>, <i>Sierra</i>, and <i>The Sun</i>. A native of Vermont, he resides in California.</p><p><i>Chelsea Tischler/Gallery Stock<b></b></i></p> 46717 Tue, 28 Jul 2015 18:01:54 -0400 Tricycle - Awake in the World The Long, Strange Trip http://www.tricycle.com/blog/long-strange-trip <p><img src="http://www.tricycle.com/sites/default/files/images/blog/Lattin_psychedelics_0.jpg" width="200" height="257" style="display: block; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;"></p><p class="Body" align="center"><b>Zig Zag Zen: Buddhism and Psychedelics (2nd edition)<br> </b>Edited by Allan Badiner<br> Synergetic Press; May 2015<br> 304 pp.; $38.95 (Cloth)</p><p class="Body">It was something I noticed back in the early 1980s, when I was working as a newspaper reporter and interviewing longtime members of San Francisco Zen Center. I’d ask them how they got interested in Buddhism, and I’d keep hearing about “the long, strange trip.”</p><p class="Body">“Well,” the answer would go, “I guess you could say it started with that first acid trip back in 1965.”</p><p class="Body">This fall marks the 50th anniversary of the first San Francisco “Acid Test,” when a promising young writer named Ken Kesey gathered the infamous band of Merry Pranksters and spiked the Kool-Aid. It was 1965, the same year that another early psychedelic explorer, ousted Harvard psychology professor Richard Alpert, headed out to San Francisco, the first stop on his pilgrimage to India, where he’d be reincarnated as <a href="http://www.tricycle.com/feature/americas-guru">Baba Ram Dass</a>.</p><p class="Body">Today, psychedelics (and Kesey’s house band, the <a href="http://www.tricycle.com/feature/jerry-garcia">Grateful Dead</a>) are very much back in the news, and so is the debate about how and whether getting high on psychoactive substances should be part of the Buddhist path.</p><p class="Body">First, the news: The final stage of government-approved clinical trials into the medical use of MDMA, also known as “ecstasy,” and psilocybin, the active ingredient in “magic mushrooms,” is expected to begin next year. Promising early results show that MDMA-fueled psychotherapy sessions can help people suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, including thousands of troubled American soldiers returning from wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Other research indicates that supervised sessions with psilocybin can greatly help cancer patients deal with the “psycho-spiritual distress” that often accompanies a life-threatening diagnosis. As early as 2020, researchers now predict, MDMA and psilocybin could be reclassified by the US Food and Drug Administration and routinely used under the watchful eye of trained therapists.</p><p class="Body">Meanwhile, legal restrictions are also loosening for some religious groups that use psychedelic plants in their rites and ceremonies. Following earlier court rulings allowing Native Americans to legally use peyote in their spiritual practices, a 2006 Supreme Court decision granted similar protections to North American congregations affiliated with two Brazilian churches that use ayahuasca, a psychedelic tea, in their ceremonial life.</p><p class="Body">Ayahuasca devotees outside those Brazilian sects are also starting to come out of the shamanic closet. All-night sessions are not hard to find among Brooklyn hipsters and Hollywood trendsetters. Mainstream media coverage of the new wave of psychedelic research and rituals has been overwhelmingly positive and restrained—unlike a wave of sensationalist coverage in the late 1960s that conspired to allow Congress to pass the Controlled Substances Act of 1970, which helped shut down 20 years of early research into the beneficial use of psychedelics.</p><p class="Body">This shifting psychedelic landscape makes the new edition of <i>Zig Zag Zen: Buddhism and Psychedelics</i>, edited by Allan Badiner and published by Synergetic Press, all the more timely. Like the first edition, published in 2002 by Chronicle Books, this hardcover volume is vividly illustrated with visionary art, including a new foldout centerpiece featuring the work of Android Jones.</p><p class="Body">Most of the essays are reprints from the first edition, but two of the new offerings point to some of the changes over the past 20 years. The first is an interview with Rick Doblin, the founder of the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, or <a href="http://www.maps.org">MAPS</a>. He has raised close to $20 million to support drug researchers and persuade federal regulators that MDMA can be safely and effectively used to ease the psychic pain of war veterans and sexual abuse victims. Doblin, who had his first LSD trip as a college freshman in 1972, talks in the interview about the <a href="http://www.tricycle.com/feature/dharma-playa">Zendo Project, which offers psychedelic harm reduction services at the annual Burning Man festival in the Nevada dessert.</a></p><p class="Body">The psychotherapist Ralph Metzner pens another one of this edition’s original essays: “A New Look at the Psychedelic <i>Tibetan Book of the Dead</i>.” He is the author (along with Timothy Leary and Richard Alpert) of the influential 1964 book <i>The Psychedelic Experience</i>, a manual on how to take an LSD trip. Metzner, Leary, and Alpert based their tripping manual on the <i>Tibetan Book of the Dead</i>, a self-styled English translation of texts popularized by the American Theosophist W.Y. Evans-Wentz, first published in 1927. Whether or not <a href="http://www.tricycle.com/reviews/real-dead-definitive-translation"><i>The Tibetan Book of the Dead</i> reflects ideas that are authentically Tibetan or Buddhist</a>, Metzner and his coauthors helped establish the idea that a psychedelic drug trip was another route to the mystical insights one could achieve—with much more work—through the discipline of Buddhist meditation.</p><p class="Body">“Psychedelic travelers could be guided, or guide themselves, to release their ego-attachments and illusory self-images, the way a Tibetan Buddhist lama would guide a person who was actually dying to relinquish their attachments,” writes Metzner.</p><p class="Body">Fifty years later, the psychotherapist is more convinced than ever that “the two most beneficent potential areas of application of psychedelic technologies are in the treatment of addictions and in the psycho-spiritual preparation for the final transition.”</p><p class="Body">Buddhists teachers who were interviewed or wrote their own essays in <i>Zig Zag Zen</i> disagree as to what extent psychoactive drugs can <a href="http://www.tricycle.com/special-section/roundtable-help-or-hindrance">help or hinder</a> those on the Buddhist path. Some say they offer a glimpse of another way of being and can open a door. Others, such as meditation teacher <a href="http://www.tricycle.com/special-section/on-front-lines">Michele McDonald</a>, just say “no” to psychedelics. “Drugs promote attachment to experience,” she writes. “What you actually get from drug experience is the desire to take the drugs again.”</p><p class="Body">Psychedelic drugs can produce feelings similar to those reported by religious mystics—a sense of oneness with the universe, transcendence of time and space, an intuitive knowing, a deeply felt positive mood, and a sense of ineffability and paradox.</p><p class="Body"><a href="http://www.tricycle.com/blog/preeminent-world-religions-professor-huston-smith-turns-94">Huston Smith</a>, the noted religion scholar who writes the preface, once told me that it doesn’t matter much if a religious experience is “real” or drug induced. It doesn’t matter if your mind is altered by 250 micrograms of LSD or years of long meditation retreats. What matters is what you do with the experience. Do altered states lead to altered traits?</p><p class="Body">This all sounds a lot like the debate that the editors at <i>Tricycle</i> inspired nearly 20 years ago when the magazine devoted an issue to the subject of <a href="http://www.tricycle.com/fall-1996">Buddhism and psychedelics</a>.</p><p class="Body">Their conclusion then seems like good advice today: “<a href="http://www.tricycle.com/node/32160">Just Say Maybe.</a>”<br><br><b>Don Lattin</b> is the author of five books, including <i>The Harvard Psychedelic Club</i>. He is currently working on a book about the new wave of research into psychedelics.</p> 46705 Thu, 23 Jul 2015 10:30:00 -0400 Tricycle - Awake in the World Meditating at the Edge of Nowhere http://www.tricycle.com/blog/meditating-edge-nowhere <p><img src="http://www.tricycle.com/sites/default/files/images/blog/Byrd_grassshutter.jpg" width="570" height="379" style="display: block; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;"></p><p style="padding-left: 30px;">Like my neighbor Berta Alemán has taught me,<br>one way to meditate<br>is to hold a water hose in your hand.<br>Paradise is right around the corner.<br>But you should not expect too much progress at first.<br>There is plenty to do, standing there,<br>watering the lawn.<br>It could be a Wednesday night,<br>maybe right before September, right before<br>the kids go back to school.<br>Some times you hate them.<br>They don’t listen.<br>That’s okay.<br>You might even be out of milk.<br>There’s plenty of time for milk and kids.<br>You are outside now.<br>That’s what counts.<br>Like it’s a real hot night, hotter than usual,<br>a good night to water the backyard,<br>it’s been so scraggly lately,<br>especially in spots.<br>You maybe think that you have forgotten so much<br>this last month, this stretch<br>of the summer which seems so much like waiting.<br>This is okay too.<br>This is the physiology of the summer,<br>the way it insists that all is not done,<br>will never be,<br>the autumn and the winter comes,<br>over and over,<br>a snake with its goddamn tail stuck in its mouth.<br>&nbsp;<br><i>So forgive yourself.</i><br>&nbsp;<br>This is essential to the act of meditation.<br>&nbsp;<br>You must remember you are watering the yard.<br>That is all you are doing.<br>Stand out there,<br>your left hand on your hip<br>in perfect repose, your right hand<br>carefully, gently,<br>grasping the water hose.<br>Be careful to watch the spray of the water<br>shine in the light of the full moon.<br>The water is perfect.<br>The moon is also perfect.<br>As is the grass, even if it is dying.<br>&nbsp;<br>Your back should be straight,<br>but at ease<br>so that you can drink in the darkness of the night<br>without worrying about tomorrow.<br>If you are a man, you might want to<br>scratch your nuts, cradling them,<br>or if you are a woman,<br>shake your hips back and forth<br>slowly.<br>Whatever, the purpose is<br>to feel the sex of who you are.<br>You might hum a tune,<br>some sort of nursery rhyme<br>like you heard growing up<br>wherever that was.<br>It was a long time ago.<br>Your mother was so beautiful.<br>You can finally understand that now.<br>Stretch your legs.<br>Rock your body back and forth.<br>But concentrate on the water.<br>Be grateful.<br>Life is not what you imagined.<br>You have friends that have better,<br>others that have worse,<br>still others who are dead.<br>Breathe in and breathe out.<br>&nbsp;<br>Maybe your lover is inside.<br>It will be a good night for love-making,<br>so warm and fine,<br>the drone of the swamp cooler<br>so the kids won’t hear.<br>The bright moon.<br>You can tell your lover<br>about standing here in the moonlight<br>watering the yard.<br>But there is time before that.<br>You should think about your children again,<br>their bodies,<br>how they have changed<br>since they first squirmed through the door of flesh,<br>and your parents too<br>who are close to their death,<br>waiting to take the other journey.<br>So this is what life has been about.<br>It may seem so right now,<br>so clear,<br>to come to this point<br>exactly<br>and to think that a certain spot in the grass<br>has been dry for too long.<br>You have forgotten some things.<br>You have remembered others.<br>You have come this far.<br>Before you go back inside<br>be certain that the grass is watered completely.</p><p><br><b>Bobby Byrd</b> is a poet who practices at the Both Sides/No Sides Zen Community in El Paso, Texas. He is copublisher, with his wife, of Cinco Puntos Press. This poem originally appeared in his book&nbsp;<em>Get Some Fuses for the House</em> (North Atlantic Books).</p><p><em>Image: Shutterstock</em></p> 46672 Wed, 22 Jul 2015 10:30:00 -0400 Tricycle - Awake in the World The Zen of Not Knowing http://www.tricycle.com/blog/zen-not-knowing <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="http://www.tricycle.com/sites/default/files/images/blog/Hartman_spoon.jpg" width="570" height="726"></p><p>Beginner’s mind is Zen practice in action. It is the mind that is innocent of preconceptions and expectations, judgments and prejudices. Beginner’s mind is just present to explore and observe and see “things as they are.” I think of beginner’s mind as the mind that faces life like a small child, full of curiosity and wonder and amazement. “I wonder what this is? I wonder what that is? I wonder what this means?” Without approaching things with a fixed point of view or a prior judgment, just asking “What is it?”</p><p>I was having lunch with Indigo, a small child, at City Center [a Soto Zen practice center in San Francisco]. He saw an object on the table and got very interested in it. He picked it up and started fooling with it: looking at it, putting it in his mouth, and banging on the table with it—just engaging with it without any previous idea of what it was. For Indigo, it was just an interesting thing, and it was a delight to him to see what he could do with this thing. You and I would see it and say, “It’s a spoon. It sits there and you use it for soup.” It doesn’t have all the possibilities that he finds in it.</p><p>Watching Indigo, you can see the innocence of “What is it?”</p><p>Can we look at our lives in such a way? Can we look at all of the aspects of our lives with this mind, just open to seeing what there is to see? I don’t know about you, but I have a hard time doing that. I have a lot of habits of mind—I think most of us do. Children begin to lose that innocent quality after a while, and soon they want to be “the one who knows.”</p><p>We all want to be the one who knows. But if we decide we “know” something, we are not open to other possibilities anymore. And that’s a shame. We lose something very vital in our life when it’s more important to us to be one who knows than it is to be awake to what’s happening. We get disappointed because we expect one thing, and it doesn’t happen quite like that. Or we think something ought to be like this, and it turns out different. Instead of saying, “Oh, isn’t that interesting,” we say, “Yuck, not what I thought it would be.” Pity. The very nature of beginner’s mind is not knowing in a certain way, not being an expert.</p><p>As Suzuki Roshi said in the prologue to <i>Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind</i>, “In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, in the expert’s there are few.” As an expert, you’ve already got it figured out, so you don’t need to pay attention to what’s happening. Pity.</p><p>How can we cultivate this mind that is free to just be awake? In zazen<i>, </i>in just sitting, in sitting and noticing the busyness of our mind and all of the fixed views that we carry. Once we notice the fixed views that we are carrying around with us, the preconceptions that we are carrying around with us, then it is possible for us to let them go and say, “Well, maybe so, maybe not.” Suzuki Roshi once said, “The essence of Zen is ‘Not always so.’” Not always so. It’s a good little phrase to carry around when you’re sure. It gives you an opportunity to look again more carefully and see what other possibilities there might be in the situation.</p><p>I don’t know about you, but when I started to sit, I really began to see how many fixed ideas and fixed views I had. How much judgment was ready right on the tip of my tongue. How much expectation, how much preconception I was carrying around with me all the time, and how much it got in the way of actually noticing what was happening. I don’t want to tell you that after years I’m free of all that, but at least I notice it sooner, and I sometimes don’t get caught in believing it.</p><p>First, before you can let go of preconceptions and expectations and prejudices, you have to notice them; otherwise, they’re just carrying on unconsciously and affecting everything you do. But as you sit, you begin to recognize the really persistent ones: “Oh my gosh . . . you again! Didn’t I just deal with you yesterday?” And again. And again. Pretty soon, you can’t take them seriously. They just keep popping up and popping up and popping up, and after a while you become really familiar with them. And you can’t get so buried under something once you realize that it’s just a habitual state of mind and doesn’t have much to do with what’s right in front of you. It’s just something that you haul around with you all the time and bring out for every occasion. It hasn’t much to do with the present situation. Sometimes you can actually say, “Oh, I think I’m just hauling that around with me. I don’t think it has anything to do with this.”</p><p>In her poem “When Death Comes,” Mary Oliver has a few lines that say, “When it’s over, I want to say: all my life / I was a bride married to amazement. / I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.”</p><p>This is beginner’s mind: “I’ve been a bride married to amazement.” Just how amazing the world is, how amazing our life is. How amazing that the sun comes up in the morning or that the wisteria blooms in the spring. “A bride married to amazement, . . . the bridegroom taking the world into my arms.” Can you live your life with that kind of wholeheartedness, with that kind of thoroughness? This is the beginner’s mind that Suzuki Roshi is pointing to, is encouraging us to cultivate. He is encouraging us to see where we are stuck with fixed views and see if we can, as Kosho Uchiyama Roshi says, “open the hand of thought” and let the fixed view go. This is our effort. This is our work. Just to be here, ready to meet whatever is next without expectation or prejudice or preconceptions. Just “What is it? What is this, I wonder?”</p><p>So please, cultivate your beginner’s mind. Be willing not to be an expert. Be willing not to know. Not knowing is nearest. Not knowing is most intimate.<br><br><b>Zenkei Blanche Hartman</b> is a senior dharma teacher at San Francisco Zen Center, where she has served two terms as abbot.</p><p>From <i>Seeds of a Boundless Life</i> by Zenkei Blanche Hartman, © 2015 by Zenkei Blanche Hartman. Reprinted by arrangement with <a href="http://www.shambhala.com">Shambhala Publications</a>, Inc. Boston, MA.</p><p><em>Gallery Stock.</em></p> 46671 Tue, 21 Jul 2015 13:54:24 -0400 Tricycle - Awake in the World Across the Expanse http://www.tricycle.com/blog/across-expanse <p><i>This interview with the scholar-practitioner <a href="http://www.tricycle.com/online-retreats/embodied-love-core-tibetan-trainings-unbounded-heart">Anne Carolyn Klein</a> was originally published in the July–December issue of </i>Mandala<i>, a magazine run by the nonprofit organization <a href="http://fpmt.org/fpmt/">Foundation for the Preservation of the Mahayana Tradition</a>. We are republishing it here because of its excellent discussion of transmission, the secularization of Tibetan Buddhism as it has come West, and other ideas that speak practically and directly to the experiences of Western dharma practitioners. —Eds.</i></p><p><span style="text-align: center;"><img src="http://www.tricycle.com/sites/default/files/images/blog/AnneKlein_TRICYCLE.jpg" width="570" height="504" style="display: block; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;"></span></p><p><span style="text-align: center;">Respected as both a scholar and practitioner, Anne Carolyn Klein (Lama Rigzin Drolma) has a Ph.D. in Religious Studies from the University of Virginia and is a professor of religion at Rice University in Houston, Texas. She has studied and practiced dharma since 1970, mainly in the Gelug and Nyingma traditions, and has published&nbsp;</span><span style="text-align: center;">six books</span><span style="text-align: center;">,&nbsp;including </span><i style="text-align: center;">Unbounded Wholeness: Dzogchen,&nbsp;Bon and the Logic of the Nonconceptual</i><span style="text-align: center;">, </span><i style="text-align: center;">Meeting the Great Bliss Queen</i><span style="text-align: center;">,&nbsp;and </span><i style="text-align: center;">Knowledge and Liberation</i><span style="text-align: center;">. Her most recent work is&nbsp;</span><i style="text-align: center;">Heart Essence of the Vast Expanse: A Story of Transmission</i><span style="text-align: center;">. Anne teaches and leads retreats internationally, and she and her husband, Harvey Aronson (Lama Namgyal Dorje), are the founding spiritual directors of </span><a href="http://www.dawnmountain.org" style="text-align: center;">Dawn Mountain Tibetan Buddhist Center</a><span style="text-align: center;">.</span></p><p>In May 2015, Donna Lynn Brown talked to Anne Klein about the meaning of transmission and the state of the transmission of Tibetan Buddhism to the West.<br><br><b>What is transmission?</b> Transmission takes place in every communication. What is transmitted? Words, of course, but also modulations of sound, as well as body language, energy and feeling-tone. Transmission is everything that passes between people. There’s no need to fetishize this: it is not something strange, it is the richness of communication that happens all the time. “I always feel good after talking to her,” we say. It’s not just words—it’s everything that is received in relating with that person.</p><p>In Tibetan Buddhism, transmission connects us to a lineage of spiritual succession, as well as blessings, meditative ritual, artistic forms, and ways of teaching. How? By listening to a text read aloud by someone who earlier received it, in a line back to the text’s originator. What is transmitted includes, but goes beyond, intellect, and is conducive to a profound integration of the text and its practices. There is information coming through, as well as traditional patterns of knowing. There is meaning, sound, and “waves of splendor,” or blessings (<i>‘jin-lab</i>). Equally significant is connection. There is no chasm between the devoted student and the caring teacher, between beginner’s mind and mature wisdom. Their meeting requires that the teacher have something to offer and the student a capacity to receive. This ability to receive—emotionally, somatically, cognitively, and contemplatively—is not a small thing. That’s why many&nbsp;classic&nbsp;texts, such as&nbsp;<i>Words of My Perfect Teacher</i>&nbsp;and&nbsp;<i>Great Treatise on the Stages of the Path to Enlightenment</i>, begin with how to listen and how to relate to a teacher. Relationship is crucial to transmission.</p><p>Transmission is best when there is trust and commitment as part of a compassionate holding. Buddha asked the grieving Kisa Gotami, whose child had just died, to request salt from a household that hadn’t known death. She trusted him and followed his counsel. Buddha did not say, “This will help.” It was implicit. Transmission, being profoundly relational, is not just words or technique. It is a student attuning to the pitch of a master singer, not a radio blasting into space. One central Tibetan practice is guru yoga, which cultivates a heightened receptivity, fostered by love and trust, which makes the relationship a portal to an experience beyond the student’s current capacity. The teacher, for a moment, de-occludes you. It may take years or even lifetimes before you can access this experience on your own. It radically alters your relationship to your own potential. You see it and believe in it. That is the power of transmission. When His Holiness the Dalai Lama gives an Avalokiteshvara [bodhisattva of compassion] initiation, maybe your heart softens. That is the core of transmission.<br><br><b>As Tibetan Buddhism gets transmitted to the West, is it being secularized?</b> There is both conscious and unconscious secularization. There are serious exchanges between Buddhism and science, a conversation fraught with challenges but also tremendously promising. And <a href="http://www.tricycle.com/feature/under-one-umbrella">Geshe Thupten Jinpa</a>’s new book,<i>&nbsp;<a href="http://www.tricycle.com/blog/turning-intention-motivation">A Fearless Heart,</a></i> is a conscious secularization of compassion. Buddhism is having significant cultural impact via mindfulness and compassion training in schools, workplaces, and among the public. The aim is not enlightenment or advancing Buddhism, but relieving stress, fostering positive relationships, and bringing values or skills to a broad cohort of people so they lead better lives. I think that’s what His Holiness, as a bodhisattva, is hoping for. Bodhisattvas, Shantideva writes, though intent on nirvana for all, are pleased to offer whatever happiness they can to others in the meantime.</p><p>Unconscious secularization occurs when we use Buddhism to support, rather than challenge, our neuroses!<br><br><b>What about Tibetan Buddhism in its more traditional forms?</b> The transmission of traditional practices, using the ancient forms of recitation, sadhana [ritual practice], study and retreat, is also occurring in many centers in the West. Does this mean that we are doing the same practices as Tibetans of old? Hardly. We can’t help but practice as Westerners. And our own understandings of body, mind, and the social order impact what we need from practice and how we do it. We will have to use our own cultural intelligence to make traditional practices meaningful and transformative, not mere replicas of how they were done in Tibet.</p><p>David Germano [professor of Tibetan and Buddhist studies at the University of Virginia] said to me recently that Buddhism didn’t really land in Tibet from India until the Tibetans made it their own. Buddhism is not a box you ship from one place to another without the contents shifting. As Indian Buddhism became Tibetan Buddhism, so the Tibetan Buddhism that comes West will become Western Tibetan Buddhism. It is significant that the tragedy of Tibet dovetailed with the digital age. There has never in history been a cultural transfer as rapid as this one: enormous bodies of literature coming into our languages at unprecedented speed. It took the Tibetans 400 years to digest the Indian material. Today,&nbsp;[the translation project] <a href="http://84000.co/">84,000</a> is on track to translate the entire Tibetan canon into a handful of languages in one hundred years. So there’s a rapid cultural transfer, at least of texts. Training people—that takes longer.<br><br><b>What would you say about the quality of practice in the West?</b> Quality is hard to assess. It’s challenging anywhere to really develop as a practitioner. And when you’ve got something that’s culturally different, maybe you just disappear into another cultural form without really dealing with your inner challenges. I think this happens in the West. At the same time, I do know many practitioners who are genuinely developing. You know, we have two faces: our intrinsic nature and our reactive patterns—the bad habits of the psyche. Effective practice mirrors both, gradually revealing our nature, while at the same time, clarifying what obstructs it.&nbsp;</p><p>For Westerners, working with emotions is important. Tibetans don’t seem to build an identity around emotions, or even identify them as a category, as we do. So the transmission of a transformative path to the West has this added challenge. We can memorize the texts, translate them, even do practice every day, but is it really impacting how we feel and live? How can it, unless we are in touch with our emotions? They have to be dealt with, whether on the cushion or in therapy. Sometimes people come to Buddhism for things that therapy could do better.<br><br><b>Are the lineages rooted here yet?</b> If “rooted” means that Western teachers educated by&nbsp;<i>their</i>&nbsp;Western teachers are giving the classic threesome of initiation, transmission, and instruction in deeply affective processes, we are not there yet. My generation studied with teachers who grew up in Tibet. Now there’s a generation who are studying with Western teachers or more westernized Tibetans. Nevertheless, even younger Western teachers continue to be trained by Tibetans. Collaboration between Western and Tibetan teachers will be important in rooting Tibetan practice in the West, so the level and ongoing availability of traditional Tibetan education in Asia matters. As well, there are still countless texts to be translated and oral commentary related to them to be digested. Language skills thus remain important. The more the people who run Western dharma centers think about how this will work in coming decades, the better. It takes a lot to train somebody even to be able to invite Tibetan teachers, create a meaningful sequence of teachings, and sustain the necessary variety of practices in community. Still, many things are going well. Good Western teachers and Western-Tibetan partnerships are appearing. Maybe partnership is what Western Tibetan Buddhism will look like for a while. And at some point, there hopefully will be full lineage transmissions getting passed on by Western teachers to Western students.<br><br><b>We assume Tibetan teachers will be with us for generations, don’t we?</b> Perhaps. But the level of study now is not the same as it was in Tibet or India. Can’t be. Fortunately the institutions are still producing powerful teachers, some of whom now visit or live in the West. And there are a few places in Tibet where people still devote their lives to practice in something like the old way. It is important that we support the growth of places of study in Asia for nuns, monks, and <i>tantrikas </i>[tantra practitioner]. But we can’t assume this resource will always be there.<br><br><b>The West’s Judeo-Christian outlook has given way to what some call a “broken worldview”: secular, materialistic, and lacking in meaning. Can Tibetan Buddhism reenchant the West?</b> We can’t adopt Tibetan worldviews wholesale. But yes, Tibetan Buddhism can play a role. Most of us long for a holistic or sacred outlook: it was part of our culture in medieval times, and it speaks to a genuine human need. The danger is that because we have such longing, we might over-idealize all things Tibetan. Let’s find a middle way by discovering contemporary ways of acknowledging our profound connection to the elements of earth and space and to each other. That’s a very human and humane way to live. Whether or not there are protector beings or protective laws, aren’t the plants in the Amazon and the coral reefs off Australia worthy of protection? Isn’t everything? Materialism is so limited. We humans thrive on feeling part of a sacred whole. And though Tibet may be the inspiration, we need to express the sacred in ways meaningful to us, here and now.<br><br><b>Is it harmful to mix our inherited traditions with Buddhism to create rituals and celebrations? I’m thinking of weddings, Christmas, Passover . . . </b>Rituals, celebrations, even some practices: people are mixing. We can’t stop them. Whether it’s harmful or “creative integration” may be in the eye of the beholder. If I am Buddhist and I like a Christmas tree because that’s how I grew up, does that make me less Buddhist? No. Does practicing mindfulness or <i>tonglen</i> [the meditative practice of “sending and receiving”] make me less Christian? No. In Asia, it’s quite common to belong to multiple traditions. Famously, in Japan, you’re born with Shinto rituals, you marry with Christian ones, and you die with Buddhist ones. In Tibet, Bön formed the bedrock of Buddhist expression and shaped it in important ways. In China, people didn’t give up Confucianism, they honored their ancestors, but they were Buddhist and most of them were Taoist too. In Nepal, I’ve seen people muttering mantras while tossing flower petals at Hindu and Buddhist statues. Here at home, friends at our center have designed beautiful weddings that draw on both Christian and Buddhist expression. Some types of mixing could be a problem but some is useful, even necessary.<br><br><b>Are ethics being transmitted? I’ve heard Buddhists brush off wrong behavior as empty, for example, which seems like a misunderstanding of both ethics and emptiness</b>. That’s just crazy. And crazy-making. It’s bad philosophy too. Yes, everything is empty, but everything also has to be dealt with. If someone is suffering due to abusive or predatory behavior, and someone else says, “well, it’s empty,” that’s ethically irresponsible and emotionally harmful. It’s not particularly Buddhist either. It’s just being blind. My own teachers have been generous and supportive, so I have personally not had negative experiences, but I certainly hear about them. Some Tibetans, like many Western men in authority, may not understand what it means for a woman to be oppressed in one way or another. Since Tibetan monastics are typically raised with a completely male point of view, gender can be a flashpoint for cultural misunderstanding.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; In Buddhism, everything rides on “the legs of ethics.” Guru Rinpoche [the founder of the first order of Tibetan Buddhism] famously said, “My view is as vast as space, but my conduct is as careful and precise as grains of barley.” So view is never an excuse for bad behavior. But dharma centers have to survive, so we give teachings that attract people. That’s a secularizing force in itself! Westerners like using their minds, so wisdom is a popular topic. So is compassion because we’re messed up about relationships. Nobody will come to a lecture on ethics. But ethics include behavior supportive of community in every sense. So if we teach kindness or compassion, we are teaching ethics.</p><p>For my own teachers, who were not marketing to Westerners, ethics were tremendously important, the ground of everything.<br><br><b>Let’s talk about the role of the body in transmission, which is sometimes hard to understand.</b> Transmission depends on receptivity. Once, from my seat at a Kalachakra initiation, I could see His Holiness the Dalai Lama in profile. Before beginning the ceremony, he sat with his back to the audience and prayed. His face and his entire bearing showed how totally, selflessly, he was absorbed in his prayer. I was so moved: it gave me something to aspire to. Or I see the humility of a teacher bowing before a Buddha statue, and I realize I don’t bow like that . . . and maybe, in that moment, I see the dropping of ordinary mind and know that it’s possible. Opening that kind of portal is the whole point. Think of His Holiness giving an Avalokiteshvara empowerment. That transmission occurs in part at a level below consciousness, because of subtle energies held by the body. Who he is, and the attunement, receptivity, and connectedness of the recipients—that’s what makes it happen.<br><br><b>Is there something about the body in practice that we’re not getting?</b> Yes, and this can be an obstacle to transmission in the West. For Tibetans, mind is not as different from body as it is for us; they are fully integrated. Longchenpa [a major figure in the Nyingma school of Tibetan Buddhism] said that wisdom pervades the entire body! This is a big gap between cultures. Years ago, I was not in my body at all; I thought being smart was all that mattered [<i>laughs</i>]. It took me until I went to Tibet for the first time to understand this. But there it was clear, even to me: you have to be in your body. You can’t just space out on a mountain. Tibetans—and traditional peoples everywhere—are more experientially in contact with their bodies than us. When Tibetans teach practices like Vajrasattva, they never tell us that this is an embodied experience. Nobody ever told me that. But you can’t feel impacted unless you are in your body. For them, it’s too obvious to be stated. Tibetans, at least the generation I studied with, don’t take into account how “disembodiedly” intellectual we can be. But mind rides on energy, and energy is in the body. When practice is deep, you feel differently in your body. Even so, if nobody tells you that somatic sensing is important, you can just stay in your head forever. When people practice visualizations for years without much impact, I think it’s often due to their lack of relationship to the body and the emotions we hold there. Being unconnected to the body and emotions—that’s where most hiccups in transmission occur, I think.<br><br><b>You studied with Gelug, Nyingma, and Bön Lamas. How did you negotiate those allegiances?</b> For years I studied in the Gelug tradition, but then Khetsun Sangpo Rinpoche came to Virginia and talked about dzogchen, and I was&nbsp;irrevocably&nbsp;inspired. There was no way I wasn’t going to seek that out. Then in India I had an audience with His Holiness, and he said it was OK—after all, he was doing it [<i>laughs</i>]. Later I found out that one of my greatest Gelugpa teachers had secretly studied with Dudjom Rinpoche. So there’s always been crossover. One teacher I was close to made it clear that when I got teachings from a different sect, I should not come back and disrupt his other students’ focus. As long as I didn’t do that, and was open with him in private, then it was OK; in fact he blessed me warmly in a way that totally comforted my heart. So it can be sticky, but Tibetans have always done it.<br><br><b>Any final words on transmission?</b> Transmission requires an open heart, a softening of defenses. This is <i>dad-pa</i> in Tibetan, which I like to translate as “openhearted devotion.” Many people translate it as “faith,” but it does not mean believing something. No teacher has ever asked me what I believed! <i>Dad-pa</i> means being delighted by the dharma to the point of irrevocable openhearted devotion. The late psychologist Emmanuel Ghent talked about a surrender that is not a defeat, but a quality of liberation and expansion of the self based on letting down defensive barriers. That’s it. And that is an embodied state, not a belief system. It is a way of experiencing with our entire being. And it’s what we need to be receptive to the transmission of both compassion and wisdom. That’s not well understood in the West. People say, “I got transmission!” but sometimes that’s just projection. You have to be in your body. You have to be in your heart. You have to be settled and not crazy. Dad-pa is heart-to-heart relationship. It’s love. You love your teacher, the teaching, reality, your true nature, everybody else who has the same true nature. Not love across a chasm, but love that is the field in which everything occurs. The whole path is about love. Transmission is about love. Really.<br><br><b>Donna Lynn Brown</b><i> </i>is a regular&nbsp;<i>Mandala</i>&nbsp;contributor and&nbsp;a student at&nbsp;Maitripa College&nbsp;in Portland, Oregon.</p><p><em>Photograph courtesy Anne C. Klein</em></p> 46657 Wed, 15 Jul 2015 10:35:32 -0400 Tricycle - Awake in the World The Ground under Our Feet http://www.tricycle.com/blog/the-ground-under-our-feet <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="http://www.tricycle.com/sites/default/files/images/blog/Tonino_earthquake.jpg" width="570" height="445" style="display: block; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;"><em>The ruins of San Francisco after the 1906 earthquake</em></p><p>When I first moved to California it seemed like no matter where I went or with whom I spoke, the same three-word phrase kept finding its way to my ears.&nbsp;Down on the Santa Cruz coast, beside glinting silver waves: The Big One.&nbsp;Up in Napa Valley, red wine on the tongue: The Big One.&nbsp;Even at the breakfast table in my new home, a friend’s apartment in San Francisco: The Big One.</p><p>“It could happen at any moment.”</p><p>“We’re long overdue.”</p><p>“It’s just a matter of time.”</p><p>This was San Andreas Fault country, the violent, grinding edge of the continent; this was a scrimmage line, the North American Plate on one side, the Continental Plate on the other, neither team wearing helmets or pads.&nbsp;At the library downtown I found books of black-and-white photographs taken after the infamous 1906 San Francisco earthquake—3,000 people dead,&nbsp;80 percent of the city burned,&nbsp;skeletal skyscrapers rising against a backdrop of smoke and ash and mayhem. Having grown up in seismically stable New England, the threat of earthquakes was completely new to me.</p><p>“Any day now.”</p><p>“If the bridges and freeways collapse we’ll all be trapped.”</p><p>“Do you have an earthquake survival kit—bottled water, canned food?”</p><p>Maybe it was just polite banter, local chitchat that only sounded catastrophic to new arrivals such as me.&nbsp;Whatever the case, within weeks of settling in to my friend’s guest bedroom, fantasies of the wintery “natural disasters” of my youth—so snowy, so skiable in retrospect—had disappeared beneath heaps of freshly imagined urban rubble.&nbsp;My daydreams were busy with falling concrete, exploding cars, and a heroic version of myself sprinting through the chaos, pulling kids and helpless grandmas from chasms in the pavement. Which is to say I bought some tins of sardines, filled used milk jugs with tap water, put a jackknife and a headlamp in a small backpack, and stuck the lot beneath my desk.</p><p>But I wasn’t only adjusting to the possibility of earthquakes. I was also discovering, with each wailing ambulance siren and sad-eyed homeless person on the street, that the city was a noisy, erratic, and emotionally intense place, and that a 40-minute meditation was the perfect means to smooth my crinkled thoughts at the end of a long day.</p><p>Swimming in the darkness of my less-than-empty mind, rising to the surface of consciousness, there it was again, the unbridled power and raw, terrible, destructive force of The Biggest One, the one that catches a couple million Bay Area residents off guard, swallowing us in a single, fast gulp, with no hope of regurgitation, no burp, no nothing.</p><p>I didn’t actually worry about the floor crumbling and the ceiling caving and the walls coming down. And yet I had to realize—and realize in my bones, in my marrow, in every wakeful cell of my upright body—that it could happen.&nbsp;That the floor could<i> </i>crumble and the ceiling could<i> </i>cave and those walls could<i> </i>lean in to give me a lethal kiss on the noggin. That it could end just like that, a snap of the fingers, a blink of the eye: 9.9 on the Richter scale.</p><p>As Pema Chödrön tells Bill Moyers in a <a href="http://www.pbs.org/moyers/faithandreason/print/faithandreason107_print.html">2006 television interview</a>: “I see that a lot of us are just running around in circles pretending that there’s ground where there actually isn’t any ground.”</p><p>Bedrock can vanish into empty space.&nbsp;Solid dirt can roll and heave.&nbsp;Your house and job and family?&nbsp;Obliterated.&nbsp;All your accomplishments and ambitions and memories and fantasies and plans?&nbsp;Gone in an instant, sucked back into the earth’s glowing molten core.&nbsp;</p><p>In her gentle, firm way, Chödrön goes on to explain that our problems—violence, addiction, you name it—will persist at both individual and global levels as long as we “keep trying to scramble to get ground under our feet and avoid this uneasy feeling of groundlessness and insecurity and uncertainty and ambiguity and paradox.”&nbsp;But on the other hand, she says, “If we could learn to not be afraid of groundlessness, not be afraid of insecurity and uncertainty, it would be calling on an inner strength that would allow us to be open and free and loving and compassionate in any situation.”</p><p>As my first weeks in San Francisco became months and seasons, I came to accept and even embrace the Golden State’s geophysical character, one breath at a time. Deep down, I knew that all hell would someday break loose.&nbsp;I knew that there would come a point when I’d never again hear a wailing siren or look into a homeless man’s eyes. Most importantly, perhaps, I knew that I didn’t know, and could never know, exactly when this end might arrive—or how.&nbsp;There was just no telling which breath would be my last.</p><p>And so I breathed. And breathed again. And each breath was better than the one before because it was a gift, an unexpected bonus. &nbsp;</p><p>Sitting on the floor of my room, emergency water jugs within reach, I felt some hint of that inner strength, that openness and freedom and compassion of which Pema Chödrön and so many others have spoken. I felt my lungs working inside the wild animal body I call home.&nbsp;I felt an easy peace, the rise and fall of gentle waves, the heartbreaking and heart-renewing love for the world that I was soon to leave, that was not mine to keep, that had been my privilege to experience for a while.</p><p>I saw the eyes. I heard the sirens. Long day after long day, evening after evening, I focused on this practice, this breathing at the edge of disaster, this breathing into and through the perfect calm center of The Big One.</p><p>“Only to the extent that we expose ourselves over and over to annihilation can that which is indestructible be found in us,” writes Chödrön in <i>When Things Fall Apart</i>.</p><p>It could happen any day now.<br><br><b>Leath Tonino</b>’s essays and interviews have appeared in <i>Orion</i>, <i>Sierra</i>, and <i>The Sun</i>. A native of Vermont, he resides in California.</p><p><em>Photograph courtesy US National Archives and Records Administration</em></p> 46656 Tue, 14 Jul 2015 10:27:36 -0400 Tricycle - Awake in the World