Tricycle - Awake in the World The Online Tricycle Magazine Blog http://www.tricycle.com/ en Fri, 30 Jan 2015 15:35:14 -0500 Fri, 30 Jan 2015 15:49:08 -0500 Putting an End to Buddhist Patriarchy http://www.tricycle.com/blog/putting-end-buddhist-patriarchy <p><img src="http://www.tricycle.com/sites/default/files/images/blog/Brahm_top_1.jpg" width="570" height="395" style="display: block; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;"></p><p>On December 1, 1955, in Montgomery, Alabama, an African-American woman refused to obey a bus driver’s order to give up her seat to a white passenger. This simple act of defiance became one of the most important symbols of the modern Civil Rights Movement in the United States.</p><p>Before she passed away in 2005, Rosa Parks became a Buddhist—at age 92. One can speculate that this female icon—and fierce opponent of discrimination—chose Buddhism because it lends itself to the advancement of social justice causes.</p><p>She was right.</p><p>Buddhism should advance the particular social justice issues described in United Nations Millenium Development Goal Number Three (MDG 3): Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women. For Buddhism to grow in our modern world, we need to do more than teach meditation, preach inspiring sermons, and make the sutras available online. We are good at studying, publishing, and spreading the word of Buddhism. What we have not been very successful is showcasing the compassion and selflessness of the dharma by our actions. We have written many more words in our books than what few kind words we have spoken to the poor, lonely, and desperate. We have built so many more temples than orphanages.</p><p>Theravada Buddhism’s current male leadership, in particular, needs to clearly demonstrate its commitment to MDG 3 through the acceptance of bhikkhuni [nun] ordination. Only then can the Theravada sangha use its considerable influence to make a fairer world—one where people are judged by their character, not by their gender.</p><p>Theravada Buddhist monks, generally speaking, are very conservative. Claiming to be the guardians of “original Buddhism,” they consider one of their most important duties the preservation of these precious early teachings. However, monks of all traditions in all countries—and Buddhist lay scholars as well—accept that there were fully ordained women, called bhikkhuni, in the lifetime of the Buddha. Moreover, in these early teachings, the Buddha clearly states that he seeks to give full ordination to women:</p><blockquote><p>Ananda, once I was staying at Uruvela on the bank of the river Neranjara [present day Bodh Gaya] under the Goatherd’s Banyan tree, when I had just attained supreme enlightenment. And Mara the Evil One came to me, stood to one side, and said, ‘May the Blessed One now attain final Nibbana; may the Sugata [Buddha] now attain final Nibbana. Now is the time for the Blessed Lord’s final Nibbana.’&nbsp;</p><p>At this, I said to Mara: ‘Evil One, I will not take final Nibbana until I have bhikkhus,&nbsp;bhikkhunis<b>,&nbsp;</b>lay men, and lay women followers who are accomplished, trained, skilled, learned, knowers of the dhamma, trained in conformity with the dhamma, correctly trained and walking in the path of the dhamma, who will pass on what they have gained from their teacher, teach it, declare it, establish it, expound it, analyse it, make it clear, until they shall be able, by means of the dhamma, to refute false teachings that have arisen and teach the dhamma of wondrous effect.</p></blockquote><p>Theravada Buddhists should have an advantage over other major world religions because their tradition explicitly gives equity to women. Christianity has no tradition of gender equality in its priesthood—nor does Islam, Judaism, or the various schools of Hinduism. Buddhism stood ahead of its time in granting such status to women from “when [the Buddha] had just attained supreme enlightenment<i>”&nbsp;</i>at Bodh Gaya.</p><p>Nevertheless, there remain two significant obstacles to the acceptance of bhikkhuni ordination in Theravada Buddhism: (1) Ignorance about who makes the decisions that govern the sangha, and (2) Ignorance of the Vinaya, the rules established by the Buddha that restrict what decisions may be made.&nbsp;</p><p>As to that first point, for instance, many monks in Thailand argue that a 1928 ruling from the Sangharaja [head Buddhist monk] of Thailand, Phra Bancha Somdet Phra Sangharacha Jiao Gromluang Jinawarn Siriwad, banned the ordination of female monks:&nbsp;</p><blockquote><p>It is unallowable for any bhikkhu to give the going-forth [ordination] to women. Any woman who wishes to ordain as a <i>samaneri</i> [novice nun] in accordance with the Buddha’s allowances, has to be ordained by a fully ordained bhikkhuni. The Buddha laid down the rule that only a bhikkhuni over 12 <i>vassas</i> [an annual three-month retreat] is eligible to be a <i>preceptor</i> [ceremonial guide who delivers vows]. Since there are no more fully fledged bhikkhunis to pass on the lineage, there are thus no samaneris who have obtained a proper ordination from a fully fledged bhikkhuni.</p></blockquote><p>Besides the antiquity of the ruling, one could also point out that the Sangharaja of Thailand, together with the Thai Council of Elders [senior monks], is only permitted to rule on matters directly concerning the monks and novices of the two main Thai Buddhist sects, <i>Mahanikaya</i> and <i>Dhammayuttanikaya</i>. They are not legally empowered to rule over the affairs of other monastic groups, such as Mahayana monks or nuns. The wait will never end for those well-meaning monks holding out hope that the Thai Council of Elders will sanction the legitimacy of Theravada bhikkhunis. The Thai Council of Elders, after all, is not legally entitled to rule on matters beyond its remit.</p><p>As for the Vinaya, the second obstacle that I listed, each monastic community is bound to act within its rules.</p><p>Renowned Theravada scholar monk Bhikkhu Analayo argues that the Thai Sangharaja’s 1928 ruling—and thus, the Vinaya in its current form—has no bearing because it directly contradicts the Buddha’s original teachings. In a recent publication, “<a href="https://www.questia.com/library/journal/1G1-365456258/the-revival-of-the-bhikkhuni-order-and-the-decline" target="_blank">The Revival of the Bhikkuni Order and the Decline of the Sasana</a>,” Analayo argues persuasively that the Buddha gave authority for bhikkhunis to receive ordination in a dual ceremony—both in a sangha of bhikkhunis and then in a sangha of bhikkhus.</p><p>By restoring equity to women in the Theravada sangha through reinstating bhikkhuni ordination, we will address the inferior status of women in many Theravada countries, promote gender equity in education, and thereby make a strong statement in support of the third UN Millennium Development Goal: gender equality and the empowerment of women.</p><p>In a <a href="http://sakyadhita.org/docs/resources/newsletters/21-1-2012.pdf" target="_blank">recent paper</a>, scholars Emma Tomalin and Caroline Starkey explore the role that Buddhism in Thailand and Cambodia plays in maintaining gender disparity in education. Ultimately they ask, “What is the relationship between the reassertion of women’s traditional ordination rights and female empowerment through education?” Since, as they note, “several scholars, both Thai and Western, have implicated Buddhism as one explanatory factor for the historical inequality between genders, particularly in the poorest areas,” many advocates of bhikkhuni ordination see “a direct relationship between the low status of women in many Buddhist traditions and the inferior status of women within Buddhist societies.”</p><p>By fixing our own house first, we have the considerable opportunity and moral authority—through our books and sermons—to inspire our Buddhist followers to work toward gender equality in spheres other than religion. Such action would lead to a world with less violence, better health, and more prosperity.<br><br><b>Ajahn Brahm</b> is a British Theravada monk and abbot of Bodhinyana Monastery in Serpentine, Australia.</p><p><em>Flickr/Superkimbo</em></p> Fri, 30 Jan 2015 15:35:14 -0500 Tricycle - Awake in the World Was the Buddha an Atheist? http://www.tricycle.com/blog/was-buddha-atheist <p><img src="http://www.tricycle.com/sites/default/files/images/blog/GS3317395.png" width="570" height="428" style="vertical-align: middle; margin: 7px auto; display: block;"></p><p>"The Buddha was an atheist."</p><p></p><p>Writer Allan Badiner made this bald pronouncement in the midst of a conversation that spanned the wee hours of a cloudless&nbsp;<a href="http://www.tricycle.com/feature/dharma-playa" target="_blank">Burning Man</a>&nbsp;night. Sitting in a vast tent where, during the day, scores of partygoers had washed off their dust and grime in a plexiglass<b> </b>chamber, we discussed prevailing notions of a Buddhist godhead and, conversely, our mutual embrace of the religion in its secular form. &nbsp;</p><p></p><p>I was most intrigued, though, by Badiner’s description of the Buddha as an atheist. I asked for sources.&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;Allan’s first response:</p><p></p><blockquote><p>I would need time to do it, but there are passages from the <i>Tripit</i>a<i>ka</i> that strongly indicate that the Buddha denied the existence of a creator god. Rather than classify him as an atheist or an agnostic, it would be more appropriate to use the term <em>nontheis</em>t. An atheist believes only what he can see but,<b> </b>of course<b>,</b> the Buddha suggested that not all that you see is real.</p></blockquote><p>I responded with enthusiasm and persistence: "I like nontheist—thanks—but do send me the citation when you can."</p><p></p><p>He did:</p><p></p><blockquote><p>According to Stephen Batchelor’s <i>Confessions of a Buddhist Atheist</i>, on the few occasions in the [Pali] Canon <b>. . . </b>where the question of God is addressed, Gautama is presented as an ironic atheist. The rejection of God is not a mainstay of his teaching, so he did not get worked up about it. Such passages have the flavor of a diversion, a light entertainment, in which another of humanity’s irrational opinions is gently ridiculed and put aside. This approach stands in contrast to the aggressive atheism that periodically erupts in the modern West. The Buddha regarded questions about the cause of the universe, or other questions related to a creator god as not useful, in light of the more important task of bringing about the cessation of human suffering.&nbsp;</p></blockquote><p>A few weeks later, at a conference on psychedelic research in Marin, California, I asked Insight Meditation Society cofounder Jack Kornfield the same question: "Was the Buddha an atheist?"</p><p>He responded later in an email, in his usual sweet manner:</p><p></p><p>"Yes, the Buddha was a nontheist. But he believed in and talked a lot about Brahma, King of the Gods and about other Gods . . .”&nbsp;</p><p></p><p>He continued, rather cryptically, with a quote from the Buddha himself: <i>A star at dawn, a drop of dew, an echo, a rainbow and a dream.</i></p><p></p><p>Now we were getting somewhere, or perhaps nowhere, or maybe somewhere rather<b> </b>koan-istic.</p><p></p><p>Then Stephen Batchelor himself weighed in on our group email:</p><p></p><blockquote><p>I’m happy you are happy with <i>nontheist</i>. The problems are manifold. &nbsp;The term <i>atheist</i> as we use it today would not have been used in that way at the Buddha’s time. Nor, for that matter, would the concept <i>nontheist</i>. There are no equivalents for either in Pali or Sanskrit, though many Hindus today still regard the Buddha as a <i>nastika</i>, usually translated as <i>nihilist</i> but which means something like one who asserts there is nothing. &nbsp;</p><p></p><p>Again, the Buddha would have rejected this since he warns against the two extremes of <i>atthi</i> [it is] and <i>natthi</i> [it is not] and seeks to establish his dharma in the middle (<i>madhyama</i>), which does not lapse into the extremes of eternalism or annihilationism. The Buddha simply did not define himself or his teaching in such ways. So<b> </b>trying to capture him in these terms is bound to misrepresent him.</p><p></p><p>On the other hand, the only way we can talk about him and his vision is via the concepts of our own time and language, which has been the case throughout Buddhist history in the different countries in which it took root. I take <i>nontheist</i> to mean one who does not employ God as a necessary term in his or her teaching. In this sense, yes, the Buddha was a <i>nontheist</i>.&nbsp;</p><p></p><p>However since he is recorded in the <i>Agganna Sutta </i>as mocking and rejecting the very idea of God, he also comes close to being an atheist in the modern sense. It is probably best to drop trying to categorize the Buddha in any of these ways, to cultivate a healthy skepticism regarding views and opinions, and to<b> </b>concentrate on practicing the dharma instead.<b>&nbsp;</b></p></blockquote><p></p><p>Stephen, as usual, had cut through the Gordian Knot with that “practice the dharma” thing—or get over yourself with the intellectual stuff that leads to more intellectual stuff: the obsessional path. It stung like the smack of the <i>keisaku</i> provoking a <i>kensho</i>.&nbsp;</p><p></p><p>Then, some weeks later when I had almost given up, Bob Thurman, noted Columbia University Professor of Indo-Tibetan Buddhism, gave his view:</p><p></p><blockquote><p>From the records we have, I think we can fairly say that Buddha was a non-monotheist—or non-creator-theist— and also a<i> </i>non-atheist, since he was in conversation with various gods quite often, actually one of his names was&nbsp;<i>devamanusyanam shasta</i> (Pali), or teacher of gods and humans. So the<b> </b>Buddha is an example of one who can be a theist while rejecting a creator. As I like to say, no one person is to blame for creating this whole mess—other than each of us, that is!</p></blockquote><p></p><p>So there you have it—as close to the horses’ mouths as I can get. Pick and choose from atheist, nontheist, agnostic, non-creator-theist, and non-atheist; or make up one of your own.&nbsp;</p><p></p><p>Did I learn something from this? Yes. For one, as Stephen said,<b> </b>pinning the Buddha down to a specific category of belief is a difficult thing, because we live in a different time with a different set of values and a whole other language to express them. Therefore, we cannot know the Buddha directly as a historical personage. Moreover, Buddhism has been of such benefit to a variety of practitioners<b>, </b>its modifications and commentaries leaves grown from a single tree. Why hold the Buddha stuck in place? The dharma is a moving thing. And clearly, he, Gautama, touched its essence. For that wisdom we owe<b> </b>great gratitude to the Buddha, atheist or not, and all those who have breathed life into his path.<br><br><strong>Phil Wolfson</strong> is a psychiatrist and secular Buddhist practitioner. He lives in the Bay Area.</p><p><em>Image: Chris Sorensen/Gallerystock</em></p> Tue, 27 Jan 2015 17:12:57 -0500 Tricycle - Awake in the World Ghosts, Gods, and the Denizens of Hell http://www.tricycle.com/blog/ghosts-gods-and-denizens-hell <p class="p1"><img src="http://www.tricycle.com/sites/default/files/images/blog/CosmologyImage.png" width="571" height="381" style="margin: 7px auto; vertical-align: middle; display: block;"></p><p class="p1">For Buddhists, the universe has no beginning. Various world systems come into existence and eventually cease to be, but other worlds precede and follow them. The Buddha is said to have discouraged speculation about the origin of the universe; the question of whether the world has a beginning is one of fourteen questions that the Buddha refused to answer. He also remained silent when asked whether the universe will ever come to an end. Individual worlds are destroyed, incinerated by the fire of seven suns; but, no apocalypse, no final end time, is foretold. Individual beings put an end to their individual existence, one that also has no beginning, by traversing the path to nirvana.&nbsp;</p><p class="p2"></p><p class="p1">This does not mean that Buddhists do not have creation myths. One is offered in the <i>Agganna Sutta</i>, which describes how beings first came to populate a newly formed world system and how gender, sexuality, private property, labor, and government came into existence. The place that they inhabit—and which we inhabit, according to the Buddhists—is an island continent called Jambudvipa, "Rose Apple Island," in a great sea. It is the southern continent, one of four continents in a flat world, situated in the four cardinal directions around a central mountain called Mount Meru. The mountain is in the shape of a great cube, each of its four faces composed of a different kind of precious stone. The southern face of the mountain is made of lapis lazuli and so when the light of the sun reflects off Meru's south face, it turns the color of our sky blue. Gods live on the slopes of the mountain and on the summit. It was in the heaven on the summit on Mount Meru that the Buddha taught the Abhidharma to his mother.</p><p class="p2"></p><p class="p1">The Buddha, like other teachers of his day, believed in rebirth—a process of birth and death called samsara, literally "wandering." According to the Buddha, this process has no beginning and will not end unless one brings it to an end. Until then, each being is born in lifetime after lifetime into one of six, and only six, realms: as a god, demigod, human, animal, ghost, or denizen of hell. This is not a process of evolution but rather very much an aimless wandering from realm to realm, up and down, for aeons, a process that on the surface appears entirely random. The gods live above our world, some on the surface of the central mountain, some in the heavens above it. Their lives there are long but not eternal. For the gods who live on the summit of Mount Meru, the life span is a thousand years, and every day of those years is equal in length to one hundred human years. In the heavens arrayed above the summit of Mount Meru, the life spans are longer. These heavens as well as the realms of demigods, humans, animals, ghosts, and the denizens of hell, together constitute what is called the realm of desire, because the beings there desire the pleasures that derive from the five senses, constantly seeking beautiful things to see, hear, smell, taste, and touch. Above the desire realm are the heavens of the realm of form, where the gods have bodies made of a subtle matter invisible to humans; having no need for food or drink, these gods only have the senses of sight, hearing, and touch. The highest Buddhist heavens are located in what is called the formless realm. There the gods have no bodies but exist only as consciousness, and the names of its four heavens are derived from the object in which the minds of the gods of that heaven are absorbed: infinite space, infinite consciousness, nothingness, neither perception nor nonperception. But these heavens remain within the cycle of birth and death, and when the karmic effect has run its course, each inhabitant is reborn elsewhere.&nbsp;</p><p class="p2"></p><p class="p1">In general, it is said that one is reborn as a god as a result of acts of generosity and charity in a former life; charity directed toward the community of Buddhist monks and nuns is considered particularly efficacious. However, one is reborn in these heavens of the formless realm by achieving their deep levels of concentration in meditation while a human. Yet even these profound states of bliss, states that last for millennia, are not eternal. Indeed, Buddhist texts sometimes consign the saints of other religions to these heavens, explaining that they have mistaken such states, which lie within samsara, as liberation from it.&nbsp;</p><p class="p2"></p><p class="p1">Below the gods in the hierarchy of beings are the demigods (excluded in some lists), a kind of catchall category of all manner of spirits and sprites, some malevolent and some benign; one of the words for "plant" or "tree," which Buddhists monks are prohibited from uprooting or cutting down, literally means "abode of being." The demigods are less potent than the gods but have powers that exceed those humans and can cause all manner of mischief if not properly propitiated. In the category of demigod, one finds the <i>gandharvas</i>, a class of celestial musicians who, according to their name, subsist on fragrances; a crude translation of that name would be "odor eaters." One also finds a kind of half-human half-horse creature called the <i>kimnara</i>, literally, "is that a man?"&nbsp;</p><p class="p2"></p><p class="p1">The third realm is the world of humans, regarded as the ideal state for the practice of the Buddhist path. The realms of the gods above are too pleasurable; those of the animals, ghosts, and denizens of hell below are too painful. The world of humans is said to have sufficient suffering to cause one to wish to escape from it, but not so much as to cause paralysis and thereby block such an attempt. Among the sufferings of humans, the Buddha enumerated eight: birth, aging, sickness, death, losing friends, gaining enemies, not getting what you wish for, and getting what you do not wish for. As we consider, as we always must, the extent to which the doctrines of a religion reflect, on the one hand, the concerns of a distant time and place and, on the other hand, more general elements of the human condition, this list, set forth in ancient India more than two millennia ago, seems to fall on the universal side of the spectrum.</p><p class="p2"></p><p class="p1">It is said that one is reborn as a human as a result of being an ethical person, generally understood as keeping vows. As mentioned above, for the Buddhist laity, there are five traditional vows: to abstain from killing humans, from stealing, from sexual misconduct, from lying, and from intoxicants. Laypeople could take any one, two, three, four, or all five of these vows, whether for life or for a more limited period. The vows kept by monks and nuns number in the hundreds. They govern all elements of monastic life, including possessions (especially robes), hygiene, and general comportment. The vows are categorized by the weight of the infraction they seek to prevent. Four transgressions result in permanent expulsion from the order: murder, sexual intercourse, theft (of anything above a specified value), and lying about spiritual attainments. Lesser infractions may require probation, confession, or simply a verbal acknowledgment.</p><p class="p2"></p><p class="p1">Vows play a central role in Buddhist practice. They are not commandments from God, nor do they represent a covenant, but instead are a mechanism for making merit, the good karma that leads to happiness in this life and the next. It is sometimes said that one of the Buddhist innovations in Indian karma theory was to introduce the element of intention. A misdeed was no longer a ritual mistake, a sacrifice poorly performed, as it was in Vedic times, but an intentional action—whether physical, verbal, or mental—motivated by desire, hatred, or ignorance. A vow represented not a situational decision for good over evil but a lifetime commitment to refrain from a particular negative act. It was said that one accrued a greater good karma by taking a vow not to kill humans than by simply happening not to commit murder over the course of one's life. Conversely, one accrued greater negative karma if one took and then broke a vow to avoid a particular misdeed than if one simply happened to commit that misdeed. The scholastic tradition would later explain why this was the case. In the act of taking a vow, a kind of "subtle matter" was created in one's body. As long as the vow was kept, this subtle matter caused good karma to accrue in every moment throughout one's life. For this reason, taking a vow was a much more efficient means to generate the seeds of future happiness than simply being occasionally ethical.&nbsp;</p><p class="p2"></p><p class="p1">The realms of gods and humans are considered the "good" or "fortunate" realms within the cycle of rebirth, because rebirth there is the result of virtuous actions and because the sufferings undergone by the beings in these realms are far less horrific than those of the beings reborn in the three lower realms.&nbsp;</p><p class="p2"></p><p class="p1">The realm of animals (which includes all birds, mammals, amphibians, fish, and insects, but not plants) is familiar enough, as are the various sufferings. Buddhist texts say that the particular suffering of animals is that they always must go in search of food while avoiding themselves becoming food; unlike humans, animals are killed not because of something that they did or said, but because of the taste of their flesh or the texture of their skin. One is said to be reborn as an animal as a result of past actions that were motivated by ignorance.&nbsp;</p><p class="p2"></p><p class="p1">The next realm is that of the ghosts—often called "hungry ghosts," the translation of the Chinese term for the denizens of this realm. Their primary form of suffering is indeed hunger and thirst, and they are constantly seeking to fill their bellies. As they do so, they encounter all manner of obstacles. In Buddhist iconography, ghosts are depicted as baleful beings with huge distended bellies and emaciated limbs, not unlike the victims of famine. But beyond this affliction so familiar in human history, the other sufferings of ghosts are more fantastic. Some have knots in their throats, making it impossible for food or drink to pass. For others, who are able to swallow, the food they eat is transformed into sharp weapons and molten lead when it reaches their stomach. Still others find that when they finally come upon a stream of flowing water, it turns into blood and pus as they kneel down to drink. Ghosts live in a world located five hundred leagues beneath the surface of the earth, but they sometimes venture into the human world, where they can be seen by monks with supernormal powers. Indeed, the feeding of ghosts is a special responsibility of Buddhist monks. The Sanskrit term translated as "ghost" is <i>preta</i>, which means "departed" or "deceased," suggesting that they are the spirits of the dead who have not received the proper ritual offerings from their families and thus are doomed to starvation. Buddhist monks and nuns, who also have left family life behind, have a special responsibility to feed the hungry ghosts, who appear often in Buddhist stories. It is said that one is reborn as a ghost as a result of actions motivated by greed in a former life.&nbsp;</p><p class="p2"></p><p class="p1">In the Buddhist cosmology, the most elaborate of the realms are the most desired—the heavens—and the most feared—the hells. There are eight hot hells and eight cold hells, four neighboring hells, and a number of trifling hells. They are stacked beneath the surface of the earth—the deeper below, the greater the intensity and duration of the suffering. The cold hells are desolate lands of ice where snow is always falling, without a sun or moon, or any source of light and heat. The beings there are naked, and the names of some of the hells describe the shape of the blisters that form on their bodies: for example, "Split Like a Blue Lotus." The hot hells are lands of burning iron where beings undergo various forms of torture during lifetimes that last for millions of years, but not forever. Beings are reborn in hell as a result of actions motivated by hatred. There are said to be five deeds that result in immediate rebirth in the most torturous of the hot hells. The first of the four of these seems particularly heinous, the last less obviously so: killing one's father, killing one's mother, killing an arhat (someone who has achieved liberation and will enter nirvana at death), wounding the Buddha, and causing dissension in the community of monks and nuns.<br><br><b>Donald S. Lopez Jr.</b>, a&nbsp;<i>Tricycle</i>&nbsp;contributing editor, is the Arthur E. Link Distinguished University Professor of Buddhist and Tibetan Studies at the University of Michigan.</p><p class="p1">Excerpted from <i><a href="http://www.amazon.com/Norton-Anthology-World-Religions-Christianity/dp/0393062538/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1422044459&sr=8-1&keywords=the+norton+anthology+of+religions" target="_blank">The Norton Anthology of World Religions</a>,</i> edited by Jack Miles. Copyright © 2015 by W. W. Norton & Company, Inc. With permission of the publisher, W. W. Norton & Company, Inc. All rights reserved.</p><p class="p1"><em>Image: Chris Sorenson/Gallerystock</em></p><p></p><hr><p><strong>More at Tricycle:</strong></p><table width="550" border="0" cellspacing="10" cellpadding="8"><tbody><tr></tr><tr><td valign="top" scope="col"><p><a href="http://www.tricycle.com/blog/dalai-lama-what-people-get-wrong-about-present-moment"><img src="http://www.tricycle.com/sites/default/files/images/newsletters/lama.png" width="261" height="137" border="0"></a></p><span class="headertitles"> <b> BLOG: THE DALAI LAMA ON WHAT PEOPLE GET WRONG ABOUT THE PRESENT MOMENT </b></span><p align="left"><a href="http://www.tricycle.com/blog/dalai-lama-what-people-get-wrong-about-present-moment"><img src="http://www.tricycle.com/sites/default/files/images/0313readthepost3.png" width="142" height="19"></a></p></td><td valign="top" scope="col"><p><a href="http://www.tricycle.com/blog/real-enemy-religious-extremism"><img src="http://www.tricycle.com/sites/default/files/images/newsletters/extream.png" width="261" height="137" border="0"></a></p><span class="headertitles"> <b> BLOG: THE REAL ENEMY IS RELIGIOUS EXTREMISM </b></span><p align="left"><a href="http://www.tricycle.com/blog/real-enemy-religious-extremism"> <img src="http://www.tricycle.com/sites/default/files/images/0313readthepost3.png" width="142" height="19"><br> </a></p></td></tr></tbody></table> Fri, 23 Jan 2015 14:26:44 -0500 Tricycle - Awake in the World The Economy of Salvation http://www.tricycle.com/blog/economy-salvation <p><img src="http://www.tricycle.com/sites/default/files/images/blog/GS3314843_top.jpg" width="570" height="379" style="display: block; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;"></p><p>The incomparable loftiness of the monk figure—placid and disinterested, having renounced desire—leads many to think of Buddhism as a religion detached from all worldly concerns, especially those of economy. But Buddhism has always addressed a continuum of human flourishing and good, creating what has been referred to as an “economy of salvation.” Metaphors of economy—even of debt—abound in Buddhist texts, and in many ways Buddhism came to be fundamentally shaped by economic conditions and considerations of the era in which it originated.</p><p>Depending on material support from moneylenders, the Buddhist establishment from its outset did not seek to hamper the business that made it possible. Devout merchants (<i>setthi</i>) and householders (<i>gahapatis</i>)—controllers of property, moneylenders, often even usurers—were the primary supporters of the early monastic community. Giving material support (<i>amisa dana</i>) to the monkhood thus ranks in Buddhist doctrine as <i>the </i>most effective way for laypeople to generate positive karma, even above following the five moral precepts that define the Buddhist way of life. Out of a concern for its own survival, Buddhism could not condemn the acquisition of wealth, but it could provide principles for its dispensation—namely, giving and generosity (<i>dana</i>). To these ends, the Buddha celebrated wealth creation alongside a call for its redistribution.<br><br><strong>The New Market Economy</strong></p><p>In order to understand the subtleties of Buddhism’s approach to wealth accumulation, poverty, and debt, we must first have some understanding of the market economy from which it arose. The introduction of the widespread use of coinage to India just a few decades prior to the Buddha’s birth around 500 BCE disrupted existing social orders and also inspired a philosophical renaissance driven by spiritual dropouts like the Buddha, who sought to respond to the new economy.</p><p>One of the Buddha’s most poignant accounts of worldly life speaks to the social alienation inherent to economic competition and the accumulation of private property. It remains pertinent to this day:</p><p style="padding-left: 30px;">Seeing people floundering<br>&nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp;like fish in small puddles,<br>&nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp;competing with one another — <br>&nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp;as I saw this,<br>&nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp;fear came into me.<br>&nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp;The world was entirely<br>&nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp;without substance.<br>&nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp;All the directions<br>&nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; were knocked out of line.<br>&nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp;Wanting a haven for myself,<br>&nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp;I saw nothing that wasn’t laid claim to.<br>&nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp;Seeing nothing in the end<br>&nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp;but competition,<br>&nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp;I felt discontent.<br>&nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; —<em>Sutta Nipata</em> 4.15, trans. Thanissaro Bhikkhu</p><p>Widespread use of currency led to a flattening of reality that rendered all goods and services commensurable, nourishing a tendency toward abstraction for which we owe much of our philosophical inheritance today—from Pythagoras in Greece, to Confucius in China, to the Buddha in India. The reformulation of economic relations brought about by monetization triggered previously unheard of levels of social mobility, and mobility’s attendant individualism.</p><p>The Buddha skillfully encouraged some of the new social values that emerged from these economic changes. For example, he encouraged the individualism that subverted family structures (monks were “home-leavers”). But he also sought to undermine other emerging values associated with psychological states that fuel the acquisition of capital: desire and greed. The Buddha condemned acquisitiveness at the same time he supported capital accumulation, specifically for its potential to create and multiply merit through generosity. In this way, Buddhism advocated a “Middle Way,” the simultaneous negation of the extremes of asceticism and indulgence. Spiritual health and material well-being were, in the words of economist E. F. Schumacher, natural allies.</p><p>The Buddha diverged from other religious thinkers in his embrace of the new market economy. Confucians in China and Brahmans in India strongly resisted this economy, denouncing the economic activities of businessmen and merchants as threats to the moral order of society.</p><p>Perhaps the Buddha embraced the new market economy in part because it supported his rejection of the Brahmans’ mythical justifications for the stratification of caste. Rather than speaking about caste, the Buddha spoke instead of economic class, the new social order, which was divided into six categories: very wealthy, wealthy, faring well, faring poorly, poor, and destitute. Such disparities are inevitable in a society organized by the market economy. The establishment of the monkhood, which presented a new, radical kind of freedom, enabled its constituents to stand outside caste and, in theory, outside the market economy altogether.<br><br><strong>Can Buddhist Teachings Move Us Toward Jubilee?</strong></p><p>The accumulation of wealth among urban merchants and moneylenders, scorned by the then dominant Brahmans, was a boon to the <i>sangha</i>, the Buddhist monastic community, which relied on the generosity of the laity for material support as well as the spread of Buddhist ideas along trade routes. This upwardly mobile class found in Buddhism a justification for its economic activities and new lifestyle. By giving to the monks, the laity performed acts of <i>dana</i>, or generosity, a fundamental tenet of Buddhism. Serving as “fields of merit,” the monks provided an opportunity for laypeople to practice generosity, the first “perfection,” and the basis of all other perfections, leading to enlightenment. Importantly, the amount of merit generated by such transactions was determined by the recipient’s level of virtue and not the benefactor’s, forming a holy alliance between the monkhood and the laity that, at least within the performance of <i>dana</i>, condoned the benefactor’s methods of accumulation. This alliance was furthered by the Buddha’s injunction forbidding those with debt from joining the monastic order, by which the indebted would effectively default.</p><p>So instead of challenging the accumulation of wealth, Buddhism critiques the social structures that perpetuate poverty and the unwholesome states of mind that contribute to the suffering of self and others. This is admirable enough, but still leaves quite a bit for Buddhist socialists and Buddhists committed to Jubilee to wrestle with.</p><p>Buddhism has historically taken a permissive approach to economic relations. It might be the only world religion that does not formally condemn usury. And being wealthy in and of itself has been taken as a sign of good karma. Yet there remains much in the Buddhist canon that can enrich our thoughts on debt and wealth distribution.</p><p>The <i>Ina ­Sutta</i>, the Buddha’s “Discourse on Debt,” praises <i>ananasukha</i>, the pleasure of being debtless. Conversely, it also links indebtedness directly to bondage and, ultimately, suffering, the first noble truth of Buddhism:</p><p style="padding-left: 30px;">Poverty is suffering in the world. . . Getting into debt is suffering in the world. . . Interest payment is suffering in the world. . . Being served notice is suffering in the world. . . Being hounded is suffering in the world. . . Bondage is suffering in the world. . . . When a poor, destitute, penniless person, being hounded, does not pay, he is put into bondage. For one who partakes of sensuality [a layperson], bondage is suffering in the world.</p><p>Buddhist texts make ample use of metaphors of debt and exchange to confer spiritual advice, both a sign of the times and a winning bet made by the Buddha on the future hegemony of the monetary economy. At the end of the <i>Ina Sutta</i>, the Buddha goes as far as to use freedom from debt as a metaphor for nirvana (liberation from samsara, the indefinitely repeated cycles of birth, misery, and death caused by karma):</p><p style="padding-left: 30px;">[Knowledge in the total ending of the fetters of becoming] is the highest knowledge<br> that, the happiness unexcelled. <br>&nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp;Sorrowless,<br>&nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp;dustless,<br>&nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp;at rest, <br>that<br>&nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; is release from debt.</p><p>For Jubilee, perhaps the most instructive concept in Buddhist thought is that of karmic debt, for which financial debt is often used as a metaphor, as it is in these final lines. Born as humans, we all have karmic debt, the first one being to our parents, who brought us into this world, raised us, fed us, and guided us. This debt extends to all our benefactors—teachers, friends, and anyone else who has acted with our well-being in mind. But this is not a debt that can be easily repaid. For such an infinite debt, no material compensation is sufficient. In fact, the only way to repay such a debt is to become enlightened ourselves and endow others with the conditions for enlightenment. Thus, according to the <i>Kataññu Sutta</i>, we become debtless:</p><p style="padding-left: 30px;">But, O monks, one who . . . encourages his ignorant parents, settles and establishes them in wisdom—such a one, O monks, does enough for his parents: he repays them and more than repays them for what they have done.</p><p>In other words, recognizing our true debts establishes the basis for the discernment of contrived debts, and thus any kind of resistance against them. This old Buddhist idea is freshly relevant in the context of contemporary efforts to build a debt resistance movement. In fact, it sounds surprisingly similar to the<i> Debt Resistors’ Operations Manual</i>. “To the financial establishment of the world,” the manual reads, “we have only one thing to say: We owe you nothing.” It continues:</p><blockquote><p>To our friends, our families, our communities, to humanity and to the natural world that makes our lives possible, we owe you everything. Every dollar we take from a subprime mortgage speculator, every dollar we withhold from the collection agency is a tiny piece of our own lives and freedom that we can give back to our communities, to those we love and we respect.</p></blockquote><p><strong>Repaying Our Karmic Debts</strong></p><p>In the Buddhist approach to debt, wealth can be accumulated, but only so that it can in turn be given away to those to whom we are truly, karmically indebted. Production and multiplication of merit-creating wealth is thus a noble determination. One who acquires lavish wealth, the Buddha said, should provide for the pleasure and satisfaction of himself, his loved ones, and his associates, and also for priests and contemplatives.</p><p>Buddhist monasteries for a long time accomplished a kind of redistribution of wealth, supporting mendicants who owned nothing. They also invested in local economies, providing an alternative to local moneylenders. In later years, however, some monasteries (such as in Medieval China) started making high-interest loans and meddling with debtors’ contracts. A Burmese proverb characterizes Buddhist economic excess succinctly: “The pagoda is finished and the country is ruined.”</p><p>As greed—the motor of capital accumulation and, in Buddhism, one of the three “poisons” that binds beings to the wheel of samsara—became institutionalized in the new social order, the Buddha edged out a place in society where greed’s opposite, generosity, could flourish.</p><p>While the production and multiplication of wealth creates conditions for merit in the form of virtuous giving, greed annihilates merit. The Buddha said that even if one could transform one single mountain into two mountains of solid gold, it would still not provide complete and lasting satisfaction of a single person’s wants. Such is the unlimited nature of desire. From the Buddhist view, then, capital accumulation does not find its end in capital accumulation, but in its transmutation into merit through generosity. “To have much wealth and ample gold and food, but to enjoy one’s luxuries alone is a cause of one’s downfall,” the Buddha says in the <i>Parabhava Sutta</i>. Wealth is not the enemy of spiritual development; it has an enormous potential to create merit—but not principally from lending, but giving.</p><p>For this reason, even to live modestly while retaining great wealth is sinful. In the <i>Aputtaka Sutta</i>, the Buddha speaks of a moneylender who “ate broken rice and pickle brine” and wore only “hempen cloth,” riding around in a “dilapidated little cart.” Many lives ago, the moneylender had given alms to a contemplative, leading the moneylender to be reborn seven times with great fortune. But in his subsequent lives the moneylender failed to create virtue with his fortunes, passing up many opportunities to generate merit through generosity. For this reason, after the merit generated for seven lifetimes ran out, the moneylender found himself in one of the hell realms.<br><br><strong>The Evil of Endless Accumulation</strong></p><p>Today’s ultra-wealthy commit this same evil of endless accumulation without redistribution. Moneylending through the financial establishment, effectively indebting others in order to create profits, does not create merit but destroys it. Such a system of debt has helped concentrate 40 percent of the nation’s wealth in the hands of 1 percent of its population, while the bottom 60 percent owns just 2.3 percent of the nation’s wealth. Debt today encourages the upward distribution of wealth, whereas the Buddha seems to have advocated its downward distribution.</p><p>In the <i>Cakkavatti Sihanada Sutta</i>, the Buddha makes clear that charity, and philanthropy especially, is never enough. Giving advice to a king, he says, “Whosoever in your kingdom is poor, to him let wealth be given.” When a king comes to power and neglects this duty, he is faced with social deterioration that can be reversed neither through recourse to charity nor through justice (i.e., brutal punishments): “Thus from goods not being bestowed on the destitute, poverty, stealing, violence, murder, lying, evil-speaking, and immorality grew rife.”</p><p>Considering that Buddhist texts tend to concentrate unrelentingly on defilements of the mind as the roots of suffering, this passage is remarkable in that it focuses instead on social and economic injustice as a foundational cause. Here, the ignorance, desire, and hatred of the people—the three poisons—are traced directly back to the failure of the state rather than to their own individual moral failings. When the king attempts to correct social strife by dispensing charity, this produces only more negative results, clearly demonstrating that charity cannot stand in for economic justice. Perhaps most importantly, the Buddha places the responsibility for the material well-being of the poor on the government. There exists no other power capable of enacting any progressive economic policy, including debt forgiveness.</p><p>This gets to the problem at the heart of the massive proliferation of personal debt in the United States: the country’s long-term disinvestment in public goods such as higher education, health care, and housing. If wealth, of which there is no shortage, is not shared with the poor in such forms, inequality becomes exacerbated in the form of debt, which increases the burden of poverty in the form of interest.</p><p>Vital to Buddhist doctrine is the conviction that all people, regardless of social position, are capable of becoming enlightened, of becoming buddhas. Poverty and the stress it entails, however, can be real barriers to spiritual development. The Buddha recognized that becoming free of worries about our material welfare enables us to develop our potentials. If release from karmic debt is the goal of Buddhist thought and practice, then release from economic debt is its precondition.<br><br><b>Alex Caring-Lobel</b> is <i>Tricycle</i>’s associate editor.</p><p><em>"Buddhism and Debt" in&nbsp;<a href="http://tikkun.dukejournals.org/" target="_blank">Tikkun</a>, Volume 30, no. 1, p. 35. © 2015,&nbsp;Tikkun&nbsp;Magazine. All rights reserved. Republished by permission of the copyrightholder, and the present publisher, <a href="http://www.dukeupress.edu" target="_blank">Duke University Press</a>.</em></p><p><em>Image: GalleryStock.</em></p> Tue, 20 Jan 2015 13:40:56 -0500 Tricycle - Awake in the World The Real Enemy is Religious Extremism http://www.tricycle.com/blog/real-enemy-religious-extremism <p><img src="http://www.tricycle.com/sites/default/files/images/GnanasaraImage.png" width="570" height="773" style="margin: 7px auto; vertical-align: middle; display: block;"></p><p style="text-align: center;"><em>Gnanasara Thera, the leader of a Buddhist extremist organization called Bodu Bala Sena</em></p><p style="text-align: left;"><em></em>On Wednesday of last week I woke up in the predawn darkness, the vestiges of jet lag from a month in Sri Lanka still washing over me. I reached for my phone and was immediately greeted by the news that several staff members of <i>Charlie</i> <i>Hebdo</i>, a French satirical magazine,&nbsp;had been killed by Islamic fundamentalists. Twelve people in all were confirmed dead. The news had me reeling. What does it mean to live in a world where blood is still shed over medieval debates about what is blasphemy and what is not? And yet I have to say that the enemy of free expression, of everything that is sacred to me as a writer, is not Islam but fundamentalism of any kind. I know this because I am from Sri Lanka and Sri Lanka has the dubious honor of birthing Fundamentalist Buddhism.</p><p>On Sunday June 15, 2014, in Sri Lanka, the land of my birth and a country I feel deeply tied to by both love and despair, the Bodu Bala Sena (BBS) went on the warpath. In English, "Bodu Bala Sena" translates as the "Buddha Power Force," a puzzlingly oxymoronic label for a militant faction of Buddhist monks dead set on defending the country, by any means necessary, from what they see as encroachment from Muslims and Christians.</p><p>Sri Lanka is a country of deep devotions. Almost every street in the capital, Colombo, boasts churches, mosques, and temples—often in close proximity. Lonely country crossroads shelter shrines to Ganesh or St. Sebastian. But the most ubiquitous religious icons are the Buddha statues that dot the country, from tiny garden shrines to 80-foot-tall figures rising up from the forest in the ancient Buddhist citadels of Polonaruwa and Anuradhapura. For much of the country's history—despite a 26-year-long ethnic civil war—the religions have generally coexisted.</p><p>Yet in recent times a brand of <a href="http://www.tricycle.com/blog/nirvanaless-asian-buddhism-growing-fundamentalist-streak" target="_blank">militant nationalist Buddhism</a> led by BBS has risen to prominence in part as a response to what monks see as the unchecked spread of Islam and the economic strength of the Muslim community. These monks have assumed the mantle of defending Sinhala Buddhism, the racial and religious strain of Theravada Buddhism in Sri Lanka that has existed on the island since ancient times, and they have grown stronger and more vociferous with time.</p><p>June 15, 2014, however, marked a&nbsp;<a href="http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-27885824" target="_blank">new demonstration</a>&nbsp;of the power of BBS. The monks gathered in a town called Aluthgama. Their leader, Gnanasara Thera, was delivering a hate-filled speech warning Muslims that they lived in a Buddhist country. "In this country we still have a Sinhala police force; we still have a Sinhala army,” he declared. After today if a single <i>Marakkalaya</i> [derogatory term for Muslims] or some other <i>paraya</i> [derogatory term for alien] touches a single Sinhalese . . . it will be their end.” A crowd of 7,000 gathered to see the strange sight of an orange-robed monk shouting racial epithets and threatening violence. That night, after the speech, inflamed Sinhala mobs roamed the streets setting fire to buildings, harassing and attacking Muslims. By the end of the day, there were three confirmed deaths, 78 injured persons, numerous businesses and homes destroyed.</p><p>I called Muslim friends in the country; they were all safe but afraid. "Being a minority in Sri Lanka is like being in an abusive marriage. We never know when we are going to get whacked!" said one on her Facebook page.</p><p>As a Sinhala Buddhist myself, watching the riots in Aluthgama has been a heartbreaking experience of profound cognitive dissonance. The Buddhism I was taught as a child stressed love and compassion. Buddhism now joins Christianity and Islam in a disturbing trend toward fundamentalism and exclusion. And like moderate Christians and Muslims, moderate Buddhists must now attempt to present a reasoned counterweight to these reactionary religious tendencies.</p><p>These riots also made me confront something I've never felt before: the despair of Muslims who strive to be both faithful to their deeply held sacred beliefs and distant from dangerous fundamentalist ideas. For the first time I felt what it was to be lumped in with dangerous people who would kill in the name of our supposedly shared beliefs. What does it mean to call oneself a Buddhist when these are the actions committed in the name of Buddhism? I'm sure this is a question that Muslims are faced with constantly, as they are caught in the vice between Islamic fundamentalism and international anti-Muslim fervor. The day after the <em>Charlie Hebdo </em><em>attack</em>, a Muslim friend reacting to the push for Muslims to separate themselves from the attacks wrote, "Sorry, folks. I'm an immoderate Muslim. Why on earth would I want moderate amounts of love, compassion, joy, peace, or the countless other positive aspects Islam brings to my life?"</p><p>Ultimately, whether Buddhism, Islam, Judaism, Christianity, or any other -ism, the worldwide push toward fundamentalism is also heartbreaking in that it forces those of us sustained by some sort of faith to have to say what should be obvious: these acts of violence do not speak for us.<br><br><strong>Nayomi Munaweera</strong> is the author of the novel <em>Island of a Thousand Mirrors</em>.</p><p><em>A version of this essay has appeared on the&nbsp;</em><a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/nayomi-munaweera/the-real-enemy-is-fundame_b_6481170.html" target="_blank">Huffington Post</a>&nbsp;<em>blog.</em></p><hr><p><strong>More at Tricycle:</strong></p><table width="550" border="0" cellspacing="10" cellpadding="8"><tbody><tr></tr><tr><td valign="top" scope="col"><p><a href="http://www.tricycle.com/blog/i-survived-ebola-fight-doesnt-end-there"><img src="http://www.tricycle.com/sites/default/files/images/newsletters/ebola.png" width="261" height="137" border="0"></a></p><span class="headertitles"> <b> BLOG: I SURVIVED EBOLA. BUT THE FIGHT DOESN'T END THERE. </b></span><p align="left"><a href="http://www.tricycle.com/blog/i-survived-ebola-fight-doesnt-end-there"><img src="http://www.tricycle.com/sites/default/files/images/0313readthepost3.png" width="142" height="19"></a></p></td><td valign="top" scope="col"><p><a href="http://www.tricycle.com/blog/fostering-peace-inside-and-out"><img src="http://www.tricycle.com/sites/default/files/images/newsletters/peace.png" width="261" height="137" border="0"></a></p><span class="headertitles"> <b> BLOG: FOSTERING PEACE, INSIDE AND OUT </b></span><p align="left"><a href="http://www.tricycle.com/blog/fostering-peace-inside-and-out"> <img src="http://www.tricycle.com/sites/default/files/images/0313readthepost3.png" width="142" height="19"><br> </a></p></td></tr></tbody></table> Thu, 15 Jan 2015 16:53:22 -0500 Tricycle - Awake in the World More than This Body http://www.tricycle.com/blog/more-body <p><img src="http://www.tricycle.com/sites/default/files/images/Headache.png" width="550" height="367" style="margin: 7px auto; vertical-align: middle; display: block;"></p><p>Pain, by definition, kind of sucks. So unpleasant emotions like fear and anger often arise along with it, making for an especially demoralizing experience. We usually try, then, to simply get rid of it. Being cured of pain is the outcome our culture teaches us to expect—we carry a sense of entitlement that life <i>should</i> be free from pain. But one of the worst parts of the pain syndrome—whether the discomfort is short-term, as in meditation, or long-term, with chronic pain—is that our physical pain and our urge to nullify it feed off one another in a most unfortunate loop, and our life comes to revolve around our discomfort.</p><p>It is essential to understand that both our pain and the suffering that arises from it are truly our path, our teacher, in that we can learn from them and experience our life more deeply as a result. Once we understand that pain is our path, we can begin to work with our pain and our suffering in a more conscious way. At the very least, we can consider our pain an opportunity to learn from our many attachments—especially our attachments to comfort, to body image, to control, and in the case of chronic pain, to our seemingly never-ending misery.</p><p>Yet practicing with our pain gradually frees us from these attachments. When pain arises, instead of immediately thinking, “How can I get rid of this?” we can say “Hello” to it, and ask, “What can I learn from this?” It’s not always easy to do this, but when possible, it turns the whole experience upside down.</p><p>Once we do remember to ask what we can learn, it’s essential that we notice the difference between pain itself and how we relate to it. Often we conflate the two as one confused whole. Pain is the physical experience of discomfort; how we relate to it, meanwhile, is mental and emotional. For example, in meditation, when we relate to knee or back pain with fear or self-pity, it exacerbates the uncomfortable physical sensation. If we relate to pain with an element of curiosity, however, the experience becomes much more tolerable.</p><p>That said, there may be times when nothing provides relief. In such cases, it’s healthy to intentionally distract ourselves from our bodies and minds. This might include activities we genuinely enjoy—like walking in nature or listening to music—since it’s so easy, when in pain, to forget about the things that bring us happiness. By diverting our attention in this way, we bring lovingkindness to ourselves and our situation.</p><p>Even though practicing with physical pain and its related emotional dis-ease can prove difficult, it’s most often worthwhile.</p><p>First off, in working with the emotions that we associate with physical pain, we need to recognize our judgments—especially insofar as we normally accept them, unquestioned, as the truth. This recognition allows us to see how our blind belief in thought solidifies our unpleasant physical experience of pain. One particularly pernicious tendency is catastrophizing, automatically anticipating the worst. If we get a pain in the belly that lasts for a few days, we may start believing we have cancer. To counter such thinking, we can deploy a simple phrase to remind ourselves that these imagined ailments are “not happening now.” Another pernicious tendency is selective filtering, whereby we ignore positive experiences and magnify negative ones. In the case of that same belly ache, we may focus all of our attention on how our pain bothers us, rather than how our eyes, ears, legs, and all the rest work fine.</p><p>Precisely recognizing our pain-related beliefs is the first step toward loosening their grip on us. Once we recognize these patterns we can begin to objectify them, labeling them or even writing them down. Labeling thoughts like, “I can’t take this,” “What’s going to happen to me?” or “Why me?” allows us to step outside of them. In the absence of labeling we may come to see ourselves as victims of our pain. With the objective awareness that comes with labeling, however, such thoughts eventually appear as just thoughts—nothing more. We begin to realize that they may not even be true.</p><p>In addition to working with the beliefs and reactions that arise from our pain, we need to learn how to work with the experience of pain itself. One effective way of doing so is to focus directly on the specific pain sensations. We bring awareness to wherever we experience tightness or pushing away, thereby softening into these painful areas. Then we gradually feel the texture of the pain—the aching, the stabbing, the burning, or whatever painful quality might be present. When we do this with the curiosity of a scientist, it paradoxically allows us to experience the pain, at least some of the time, as no more than a strong sensation.</p><p><img src="http://www.tricycle.com/sites/default/files/images/PullQuoteEzra.png" width="570" height="291" style="margin: 7px auto; vertical-align: middle; display: block;"></p><p>As we allow ourselves to stay with the pain, we may notice that it doesn’t remain the same. Indeed, the sensations often change rapidly and sometimes even disappear altogether. This realization takes us out of the catastrophic mindset that imagines our pain will <i>always</i> be horrible or unbearable.</p><p>While staying with uncomfortable sensations is one way of working with pain, another effective way is to bring attention to the breath. Normally when we’re in pain, the unpleasant sensations fill up our entire awareness. But when we include the breath, some of our attention rests on the rhythm of our inhalation and exhalation, which places the pain in a larger container of awareness.</p><p>We can even use the breath to help heal the pain, breathing the physical sensations in and out as though giving a gentle massage. This is especially helpful with long-term or chronic pain, like the periods of nausea I’ve dealt with for over 20 years as a symptom of an immune system disorder. When the nausea gets intense, I curl up into fetal position in bed, breathing into the center of the chest on the in-breath and extending lovingkindness to my immune system via the out-breath. I don’t intend to make the nausea go away, but to relate to it in a more friendly way. When I subsequently perceive the nausea not as pain but as physical energy, I’m struck by a sense of quiet joy, in which it becomes clear that I am more than just this body.</p><p>Focusing on the breath in order to bring about a more open awareness is a very popular practice; but, the truth is, such expansive attention to our myriad sensory and environmental stimuli is a rare occurrence. It results from conscious cultivation, with a continuous, soft effort to grow attention beyond our physical symptoms of pain. In this sense the pain actually pushes us to achieve that which we’ve aspired to all along: an awake and present mind.</p><p>When practicing with our pain, we also develop compassion for others who may be suffering from similar discomfort. One thing I do during bouts of strong physical pain is picture people I know who are also in pain, and then imagine the countless others who are in pain in that very moment. On the in-breath I breathe the images of those in pain into the center of the chest and on the out-breath I extend the wish for healing to myself and others. In this way, our personal pain connects us with the pain of others, the pain of the world. This can deepen our sense of compassion, and the wish that the suffering of others be healed. It will also diminish the sense of isolation we often feel when in pain.</p><p>Inevitably, there will be times when we feel overwhelmed while dealing with physical discomfort—when the experience of powerlessness wraps itself tightly around our small sense of self. One practice that many have found helpful when feeling overwhelmed is to bring awareness to the center of the chest, breathing <i>as if</i> you were breathing the dark feelings directly into the chest center. With each breath you breathe the feelings in a little deeper. Then with a long, slow exhale you just exhale, not trying to change or let go of anything, but rather simply feeling what’s there. What actually happens during this process of breathing into the chest center is a mystery, but you can see for yourself how this practice allows us to gracefully endure what would otherwise feel unbearable. In surrendering to our deepest fears, we put ourselves in touch with the fundamental awareness of just being—the true ground that is always available to us.</p><p>Even if we don’t have intense pain, it is well worth working with small aches so we don’t get blindsided by more severe pains down the road. In any case, let’s try to remember that while we may never prefer to have pain, it can nevertheless push us in ways we would not otherwise push ourselves—into a deeper and ultimately more appreciative experience of what it is to be genuinely alive. <br><br><b>Ezra Bayda</b>&nbsp;has been practicing meditation since 1970, and currently teaches at Zen Center San Diego. He is the author of many books, including&nbsp;<i>The Authentic Life</i>.</p><p><em>Image: Gallerystock</em></p><p></p><hr><p><strong>More at Tricycle:</strong></p><table width="550" border="0" cellspacing="10" cellpadding="8"><tbody><tr></tr><tr><td valign="top" scope="col"><p><a href="http://www.tricycle.com/blog/i-survived-ebola-fight-doesnt-end-there"><img src="http://www.tricycle.com/sites/default/files/images/newsletters/ebola.png" width="261" height="137" border="0"></a></p><span class="headertitles"> <b> BLOG: I SURVIVED EBOLA. BUT THE FIGHT DOESN'T END THERE. </b></span><p align="left"><a href="http://www.tricycle.com/blog/i-survived-ebola-fight-doesnt-end-there"><img src="http://www.tricycle.com/sites/default/files/images/0313readthepost3.png" width="142" height="19"></a></p></td><td valign="top" scope="col"><p><a href="http://www.tricycle.com/blog/fostering-peace-inside-and-out"><img src="http://www.tricycle.com/sites/default/files/images/newsletters/peace.png" width="261" height="137" border="0"></a></p><span class="headertitles"> <b> BLOG: FOSTERING PEACE, INSIDE AND OUT </b></span><p align="left"><a href="http://www.tricycle.com/blog/fostering-peace-inside-and-out"> <img src="http://www.tricycle.com/sites/default/files/images/0313readthepost3.png" width="142" height="19"><br> </a></p></td></tr></tbody></table> Thu, 15 Jan 2015 13:53:11 -0500 Tricycle - Awake in the World The Dalai Lama on What People Get Wrong about the Present Moment http://www.tricycle.com/blog/dalai-lama-what-people-get-wrong-about-present-moment <p>Many <i>Tricycle</i> subscribers will be familiar with the clip below from <i>Sunrise/Sunset</i>, which screened at <a href="http://www.tricycle.com/filmclub" target="_blank">our film club</a> about a year ago. In the clip, the Dalai Lama deconstructs the present moment, so often essentialized in contemporary Buddhist discourse. He is clear: without past and future, there is no present, as it only has meaning in relation to past and future. This flies in the face of our own habit of essentializing the present moment at the expense of conceiving of ourselves as contingent, historical beings. It is a kind of meditative instruction that has ossified into Western Buddhist dogma.&nbsp;</p><p></p><p>It's no accident that the idea that only the present moment exists holds such appeal. In a culture of seemingly no past, no future, we revel in a kind of eternal present that renders us incapable of learning from history and leaves us unconcerned, or unaware, of a collective myopia that finds vast expression in so many of our undertakings, from the shoddily constructed new condos that go up overnight to the ubiquitous, global destruction of the natural world.&nbsp;</p><p></p><p>In the current issue, Jack Petranker puts this "present moment" to the test, posing the question "do we really know what we mean by it?" and looks back to the philosophers of antiquity to get underneath the cliché. Read that article <a href="http://www.tricycle.com/feature/present-moment" target="_blank">here.</a></p><p></p><p><i>—Eds.</i></p><p></p><center><iframe width="560" height="315" src="http://www.tricycle.com//www.youtube.com/embed/yHtbRd_H9EI" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen=""></iframe></center><p></p><p><br><br></p><hr><p><strong>More at Tricycle:</strong></p><table width="550" border="0" cellspacing="10" cellpadding="8"><tbody><tr></tr><tr><td valign="top" scope="col"><p><a href="http://www.tricycle.com/community/buddhas-painter" target="_self"><img src="http://www.tricycle.com/sites/default/files/images/painter.png" width="261" height="137" border="0"></a></p><span class="headertitles"> <b> FILM CLUB: BUDDHA'S PAINTER </b></span><p align="left"><a href="http://www.tricycle.com/community/buddhas-painter"><img src="http://www.tricycle.com/sites/default/files/images//0529watch.png" width="127" height="19"></a></p></td><td valign="top" scope="col"><p><a href="http://www.tricycle.com/blog/fostering-peace-inside-and-out"><img src="http://www.tricycle.com/sites/default/files/images/newsletters/peace.png" width="261" height="137" border="0"></a></p><span class="headertitles"> <b> BLOG: FOSTERING PEACE, INSIDE AND OUT </b></span><p align="left"><a href="http://www.tricycle.com/blog/fostering-peace-inside-and-out" target="_self"> <img src="http://www.tricycle.com/sites/default/files/images/0313readthepost3.png" width="142" height="19"><br> </a></p></td></tr></tbody></table> Wed, 14 Jan 2015 12:18:19 -0500 Tricycle - Awake in the World Zen Moves Through http://www.tricycle.com/blog/zen-moves-through <p><img src="http://www.tricycle.com/sites/default/files/images/SandhiniPoddarImage.png" width="550" height="781" style="vertical-align: middle; margin: 7px auto; display: block;"></p><p>Trying to identify an artist’s Zen Buddhist influence is something of a fool's errand—and perhaps an antithetical one. The religion, after all, has a long, proud tradition of underplaying any overt impact it has on an adherent’s life. Ancient master Hiakajo Roshi famously summed up the practice with a rather spare injunction for students to eat when hungry and sleep when tired. Chan master Linji Yixuan, founder of the Rinzai school, echoes the sentiment in his oft-cited koan “If you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him.” Nevertheless, Zen Buddhist artists abound, so it’s tempting to wonder how practice might mingle with craft.</p><p>After coming of age and attending art school amid India’s independence movement, Gaitonde discovered Buddhism while working as a painter in Mumbai during the 1950s. The Guggenheim New York's retrospective exhibit, <em>V.S. Gaitonde: Painting as Process, Painting as Life</em>, opened in late October and runs until February 11th. Tricycle<i> </i>spoke with the exhibit’s curator, Sandhini Poddar, herself a practicing Buddhist, about what first interested her in Gaitonde's work, how Gaitonde conceived of the overlap between Zen and painting, and the significance of the Guggenheim's effort to expand its collection beyond Western artists.<br><br><b>Describe the first time you saw Gaitonde’s work. </b>For generations my family has been involved in the arts, so I first came across Gaitonde’s work when I was only 4 or 5 years old. Living in Mumbai, we all grew up knowing his name. More recently, in 1998, I saw a series of his works and they really struck me; they stayed with me for a very long time. His work had this amazing abstraction that he was able to convey through light, space, and color. You don’t see that with any other artist from India. There was this simultaneous stillness and imminence in the work. And, of course, I found the colors beautiful. I had a thought in the back of my mind saying, “This work really speaks to and inspires me. I wonder if I can ever do something with it.” <br><br><b>You mentioned that you were struck by the simultaneous stillness and imminence of his work. The description of the exhibit on the Guggenheim's website implies that there was a connection between Gaitonde’s interest in Zen Buddhism and the development of those features of his work. What do we know about his Buddhist practice and how it influenced his art? </b>We know that he came upon Zen Buddhism while living and working in Mumbai in the late 1950s. He found publications related to Zen Buddhism and it was, for him, foremost an intellectual system that helped guide and inform his life. He continued to speak about Zen all the way up to the 1990s, giving interviews that I found on file at the Museum of Modern Art. <br><br><b>What does he say about Zen in those interviews? </b>Initially, in the 1960s, he talked about how Zen was an important philosophical system that guided him, specifically with regard to his interest in nature. It also helped him cultivate immediacy, spontaneity, concentration, and attention in his work. The influence had to do with creativity deriving from his isolation as an artist—a certain silencing of the mind.<br><br><b>That ethos lends itself to nonrepresentational, abstract art</b>. <b>Do you feel that his interest in Zen pushed him in that direction?</b> I think it accompanied his movement in that direction. It’s really hard to pick out a single impulse or influence, because I don’t think artists work that way. They’re much more osmotic and sponge-like in the way that they pick up ideas and influences from diverse sources.</p><p>But Zen certainly is one of the key influences for Gaitonde because it’s one of those threads that binds his practice overall—from 1958, when he turned toward the nonobjective, right until the late 90s when he stopped making art. For the first decade after he attended art school in the 1940s, he was trying different things out. He was veering toward abstraction, but he was still quite committed to the traditions of the figure and of the body, which he inherited from his academic training. For some, philosophy allows their view to be less bogged down by the visual world. For these types of people, art isn’t just about watching cinema or going to the theatre or seeing friends or paying attention to received histories; philosophy enables them to live more abstractly.<br><br><b>You describe a coexistence in his early work of abstraction on the one hand and on the other a commitment to traditional images like the figure of the body. This corresponds with Zen’s paradoxical emphasis on both freedom and structure, spontaneity along with rigorous attention to posture. </b>I think that that is where Zen moves through the body and through the mind into the work. The art is not about depicting Zen. It’s not a representation of a philosophy; it’s rather about internalizing Zen and imbibing it in terms of one’s life decisions, and those life decisions then enable one to make work in a certain way.</p><p><img src="http://www.tricycle.com/sites/default/files/images/VSGaitondePainting.png" width="550" height="959" style="margin: 7px auto; vertical-align: middle; display: block;"></p><p><b>You participated in a ten-day meditation retreat back in 2008. Talk about your own interest in Buddhism.</b> On a personal level, Vipassana brought about a very important breaking point in my life—not in a negative sense, in an extremely affirmative sense.<br><br><b>What do you mean by that? </b>It reveals you to you. That’s what I mean by a breaking open. You break yourself open to yourself. And it’s extremely frightening, which is why even though I had wanted to go on retreat since I was a teenager, it took a while for me to actually summon up the courage to go. But after the ten days I realized the experience had had this permanent effect on me: the self-awareness I was able to gain provided this incredible sense of self-reliance. Now even in the most difficult situations I have that meditative space within me.</p><p>No matter what your emotions throw up and what the mind throws up you have to realize that this is all very transient. There’s no reason to get attached. Being the observer in that chain of cause and effect is an extremely empowering position. I’ve been able to apply it in my day-to-day life in all kinds of situations—that’s what I mean by the embodiment of a principle or philosophical attitude.<br><br><b>This exhibit is part of the Guggenheim’s effort to expand its collection beyond artists from the United States and Europe, which includes its plan to open a satellite museum in Abu Dhabi. It’s a good sign that a major cultural institution in the West is looking outside its predominantly white, male collection, though non-Western artists then receive a platform from what remains a very Western institution. What do you make of that tension? </b>It’s a valid tension because the reason that I’m invested in what’s happening—not just in New York but in Abu Dhabi—is because it’s coming from a new set of politics. If we had a museum originating in India I would want to be very involved with that as well, because we are in the 21st century and need to be global citizens. I think that institutions in the West have been a bit lazy and condescending about only allying themselves with America or Europe through the 20th century.</p><p>Having said that, I really do believe in local art histories, languages, and cultural specificities. We’re trying as much as we can to make sure that the future museum in Abu Dhabi is global in that it’s looking at art produced anywhere in the world, but also speaks to an audience apart from those who travel from abroad. We need to make sure that regions like the Middle East, the Gulf, North Africa, and South Asia are well represented not just through the acquisitions but also in exhibitions, public programs, and workshops. I don’t think that this can be accomplished by 2017—it’s a multigenerational project. These attempts to place art, ideas, and communities on an equal footing are very important in light of the social, political, and economic imbalances of the 20th century. The recent past has been so fraught politically that we need culture to provide something aspirational. Culture can be so generative and powerful because it doesn’t follow the same rules. It’s a place of liberation and creativity.</p><p style="text-align: right;">—Max Zahn,&nbsp;<em>Editorial Assistant</em></p><p><em>Image 1:&nbsp;David Heald © Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, New York<br></em><em>Image 2: </em>Untitled<em>, 1977, V.S. Gaitonde, oil on canvas</em><em></em></p><p></p><p></p><hr><p><strong>More at Tricycle:</strong></p><table width="550" border="0" cellspacing="10" cellpadding="8"><tbody><tr></tr><tr><td valign="top" scope="col"><p><a href="http://www.tricycle.com/blog/i-survived-ebola-fight-doesnt-end-there"><img src="http://www.tricycle.com/sites/default/files/images/newsletters/ebola.png" width="261" height="137" border="0"></a></p><span class="headertitles"> <b> BLOG: I SURVIVED EBOLA. BUT THE FIGHT DOESN'T END THERE. </b></span><p align="left"><a href="http://www.tricycle.com/blog/i-survived-ebola-fight-doesnt-end-there"><img src="http://www.tricycle.com/sites/default/files/images/0313readthepost3.png" width="142" height="19"></a></p></td><td valign="top" scope="col"><p><a href="http://www.tricycle.com/blog/fostering-peace-inside-and-out"><img src="http://www.tricycle.com/sites/default/files/images/newsletters/peace.png" width="261" height="137" border="0"></a></p><span class="headertitles"> <b> BLOG: FOSTERING PEACE, INSIDE AND OUT </b></span><p align="left"><a href="http://www.tricycle.com/blog/fostering-peace-inside-and-out"> <img src="http://www.tricycle.com/sites/default/files/images/0313readthepost3.png" width="142" height="19"><br> </a></p></td></tr></tbody></table> Mon, 12 Jan 2015 16:15:51 -0500 Tricycle - Awake in the World The Robert Frost Kickball Club http://www.tricycle.com/blog/robert-frost-kickball-club <div><img src="http://www.tricycle.com/sites/default/files/images/Kangol.png" width="570" height="380" style="margin: 7px auto; vertical-align: middle; display: block;"></div><div>In my soul grows a small soul.</div><div>In my small soul, one smaller.</div><div>Infinite repetition, nonstop loop.</div><div>Each beanstalk is an endophyte.</div><div>Inside my teeth lie small baby teeth.</div><div>Inside those, infinitesimal baby teeth.</div><div>I reject each grim oath whispered</div><div>by gypsies in Western Mass. I fumigate</div><div>rotting futons. If he were still akickin'</div><div>I'd kick Robert Frost's ass</div><div>in kickball. I'd pop the ball, restitch it</div><div>with shards of marble. I'd talk shit +</div><div>run up the motherfuckin' score.</div><div>The game within the game.</div><div>I hereby donate my bargain-bin</div><div>Kama Sutra handbook to a humanoid</div><div>giraffe named Koan. Koan rocks black&nbsp;</div><div>glasses and a Kangol. Inside Koan's</div><div>neck is a neck; inside that neck,</div><div>a deep well. Neck-flex. How</div><div>ponderous. How ponderous the axons</div><div>fired into the cortex inside his cortex.</div><div>Over there's the BBQ, the smoky pavilion.</div><div>Over there the gypsy fan club.&nbsp;</div><div>Over here is Robby-Boy, pinned</div><div>with a participation ribbon.</div><div>He pouts and kicks a rock.</div><div>His soul slips off its helix.</div><div>Gyres widen around the bases.</div><div>Poetry trophy-wives applaud.</div><div>Inside the MVP is an MVP.&nbsp;</div><div>DJ Koan is spun out, like his vinyl.</div><div>&nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp;'Til</div><div>&nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp;'Til</div><div>&nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp;'Til</div><div>&nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp;'Til it skips.<br><br><strong>Maceo J. Whitaker&nbsp;</strong>is a Creative Writing instructor living in Beacon, New York.<p></p><p><i>This poem first appeared in&nbsp;</i>Rattle<em>, Vol. 46.</em></p><p><em>Image: John Hilliard/Flickr. Modified by James Thacher.</em></p></div> Fri, 09 Jan 2015 14:27:59 -0500 Tricycle - Awake in the World I Survived Ebola. But the Fight Doesn’t End There. http://www.tricycle.com/blog/i-survived-ebola-fight-doesnt-end-there <p><img src="http://www.tricycle.com/sites/default/files/images/blog/mukpo_eaton.jpg" width="260" height="192" style="float: right; margin: 7px;">When Ashoka Mukpo speaks about the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, his words carry a compassion and humanity that can only come from firsthand experience. That’s because Mukpo, 33, is one of only a handful of Americans to contract Ebola in West Africa, where he was working as a cameraman with NBC News.&nbsp;</p><p>It’s an unusual turn in what was already an extraordinary life. Mukpo is the adopted son of the legendary Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche, who helped establish Tibetan Buddhism in the UK and North America and founded what would become Shambhala International. His mother is Diana Mukpo, who married Trungpa when she was just 16; and his father is Mitchell Levy, the late Rinpoche’s personal physician. When Mukpo was very young, the 16th Karmapa—one of the most important figures in Tibetan Buddhism—recognized him as the reincarnation of a teacher from Eastern Tibet. But as Mukpo grew up, he decided to forego monastic robes for a career in human rights and international development.</p><p>Mukpo first went to Liberia as part of a UN research project to study the impact foreign direct investment was having on the country. He soon began to feel a special connection with Liberia and its people. After the project ended, he did more work investigating foreign investors in sectors like agriculture, logging, and mining with the Sustainable Development Institute. After a few months away, Mukpo returned to Liberia in May to report on the Ebola outbreak.&nbsp;</p><p>A couple of weeks later, Mukpo started showing symptoms of Ebola. He flew to the Nevada Medical Center for treatment, where he remained until the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed that he was Ebola free on October 20.</p><p>With another US healthcare worker <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-nation/wp/2015/01/04/u-s-health-care-worker-exposed-to-ebola-to-arrive-in-nebraska-for-observation/">possibly infected with the virus</a> and West Africa slipping from the headlines, Mukpo sat down with Tricycle to discuss his work in Liberia, his fight with Ebola, and how spiritual communities can help.<br><br><b>Did Liberia change dramatically between when you left in May and when you went back after the Ebola outbreak had started?&nbsp;</b>Quite a bit had changed by the time I came back. I felt that I was returning to a country that had been damaged by the outbreak and that was in danger of really coming apart at the seams. Despite that, there was still an air of normalcy in people's lives. They still went to work, most of them. They still had to buy food and cook food and live life. There was just this omnipresent potential for danger and death that existed around every corner.<br><br><b>What went through your mind when you first realized that you were showing symptoms of Ebola?&nbsp;</b>Fear and shock, and a sense of urgency—an immediate realization that I had to be on my toes, start thinking fast, start making the right phone calls, and get a handle on what was happening as quickly as possible, because the timeline for getting treatment with Ebola can be a matter of life and death. There was obviously a sense of severe dis-ease—not <i>disease</i>, but <i>dis-ease</i>—that I was showing the early symptoms of Ebola, which was something that I'd been afraid of the whole time I was covering the outbreak.<br><br><b>The first thing you did upon realizing that you were showing symptoms of Ebola was to wipe down the doorknobs you’d just touched with bleach so as not to infect anyone else.&nbsp;</b>Of course. There's sort of an unwritten impulse for anyone who is covering or working with Ebola that if you get sick, the first you do is make sure that you don't infect anybody else. So I went into an immediate self-quarantine. The guy who was putting me up in the apartment is a lovely person and a very dear friend of mine. Throughout my whole illness I was desperately concerned that I had gotten him ill. He isn’t an American—he was somebody from South Asia. So if he'd gotten sick, his ability to get modern care would have been limited to nothing. Fortunately, he's okay. We're all pretty happy about that.</p><p>Experts are warning that it might be too early to start celebrating, but it seems to me that most people in Liberia feel like they have Ebola under control. I think that Liberians themselves deserve a profound amount of credit for that, because they really led the response. They worked in ambulances, they staffed treatment centers, they conducted awareness campaigns. Liberians themselves stepped up to the plate and addressed this situation, in some cases with very limited support. As they've done many times before, they saved their country from ruin.</p><p></p><p><b>You’ve written about hearing Liberians singing hymns in the Ebola ward. Can you say more about the role you saw faith playing in this crisis?&nbsp;</b>Liberia is a very difficult place, and people are, in some senses, very powerless. There's an immense reliance on spiritual strength and what they see as the love of God to get them through hard times.</p><p>I don't think there's any harder time to be diagnosed with Ebola than when you’ve already seen family members die from it. People, in order to generate the strength they needed to live through the illness, would display and radiate their faith. You never hear a Liberian say, “I have regrets”; they say, “I'm in God's hands.” And I found that, that generative spiritual strength, even as a Buddhist who doesn't adhere to a theistic philosophy, to be not so dissimilar to our efforts to create inner strength and fortitude for ourselves, and to have a sense of dignity and self-awareness.</p><p></p><p><b>What about your own faith, when you were sick?&nbsp;</b>On some level, some things I would aspire to as a Buddhist, I didn't live up to. I'm not mad at myself for that, but, for example, I was quite fearful at the prospect of dying. As Buddhists, we're training ourselves to understand that death is real and it comes without warning, but there was no part of me that had any ability to relinquish my attachment to my life. And I'm not ashamed of that. I think wanting to live when you're 32, 33 years old is a pretty sound impulse.</p><p>I did a lot of Vajrasattva practice [a purification practice in tantric Buddhist]. I tried to keep it simple, and I tried to do visualizations of healing energy and those things. But I also kept it very light, because I wanted to preserve my strength so my body could heal itself. I wasn't under the illusion that spiritual practice was going to save my life. I knew it was intravenous rehydration and an airlift that was likely to get me through.<br><br><b>Did Liberians feel wary about the US sending the military to aid the country’s Ebola response?</b> When people hear about the US military, they think of war-making capacity—they think of guns, they think of bombs, they think of invasions. So there was definitely some concern out there that this was a part of a Western plot to grab resources in the shadow of the Ebola outbreak. But I think the military's role was much more to build infrastructure and help train health workers.</p><p>There was a lot of rumormongering that was going on in Liberia at the time that could be seen as suspicion and skepticism about the good intentions of both the international community and their own government. That’s understandable, given Liberia's poor have been marginalized from decision-making and have frequently had to deal with being at the very bottom of the economic and social ladder. Any time there's an intervention that comes from the outside world, there's this tendency to look at it from the most sinister possible angle, because Liberians are used to being mistreated.<br><br><b>You’ve written that Liberians feel a special connection with the US because of their history. Has the US done enough to support Liberia as a country?&nbsp;</b>I think the United States has made significant efforts to help Liberia, but sometimes their strategy for doing that has been very top-heavy. My impression has been that they've looked the other way, based on political calculations, when it comes to situations of corruption and low accountability.</p><p><a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Liberia%E2%80%93United_States_relations">America's historical relationship to Liberia</a> gives it a special responsibility to help the country get on a sustainable path of service-delivery for its population and for the building of a society that works for everyone in the country. A lot of the conflict in Liberia can essentially be traced to its beginnings as a state. The US was not always as supportive of the state-building project in Liberia as it could have been. I think that there has been a bit of relegation of Liberia to the second tier, or the third tier, because it just doesn't have very much strategic importance.<br><br><b>Do you think the political will to help Liberia and other West African countries affected by this Ebola outbreak will remain once Ebola fades from the headlines?&nbsp;</b>When Liberia needs help reconstructing after the crisis is over, I think it would be very unfortunate if the world, and in particular the US, didn't follow up on its commitments. And already, they've done a lot. They've been very supportive of efforts to battle Ebola and to stop the outbreak. But attention goes elsewhere. Hopefully, we can prevent that from happening.</p><p>There are just a lot of people who are already doing this work in Africa and in Liberia, and who are doing it very well. What we as a society and what we as a country can do is find those people and give them the support that they need to improve their own country. Paternalistic solutions that are imposed from London or Washington are destined to fail in Liberia, as are initiatives that rely solely on politicians. I think what we all need to do a much better job of, in the wake of the outbreak, is looking at the people who've been screaming for reform and change and figuring out what we can do to support them. And those people will tell us what they need. It's just a matter of listening to them.<br><br><b>There’s been a lot of criticism of US media outlets for focusing on Westerners with Ebola, who are a tiny minority of Ebola cases. How can journalists re-center African voices and experiences when covering the Ebola outbreak?&nbsp;</b>There are heart-wrenching stories and profound stories of strength and dignity and hope that are coming out of all three of the countries affected by Ebola—Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone. For me as a journalist, I consider it important for all of us to find ways to tell those stories effectively. That means going to those countries, it means finding those people, and it means helping the audience connect. Of course, audiences in America are going to want to hear from American Ebola survivors. I think that's just natural. But that doesn't mean that media organizations can't find ways to bring unconventional and important stories to those audiences in a way that they might be taking a bit of a risk ratings-wise, but might actually change someone's opinion and perspective and might help them see someone else's world with a little bit more clarity. I've been trying to do that as much as I can.<br><br><b>Your path has been very different from what would be traditional for a recognized tulku and the son of a high lama. Do you see your human rights work and your journalism as still connected to that in some way?&nbsp;</b>I’m definitely influenced by the gifts I’ve received through the lineage and try to use them for the benefit of others. At the same time, we’re all different. Some people might choose to be artists, some people might choose to be scholars, some might choose to be business people. But for me, my own personal inspiration, intellectually and from what I see to be important, has led me to try to do this work. And I don’t think it’s just a Buddhist thing. Sure, Buddhism guides a lot of my decision-making, professionally, but so does the inspiration of people who might not even be Buddhist.<br><br><b>Do you think that Buddhist organizations and meditation groups could be more socially engaged?&nbsp;</b>Yes, I do. Absolutely. Sometimes, Buddhists have a tendency to fall into this trap where they think that personal development is the number one priority. Then they tend to sometimes forget about the need to be aware socially and aware of the impact of their lives, and to see what they can do to help, financially or professionally, to alleviate suffering. For me, the central guiding principle of Buddhism is compassion and concern for the world in which we live. It's the idea of interdependence—that our actions dictate the experience of others. I don't think everybody needs to run out and join an aid organization and everyone should feel bad that they're not doing more for people in need. But I would like to see Buddhists have a braver relationship to engaging with the world—and also, potentially, a smarter one. We're trained to develop our intellect and develop our wisdom, and it's not worth very much unless you put it into practice.</p><p>It's sometimes very easy to feel disempowered, but what we can do is educate ourselves as much as possible about what's happening in faraway places so that we get a sense of our own position and our own role in the world, and our own privilege. Beyond that, it's important to really think hard about which charities you support and why.</p><p>Outside of that, maybe the best we can all do is try to live good, decent lives and be kind to people around us, be aware of the gifts that we have and the blessings that we have and understand that not everybody has those. And listen for solutions. Don't get caught up in apathy and resentment about how difficult the situation is for our country and for our world right now.<br><br><i>For information on development initiatives led by Liberians, visit the </i><a href="http://sdiliberia.org/"><i>Sustainable Development Institute</i></a><i>, the Save My Future Foundation, </i><a href="http://www.greenadvocates.org/"><i>Green Advocates</i></a><i><span style="text-decoration: underline;">,</span></i><i> and the </i><a href="http://cental.org/index.php?option=com_contact&view=contact&id=2&Itemid=59"><i>Center for Transparency and Accountability in Liberia</i></a><i>.</i><br><br> <b>Joshua Eaton</b> is an independent journalist who covers religion and society, human rights, and national security.</p> Thu, 08 Jan 2015 17:34:48 -0500 Tricycle - Awake in the World Fostering Peace, Inside and Out http://www.tricycle.com/blog/fostering-peace-inside-and-out <p><img src="http://www.tricycle.com/sites/default/files/images/blog/GS3379690.jpg" width="570" height="733" style="display: block; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;"></p><p>At the beginning of a new year it is customary for us to express our hopes for peace in the year ahead and to wish each other peace. But to actually achieve peace is by no means an easy task. Real peace is not simply the absence of violent conflict but a state of harmony: harmony between people; harmony between humanity and nature; and harmony within ourselves. Without harmony, the seeds of conflict and violence will always be ready to sprout.</p><p>When I reflect on the challenge of achieving peace in today’s world, I have found it useful to treat the subject under three main headings: (1)&nbsp;<i>The Obstacles to Achieving Peace</i>—the barriers that maintain tension and foment conflict; (2)&nbsp;<i>The Prerequisites of Peace</i>—the goals we should pursue to achieve peace; and (3)&nbsp;<i>The Means</i>&nbsp;<i>to Realizing these Goals</i>. Each can in turn be analyzed into three secondary aspects.<br><br><i>The Obstacles to Achieving Peace</i></p><p>(1) <i>Profit-seeking</i>: Driven by the urge to expand profits, global corporations and other mammoth enterprises flood the market with harmful or frivolous commodities. They spend billions on advertising, despoil the natural environment with toxic waste, and scuttle laws that protect workers and consumers. They take wild risks which, when successful, benefit management and shareholders, and when failures, push the costs on to the public. The neoliberal economy has led to wider inequality of incomes and wealth. <a href="http://www.commondreams.org/views/2014/12/01/slap-face-wealth-gap-images" target="_blank">Recent figures</a> reveal that the richest 70 people now own more wealth than the poorest half of the world, while in the US a mere 40 individuals own as much wealth as the bottom half. High levels of <a href="http://www.equalitytrust.org.uk/about-inequality/effects" target="_blank">income inequality</a> are associated with economic instability and crisis, whereas more equal societies tend to be more stable and to enjoy longer periods of sustained growth. More unequal societies show higher rates of violent crime and lower levels of social trust; more equal societies have lower crime rates and greater social trust. Greater economic equality thus contributes to peace.</p><p>(2)&nbsp;<i>Plunder</i>: Since the dawn of the industrial era we have been plundering nature’s treasures with reckless abandon. Today, this extractionist frame of mind drives us ever closer to the edge of calamity as rapacious economic activity disrupts the natural climate cycles on which human life depends. The big fossil fuel corporations plunder the earth for oil, coal, and gas, clearing ancient forests, blasting mountains to bits, and drilling down into the ocean depths. They transport the substances they extract over vast distances from source to refinery to market. Factories&nbsp;fill the skies with carbon dioxide, particulate matter, and harmful toxins. Extraction operations discharge toxic waste into rivers and lakes, poisoning the water resources on which whole communities depend.</p><p>Cumulative carbon emissions are cooking the planet and warming the seas. We’ve already had a taste of the future in the strange weather events that occur with greater frequency: droughts, floods, heat waves, and crop failures. As large regions of the earth turn barren, we will face mass migrations that can raise tensions and ignite violent confrontations. States may fail, unleashing chaos and giving the chance for tyrants to seize power and launch campaigns of conquest.</p><p>(3)&nbsp;<i>Power projection</i>: Driven by narrow economic interests, the powerful nations seek to enhance their might by projecting strategies of full-spectrum dominance across the globe. They finance ever more sophisticated weapons systems, spend billions on armaments, and spy on their citizens. They manipulate international protocols to their advantage, heightening tensions among old rivals. Weapons corporations thrive on the tensions, which they regard as new opportunities for profit. Global hostilities boil, and in certain hot spots periodically explode in outbursts of lethal violence.<br><br><i>The Prerequisites to Achieving Peace</i></p><p>(1)&nbsp;<i>Protection</i>: To achieve real peace, we need a global commitment to protecting people everywhere from harm and misery. This commitment must be rooted in a universal perspective that enables us to see all people as brothers and sisters, worthy of care and respect regardless of their ethnic, national, and religious identity. As Americans we can’t go on thinking that American lives are more important than the lives of people elsewhere—in Iraq and Afghanistan, in South America, Africa, and Southeast Asia. We can’t think that only the lives of middle-class people count, but not the lives of black youths in Chicago, herdsmen in Ethiopia, rice farmers in the Philippines, or factory workers&nbsp;in Bangladesh. Rather, we must regard all people as endowed with intrinsic value, which we must affirm by establishing greater economic, social, and political justice.</p><p>(2)&nbsp;<i>Preservation</i>. The greatest challenge of our time is to avoid climate chaos. The earth is our irreplaceable home, and if we destroy it, we will have no other place to go. At the rate we’re spitting out greenhouse gases, within a few decades we may raise the earth’s temperature to the point where the planet becomes inhospitable to human life. All the money in the world will be worthless on a planet where the grain belts have withered and oceans have turned deadly acidic.</p><p>We need to start making a rapid and full-scale transition to a new economy powered by clean and renewable sources of energy. The sun, wind, and heat of the earth are capable of providing us with all the energy we need. The main obstacle to date has been the lack of political will, whereby a band of powerful corporations, lobbyists, and compliant politicians reject the hard truths of science and even the clear decrees of rational self-interest.</p><p>We must stand up against moneyed interests and press our governments and civil groups to expedite the transition to a clean-energy future. Our window of opportunity is closing, and we must act fast before it slams shut. We need a sense of urgency, as if our clothes were on fire, an urge to act to preserve this precious planet—a miracle in a sea of cosmic dust, a blue-green pearl teeming with living forms.</p><p>(3)&nbsp;<i>Prosperity</i>. While extreme wealth for a few means misery for many others, prosperity is a good in which we all should be able to share. There is certainly enough wealth in the world to ensure that everyone can obtain sufficient food, clothing, housing, and medical care. The problem is not lack of wealth but&nbsp;its uneven distribution.</p><p>To lay the foundations for real peace, both national policies and international institutions must give precedence to uplifting people from the worst extremes of poverty. In today’s world, 900 million people live in perpetual food insecurity, while at least two billion suffer from malnutrition. Six million people a year, over half of them children, die from chronic hunger and related illnesses. The UN estimates that <a href="http://borgenproject.org/the-cost-to-end-world-hunger/" target="_blank">it would take just $30 billion a year to solve world hunger</a>, a small fraction of the $737 billion that the US spent on defense in 2012. Tackling global hunger is not only a moral and ethical obligation but a policy that would have positive economic impacts and promote global solidarity. It could be a giant step in the direction of world peace.</p><p>Here in the US, some 50 million people—one out of seven—live in poverty. A half-century ago, the US had a social system that, while far from perfect, excelled in its public services. Over the past 30 years, many of these services have been downgraded or slashed. As the wealthiest country in the world, we can easily provide for the basic needs of all our citizens. But this will require new values. Instead of exalting individualism and ambition, we should prize cooperation and compassion. Instead of inciting competition, we should nurture harmonious communities and social solidarity.<br><br><i>The Means</i>&nbsp;<i>to Realizing these Goals</i></p><p>(1)&nbsp;<i>Prayer, meditation, and contemplation</i>. People of faith should root transformative action in the spiritual disciplines of prayer, meditation, and contemplation. While traditionally such practices served as stepping stones to the realization of a transcendent goal, today we need a wider spiritual vision that can encompass the divine and the mundane, the transcendent and the immanent, in an integral whole. By bringing us into&nbsp;intimate contact with the transcendent ground of justice and love, practices like meditation and contemplative prayer empower us to bring greater justice and love into the world. By purging the toxins of greed, hatred, and selfishness from our hearts, these practices open us to the universality of suffering, awakening our compassion and inspiring us to become a source of good for others.</p><p>(2)&nbsp;<i>Peace</i>. Peace is not only the goal of our efforts but also a means for reaching that goal. Peace belongs to the means because in order to establish peace, we must be peaceful ourselves. If our minds are agitated by anger and resentment, our efforts to promote peace are more likely to create more conflict and perhaps ignite more violence. An angry mind is not a reliable instrument for promoting peace. But when our minds are peaceful, our bodily actions will be peaceful, and we will convey an ambiance of love, care, and mercy, which will help to establish peaceful relations.</p><p>(3)&nbsp;<i>Participation.&nbsp;</i>While the pursuit of meditation and other spiritual practices as a private quest for inner awakening and liberation may have fit the worldview of past historical eras, in today’s world our emphasis must shift toward a more participatory kind of spirituality, one that unites the quest for inner peace with the commitment to world peace, human unity, and planetary preservation. Our devotion to contemplative practice can inspire in us a stronger aspiration to promote social and economic justice, to preserve the planet’s vital ecosystems, and to heal long-standing enmities. At the same time, our active commitment to the well-being of others can nurture our own spiritual growth, deepening our compassion and strengthening our moral integrity.</p><p>There are many venues through which we can embody participatory spirituality in action. We can support organizations that advocate for poverty alleviation, address climate change, and promote the ethical treatment of animals, immigration rights, and better pay for fast-food workers. We can write to our congressional representatives, expressing our views on the issues that most deeply concern us. Our votes, too, express our values and conscience. Although the electoral process in this country has been badly skewed in favor of Big Money, our votes still count and can make a difference.</p><p>To express conscience in action, we can sign petitions, join marches, and participate in demonstrations. In New York this past September, 400,000 people walked peacefully through the streets on the People’s Climate March, demanding that world leaders tackle the climate crisis. In cities across the country, low-wage workers have been demanding better wages and other conditions that will enable them to live with dignity. In many cities as well, people of all ethnic backgrounds have joined hands to protest police brutality against communities of color.</p><p>While the endeavor to achieve peace may often be frustrating, we should remember that nothing truly worthy can be achieved without effort. Peace and justice may be slow to arrive, but we will never obtain them without a struggle.</p><p>Let us make 2015 a year in which we firmly commit ourselves to the pursuit of real peace. Then, a year from now, we can look back at 2015 and consider our time to have been truly well spent.<br><br><b>The Venerable Bhikkhu Bodhi</b>, a Theravada Buddhist monk, is a translator of Buddhist texts from Pali into English and the founder of <a href="http://www.buddhistglobalrelief.org" target="_blank">Buddhist Global Relief</a>.</p><p><em>Image: Andre Wagner/GalleryStock</em></p> Wed, 07 Jan 2015 16:20:05 -0500 Tricycle - Awake in the World If You Build It, They Will Need Food http://www.tricycle.com/blog/if-you-build-it-they-will-need-food <p><i><img src="http://www.tricycle.com/sites/default/files/images/NoaFinalImage.png" width="570" height="855" style="margin: 7px auto; vertical-align: middle; display: block;"></i></p><p><i>After five years of writing for </i>Tricycle<i>'s Food page, this is my final column, which never had a proper name and which I described to people who asked as 1/3 recipe, 1/3 memoir, 1/3 dharma. I adjusted these proportions with every essay and am grateful to my editors for giving me that freedom. For every story there was always an under story that I was tempted to tell, a grain of truth or grit that didn't make it onto the page. Maybe I could have been more brave and told you about the broken heart or the struggle or the juicy bit of gossip that would have spiced things up a bit. Out of timidity or propriety, I sifted those parts out. I do have more to say about food and life and dharma, and I will continue to write for </i>Tricycle<i> when stories arise. Until then I'm focusing on fiction and some other projects. Thank you for reading!</i><br><br>I am writing this in a quiet, beautifully restored barn in the middle of a 600-acre preserve overlooking the Pacific Ocean. I am here on retreat thanks to the generosity of patrons of the arts.</p><p>As Buddhists, we know the power and importance of spending time on retreat. But for many it is prohibitively expensive to take time off work, to travel, and to pay rent on a secluded place for a stretch of time. In Buddhist countries there was, and sometimes still is, a tradition of public patronage for dharma wanderers. If a Sri Lankan or Thai supplicant wishes to go on retreat, it will be arranged. But in the West, there is no robust system of patronage for sangha.</p><p>It's more common to see support for artist retreats, like this one, Djerassi Resident Artist Program, which was founded by philanthropist Carl Djerassi, the inventor of the contraceptive pill. There are many such residencies around the world, places that offer refuge for artists, dancers, writers, and musicians to simply work. These residencies create what one retreatant here called a “sacred space" for their creativity. They can apply to artist communities like Yaddo or Millay or Ucross where they will be housed, fed, given space, and given the choice of good company or utter solitude. The only hard-and-fast rule here is written on a triangular yellow sign at the gate that says, "Yield to Whim."</p><p>How fantastic if we, as a Buddhist community, had a tradition of supporting sangha to study and practice. Of course there are many Buddhist retreat centers in the West and many are as generous as they can be to those who cannot afford to pay full fare. But more ubiquitous and affordable retreats offered to more people would be a sign of good times. Getting to that point would require more people to cultivate a habit of giving joyfully and generously to sustain the practice of others.</p><p>Sustenance is a key issue. I have lived at several dharma centers over the years and one thing seems to be common: While the shrine room and stupa are of course the center points of these places, the kitchen remains the heart—also, sometimes, the battle ground. All of us with our varied habits and restrictions and hang ups about food present a huge challenge to the cooks.</p><p>Some retreat centers have a chef or a crew of chefs who rotate; some rely on retreatants to do the cooking for themselves. A few places, like Tassajara Zen Mountain Center, not far from here, have published cookbooks. Most centers have a library of well-thumbed books or binders of crowd-pleasing recipes.</p><p>I thought I might share a few recipes that work well for big groups, specifically recipes for condiments that can make a bland meal sing. Almost any of these can turn a bowl of rice and steamed vegetables into a delicious and satisfying dish. The goal for most cooks is to avoid leftovers because fitting countless containers of bits and pieces back into a single refrigerator—where they will likely be forgotten—is one of the great dilemmas of a communal kitchen.</p><p><strong>1) Hollyhock Yeast Dressing<br></strong>This is a favorite at Sea to Sky Retreat Center near Whistler, BC. It can be used on salads and vegetables, and will even make your tofu steaks appetizing.</p><p>1/3 cup water<br>1/3 cup soy sauce or tamari<br>1/3 cup apple cider vinegar<br>1/3 cup nutritional flake yeast<br>2 T garlic<br>1 1/2 cup olive oil</p><p>Combine the first five ingredients in a blender until they are thoroughly mixed. While still mixing on high, pour the oil in a slow, steady stream. As always, you can play with the amounts. This recipe makes 2 1/2 cups. When refrigerated, it should keep for about two weeks.</p><p><b>2) Djerassi Dan's Chermoula Recipe<br></b>Daniel Tosh is the cook at Djerassi and he has given the place a reputation for spoiling residents in the best possible way. This is his recipe for chermoula, a condiment commonly used in North Africa. It'll spice up vegetarian as well as nonvegetarian savory dishes. "Feel free to substitute ingredients to suit your taste," says Dan. "The addition of fresh dill makes a nice sauce for fish. Smoked paprika lends a nice earthy, smoky character well suited to meat and poultry dishes. For a lighter version, use sweet paprika."</p><p>Cilantro and flat leaf parsley, one bunch each<br>2-3 cloves garlic, minced<br>1 jalapeño chili, seeds removed and chopped<br>2 scallions, chopped<br>2-3 tsp lemon juice<br>1 tsp lemon zest<br>1 tsp smoked paprika<br>1 tsp cumin<br>1/2 tsp coriander<br>1/2 tsp salt<br>1/4 tsp saffron, crushed (optional)<br>1/2 cup olive oil</p><p>Rinse and dry the cilantro and parsley. Remove large stems and place in blender or food processor with remaining ingredients. Blend into a rough purée. To use it as a marinade, add a little more olive oil.</p><p><strong>3)</strong> <b>Sharon's Spicy Soy-Sauced Tomatoes<br></b>"Condiments in Indonesian cooking are just as important as the savory dishes they are served with," says Sharon Crayton in her book <em>One Taste: Vegetarian Home Cooking From Around the World</em>.</p><p>Mix 2 medium sliced tomatoes (about 1 cup), 2 small seeded and thinly sliced Thai or Serrano red or green chilies, 2 small thinly sliced shallots, 2 tablespoons soy sauce, 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh basil or cilantro.</p><p><b>Recommended Reading:<br></b>These are a few must-have cookbooks for any communal kitchen.</p><ul><li>Any or all books by Heidi Swanson—<em>Supernatural Cooking</em> is a good bet. Her <a href="www.101cookbooks.com" target="_blank">website</a>&nbsp;is also an amazing resource.</li><li><em>Jerusalem and Plenty</em> by Yotam Ottolenghi—straightforward, healthy recipes that are easy to double or triple for a big crowd.</li><li><em>Best Recipe</em> or any of the other books from <em>America’s Test Kitchen</em>. They have recently released a gluten-free baking book. All of their recipes are rigorously tested.</li><li><em>The Joy of Cooking</em>—It's always good to have a classic on hand.</li><li>Sharon Crayton's <em>One Taste: Vegetarian Home Cooking From Around the World</em>, which includes lovely meditations with each recipe.</li><li><em>Ulpotha: A Kitchen in Paradise</em>—For those of you living in paradise, you might need some recipes.</li></ul><p><br><strong>Noa Jones</strong> writes fiction and creative nonfiction.</p><p><em>Image: Gallery Stock</em></p> Tue, 06 Jan 2015 10:29:19 -0500 Tricycle - Awake in the World Thich Nhat Hanh Emerges from Coma http://www.tricycle.com/blog/thich-nhat-hanh-emerges-coma <p><img src="http://www.tricycle.com/sites/default/files/images/blog/Thich_Nhat_Hanhhospital.jpg" width="200" height="265" style="margin: 7px; float: right;">The most recent <a href="http://plumvillage.org/news/an-update-on-thays-health-3rd-january/" target="_blank">communiqué from Plum Village</a>, the spiritual community of the venerated Vietnamese Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh, announced that the teacher had emerged from his coma, which was brought on by a <a href="http://www.tricycle.com/blog/thich-nhat-hanh-hospitalized-severe-brain-hemorrhage" target="_blank">severe brain hemorrhage in November.</a></p><blockquote><p>In his current state, Thay is able to recognize familiar faces. He is very responsive to verbal stimuli and has brought everyone great joy by starting to smile in the last few days. One of Thay's close attendants recounted some shared memories from being on tour with Thay. There was a particularly humorous story which, to his astonishment, even made Thay smile and chuckle.</p><p>. . .</p><p>Thay's physical condition remains stable, and thanks to the excellent care Thay has received from the medical staff, he is able to enjoy being comfortable and at ease. Thay is investing great effort in his physiotherapy sessions. He is making daily progress . . .</p></blockquote><p>While Thich Nhat Hanh has emerged into wakefulness, with eyes open for much of day, he remains unable to speak. Doctors are closely monitoring Thay and the indicators of aphasia he's exhibited, and plan to transfer him to a stroke rehabilitation clinic soon.</p><p></p> Mon, 05 Jan 2015 10:55:08 -0500 Tricycle - Awake in the World Tricycle's Top 14 of 2014 http://www.tricycle.com/blog/tricycles-top-14-2014 <p class="p1" style="text-align: left;">This year, we once again turned the Tricycle "wheel of dharma" in our usual thoughtful yet provocative—and (we like to think) occasionally funny way. Self-described white&nbsp;trash&nbsp;Buddhist Brent Oliver taught us that the future of Buddhism depends on who it belongs to, author Ruth King explained how to transform anger into wisdom, and writer Allan Badiner brought us to the Nevada desert to see what the dharma looks like at Burning Man. Take a walk with us down memory lane to look at the articles that made this year at Tricycle one to remember.</p><p class="p2"><img src="http://www.tricycle.com/sites/default/files/images/whitetrashBest2.png" width="550" height="650" style="margin: 7px auto; vertical-align: middle; display: block;"></p><p class="p1"><i><strong>From the Magazine</strong>:</i></p><p class="p1"><a href="http://www.tricycle.com/feature/white-trash-buddhist" target="_blank">White Trash Buddhist</a></p><p class="p2"></p><p class="p1">In one of the most talked about <i>Tricycle </i>articles of the year, a minimum-wage earning Kentucky native, Brent Oliver, gives a firsthand account of the prohibitive costs and alienating cultural norms of dharma practice in the United States that put enlightenment beyond his pay grade. &nbsp; &nbsp;</p><p class="p2"></p><p class="p2"><a href="http://www.tricycle.com/meditation-buddhist-practices/calm-abiding-shamatha/after-monastery" target="_blank">After the Monastery</a>&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p class="p2"></p><p class="p1">Remember the last time you saw a floppy disk? For Jeanette Tetsu, daughter of former Chan monk Bhikshu Heng Ju, it was back in 1998, shortly after her father’s death, when she happened upon the memoirs that detailed his life’s struggle with alcoholism, self-judgment, and eventually, acceptance. Her story and that of her father were published for the first time in <i>Tricycle</i>.&nbsp;</p><p class="p2"></p><p class="p1"><a href="http://www.tricycle.com/feature/under-one-umbrella" target="_blank">Under One Umbrella</a>&nbsp;</p><p class="p2"></p><p class="p1">In this interview with the Dalai Lama’s translator, Thupten Jinpa Langri, he acknowledges the importance of the ongoing conversation between Buddhism and science but says the benefits may prove more limited than Westerners expect. “In the end, when it comes to spiritual practice,” he explains, “you are your own best proof.”</p><p class="p2"></p><p class="p1"><a href="http://www.tricycle.com/feature/dharma-playa" target="_blank">Dharma on the Playa</a> &nbsp;</p><p class="p2"></p><p class="p1">Take a romp to the orgiastic Burning Man festival, where <i>Tricycle </i>contributing editor Allan Badiner spent a night among Buddhists offering care to those partygoers in the midst of a bad trip.&nbsp; &nbsp;</p><p class="p2"></p><p class="p1"><a href="http://www.tricycle.com/feature/dismay-motherhood" target="_blank">The Dismay of Motherhood</a> &nbsp;</p><p class="p2"></p><p class="p1">In one of our most eloquently written articles of the year, <i>Tricycle </i>contributing editor Mary Talbot delves unblinkingly into the inevitable insecurity and loss that accompanies a mother's relationship with her child. “The version of&nbsp;<i>okay</i>&nbsp;we sell to our kids and to ourselves,” she declares, “the&nbsp;<i>okay</i>&nbsp;that parents are meant to provide in this world—is untenable.”&nbsp;</p><p class="p2"></p><p class="p1"><a href="http://www.tricycle.com/feature/meditation-en-masse" target="_blank">Meditation en Masse</a>&nbsp;</p><p class="p2"></p><p class="p1">The prevalence of meditation among Western Buddhist practitioners makes it seem as though it has been central to the Buddhist religion all along. Yet, as scholar Erik Braun points out in this thorough historical treatment, the rise of lay meditation is a very recent phenomenon born out of Burma’s mid-20th century<sup> </sup>anti-colonial movement. &nbsp;</p><p class="p2"></p><p class="p1"><a href="http://www.tricycle.com/dharma-talk/no-one-special-be" target="_blank">No One Special to Be</a>&nbsp;</p><p class="p2"></p><p class="p3">In the Fall 2014 issue’s cover story, Zen Buddhist teacher Ezra Bayda posits that our very desire for uniqueness is what impedes true liberation. Rather than aspire to special distinction, we should let our natural being arise, thereby freeing ourselves to relate honestly with the people and activities we hold dear.</p><p class="p2"><img src="http://www.tricycle.com/sites/default/files/images/Ruth%20King%20%281%20of%201%29.jpg" width="506" height="312" style="margin: 7px auto; vertical-align: middle; display: block;"></p><p class="p1"><i><strong>From the Web</strong>:</i></p><p class="p2"></p><p class="p1"><a href="http://www.tricycle.com/online-retreats/embracing-mad-mind" target="_blank">Embracing the Mad Mind</a></p><p class="p2"></p><p class="p1">In our most popular online video retreat of the year, Buddhist teacher and author Ruth King instructs us on how to properly channel the intensity of strong emotions like rage in order to get in touch with the seeds of radiance and joy that are accessible within us.&nbsp;</p><p class="p2"></p><p class="p1"><a href="http://www.tricycle.com/blog/tricycle-talks-andrew-holecek-good-death" target="_blank">Andrew Holecek: The Good Death</a></p><p class="p2"></p><p class="p1">Tibetan Buddhist teacher Andrew Holecek makes a persuasive case that the practices that ensure a peaceful death are also vital to a well-lived life. He then equips us with the skills to make those dual aspirations a reality. Tune into one of the most listened to podcasts from our successful new series.&nbsp;</p><p class="p2"></p><p class="p1"><a href="http://www.tricycle.com/blog/meditation-nation" target="_blank">Meditation Nation</a> &nbsp;</p><p class="p2"></p><p class="p1">In this highly controversial interview, Brown University professor and neuroscience researcher Willoughby Britton casts doubt on the science driving the popularity of mindfulness meditation.&nbsp;</p><p class="p2"></p><p class="p1"><a href="http://www.tricycle.com/blog/let-them-eat-empathy" target="_blank">Let Them Eat Empathy&nbsp;</a></p><p class="p2"></p><p class="p1">This incisive article tells the story of how the Dalai Lama became an unwitting spokesman for free market capitalism.&nbsp;</p><p class="p2"></p><p class="p1"><a href="http://www.tricycle.com/blog/suffering-addiction" target="_blank">The Suffering of Addiction</a>&nbsp;</p><p class="p2"></p><p class="p1">Noah Levine, author and founder of a dharma-based substance abuse rehabilitation program called Refuge Recovery, explains what differentiates his approach to fighting addiction. "We can take the suffering of addiction," says Levine, "and turn it into a path that ends not just the suffering of addiction but all human suffering."</p><p class="p2"></p><p class="p1"><a href="http://www.tricycle.com/blog/but-for-a-moment" target="_blank">But for a Moment&nbsp;</a></p><p class="p2"></p><p class="p1">In September, a terminally ill young man named Asher Lipson asked Tricycle to publish his writings. Tragically, he passed away before we could do so. But Asher's request was granted shortly thereafter with this journal entry, wherein he grapples with the question of how best to use what little time he has left.&nbsp;</p><p class="p2"></p><p class="p1"><a href="http://www.tricycle.com/blog/bringing-it-all-back-home" target="_blank">Bringing It All Back Home</a></p><p class="p2"></p><p class="p1">Can we love our families fully while upholding the Buddha's teaching on nonattachment? Tibetan Buddhist teacher Lama Jampa Thaye answers with a resounding yes in this description of how our familial relationships actually offer the perfect opportunity for cultivating genuinely felt love.<br><br><em>Image 1: André Da Loba</em><br><em>Image 2: Courtesy of Ruth King&nbsp;</em></p> Mon, 29 Dec 2014 20:11:39 -0500 Tricycle - Awake in the World To the Last Moment http://www.tricycle.com/blog/last-moment <p><i><img src="http://www.tricycle.com/sites/default/files/images/SteveStucky.png" width="550" height="301" style="margin: 7px auto; vertical-align: middle; display: block;"></i></p><p><i>The following is adapted from a talk Myogen Steve St</i><i>ü</i><i>cky gave at San Francisco Zen Center, where he served as abbot. Stucky <a href="http://www.tricycle.com/blog/myogen-steve-stücky-san-francisco-zen-centers-first-central-abbot-dies-67" target="_blank">passed away from cancer</a>&nbsp;</i><em>one year ago, the morning prior to New Year’s Day 2014. —Eds.<br><br></em>To what shall<br>I liken the world?<br>Moonlight, reflected<br>In dewdrops,<br>Shaken from a crane's bill.</p><p><em><i>—Dogen, Zen Master</i><br></em><em></em></p><p>Feeling funny in my mind, Lord,<br>I believe I’m fixin’ to die, fixin’ to die.<br>Feeling funny in my mind, Lord<br>I believe I’m fixin’ to die<br>Well, I don’t mind dyin’,<br>but I hate to hear my children cryin’.</p><p><em><i>—Bukka White, Blues Singer</i><br><br></em>I had an appointment with the oncologist. We went through beautiful imagery from the CAT scan, and he started pointing out little lesions in my lungs, in my liver, in the spleen, in the pancreas. There was a whole mass in the pancreas. The doctor was very straightforward and knowledgeable. He said, "Without treatment, you can expect to live three to six months. It's stage four." And my wife Lane asked, "Well, what's stage five like?" There is no stage five.</p><p>I don't mind dyin', but I do hate to leave everything, everyone. I have to accept the limitation, and I have to let everyone down. Facing the unknown, which is what we're doing every day, is intensified with the lens of having a terminal diagnosis.</p><p>People have been more freely telling me they love me, and I'm more freely telling people, "I love you." That's good to acknowledge, and so poignant, because it means signing up for grief, signing up for loss. That's part of what we need to do as human beings: actually sign up for being human. The relationships that we have we know are on the one hand fabricated. Delusion and self-clinging are involved. And at the same time, it's how we manifest our connectedness—it goes beyond any kind of dualistic sense of you and me.</p><p>I've been working with the phrase that comes from Dogen's teaching on the Buddha in which he quotes another ancient who says, "The entire earth is the true human body." Each human body is independent, and simultaneously, the entire earth. Sometimes you may see this when you let go of your particular attachment to some small identity. The tree is as much a part of me as my shoulder. The sky is as much a part of me as my eyelashes. And the sound of the ocean is as much a part of me as the sound of my own breathing. In taking care of this body, I don't want to neglect the whole.</p><p>The thought is to bring awareness to the earth, to the impact on this part of our body. How do we take care of it? It's so big that we have to look at it as a whole society. We have to look at it, but we haven't. Actually, as a civilization we don't even have the organizational skill to regulate the greediness in our own culture.</p><p>It's hard for most people to imagine having oil in the ground and leaving it there. What an idea! A practice of restraint. To actually accept that leaving it would be healthier for the whole body. To look at how we contribute to the imbalance of carbon in the atmosphere.</p><p>We human beings, as a species, feel right in what we're doing even while other species are becoming extinct. We really need to inform ourselves about the earth as part of our body. And it's painful. It's painful even to know about it. More painful, I think, than this cancer.</p><p>Taking care of one's own internal body and the practices of awareness— mindfulness, sitting still, deeply investigating what's going on internally—actually help your whole life: to actually attend to the body around you, all the relationships, to consider those relationships as your own body while understanding that there are boundaries within that—that is our responsibility. Everything will become more and more known and familiar. And it becomes clearer, moment to moment, what to do, how to respond, what to take care of, and how to take care of it.</p><p>Buddhist practice is a wonderful, very important expression of people's interest in something that goes beyond their own self-interest. It is a profound practice, a lineage practice. We actually have the capacity, and, in a sense, each of us has the responsibility—whether we know it or not or like it or not—to understand it. Study it. Practice it. Make it available to others. And in that way, this lineage can continue to be sustained and evolve and develop and be helpful. This has been the most important thing: to do this practice. I propose to each of you, if you can find something better, then do that. But whatever it is, make it the most profound expression of your life.</p><p>I know that I can die and there are people here who will take care of that, take care of this practice. And isn't that great? For me to think that I can do very much is a mistaken idea. At the same time, to think that I can't do anything is a mistaken idea. Each of us can do something, you know, right up to the last moment.<br><br><em>Image: Andrew Brooks/Gallery Stock</em></p> Fri, 26 Dec 2014 15:19:18 -0500 Tricycle - Awake in the World Tashi Mannox: Calligrapher http://www.tricycle.com/blog/tashi-mannox-calligrapher <p></p><p style="text-align: center;"><iframe src="http://www.tricycle.com//player.vimeo.com/video/114601097?title=0&byline=0&portrait=0&color=ffffff" width="570" height="321" frameborder="0" webkitallowfullscreen="" mozallowfullscreen="" allowfullscreen=""></iframe></p><p></p><p></p><p><strong><a href="http://www.weareplanetary.com" target="_blank">Planetary Collective</a></strong>, founded in 2011, responds to the most pressing issues our civilization is currently facing as we push the planet to its brink. Its members, pulling from their Buddhist backgrounds, attribute the roots of the environmental and social crises facing humanity to the misperception that we are separate—from each other, the planet, and the cosmos as a whole. Their forthcoming feature film is titled <a href="http://www.weareplanetary.com" target="_blank"><em>Planetary</em></a>. Learn more about the Collective <a href="http://www.tricycle.com/blog/planetary-purpose" target="_blank">here.</a></p> Thu, 25 Dec 2014 13:26:42 -0500 Tricycle - Awake in the World Buddha Poem http://www.tricycle.com/blog/buddha-poem <div><img src="http://www.tricycle.com/sites/default/files/images/2990395625_a83d72ceb8_z.jpg" width="550" height="440" style="margin: 7px auto; vertical-align: middle; display: block;"></div><div>The gathering wants to include me,</div><div>makes room for my chair</div><div>in their circle of stacked meditation pillows, crimson & black,</div><div>to place me between two women.</div><div>One is young with the back underside of her hair dyed green</div><div>clipped up in a barrette,</div><div>and sits lower than I on her plump cushions.</div><div>The other older one to my right</div><div>is on my level, in another chair,</div><div>dressed in soft clothes, zigzag hems,</div><div>her breasts great pears molded</div><div>underneath a layered peach sweater,</div><div>but her dark hair</div><div>spreads across her shoulders</div><div>down to her waist</div><div>and stray wisps reach out to me</div><div>like some hippy’s who looks more</div><div>like a designer witch, instead of intriguing</div><div>and tosses her hair every minute or so,</div><div>so it flicks across</div><div>my shoulder again and I can’t help thinking</div><div>of the head lice and pinworms my grandsons</div><div>had picked up in their suburban schools.</div><div>I lean more to my left, eyes open as instructed</div><div>in the zombie gaze, at a 45 degree tilt but the young one</div><div>to my left, is undoing her green hair from the clip</div><div>and it is wet and stringy and she flips it to her left</div><div>and then to her right, I suppose to air it out,</div><div>aimed right at me, as a latecomer sits in a chair behind,</div><div>and I instantly lean back to whisper</div><div>“switch seats” and she generously whispers “no, no”</div><div>and I say loudly “yes, yes”</div><div>“I <em>want</em> to” and to my immense relief, I gather</div><div>my pad and pen and $50 textbook and tea and coat, and switch.</div><div>Today the comments annoy me more than usual,</div><div>the hopeful, unanswerable questions about nirvana</div><div>and why in meditation obsessive thoughts about judging</div><div>keep coming up</div><div>and I see the leader, the older man who I thought</div><div>would stand tall, like my Hungarian painting teacher</div><div>40 years ago, and instead is short</div><div>with a big head and he sits opposite me,</div><div>legs folded under him on his cushions,</div><div>the belt on his waist kind of hiked up</div><div>over his belly to his chest,</div><div>as he sits Buddha-like, softly laughing, laughing.<br><br><p><strong>Meg Lindsay</strong>, a meditator for over 30 years, is a poet and a painter. A semi-finalist in two "Discovery"/<em>The Nation</em> Contests and a finalist in the 1998 Inkwell competition, she has been published in <em>Pivot</em>, <em>Salamander</em>, <em>Alimentum</em>, and the <em>Connecticut River Review</em>, and her artistic works have been exhibited in museums across the country. <a href="http://www.meglindsayartist.com" target="_blank">www.meglindsayartist.com</a>.</p><p><em>Image: Michael Kuhn/<a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/legalcode" target="_blank">Flickr</a></em></p></div> Mon, 22 Dec 2014 17:06:32 -0500 Tricycle - Awake in the World Six Questions for B. Alan Wallace http://www.tricycle.com/blog/six-questions-b-alan-wallace <p><img src="http://www.tricycle.com/sites/default/files/images/GearsBrain.jpg" width="550" height="738" style="margin: 7px auto; vertical-align: middle; display: block;"></p><p>The past four centuries have brought an explosion of scientific knowledge and technological know-how. The march of material progress has, however, left many Buddhist practitioners wondering whether Western society’s external transformation has been matched by an internal one, and if so, what role Buddhism can play in promoting a deeper understanding of both the external and internal worlds. Below, B. Alan Wallace, a uniquely interdisciplinary thinker, responds to six questions on this subject.</p><p>Wallace has been a scholar and practitioner of Buddhism since 1970. After spending 14 years training as a Tibetan Buddhist monk and receiving ordination from the Dalai Lama, he went on to earn an undergraduate degree in physics and the philosophy of science and later a doctorate in religious studies. He has written numerous books, including <i>Choosing Reality: A Buddhist View of Physics and the Mind</i> (1989), <i>The Taboo of Subjectivity: Toward a New Science of Consciousness </i>(2000), and, most recently, <i>Meditations of a Buddhist Skeptic: A Manifesto for the Mind Sciences and Contemplative Practice</i> (2011). Wallace is, then, well-versed in both Eastern and Western traditions.</p><p>Like many people in the Western world, I’ve been raised on a materialist philosophy but have also long been intrigued by questions traditionally belonging to spirituality. And also like many people in my generation, who came of age in the '70s and '80s, I’ve long wondered how we can mesh the insights of modern science with a more compassionate and integrated view of the world. Indeed, it seems to me that meshing the spiritual insights of East and West with the more recent tradition of Western scientific inquiry is perhaps the most promising route to a forward-thinking worldview today.</p><p>The following interview was conducted over email.</p><p align="right">—Tam Hunt</p><p><i>Tam Hunt, a visiting scholar in psychology at UC Santa Barbara, has <a href="http://www.independent.com/news/2014/apr/10/finding-meaning-meaningless-world/">written</a> about the need for Western science to become less dogmatic and to expand from its overly materialist worldview. In addition, he has <a href="http://www.independent.com/news/2013/aug/20/spiritual-method/">written</a> about the need for Buddhism to grow from its traditional roots by, in particular, embracing the insights of an evolutionary worldview that takes seriously the passage of time. His recent <a href="http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_1?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=eco%20ego%20eros&sprefix=eco+e%2Cstripbooks">book</a>, </i>Eco, Ego, Eros: Essays in Philosophy, Spirituality and Science<i> explores many of these themes. </i></p><p align="right" style="text-align: right;"><i>—Ed.</i></p><p align="right" style="text-align: left;"><strong style="text-align: left;">Why is Buddhism important in today’s high-tech world?&nbsp;</strong><span style="text-align: left;">The growth of scientific knowledge and technology since I entered my adult years in 1970 has been phenomenal. Never before has humanity so expanded its knowledge and exerted its power over the external world. But in that same period, the human population has doubled; and due to human exploitation of the natural environment, the wildlife population of the planet has been reduced by half, while global warming has imperiled human civilization at large and the ecosphere.</span></p><p>During these last 40 years, when human knowledge of the physical environment, biology, sociology, and economics has increased at an unprecedented rate, modern civilization has seemed hell-bent on destroying itself. For example, before 1970, most of the income gains experienced during economic expansions accrued to most of the people, so that the bottom 90 percent of earners captured at least a majority of the rise in income. But during the 1990s and early 2000s, the huge majority of income gains went to the top 10 percent, and from 2001 to 2007, 98 percent of income gains accrued to the top 10 percent of earners. This wild inequality in the distribution of wealth has gotten so out of hand that the 85 richest people in the world own as much as the 3.5 billion poorest, while almost half of the world’s wealth is now owned by just one percent of the population.</p><p>This contradiction between the simultaneous explosion of technology and deprivation of the world’s most vulnerable indicates that our knowledge of and power over the outer environment has not even remotely been matched by our knowledge of the human mind and its vices, the inner causes of suffering, and the resources of the human spirit. Buddhism highlights three fundamental toxins of the mind—greed, hostility, and delusion. For all the information at our disposal, made so readily available through the internet, human civilization evidently has not made any progress in diagnosing or treating these afflictions, let alone exploring the resources of the human spirit—compassion, wisdom, generosity, patience, and inner contentment.</p><p>If our high-tech world doesn’t balance knowledge of the external, physical resources of our environment with knowledge of the internal, psychological, and spiritual resources of the human mind, then I fear human society will continue on its present course of self-destruction.<br><br><strong>What are some key ways that Buddhism is consonant with modern science?<i>&nbsp;</i></strong>Fundamentally, I find Buddhist and scientific methods of investigating reality to be complementary, as are many of their discoveries. Both traditions focus on the empirical and rational exploration of reality, not on accepting beliefs out of blind faith. The Dalai Lama comments: “A general basic stance of Buddhism is that it is inappropriate to hold a view that is logically inconsistent. This is taboo. But even more taboo than holding a view that is logically inconsistent, is holding a view that goes against direct experience.”</p><p>This is consonant with an assertion attributed to the Buddha and widely quoted in Tibetan Buddhism: “Monks, just as the wise accept gold after testing it by heating, cutting, and rubbing it, so are my words to be accepted after examining them, but not out of respect for me.” A 3rd-century Indian Buddhist contemplative named Aryadeva claimed in a classic treatise that there are just three qualities one must have to venture onto the Buddhist path of inquiry: one must be perceptive and unbiased, and simultaneously enthusiastic about putting the teachings to the test of experience.<br><img src="http://www.tricycle.com/sites/default/files/images/WallacePullQuote.png" width="550" height="361" style="margin: 7px auto; vertical-align: middle; display: block;"><strong>What are some key ways that Buddhism is <em>not</em> consonant with modern science?&nbsp;</strong>Despite their commonalities, the methods of Buddhist and scientific inquiry are very different. Buddhist inquiry fundamentally focuses on gaining first-person experiential insight into the reality of suffering, the way that suffering causes imbalances and toxins of the mind, the possibility of freedom from suffering, and the path to such freedom. Buddhism is not concerned with the nature of reality as it exists <i>independently</i> of human experience, but rather with the reality <i>of</i> human experience.</p><p>Buddhists have never sought a God’s-eye perspective on reality. The religion is essentially oriented toward the realization of genuine happiness, akin to what the ancient Greeks, starting with Socrates, called eudaimonia. This is a quality of well-being not dependent upon sensory or intellectual stimulation; it stems from leading an ethical, which is to say nonviolent, way of life. Such a path to freedom yields a sense of well-being that emerges from what we bring to the world, not from what we get out of it. The realization of freedom from suffering and its inner causes depends upon the close examination of one’s own experience from a first-person perspective, refined through rigorous meditative training in mindfulness and introspection.</p><p>Modern science, on the other hand, tracing back to Galileo, is primarily focused on fathoming the nature of the objective, physical, quantifiable universe from a third-person perspective. The original motivation of science—as expressed by Galileo and other pioneers of the Scientific Revolution—was to understand the mind of the creator by way of his creation. This pursuit of a God’s-eye perspective sought to understand reality as it exists independently of human experience. Rather than refining the mental faculties of mindfulness and introspection, scientists have refined technology to try to fathom the nature of objective, physical reality in the language of mathematics.</p><p>The symbiotic development of science and technology over the past four centuries has greatly contributed to humanity’s “hedonic happiness,” which is a kind of well-being that arises from sensory and intellectual stimulation—one that is not contingent on ethics, mental balance, or wisdom. Hedonic pleasures are those we get from the world around us, and unsurprisingly, science has focused on the causes of suffering that stem from the physical world.</p><p>Both eudaimonia and hedonic well-being are important, as are the first-person and third-person approaches to understanding reality. For Buddhism, the mind is central to both human existence and the world of experience, while material concerns are secondary. For science, the nature of matter and its emergent properties are central, while the mind and subjective experience are secondary. So there is a fundamental complementarity, and at the same time a certain tension, between these two approaches to understanding the world and the good life.</p><p>To my mind, the principal obstacle to a deep integration of Buddhist insight and scientific discovery is the uncritical acceptance among many scientists—and increasingly the general public—of the metaphysical principles of scientific materialism. The fundamental belief of this scientific materialism is that the whole of reality consists only of space-time and matter-energy, and their emergent properties. This implies that the only true causation is physical causation, that there are no nonphysical influences in the universe. When applied to human existence, this worldview implies that subjective experience is either physical—despite all evidence to the contrary—or doesn’t exist at all, which is simply insulting to our intelligence. As the philosopher John R. Searle states in his book <i>The Rediscovery of the Mind</i>, “Earlier materialists argued that there aren’t any such things as separate mental phenomena, because mental phenomena <i>are identical</i> with brain states.&nbsp;More recent materialists argue that there aren’t any such things as separate mental phenomena because they <i>are not identical</i> with brain states.&nbsp;I find this pattern very revealing, and what it reveals is an urge to get rid of mental phenomena at any cost.”</p><p>It is commonplace nowadays to equate the mind with the brain, or to insist that the mind is nothing more than a function of the brain. But this is merely a metaphysical belief that has never been validated through scientific research. While the mind and brain are clearly correlated in precise ways that have been revealed through advances in cognitive neuroscience, the exact nature of those correlations remains a mystery. This mystery, however, is veiled by the illusion of knowledge that the mind-body problem has already been solved. But, while all other branches of modern science have focused on the direct observation of the natural phenomena they seek to understand, the cognitive sciences have insisted on avoiding such direct observation of mental phenomena. The simple reason for this choice is that subjectively experienced mental processes and states of consciousness do not fit within the materialist paradigm that has dominated science since the beginning of the 20th century.</p><p>As both contemplatives and scientists wake up to the limitations of their respective pursuits of knowledge, we may see a renaissance in open-minded, rigorous contemplative inquiry. This flourishing would call for an integration of first-person and third-person methods of research, which may enhance the hedonic and eudaimonic well-being of humanity. The world is facing unprecedented challenges—environmental, economic, social, and moral—and to successfully rise to meet these challenges we must draw on the wisdom of the East and the West, of the ancient and the modern. The same challenges that imperil our very existence may help us unite in ways never before witnessed in human history.</p><p><img src="http://www.tricycle.com/sites/default/files/images/SkeletonHeart.png" width="550" height="439" style="margin: 7px auto; vertical-align: middle; display: block;"></p><div><strong>How can we best accelerate the spread of mindfulness and compassion, which are the hallmarks of modern Buddhist practice?&nbsp;</strong>We can agree that mindfulness and compassion are virtues that everyone should cultivate and which may help resolve some of modern society’s existential and environmental crises. But to extract these qualities from the rich, integrated fabric of Buddhist theory and practice and then insert them within a materialistic worldview, hedonistic value system, and consumer-driven way of life is unlikely to bring about any deep and lasting change.<p></p><p>Modern society’s existential and environmental crises were not created by traditional, longstanding religious beliefs. Rather, these crises arose primarily in the 20th century, the first era in human history that was strongly dominated by scientific materialism. For all the advances in science and technology during that century, it also witnessed the most savage inhumanity of man against man, the greatest decimation of other species, and the most catastrophic degradation of the ecosphere.</p><p>A materialistic worldview naturally results in valuing only material things and their emergent properties, such as wealth, power, and status. The hedonistic pursuit of these ideals naturally results in a way of life focused on ever-increasing production and consumption. This fully integrated triad—a materialistic worldview, values, and way of life—is exhausting the natural resources of our planet and helping bring about the demise of human civilization. So we need to look beyond some quick fixes of increased mindfulness and compassion and fundamentally reevaluate our beliefs about the nature of human existence, our values, and the way we lead our lives. Buddhism can contribute greatly to such a renaissance, but not if it is subjected to the same reductionism that materialism has thrust upon human nature.<br><br><strong>There is a view fairly described as "Buddhist dualism," a type of dualism that posits an independent mind in addition to a world of matter and energy. I don't see Buddhist dualism as a clear advance over hard materialism because it gives rise to its own set of problems, including questions about how mind and body interact if they're independent of each other. Isn't there room for a better inegration of mind and body in our philosophical edifice?&nbsp;</strong>Modern civilization suffers from a severe imagination deficit disorder in its inability to imagine any alternatives other than materialistic monism or Cartesian dualism. We’ve known since the 19th century that the Cartesian notion of two substantially real kinds of stuff—material and mental—is a dead end, for there’s no coherent way in which they can causally interact. But materialism fares no better in giving a coherent understanding of the nature of subjective experience or how it causally interacts with the brain. So we have two dead ends.</p><p>It’s a complete mistake to put the Buddhist view of the mind and body in the Cartesian box, for the rich and diverse schools of Buddhism emerged outside the context of European civilization. Buddhism is not dualistic; it’s pluralistic. It’s much more aligned with the views of William James than Descartes. Or, to bring this into the 21st century, it’s more akin to the views of the eminent physicist George Ellis, coauthor of <i>The Large Scale Structure of Space-Time</i> with Stephen Hawking, considered to be one of the world’s leading theorists in cosmology. He has proposed a fourfold model of reality, consisting of (1) matter and forces, (2) consciousness, (3) physical and biological possibilities, and (4) mathematical reality. All of these levels of existence, he proposes, are equally real and distinct, and they relate to each other through causal links. This model transcends the ideological boxes in which the Western mind has been stuck for centuries, and it accords much more closely to Buddhist views of reality</p><p>As for the hypothesis that there is a dimension of consciousness that is not contingent upon a functioning brain, it should be assessed not by logical but empirical facts. In the West, we have ignored our own rich Judeo-Christian heritage of contemplative inquiry, instead equating religious belief with mere reliance upon divine authority. Then we project this same prejudice on Buddhism and other Asian contemplative traditions, never considering that their centuries of first-person experiential investigation might have yielded discoveries that are not accessible through studying the mind objectively.<br><br><strong>You’ve acknowledged that Buddhist notions of karma are very difficult to evaluate empirically. If this is the case, isn’t this indicative of a need for reform? Shouldn’t Buddhism be entirely empirical?&nbsp;</strong>Why be so casual in dismissing what may be one of the greatest discoveries of the Buddhist tradition, allegedly made by the Buddha himself and replicated many times over the past 2,500 years by numerous, highly accomplished Buddhist contemplatives? There’s an element of ethnocentricity here that is indefensible in the 21st century, namely the notion that scientists have a monopoly on rigorous methods of rational and empirical study of the natural world.</p><p>For all the advances in the mind sciences over the past 135 years, scientists have left modern society in the dark about the nature, origins, and causal efficacy of consciousness. And some, like Princeton University neuroscientist Michael Graziano, veil this ignorance by suggesting there is no mind-body problem because there is no such thing as subjective experience.</p><p>There is no discipline of knowledge that is entirely empirical, so there is no reason why Buddhism should sacrifice its rich theoretical heritage to satisfy the prejudices of those who can’t imagine that Buddhists have made discoveries of their own about the nature of the mind and its role in nature.</p></div> Thu, 18 Dec 2014 14:48:29 -0500 Tricycle - Awake in the World Tricycle Talks: Jeff Wilson, Mindful America http://www.tricycle.com/blog/tricycle-talks-jeff-wilson-mindful-america <p><a href="https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/tricycle-talks/id695108281" target="_blank"><img src="http://www.tricycle.com/sites/default/files/images/tricycle-talks-podcast-copy.png" width="570" height="570" style="display: block; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;"></a></p><p>In this episode of Tricycle Talks, <em>Tricycle</em> managing editor Emma Varvaloucas speaks with author and <em>Tricycle</em> contributing editor&nbsp;Jeff Wilson&nbsp;about how Buddhism influences and is appropriated by minority-Buddhist cultures in the West. Wilson, who wrote a <a href="http://www.tricycle.com/blog/monastery-marketplace">blog post on the subject</a>, explains how an evangelical impulse has overtaken some mindfulness advocates. His latest book is <i>Mindful America:&nbsp;</i><i>The Mutual Transformation of Buddhist Meditation and American Culture</i>.</p><p></p><p><iframe width="100%" height="166" scrolling="no" frameborder="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/181949696&color=ff5500&auto_play=false&hide_related=false&show_comments=true&show_user=true&show_reposts=false"></iframe></p><p>Tricycle Talks is a podcast series featuring leading voices in the contemporary Buddhist world.&nbsp;</p><p><strong>Subscribe</strong></p><p>Subscribe to Tricycle Talks via&nbsp;<a href="https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/tricycle-talks/id695108281" target="_blank">iTunes</a> or copy <a href="http://www.tricycle.com/podcast_feed" target="_blank">this link</a> to use with a podcatcher of your choice.</p><p>You can also find Tricycle Talks on <a href="https://soundcloud.com/tricyclemag" target="_blank">Soundcloud</a>.</p> Wed, 17 Dec 2014 13:15:32 -0500 Tricycle - Awake in the World The Grit That Becomes a Pearl http://www.tricycle.com/blog/grit-becomes-pearl <p class="p1"><i><img src="http://www.tricycle.com/sites/default/files/images/PearlDukkhaSmallerImage.jpg" width="550" height="367" style="margin: 7px auto; vertical-align: middle; display: block;"></i></p><p class="p1"><i>Having loved enough and lost enough, I am no longer searching, just opening, no longer trying to make sense of pain, but being a soft and sturdy home in which real things can land. These are the irritations that rub to a pearl.</i></p><p class="p2"></p><p class="p3" style="text-align: right;">—Mark Nepo</p><p class="p1" style="text-align: left;">One of the essential messages of the Buddha is that it's really important to get to know the experience of <i>dukkha</i>, or dissatisfaction. Not to know it intellectually, not to write a thesis about it, but to get to know it by meeting this experience directly. Until we know dukkha, we don't really have a way to end it. The discourse of the four truths that the Buddha gave after his awakening begins not with enlightenment, but with the encouragement to know dukkha, to know it in order to overcome it.&nbsp;</p><p class="p2"></p><p class="p1">To know the experience of suffering can sound fairly straightforward. But the mind is pretty slippery around the experience of dukkha. We tend to say, "The problem is it's too hot or too cold, or it's the situation I'm in, or because I got so screwed up when I was a kid, or it's my partner, or my job." Of course external factors contribute to our happiness or suffering, we don't need to dismiss the factors that shape our lives—but in Vipassana we're not trying to figure out where the dukkha came from. Instead we work with pain and suffering as we experience it, without blaming others, repressing it, or projecting it inward onto our self. Meeting dukkha in this direct way doesn't preclude challenging or changing our individual or collective circumstance, but it does empower us to stop unnecessary stuffering right at the place we experience it, which is the mind.</p><p class="p2"></p><p class="p1">When we experience dukkha, our first instinct is to move our attention away and distract ourselves. We have billion-dollar industries based on entertainment and consumption keeping us distracted from this core truth of life. But are we more content? Conversely, we can become addicted to pain, finding ourselves repeatedly gravitating toward worry, old wounds, and resentments. We can even wallow in suffering, our own and others'. Some people become sufferers, great martyrs thinking "no one suffers as much as me—let me just tell you about it." We all have complex reactions to this everyday experience of unsatisfactoriness. Often those reactions are personalized as "my problem." It is very common for the mind to project suffering onto the "self," interpreting dukkha as a personal failure: we are failing because we suffer. Or the mind will project our suffering onto those around us; it's somehow "their fault." In this activity of projection and blame we miss how the mind itself generates an endless stream of dukkha through its inability to accept self, others, and life as it is. In short, it's our reactivity that generates dukkha, keeping us agitated and therefore unable to contemplate the actual, direct, here and now experience of it.&nbsp;</p><p class="p2"></p><p class="p1">The Buddha's way of explaining dukkha is a great relief. He didn't say, "Well, it's your suffering, it's your fault." Nor was his teaching, as it is sometimes articulated, "This world's just a pile of suffering." That's pretty negative. Actually he put it in a very dispassionate way. He just said, "There is dukkha." Just as one might comment on a fact of nature, saying "It's raining hard today" or "The trees are shedding their leaves." Dukkha is inherent within the conditioned realm. Conditions mean anything that emerges from formlessness and comes into form, whether it's the body, feelings, perception, thought, or sensations. Whatever form emerges, dukkha is inherent. Things are dukkha because they are impermanent and therefore unreliable. Actually, dukkha is natural and not suffering. It becomes suffering when the mind identifies with phenomena and grasps. The meaning of <em>dukkha</em> that conveys this process is derived from the breakdown of the word into <i>du</i>, which means "apart from" and <i>kha</i>—or <i>akash</i>—which means "space." This gives the sense of being apart from the spacious, the perfect, and the complete. In this way <em>dukkha</em> conveys the deepest anguish and dilemma of the self, which is its state of separation from the whole.&nbsp;</p><p class="p2"></p><p class="p1">In meditation, when we bring attention to "now," it allows whatever is present to be real to us. For example, we notice the breath, the body, our feelings, and whatever impinges upon our senses. Attention illuminates whatever is here, which is often the experience of dukkha. Usually, even at a very subtle level, there will be some sense of discontent, anxiety, or restlessness. It's important to know dukkha, not to obsess about it, but just to meet it. It's important because if we don't know it, we continue to generate dukkha from false assumptions. We actually make dukkha; the mind habitually and unconsciously generates <i>it</i>.&nbsp;</p><p class="p2"></p><p class="p1">Dukkha is different from pain. Buddhist thought makes a distinction between pain and suffering. Pain is part of our human experience. For example, getting sick is painful, as is grief at the loss of a loved one; this is natural and appropriate. However, we then tend to generate a whole extra layer of suffering, through our difficulty in accepting how things are. When we resist the natural flow of life we create suffering, stress, and struggle. When we assume ownership and permanence in a world that is constantly changing, we become burdened. In essence, it is the ignorance of the mind, when it doesn't see the true nature of reality, that produces suffering. And so, our relationship to "how it is" becomes the conditioning factor for either generating or reducing suffering.</p><p class="p2"></p><p class="p1">We are doing the suffering; no one is doing it to us. It is because of this that we can free ourselves from unnecessary dukkha. This is not always easy to do. "How it is" can really challenge us. Yet even though it is difficult, this is a doable practice, otherwise the Buddha would not have taught it for regular people like us.&nbsp;</p><p class="p2"></p><p class="p1">For example, I suffered when the unethical behavior of someone I trusted came to light. It had a devastating impact. I felt betrayed. The theme of betrayal became a powerful contemplation, particularly as there was no resolution. In the end this situation taught me a lot. I kept reflecting on where the suffering really was. Was it in the behavior of the other, in the divisiveness that followed, in the blame that was projected? I wanted more truth to come out, but it didn't, it stayed hidden in a web of lies. When lies are covered up, it leaves those abused without recourse to justice. This is a powerful theme that runs through human history: people manipulating others for their own ends, while at the same time distracting from their behavior by shifting blame elsewhere. We'd be naive not to understand that the conversion of lies to "truths" is pervasive in contemporary political and corporate culture. When apprehended correctly, such experiences become the sharpening for our wise realism.</p><p class="p1"><img src="http://www.tricycle.com/sites/default/files/images/LeafPearl.png" width="550" height="413" style="margin: 7px auto; vertical-align: middle; display: block;"></p><p class="p1">To have a conscious relationship to suffering is different than having an unconscious one. We will all experience pain, simply due to our incarnation into form. It is part of being human. We experience bodily pains, ill health, fatigue, hunger, thirst, and as we get older we will feel the pains of aging. That's just the way it is. Freedom from dukkha doesn't mean eternal youth, or that we are never going to have a headache, never going to feel irritation, or loss, or get betrayed and hurt by others. Freedom from dukkha is not abdication from the human race, but a deeper acceptance of how we are, an acceptance that brings both equanimity, and also a clearer response.&nbsp;</p><p class="p2"></p><p class="p1"><em>Dukkha</em> is also categorized as the pain of things ending. Even within pleasant experiences there is dukkha, because the nature of conditioned things is to pass. All things already have their endings within them. If we become attuned to this, then we can appreciate the moment. We can appreciate the extraordinary fact of our unique and precious lives. We can even appreciate dukkha, rather than resisting it. We understand that the experience of suffering is a portal to our awakening. We don't wish for suffering, but once we understand how to be in relationship with it, it becomes the means through which we mature as loving and wise people.</p><p class="p2"></p><p class="p1">The Buddha placed the contemplation of dukkha at the heart of his teaching. The foundation of Buddhist teaching is formulated around his four noble truths: "There is dukkha," "Dukkha has a cause," "Dukkha has an end," and "The eightfold path which brings about the ending of dukkha." Each of these truths has a corresponding practice. In response to the first truth, the practice is to "meet, understand, and contemplate" dukkha. The practice for the second truth is to "let go or abandon" the causes of dukkha. The third is to "realize or recognize" the end of dukkha, and the fourth is to "develop or cultivate" the path leading out of dukkha. Sometimes this teaching is misrepresented as a negative view on life, such as "Buddhists are just into suffering." Actually, it's a very positive message, as it says we can do something about the dukkha we unconsciously generate and then experience. This simple teaching is actually extremely profound and direct. It offers a clear diagnosis of the fact of suffering, an insight into the causes of suffering, and a remedy and cure for suffering.</p><p class="p2"></p><p class="p1">The four noble truths may not be a very fashionable teaching, but it's an extremely profound one. Wherever we are, when dukkha arises, we have a pathway to peace. In calming meditation, we develop strength of mind through the practice of steadying attention on the breath, body, or our chosen object of contemplation. In insight meditation, we take that same strength of attentiveness and bring it directly to the experience of dukkha, as it is felt within the body and heart. We do this in a very particular way, by neither justifying nor trying to fix the pain, neither being overwhelmed nor shaped by it, nor repressing or distancing ourselves. The art of meditation is to meet dukkha directly, to breath with it, and inquire into it. This is ultimately less painful than avoiding it.&nbsp;</p><p class="p2"></p><p class="p1">I remember as a young nun I suffered a lot. I trained in a male monastic hierarchy deeply ambivalent to the presence of nuns. Initially, I didn't see the impact, but as time went on, I noticed it generated a painful and divisive power dynamic. I was grateful to live as a monastic, but the fine line between "training" and the blunt use of power was unhealthy—particularly when as nuns, we had no agency in the decisions that shaped our lives.</p><p class="p2"></p><p class="p1">However, there wasn't much I could do about the situation. Basically, it was just a lot of suffering. One day, I was contemplating the pain in my heart due to some new rules that had been handed down without consultation, which I found churlish. I was just right there, holding attention to the sensation. It felt like a knife in my chest and a hand around my throat. It was very visceral, and although the trigger was a controlling hierarchy, the feeling felt ancient. It was the familiar pain of powerlessness. In the middle of my walking meditation, I stopped and stretched out my arms like Christ on the cross, and screamed out, "I accept this suffering!" It sounds dramatic (and somewhat inflated), and fortunately I was well hidden in the monastery forest! But something profound happened. I realized I could be with a painful dynamic and not suffer. My suffering was there because I didn't want things the way they were. In my acceptance, the suffering turned to compassion. I felt compassion for the monks and nuns, for myself, for everything and everyone. Meeting experience <i>as it is </i>empowers. We may not always be able to change a challenging situation, but we can be better resourced to engage with it.</p><p class="p2"></p><p class="p1">Ajahn Chah came from a farming community in Northeast Thailand and left school at thirteen. He tended to put things in unacademic, immediate, and straightforward ways. He often pointed to the fact that dukkha arises because the mind is caught up in "wanting and not wanting." We want what is not here and don't want what is here. This is very simply put and yet challenging to really see. However, framing it like this, Ajahn Chah points to a direct practice. With some steadiness of mind, we can reflect on desire, and its internal narrative of always wanting things to be different from what they are. We frame our experience: "I don't want it to be like this; I want it to be different." Each moment we want, long, wait, and look for something that is not there, we generate dukkha. Conversely, when there is resistance or aversion to how it is, we generate dukkha. We resist what is "now." The push and pull of the mind undermines our capacity for contentment. When we look into the second truth of desire and aversion, we get perspective. What we struggle with can be okay. It is workable. We can work with all of it, people blaming us, pains in the body, emotional turmoil—instead of continually adding dukkha through our judgment, "It shouldn't be like this."&nbsp;</p><p class="p2"></p><p class="p1">A lot of the time we feel, "It shouldn't be like this!" It should be somehow different. We should be in a heaven-like world. But we weren't born into heaven; we were born in this world, with its wars, environmental degradation, suffering, exploitation, difficulty, and pain. Accepting the reality of dukkha isn't an abdication from response, it is a way to understand that the most effective way we can change the world is through the quality of our own awareness. As we work to resolve our personal dukkha, we lessen the possibility that our actions will increase the suffering that already exists.</p><p class="p2"></p><p class="p1">When Kittisaro was a novice monk, just before his full ordination, his parents took a trip to Thailand, all the way from Chattanooga, Tennessee, to find out what he was doing. In the process they met Ajahn Chah. Kittisaro's father is a very astute political observer and at that time he was concerned, as were most Americans, with the war in Vietnam and the threat of communism. He was concerned that the monastery, which was on the border of Laos, would be invaded by communist guerillas. Ajahn Chah said that the thing he should really worry about was the "communist guerrillas in the mind." I guess nowadays he would have pointed us back to the "terrorists of the mind."&nbsp;</p><p class="p2"></p><p class="p1">This is where we begin and end. We take everything back to the mind. As we experience life, all sorts of feelings, thoughts, and reactions arise. Our problem isn't so much "what is" but our relationship to what is. When I consider my own suffering, so much of it comes from the fact that I simply cannot accept life, and people as they are. I get upset by what people do. Ajahn Chah said it's like hollering at a person who upsets you. Then someone comes up and says, "You know, that person is crazy." You relax, because suddenly there's perspective. Until we are mature human beings, we're all a little crazy; we all produce suffering. So it means we are going to learn patience! The ongoing inquiry into the nature of suffering is a patient process. These four truths are a deepening hologram: wherever we touch them we enter the process of contemplation. When we locate clinging, desire, and aversion, then, as encouraged by the Buddha, we let go.&nbsp;</p><p class="p2"><img src="http://www.tricycle.com/sites/default/files/images/TreePearl.png" width="550" height="406" style="margin: 7px auto; vertical-align: middle; display: block;"></p><p class="p1">Letting go is the third noble truth. Vipassana insight meditation reveals where we hold on. Where we hold on, right there is dukkha. Right where there's dukkha is the place of letting go. In insight meditation we contemplate the nature of suffering and its release. Actually, the mind in its natural state is open, aware, and present. It is reflective. But the mind, when tinged by ignorance, has a tendency to constrict around thought-forms and desire, generating a sense of self that feels "It's not enough" or "I'm not enough." Our lack of inner freedom is often born from this feeling of "not enough." The constriction around "I need to be something more" or "I don't want what is here" is a constant irritation. Ajahn Chah likened it to a dog with mange. He goes into the shade, to the heat, from place to place, running around everywhere trying to find relief, scratching here, scratching there. The dog keeps feeling each place is the problem, not realizing his discomfort is due to his own skin.</p><p class="p2"></p><p class="p1">In a moment of just stopping and relinquishing our addiction to "wanting and not wanting," a whole other dimension opens up. When the cause of dukkha is released, we recognize a timeless abiding, always here now, which is the heart/mind's natural state. Recognizing the mind in its natural state is not something to attain; it's a realization. When grasping and resistance cease, the endless chasing of one thing after another, then the mind recognizes the taste of its own nature, which is the taste of peace. This peace is nibbana.&nbsp;</p><p class="p2"></p><p class="p1">Just as the grit in an oyster becomes a pearl, so dukkha has its function. Awakening quickens through wise contemplation of suffering. Instead of blindly reacting to the experience of dukkha, shifting around it or blaming someone else for it, we apprehend it directly, and more quickly. A conditioning factor for this process is what the Buddha called <i>nibbida</i>, which means "disenchantment." We finally come to a place in ourselves when we know another experience isn't going to alleviate our basic sense of discontent—the next holiday, the next acquisition, or the next exciting distraction. In our contemporary society, when we feel <i>disenchanted </i>it is seen as a problem. We are encouraged to go shopping, take medication, or find some other escape. We think, "If I sit on the beach today I'll be much happier than staying here." So we go to the beach. We're happy for a few minutes and then think, "If I just had a nice coffee, I'd feel better." Or we think, "It's too hot here. If I go up into the mountains where it's cooler, I'd be happy." This seeking drives us on and on. It's a good sign when we begin to be suspicious of endless pursuit; it means we're not buying into it so much. Periods of retreat bring us into direct confrontation with what we've been trying desperately to avoid—this basic feeling of dissatisfaction. This isn't to say that things like anti-depressants and holidays don't have their place. But even when we get life as perfect as we can, the underlying message of dukkha still crashes in. It prods us until we respond to the invitation to contemplate our experience more carefully. Sometimes when we acknowledge the presence of suffering, we immediately want a solution. Fix it quick! Get a Band-Aid! Take it away!</p><p class="p2"></p><p class="p1">This is kind and careful work. When circumstances generate pain or anguish, we can lessen dukkha by patiently containing our reactivity. Then, at the place of suffering, the journey of transformation opens up. As beauitfully articulated in Mark Nepo's poem, we become "a soft and sturdy home in which real things can land." This describes perfectly the quality of awareness and receptivity needed to undertake the journey through suffering. We "no longer try to make sense of the pain." We create a space and allow awareness to provide a gentle holding for the "irritations that rub to a pearl." This is the work of Vipassana. As we inquire into the moment, dukkha becomes dharma, or nature, rather than "me" that is wrong or bad. As we listen more deeply to suffering, we begin to notice non-suffering. The heart realizes its innate courage, strength, and invincibility. This journey through pain and suffering burns away the impurities, and what is revealed is something pristine, clear, and beautiful, like a moonlit pearl: the tender, merciful heart, and its infinite ability to receive the cries of the world.&nbsp;</p><p class="p2"></p><p class="p1">When we're with suffering, it's as if we are with a child that's very unhappy. If the child is wailing and wriggling, wanting to get away, wanting something but it doesn't know what, we kindly hold the child. Sometimes we can experience our minds as the child and the awareness as the mother. The child of the mind can be really hurting and screaming, "I can't bear this. I'm hopeless!" Or, "No one is there for me," or just an unnameable pain that seems so familiar, so ancient, and so intractable. But the mother, our aware, present heart, just sits it out and waits patiently for the deeper truth to emerge. She is breathing with the pain while gently holding the mind and body with kind awareness. Then something happens; something beyond the re-activity of the mind. Instead the heart softens. It sees its own nature: spacious, non-suffering, peaceful, and timeless. Here is freedom. Here we find the courage to bear suffering in order to overcome it.<br><br><em>All the world is full of suffering. It is also full of overcoming.</em></p><p class="p3" style="text-align: right;">—Helen Keller</p><p class="p3" style="text-align: left;"><strong>In January, Kittisaro and Thanissara will be leading a <a href="http://www.tricycle.com/retreats" target="_blank">Tricycle Retreat</a>&nbsp;on the topic of <em>papanca</em>—"conceptual proliferation," or the well-known tendency of the mind to overcomplicate every matter at hand. <a href="https://subscribe.tricycle.com/TRI/?f=join" target="_blank">Subscribe now</a> as a Supporting or Sustaining Member to gain access to this retreat along with the over 50 others that make up our <a href="http://www.tricycle.com/retreats" target="_blank">retreat archive</a>.</strong></p><p class="p1"><strong>Thanissara</strong> began her Theravada Buddhist practice in 1975. Shortly thereafter she spent 12 years as a nun, during which she co-founded the Chithurst Monastery and Amaravati Buddhist Monastery. In 2002, she authored a book of poems entitled <i>Garden of the Midnight Rosary</i>.</p><p class="p3" style="text-align: left;">From&nbsp;<em>Listening to the Heart: A Contemplative Journey to Engaged Buddhism&nbsp;</em>by Kittisaro and Thanissara. Copyright&nbsp;© 2014 by Kittisaro and Thanissara. Reprinted with permission by North Atlantic Books.&nbsp;</p><p class="p3" style="text-align: left;"><em>Image 1: Gallerystock<br></em><em>Image 2: Pushkar V/<a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/legalcode">Flickr</a><br></em><em>Image 3: Domenico/<a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/legalcode">Flickr</a></em></p> Tue, 16 Dec 2014 17:26:10 -0500 Tricycle - Awake in the World