Tricycle - Awake in the World The Online Tricycle Magazine Blog en Fri, 02 Oct 2015 14:03:18 -0400 Fri, 02 Oct 2015 17:18:43 -0400 Naropa’s Five-Acre Conundrum <p><img src="" width="570" height="379" style="display: block; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;"></p><p>Activists delivered a petition to Naropa University last week demanding the college withdraw its permit application to remove about 100 prairie dogs from its campus by means of “lethal control.” The online petition, organized by the Colorado organization WildLands Defense, has now garnered a total of almost 170,000 signatures. The liberal arts college, founded by the late Tibetan lama Chögyam Trungpa in 1974, has held its ground, even as the pesky critters continue to burrow underfoot.</p><p>To get Naropa’s side on the matter, I call Bill Rigler in the office of public relations at Naropa. The folks who’ve started the petition, he says, “don’t even live in Boulder—they live a hundred miles away.” He mentions this at least twice.</p><p>I’m reminded of arguments I’ve had with the Forest Service over clear-cutting and road-building, where it was also often argued that people who didn’t live right in the affected forest shouldn’t have a voice on matters of water quality, forest health, wildlife, or wilderness there. Hearing this prejudice sniffed at here touched in me a nerve of so many other wrongs and the justifications given.</p><p>Bill, after telling me that contrary to popular belief, Naropa is not a Buddhist university, but “Buddhist-inspired,” explains that the burrows&nbsp;would prevent construction on five acres of land. Naropa has been looking for relocation sites (for the prairie dogs, not the university) for four years, he tells me, and has spent $100,000 on the process.</p><p>“I can guarantee there is no other group that has invested such compassion and intent on this issue,” he says.</p><p>Couldn’t they just get some ferrets to help things out—maybe endangered black-footed ferrets? I’d definitely want to go to, or teach at, a university where red-tailed hawks sat in cottonwood branches and dived for the cute little prairie dogs. A campus with a five-acre courtyard where people could sit on benches and read, study, or just chill. Or meditate, I guess.</p><p>But maybe I’m being fanciful. Maybe there’s no longer space or time in modern life for a Garden of Eden. Two hundred fifty burrows; about one hundred animals.</p><p>Bill says it’s not their intent to kill the prairie dogs.</p><p>“Can you state that you won’t?” I ask.</p><p>“It’s not our intent,” is all he can say. But I don’t understand why they need the permit unless to kill them—possibly by rodenticide, a bad way to go, I imagine.</p><p>I believe him, certainly, when he says at this time they do not intend to kill the prairie dogs. I just wish they’d say they won’t do it. I wonder if it’s politics, part of the necessary hoops—creating uproar, or at least a small stink—in order to get the city of Boulder or the state more involved in finding a relocation site, which will be really expensive.</p><p>But maybe the dogs just need to eat their poison so we can get on with the excavation of our Buddhist-inspired future, all of us. Certainly, we are all complicit; certainly, our choices and consumptions, our existence, no matter how muted or considered, displaces others. Being mindful of this is nice but doesn’t fix it. Maybe that’s why this little five-acre conundrum is attractive in the media right now. Win or lose, right or wrong, it doesn’t change the world. It’s small, symbolic. It just needs extra concrete, a little extra money. In the meantime, the world rolls on, and we look away.<br><br><b>Rick Bass</b> is the author of over 30 books of fiction and nonfiction, including the forthcoming “For a Little While: New & Selected Stories” (Little, Brown). He lives in Montana, where he is the writer-in-residence at Montana State University and a board member of the Yaak Valley Forest Council.</p><p><em>[ Greg ]/Flickr</em></p> 46878 Fri, 02 Oct 2015 14:03:18 -0400 Tricycle - Awake in the World Talking Buddha, Talking Christ <p class="p1"><img src="" width="570" height="380" style="margin: 7px auto; vertical-align: middle; display: block;"></p><p class="p1">Popemania may have moved on to the afterlife, but our memories of it endure: the wide-eyed references to Francis as a "rockstar," the jet-black Fiat, and yes, even the <a href="" target="_blank">Popemojis</a>. Papal pomp aside, perhaps the most memorable moment of the visit was the Pope's address to a joint session of Congress, in which he spoke pointedly about climate change, the arms trade, and the death penalty, among other issues.&nbsp;</p><p class="p2"></p><p class="p1">In an effort to summon the better angels of our nature as well as the ones hovering idly atop a gridlocked Washington D.C., Francis structured the speech around the legacies and lessons of four influential Americans: Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King Jr., Dorothy Day, and Thomas Merton. Many understood his choice of the first three—a revered president, a civil rights leader, and a Catholic social justice icon—but expressed befuddlement at the last: a Trappist monk who spent the bulk of his adult life at an abbey in rural Kentucky.&nbsp;</p><p class="p2"></p><p class="p1">In his <a href="" target="_blank">speech</a>, Francis explained his selection this way: "Merton was above all a man of prayer, a thinker who challenged the certitudes of his time and opened new horizons for souls and for the Church. He was also a man of dialogue, a promoter of peace between peoples and religions."</p><p class="p2"></p><p class="p1">This description of Merton—as a contemplative within <i>and</i> a bridge-builder without—may not have resonated much with America's political heavyweights. But it's safe to say that the Pope was aiming his words not at our politicians in particular, but to Buddhists and other spiritual practitioners all over the world.&nbsp;Through his willingness to engage publicly with prominent Buddhist teachers like D. T. Suzuki and Thich Nhat Hanh, Merton became instrumental in popularizing Buddhism in the West, especially Zen. He set aside personal and parochial bias in order to elevate a religious tradition that he respected as much as his own. For that reason, Francis could not have selected anyone better to, as he put it, "inspire [us], even amid conflicts, and in the here and now of each day, to draw upon our deepest cultural reserves."&nbsp;</p><p class="p2"></p><p class="p1">Born in France and raised Anglican, Merton first came across Eastern spirituality in 1937 at the age of 22, when he read Aldous Huxley's <i>Ends and Means</i>, a philosophical treatise that extols the mystical insight derived from an ascetic lifestyle. Then a student at Columbia University, Merton soon sought out the guidance of a Hindu monk named Mahanambrata Bramachari who, unexpectedly enough, advised the young student to read the mystical literature within Merton's own tradition. That path led Merton to convert to Catholicism in 1939 and take residence at the Abbey of Gethsemani in New Haven, Kentucky two years later.&nbsp;</p><p class="p2"></p><p class="p1">His interest in Eastern spiritual traditions, however, remained. Merton struck up a friendship with Zen teacher and scholar D. T. Suzuki, which culminated in the publishing of a joint book entitled <i>Zen and the Birds of Appetite </i>(1968). Other interfaith books by Merton, like <i>The Way of Chuang Tzu </i>(1965)<i> </i>and <i>Mystics and Zen Masters </i>(1967), proved crucial in bringing Buddhism to a wider audience during a time when Westerners, especially young ones, were particularly receptive.&nbsp;</p><p class="p2"></p><p class="p1">An ardent critic of the Vietnam War, Merton also became fast friends with the Vietnamese monk Thich Nhat Hanh, who himself garnered international attention for advocating that both sides pursue peace. In 1966, while on a tour of the United States to build opposition to the war, Thich Nhat Hanh stopped at Gethsemani Abbey to speak with Merton. It was the first and only time they met. Shortly after the meeting, at a time when Vietnamese government officials were threatening to block the Buddhist monk's safe return home, Merton published an essay entitled "<a href="" target="_blank">Nhat Hanh Is My Brother</a>," which emphasized how the points of commonality between the two religious figures were indicative of a broader international coalition for peace: &nbsp;</p><p class="p2"></p><blockquote><p class="p1">I have said Nhat Hanh is my brother, and it is true. We are both monks, and we have lived the monastic life about the same number of years. We are both poets, both existentialists. I have far more in common with Nhat Hanh than I have with many Americans, and I do not hesitate to say it. It is vitally important that such bonds be admitted. They are the bonds of a new solidarity and a new brotherhood which is beginning to be evident on all the five continents and which cuts across all political, religious and cultural lines to unite young men and women in every country in something that is more concrete than an ideal and more alive than a program.</p></blockquote><p class="p2">Having read and written about the overlap between Catholicism and Buddhism for many years, Merton developed an overwhelming desire to travel to Asia. In 1968, the Abbey granted him permission to do so. On his travels, he met the Tibetan Buddhist teacher Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche, whom he <a href="" target="_blank">described</a> as a "completely marvelous person . . . without front or artifice, deep, awake, wise."&nbsp;</p><p class="p2"></p><p class="p1">On the same trip, Merton visited with His Holiness the Dalai Lama, an interaction that <i>Tricycle </i><a href="" target="_blank">explored</a> in an interview with Harold Talbott, a fellow Catholic convert who was studying with the Dalai Lama at the time and witnessed the exchange. Talbott described the conversation:</p><p class="p2"></p><blockquote><p class="p1">It was about how you live the contemplative life in the West and what you do to make it possible in this modern world to live the life of a monk in the West. How do you stave off spiritual annihilation? These conversations were very much Merton equipping himself with the transmission of Buddhism from the Dalai Lama and very much the Dalai Lama equipping himself with the low-down from a reliable guide.</p></blockquote><p class="p2">Though he spent most of his life discussing Zen Buddhism in particular, Merton used the trip as an opportunity to gain understanding of other traditions. Unfortunately Merton's wider relationship to Buddhism would not deepen, as he died only weeks later in an accident in his hotel room in Bangkok, Thailand. It occurred 27 years to the day after his entrance into Abbey of Gethsemani. He was 53 years old.&nbsp;</p><p class="p2"></p><p class="p1">Toward the end of his speech, Pope Francis credited Merton for his "capacity for dialogue and openness to God." The two traits are both exemplified in a famous <a href="" target="_blank">passage</a> from <i>Zen and the Birds of Appetite</i>:</p><p class="p2"></p><blockquote><p class="p1">Both Christianity and Buddhism show that suffering remains inexplicable, most of all for the man who attempts to explain it in order to evade it, or who thinks explanation itself is an escape. Suffering is not a ' problem' as if it were something we could stand outside of and control. Suffering, as both Christianity and Buddhism see, each in its own way, is part of our very ego-identity and empirical existence, and the only thing to do about it is to plunge right into the middle of contradiction and confusion in order to be transformed by what Zen calls 'the great death' and Christianity calls ' dying and rising with Christ.'&nbsp;</p></blockquote><p class="p2">Merton's work continues at the <a href="" target="_blank">Thomas Merton Center</a>, an organization in Pittsburgh, PA that advocates on issues ranging from fossil fuel divestment to ending drone warfare.<br><br><strong>Max Zahn&nbsp;</strong>is <em>Tricycle</em>'s editorial assistant.&nbsp;</p><p class="p2"><em>European Pressphoto Agency/Alamy Stock Photo</em></p> 46867 Wed, 30 Sep 2015 15:35:12 -0400 Tricycle - Awake in the World Focus Comes First <p><img src="" width="570" height="380" style="margin: 7px auto; vertical-align: middle; display: block;"></p><p>Perhaps no aspect of the Buddha's teaching has been more misunderstood and neglected than right concentration. Yet right concentration is an integral part of the Buddha's path to awakening. It is, for instance, one of the qualities cultivated on the eightfold path.</p><p>In general, Buddhist teachings can be divided into three parts: <i>sila</i>, <i>samadhi</i>, and <i>prajna</i>: ethical conduct, concentration, and wisdom. Or to put it into the vernacular: clean up your act, concentrate your mind, and use your concentrated mind to investigate reality.</p><p>The Buddha thus makes it clear that a concentrated mind is necessary for the proper examination of reality. The <i>jhanas</i> are the method he taught over and over again for developing such a mind.</p><p>The word <i>jhana</i> literally means "meditation.'' In the sutras, there are four jhanas and four immaterial states. In modern times these eight states are simply called the eight jhanas. Thus the jhanas are eight altered states of consciousness, brought on via concentration and each yielding more concentration than the previous. Upon emerging from the jhanas—preferably the fourth or higher—you begin doing an insight practice with your jhanically concentrated, indistractable mind. This is the heart of the method the Buddha discovered. It reminds us that these states are not an end in and of themselves—they are simply a very useful way of preparing your mind, so you can more effectively examine reality and discover the deeper truths that lead to liberation.</p><p>The method for entering the jhanas begins with generating access concentration. The phrase <i>access concentration</i> means concentration strong enough to provide access to the jhanas. It is distinguished from momentary concentration—which is less concentrated—and from fixed or one-pointed concentration, which is the stronger concentration associated with the jhanas.</p><p>You begin by sitting in a comfortable, upright position. It needs to be comfortable, because if there is too much pain, the unwholesome mental state of aversion will naturally develop. You may be able to sit in a way that looks really good, but if your knees are killing you, you will be in<b> </b>pain and you will not experience any jhanas. So you need to find some way to sit that is comfortable. But you also need to be upright and alert, because that tends to get your energy flowing in a way that keeps you awake. On the other hand, if you are too comfortable, you might be overcome by sloth and torpor, which is also an unwholesome mental state that of course is totally useless for entering the jhanas.</p><p>So the first prerequisite for entering the jhanas is to put your body in a position that you can hold for the length of the meditation period. If you have back problems or some other obstacle that prevents you from sitting upright, then you need to find some other alert position you can maintain comfortably.</p><p>Now, this is not to say you cannot move. It may be that you have taken a position and you discover something: “My knee is killing me; I have to move because there is too much aversion.” If you have to move, you have to move. Just be mindful of the moving. The intention to move will be there before the movement. Notice that intention; then move very mindfully, and then resettle yourself into the new position; finally notice the mind working to get back to that place of calm it had before you moved.</p><p>This process encourages you to find a position you can keep, because you'll notice the amount of disturbance that even a slight movement generates. And in order to become concentrated enough to have the jhanas manifest, you need a very calm mind.</p><p>Generating access concentration can be done in a number of ways. A common means for doing so is through following the breath, a practice known as <i>anapanasati.</i> The first word of this Pali compound, <i>anapana</i>, means "in-breath and out-breath," while the word <i>sati</i> means "mindfulness." The practice is therefore "mindfulness of breathing." When practicing anapanasati, you put your attention on the physical sensations associated with breathing. It is extremely important to not control the breath in any way—just pay attention to the breath as it naturally occurs. If you control the breath, it does make it easier to focus. But it makes it too easy, so you won't generate sufficient concentration to enter the jhanas.</p><p>It is probably better if you can observe the physical sensations at the nostrils or on the area between the nose and the upper lip, rather than at the abdomen or elsewhere. It is better because it is more difficult to do; therefore, you have to concentrate more. Since you are trying to generate access concentration, you take something that is doable, though not terribly easy to do, and then you do it.</p><p>When noticing the natural, uncontrolled breath at the nose, you have to pay attention very carefully. In doing so you will notice the tactile sensations, and then your mind will wander off. Then you'll bring it back, and it will wander off; then you'll bring it back, and it will wander off. Eventually, though maybe not the next time you sit in meditation, maybe not even tomorrow or next week or next month, you'll find that the mind locks onto the breath. Any thoughts you have are relegated to the background. The thoughts might be something like, "Wow, I'm really with the breath now," as opposed to, "When I get to Hawaii, the first thing I'm going to do is…"</p><p>Whatever method you use to generate access concentration, the sign that you've gotten to access concentration is that you are fully present with the object of meditation. So if you are doing <i>metta</i> (lovingkindness meditation), you're just fully there with the feeling of metta; you're not getting distracted. If you're doing the body-sweeping practice, you're fully there with the sensations in the body as you sweep your attention over the body. You're not thinking extraneous thoughts; you're not planning; you're not worrying; you're not angry; you're not wanting something. You are just fully there with whatever your object is.</p><p>As you start to become concentrated, you might notice various lights and colors even though your eyes are closed. These are signs that you are starting to get concentrated. There is generally nothing useful that can be done—just ignore them. When you actually do get quite concentrated, the random blobs and laser shows will disappear. They might be replaced by a diffused white light, which is a sign of good concentration. It always appears for some people, it never appears for others, and many people find it sometimes appears and sometimes does not appear. But again, there's nothing you need to do with that sign either—it's just a sign. Remain focused on your meditation object.</p><p>Not everyone who undertakes jhana practice becomes proficient in this skill, but the only way to find out if it is something that works for you is to try learning it. It is indeed learnable by serious lay practitioners as well as by modern monks and nuns.</p><p>May your journey on the spiritual path be of great fruit and great benefit to all beings.<br><br><em>If you'd like to learn more about concentration practice, read&nbsp;</em>Tricycle<em>'s</em><em>&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">interview with Brasington</a> as well as other articles that appeared in our Winter 2004&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">special section</a> on the jhanas.</em></p><p><b>Leigh Brasington </b>studied the jhanas with the late Venerable Ayya Khema and was empowered to teach by Jack Kornfield, cofounder of the Insight Meditation Society, in Barre, Massachusetts, and Spirit Rock Meditation Center, in Woodacre, California. <em>Right Concentration</em> is Brasington’s first book.&nbsp;</p><p>From <em>Right Concentration</em> by Leigh Brasington, © 2015 by Leigh Brasington. Reprinted by arrangement with <a href="" target="_blank">Shambhala Publications, Inc.</a>, Boston, MA.&nbsp;</p><p><em><em>Tim Cummins/Flickr</em></em></p><p><em>&nbsp;</em></p><hr><p><strong>More at Tricycle:</strong></p><table border="0" cellpadding="8" cellspacing="10" width="550"><tbody><tr></tr><tr><td scope="col" valign="top"><p><a href=""><img src="" alt="" width="270" height="180" border="0" style="display: block; border: none; outline: none; text-decoration: none;" class="colimg2"></a></p><span> <b>The “Problem” of Religious Diversity </b></span><p align="left"><a href="" style="font-size: 12px; font: normal 11px/12px arial,tahoma,sans-serif; color: #ffffff; text-decoration: none; border-radius: 3px; -webkit-border-radius: 3px; -moz-border-radius: 3px; background-color: #d7272e; border-top: 6px solid #d7272e; border-bottom: 6px solid #d7272e; border-right: 14px solid #d7272e; font-weight: bold; border-left: 14px solid #d7272e; display: inline-block;">READ THE POST →</a></p></td><td scope="col" valign="top"><p><a href=""><img src="" alt="" width="270" height="180" border="0" style="display: block; border: none; outline: none; text-decoration: none;" class="colimg2"></a></p><span> <b>5 Reasons I Haven’t Settled On a Buddhist School </b></span><p align="left"><a href="" style="font-size: 12px; font: normal 11px/12px arial,tahoma,sans-serif; color: #ffffff; text-decoration: none; border-radius: 3px; -webkit-border-radius: 3px; -moz-border-radius: 3px; background-color: #d7272e; border-top: 6px solid #d7272e; border-bottom: 6px solid #d7272e; border-right: 14px solid #d7272e; font-weight: bold; border-left: 14px solid #d7272e; display: inline-block;">READ THE POST →</a></p></td></tr></tbody></table> 46863 Mon, 28 Sep 2015 13:54:41 -0400 Tricycle - Awake in the World Dalai Lama Says If Successor Is Female, She Must Be Very Attractive <p><img src="" width="570" height="376" style="display: block; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;"></p><p>In a recent interview with the BBC, the 14th Dalai Lama, the spiritual leader of the Tibetan people, expresses some controversial ideas about female leadership and the gender's innate inclination toward compassion. (<a href="" target="_blank"><i>Jezebel</i></a><i>&nbsp;</i>was right on it right away.)</p><p>At around the 4:50 mark in the video (below), when journalist Clive Myrie asks whether the Dalai Lama's 15th reincarnation could be a woman, he responds with an enthusiastic "Yes!" explaining that females "<i>biologically</i> [have] more potential to show affection . . . and compassion."</p><p>But he soon qualifies his endorsement, saying, "If female Dalai Lama come, the face must be very very . . . should be very attractive."</p><p>When Myrie, in disbelief, repeats the Dalai Lama's statement to get clarification, the Tibetan monk sticks to his guns: "I mean if female Dalai Lama come, then that female must be very attractive. Otherwise, not much use." No miscommunication, it seems.</p><p>This provokes a bout of laughter. "Really?" tests the giggly journalist. "You're joking, I'm assuming . . . or you're not joking?"&nbsp;</p><p>"No. True!" a visibly confused Dalai Lama answers tersely.</p><p>The two go on to laugh off the incident after the DL cracks a joke attributing his rockstar status to his good looks.</p><p>This wouldn't be the first time the religious leader has taken a controversial position that shocked his Western progressive/liberal followers. Back in 2009, <i>Tricycle</i> editor and publisher <a href="" target="_blank">James Shaheen gave voice</a> to much disappointment within the Buddhist community regarding the Dalai Lama's rejection of same-sex relationships.&nbsp;(The Tibetan leader has since warmed up a bit to the idea.)</p><p>Also somewhat off-putting is his reason for supporting a female successor in the belief that women are biologically more compassionate than men. "According to scientists," <a href="" target="_blank">he told Larry King</a> several months earlier, "women have more sensitivity." Scientific data, however, generally<a href="" target="_blank"> does not support such claims</a>. It also flies in the face of contemporary gender studies.</p><p>It's unclear what the Dalai Lama intended by his comments, but the reaction, at least among the Western media, seems clear enough already.</p><center><iframe width="560" height="315" src="" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen=""></iframe></center><p></p><p><strong>Alex Caring-Lobel</strong> is&nbsp;<em>Tricycle</em>'s associate editor.</p><p><em>Getty Images</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=""><img src="" alt="" width="270" height="150" border="0" style="display: block; border: none; outline: none; text-decoration: none;"></a></p><span> <b> BLOG: THE END OF THE DALAI LAMA?</b></span><p align="left"><a href="" style="font-size: 12px; font: normal 11px/12px arial,tahoma,sans-serif; color: #ffffff; text-decoration: none; border-radius: 3px; -webkit-border-radius: 3px; -moz-border-radius: 3px; background-color: #d7272e; border-top: 6px solid #d7272e; border-bottom: 6px solid #d7272e; border-right: 14px solid #d7272e; font-weight: bold; border-left: 14px solid #d7272e; display: inline-block;">READ THE POST →</a></p></td><td valign="top" scope="col"><p><a href=""><img src="" alt="" width="270" height="150" border="0" style="display: block; border: none; outline: none; text-decoration: none;" class="colimg2"></a></p><span> <b> BLOG: STEPHEN COLBERT: THE 15TH DALAI LAMA?</b></span><p align="left"><a href="" style="font-size: 12px; font: normal 11px/12px arial,tahoma,sans-serif; color: #ffffff; text-decoration: none; border-radius: 3px; -webkit-border-radius: 3px; -moz-border-radius: 3px; background-color: #d7272e; border-top: 6px solid #d7272e; border-bottom: 6px solid #d7272e; border-right: 14px solid #d7272e; font-weight: bold; border-left: 14px solid #d7272e; display: inline-block;">READ THE POST →</a></p></td></tr></tbody></table> 46851 Tue, 22 Sep 2015 17:10:30 -0400 Tricycle - Awake in the World When Science Met Buddhism <p><img src="" width="570" height="666" style="display: block; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;"></p><p align="center"><b>Being Human in a Buddhist World</b><br> By Janet Gyatso<br> Columbia University Press, 2015<br> 544 pp., 51 illustrations; $45.00 (Cloth)</p><p>How is a devout Buddhist scholar to react when his or her allegiance to scripture and tradition is challenged by empirical, scientific knowledge? A version of this question was posed to the 14th Dalai Lama at one of the early Mind and Life gatherings, which bring Buddhist adepts and scientists into dialogue, but the issues that underpin it are far older than recent “East meets West” encounters. Navigating the contradictions between medical and religious wisdom, intellectuals of early modern Tibet found themselves in an epistemic struggle not unlike that of the protagonists of the European Enlightenment. Janet Gyatso, Hershey Professor of Buddhist Studies at Harvard Divinity School, studies the Tibetan struggle between early modern and religious values in her new book on Tibetan medicine, <i>Being Human in a Buddhist World</i>.</p><p>Tibetan medicine, believed to have integrated medical knowledge of the Indian Ayurvedic, Chinese, Tibetan Bön, and other Central Asian traditions, is not a subject that has received much attention in Western scholarship. Medical knowledge <i>per se</i> is not, however, the primary topic of the book. Rather, Gyatso gives a careful introduction to the complex history of knowledge<i> about</i> medicine in a world in which vested religious, political, and scientific interests vie for dominance and control.</p><p>Tensions between religious authority and scientific empirical findings appear even in the foundational text of Tibetan medicine, the <i>Four Treatises</i>, which claims to contain verbatim instructions from the historical Buddha, conferred to an audience at Tanaduk, the “city of medicine.” The 16th-century medical scholar Zurkharwa Lodro Gyelpo challenged the text’s status as “Buddha word,” implying that it must be of Tibetan rather than Indian provenance—a serious allegation in the Tibetan Buddhist world, in which scriptural authority is derived from the authenticity of its source. Gyatso gives a thorough account of the dilemma facing the scholars who had to play the double role of protecting science from having to defend statements that contradict empirical or historical realities while upholding respect and devotion for the transmission of authoritative scripture.</p><p>The picture is further complicated when political interests come into play. Desi Sangye Gyatso (1653–1705), regent of the 5th Dalai Lama, worked to consolidate the Great Fifth’s power by promoting him not only as a caring head of state but also as an embodiment of enlightened compassion and a patron of medical knowledge. Zurkharwa’s assessment of the <i>Four Treatises</i> as a Tibetan composition rather than the Buddha’s word tarnished the glorious image of the Great Fifth as a benefactor and cultivator of sacred Buddhist medical science. In an attempt to weaken Zurkharwa’s influence, Desi Sangye Gyatso launched a sharp critique of his scholarly work and halted its further publication.<b></b></p><p>The Desi is the central figure of Part I of the book, “In the Capital.” The reader is introduced into the world of Tibetan medicine via the extraordinary set of 79 medical scroll paintings (“thangkas”) that the Desi commissioned to illustrate his medical treatise, the <i>Blue Beryl</i>. Gyatso’s appreciative yet discriminating observations bring these paintings to life. Details of dress, hairstyle, and facial expression make the paintings more than medical models. A selection of exquisite details of the thangka paintings, presented in full color, complement Gyatso’s meticulous analysis. (The entire collection of paintings is published as <i>Tibetan Medical Paintings, Illustrations to the Blue Beryl Treatise of Sangye Gyamtso,</i>&nbsp;edited by Yuri Parfionovitch, et al.)</p><p>The Desi’s accomplishments include the establishment of the medical college of Chakpori in Lhasa and the block print publication of a definitive edition of the <i>Four Treatises.</i> Both feats were motivated by the view that medicine stands on a par with the Buddha’s teachings, and that the ruler is responsible for caring for his subjects by providing medicine “just as a bodhisattva or buddha does for sentient beings.”</p><p>In Part II, “Bones of Contention,” we leave the political arena and delve into discussions about medical issues in which scriptural knowledge and empirical observation clash. The chapters deal with several different topics: the debate on the root text’s origin; the relationship between tantric and medical channels; and the heart’s position and pulse as an early indication of an embryo’s gender. The protagonist of these chapters is Zurkharwa, portrayed as a man of integrity in the fields of science and religion. His work is brought into conversation with earlier medical discussions regarding tantric channels and their associated winds, drops, and chakras, the incontestable reality on which tantric yogic practices depend.</p><p>As doctors began dissecting bodies for medical research, these channels and chakras described in tantric practice manuals could not be found. With the medical mentality in Tibet shifting from theorizing to direct observation, some scholars insisted on privileging tantric truths, thereby “muddying the waters of medical practice with a tantric overlay.”</p><p>Zurkharwa’s exegesis, however, in what Gyatso describes as a “kind of postempirical turn,” allows tantric and medical knowledge to coexist without invalidating one another. Zurkharwa dismisses the possibility that tantric channels constitute verifiable physical phenomena, redeploying them as categories to explain other phenomena, like gender differences, instead. Sexual identity, in his view, is not a question of genital anatomy alone but the result of a complex interplay of dynamisms that find symbolic expression in the three channels. Zurkharwa thus finds an intelligent middle way between uncritical repetition of tradition and wholesale dismissal.</p><p>Part III begins with a chapter focusing in on the issue of gender. The study starts by pointing out the androcentric and misogynist statements we would expect from a patriarchal culture, but goes on to uncover refreshing insights into gender equality, the existence of a third gender between the poles of male and female, and the interestingly modern notion that gender is not necessarily identical with anatomy—just because you have a female body does not mean that you have a female personality.</p><p>The chapter that follows examines the professional ethics of physicians by juxtaposing human dharma with the true dharma of the Buddha. While medical doctors would ideally be completely devoted to healing their patients, they are also bound by considerations of reputation, income, and access to tools and medications—all part of the materiality of this world. Here, as in previous chapters, the author presents the fine interplay between the concepts of the classical, traditional thought of buddhadharma with the realities of the material, empirical, medical world—all of which she subsumes under the rubric of “being human.”</p><p>Gyatso’s book will interest not only scholars of Buddhism, Tibetology, and medicine but also those who find themselves pulled between the poles of scientific and religious thinking. Through the writings of early modern Tibetan medical scholars, Gyatso shows that “being human” requires the effort to reflect in a very nuanced way on reality, the capacity to make sense of inconsistencies, and the ability to benefit from tradition without being fossilized within it.</p><p>The current Dalai Lama embodied this spirit in his response to his Mind and Life interlocutor, holding that doctrinal statements should be revised when refuted by scientific data. He owes such finesse to the many, such as Zurkharwa, who came before him.<br><br><b>Julia Stenzel</b> is a doctoral student of Indo-Tibetan Buddhist Studies at McGill University in Montreal, Canada.&nbsp;</p><p><i>Image: The Medicine Buddha in the medical city of Tanaduk<b></b></i></p><hr><p><strong>More at Tricycle:</strong></p><table border="0" cellpadding="8" cellspacing="10" width="550"><tbody><tr></tr><tr><td scope="col" valign="top"><p><a href=""><img src="" alt="" width="270" height="180" border="0" style="display: block; border: none; outline: none; text-decoration: none;" class="colimg2"></a></p><span> <b>The “Problem” of Religious Diversity </b></span><p align="left"><a href="" style="font-size: 12px; font: normal 11px/12px arial,tahoma,sans-serif; color: #ffffff; text-decoration: none; border-radius: 3px; -webkit-border-radius: 3px; -moz-border-radius: 3px; background-color: #d7272e; border-top: 6px solid #d7272e; border-bottom: 6px solid #d7272e; border-right: 14px solid #d7272e; font-weight: bold; border-left: 14px solid #d7272e; display: inline-block;">READ THE POST →</a></p></td><td scope="col" valign="top"><p><a href=""><img src="" alt="" width="270" height="180" border="0" style="display: block; border: none; outline: none; text-decoration: none;" class="colimg2"></a></p><span> <b>5 Reasons I Haven’t Settled On a Buddhist School </b></span><p align="left"><a href="" style="font-size: 12px; font: normal 11px/12px arial,tahoma,sans-serif; color: #ffffff; text-decoration: none; border-radius: 3px; -webkit-border-radius: 3px; -moz-border-radius: 3px; background-color: #d7272e; border-top: 6px solid #d7272e; border-bottom: 6px solid #d7272e; border-right: 14px solid #d7272e; font-weight: bold; border-left: 14px solid #d7272e; display: inline-block;">READ THE POST →</a></p></td></tr></tbody></table> 46849 Tue, 22 Sep 2015 10:25:32 -0400 Tricycle - Awake in the World Laurie Anderson Partners with Former Gitmo Detainee in Newest Work <p><img src="" width="570" height="453" style="display: block; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;"></p><p>In her new work, <em>HABEAS CORPUS</em>&nbsp;(October 2–4 in the Park Avenue Armory’s Drill Hall), artist Laurie Anderson has partnered with former Guantanamo Bay detainee Mohammed el Gharani to explore the story of his seven years of being interrogated and tortured at the prison camp. The work features an installation and performances, and fuses different elements of film, sculpture, music, and video.</p><p>Since all ex-detainees from Guantanamo Bay are currently barred from entering the United States, el Gharani will appear as part of this installation live from West Africa, beamed into the Armory Drill Hall via advanced streaming techniques and three-dimensional imaging. It will be the first real-time meeting between a former detainee and American audiences.</p><p>There will be installation viewing hours from 12 p.m. to 7 p.m. and performances in the evenings by Laurie Anderson, Merrill Garbus, Shahzad Ismaily, and Omar Souleyman. During the daytime viewing hours, visitors are encouraged to use the drill hall as a place to meditate on time, identity, surveillance, and freedom. And, if visitors are so inclined, they are also welcome to use the space to actually practice meditation. “I think meditators are the people who will understand this best,” Anderson says.<br><br><b>You’re going to beam an image of el Gharani into the Armory’s Drill Hall? </b>Yes. He lives in West Africa now, so he’ll be sitting in a studio there, without moving, for three days. His image will be wrapped onto a very large statue of him, the size of the Lincoln Memorial. It will be like a living statue.</p><p>The Armory’s Drill Hall is a huge, cavernous space. What we’re trying to do is create a meditation space. My dream is that groups of people will come and meditate there. I think it’s a good way to express a kind of solidarity with el Gharani.<br><br><b>Why do you want meditators to come? </b>Meditators are well suited for holding the complexity of a situation like Guantanamo and making up their own minds. And meditators practice looking into delusion and it’s delusional what we’re doing. The war is delusional. The endless War on Terror is delusional. What do you do in the face of chaos and fear? It’s a big question for meditators. Do you up the security or do you try to have a more open attitude? <b></b></p><p>As a Buddhist my response is always to try to do what my teacher Mingyur Rinpoche says, which is, “try to feel sad without being sad.”<br><br><b>What does he mean by that? </b>The world is filled with sadness and suffering. And if you try to push it away, you will be very unsuccessful. It will come and bite you. So you can try to accept and feel it without becoming it. I think meditators are extremely well equipped to understand el Gharani’s story. <br><br><b>Is his story going to be told there or is he just going to be sitting still while his image is projected onto a statue of himself? </b>Yes, he’s going to speak. He’s going to be taking breaks—because, as every meditator knows, it’s very hard to sit for that many hours. And during those breaks we’ll go to playback where he’ll be speaking about some of his experiences. In an adjoining room, there’ll also be a film of him talking. Initially this was going to be a silent witness project, but because he’s so articulate, I thought, “Whoa, he has to speak.” <br><br><b>If your primary goal is telling el Gharani’s story, why didn’t you simply write it down? Is the statue, space, and music really necessary?</b> Sometimes a giant, blue painting will give me the feeling of freedom in a more immediate way than a long essay about how to be free. As an artist, I believe in intuition and the senses. I'm afraid of rhetoric.</p><p>When you go into a big, giant, empty drill hall and you see something the size of the Lincoln Memorial that’s living and looking back at you in real time, that’s a very different confrontation than reading words on a page. And sometimes, because we’re so tapped into all of this information, we think we know stuff. But you forget to feel overwhelmed, you forget to experience things for yourself.</p><p>For me, the most inspiring teaching of the Buddha is: Don’t believe anybody, including the experts, even if they’re angels. Open your eyes and look for yourself.</p><p><i>For tickets to</i> <a href="" target="_blank">HABEAS CORPUS</a><i> visit <a href="" target="_blank"></a>.</i><br><br><strong>Sam Mowe</strong> is the Communications Manager at the <a href="" target="_blank">Garrison Institute</a>. This post first appeared on the Garrison Institute Blog.</p><p><em>Photograph by Tatijana Shoan</em></p><hr><p><strong>More at Tricycle:</strong></p><table border="0" cellpadding="8" cellspacing="10" width="550"><tbody><tr></tr><tr><td scope="col" valign="top"><p><a href=""><img src="" alt="" width="270" height="180" border="0" style="display: block; border: none; outline: none; text-decoration: none;" class="colimg2"></a></p><span> <b>Meditation, According to Stock Photography</b></span><p align="left"><a href="" style="font-size: 12px; font: normal 11px/12px arial,tahoma,sans-serif; color: #ffffff; text-decoration: none; border-radius: 3px; -webkit-border-radius: 3px; -moz-border-radius: 3px; background-color: #d7272e; border-top: 6px solid #d7272e; border-bottom: 6px solid #d7272e; border-right: 14px solid #d7272e; font-weight: bold; border-left: 14px solid #d7272e; display: inline-block;">READ THE POST →</a></p></td><td scope="col" valign="top"><p><a href=""><img src="" alt="" width="270" height="180" border="0" style="display: block; border: none; outline: none; text-decoration: none;" class="colimg2"></a></p><span> <b>Buddhist Greek Life Comes to Campus</b></span><p align="left"><a href="" style="font-size: 12px; font: normal 11px/12px arial,tahoma,sans-serif; color: #ffffff; text-decoration: none; border-radius: 3px; -webkit-border-radius: 3px; -moz-border-radius: 3px; background-color: #d7272e; border-top: 6px solid #d7272e; border-bottom: 6px solid #d7272e; border-right: 14px solid #d7272e; font-weight: bold; border-left: 14px solid #d7272e; display: inline-block;">READ THE POST →</a></p></td></tr></tbody></table> 46848 Mon, 21 Sep 2015 12:00:42 -0400 Tricycle - Awake in the World Myanmar Buddhists’ Beef <p><img src="" width="570" height="380" style="display: block; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;"></p><p>Last year a Muslim businessman called Lwin Tun set up a factory in Labutta, a town in Myanmar's Ayeyarwady Delta. He spent $330,000 on buildings and cooling systems, but couldn't buy the product his factory was meant to process: meat.</p><p>That's because Labutta's seven cattle slaughterhouses, also Muslim-owned, had suddenly gone out of business. In January 2014 they had tried to renew their licenses, but local authorities had already sold them to an association led by members of the radical Buddhist group <a href="" target="_blank">Ma Ba Tha</a>.</p><p>The Muslim slaughterhouses went bust—and so, after just three months, did Lwin Tun's meat-processing factory.</p><p>Myanmar's Muslim minority make up about five percent of the country's predominantly Buddhist population, and Muslims living in the delta rely heavily on the slaughterhouse business and the beef trade.</p><p>Religious tensions simmered in Myanmar for almost half a century of military rule, boiling over in 2012, just a year after a semi-civilian government took power.</p><p>Now Muslim businesses have become the target of anti-Islamic sentiment propagated by radical Buddhists who have found a powerful voice in Myanmar's more open political landscape.</p><p>Since late 2013, a campaign supported by Ma Ba Tha<b> </b>has forced dozens of Muslim-owned slaughterhouses and beef-processing facilities across the Ayeyarwady Region to shut down, with thousands of cows seized from their Muslim owners, a Myanmar Now investigation has found.</p><p>Other Muslims whose businesses have survived have watched their incomes plummet.</p><p>Government documents obtained by Myanmar Now and interviews with officials show that Ayeyarwady Region's top officials supported the campaign against Muslim slaughterhouses.</p><p>Radical Buddhist activists also received government permission to transport hundreds of seized cows to Rakhine State in western Myanmar, the scene of violence between Rakhine Buddhists and mostly stateless Rohingya Muslims.</p><p>There, they donated the animals to Buddhists who have resettled from eastern Bangladesh.</p><p>Lwin Tun, 49, also has interests in construction, real estate and hotels in the delta and in the commercial capital Yangon. But thanks to Ma Ba Tha, he said, his business prospects in Labutta look bleak.</p><p>"Campaign activities calling for a boycott of Muslim-owned businesses have been going on in the town," he said. "Pamphlets are being handed out. Police know about it, but they don't take action."<br><br><b>Religious Freedom</b></p><p>The campaign against the slaughterhouses and beef trade threatens both livelihoods and religious freedoms, Muslims told Myanmar Now. The shortage of cattle and tightening of government restrictions prevented Muslim communities in the delta from celebrating last year's Eid al-Adha festival, where cows are slaughtered in accordance with Islamic tradition.</p><p>"This activity constitutes a direct violation of our fundamental religious rights," said Al Haji Aye Lwin, chief convener of Yangon's Islamic Centre. "I estimate (Muslim) businesses in general are losing about 30 percent of their profits."</p><p>Kyaw Sein Win, a spokesman for Ma Ba Tha at its Yangon headquarters, said saving lives was central to Buddhist philosophy.</p><p>“We are not deliberately targeting (Muslim) businesses. They would kill animals as they believe this is how they gain merit. That’s the main difference between us and them,” he told Myanmar Now in a phone interview.</p><p>Myanmar has seen a rise in sectarian tension and anti-Muslim rhetoric<b> </b>led by nationalist Buddhist movements since 2011, when the military handed power to a nominally civilian government made up of former generals. The country's faltering democratic transition will take its next step with elections on November 8, the first in decades to be contested by all main opposition parties.</p><p>Ma Ba Tha, or the Patriotic Association of Myanmar, an association born out of the Buddhist extremist movement known as 969, has gained prominence in Myanmar's nascent democracy. It was founded in June 2013, following outbreaks of violence between Buddhists and Muslims in 2012.</p><p>The group says Myanmar and Buddhism are under threat from Islam and has managed to get four so-called "Race and Religion" bills—seemingly designed to discriminate against Muslims—supported by parliament. On September 14, the group began a series of celebrations in Yangon and a number of towns to mark the success of their campaign.</p><p>At the closing of its second convention in June, which the group said was attended by 6,800 monks and laymen, Ma Ba Tha released a <a href="" target="_blank">statement</a> saying it would call on the government to ban Muslims from slaughtering animals during religious events.</p><p>Critics of Ma Ba Tha say their activities are not representative of all Buddhist clergy in Myanmar, which is <a href="" target="_blank">250,000 strong</a> according to government data. Within the monks' order, known as the Sangha, concern has been raised that Ma Ba Tha's policies do not reflect the essence of Buddhism.<br><br><b>“Practicing to Cut Our Throats”</b></p><p>Supporters of opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi say the nationalist campaign is being used by the military-linked elite to attack her and her National League for Democracy party during a crucial election year. Monks associated with Ma Ba Tha have publicly accused the NLD of failing to protect Buddhism.</p><p>While <a href="" target="_blank">calls</a> for a <a href="" target="_blank">boycott</a> of Muslim-owned businesses have been less effective in big cities, the anti-slaughtering campaign, drawing on a traditional Buddhist abhorrence of killing cows, has resonated with Buddhists in the Ayeyarwady Delta.</p><p>Here, among an expanse of paddies and waterways where most of Myanmar's rice is grown, tens of thousands of Muslims, mostly town-based traders, live among some six million rice farmers—most of them Buddhists.</p><p>Myanmar farmers traditionally keep cows and bullocks as draft animals and only sell them to slaughterhouses to raise quick cash to pay for a wedding or medical treatment. The Ma Ba Tha–backed campaign has not called on farmers to stop selling their cattle, but instead has taken over slaughterhouse licenses.</p><p>In 2014, Ma Ba Tha monks in the Ayeyarwady delta formed Jivitadana Thetkal ("Save and Rescue Lives"), appealing to monasteries in the Ayeyarwady Region to each raise about $100 from their congregation and donate it to buying up licenses.</p><p>Ma Ba Tha’s spokesman Kyaw Sein Win said: “We support this campaign by Jivitadana Thetkal. . . . Most of the monks in the Jivitadana Thetkal campaign are members of Ma Ba Tha but we don’t give any direct instructions from the headquarters.”</p><p>Radical Buddhist monks have delivered fiery sermons in delta villages to spread the idea that cattle-slaughtering was an affront to Buddhism and part of an Islamic plot to exterminate cattle.</p><p>"It's time to be alert," warn the lyrics of a song played at such events. "Buddhist monks and lay people, be no longer passive. If you are, our race and religion will cease to exist."</p><p>Pyinyeinda, 65, is one of dozens of abbots in the Ayeyarwady Region who has come out in support of the campaign.</p><p>"Our region is faced with the risk of losing all its cattle. The <i>kalars</i> have killed thousands of them," said Pyinyeinda, a monk in Athoke, using a derogatory term for people of Indian heritage. "Do you know why? They are practicing how to cut our throats."<br><br><b>Government Cooperation</b></p><p>Ma Ba Tha representatives said they have raised enough funds to buy up licenses across all 26 townships in Ayeyarwady Region, and they sometimes received government support for their plan.</p><p>Sitting at a desk piled with books for teaching children about Ma Ba Tha, Ayeyarwady Region Chief Minister Thein Aung told Myanmar Now he had approved a 50-percent discount on licenses sold to the group, and supported their raids.</p><p>"As a Buddhist, I don't approve of cattle slaughtering. Therefore, I complied with the requests of the monks leading this campaign. I have favored them to get the slaughter licenses," said the former general who was appointed as chief minister by President Thein Sein in 2011.</p><p>He said his office sends "special teams" to make arrests if campaigners provide tip-offs about supposed violations of slaughterhouse licenses by business owners.</p><p>In several delta townships, such as in Labutta, Ma Ba Tha members said they managed to buy up all licenses and put local Muslim-owned slaughterhouses out of business.</p><p>In Pantanaw Township, campaigners raised about $15,000 in donations to obtain all four slaughter licenses in 2013 at a 50-percent discount, according to Kumara, a high-profile nationalist monk from Pantanaw who is a Ma Ba Tha central committee member.</p><p>Kumara said some 80 cows were saved as a result. He said his group continued to receive discounts—this time 30 percent—for their successful bids on licenses in 2014 and 2015.</p><p>A government document obtained by Myanmar Now, marked "secret" and signed by Ayeyarwady Region Secretary Aye Kyaw on behalf of Thein Aung in November 2014, mentions that Ma Ba Tha successfully "bid on slaughter licenses in 15 townships."</p><p>In other areas, Ma Ba Tha members began to monitor and raid Muslim-owned slaughterhouses and cattle transport, claiming violations of license terms that limit how many animals can be killed.</p><p>The 2014 government document instructs administrative officials in all 26 townships to cooperate with Ma Ba Tha members who monitor slaughterhouses. The letter urges monks to refrain from getting directly involved in these activities.<br><br><b>Nighttime Raids</b></p><p>In small towns and villages dotted around the Ayeyarwady delta, few people venture out when darkness falls over the vast expanse of paddy fields and zigzagging waterways. But in Kyonpyaw Township, some 150 km west of Yangon, Win Shwe, a local Ma Ba Tha secretary, and a group of monks and laymen have been active at night.</p><p>In 2014, the group raised about $25,000 through public donations to buy up six slaughter licenses, but the most expensive license in the town remained out of their reach. So they decided to establish that the slaughterhouse was violating its license conditions.</p><p>"That slaughter house was allowed to butcher only a single cow a day. If we saw some suspicious signs such as more cows being dragged inside, then we would run into the building from our hiding place and check what was going on," he said during an interview at a local café.</p><p>"In our first two raids we found that more cows than legally permitted were being killed. So we pressured the municipal department to blacklist the Muslim owner. He was finally blacklisted and ordered to close down his slaughterhouse,” Win Shwe said proudly.</p><p>Campaigners such as Win Shwe appeared motivated by a mix of Buddhist beliefs, traditional veneration of cows, prejudice against Muslims, and a desire to fight government corruption.</p><p>The vigilante raids highlight the complex relationship between Myanmar authorities and Buddhist nationalist groups, which sometimes appear to have support from the government, while at other times are at odds with it.<br><br><b>Protecting the “Western Gate”</b></p><p>Win Shwe and his colleagues claimed that more than 4,000 live cattle had been seized in the delta since early 2014. Many were subsequently donated as draft animals to poor Ayeyarwady farmers on condition they would not be killed or sold.</p><p>But in mid-2014, according to documents obtained by Myanmar Now, campaigners received government approval for a new plan that involved sending cattle seized in the delta to Buddhist communities in Maungdaw Township, around 500 km away.</p><p>Impoverished Maungdaw, the westernmost town of Myanmar, is situated on the Myanmar-Bangladesh border in northern Rakhine State, where Muslims outnumber Buddhist Rakhines.</p><p>The border, which Ma Ba Tha likes to call the country's “Western Gate,” has been under strict government control.</p><p>In the past couple of years, hundreds of ethnic Rakhines who were living in eastern Bangladesh have resettled on the Myanmar side of the border, <a href="" target="_blank">according to media reports</a>. Meanwhile, the authorities use the term Bengali to refer to the Rohingya, implying they are illegal immigrants from <a href="" target="_blank">Bangladesh</a>.</p><p>Authorities have sent these Buddhists to live in "model villages" in Maungdaw, in what appears to be an attempt to increase the Buddhist population.</p><p>In a letter dated August 26, 2014, Ayeyarwady Region authorities notified various townships that they had approved a request by the Young Men's Buddhist Association in Yangon to gather 100 bovines and ship them from the delta's Maubin port to Maungdaw.</p><p>Win Shwe said this was "to protect the Western Gate against the influx of Muslims".</p><p>He provided Myanmar Now with photos and a video recording of a September 4 ceremony where monks, Rakhine State officials, and senior military officers attended an event to donate the cattle to Buddhist villagers in Maungdaw.</p><p>Sein Aung, who said he is a Buddhist Rakhine and a former military intelligence officer, heads the Shwepyithar Township branch office of the Young Men's Buddhist Association in Yangon.</p><p>He said he helped to ship cattle seized by Win Shwe's Ma Ba Tha branch to Maungdaw using Thuriya Sandar Win shipping company in Yangon, adding that he had coordinated the plan with Rakhine State authorities and Zaw Aye Maung, the Yangon Region Minister for Rakhine ethnic affairs. In a phone interview, Zaw Aye Maung confirmed this.</p><p>"If we don't have the Western Gate the mainland will be flooded with Bengalis [Muslims from Bangladesh]," said Sein Aung, sitting in an office lavishly decorated with nationalist materials, including flags bearing Buddhist swastikas.<br><br><b>Reputation</b></p><p>Sean Turnell, an economics professor at Sydney's Macquarie University, said the Ma Ba Tha boycott affecting Muslim businesses harmed Myanmar's international image among potential investors who are concerned about political instability.</p><p>"On a smaller scale, it seems all sorts of businesses are being impacted, from small shops, transport operators, to moneylenders," he said.</p><p>A Muslim restaurant owner in the delta town of Kyaungon said his income had dropped from about $100 to $20 per day following the boycott, and a Muslim neighbor had closed his restaurant and left.</p><p>The man, who asked not to be named, said he could no longer supply halal beef to his customers.</p><p>"You can't buy beef in the whole Ayeyarwady Region. If you want to eat halal beef you have to ask someone to bring it down from Yangon," he said in a whisper.</p><p>In front of his restaurant hung a<b> </b>huge poster with an image of a cow and a verse glorifying the animal's mythical role as "mother" to mankind, presumably put there by Ma Ba Tha sympathizers.</p><p>Most Muslims living in the Ayeyarwady delta dare not speak out against the campaign for fear of provoking Ma Ba Tha's ire. Some said the Muslim community can only lie low, hoping the current wave of fervent Buddhist nationalism subsides."We have no other country to flee to," said Khin Maung, the leader of a mosque in Kyaungon. "We are all born and raised here."</p><p align="right">—<i>Swe Win, Myanmar Now</i></p><p>&nbsp;</p><p><i>© 2015 <a href="">Myanmar Now<br><br></a>Julian Ward/Gallery Stock&nbsp;<a href=""></a></i></p><hr><p><strong>More at Tricycle:</strong></p><table border="0" cellpadding="8" cellspacing="10" width="550"><tbody><tr></tr><tr><td scope="col" valign="top"><p><a href=""><img src="" alt="" width="270" height="180" border="0" style="display: block; border: none; outline: none; text-decoration: none;" class="colimg2"></a></p><span> <b>Meditation, According to Stock Photography</b></span><p align="left"><a href="" style="font-size: 12px; font: normal 11px/12px arial,tahoma,sans-serif; color: #ffffff; text-decoration: none; border-radius: 3px; -webkit-border-radius: 3px; -moz-border-radius: 3px; background-color: #d7272e; border-top: 6px solid #d7272e; border-bottom: 6px solid #d7272e; border-right: 14px solid #d7272e; font-weight: bold; border-left: 14px solid #d7272e; display: inline-block;">READ THE POST →</a></p></td><td scope="col" valign="top"><p><a href=""><img src="" alt="" width="270" height="180" border="0" style="display: block; border: none; outline: none; text-decoration: none;" class="colimg2"></a></p><span> <b>Cool Boredom</b></span><p align="left"><a href="" style="font-size: 12px; font: normal 11px/12px arial,tahoma,sans-serif; color: #ffffff; text-decoration: none; border-radius: 3px; -webkit-border-radius: 3px; -moz-border-radius: 3px; background-color: #d7272e; border-top: 6px solid #d7272e; border-bottom: 6px solid #d7272e; border-right: 14px solid #d7272e; font-weight: bold; border-left: 14px solid #d7272e; display: inline-block;">READ THE POST →</a></p></td></tr></tbody></table> 46844 Fri, 18 Sep 2015 16:37:45 -0400 Tricycle - Awake in the World Cool Boredom <p><img src="" width="570" height="392" style="margin: 7px auto; vertical-align: middle; display: block;"></p><p>In everyday life, we habitually try to conceal the gaps in our experience of mind and body. These gaps are a bit like an awkward silence around the table at a dinner party. A good host is supposed to keep the conversation going with his or her guests to put them at ease. You might talk about the weather, the latest books you've read, or what you are serving for dinner. We treat ourselves similarly. We occupy ourselves with subconscious chatter because we are uncomfortable with any gaps in our conversation with ourselves.</p><p>The purpose of the practice of meditation is to experience the gaps. We do nothing, essentially, and see what that brings—either discomfort or relief, whatever the case may be. The starting point for the practice of meditation is the mindfulness discipline of developing peace. The peace we experience in meditation is simply this state of doing nothing, which is experiencing the absence of speed.</p><p>Often, in considering the practice of meditation, the question arises as to what you are meditating <i>on</i>. In this approach, meditation has no object. You do work with your body, your thoughts, and your breath, but that is different from concentrating wholeheartedly on one thing. Here, you are not meditating upon anything; you are simply being present in a simple way.</p><p>The practice works with what is immediately available to you. You have your experience of being alive; you have a mind and you have a body. So you work with those things. You also work with whatever is going through your mind, whatever the content is, whatever the current issues are, whether painful or pleasurable. Whatever you are experiencing, that's where you begin. You also use your breath, which is part of the body and is also affected by mind. Breathing expresses the fact that you are alive. If you 're alive, you breathe. The technique is basic and direct: you pay heed to breath. You don't try to use the mindfulness of breathing to entertain yourself, but you use the mindfulness of breathing to simplify matters.</p><p>You develop mindfulness of the rising and falling of the breath. You go along with the process of breathing. In particular, you go along with each exhalation. As the breath goes out, you go out with it. And when the outbreath dissolves, you feel that you are also dissolving. The in-breath is a gap, a space, and then you breathe out again. So there is a constant sense of going out and slowing down.</p><p>At the beginning, the technique may be somewhat fascinating, but it quickly becomes boring. You get tired of sitting and breathing, doing nothing again and again and again—and again. You may feel like an awkward fool. It is so uninteresting. You might resent having gotten yourself into this situation. You might also resent the people who encouraged you to do this. You may feel completely foolish, as if the cosmos were mocking you.</p><p>Then, as you relax a little bit, you start to call up past experiences, memories of your life as well as your emotions, your aggression and passion. Now you have a private cinema show, and you can review your autobiography while you sit. Then, after a while, you might come back to your breath, thinking that you should try to be a good child and apply the technique. In meditation we have the opportunity to meet ourselves, to see ourselves clearly for the first time. We have never met ourselves properly or spent this kind of time with ourselves before. Of course, we take time for ourselves; we go off to the country or the ocean for a vacation. But we always find things to do on vacation. We make little handicrafts or we read something. We cook, we talk, we take a walk, or we swim. We never just sit with ourselves. It's a difficult thing to do.</p><p>The practice of meditation is not merely hanging out with ourselves, however. We are accomplishing something by being there properly, within the framework of the technique. The technique is simple enough that it doesn't entertain us. In fact, the technique may begin to fall away at some point. As we become more comfortable with ourselves and develop more understanding of ourselves, our application of the technique becomes less heavy-handed. The technique almost seems unnecessary. In the beginning we need the technique, like using a crutch to help us walk when we're injured. Then, once we can walk without it, we don't need the crutch. In meditation it is similar. In the beginning we are very focused on the technique, but eventually we may find that we are just there, simply there.</p><p>At that point, we may think that the efficient system we've organized around our practice is breaking down. It can be disconcerting, but it's also refreshing. We sense that there is more to us than our habitual patterns. We have more in us than our bundles of thoughts, emotions, and upheavals. There's something behind this whole facade. We discover the reservoir of softness within ourselves.</p><p>At that point, we begin to truly befriend ourselves, which allows us to see ourselves much more honestly. We can see both aspects, not just the bright side of the picture, how fantastic and good we are, but also how terrible we are. Good and bad somehow don't make much difference at this point. It all has one flavor. We see it all.</p><p>As your sympathy toward yourself expands, you begin to appreciate and enjoy simply being with yourself, being alone. Or at least you are not as irritated with yourself as you used to be! As you become ever more familiar with yourself, you find that you can actually put up with yourself without complaint­—which you have never done before. Your thought patterns, subconscious gossip, and all of your mind's chatter become much less interesting. In fact, you begin to find them all very boring. However, this is slightly different than our normal experience of boredom, because behind the boredom, or even within it, you feel something refreshing: cool boredom. You're bored to death, bored to tears, but it is no longer claustrophobic. The boredom is cooling, refreshing, like the water from a cold mountain stream.</p><p>Hot boredom is like being locked in a padded cell. You are bored, miserable, and irritated. You will probably experience lots of that in your meditation practice. Beyond that, however, with cool boredom, you don't feel imprisoned. Cool boredom is quite spacious, and it creates further softness and sympathy toward ourselves. In that space, we are no longer afraid of allowing ourselves to experience a gap. In other words, we realize that existence does not depend on constantly cranking up our egomaniacal machine. There is another way of existing.<br><br><strong>Chögyam</strong> <b>Trungpa Rinpoche </b>(1940-1987), founder of the Shambhala Buddhist community, was a seminal figure in the popularization of Tibetan Buddhism in the West.</p><p>From <i>Mindfulness in Action </i>by Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche. © 2015 <a href="" target="_blank">Shambhala Publications, Inc.</a></p><p><em>Photograph courtesy Marta Soul/Gallerystock</em></p><hr><p><strong>More at Tricycle:</strong></p><table border="0" cellpadding="8" cellspacing="10" width="550"><tbody><tr></tr><tr><td scope="col" valign="top"><p><a href=""><img src="" alt="" width="270" height="180" border="0" style="display: block; border: none; outline: none; text-decoration: none;" class="colimg2"></a></p><span> <b>Meditation, According to Stock Photography</b></span><p align="left"><a href="" style="font-size: 12px; font: normal 11px/12px arial,tahoma,sans-serif; color: #ffffff; text-decoration: none; border-radius: 3px; -webkit-border-radius: 3px; -moz-border-radius: 3px; background-color: #d7272e; border-top: 6px solid #d7272e; border-bottom: 6px solid #d7272e; border-right: 14px solid #d7272e; font-weight: bold; border-left: 14px solid #d7272e; display: inline-block;">READ THE POST →</a></p></td><td scope="col" valign="top"><p><a href=""><img src="" alt="" width="270" height="180" border="0" style="display: block; border: none; outline: none; text-decoration: none;" class="colimg2"></a></p><span> <b>Buddhist Greek Life Comes to Campus</b></span><p align="left"><a href="" style="font-size: 12px; font: normal 11px/12px arial,tahoma,sans-serif; color: #ffffff; text-decoration: none; border-radius: 3px; -webkit-border-radius: 3px; -moz-border-radius: 3px; background-color: #d7272e; border-top: 6px solid #d7272e; border-bottom: 6px solid #d7272e; border-right: 14px solid #d7272e; font-weight: bold; border-left: 14px solid #d7272e; display: inline-block;">READ THE POST →</a></p></td></tr></tbody></table> 46831 Fri, 18 Sep 2015 15:58:06 -0400 Tricycle - Awake in the World Buddhist Greek Life Comes to Campus <p><img src="" width="504" height="360" style="margin: 7px auto; vertical-align: middle; display: block;"></p><p>For the first time, a Buddhist fraternity and sorority are coming to the San Diego State campus.</p><p>This year, the Delta Beta Theta sorority and Delta Beta Tau fraternity are in the process of becoming chartered Greek organizations.</p><p>Jeff Zlotnik, cofounder of the Dharma Bum Buddhist Temple in San Diego, and Abby Cervantes, a student of the temple, are establishing the new organizations on campus. They will spend the semester gathering members and gauging campus interest.</p><p>This semester they plan to begin meeting weekly to meditate and discuss Buddhism. Soon, they will formally request to join the Greek community.</p><p>As a former social fraternity member at the University of Arizona, Zlotnik said he understands college kids have a different lifestyle than monks, and he does not want to lecture them. But he said teaching new members compassion and kindness can change both their lives and the lives of others. He hopes to enrich their college experience.</p><p>“It’s not just about those four years, you’re impacting their entire life and their future,” he said. “That’s something you have to take seriously.”</p><p>Sandra Wawrytko, director of the Center for Asian and Pacific Studies and a professor in the philosophy department, supports starting the new organizations.</p><p>“I think it’s a fantastic idea,” she said. “I think it would be a really nice addition to the diversity of the campus."&nbsp;</p><p>While there is little precedent for Buddhist Greek organizations on campuses around the country, Wawrytko is excited to see the student body’s response.</p><p>Zlotnik plans for the organizations to be social and enlightening. While preserving cultural traditions, the organizations will host intramural sports, philanthropic outings, and events with other organizations on campus.</p><p>“Instead of a keg, we’ll have a meditation room,” he said.&nbsp;</p><p>Fraternities and sororities have been on campuses for hundreds of years. Zlotnik expects these organizations will have similar longevity.</p><p>Zlotnik began his path to Buddhism while taking a Chinese civilizations class in college. He said it took being a consultant in downtown San Diego and living what he called a “consumerist lifestyle” to truly appreciate what Buddhism had to offer. After he began regularly visiting a temple in University Heights in 2003, he decided to devote his life to Buddhism. He was president of the temple for two years and spent 11 months in a monastery in Taiwan before opening up the Dharma Bum Temple with a group of other Buddhists.</p><p>“All we cared about was introducing Buddhism to local folks,” Zlotnik said. “We wanted to make them feel comfortable learning about Buddhism in their own culture and clothes.”</p><p>After starting the temple, the group began running Buddha For You, a Buddhist shop in the Campus Plaza shopping center, where they sell statues, incense, books, and clothes. They have free introductory meditation classes Tuesday nights and Saturday mornings and run a summer program to further bring Buddhism to the community.<br><br><strong>Caitlynne Leary</strong>, a sophomore at San Diego State University, is an active member of campus Greek life. &nbsp;</p><p><i>The article originally appeared in&nbsp;</i><a href="" target="_blank">The Daily Aztec</a>,&nbsp;<em>and has been republished with the newspaper's permission</em>.</p><p><em>Photograph courtesy Dharma Bums Buddhist Temple</em></p><hr><p><strong>More at Tricycle:</strong></p><table border="0" cellpadding="8" cellspacing="10" width="550"><tbody><tr></tr><tr><td scope="col" valign="top"><p><a href=""><img src="" alt="" width="270" height="180" border="0" style="display: block; border: none; outline: none; text-decoration: none;" class="colimg2"></a></p><span> <b>Meditation, According to Stock Photography</b></span><p align="left"><a href="" style="font-size: 12px; font: normal 11px/12px arial,tahoma,sans-serif; color: #ffffff; text-decoration: none; border-radius: 3px; -webkit-border-radius: 3px; -moz-border-radius: 3px; background-color: #d7272e; border-top: 6px solid #d7272e; border-bottom: 6px solid #d7272e; border-right: 14px solid #d7272e; font-weight: bold; border-left: 14px solid #d7272e; display: inline-block;">READ THE POST →</a></p></td><td scope="col" valign="top"><p><a href=""><img src="" alt="" width="270" height="180" border="0" style="display: block; border: none; outline: none; text-decoration: none;" class="colimg2"></a></p><span> <b>Cool Boredom</b></span><p align="left"><a href="" style="font-size: 12px; font: normal 11px/12px arial,tahoma,sans-serif; color: #ffffff; text-decoration: none; border-radius: 3px; -webkit-border-radius: 3px; -moz-border-radius: 3px; background-color: #d7272e; border-top: 6px solid #d7272e; border-bottom: 6px solid #d7272e; border-right: 14px solid #d7272e; font-weight: bold; border-left: 14px solid #d7272e; display: inline-block;">READ THE POST →</a></p></td></tr></tbody></table> 46832 Wed, 16 Sep 2015 10:53:58 -0400 Tricycle - Awake in the World Meditation, According to Stock Photography <p>Meditation and its redheaded stepsister mindfulness are currently sweeping through the Occident like a sandalwood-scented tsunami. You can’t swing a dead snow lion without hitting someone who’s been to a meditation seminar, retreat, class, symposium, workshop, or would just really, really like to try it. For, like, <i>focus</i>, you know? Focus and calm. And less stress. It does that, right?</p><p>My considerable and well-wrought snark aside, this is a good thing. While I’m attracted to meditation for one reason—the attainment of total enlightenment and its attendant powers of telekinesis and teleportation—many folks aren’t into that. Whatever your personal preferences, <i>mo’ meditation</i>, unlike <i>mo’ money</i>, generally doesn’t lead to <i>mo’ problems</i>. In fact, it generally leads to fewer. The mo’ meditation, the better, I’ve always said. Or at least thought to myself.</p><p>I dig that meditation is becoming more widespread, but I wish it were better understood. There are a lot of misconceptions, misapprehensions, and even some misapplications out there. It’s not easy to separate the real stuff from the insanely commercial, mass-media version of meditation that Western consumer culture has created.</p><p>In that spirit, I tried a little experiment I’d like to share with you. I went to some stock photography sites and typed in “meditation.” Here’s what I found.</p><p><b style="text-align: center;"><br></b></p><p>1.<b style="text-align: center;"> White Women</b></p><p><b><img src="" width="570" height="380" style="display: block; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;"></b></p><p>White women were overwhelmingly represented, especially pretty, blonde<i> </i>white women. The vast majority of them are shown plopped down in beautiful locales, the number one being the ocean. This lovely lady may just kayak to a tiki bar after her refreshing sit by the sea.</p><p><b style="text-align: center;"><br></b></p><p>2.<b style="text-align: center;"> Sexy Couples</b></p><p><b><img src="" width="570" height="376" style="display: block; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;"></b></p><p>Hot couples meditate together. There’s no point spending all that time in the gym making the outside so damn sexy if you’re not going tighten up the inside, too. There’s also no reason not to show off some of that finely toned outside while you sit.<b></b></p><p><b style="text-align: center;"><br></b></p><p>3.<b style="text-align: center;"> Brown Women</b></p><p><b><img src="" width="570" height="570" style="display: block; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;"></b></p><p>Don’t be fooled into thinking it’s only beautiful white women clogging the meditation halls. There are beautiful brown women, too, although apparently in smaller numbers. I have no idea why she’s not sitting beside the ocean but I bet she’s <i>visualizing </i>herself there.<b> </b>&nbsp;<b><i></i></b></p><p><b style="text-align: center;"><br></b></p><p>4.<b style="text-align: center;"> Diversity!</b></p><p><b><img src="" width="570" height="380" style="display: block; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;"></b></p><p>This would be the perfect storm of meditation if there were an Asian person represented. I didn’t come across many photos of Asians meditating in my search. I thought by law there had to be one crammed into this “Obviously Diverse Meditation Group,” but I was wrong. <b></b></p><p><b style="text-align: center;"><br></b></p><p>5.<b style="text-align: center;"> Businesspeople</b></p><p><b><img src="" width="570" height="380" style="display: block; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;"></b></p><p>Meditation has flooded the business world. It’s a great way to keep employees calm as they work 80-hour weeks making their overlords rich. It also helps them<b> </b>make peace with the fact that they’re drifting away from their families and lives. <i>Oops</i>. I mean, this guy looks serene in his nice office. Although I bet the floor where he dumped all the stuff from his desk is a mess.</p><p><b style="text-align: center;"><br></b></p><p>6.<b style="text-align: center;"> Old people</b></p><p><b><img src="" width="570" height="380" style="display: block; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;"></b></p><p>Meditation is for everyone, not just the young, fit, and unbelievably tanned. Old people can meditate, too, although they’re going to look more uncomfortable doing it.</p><p><b style="text-align: center;"><br></b></p><p>7.<b style="text-align: center;"> Chakras</b></p><p><b><img src="" width="570" height="570" style="display: block; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;"></b></p><p>This stock photo tells me meditation will line up all of the weird traffic lights throughout my body. Wait, those are…chakras, I guess? So if you sit in front of a glowing pentacle, there’s at least a chance that your glowing buzz balls will balance. Is that right?</p><p><b style="text-align: center;"><br></b></p><p>8.<b style="text-align: center;"> Levitation</b></p><p><b><img src="" width="570" height="565" style="display: block; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;"></b></p><p>Don’t expect this right off the bat. It’s not something that comes easily. But if you meditate long enough, you’ll eventually be able to levitate. This guy hovered right out of his damn shoes. (I can’t say why his tie is also levitating.)</p><p><b style="text-align: center;"><br></b></p><p>9.<b style="text-align: center;"> Werewolves</b></p><p><b><img src="" width="570" height="582" style="display: block; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;"></b></p><p>It’s not as well known as it should be, and I think it’s time to start talking about it: meditation will keep you from turning into a werewolf. If you’ve been bitten and are seriously fed up with your monthly transformations, give meditation a try. The increased focus and peace will help tame the beast inside.</p><p><b style="text-align: center;"><br></b></p><p>10.<b style="text-align: center;"> Indoctrination</b></p><p><b><img src="" width="570" height="380" style="display: block; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;"></b></p><p>These children are either the next generation of perfect office drones, or they’re being stealthily brainwashed into embracing Buddhism. I can’t tell from this angle. But <i>shit</i> are they a diverse group…<br><br><strong>Brent R. Oliver</strong> is a writer based in Lexington, Kentucky.</p><p><em>Image 1, 3–10: Shutterstock<br>Image 2: Fotosearch</em></p><hr><p><strong>More at Tricycle:</strong></p><table border="0" cellpadding="8" cellspacing="10" width="550"><tbody><tr></tr><tr><td scope="col" valign="top"><p><a href=""><img src="" alt="" width="270" height="180" border="0" style="display: block; border: none; outline: none; text-decoration: none;" class="colimg2"></a></p><span> <b>Buddhist Greek Life Comes to Campus</b></span><p align="left"><a href="" style="font-size: 12px; font: normal 11px/12px arial,tahoma,sans-serif; color: #ffffff; text-decoration: none; border-radius: 3px; -webkit-border-radius: 3px; -moz-border-radius: 3px; background-color: #d7272e; border-top: 6px solid #d7272e; border-bottom: 6px solid #d7272e; border-right: 14px solid #d7272e; font-weight: bold; border-left: 14px solid #d7272e; display: inline-block;">READ THE POST →</a></p></td><td scope="col" valign="top"><p><a href=""><img src="" alt="" width="270" height="180" border="0" style="display: block; border: none; outline: none; text-decoration: none;" class="colimg2"></a></p><span> <b>Cool Boredom</b></span><p align="left"><a href="" style="font-size: 12px; font: normal 11px/12px arial,tahoma,sans-serif; color: #ffffff; text-decoration: none; border-radius: 3px; -webkit-border-radius: 3px; -moz-border-radius: 3px; background-color: #d7272e; border-top: 6px solid #d7272e; border-bottom: 6px solid #d7272e; border-right: 14px solid #d7272e; font-weight: bold; border-left: 14px solid #d7272e; display: inline-block;">READ THE POST →</a></p></td></tr></tbody></table> 46829 Tue, 15 Sep 2015 10:41:55 -0400 Tricycle - Awake in the World Օ <p><img src="" width="570" height="425" style="display: block; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;"></p><p style="padding-left: 30px;"><span style="text-decoration: underline;"><em>0</em></span></p><p style="padding-left: 30px;"></p><p style="padding-left: 30px;">Hole torn in the language,<br>How shall we speak?&nbsp;</p><p style="padding-left: 30px;">On the scale of war,<br>But where are the armies?</p><p style="padding-left: 30px;">A few men and less money<br>Than houses cost on my block.</p><p style="padding-left: 30px;">Counting the dead<br>Is like counting the stones</p><p style="padding-left: 30px;">In a wall, when we have<br>No word meaning “wall.”</p><p style="padding-left: 30px;">Wind acrid with toxins;<br>Makeshift shrines in the street.</p><p style="padding-left: 30px;">When Stockhausen called it art.<br>We were outraged, and yet&nbsp;</p><p style="padding-left: 30px;">Something art-like<br>Went into its making.</p><p style="padding-left: 30px;">Only after it happened<br>Could we imagine it.</p><p style="padding-left: 30px;">Which might also be said<br>Of the <i>Hammerklavier </i>or the <i>Pietà.</i></p><p style="padding-left: 30px;">Poem-like, it alludes. Babel,<br>Nineveh. The Tarot’s Tower</p><p style="padding-left: 30px;">Broken by Lightning;<br>The Revelation of John of Patmos,</p><p style="padding-left: 30px;">Who ends the Christian testament<br>By smashing the world.</p><p style="padding-left: 30px;">Our cars grow larger and heavier.<br>People say they feel safer inside—</p><p style="padding-left: 30px;">As if we had not seen<br>The tallest and heaviest thing</p><p style="padding-left: 30px;">We know how to make<br>Melt in the fire and fall.&nbsp;</p><p><br><br><b>Paul Breslin</b> is a professor at Northwestern University. This poem appears in his most recent collection, <i>Betweeen My Eye and the Light</i>.</p><p><em>Copyright © 2014 by Paul Breslin. Published 2014 by TriQuarterly Books/Northwestern University Press. All rights reserved.</em></p><p><em>Illustration by Ray Zim</em><br><br><br><br><br></p><p style="text-align: center;"><a href="" target="_blank"><img src="" width="364" height="500" style="text-align: center; display: inline;"></a></p> 46817 Fri, 11 Sep 2015 10:50:53 -0400 Tricycle - Awake in the World No Adaptation Required <p><img src="" width="570" height="380" style="margin: 7px auto; vertical-align: middle; display: block;"></p><p>Tantric (Vajrayana) Buddhism, according to American-born teacher and translator Sangye Khandro, does not need to be adjusted for Westerners. Still, she says, Western seekers often struggle to receive full transmission and find proper instruction; or they run up against cultural misunderstandings, translation issues, and other obstacles to accomplishment. She sees these impediments as separate from the practice itself which, whether encountered in Tibet or the West, can enlighten sincere practitioners.</p><p><em>Tricycle</em> has long-covered Tibetan Buddhism's transmission to adherents living in Europe, the United States, and elsewhere. Oftentimes such converts must make difficult choices as they weigh the tenets and rituals of Buddhism against the intellectual mores and practical limitations of Western life. But Sangye Khandro offers a different perspective: that of the traditionalist.&nbsp;</p><p>She was born in Oregon and grew up in Salt Lake City, Portland, Chicago, and Hawaii. After traveling overland to India in 1971, she underwent six months of intensive study that culminated in her taking the lay precepts. Over the following seven years, she returned to India and Nepal annually to pursue teachings on Vajrayana practice and Tibetan language, receiving transmission from her root guru Dudjom Rinpoche and other high lamas. She has since translated several texts, including <i>A Garland of Immortal Wishfulfilling Trees</i> and <i>Generating the Deity</i>, plus additional commentaries and liturgies. She currently devotes her time to practice, translation, and overseeing Tashi Choling Retreat Center in Oregon, where she teaches alongside her partner and collaborator, Lama Chonam.</p><p>Donna Lynn Brown, a freelance reporter and Buddhist practitioner, spoke to Sangye Khandro recently in Portland, Oregon.<br><br><b>What enabled you to become a serious practitioner of the Vajrayana? </b>I walked into the opportunity at a young age and at just the right time, when the Tibetan Library for Works and Archives, created by the Dalai Lama to preserve and disseminate Tibetan culture, was opening in Dharamsala, India. There I started studying both sutra and tantra right from the start. Then after several years I decided that I had to study the Tibetan language as well. In time, I was able to bring those all together.<br><br><b>Do you feel that the Vajrayana is being successfully transmitted to the West?&nbsp;</b>Yes and no. But, in general, there is enough fully informed practice to begin anchoring Vajrayana in the West.</p><p>Vajrayana calls for three aspects of transmission: the empowerment or initiation into the practice (<i>dbang</i>), the reading transmission of the text (<i>lung</i>), and the liberating instructions on how to actually do the practice (<i>khrid</i>). In the West, when a teacher passes through town, these three aspects of the transmission are often left incomplete. Because there are far more opportunities for empowerment, a student may receive empowerment but not transmission or instruction. The process then gets out of order or goes unfinished. I’ve seen people do practices without knowing them properly, or even give up from lack of instruction. Students need to take steps to obtain all three aspects of transmission from a qualified teacher.<br><br><b>What misconceptions do Western practitioners have about tantra?</b><b> </b>People sometimes think that the life of a lay tantric practitioner is quite easy. For example, I see Westerners, even when they are quite new, wearing the <i>ngakpa zen</i> [robe] of a tantric practitioner. I wonder sometimes if they even know the vows for this category of practice. There are the basic refuge vows, meaning the five root vows of lay ordination, then the Bodhisattva vows that focus on attaining enlightenment for the sake of all beings, and finally the Vajrayana commitments, which are particularly difficult. Keeping all those vows is a practice in itself. It can be embarrassing to see people wearing the <i>zen</i> when they don’t know how to simultaneously hold all three levels of vows. If you’ve been holding all of those for a while, then go ahead and put on the <i>zen</i>!<br><br><b>Have there been other problems in the transmission of the Vajrayana? </b>Let me give you one example. An abbot—who works with my partner Lama Chonam and me—is coming to the United States soon to teach Dzogchen. He will give the empowerment, the reading transmission, and the instructions. But there will be restrictions on who can participate. It’s very important to him that no academic researchers be present unless they are there to actually practice. He is concerned about Westerners getting these transmissions, going back to their universities, and then teaching or publishing, out of context, what they were given. This is a problem in the West, and those of us who understand proper transmission need to speak out about it. It needs to stop.<br><br><b>What about challenges in the translation of texts?</b><b> </b>Problems arise when translators work on profound material before they have practiced it. With tantra, you should not just pick a text up off the shelf and translate it because you are interested in it. Other issues arise when people translate texts without working with a qualified Tibetan scholar. Those of us who translate know that, without help, we often don’t understand what we are reading. If we think we do, we are deluded. In order to clearly understand a particular subject one needs to both work with a scholar-practitioner and have some personal practice experience.<br><br><b>Do you think that practitioners should learn Tibetan to get the full transmission? </b>I wish they would, but it’s not practical. And I believe that sooner or later everything will come into English. Are we there yet? No. We are still pioneers. But we can have confidence that full transmission will occur in Western languages at some point.<br><br><b>How can lineages be maintained given how people nowadays mix traditions and practices? </b>People will mix practices—that’s bound to continue. All we can do is keep presenting genuine lineages that carry authentic blessings. I have no doubt that the truth and power of their timeless wisdom will prevail. I find that some people are discouraged by watered down versions of dharma, because they don’t get results. Later they come for more traditional teachings because they want something authentic.<br><br><b>What aspects of Western culture make it difficult for us to practice the Vajrayana?&nbsp;</b>Just ordinary conceptual mind. Vajrayana demands a faith in that which is intangible. You never physically see or feel a wisdom deity. You have to cultivate pure view towards phenomenal existence. Eventually you see the world as pure land, as deity. This is not easy for Westerners; we are so conceptual, so addicted to ordinary materialistic mind. Though we may do daily sessions visualizing wisdom deities, in between we plunge into ordinariness. Then it becomes really hard to make progress.<br><br><b>Do Westerners fully understand the physical aspects of Vajrayana practice? </b>Yes, if they have received instruction from a qualified teacher. Empowerment allows you to purify the obscurations and defilements of your body, as well as your speech and mind, so that you can visualize yourself as a wisdom deity. Body, speech, and mind are not separate; you work with them simultaneously. If people receive and follow the instructions, they will be okay.<br><br><b>What aspects of Tibetan culture can Western Buddhists leave behind?&nbsp; How do we deal with the hierarchy and sexism that sometimes come along with dharma? </b>Well, we don’t have to dress in <i>chupas</i> [traditional Tibetan garments] to practice the dharma! We shouldn’t pretend to be Tibetans. Still, Tibetan culture has many wonderful qualities that resonate with spiritual training, like humility. Bending down, as the Dalai Lama does, so you are lower than your teacher or the shrine—is that culture or dharma? It’s probably both, but we can learn from it.</p><p>Amongst Tibetan practitioners, the most respected people are the humble ones who aren’t involved in hierarchy. I just got back from Tibet last week, and while I was there, I visited the mother monastery of my partner Lama Chonam. The teachers in charge there sit in the lowest position. Honestly, a lot of authoritarianism in dharma centers comes from Westerners themselves—it’s just power-mongering. Asian or Western, human beings are what they are.</p><p>Your question about sexism makes me think of a visit I made to Larung Gar, Eastern Tibet, where there is a large, thriving practice community. I certainly didn’t see any patriarchal Buddhism there. It has more <i>Khenmos</i> [female abbots] than <i>Khenpos</i> [male abbots]. The female practitioners run the show. The head lama for those tens of thousands of practitioners is Khandro-ma Ani Mumtso, a nun. She’s the one who gives the empowerments for all the transmissions. No one has a problem with that. It’s a given that women can teach men there. I disagree with blaming sexism on Tibetan Buddhism. During my years among Tibetans, I have not been disadvantaged on account of being female—just the opposite. From the very beginning, I was given every opportunity to learn, sometimes even more so than men!<br><br><b>How do we deal with teachers, whether Asian or Western, who may be qualified but sometimes behave poorly? </b>Westerners shouldn’t put Tibetans on a pedestal, even if they are called “Tulku” or “Rinpoche.” Keep your eyes open and look for the qualities that teachers demonstrate. In this day and age, names and titles are no longer very meaningful.<b> </b>Sooner or later this whole process of identifying tulkus will reach an end anyway, because the structure for it is disappearing. The great masters who are qualified to make such recognitions are passing on. You can’t know who’s who anymore. That’s something that Westerners do not understand—we think that if someone has a title, they are qualified.</p><p>A teacher should embody the dharma all of the time, not just while giving instruction. Students have to be savvy enough to discern whether this is the case. With Vajrayana, you should know this before you take empowerment. You don’t want to jump in and later find yourself in a bad position. If a teacher’s behavior doesn’t suit you, you should keep a distance. Also, ask Tibetans. You have to check both your teacher’s credentials <i>and</i> his or her reputation back home.<br><br><b>Are there differences in how Westerners and Tibetans practice guru devotion? </b>Tibetans are practically born with it: Babies and children see their parents full of devotion. For us, it’s new, so usually we have to cultivate it. You occasionally hear of instances when Westerners see a spiritual teacher and drop to their knees, their lives forever changed; but those are not common. On the contrary, many Westerners interested in Vajrayana don’t have a guru at all. This is a problem. To practice, you have to have open-hearted devotion to a guru. That’s what gives you inspiration, sources of which are rare nowadays. So if you feel a connection to a qualified guru, seize the opportunity.<br><br><b>In an attempt to reduce ego, teachers sometimes inadvertently worsen a student’s already low self-esteem. How can we build the confidence we need to energize our practice? </b>To practice Vajrayana, you have to develop vajra pride. In the initial stage of tantric practice, called the generation stage, there are three requirements: clarity in visualization, clear recollection, and vajra pride. Clarity in visualization means that you can concentrate on the wisdom deity, while pure recollection means you can remember every aspect of that deity. Vajra<b> </b>pride then allows you to identify with the qualities of mind that these aspects of the deity represent. By seeing them as part and parcel of yourself, you gain confidence.</p><p>If you are in a practice situation where you feel put down, you need to get out of it. Teachers who are too harsh don’t help—they harm. True vajra masters never harm their disciples. If teachers say harsh things, they need to know that their disciples can take it. People have different faculties and a good teacher discerns that. It is not compassionate to treat everyone the same way.<br><br><b>Does Tibetan ritual work in the West? </b>Yes, but the teacher needs to explain a practice before asking a disciple to do it. If the meaning of each method is clear, then what you are doing is more than a ritual: it’s the practice needed to achieve the results you want. If students understand this, they will do it happily.</p><p>Some Buddhist rituals deal not with enlightened beings but with worldly ones: spirits. The merit of rituals that give something to spirits is tremendous, because they have no means to escape their terrible suffering. So making connections with them is very potent—and it works. To understand this, Westerners have to have faith in the teachings of the Buddha. It’s important not to discourage these rituals in the West, because they do bring benefit.<br><br><b>What is the role of monks and nuns? </b>The Buddha taught that the presence of the monastic community was vital to the stability of his doctrine in the world. Monasticism has struggled in the West because the community support has not been in place, but I think that will change. I also think we have to focus on helping the lay community become more advanced and empowered. Then communities of lay practitioners can live and work in cooperation with monastic communities.<br><br><b>Will Westerners who attain enlightenment ultimately adapt the Vajrayana to our culture? </b>We just need to keep transmitting the lineages. They will work for all humanity just as they are, notwithstanding culture or language. Yes, at some point Westerners will become fully awakened. This has probably already occurred. Can we say it hasn’t? I’ve seen practitioners die in ways similar to high lamas, with their consciousness remaining in their body for days. Those practitioners haven’t modernized or Westernized the dharma; they have been devoted disciples of their teachers, and humble, sincere practitioners of the same lineage that’s been passed on since the time of the Buddha. No adjustment is necessary—no adaptation. That wisdom is timeless.<b></b></p><p align="right">&nbsp;—<i>Donna Lynn Brown</i></p><p><i>Photograph by David Gordon&nbsp;</i></p> 46803 Thu, 10 Sep 2015 14:08:07 -0400 Tricycle - Awake in the World When Am I? <p><img src="" width="570" height="570" style="margin: 7px auto; vertical-align: middle; display: block;"></p><p>Contrary to popular belief, you can’t be in the present moment. However, you are always here now. It is only a matter of whether you know it or not. The Now is often confused with our understanding of the present time or the present moment. In Tibetan Buddhism, the Now is considered the “timeless time” that includes the three relative times of past, present, and future. We know not to get caught in the past or the future, but in order to be in the Now, we also have to let go of the present. The Now is not confined by relative clock time, yet it is also not pure timelessness. The Now is the meeting place of timeless spacious awareness with the relative world and its conventional time.<b> </b>The Now does not come and go, but includes everything all at once. When we’re aware of being in the Now, present moments come and go, like ripples and waves in the ocean of awake awareness.</p><p>When we don’t know the alternative to the three relative times, we create an imitation of the Now and call it “the moment” or “the present.” Here’s how Merriam-Webster defines <i>moment</i>.</p><p style="padding-left: 30px;">a: a minute portion or point of time: INSTANT</p><p style="padding-left: 30px;">b: a comparatively brief period of time&nbsp;</p><p>Clearly, we can’t live in the moment, because moments come and go like the tick-tock of a clock. Moment . . . gone . . . new moment . . . gone . . . new moment . . . gone. You can’t stop moments or be quick enough to occupy any particular moment of time. Physicist Max Planck recognized that moments are flashes in relative time. He divided moments into small measures known as Planck units, which are 10⁻⁴³ seconds long. No matter how hard we try, we can never slice time thin enough to enter the moment.</p><p>Our perceived experience is made up of mind moments that appear continuous, like movies. Films project 24 still frames every second in order to make the movement of their images appear lifelike to the brain. A moment is like a single frame that we can look at but cannot remain in. Even if we took one still frame from a movie, we would see a frozen moment, not the dynamic living Now.</p><p>Trying to be in the Now by entering the present moment is also like sitting at the edge of a river, looking at the water flowing over one rock. As soon as you focus on one moment in the flow of water, that portion of water has already moved downstream. We cannot enter present moments because they move too fast and change continuously. Contemporary Tibetan Buddhist teacher Mingyur Rinpoche says, “If you examine even the present moment carefully, you find that it also is made up of earlier and later moments. In the end, if you keep examining the present moment, you find that there is no present moment that exists either.”</p><p>Interestingly, mindfulness meditation begins with the opposite approach to trying to be in the moment; it asks us to actually notice moment-to-moment change. One of the great insights we can get from mindfulness meditation practice is that each moment of experience arises and passes. Having a direct experience of this impermanence, from observing awareness, helps us let go of the attempt to calcify any single moment of time, to try to make something stable that is not. When we really get a feeling for the coming and going of moments, it helps us break the illusion of a solid, separate self, which gives us relief from suffering.</p><p>The present time is not the Now. When Gampopa, an 11th-century Buddhist teacher, said, “Don’t invite the future. Don’t pursue the past. Let go of the present. Relax right now,” he was pointing to the fact that trying to locate yourself in any of the three relative times, including the present, can cause suffering. It’s not always a benefit to strive to be in the present. While working as a psychotherapist, I saw that the distinguishing feature of clinical depression is feeling stuck in the present. As one client said, “It feels like there is only this present, unbearable pain and no hope of it changing.” Being depressed is like being in a prison where you’re cut off from positive memories of the past and from the potential to change in the future. Part of the treatment for depression is to have people remember how they got through sad periods in the past and realize there’s a positive future. In terms of the present, it’s helpful to realize “This too shall pass.”</p><p>It is true that our attention can be negatively obsessed with remembering the past. However, most of us would agree on an everyday level with poet and philosopher George Santayana, who said, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” Yet we can also be preoccupied with fearing the future. The ability to imagine the future has helped all of us survive and thrive, for instance by being able to prepare for the coming winter or spring. You can plan for the future and recall the past while being in the Now.</p><p>The most important thing to know is that we are always already in the Now—however, we are not always aware of being in the Now. You can only know the Now from awake awareness. Many of us have experienced being in the Now when we were “in the zone” or in a panoramic flow state.</p><p>When we learn to shift into directly being aware of being in the Now, our whole sense of reality changes for the better. We can’t be aware of being in the Now from our everyday, ego-identified state of mind. We can shift through the door of the Now into awake awareness, or when abiding in awake awareness, we can begin to notice the feeling of being in the Now. The purpose of clarifying and distinguishing the Now from the present and present moment is for us to be able to shift into being in the Now and know we are here.<br><br><em>Experience Loch Kelly's teachings firsthand by joining this month's online retreat: "<a href="" target="_blank">Open-Hearted Awareness: A Cure for Addictive Thinking</a>."&nbsp;</em></p><p><b>Loch Kelly</b> is a Tibetan Buddhist teacher and psychotherapist.</p><p>From <i>Shift Into Freedom: The Science and Practice of Open-hearted Awareness</i>, by Loch Kelly. Reprinted with permission of SoundsTrue.</p><p><em>Michael Tigerstrom/<a href="" target="_blank">Flickr</a></em></p><hr><p><strong>More at Tricycle:</strong></p><table border="0" cellpadding="8" cellspacing="10" width="550"><tbody><tr></tr><tr><td scope="col" valign="top"><p><a href=""><img src="" alt="" width="270" height="180" border="0" style="display: block; border: none; outline: none; text-decoration: none;" class="colimg2"></a></p><span> <b>The “Problem” of Religious Diversity </b></span><p align="left"><a href="" style="font-size: 12px; font: normal 11px/12px arial,tahoma,sans-serif; color: #ffffff; text-decoration: none; border-radius: 3px; -webkit-border-radius: 3px; -moz-border-radius: 3px; background-color: #d7272e; border-top: 6px solid #d7272e; border-bottom: 6px solid #d7272e; border-right: 14px solid #d7272e; font-weight: bold; border-left: 14px solid #d7272e; display: inline-block;">READ THE POST →</a></p></td><td scope="col" valign="top"><p><a href=""><img src="" alt="" width="270" height="180" border="0" style="display: block; border: none; outline: none; text-decoration: none;" class="colimg2"></a></p><span> <b>5 Reasons I Haven’t Settled On a Buddhist School </b></span><p align="left"><a href="" style="font-size: 12px; font: normal 11px/12px arial,tahoma,sans-serif; color: #ffffff; text-decoration: none; border-radius: 3px; -webkit-border-radius: 3px; -moz-border-radius: 3px; background-color: #d7272e; border-top: 6px solid #d7272e; border-bottom: 6px solid #d7272e; border-right: 14px solid #d7272e; font-weight: bold; border-left: 14px solid #d7272e; display: inline-block;">READ THE POST →</a></p></td></tr></tbody></table> 46812 Tue, 08 Sep 2015 14:37:04 -0400 Tricycle - Awake in the World 10 Steps to a Mindful Wedding <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="" width="570" height="857"></p><p>On July 25th my fiancée, Courtney, and I got married. It was truly incredible, partly because now I never have to say the word <i>fiancée</i> again. While other people said girlfriend or boyfriend, husband or wife, for 14 months we used this flowery French term that made it sound like we were constantly one-upping everyone. “Oh, you got married in a hotel? My fiancée and I are getting married in a barn in Vermont.” Even the mundane began to sound pretentious: “My fiancée and I had cereal for breakfast.” (And of course we used Dom Perignon instead of milk.)</p><p>Thankfully, those days are over. My <i>wife </i>and I are newlyweds, but before we become oldlyweds, I wanted to pass on the lessons we gleaned from the experience of the wedding itself. Courtney was raised in the Shambhala community, and I have been a Zen practitioner for the last dozen years, so the celebration was mostly secular with a splash of dharma. Despite some bumps along the way, this proved to be a winning recipe. Therefore, in true Mahayana fashion, I wanted to share our experience, bumps and all, for the benefit of all beings (but particularly for those beings with weddings on the horizon). What follows are my 10 steps to a mindful wedding.<br><br><b>1. Plan.</b></p><p>As far as the planning process was concerned, my approach was that of a bullfighter facing a raging bull: step to the side and thereby dodge any danger, stress, or linen debates. What I didn’t realize was that stepping to the side left Courtney out there to get metaphorically gored. I thought I was being generous in getting out of the way and letting her plan her perfect day. Really, I was abdicating responsibility and creating mass confusion about the details of what was <i>our</i> day.</p><p>Like tying your shoes or learning to ride a bike, planning a wedding is one of those things that you can only truly understand by doing. By the time the wedding day arrives, you almost wish you could start over with the knowledge you’ve acquired in the preceding months. Of course, unlike tying your shoes or riding a bike, you’ll only be getting married once (divorce rate statistics be damned). So heed the advice of someone who has been there: at the start of the process sit down and set clear expectations about how everything will unfold and who will be responsible for what. As I said in one of my vows: “Should we ever undertake an event of this magnitude again, I vow to be at least three times as helpful.” I probably should’ve said 300.<br><br><b>2. “Before enlightenment, chop wood, carry water. After enlightenment, chop wood, carry water.”</b></p><p>Our officiant, Wayne, is one of the coolest guys I know. He has a bonsai tree business, is a minister in the Shambhala community, and speaks with a perfect blend of sarcasm and depth. When it came to details like the marriage license, however, he just wasn’t interested. Thus, after Courtney and I obtained our marriage license, he never asked for it, and we totally forgot to give it to him. Then, in the aftermath of the wedding, the license disappeared. This meant that upon returning from our honeymoon, Courtney and I had to go back to the town clerk and obtain a new license. Technically, this means we are on our second marriage.</p><p>Before marriage, obtain a license. After marriage, turn in the license.<br><br><b>3. Watch your parents’ pill intake.</b></p><p>This one might be hyper-specific to my parents, but here goes: the Tuesday before the wedding, as we sat down to breakfast with my folks, my dad took his usual concoction of morning pills. Fifteen minutes later he was stumbling around knocking over furniture like a man who had just downed five Ambien. This is because my dad had in fact just downed five Ambien. Since we didn’t know that, the ensuing hours were mostly terrifying . . . but also kind of hilarious. If you’ve never seen your dad roll around on the front lawn with a smile on his face, insisting he is completely fine, then passing out mid-sentence, well, it will certainly keep your mind off the wedding. There was a bright side: on the ride home from the hospital, I thanked my dad for the powerful reminder about the importance of family just days before the wedding. It was a lesson I’ll never forget, and one he can’t quite remember.<br><br><b>4. Have Great Faith . . . and Great Doubt.</b></p><p>Prior to the wedding, Courtney’s Great Doubt was that the weather would be poor, forcing us to move the welcome party and ceremony indoors. I, on the other hand, had Great Faith—not that the weather would be perfect but that whatever happened would become part of the joyful narrative of our wedding day. We had a rain plan, after all. In the end, the weather was eerily perfect. The welcome party started at 5 p.m. on Friday and the rain let up at 4:30, giving way to a rainbow. The clouds that were supposed to lead to a gray Saturday were instead replaced by radiant sunshine.</p><p>I have no idea what kind of karma resulted in this situation. But I fully believe Courtney and I appeased the weather gods by each playing our necessary roles (I guess this was the least secular part of the process). Expect the worst and hope for the best, and if necessary, divide those tasks.<br><br><b>5. “When you sit, sit. When you stand, stand. Whatever you do, don’t wobble.”</b></p><p>I’ve seen plenty of wobbly grooms. I’ve seen plenty of nervous grooms. I was hoping to be neither. So the day of the wedding, as I was getting dressed, I had a glass of cognac. Minutes before the wedding, Wayne had Courtney and I gather for a last-minute check-in and a glass of sake. It allowed us time to decompress and steal a little sanity before the madness. I highly recommend it.</p><p>Following the ceremony, I paced myself on the drinks until it was time for the dance party. Then I had a few in rapid succession and let myself go. Pace yourself. And then don’t pace yourself. Just don’t wobble.<br><br><b>6. Take a moment.</b></p><p>One piece of advice I’d heard from several people prior to the wedding was to take a moment with your spouse, step back, and appreciate all the people who have gathered there for you. As I mentioned, Courtney and I got married in a barn—which is so on trend that at the start of the wedding it was hip and by the end it was passé—so after the cocktail hour we went up on the second level, looked down at all of our friends and family, and shared a moment of appreciation. It was truly special. And as an added bonus we got to wave down at everyone like a royal couple.<br><br><b>7. Let go.</b></p><p>You know the story: two Zen monks are walking along and find a woman unable to cross a river. One monk lifts her up and carries her across. Hours later the other monk, astonished that the first monk forbade the monastic rules about touching a woman, scolds his companion. To which the first monk says, “I only carried her across the river. You’ve been carrying her all day.”</p><p>Once the day arrives, you’ve done all you can to arrange it to your liking. There is nothing more you can do. So quit carrying the woman across the river (unless, for some reason, there is a literal river that the bride needs help crossing). Don’t try and orchestrate anything, don’t get involved in the nitty-gritty. Just let go.</p><p>On our wedding day, since I’d done so much research into the band, and since we’d booked such a great one, I became very adamant in convincing people to leave the beautiful veranda and bar and return to the dance floor. I spent way too much time and energy running around demanding that everyone “cut a rug.” Looking back, not only did I embarrass myself with my antiquated phrasing, I wasn’t able to let go and follow the energy of the evening. It is my only regret from our wedding day.<br><br><b>8. Be aware of impermanence.</b></p><p>It’s all temporary. Not your marriage, of course—that will last ‘til death do you part and, depending on your particular beliefs, potentially long after. I mean the wedding weekend. It is not longer than a typical weekend. It is not shorter. It is like a flock of birds landing on a tree and taking off again at the sound of thunder . . . only the tree is a barn in Vermont, and hopefully there is no thunder.</p><p>Heading into the weekend Courtney and I both reminded ourselves of how temporary this experience would be. She did it to brace herself for the inevitable end, and I did it so as not to freak out. It was one of the reasons we knew Wayne would be the perfect officiant for us. During a wedding weekend for another couple the summer prior, we bonded with him over our shared recognition that even though it was only Saturday, and we were at a bar enjoying a great live band, the weekend would soon be over. The looming end tinged all the joy of the experience with a streak of sorrow. Luckily, that is how I prefer my joy. Being aware of impermanence gives you all the more reason to appreciate what you have right now.<br><br><b>9. Breathe.</b><b>&nbsp;</b></p><p>As the crucial hour arrived, and Courtney and I stood at the altar under the brilliant sunshine, I found that contrary to the preoccupied terror I had imagined feeling, I was completely calm and present. I felt my breath rising and falling, I felt a cooling breeze, and I felt a mosquito crawl up my wrist and take a few freebies that I couldn’t stop since I was holding my soon-to-be-wife’s hands in front of 130 people.</p><p>I would like to attribute this calm to all that time spent on the sitting cushion, but Courtney, who does not routinely meditate, felt it too. All I know is that when it counted, we were able to be present, and I will forever be grateful for that. So remember to breathe. Should you stop breathing, hopefully you are marrying into a family of doctors.<br><br><b>10. Get the hell out of dodge.</b></p><p>Come Sunday you will find yourself beset by a powerful inertia. I’ve never felt anything quite like it. Courtney and I were about to take off for a week in Canada, and suddenly we had no desire to move. All we had to do was pack up and hit the road, and yet this process took hours. My final piece of advice may be the most practical: have your honeymoon bags packed ahead of time. Then—mindfully, of course—flee.<br><br><b>Alex Tzelnic</b> is a Zen practitioner and writer living in Cambridge, Massachusetts. His essays have appeared in <i>Killing the Buddha </i>and <i>The Rumpus</i>.</p><p>Photograph by <a href="" target="_blank">Maureen Cotton</a></p><hr><p><strong>More at Tricycle:</strong></p><table border="0" cellpadding="8" cellspacing="10" width="550"><tbody><tr></tr><tr><td scope="col" valign="top"><p><a href=""><img src="" alt="" width="270" height="180" border="0" style="display: block; border: none; outline: none; text-decoration: none;" class="colimg2"></a></p><span> <b>12 Things You Should Never Say to the Sick </b></span><p align="left"><a href="" style="font-size: 12px; font: normal 11px/12px arial,tahoma,sans-serif; color: #ffffff; text-decoration: none; border-radius: 3px; -webkit-border-radius: 3px; -moz-border-radius: 3px; background-color: #d7272e; border-top: 6px solid #d7272e; border-bottom: 6px solid #d7272e; border-right: 14px solid #d7272e; font-weight: bold; border-left: 14px solid #d7272e; display: inline-block;">READ THE POST →</a></p></td><td scope="col" valign="top"><p><a href=""><img src="" alt="" width="270" height="180" border="0" style="display: block; border: none; outline: none; text-decoration: none;" class="colimg2"></a></p><span> <b>Conscientious Compassion </b></span><p align="left"><a href="" style="font-size: 12px; font: normal 11px/12px arial,tahoma,sans-serif; color: #ffffff; text-decoration: none; border-radius: 3px; -webkit-border-radius: 3px; -moz-border-radius: 3px; background-color: #d7272e; border-top: 6px solid #d7272e; border-bottom: 6px solid #d7272e; border-right: 14px solid #d7272e; font-weight: bold; border-left: 14px solid #d7272e; display: inline-block;">READ THE POST →</a></p></td></tr></tbody></table> 46797 Wed, 02 Sep 2015 10:49:33 -0400 Tricycle - Awake in the World A Gleeful Foreboding <p><img src="" width="570" height="885" style="display: block; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;"></p><p>It’s strange how much modern people secretly crave weather-related disasters—the blizzard that shuts down a city, bringing travel and commerce to a halt, the tropical storm that knocks out power, leaving millions in the dark. People of earlier centuries rightly feared such events and earnestly prayed to be delivered from them. Now there's an excitement that begins building the moment we hear of such a storm.&nbsp;</p><p>That the larger storms sometimes turn deadly does little to chasten our feelings of anticipation. Part of it is the knowledge, gleaned from a century of experience, that things will soon go back to normal. Another is the paradox of media reports, which transform terrible events into a form of nightly entertainment while pretending to inform. In the meantime, provided no one we know has suffered harm, there's some comfort in having nature force our hands. It feels good to release our death grip on the steering wheel, and take up the snow shovel instead.&nbsp;</p><p>There's a tension between the part of us that wants to move along at speed, infatuated with our ever-proliferating array of screens and gadgets, and the part of us that deeply hates them, too. There's the part that doesn't want to be bothered with other people's lives and is therefore comfortable with the false proximity that social media affords. But there's also the part that is heartbroken at the loneliness and isolation of the life we are living—the part that requires medication and constant distraction just to endure it. If we can't stop ourselves from embracing the things we secretly hate and know to be bad for us, the question becomes what <em>will</em> stop us? Climate change is one answer. The end of oil would be another. In the meantime we have our storms.&nbsp;</p><p>It's a relief to have life placed on a real footing again, when it becomes about water and food, warmth and companionship. It's a relief, even if we can't do it for ourselves. Even if it lasts only for an evening or a day.&nbsp;</p><p>A few summers ago, as we were nearing the end of our yearly vacation, we heard that a hurricane was headed straight for Cape Cod. With only a day left on the rental house, we decided to make a dash for it rather than take the brunt of the storm. As it turns out, we'd have been better off staying where we were. Because instead of hitting the Cape, the storm struck a hundred miles inland, wiping out parts of the Catskill town just to the north of us and shutting off the power in our community for over a week.&nbsp;</p><p>Not only was the whole neighborhood plunged into utter darkness, the whole town was, too. A few people powered up generators, but the pinpricks of light they provided were powerless over that much darkness. There was no way they could prevail against the night.&nbsp;</p><p>People grumbled, but you could tell they were secretly delighted. They just didn't have the vocabulary to express it. Few of us know how saturated our minds and bodies are with light. Even fewer realize how profoundly modern media poisons the soul.&nbsp;</p><p>The storm brought down huge trees all up and down the road where we live. At night I'd have to climb over them just to complete my walk. I was sad to lose them, but there was something peaceful about the solid bulk of their bodies lying full across the road. The storm had been violent, but it wasn't a human violence. There was no callousness in it. Whatever is born will die, and those trees understood death better than a Buddha. Later they were removed piecemeal with a chainsaw by cutting them into manageable lengths and loading them into the backs of pickups that groaned audibly with the weight.&nbsp;</p><p>It was surprising how fast most people adjusted to the longer nights and earlier bedtimes. It was harder to make coffee without electricity, but most people had less need of it anyway. For the first time in months—in some cases, years—they were finally getting enough rest.&nbsp;</p><p>Friends who knew of my habit of waking up in the dark for a solitary ramble were suddenly interested in talking with me about it. Some reported strange dreams. A man I barely knew told me, "When the grid goes down, the mythical creatures return." He said it twice, like an incantation. The lit part of my mind dismissed what he was saying, but the dark part knew that it was true.&nbsp;</p><p>Our small town drifted together during those weeks, as neighbors who hadn't spoken in years shared meals and news with one another, helping with repairs and errands, and catching up on the hundred details of daily life that people share who live on the same road—or would share if they talked more often. Without phones there was no way to communicate without speaking face to face. But just as quickly the town drifted apart again, as people went back to the larger business of the world. The Internet was up, the interstate was open, and the TV came back on.&nbsp;</p><p>People's lives went back to normal after the hurricane was over and its devastation had been repaired or removed. But my own life never went back.</p><p>I would ask myself why later on. What about the hurricane left me unplugged from the worst, most addictive aspects of the culture, the hurricane that for most people was only a temporary glitch in the relentless technological advance of human life? In a word, it was <em>darkness</em>.</p><p>Our lives begin in the womb and end it in the tomb. Whatever light there is in the middle (and there’s more of it now than ever before) doesn’t change that basic fact. It’s dark on either side. And the billion-watt culture that passes for American life doesn’t change that. Occasionally, when the right storm comes along, we can still find ourselves at home in the dark.<br><br><strong>Clark Strand</strong> is a contributing editor to <em>Tricycle</em>. His most recent book is <em>Waking Up to the Dark: Ancient Wisdom for a Sleepless Age</em> (Spiegel & Grau), from which this essay has been adapted.</p><div><em>Gallery Stock</em></div><hr><p><strong>More at Tricycle:</strong></p><table border="0" cellpadding="8" cellspacing="10" width="550"><tbody><tr></tr><tr><td scope="col" valign="top"><p><a href=""><img src="" alt="" width="270" height="180" border="0" style="display: block; border: none; outline: none; text-decoration: none;" class="colimg2"></a></p><span> <b>The “Problem” of Religious Diversity </b></span><p align="left"><a href="" style="font-size: 12px; font: normal 11px/12px arial,tahoma,sans-serif; color: #ffffff; text-decoration: none; border-radius: 3px; -webkit-border-radius: 3px; -moz-border-radius: 3px; background-color: #d7272e; border-top: 6px solid #d7272e; border-bottom: 6px solid #d7272e; border-right: 14px solid #d7272e; font-weight: bold; border-left: 14px solid #d7272e; display: inline-block;">READ THE POST →</a></p></td><td scope="col" valign="top"><p><a href=""><img src="" alt="" width="270" height="180" border="0" style="display: block; border: none; outline: none; text-decoration: none;" class="colimg2"></a></p><span> <b>5 Reasons I Haven’t Settled On a Buddhist School </b></span><p align="left"><a href="" style="font-size: 12px; font: normal 11px/12px arial,tahoma,sans-serif; color: #ffffff; text-decoration: none; border-radius: 3px; -webkit-border-radius: 3px; -moz-border-radius: 3px; background-color: #d7272e; border-top: 6px solid #d7272e; border-bottom: 6px solid #d7272e; border-right: 14px solid #d7272e; font-weight: bold; border-left: 14px solid #d7272e; display: inline-block;">READ THE POST →</a></p></td></tr></tbody></table> 46792 Mon, 31 Aug 2015 15:45:48 -0400 Tricycle - Awake in the World Actualizing The Fundamental Point <p class="p1"><img src="" width="576" height="432" style="margin: 7px auto; vertical-align: middle; display: block;"></p><p class="p1">As all things are buddhadharma, there are delusion, realization, practice, birth and death, buddhas and sentient beings. As myriad things are without an abiding self, there is no delusion, no realization, no buddha, no sentient being, no birth and death. The Buddha way, in essence, is leaping clear of abundance and lack; thus there are birth and death, delusion and realization, sentient beings and buddhas. Yet in attachment blossoms fall, and in aversion weeds spread.&nbsp;</p><p class="p2">To carry the self forward and illuminate myriad things is delusion. That myriad things come forth and illuminate the self is awakening.&nbsp;</p><p class="p2">Those who have great realization of delusion are buddhas; those who are greatly deluded about realization are sentient beings. Further, there are those who continue realizing beyond realization and those who are in delusion throughout delusion.</p><p class="p2">When buddhas are truly buddhas, they do not necessarily notice that they are buddhas. However, they are actualized buddhas, who go on actualizing buddha.&nbsp;</p><p class="p2">When you see forms or hear sounds, fully engaging body-and-mind, you intuit dharma intimately. Unlike things and their reflections in the mirror, and unlike the moon and its reflection in the water, when one side is illumined, the other side is dark.&nbsp;</p><p class="p2">To study the way of enlightenment is to study the self. To study the self is to forget the self. To forget the self is to be actualized by myriad things. When actualized by myriad things, your body and mind, as well as the bodies and minds of others, drop away. No trace of enlightenment remains, and this no-trace continues endlessly.&nbsp;</p><p class="p2">When you first seek dharma, you imagine you are far away from its environs. At the moment when dharma is authentically transmitted, you are immediately your original self.&nbsp;</p><p class="p2">When you ride in a boat and watch the shore, you might assume that the shore is moving. But when you keep your eyes closely on the boat, you can see that the boat moves. Similarly, if you examine myriad things with a confused body and mind, you might suppose that your mind and essence are permanent. When you practice intimately and return to where you are, it will be clear that nothing at all has unchanging self.&nbsp;</p><p class="p2">Firewood becomes ash, and it does not become firewood again. Yet, do not suppose that the ash is after and the firewood before. Understand that firewood abides in its condition as firewood, which fully includes before and after, while it is independent of before and after. Ash abides in its condition as ash, which fully includes before and after. Just as firewood does not become firewood again after it is ash, you do not return to birth after death.</p><p class="p2">This being so, it is an established way in buddhadharma to deny that birth turns into death. Accordingly, birth is understood as beyond-birth. It is an unshakable teaching in the Buddha's discourse that death does not turn into birth. Accordingly, death is understood as beyond-death.</p><p class="p2">Birth is a condition complete this moment. Death is a condition complete this moment. They are like winter and spring. You do not call winter the beginning of spring, nor summer the end of spring.&nbsp;</p><p class="p2">Enlightenment is like the moon reflected on the water. The moon does not get wet, nor is the water broken. Although its light is wide and great, the moon is reflected even in a puddle an inch wide. The whole moon and the entire sky are reflected in dewdrops on the grass or even in one drop of water.</p><p class="p2">Enlightenment does not divide you, just as the moon does not break the water. You cannot hinder enlightenment, just as a drop of water does not crush the moon in the sky. The depth of the drop is the height of the moon. Each reflection, however long or short its duration, manifests the vastness of the dewdrop and realizes the limitlessness of the moonlight in the sky.&nbsp;</p><p class="p2">When dharma does not fill your whole body and mind, you may assume it is already sufficient. When dharma fills your body and mind, you understand that something is missing. For example, when you sail out in a boat to the middle of an ocean where no land is in sight and view the four directions, the ocean looks circular and does not look any other way. But the ocean is neither round nor square; its features are infinite in variety. It is like a palace. It is like a jewel. It only looks circular as far as you can see at that time. All things are like this.</p><p class="p2">Though there are many features in the dusty world and the world beyond conditions, you see and understand only what your eye of practice can reach. In order to learn the nature of the myriad things, you must know that although they may look round or square, the other features of oceans and mountains are infinite in variety; whole worlds are there. It is so not only around you, but also directly beneath your feet, or in a drop of water.&nbsp;</p><p class="p2">A fish swims in the ocean, and no matter how far it swims, there is no end to the water. A bird flies in the sky, and no matter how far it flies, there is no end to the air. However, the fish and bird have never left their elements. When their activity is large, their field is large. When their need is small, their field is small. Thus, each of them totally covers its full range, and each of them totally experiences its realm. If the bird leaves the air, it will die at once. If the fish leaves the water, it will die at once.&nbsp;</p><p class="p2">Know that water is life and air is life. The bird is life and the fish is life. Life must be the bird and life must be the fish. You can go further. There is practice-enlightenment, which encompasses limited and unlimited life.&nbsp;</p><p class="p2">Now, if a bird or a fish tries to reach the end of its element before moving in it, this bird or this fish will not find its way or its place. When you find your place where you are, practice occurs, actualizing the fundamental point. When you find your way at this moment, practice occurs, actualizing the fundamental point, for the place, the way, is neither large nor small, neither yours nor others'. The place, the way, has not carried over from the past, and it is not merely arising now. Accordingly, in the practice-enlightenment of the buddha way, to attain one thing is to penetrate one thing; to meet one practice is to sustain one practice.&nbsp;</p><p class="p2">Here is the place; here the way unfolds. The boundary of realization is not distinct, for the realization comes forth simultaneously with the full experience of buddhadharma. Do not suppose that what you attain becomes your knowledge and is grasped by your intellect. Although actualized immediately, what is inconceivable may not be apparent. Its emergence is beyond your knowledge.&nbsp;</p><p class="p2">Mayu, Zen Master Baoche, was fanning himself. A monk approached and said, "Master, the nature of wind is permanent, and there is no place it does not reach. Why then do you fan yourself?"&nbsp;</p><p class="p2">"Although you understand that the nature of the wind is permanent," Mayu replied, "you do not understand the meaning of its reaching everywhere."&nbsp;</p><p class="p2">"What is the meaning of its reaching everywhere?" asked the monk again.</p><p class="p2">Mayu just kept fanning himself.</p><p class="p2">The monk bowed deeply.&nbsp;</p><p class="p2">The actualization of the buddhadharma, the vital path of its authentic transmission, is like this. If you say that you do not need to fan yourself because the nature of wind is permanent and you can have wind without fanning, you will understand neither permanence nor the nature of the wind. The nature of wind is permanent; because of that, the wind of the Buddha's house brings forth the gold of the earth and ripens the cream of the long river.<br><br><strong>Eihei Dogen</strong> (1200–1253) left Japan to study in China and then brought Zen Buddhism back to his own country. The seminal philosophical force of Japanese Soto Zen, Dogen Zenji is revered today for the clarity of his insights, for his passion, and for his poetry.</p><p>From <i>Zen Chants</i>, edited by Kazuaki Tanahashi. Translation of this excerpt by Robert Aitken and Kazuaki Tanahashi. Revised at the San Francisco Zen center and, later, at the Berkeley Zen Center. © 2015 <a href="">Shambhala Publications, inc</a>.</p><p><em>Image: LadyDragonFlyCC/<a href="" target="_blank">Flickr</a></em></p> 46785 Thu, 27 Aug 2015 16:20:17 -0400 Tricycle - Awake in the World 12 Things You Should Never Say to the Sick <p class="p1"><img src="" width="576" height="360" style="margin: 7px auto; vertical-align: middle; display: block;"></p><p class="p1">Even the most well-intentioned people often don’t know how to talk to the chronically ill. This is because we live in a culture that treats illness as unnatural. As a result, people have been conditioned to turn away in aversion from those who aren’t healthy, even though it’s a fate that will befall everyone at some point in his or her life.&nbsp;</p><p class="p2">The consequences of taking this unrealistic view of the realities of the human condition is that many people feel uneasy and even fearful when they encounter people who are struggling with their health. I admit that this was true of me before I became chronically ill. Now I find it as natural to talk to people who are chronically ill as I do to people who are the pinnacle of health.&nbsp;</p><p class="p2">I hope this list encourages people who know someone who is chronically ill to become more mindful of their speech. I also hope it will help those who are sick and those who are in pain feel less alone. I expect that those of you who are chronically ill will recognize many of the comments you’re about to read.<br><br><strong>1. “You look fantastic!”</strong></p><p class="p2">It’s a challenge to respond to comments such as “You look fantastic,” or the dreaded “But you don’t look sick,” because we know that the speaker is only trying to be nice. If we respond truthfully with “Well, I don’t feel fantastic” or “Thanks, but I feel awful,” the other person might be embarrassed or think we’re being ungrateful. I admit that I’ve never come up with a satisfactory response to this comment. I usually mumble “thanks” and try to change the subject.<br><br><strong>2. “You just need to get out more often.”</strong></p><p class="p2">One day, my husband and I were at an espresso place and a woman who knows I’m sick stopped and said to me, “You look so good!” My husband politely responded that actually, I was quite sick. When she then said to me, “You just need to get out more often,” I was at a loss for words. My husband told me afterward that he wanted to say to her, “You don’t heal a broken leg by going for a hike.” He held his tongue because he thought she might take it as an insult.<br><br><strong>3. “Give me a call if there’s anything I can do.”</strong></p><p class="p2">I’ve been on the receiving end of this well-intentioned comment many times. Not once has it resulted in my picking up the phone. The offer is too open-ended. It puts the ball in my court and I’m not going to hit it back, either because I’m too proud, too shy, too sick—or a combination of the three. I’m not going to call and say, “Can you come over and weed my garden?” But if someone were to call and offer to come over and do it, I’d gratefully say, “Yes!”<br><br><strong>4. “I wish I could lie around all day and do nothing.”</strong></p><p class="p2">A friend said this to me over the phone; it’s stuck in my mind all these years because it hurt terribly at the time. It may sound as if it couldn’t possibly have been well-intentioned and yet, given the tone of voice in which it was delivered, I’ve decided it was. I’m sure that my high-powered, overworked friend was genuinely thinking, “Lucky you to have so much leisure time.”&nbsp;</p><p class="p2">When she said it, I was still so sensitive about being sick—including being worried that people might think I was a malingerer—that tears came to my eyes. I wanted to scream at her, “You have no idea how it feels to be stuck in bed and have no choice but to do nothing!” Instead, I mumbled something and made an excuse to get off the phone because I could feel the sobs coming—which they did as soon as I hung up.<br><br><strong>5. “Disease is a message from your soul, telling you that something is wrong with your True Self.”</strong></p><p class="p2">This is an excerpt from one of dozens of emails I’ve received from people trying to diagnose or cure me. I must admit that I have no idea what the sentence means. Are the soul and the True Self different entities, and the one that is okay is sending a message to the other one saying that something’s wrong with it? Bottom line: This is not helpful. And while we’re on the subject of “not helpful,” another person said she’d help me get my health back—free of charge—by showing me how to perform a “soul retrieval.” Sigh.<br><br><strong>6. “My sister-in-law’s best friend had what you have and said she got better by drinking bottled water.”</strong></p><p class="p2">Little did this speaker realize that it’s just as likely that my own sister-in-law’s best friend had what I have and told me that I could get better if I <i>stopped</i> drinking bottled water! It would be such a relief if people understood that, despite their best intentions, we’re unlikely to want advice on treatments—unless we ask for it, of course. Most of us have spent hours on the internet, researching possible treatments. We know what’s available, and we know what we’re considering. When people offer treatments, especially based on anecdotal evidence, it puts us in a position of having to defend our treatment decisions.</p><p class="p2">Another piece of treatment advice that many of us have heard multiple times: “Have you tried sleeping pills?” Sleeping pills? Who hasn’t tried sleeping pills? Even healthy people do. Sleeping pills may be helpful for some people, but they are not a cure for chronic illness. Regarding any comment that starts with the phrase “Have you tried…”: If it’s available by prescription or as a supplement or even as Chinese herb, the odds are very high that I know about it and that I’ve tried it!<br><br><strong>7. “Do you meditate?”</strong></p><p class="p2">Yes, I meditate—although, depending on our relationship, this may be an intrusive question. Meditation and other stress-reduction techniques can help with symptom relief and with the mental stress that often accompanies ongoing pain and illness. However, they are not a cure for a physically based chronic illness.<br><br><strong>8. “Aren’t you worried that you’re getting out of shape from living such a sedentary lifestyle?”</strong></p><p class="p2">Uh...yes. Thanks for reminding me.<br><br><strong>9. “Just don’t think about it.”</strong></p><p class="p2">This comment left me speechless...but still thinking about “it.”<br><br><strong>10. “Are you eating enough fruits and vegetables?”</strong></p><p class="p2">As many as this one body can hold!<br><br><strong>11. “Have you googled your symptoms?”</strong></p><p class="p2">Let me count the ways.<br><br><strong>12. “At least you still have your sense of humor.”</strong></p><p class="p2">Thanks. Truth be told, however, I’d rather be a humorless healthy person.<br><br><strong>Toni Bernhard</strong> is a former law professor who has authored several books on dealing with chronic illness. She publishes regularly on her blog, "<a href="" target="_blank">Turning Straw into Gold</a>."</p><p>© 2015 Toni Bernhard, <em>How to Live Well with Chronic Pain and Illness</em>. Reprinted by arrangement with <a href="" target="_blank">Wisdom Publications, Inc</a>.</p><p class="p2"><em>Illustration by James Thacher</em></p><p class="p2"></p><hr><p><strong>More at Tricycle:</strong></p><table border="0" cellpadding="8" cellspacing="10" width="550"><tbody><tr></tr><tr><td scope="col" valign="top"><p><a href=""><img src="" alt="" width="270" height="180" border="0" style="display: block; border: none; outline: none; text-decoration: none;" class="colimg2"></a></p><span> <b>The “Problem” of Religious Diversity </b></span><p align="left"><a href="" style="font-size: 12px; font: normal 11px/12px arial,tahoma,sans-serif; color: #ffffff; text-decoration: none; border-radius: 3px; -webkit-border-radius: 3px; -moz-border-radius: 3px; background-color: #d7272e; border-top: 6px solid #d7272e; border-bottom: 6px solid #d7272e; border-right: 14px solid #d7272e; font-weight: bold; border-left: 14px solid #d7272e; display: inline-block;">READ THE POST →</a></p></td><td scope="col" valign="top"><p><a href=""><img src="" alt="" width="270" height="180" border="0" style="display: block; border: none; outline: none; text-decoration: none;" class="colimg2"></a></p><span> <b>5 Reasons I Haven’t Settled On a Buddhist School </b></span><p align="left"><a href="" style="font-size: 12px; font: normal 11px/12px arial,tahoma,sans-serif; color: #ffffff; text-decoration: none; border-radius: 3px; -webkit-border-radius: 3px; -moz-border-radius: 3px; background-color: #d7272e; border-top: 6px solid #d7272e; border-bottom: 6px solid #d7272e; border-right: 14px solid #d7272e; font-weight: bold; border-left: 14px solid #d7272e; display: inline-block;">READ THE POST →</a></p></td></tr></tbody></table> 46783 Wed, 26 Aug 2015 15:05:40 -0400 Tricycle - Awake in the World The “Problem” of Religious Diversity <p><img src="" width="570" height="365" style="display: block; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;"></p><p>To tell the truth, I have no idea which element of my hyphenated identity as a Buddhist practitioner and a scholar of comparative religions is more prominent in my conviction that religious diversity, which also includes indifference to organized religions, is simply a normal, natural aspect of life. Yet I was brought up to think that it was a huge problem. At some point, fairly early in my life, it just became ludicrous to me to think that of all the people on earth, only a relatively small group of very conservative German Lutherans had their heads on straight and had all the correct answers to every difficult problem or existential issue. Truly, how much sense could that make! I did not have many resources with which to come to that conclusion—very little lived experience encountering much diversity, no like-thinking friends or mentors, and few books or other intellectual stimulation. But it just didn’t make sense to think that the group into which I was born was so superior to every other group on earth, or that other people didn’t feel affection for their own lifeways, whatever they might be. Given the ease with which I thought past the indoctrination I was given, I am somewhat impatient with people who buy into religious chauvinism—or chauvinisms of any kind.</p><p>John Hick is fond of talking about adopting a pluralist outlook regarding religious diversity as a Copernican revolution regarding religion that is necessary in our time. While I basically accept his idea, I would add that <i>overcoming</i> <i>our</i> <i>discomfort</i> with that diversity is critical in that Copernican revolution required for religious believers at this time. There are two parts to my claim. The first is that religious diversity is a fact, and it is also a fact that religious diversity is here to stay. There simply are no grounds to dispute those facts. The second part of my claim is that we need to find the resources and means to become comfortable with and untroubled by the fact of that diversity.</p><p>The sun does not revolve around the earth, and one’s own religion cannot be declared the One True Faith. These are equivalent statements, of equal obviousness and clarity, no matter what previous religious dogmas may have declared. It is as useless to hang on to the dogma that one’s own religion is the best because that is what one was previously taught as it would be to hang on to the dogma that the sun <i>literally</i> rises and sets because it appears to and because the Bible seems to say so. Religions always get into the most trouble when their dogmas lead them to deny facts on the basis of authority; but dogmas die slowly. I was amazed in the fall of 2011 to discover that some Jain pundits still declare that the earth is flat because that’s what Jain scriptures state. When empirical evidence is presented to them, they respond that some day science will catch up with their scriptures.</p><p>Exclusive truth claims and religious diversity are mutually exclusive; they <i>cannot</i> survive together in any harmonious, peaceful, and respectful way. Surviving religious diversity involves coming to a deep and profound realization that religious diversity is not a mistake or a problem. It does not have to be overcome, and there is no need to suggest that other traditions may have partial truth or to try to find some deeper, overarching or underlying truth that encompasses the many religious traditions. To accept this truth often requires profound inner adjustments, but they are not very hard to make in the face of obvious evidence.</p><p>What is such incontrovertible evidence regarding the naturalness of religious diversity? From the comparative study of religion, we learn that, no matter where or when we look in the history of humanity, people have devised a great variety of religious practices and beliefs. This diversity is both internal and external. That is to say, not only are there many religions around the world; each religion also contains a great deal of internal diversity. Even those religions that proclaim they are the One True Faith are internally very diverse. How could they imagine that someday there will be one universal global religion to which all people will adhere when they cannot even secure internal agreement about their own religion’s essentials? Why should we expect that in the future, such diversity would disappear and the religious outlook of one group of people would prevail over all others? That has the same cogency as expecting that most people would give up their native tongue to adopt another language for the sake of an ability to communicate universally. And, as I have argued in the past, having a universal language would actually be very helpful and make communication easier, whereas having a universal, common religion would not significantly improve anything. In fact, it would rob us of a lot of interesting religious and spiritual alternatives, a lot of material that is good to think with, in the felicitous phrasing of anthropologist Claude Levi-Strauss. It would be helpful if we could all talk about all those alternatives in a language we could all understand. It does not seem that we are likely to have that common language anytime soon. But diminishing the number of religious alternatives, per the vision of religious exclusivists, does nothing to enrich our human community. <b></b></p><p>However, the vast variety of data available from the cross-cultural comparative study of religion does not provide <i>theologically</i> the incontrovertible proof regarding the normality and naturalness of religious diversity that I am seeking. Those data are simply a fascinating kaleidoscope. They present us with facts but say little about how to value those facts. There would seem to be an obvious, simple theological justification for religious diversity available to theists and monotheists. I used to suggest to my Christian and theistic students that the deity they believed in had obviously created a world in which religious diversity rather than uniformity prevailed. One would think that for those to whom belief in a creator deity is important, the manifest world that the deity had created would be acceptable. But my students objected to that logic, saying they knew that God wanted them to stamp out religious diversity. Factual information is often unconvincing to those with settled theological opinions. Unfortunately for them, one of the most famous monotheistic justifications of religious diversity was from the wrong revealed scripture, so it didn’t matter to them. The Quran states:</p><blockquote><p>To every one of you we have appointed a [sacred] law and a course to follow. For, had God so wished, He would have made you all one community. Rather He wished to try you by means of what He had given you; who among you is of the best action. Compete therefore with one another as if in a race in the performance of good deeds. To God shall be your return, and He will inform you concerning the things in which you had differed. (Q. 5:48)</p></blockquote><p>Take out the theistic language, and this advice is not too different from what I propose.</p><p>On the other hand, what I propose is quite different from what the Quran says in one significant way; for we need to locate the rationale and need for religious diversity, not in what unseen and unknowable metaphysical entities such as deities might decree, but in how human consciousness operates. If we are to speak of Copernican revolutions in how we view religious diversity, I would suggest that we shift our focus from how we think of God and instead put much more emphasis in thinking about how and why we construct and accept the theologies we do. In other words, shift the gaze from theology to spirituality. Shift from looking to something external, even an external as abstract as Ultimate Reality, as the source of our religious ideas. Instead look to our own quest for meaning and coherence. As I am fond of telling my follow Buddhists who want to believe in strange, nonhuman origins for some of their texts, sacred books do not fall from some other world into our sphere, neatly bound between two covers. They are the products of cultural evolution and are accepted only because they seem coherent and helpful to humans. For those who are or want to remain theists, such a move does not jeopardize their belief system. Belief in an external deity is such an attractive alternative that most people prefer it to nontheism. In fact, in some forms of Buddhism, it can be hard to detect how Buddhists have remained true to the nontheistic origins, though more sophisticated exegesis of such forms of Buddhism can always rescue a nontheistic core. However, thinking there could be an <i>unmediated</i> text, creed, or religious practice—something independent of human agency—is not only a strange idea but also an idea that is devastating to flourishing with religious diversity.</p><p>Moving from theology to spirituality and human consciousness would be a realistic and very helpful move. It is also a typical nontheistic and Buddhist move. According to Buddhism, human minds create our worlds, both their problems and their possibilities. This is probably the biggest difference in the claims made by theistic and nontheistic religious, though a nontheist Buddhist would argue that theistic religions are actually created by their adherents, not by the deities they worship. (Interesting is that both Buddhists and students of comparative religions agree on the point that religions are products of human history and culture, not of direct divine intervention into history.) We have created our problems, and only we can solve them. That becomes something of a bottom line for Buddhists. We need to train our minds to be less attached, less mistaken, less shortsighted, and, most of all, less self-centered. After all, discomfort with religious others is a form of self-centeredness.</p><p>How do we take that perspective into solving the “problem” of religious diversity? First, I would argue that<b> </b>religious diversity exists because it is psychologically and spiritually impossible for all human beings to follow one theological outlook or spiritual path. We are not built that way. That’s just not how we are. Religious diversity, which is inevitable, natural, and normal, flows from our different spiritual and psychological inclinations. Therefore, inevitably, we will encounter religious others. Second, I would argue that the acid test of a religion’s worth lies with what kind of tools it provides its adherents for coping gracefully and kindly with their worlds and the other beings who inhabit them. Discomfort with religious diversity and the wish to abolish it is a psychological and spiritual deficiency arising in an untrained human mind, a mind that does not know how to relax and be at ease with what is, with things as they are, as Buddhists like to say. Solving the “problem” of religious diversity has much more to do with human beings’ attitudes toward one another than with somehow adjudicating their rather different theological and metaphysical views. Thus, I am suggesting that we should start, not with religious creeds and questions about religions or metaphysical truth, but with questions about how people are—different from one another—and about how well religions function to help them live with how they are.<br><br><b>Rita Gross </b>is a Buddhist scholar-practitioner and retired professor of comparative studies in religion.</p><p>From <i><a href="" target="_blank">Religious Diversity, What’s the Problem?</a> Buddhist Advice for Flourishing with Religious Diversity</i>, by Rita M. Gross. Reprinted with permission of <a href="" target="_blank">Wipf and Stock Publishers</a>.&nbsp;</p><p><em>Illustration by Ray Zim</em></p><hr><p><strong>More at Tricycle:</strong></p><table border="0" cellpadding="8" cellspacing="10" width="550"><tbody><tr></tr><tr><td scope="col" valign="top"><p><a href=""><img src="" alt="" width="270" height="180" border="0" style="display: block; border: none; outline: none; text-decoration: none;" class="colimg2"></a></p><span> <b>12 Things You Should Never Say to the Sick </b></span><p align="left"><a href="" style="font-size: 12px; font: normal 11px/12px arial,tahoma,sans-serif; color: #ffffff; text-decoration: none; border-radius: 3px; -webkit-border-radius: 3px; -moz-border-radius: 3px; background-color: #d7272e; border-top: 6px solid #d7272e; border-bottom: 6px solid #d7272e; border-right: 14px solid #d7272e; font-weight: bold; border-left: 14px solid #d7272e; display: inline-block;">READ THE POST →</a></p></td><td scope="col" valign="top"><p><a href=""><img src="" alt="" width="270" height="180" border="0" style="display: block; border: none; outline: none; text-decoration: none;" class="colimg2"></a></p><span> <b>Conscientious Compassion </b></span><p align="left"><a href="" style="font-size: 12px; font: normal 11px/12px arial,tahoma,sans-serif; color: #ffffff; text-decoration: none; border-radius: 3px; -webkit-border-radius: 3px; -moz-border-radius: 3px; background-color: #d7272e; border-top: 6px solid #d7272e; border-bottom: 6px solid #d7272e; border-right: 14px solid #d7272e; font-weight: bold; border-left: 14px solid #d7272e; display: inline-block;">READ THE POST →</a></p></td></tr></tbody></table> 46779 Tue, 25 Aug 2015 10:33:38 -0400 Tricycle - Awake in the World Conscientious Compassion <p><img src="" width="570" height="380" style="display: block; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;"></p><p>American scholar and Theravada monk Venerable Bhikkhu Bodhi might not receive the same high-profile press coverage as the Roman Catholic Church’s charismatic standard-bearer Pope Francis, but it is becoming evident to Buddhism watchers and commentators that his message is every bit as bold, eloquent, and sophisticated. The recent focus on Bhikkhu Bodhi and other courageous Buddhist leaders who are highlighting imminent threats such as climate change and global hunger might well be influenced by the popular resonance with the urgency with which Pope Francis speaks about the issues. Whatever the reasons, Bhikkhu Bodhi’s actions speak loudly for themselves. As the founder and chair of the humanitarian organization Buddhist Global Relief (BGR), his activist work centers specifically on the issues of climate change (he is a spiritual ambassador for the interfaith climate change movement Our Voices) and hunger relief.</p><p>“When we started BGR, we initially set our mission to help those afflicted with poverty, disaster, and societal neglect,” he says.</p><blockquote><p>But after a short time we realized that this was too vague and not practical. Even large, well-established humanitarian organizations like CARE and Oxfam have more precisely defined missions. As a tiny Buddhist organization, we could not tackle the whole range of human challenges on this planet without dissipating our energies.</p><p>I thus drew on my own experience in Sri Lanka and India, where I knew many people were suffering from malnutrition—though this problem is not as acute in Sri Lanka as it is in other countries. I also had read about the extent of global hunger, and it boggled my mind to realize that close to a billion people were suffering from food insecurity and that some six million a year died from hunger and hunger-related illnesses. I learned that it would take only about $40 billion a year to eliminate global hunger. Yet worldwide, governments pour perhaps a few trillion dollars annually into military budgets, while millions die of hunger. This struck me as a tragedy and pulled at my heart. The Buddha, in the&nbsp;<em>Dhammapada</em>, had said: ‘There is no illness like hunger,’ and he often stressed the merits of providing food to the hungry. Thereby I saw a close fit between traditional Buddhist values and a more precise mission for BGR.</p></blockquote><p>Bhikkhu Bodhi’s visibility in American public discourse over the past several years, especially as a representative of a “minority” religion in the US, is already impressive. In May this year, he was at George Washington University and the White House to discuss Buddhist civic engagement and the types of policies that Buddhists would like to see implemented. From a long-term perspective, however, Bhikkhu Bodhi doesn’t believe that the small number of Buddhists in the US as a discrete movement can have a significant impact on civic life.</p><blockquote><p>We are just a few ripples on the surface of the lake. Rather, in my view, our best prospects for giving&nbsp;Buddhist values a role in public affairs would be to join hands with other faith-based organizations that share these values. Rooted in our respective faiths we can present a collective front, advocating for greater social justice, ecological responsibility, a more peaceful foreign policy, and an end to racism and police violence against people of color.</p></blockquote><p>“This is especially necessary in the US,” he suggests, “since fundamentalist Christians have grabbed the moral high ground, advocating an agenda that seems driven more by bigotry and religious dogmatism than by true benevolence and care for the less fortunate.”</p><p>Many Buddhist leaders as well as voices from other faiths recognize that divided, the religions cannot form a united front on mitigating and transforming many of the selfish and destructive interests that are threatening to exhaust the planet’s resources.</p><p>“The major threat that I see today lies in the ascendency of a purely utilitarian worldview driven by a ruthless economic system that rates everything in terms of its monetary value and sees everything as nothing more than a source of financial profit,” he warns, echoing many similarly dire warnings from other religious public figures.</p><blockquote><p>Under this mode of thinking, the environment turns into a pool of “natural resources” to be extracted and turned into profit-generating goods, and people are exploited for their labor and then disposed of when they are no longer of use.</p><p>To resist these trends, I believe, we as Buddhists can be most effective by networking with others who regard human dignity and the integrity of the natural world as more precious than monetary wealth. By joining together, a collective voice might emerge that could well set in motion the forces needed to articulate and embody a new paradigm rooted in the intrinsic dignity of the person and the interdependence of all life on Earth. Such collaboration&nbsp;could serve to promote the alternative values that offer sane&nbsp;alternatives to our free-market imperatives of corporatism, exploitation, extraction, consumerism, and&nbsp;toxic economic growth.</p></blockquote><p>This will be no mean feat, and might be the greatest moral challenge posed to Buddhism and humanity as a whole in our time. To muster the energy to even begin building this united interfaith front, Bhikkhu Bodhi believes that Buddhists in the East and West alike need to nurture stronger humanitarian concern in their hearts.</p><blockquote><p>Western Buddhists—and I think this is probably largely true among educated Buddhists in Asia—take to the dharma primarily as a path of inward development that bids us look away from the conditions of our societies. If this trend continues, Buddhism will serve as a comfortable home for the intellectual and cultural elite, but risks turning the quest for enlightenment into a private journey that offers only a resigned quietism in the face of the immense suffering which daily afflicts countless human lives.</p></blockquote><p>He believes there are two primary moral principles involved in this effort. “One is love, which arises from empathy, the ability to feel the happiness and suffering of others as one’s own. When love is directed toward those afflicted with suffering, it manifests as compassion, the sharing of their suffering, coupled with a determination to remove their suffering,” he says.</p><blockquote><p>The other principle that goes along with love is justice. Some of my Buddhist friends have objected to this, saying that justice is a concept foreign to Buddhism. I don’t agree. I think the word <i>dhamma</i>, in one of its many nuances, can be understood to signify justice, as when the “wheel-turning monarch”&nbsp;is described as <em>dhammiko dhammaraja</em>, which I would render “a righteous king of righteousness,” or “a just king of justice.” In my understanding, justice arises when we recognize that all people possess intrinsic value, that all are endowed with inherent dignity, and therefore should be helped to realize this dignity.</p></blockquote><p>Bhikkhu Bodhi finally joins the two concepts to form a distinct ethical ideal.</p><blockquote><p>When compassion and justice are unified, we arrive at what I call&nbsp;<em>conscientious compassion</em>. This is compassion, not merely as a beautiful inward feeling of empathy with those suffering, but a compassion that gives birth to a fierce determination to uplift others, to tackle the causes of their suffering, and to establish the social, economic, and political conditions that will enable everyone to flourish and live in harmony.&nbsp;</p></blockquote><p>He invokes the idea of dependent origination to explain the need to see the interdependence between states of mind (particularly those governed by greed and delusion) and an economic system built on the premise of unlimited growth on a finite planet. Bhikkhu Bodhi concludes that if humanity is to avoid a horrific fate, a double transformation is necessary. First, we must undergo an “inner conversion” away from the quest to satisfy proliferating desires and the constant stimulation of greed or craving. But change is also needed in our institutions and social systems. Bhikkhu Bodhi suggests people turn away from an economic order based on incessant production and consumption and move toward a steady-state economy managed by people themselves for the benefit of their communities, rather than by corporate executives bent on market dominance and expanding profits.</p><blockquote><p>At its most radical level, the dharma teaches that the highest happiness is to be realized through the complete renunciation of craving. But few are capable of such a degree of detachment. To make the message more palatable, we have to stress such values as contentment, simplicity, the appreciation of natural beauty, and fulfillment through meaningful relationships, and the effort to control and master the mind.</p></blockquote><p>&nbsp;</p><p><i>A version of this essay first appeared in <a href="">Buddhistdoor Global</a></i>.</p><p><em>Photograph by Tom Martinez</em></p> 46774 Thu, 20 Aug 2015 10:54:17 -0400 Tricycle - Awake in the World 5 Reasons I Haven't Settled on a Buddhist School <p><img src="" width="570" height="356" style="display: block; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;"></p><p>What do you look for in a Buddhist tradition? What draws you in and makes you feel like one specific approach is your home? A charismatic teacher? Pragmatic meditation techniques? Elaborate rituals? Fancy man-dresses and sparkly beads? The opportunity to kung fu your enemies?</p><p>Want to know what I look for? Probably not, but here goes.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p>I look for perfection. Utter, complete, sublime perfection.</p><p>For the past 16 years or so I’ve been on an elaborate, grueling search for Buddhism’s immaculate vehicle, the tradition or lineage that will slingshot me to enlightenment without ruffling any of my admittedly messy feathers, the one that suits me to a T. Not too hot. Not too cold. Just right.</p><p>I’ve spent more time hunting this exquisite Buddhism than actually practicing, which makes me about as far from awakened as possible. I am literally unenlightening myself.</p><p>In my various half-assed involvements, I’ve stumbled through all three major divisions of meditation-based Buddhism popular in the US—Tibetan, Zen, and Vipassana. What I’ve learned is that they’re all just fine, and it’s not them, it’s me. I’ve put together the top five reasons I can’t seem to just pick one already and get on with it.<br><br><strong>1. Fomo.</strong></p><p>This one is just sheer anxiety. <i>Fear of missing out</i>, inculcated by digital technology, is a subtle plague gnawing at my attention. Sort of like when I’m at my desk, madly typing away at the next great comedic Buddhist masterpiece, and I wonder what’s happening on Facebook. Well, not exactly what’s <i>happening</i>. What’s happening is nugatory. But I’m <i>missing</i> it. What if, underneath the mean-spirited memes, owl videos, and blisteringly pointless arguments, there’s something important? Something I <i>need</i>? And here I am just working and earning a living like a chump.</p><p>Unfortunately, I’m the same when it comes to Buddhism. It’s hard for me to settle into just one thing when there are so many other things out there I may be missing. Shiny things.</p><p>No matter what tradition I’m in, I wonder what’s going on in all the others, if their approaches might be better. What if mine, delightful as it is, turns out to be wrong, and something else is right?</p><p>It’s a bit like at the gym. I have my steel-rolled oats for breakfast and then head over in an attempt to get all lean and at least partially mean. And while human bison in the back lift small planets and human gazelles gallop to svelte glory on their treadmills, I’m wondering whether I’m doing my yoga right. Maybe… a protein shake?</p><p>Every time I’ve focused on a particular approach, it’s because I believed it was the right one. Not right <i>for me</i>, but correct in general. And that mindset is what has subverted every serious attempt at dharma practice I’ve undertaken. There is no <i>right</i> one. This spiritual practice is about fit, not fact; method, not maxim.</p><p>But I kept missing that. Instead of choosing something and trying to understand its ups and downs, I left at the first down. I bounced from one tradition to another hoping I’d find some sublime bag of chips just waiting to be ripped open. There had to be something that was only ups and no downs, something with all the tasty answers. I just had to keep looking.</p><p>And I wasn’t even looking out of real dissatisfaction with my current situation. I was just too antsy to relax. I kept one eye on what I was doing and the other peeled for the next thing, the <i>better</i> thing that might come along.</p><p>Predictably, I never got very far. With one cheek on the cushion and one foot inching toward the door, it’s impossible to settle down and let the practice do its thing. The worst part of it is how capricious I eventually became. At first I was searching out of nervousness that I might miss exactly what I needed, somewhere vaguely “out there.” But eventually I realized I was looking because of a new, sneering cynicism. That’s because…<br><br><strong>2. Familiarity breeds contempt.&nbsp;</strong></p><p>Is Theravada too simple? Is Zen too chilly and austere? Is Vajrayana too mystical, scary, and outlandish? Where are my pants?</p><p>(See? It gets weird quick.)</p><p>I started my Buddhist journey in the Shambhala lineage because it was available. Its amazing mix of secular teachings and old-school Tibetan Buddhism was intoxicating. In addition, the vivid colors, weird-ass knives, screaming skulls, and snarling deities declared right up front that, much like Wu-Tang, this wasn’t nothin’ to fuck with.</p><p>I spent several years there and completed the first five levels of Shambhala Training, which is like getting your yellow belt. After that, I lived at a retreat center in Vermont in order to totally immerse myself. I discovered that this was a religion like any other with bureaucracy, hierarchy, secrecy, egos, superstitions, and misplaced devotion. There was plenty of good, too, but I was overwhelmed by the ersatz royal family and their quasi-military <a href="">Vajra Guard</a>. I wondered whether this often-outrageous system might be incompatible with the modern world.</p><p>Then Zen sauntered by, with its clean lines, stripped down practice, and dark, emo robes. A few wild stories about ancient masters and I was ready to jump its bones and fondle its koans. It was so different from the extravagant world of Tibetan Vajrayana, so sleek, elegant, and indifferent. It played hard to get and I was intrigued.</p><p>I slunk to Zen’s non-approach and we had a one-night stand that turned into something more, something solid. Together, we heaped scorn on the ostentatious Tibetan path I’d recently escaped. We were so facile and free, so snarky and sage, and so downright mean sometimes. And all for the cause, all for some of that sweet, sweet <i>kensho</i>.</p><p>Zazen became my new thing, and its pure, unaffected elegance was a joy. Meditation sessions were filled with form and emptiness and all those other things. Everything clicked right into place like I was Tab A and Zen was Slot B. <i>That’s the stuff</i>, I thought. Or maybe said out loud in the zendo.</p><p>Five months later I was a bit miffed at Zen’s OCD. Can’t I just leave the occasional thought lying around my mind? Jeez. Lighten up. Grow a sense of humor and stop bugging me about polishing the mirror.</p><p>There wasn’t anything <i>wrong</i>, exactly, but Zen became sort of aloof and distant. Its ideas of liberation were mired in double-speak and its stylish simplicity seemed to mask a devilish complexity.</p><p>When I bumped into Vipassana, I wasn’t really looking for anything. I was sure Zen and I could work this out. Hey, we weren’t even on a break.</p><p>But it was tempting. Vipassana was very practical and unadorned and seemed like a straightforward shot through the drippy, spider-infested jungle of life. Zen felt like a clunky paradox compared to the smooth sensibility that drove Vipassana. And, really, the silly questions were getting to be too much.</p><p>So Vipassana and I got together within a mostly Theravada framework, and I was happy at first. But—you see where this is going…—Vipassana became drab and hollow. It lacked mystery and creativity. Over a few months the practice ground to a dusty halt and I wondered if maybe Vajrayana was the right thing all along. I wondered if maybe I’d jumped the gun kicking it to the curb. I wondered if maybe metaphors aren’t my thing.</p><p>But the crux of this issue really became clear once I realized…<br><br><strong>3. I have no idea what I want.</strong></p><p>Not much of a problem when you’re standing at a Redbox agonizing over whether to rent <i>Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2 </i>or<i> American Sniper</i>, but a pretty big deal when you’re trying to decide which brand of Buddhism to follow for the rest of your life. Especially when you’ve tried all the major titles and are still weighing your options.</p><p>Usually for me, it comes down to one basic conflict: religious Buddhism versus secular Buddhism.</p><p>I’ve been an atheist for most of my life. I lack belief in higher, supernatural, disembodied powers. I was initially attracted to Buddhism because it laid out a spiritual path for happiness that didn’t seem to rely on divinity. It was up to me. No one was judging my sins or administering punishments.</p><p>Then, naturally, I jumped right into Tibetan Vajrayana, which is probably the most religious, elaborate form of Buddhism, replete with monstrous dharma protectors, ritual, and reincarnated saints. Well done, me. Then came Zen, which still had rituals but didn’t focus much on things like rebirth and karma. Zazen was important; the rest would work itself out. That was more comfortable to me. Vipassana was even less religious. Despite traditional Asian Theravada’s relative conservativism, Vipassana and mindfulness could be practiced in an entirely secular fashion.</p><p>But everything has its flip side, and I don’t do well with flip sides. Vajrayana is flamboyant and peacocky but it’s also an ingenious system for practicing in the everyday world. Zen is subdued and streamlined but it doesn’t much emphasize ethics, kindness, or compassion. Vipassana can seemingly be removed from any belief system and still aimed at enlightenment, but it can appear desiccated and stale.</p><p>Rebirth, reincarnation, karma, hell realms, jealous gods: probably none of these things will ever make sense to me. I honestly doubt I’ll ever embrace the most supernatural nature of any Buddhism. But that doesn’t mean I want a purely deductive path based solely on what modern science can verify. In short, yes, I would absolutely love to possess my cake and devour it as well.</p><p>The deeper into a religious Buddhism I go, the more I yearn for total practicality. Yet when I’m involved in a devoutly pragmatic Buddhism, I always begin to gravitate back toward a more spiritual approach.</p><p>Is there a balance, you ask? Some delightful dharma concoction that blends the spiritual and the sensible together in a light and fluffy crust? Maybe. Or maybe it’s more a matter of personal approach and how I relate to the teachings. There’s no perfect approach out there, despite my long Bilbo-like journey to discover one. The longer I do this, the more I realize it’s my own views I have to break down. Which is a problem, considering…<br><br><strong>4. I don’t know myself that well.</strong></p><p>Not knowing what I want is one thing. I’ve done extensive—if superficial—research into what the main Buddhist schools have to offer. I have a solid, basic understanding of all their individual styles, attitudes, methods, strengths, and weaknesses. It’s perfectly feasible that I’d be able to make an informed decision.</p><p>But I haven’t, because I remain breathtakingly ignorant of my own self. Or lack of it. You know what I mean.</p><p>I have a unique personality that I’ve watched grow and change over 41 years. The fact that it’s illusory isn’t really the point. The point is that anyone with a modicum of insight and confidence would have pinned the tail on the donkey by now. They would have matched their own temperament with a suitable style of practice and just gone for it.</p><p>Instead, I’ve spent years avoiding getting to know myself, both consciously and unconsciously. I often hide the worst of myself from myself, and then spend precious energy convincing myself it isn’t so. Then, when I stumble across those evil little soul turds, I have to act all surprised, like I had no idea. It’s exhausting.</p><p>And this is where the irony slaps me in the crotch like a cricket bat. Had I spent more of the past two decades meditating—and not on this drunken scavenger hunt for Buddhist perfection—this wouldn’t be an issue. The reason I don’t know myself well enough to settle on a specific practice is because I haven’t spent nearly enough time practicing. When I write it down in black and white it seems even more ludicrous than when it was floating around in my head.</p><p>So far, I’ve been unable to reconcile the perceived inadequacies of whichever tradition I’m in. No matter how many pros it has, the cons bug the shit out of me. But it’s absurd to think that someday I’ll stumble across the consummate form of Buddhism that I’ll sink into like a warm whiskey hot tub, all troubles and sobriety whisked away. There will be irksome aspects to any religious, secular, or spiritual path one embraces.</p><p>I don’t want you to think I’m totally unaware of my own proclivities. There’s at least one thing I know damn well about me, and it’s the final reason I keep switching lineages. It stings to say it, but…<br><br><strong>5. I want to be a Buddhist hipster.&nbsp;</strong></p><p>You know that old joke, right?&nbsp;</p><p style="padding-left: 30px;"><i>How many hipsters does it take to screw in a light bulb?<br></i><i>It’s like, this really obscure number you’ve probably never heard of.</i></p><p>Buddhism is the only area of my life that demands hipsterfication. I don’t fit into skinny jeans, my mustache is attached to a beard, and I hate PBR, even if it’s wedged into a Neutral Milk Hotel coozy. But my smoldering ambition is to be part of a Buddhist group that is so far out on the fringe that it goes almost unnoticed. I have no idea where this desire came from, or why it should exist in my persona, which is lightly antagonistic toward hipsters at the best of times.</p><p>My Vipassana experience moved from the Bhante G. school of gentle sitting to “Hardcore” or “Pragmatic” dharma, sponsored in part by teachers like Daniel Ingram and Kenneth Folk, who champion the idea that with assiduous practice, enlightenment is not only possible but also probable. Many Buddhists find their <a href="">assertions of enlightenment</a> much too loud and arrogant, which pretty much guaranteed I wanted to be part of it.</p><p>It was a pure ego trip and I admit it. Not many people knew about the Hardcore Dharma movement and it felt great to be a part of something surging through the underground, like I was an anti-establishment Buddhist, too cool for school.</p><p>Before that, I used Zen to set myself apart. But Japanese Zen is well recognized in America, even if its common image, summed up by the mindless phrase “That’s so Zen,” has little to do with its reality. But I practiced Son, <i>Korean</i> Zen. Granted, that’s because my town only <i>had </i>Korean Zen, but still. It’s a different beast, with practices and rituals many people—even Zen people—haven’t heard of. It occupies its own little corner of Mahayana, and I sat in that corner giggling about finding something a little off the beaten eightfold path.</p><p>I had tried to be a spiritual hipster even with Shambhala. Tibetan Buddhism has been big in this country ever since Richard Gere and the Beastie Boys got on board years ago. Tibetan flags became the new Che Guevara t-shirt and the Dalai Lama’s celebrity soon dwarfed poor Mr. Gere’s.</p><p>When folks found out I was essentially a Tibetan Buddhist, they instantly had a mental picture of what that meant: maroon robes, smiling bald guys, and the Dalai Lama, the ultimate smiling bald guy in maroon robes. I would yawn dismissively and reel off some abstruse monologue about the Kagyu and Nyingma schools of Tibetan Buddhism, how Chogyam Trungpa was a super-powered crazy wisdom master smashing spiritual barriers, and the Dalai Lama was nice, sure, but he wasn’t my guy. You’ve never heard of my guys, so don’t worry about it.</p><p>I was insufferable. Still am, in a lot of ways. When I look back on all the time I’ve wasted scouring the Earth and Internet for some Goldilocks version of Buddhism, I’m appalled. So many opportunities squandered, so many options carelessly dismissed, so many asinine stories now to tell. I think Big Daddy Dogen said, “There is the principle of the Way that we must make one mistake after another,” so maybe I’m just a Zen prodigy and no one is advanced enough to recognize it yet.</p><p>That’s doubtful, but I <i>am</i> changing. Close to two decades stewing in the depths of Buddhist thought, and some of it has sunk in just by osmosis. Even if I haven’t truly embraced one vehicle and accepted it, flaws and all, I’ve been changed on an atomic level. I’ve recognized that and begun to encourage it.</p><p>After emerging from the Hardcore Dharma movement and its gloriously breakneck, righteously rational, headlong sprint toward enlightenment, I’ve relaxed a little. I don’t feel I’m chasing liberation with that single-minded fervor. I’ve found something that I think will let me slow down and enjoy my practice, my life; something that celebrates the passion and creativity of this whole endeavor, every experience and every emotion.</p><p>It’s not perfect, of course. It’s just another method, with beauty and scars in equal measure. So far, that hasn’t bothered me like it has in the past. Once you get to know someone, explore them inside and out, and realize you’re in love, their scars can become their most attractive features. Maybe I can finally do that, finally fall in love with my practice. And maybe I’ll tell you about it someday, if we’re still friends after this article.<br><br><b>Brent R. Oliver</b>&nbsp;is a writer based in Lexington, Kentucky.&nbsp;</p><p><i>Illustration by James Thacher</i></p> 46737 Tue, 18 Aug 2015 10:32:55 -0400 Tricycle - Awake in the World