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August 31, 2014

The Reluctant Mystic

A review of Barbara Ehrenreich's Living with a Wild God: A Nonbeliever's Search for the Truth About Everything Roberta Werdinger
Living with a Wild God: A Nonbeliever's Search for the Truth About Everything By Barbara EhrenreichGrand Central Publishing 256 pp.; $26.00 cloth More »
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August 31, 2014

Direct and Gradual

The Platform Sutra tells the story of how, after a split in the sangha, the Northern school sends a spy to steal teachings from its southern counterpart. Master Huineng
The Platform Sutra, a classic of Zen Buddhism attributed to the Sixth Patriarch Huineng, tells the story of the aftermath of the religion's split into two schools: Northern and Southern. In this selection, the Northern Master Shenxiu sends a spy to gather teachings from the Southern Master Huineng. But the reconnaissance does not go as planned.—Ed. More »
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August 28, 2014

Dharma in Action

Our collective economic practices are endangering life on Earth. It’s time to set a new course through collective action. Ven. Santussika Bhikkhuni
As our dharma practice deepens, it begins to inform and influence everything we do, including how we engage with the important moral and social issues of our times. At this moment in human history, the unrestrained extraction and burning of fossil fuels has brought us, in the industrialized nations, to the point where we are contaminating and pillaging the Earth to such an extreme that we are endangering all life on this planet. Nothing could be further from the intention and practice of dharma. More »
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August 26, 2014

What's in a Word?

The trials of a major effort to translate Tibetan scripture into English Sarah K. C. Wilkinson
Terminology. Syntax. Diction. All words likely to send my mind wandering. And yet there I was, at the conference of 84000: Translating the Words of Buddha, in Bodhgaya, India, in a room full of high lamas and scholars who were convening to determine how to transmit Mahayana teachings to the world. It wasn’t just important. It was fascinating. More »
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August 22, 2014

Beware the Charismatic Guru

Cultic gurus do not liberate their followers but entrap them. John Snelling
The following article by John Snelling (1943-1992) was first published in 1982. As reports of abusive teacher-student relationships in Buddhist communities continue to surface, Snelling’s essay remains just as relevant today. We hope that its republication here, along with the suggested readings that follow, will provide further food for thought. —Ed.Of course, in following a spiritual path—as in anything in life—one needs information, support, and the guidance of experienced people. We could call those who supply these essentials teachers—though perhaps spiritual friends is a better term. Traditionally in both East and West such people have lived modestly and often in seclusion, avoiding the public gaze. Some, however, on account of their very rare gifts and achievements, attained fame and sizeable followings. The Buddha is an example from the distant past, Sri Ramana Maharshi from more recent times. More »
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August 21, 2014

Monks in Ferguson

Six Tibetan monks join Ferguson demonstrators to support justice for Mike Brown. Joshua Eaton
Tensions continued to escalate in Ferguson, Missouri over the death of 18-year-old Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager shot and killed by a white police officer, Darren Wilson, on August 9. His death set off days of protests and a heavy-handed, militarized police response that has sparked national outrage. But Ferguson residents got a pleasant surprise on Sunday: A visit from a group of Tibetan Buddhist monks. “Ferguson was a very heated issue in our backyard,” explained Patty Maher, who is hosting the monks during their stay in St. Louis. “Sunday was their day off. . . . We didn't know what to expect, but they gladly went. And as you saw, their presence was profound.” More »
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August 20, 2014

What Were They Thinking?

A Buddhist-feminist scholar responds to an all-male panel on the “risks and benefits” of opening Buddhist leadership to women Rita M. Gross
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August 15, 2014

Now Showing: Satori

For America's favorite irreverent writer, Robin Williams's The Fisher King is an unbidden, instantaneous round-trip ticket to satori. Tom Robbins
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August 14, 2014

Moving from a Culture of Death to a Culture of Life

A mere change in technologies will not suffice to avert climate change. Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi
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August 11, 2014

Do We Really "Have No Choice"?

An Israeli Buddhist argues that if we truly yearned for peace, we would respect human dignity. Stephen Fulder
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August 06, 2014

Breathless

Sooner or later, whether from panic or in our final hour, each of us will find ourselves breathless. A former neuropsychologist offers three tips for when awareness of breath becomes difficult or even impossible. Meikyo Robert Rosenbaum
Many meditators learn first to focus on the breath, following it mindfully in the manner described in the Satipatthana Sutta; counting breaths in a way frequently taught at Zen centers; or using one of the many methods of pranayama from yoga. None of these work very well when breathing is compromised. I recently recovered from a bout of pertussis (“whooping cough”)—what the Chinese call the hundred-day cough. For three months my meditation was marked by a heavy chest and constricted bronchioles, and deep breaths would bring on paroxysms of coughing. More »
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August 01, 2014

A Shamarpa without Borders

After over a month of political turmoil, the 14th Shamar Rinpoche is cremated in Nepal. Ralph Frammolino
KATHMANDU, Nepal—It was the kind of ceremony that the honored guest seemed to be directing from the Beyond: thousands of students and admirers, from peons to a Nepalese government minister, converging on a half-built monastery to attend the traditional cremation rite of a vajra master that, even in death, stirred up an international fuss. They came to honor the 14th Shamar Rinpoche, Mipham Chokyi Lodro (1952–2014), a spiritual force who understood that staying true to his calling as the second-highest ranking lama of the Karma Kagyu order wouldn't win him any dharmic popularity contests. To many, he was a polarizing figure, an uncompromising traditionalist. More »
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July 30, 2014

Joshu Sasaki Roshi, Rinzai Zen Master, Dies at 107

The influential teacher leaves a mixed legacy. Mark Oppenheimer
On Sunday, Joshu Sasaki Roshi, a Rinzai Zen Buddhist who came to the United States in 1962 and went on to become one of the country’s most influential, if not most controversial, Zen teachers, died at Cedars-Sinai medical center in Los Angeles. He was 107 years old. Although said to have no dharma heirs, Joshu Roshi had legions of followers who founded about 30 Zen centers, from Seattle to Oslo, Vancouver to Berlin, some of which later closed. He led a large center in Los Angeles and two training centers in the Southwest, one in New Mexico and one at Mount Baldy, in the mountains east of Los Angeles. The poet and songwriter Leonard Cohen lived at Mount Baldy in the 1990s, lending his teacher a semimythic status among spiritually inclined rock fans. More »
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July 25, 2014

From Monastery to Marketplace

Mindfulness is no longer just a form of meditation—it’s a lifestyle that can be bought and sold. Is there an upside? Jeff Wilson
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July 24, 2014

"Unthinkable"

The Dalai Lama speaks out on violence in Gaza. Max Zahn
Seventeen days have elapsed since the Israeli Defense Forces began air strikes on Gaza, and seven days have passed since the onset of its simultaneous ground invasion. As of Wednesday evening, 700 Palestinians and 35 Israelis had lost their lives—not to mention an additional 4,600 wounded Palestinians. More »
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July 16, 2014

McDonald's™

A poem in memory of Artemisa Salinas (1932–2011) Bobby Byrd
 The Great Way is not difficult for those who have no preferences.—Seng-T'san, the 3rd Patriarch I got a Zen friend eats vegetarian at MacDonald's sometimes. He likes the cheap coffee. He says, "Don't be a snob, Bobby. What difference does it make?" And he gives me a wise Buddhist smile. More »
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July 11, 2014

Once a Teacher, Always a Student

The annual festival of Guru Purnima celebrates teachers of all stripes, and the capacity to lead others to enlightenment. Kythe Heller
Guru, usually translated as “teacher,” suggests a transition from darkness (gu) to light (ru), meaning “that which dispels the darkness of ignorance.” One pictures a Hindu holy man with a long beard—charismatic, perhaps tipping toward authoritarian excess. Yet the subtlety of the term, with its Latin cognate gravis (heavy, matured), indicates a process rather than a person, a fruit (enlightenment) that ripens to become sustenance for others. More »
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July 10, 2014

Harry Potter and the Mischievous Monks

Two Thai monks are in big trouble. Joanna Piacenza
Now here are two worlds we never thought would collide: Buddhism and Harry Potter. It appears a few monks in Thailand have mastered the spell Wingardium Leviosa and are ready to play some Quidditch.  More »
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July 08, 2014

The Monk Scam

Faux monastics prey on tourists in New York City. Daisy Radevsky
New York’s Times Square is full of people asking for money. Although the neighborhood has lost just about all its grit, scams of all sorts still crop up in the area, evergreen as it is with vulnerable tourists. The latest breed of scammers, profiled in a recent New York Times article, come dressed in monk’s robes. More »