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March 16, 2015

Not Playing Nice

Buddhist nationalism threatens Myanmar's democratic transition.  Marte Nilsen
Myanmar's parliament building It’s election year in Myanmar, the big test for the country’s aspiring democratic transition. Among the spirited national debates there are four controversial pieces of legislation currently under consideration in Myanmar’s Assembly of the Union parliament (the Pyidaungsu hluttaw). These reportedly aim to protect race and religion. But in truth, the bills represent a setback for religious freedom and women’s rights and—if adopted—are likely to deepen existing religious divides, threaten the reform agenda, and stir violence prior to the elections. More »
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March 16, 2015

Guided Meditation—Week 3

The practice gets easier the more we do it. Ven. Pannavati
Ven. Pannavati is leading weekly guided meditations for Meditation Month. Check back every Monday in March for a new video teaching on the blog.Download the transcript of this retreat. It has been edited for clarity.  Ven. Pannavati will respond to reader questions posted below. More »
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March 12, 2015

Calming the Not Now Mind

Meditation tips for procrastinators and perfectionists Kate Johnson
I'll just get a cup of tea first. Maybe sip it slowly, look out the window. Oh, better check my email too. . . Some mornings, the part of my mind that would rather meditate any time but now seems to wake up five minutes before the rest of me does. By the time my alarm rings and my eyes crack open, it is as if Not Now Mind were already sitting on the edge of the bed, drumming its fingertips, tapping its foot, and batting its eyelashes at me. More »
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March 10, 2015

The Myth of Religious Violence

Modern society has made a scapegoat of faith. Karen Armstrong
Every year in ancient Israel the high priest brought two goats into the Jerusalem temple on the Day of Atonement. He sacrificed one to expiate the sins of the community and then laid his hands on the other, transferring all the people's misdeeds onto its head, and sent the sin-laden animal out of the city, literally placing the blame elsewhere. In this way, Moses explained, “the goat will bear all their faults away with it into a desert place.” In his classic study of religion and violence, René Girard argued that the scapegoat ritual defused rivalries among groups within the community. In a similar way, I believe, modern society has made a scapegoat of faith. More »
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March 09, 2015

Guided Meditation—Week 2

Let your attention rest on one thing—the breath.  Ven. Pannavati
Ven. Pannavati is leading weekly guided meditations for Meditation Month. Check back every Monday in March for a new video teaching on the blog.Download the transcript of this retreat. It has been edited for clarity.  Ven. Pannavati will respond to reader questions posted below. More »
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March 02, 2015

A Head in Front of a Body

A short mindfulness of body practice to prevent anxiety Jill Satterfield
Everyone experiences occasional anxiety and some of us might be fraught with it. Tricycle readers especially are most likely no strangers to hearing or reading about mindfulness-based meditation practices that can soothe the feelings of anxiety. But as anyone who has experienced an anxiety attack will know, what’s almost as unpleasant as having one is hearing someone say “just breathe, relax” in the midst of it. More »
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March 02, 2015

Guided Meditation—Week 1

Developing intent, breath by breath Ven. Pannavati
Ven. Pannavati is leading weekly guided meditations for Meditation Month. Check back every Monday in March for a new video teaching on the blog.Download the transcript of this retreat. It has been edited for clarity.  Ven. Pannavati will respond to reader questions posted below. More »
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February 27, 2015

March is Meditation Month!

Tips and tools to support (or start) your practice
If you think the impending all-at-once release of House of Cards Season Three might be a Netflix conspiracy to scuttle your daily meditation practice, or if the promise of expert feedback will allow you to try sitting for the first time, or if you could just use a little extra help from your spiritual friends, then Tricycle has the thing for you: That's right—all of March we'll be raising a ruckus about that quietest of human endeavors. Commit to sit with us for the entire month! We'll help you make the most of it with guided meditations, instructive articles, meditation-themed e-books, and much more.   More »
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February 26, 2015

Ruth Denison, Western Dharma Pioneer and Vipassana Innovator, Dies at 92

Mary Talbot
Ruth Denison was one of the first female dharma teachers in the West, renowned for pioneering an unconventional, body-centered approach to Buddhist practice and for launching hundreds of students on the Buddhist path. Earlier this month, she suffered a massive stroke and, according to her wishes, received no life-prolonging intervention. Denison spent her last days surrounded by students and friends at home at Dhamma Dena, the rambling, desert retreat center she founded in the late 1970s near Joshua Tree, California. She died on the morning of February 26, at the age of 92. More »
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February 20, 2015

Trying Not to Itch

A nightmarish retreat ends with a lesson in compassion toward oneself—and a doctor's appointment.  Shin Yu Pai
Three days into a weeklong Vipassana retreat at Spirit Rock Meditation Center, just north of San Francisco, California, I notice myself itching, unbearably. I’m not the only person distracted by the desire to scratch. Someone else leaves a handwritten note on the staff bulletin board confessing discomfort. The senior teacher responds by devoting an entire dharma session to “the itch,” the gist of which amounts to the following: observe the body’s suffering and let it go. The aching knee, the tickle in the back of the throat—just sensory experiences. Name, but refrain from scratching at all costs. More »
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February 19, 2015

Thich Nhat Hanh Making Steady Recovery

The Editors
More good news to report about the health of renowned Vietnamese Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh, who emerged from a coma last November and appears to be making a steady, albeit slow, recovery. The website affiliated with his international network of youth sanghas, "Wake Up," published an update on his status, penned by longtime collaborator Sister Chan Khong.   It announces: More »
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February 18, 2015

Tripping with the Buddha

A Zen priest and a psychologist discuss the potential benefits and perils of a Buddhist practice that incorporates psychedelics.
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February 17, 2015

Myanmar's Cosmic Theater

Buddhist Art of Myanmar at Asia Society Anne Doran
Buddhist Art of MyanmarFebruary 10–May 10, 2015Asia Society, New York A Pyu period copper statue of a seated Buddha from the 8th or 9th century. Four years ago, Burma, now known as Myanmar, ended its decades-long isolation from much of the world. Now the Asia Society has mounted the first-ever museum show of Burmese Buddhist art in the US. The works included are fantastically varied in appearance, and for good reason. Until British rule in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the region comprising present-day Myanmar was a collection of separate kingdoms whose names, borders, and populations changed over the centuries. Providing a common thread among these disparate cultures was Buddhism, still practiced by 90 percent of the population of Myanmar. More »
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February 13, 2015

The Path of Writing

"I wanted, as I wrote, to discover what I was reporting." Carl Lehmann-Haupt
I was nearly sixty when I decided to write this. In February 1998, we flew to Los Angeles to visit C's son for a few days. We slept on a mattress on the floor of his study and that first morning, still on East Coast time, I woke early to the sound of birdsong coming through the open window. The scent of lemon blossoms filled the air. It was as though we had flown from winter into spring. I was reading a book I'd begun on the plane when all at once, in the midst of reading, I suddenly decided to become a writer. It wasn't a whim. I decided, irrevocably, to write a book. The decision was absurd since I'd never written anything. I'd spent most of my life as a visual artist; even writing letters was difficult for me. More »
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February 11, 2015

Bible Belt Buddhism

An Evangelical Christian reveals how Buddhism has helped him weather a crisis of conscience and faith.  Jim Owens
I live in the heart of the Bible Belt. When this article is published, many of my family and friends will fear I am destined for hell. Some Christians, like many others, misjudge what they do not understand. Some simply scratch their heads when they hear of a Christian examining Buddhism, meditation, or even just alternative experiences and faiths. Other Christians will have much stronger objections than that. I know this well, for there was a time when I was one of them. More »
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February 09, 2015

Against “Common Sense” Buddhism

The dharma is nothing if not counterintuitive. Lama Jampa Thaye
There’s an old story about a frog. He’s lived all his life in a well, and one day another frog appears at its rim. They get to talking, and the strange frog tells the older one that he’s come from somewhere called the ocean. “I never heard of that. I guess it’s about a quarter the size of my well?” “No. More than that,” answers the other. “OK—a half?” “Much bigger,” the strange frog laughs. “The same size, then?” “No, even bigger,” says the foreign frog. “Alright. This, I got to see,” says the oldster as he clambers out the well and sets out for the ocean. It’s a hard road, but at last he arrives. Unfortunately, when he sees the ocean, the shock is so great that it blows his mind and his head explodes. More »
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February 06, 2015

Angry White Buddhists Protest the Dalai Lama

Casting themselves as the “true” dharma heirs of Tibetan Buddhism, members of the NKT reprise an old Orientalist trope. Ben Joffe
You know that guy. He talks about “tantric yoga” in casual conversation. Maybe he has dreadlocks. Maybe he’s shaved his head. He’s definitely not had a beverage with regular milk in it for years. He’s probably white and affluent. He’s probably been to India. And he probably wears Buddhist prayer beads as jewelry. It’s easy enough to compare this stereotype to the “serious” convert to Buddhism, who, though they too may talk about tantra, sport distinctive hairstyles, or be white and affluent, seem at least to wear their prayer beads as more than just a fashion statement. Yet how easy is it to identify where religious conversion begins and cultural appropriation ends? More »
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February 04, 2015

Personal Heaven, Personal Hell

Sex and the five precepts Hannah Tennant-Moore
A Sri Lankan monk once told me, “There is no doubt: if you follow the five precepts, you will be happy. You will live a good life.” We were standing outside the Mahabodhi Temple, in Bodh Gaya, India, discussing the Buddhist path for lay followers. At that point in my life, the monk’s words struck me as uncomplicatedly true. I was living in a Buddhist monastery as part of the Antioch Buddhist Studies program and observing the five precepts with such fervency that I wouldn’t borrow my roommate’s flashlight for even a minute without asking first. “What if she comes back to her room and needs her flashlight while you have it?” my teacher asked sensibly. “It’s a way of avoiding unnecessary complications.” The four months I spent in India were undoubtedly the happiest, simplest days of my life. More »