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November 21, 2014

The Dharma and the Artist's Eye

A Tricycle contributing editor recounts how his religious practice and creative work became expressions of one another. Charles Johnson
To consider oneself a Buddhist, says His Holiness the Dalai Lama, one must embrace the four noble truths expounded two and a half millennia ago by Shakyamuni Buddha during his 45 years as a teacher of the dharma. Regardless of one's lineage or tradition, these truths state that (1) there is suffering; (2) the cause of suffering is thirst (trishna), which most commentators interpret as being selfish desire; (3) there is a way to end suffering; and (4) that way is the eightfold path (arya astanga marga). Of the eight steps on this path, the one to which the others build and in which they triumphantly culminate is right mindfulness (samyak smrti). It is the root and fruit of all Buddhist practice.  More »
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November 18, 2014

Kensho Down on Texas Avenue, El Paso, Texas

A lunch poem Bobby Byrd
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November 17, 2014

Early Days with Thich Nhat Hanh

One of the Vietnamese master’s first American students reflects on the enduring bond of the student-teacher relationship. Andrew Cooper
Like many thousands of others around the world, I have had Thich Nhat Hanh close in my thoughts this past week. Along with so many, I breathed with some relief when I read Sunday’s report from his community in Plum Village that his condition, following his brain hemorrhage, seems to have stabilized, and while his condition remains critical, there is reason for cautious optimism about the possibility of a full recovery. More »
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November 14, 2014

What Was Mindfulness?

Mindfulness seemed like the answer to our prayers. Instead, it came to justify some of our worst cultural excesses. Clark Strand
With headlines like “Gentrifying the dharma: How the 1% is hijacking mindfulness” and “Rebel posturing and ‘mindfulness training’ can’t cover up tech world’s awful labor standards” on Facebook courtesy of Salon.com, suddenly American Buddhists find themselves pushed to one side or the other of an age-old debate. Should the sacred life show secular benefits, or should spirituality be essentially an "inside job"? More »
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November 13, 2014

Thich Nhat Hanh Hospitalized for Severe Brain Hemorrhage

The Editors
[UPDATE BELOW] Plum Village Mindfulness Practice Centres announced yesterday that Vietnamese Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh (affectionately known by his students as "Thay"), had suffered a severe brain hemmorrhage on November 11. Thay is currently under intensive care in Bordeaux, France. He is reportedly exhibiting signs that a full recovery may be possible. More »
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November 10, 2014

Don't Just Sit There, Do Something

The Buddhist Peace Fellowship's next generation seeks to expand the moral vision of Western Buddhism. Richard Eskow
Ever since Western converts began adopting Buddhist traditions, their community has sought a balance between the quest for personal peace and tranquility and the sense of social engagement that has sometimes expressed itself, most recently on the streets of Ferguson, Missouri, with the well-worn activists’ phrase No justice, no peace. More »
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November 06, 2014

Five Questions for Sarah Ruhl

The playwright's newest, The Oldest Boy, tells the story of an American mother’s dilemma after her child is recognized as a high Buddhist lama.
Award-winning playwright Sarah Ruhl’s latest work, The Oldest Boy, tells the story of an American boy’s selection as a tulku, a reincarnated lama of the Tibetan Buddhist tradition. When monks arrive and ask to take the child away for training in India, his American mother (Tony Award nominee Celia Keenan-Bolger) and Tibetan father (James Yaegashi) must make the most difficult decision of their lives. Directed by Rebecca Taichman, The Oldest Boy is running at Lincoln Center in New York City until December 28, 2014. The Lincoln Center Theater Review posed five questions to its writer, Sarah Ruhl:1. How did a Catholic white girl from Illinois come to write about Tibetan Buddhism? More »
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November 05, 2014

Bringing It All Back Home

Can we love our families fully while upholding the Buddha’s teaching on nonattachment? Lama Jampa Thaye
Sometimes people ask me if there isn’t a conflict between the Mahayana instruction to see all beings as close relatives, worthy of our affection and compassion, and Buddhist teachings on nonattachment. Perhaps they are thinking of Jetsun Milarepa’s words: When you look at your child Firstly he is a soft-spoken young god.Then he is a distant-hearted neighbour.Finally he is an enemy and creditor.So I let go of children. More »
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October 30, 2014

But for a Moment

After his cancer diagnosis, a young man grapples with the question of how best to use what little time he has left. Asher Lipson
Less than a month ago the Tricycle editors received a note from a young man named Asher Lipson. It began: “My name is Asher Lipson, I am 24 years old, and I have stage 4 cancer, a rare sarcoma that has spread to my lungs and brain. I was diagnosed just after graduating from college at the beginning of 2013. My oncologist has told me to carefully prioritize the things I want to do for the next year, because I may well die within that space of time.” Asher told us of his spiritual journey, one that included Judaism, Catholicism, Unitarian Universalism, and ultimately, Buddhism. He wanted to know whether we would be interested in publishing his writing. Before we could get back to him, Asher passed away. But we had been moved by his words. More »
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October 29, 2014

Not Two

A JuBu draws support from the way both faith traditions teach of the almighty one. David Gottlieb
At 6 a.m., my teacher strikes the singing bowl. The tone spirals out, becomes hollow. At the center of a room emptied of sound, we sit cross-legged, facing a brick wall. Slowly the mind quiets, the breath deepens; the sounds from outside seep through the bricks—a jogger, two kids laughing and arguing their way to the bus stop, an ambulance, a helicopter. Right now there is no text, no prayer, no millennia of continuity, no God inspecting my deeds. There is my teacher and there is me, sinking below the turbulence in which I had swum for four decades. When my teacher strikes the bowl again, it jars me back to the surface. As the sound once again spools out—my lungs are open, my head is clear, and my knees ache. With silence and stillness, another day begins. More »
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October 24, 2014

Against the Stream

A film portrait of dharma teacher Josh Korda Rikki Gunton
In this short film, Josh Korda recounts his journey from young substance abuser to meditation teacher at Dharma Punx NYC. If we can learn, Korda says, to appreciate the ephemeral nature of everything we have, we'll never feel like there's anything missing from life. Rikki Gunton is a photographer, nonfiction filmmaker, and yoga teacher living in New York City. More from Josh Korda Now What?Life as a Recovering Addict More »
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October 23, 2014

A Pilgrimage Among Friends

Three old buddies encounter the sacred at Kumbh Mela, the largest human gathering in the world. Gail Gutradt
Chances are you have never heard of the Kumbh Mela. Any coverage of the event on Western television is usually given short shrift, the name translated with a shrug as “The Festival of the Pot.” A crowd shot, and some mention of how many people attended, given in millions. Indians themselves record the numbers in lakh or chror—for in a country of over a billion people isn't it more useful to count in multiples of a hundred thousand or ten million? On the television screen you might see ten seconds of local color: hoards of Naga Babas, warrior ascetics with streaming dreadlocks, storming into the waters clad only in marigolds and ashes. And you think, "How exotic!" but you can have no notion of the event itself. More »
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October 15, 2014

The Chimera of Human Advancement

Three Soto Zen masters discuss the mistaking of technological progress for human transformation. Kodo Sawaki, Kosho Uchiyama, and Shohaku Okumura
In The Zen Teachings of Homeless Kodo, three generations of dharma teachers grapple with the social and technological changes they witnessed in Japan over the course of their respective lifetimes. Kodo Sawaki, the eponymous "Homeless Kodo," first brought Soto Zen Buddhism out of the monasteries and into the streets during the early 1900s. His dharma heir, Kosho Uchiyama, continued this tradition during the latter half of that century. Now Shohaku Okamura, the title's translator and last commentator, applies the wisdom of his forebears to our present day.—Ed.Kodo Sawaki: After all our efforts, racking our brains as intensely as possible, we have come to a deadlock. Human beings are idiots. We set ourselves up as wise and then do foolish things. In spite of our scientific advancement, we haven’t yet achieved greatness of character. What’s the reason for this? More »
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October 14, 2014

Joshu's Dog

If Zen koans included GIFs John House
A monk asked Joshu, "Does a dog have buddhanature or not?" Joshu replied, "Mu." Commentary: Dog in the backyard, lifetimes upon lifetimes spent shuttling between the bright sun of the deck and the smelly shade of the propane tank. But there is no door into the cool of the restful kitchen, and no one need open it. Upon realizing this, a dog passes naturally through the Gateless Gate.John House is a Tricycle contributing editor. More »
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October 08, 2014

Walking on Sacred Ground

An interview with singer-songwriter Kesang Marstrand
The insert for Kesang Marstrand’s latest album, Karma Khyeno, could easily be mistaken for a chant book. Replete with full-length Tibetan prayers in both their original and translation, the booklet includes a dedication not to Marstrand’s parents or musical influences, but to the leader of the Kagyu sect of Tibetan Buddhism, His Holiness the 17th Gyalwang Karmapa, Ogyen Trinley Dorje. An inscription wishes for His Holiness’s “health and long life, and the fulfillment of all his great aspirations and noble activities.” This is not, to say the least, your standard name drop. Careful readers will also descry a short metta prayer directly above the track listings: “May all beings have happiness and the causes of happiness. May all beings be free from suffering and the causes of suffering.” More »
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October 03, 2014

Taking The Dog For A Walk

Bring all the art and science of the world, and baffle and humble it with one turd. Elizabeth Bastos
This is the best time of year for dog walking. Fall's crunchy leaves, the sunset hues, those golden hours. My dog Sugar and I walk a circuit of the cross-country trail, past some chestnut trees, a bumper crop having a mast year, and she stops at the stand of them and sniffs the spiny shells of the fallen ones and gets more interested in a pile of fresh deer poop and I'm daydreaming about how I'm going to write a book about small moments like this one and it's going to be so beautiful and then—doggone it—she's rolling in the poop and I'm pulled out of my headspace and yanking on the leash yelling, "NO POOP!"  More »
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October 01, 2014

Don’t Believe the Hype

Neuroscientist Catherine Kerr is concerned about how mindfulness meditation research is being portrayed in the media.
Last May, an article about mindfulness on a popular mainstream news website finally spurred neuroscientist and meditation researcher Catherine Kerr to act. The article cited 20 benefits of meditation, from “reducing loneliness” to “increasing grey matter” to “helping sleep,” and painted a picture of meditation as a kind of golden elixir for modern life. Kerr posted the article on her Facebook page. “It is not like any of this is grossly inaccurate,” she wrote in her post. “It is just that the studies are too cherry-picked and too positive.” More »
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September 26, 2014

People's Climate March

An estimated 700 Buddhists marched together in last week's demonstration. Joshua Eaton
“I know that my path to enlightenment will only come from being connected to the world around me,” Njeri Matheu, a member of Brooklyn Zen Center, explained as she marched through the streets of midtown Manhattan. “It's not just about being centered inside; it's about being connected to your world.” Around her, an estimated 700 other Buddhists belonging to over 35 Buddhist organizations held signs and banners with environmental slogans as they walked, keeping rhythm with meditation bells. This Buddhist contingent contributed to the estimated 400,000 protesters who participated People’s Climate March, the largest march of its kind in history, on September 21. More »
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September 26, 2014

The Suffering of Addiction

An interview with Buddhist teacher and author Noah Levine
Buddhist teacher Noah Levine’s punk rocker past, social advocacy, and straight-talking, subversive books like Dharma Punx and Against the Stream have earned him an avid following among the young and disaffected. Now he can add a subset of Buddhists who, like Noah, are in recovery from alcohol and drug abuse. A fan of the Twelve Step program but not of its God-centered rhetoric, Noah put together an alternative, Refuge Recovery. Firmly grounded in the four noble truths and the eightfold path, Refuge draws on the best of Buddhism and Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). More »
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September 16, 2014

Mindfulness at Moonshine Hollow

Seeking an escape from the hum of academic life, a theology professor finds solace among the stone cliffs and sycamore trees of southeast Missouri. Belden C. Lane
The locals call it Moonshine Hollow, or Mooner's Hollow, partly because of the haunting character of the moonlight in this small, isolated valley. It forces you to pay attention to the thousand shades of shadow and light you'd never thought to distinguish before. The phenomenon has something to do with the curvature of the ravine here, as light reflects off stone cliffs above and the lithe, white limbs of sycamore trees below. Whatever accounts for it, Moonshine Hollow is well named. More »