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June 05, 2013

Consider the Source: Why Was Maitreya Too Fat to Sit in Full Lotus?

Andy Ferguson
In the great Buddhist grottos at Dunhuang, the unequalled repository of Buddhist statues and art in China’s far west, certain Buddha figures do not sit in full lotus as one might expect. Nor do they stand erect, another common posture. Instead, they sit with their legs crossed at their ankles, a puzzling, rather uncomfortable looking position. The Chinese scholar Gu Zhengmei argues that this posture is a sure sign that these statues represent Maitreya Buddha, the “Buddha to Come” who is said to appear in the world when all have forgotten the dharma. He claims that it is consistent with discoveries of Maitreya images not just at Dunhuang, but also in Greek-influenced Gandhara, where the first icons of the Buddha were found. More »
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June 04, 2013

Treasury of Lives: Dorje Shugden

Alexander Gardner
Biography and autobiography in Tibet are important sources for both education and inspiration. Tibetans have kept such meticulous records of their teachers that thousands of names are known and discussed in a wide range of biographical material. All these names, all these lives—it can be a little overwhelming. The authors involved in the Treasury of Lives are currently mining the primary sources to provide English-language biographies of every known religious teacher from Tibet and the Himalaya, all of which are organized for easy searching and browsing. Every Tuesday on the Tricycle blog, we will highlight and reflect on important, interesting, eccentric, surprising and beautiful stories found within this rich literary tradition. Treasury of Lives: Dorje Shugden More »
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June 03, 2013

Consider the Source: Why Bodhidharma was a rebel, not a myth

Andy Ferguson
Revered as the father of Zen Buddhism, some scholars have still denied or raised doubts as to whether Bodhidharma actually existed. He did. In fact, new evidence from Chinese scholarship suggests that he was a critically important historical figure, one far more fascinating than previously imagined. But if this is true, why doesn’t he appear in any official imperial records that were created while he lived? The earliest and most reliable account we have concerning Bodhidharma’s life, written by the great monk-historian Dao Xuan around the year 650 AD, clearly suggests that Bodhidharma did not like emperors and made a point to avoid them. The famous story of Bodhidharma meeting and rejecting the “Bodhisattva Emperor Wu” of the Liang Dynasty is only the most famous bit of information that supports this thesis. More »
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June 03, 2013

New Online Retreat: Caring in the World: The Eight Awarenesses

In our new online retreat "Caring for the World: The Eight Awarenesses," with Robert Paley Ellison and Robert Chodo Campbell, co-founders of the New York Zen Center for Contemplative Care, the dynamic teacher-duo explores one of the Buddha's final teachings, the Eight Awarenesses, as a guide to practice and study of intimacy and care. Each week the two will address two new awarenesses, supplementing their reflections with their own stories from their work in clinical care. More »
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May 31, 2013

Buddha Buzz: Radical Strains of Buddhism

Alex Caring-Lobel
Virulent anti-Muslim violence has once again enveloped a Burmese town—this time Lashio in the northeastern Shan State. What was once perceived as an isolated outbreak of murderous rioting in the western Rakhine state against Rohingya Muslims last year has now become a common occurrence in locales across the country, where not only Rohingya but all Muslims have become viable targets. Reacting to a quarrel between a Buddhist woman and an older Muslim male customer, Buddhist mobs—with monks in their ranks—armed with rocks, sticks, and machetes took to setting fire to the city’s largest mosque, a Muslim school, Muslim orphanage, and scores of Muslim-owned shops. More »
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May 31, 2013

Preeminent World Religions Professor Huston Smith Turns 94

Emma Varvaloucas
Happy birthday to Huston Smith, who turns 94 today! Smith, widely recognized as the West’s preeminent teacher of world religions, has made a career of building cross-cultural bridges. For decades he has taught his readers about Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, and many other traditions. Raised in China, the son of Christian missionaries, Smith has had a long and illustrious career as an academic, TV interviewer, and author, along the way dropping acid with Timothy Leary and Richard Alpert (Ram Dass) and hobnobbing with a Who’s Who of 20th-century truth-seekers, from Thomas Merton to Joseph Campbell, Martin Luther King, Jr., Noam Chomsky, and Saul Bellow. More »
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May 31, 2013

Himalayan Buddhist Art 101: Controversial Art, Part 2 - The Svastika

Jeff Watt
Buddhist practice and Buddhist art have been inseparable in the Himalayas ever since Buddhism arrived to the region in the eighth century. But for the casual observer it can be difficult to make sense of the complex iconography. Not to worry—Himalayan art scholar Jeff Watt is here to help. In this "Himalayan Buddhist Art 101" series, Jeff is making sense of this rich artistic tradition by presenting weekly images from the Himalayan Art Resources archives and explaining their roles in the Buddhist tradition. Read Part 1: Dorje Shugden Controversial Art, Part 2: The Svastika More »
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May 29, 2013

Consider the Source: Why was Hercules the Buddha's first guardian?

Andy Ferguson
The connection between early Western and Eastern civilizations is far more intimate than most people realize. Indeed, the earliest depictions of the Buddha, from the area around ancient Gandhara in Pakistan, depict him like the statue of a Greek god. Greek culture and influence remained in the areas of Afghanistan and northern India long after Alexander the Great conquered the region; the large Greek population retained the art and philosophy of ancient Greece while marrying into the local population. A beautiful early example of Gandharan art shows the Buddha protected by a hovering Herakles, the Greek hero who the Romans called Hercules. More »
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May 29, 2013

Scholar Donald Lopez to give talk at 92Y TriBeCa this Friday

Professor of Buddhist and Tibetan Studies and Tricycle Contributing Editor Donald S. Lopez, Jr. will be speaking about the history of the Buddha this Friday in New York City. The talk, titled "From Stone to Flesh: A Short History of the Buddha," will touch on a number of points from his new book of the same title, which tells the story of how various idols carved in stone became the man of flesh and blood that we know today as the Buddha. This lesser-told history describes how the Buddha has never been a fixed notion in neither East nor West. The talk will take place at 92Y TriBeCa on Friday, May 31 at noon. Tickets are $21. Find more details and buy tickets here.     More »
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May 29, 2013

Eastern Self/Western Self Revisited

Linda Heuman
My previous blog post reflecting on Gish Jen’s new book Tiger Writing: Art, Culture, and the Independent Self, generated quite a bit of discussion. Some respondents dismissed as mere “personal observation” the claim that people from Western and Eastern cultures tend toward different types of self-construal. Others considered such generalizations as an Eastern “collectivist self” vs. a Western “individualist self” stereotypical, unhelpful, or completely irrelevant. One reader, while acknowledging that cultural differences of self-construal were “well known and not new,” stated flatly that such differences are “not important as far as awakening is concerned,” while another worried that they were so important the dharma transmission to the West must be doomed—since the dharma is so deeply rooted in Asian contexts, how could it possibly exist elsewhere? More »
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May 28, 2013

Treasury of Lives: The Case of the Dalai Lama's Cursed Boots

Alexander Gardner
Biography and autobiography in Tibet are important sources for both education and inspiration. Tibetans have kept such meticulous records of their teachers that thousands of names are known and discussed in a wide range of biographical material. All these names, all these lives—it can be a little overwhelming. The authors involved in the Treasury of Lives are currently mining the primary sources to provide English-language biographies of every known religious teacher from Tibet and the Himalaya, all of which are organized for easy searching and browsing. Every Tuesday on the Tricycle blog, we will highlight and reflect on important, interesting, eccentric, surprising and beautiful stories found within this rich literary tradition. Treasury of Lives: The Case of the Dalai Lama's Cursed Boots More »
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May 27, 2013

Final Week of Pat Enkyo O'Hara Roshi's Retreat: To Be a Bodhisattva

"When we allow ourselves to be enlightened by everything that exists, then we can't help but to also serve."—Roshi Pat Enkyo O'Hara In the final week of Roshi Pat Enkyo O'Hara's retreat, "To Be a Bodhisattva," she interprets and adapts the last slogan of Zen Master Dogen from the Genjokoan: to be enlightened by the myriad things is to become a bodhisattva.  "A bodhisattva is not a fixed character, an 'Awakened Being,'" Enkyo Roshi says. Rather, a bodhisattva is an "'Awakening Being'—a being that is awakening, and is awakening others. A bodhisattva is one who relates to the world in an awakening fashion." When we recognize the interconnectedness of all things, helping others becomes automatic, as we cease to see the difference between ourselves and others. Then, to serve others is the same as serving oneself.    More »
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May 24, 2013

Buddha Buzz: Chinese Policing Tibetan Areas Suffer from PTSD

Alex Caring-Lobel
France24 reporter Cyril Payen recently brought new interviews and images out of Tibet that reveal a dire human rights situation resembling “an Orwellian world of surveillance.” Nicholas Bequelin with Human Rights Watch contends that "the situation in Tibet is as bad as it's ever been," adding that "Chinese police forces are now running what could be called a major counter-insurgency operation in Lhasa." The problem, says Bequelin, is that there is no real insurgency in Tibet. And with the visible increase of surveillance, the emergence of one is unlikely. More »
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May 23, 2013

Himalayan Buddhist Art 101: Controversial Art, Part 1 - Dorje Shugden

Jeff Watt
Buddhist practice and Buddhist art have been inseparable in the Himalayas ever since Buddhism arrived to the region in the eighth century. But for the casual observer it can be difficult to make sense of the complex iconography. Not to worry—Himalayan art scholar Jeff Watt is here to help. In this "Himalayan Buddhist Art 101" series, Jeff is making sense of this rich artistic tradition by presenting weekly images from the Himalayan Art Resources archives and explaining their roles in the Buddhist tradition. Controversial Art, Part 1: Dorje Shugden More »
Tricycle Community 7 comments

May 22, 2013

The Ban on Rupert Sheldrake's TED Talk

Alex Caring-Lobel
Scientist Rupert Sheldrake’s recent work lays bare many of the unexamined assumptions common in mainstream science. I was very pleased to find that the first online comment on “A Question of Faith,” my interview with Sheldrake in the new issue, brought up the ban on his TED talk, and was from a scientist, at that. The commenter—a physician—explained how the ban caused him to rethink the effect of scientific dogma in his own practice. This convinced me that the ban itself is quite revealing. Proponents of the ban may have celebrated their early success, but the result has been more complex in that it has provided fodder for Sheldrake’s arguments.  More »
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May 22, 2013

Consider the Source: Why is Mahayana Buddhism a "snow zone tradition"?

Andy Ferguson
If you look on a map, you’ll see that the spread of Mahayana Buddhism matches places where the winters are bad and it snows a lot. Why? In warmer climates in India, monks could live in the forest, taking refuge in temporary structures to wait out the rainy season. But in northern climates, the long winters demanded better protection, so home-leaving monks had only two choices: they could live in a cave or in a monastery. More »
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May 21, 2013

Treasury of Lives: Nyingma Founders Part 4, The Jangter

Alexander Gardner
Biography and autobiography in Tibet are important sources for both education and inspiration. Tibetans have kept such meticulous records of their teachers that thousands of names are known and discussed in a wide range of biographical material. All these names, all these lives—it can be a little overwhelming. The authors involved in the Treasury of Lives are currently mining the primary sources to provide English-language biographies of every known religious teacher from Tibet and the Himalaya, all of which are organized for easy searching and browsing. Every Tuesday on the Tricycle blog, we will highlight and reflect on important, interesting, eccentric, surprising and beautiful stories found within this rich literary tradition. More »
Tricycle Community 12 comments

May 20, 2013

Consider the Source: Why did Zen monks live in caves?

Andy Ferguson
While Zen monks did live in caves in part to find refuge from the elements, there’s more to the story than just avoiding thunderstorms—they were also hiding out from the government. Ancient Chinese kings were loath to let too many “home-leavers” skip out on paying taxes, serving in the army, growing food, or having children—the activities needed for a country to survive and for kings to live in style. The king viewed monks who claimed exemption from these activities just because they wanted to practice meditation as deadbeats or brigands. Monks who were caught were defrocked or worse. More »
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May 20, 2013

Tricycle Short Film Trailer Release: Amituofo

"A lot of people believe that martial arts was born in the Shaolin Temple. That's not true. When the Chinese people were born, martial arts was born. But the Shaolin Temple was the first place to combine all the martial arts together." —Shifu Shi Yan Ming, abbot of the USA Shaolin Temple More »
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May 20, 2013

Third Week of Pat Enkyo O'Hara Roshi's Retreat: To Be Awakened

In the third week's teaching of Roshi Pat Enkyo O'Hara's retreat, "To Be Awakened," she addresses the third slogan of Zen Master Dogen from the Genjokoan: To forget the self is be enlightened by the myriad things. "Every thing is an opportunity to wake up," says Enkyo Roshi, "but we have to be open to it, and recognize it." We often come to think of enlightenment as an abstract, idealized state. But actually, enlightenment often lies in the most mundane moments and experiences. Or as Enkyo Roshi puts it, "We are looking so hard for something that we don't recognize that it's right here." By sitting, quieting our mind, and becoming intimate with ourselves, she reminds us, we can connect to the wholeness and security of the universe.     More »