Buddhism

  • Against “Common Sense” Buddhism Paid Member

    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 »
  • A Tibetan Buddhist Nun Blazes a Trail for Other Women to Follow Paid Member

    NEWPORT, Wash. (RNS) At a conference for Western Buddhist teachers some years ago, the Venerable Thubten Chodron and other monastics complained to the Dalai Lama about the difficulties they faced: lack of finances, education, a place to live. At one point the leader of Tibetan Buddhism began to weep. Finally he told the teachers: “Don’t rely on us to do things for you; go out and do things to help yourself. If you run into problems come and tell me.” Those words changed the course of Chodron’s life. The notion of starting a Tibetan Buddhist monastic community in the West was already in the back of her mind. All she needed was permission. More »
  • Putting an End to Buddhist Patriarchy Paid Member

    On December 1, 1955, in Montgomery, Alabama, an African-American woman refused to obey a bus driver’s order to give up her seat to a white passenger. This simple act of defiance became one of the most important symbols of the modern Civil Rights Movement in the United States. Before she passed away in 2005, Rosa Parks became a Buddhist—at age 92. One can speculate that this female icon—and fierce opponent of discrimination—chose Buddhism because it lends itself to the advancement of social justice causes. She was right. More »
  • Ghosts, Gods, and the Denizens of Hell Paid Member

    For Buddhists, the universe has no beginning. Various world systems come into existence and eventually cease to be, but other worlds precede and follow them. The Buddha is said to have discouraged speculation about the origin of the universe; the question of whether the world has a beginning is one of fourteen questions that the Buddha refused to answer. He also remained silent when asked whether the universe will ever come to an end. Individual worlds are destroyed, incinerated by the fire of seven suns; but, no apocalypse, no final end time, is foretold. Individual beings put an end to their individual existence, one that also has no beginning, by traversing the path to nirvana.  More »
  • The Economy of Salvation Paid Member

    The incomparable loftiness of the monk figure—placid and disinterested, having renounced desire—leads many to think of Buddhism as a religion detached from all worldly concerns, especially those of economy. But Buddhism has always addressed a continuum of human flourishing and good, creating what has been referred to as an “economy of salvation.” Metaphors of economy—even of debt—abound in Buddhist texts, and in many ways Buddhism came to be fundamentally shaped by economic conditions and considerations of the era in which it originated. More »
  • The Dalai Lama on What People Get Wrong about the Present Moment Paid Member

    Many Tricycle subscribers will be familiar with the clip below from Sunrise/Sunset, which screened at our film club about a year ago. In the clip, the Dalai Lama deconstructs the present moment, so often essentialized in contemporary Buddhist discourse. He is clear: without past and future, there is no present, as it only has meaning in relation to past and future. This flies in the face of our own habit of essentializing the present moment at the expense of conceiving of ourselves as contingent, historical beings. It is a kind of meditative instruction that has ossified into Western Buddhist dogma.  More »