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  • The Dalai Lama and Open Space Paid Member

    As you’re probably all well aware by now, the Dalai Lama was in NYC last week speaking to a packed house at Radio City Music Hall. Since I was fortunate enough to attend on Thursday and Friday, I thought I might share some of my thoughts and impressions from those talks. I should preface this post by admitting that I’ve always had a hard time with authority figures, especially religious authority figures. So, for me, the Dalai Lama’s entrance was distracting. Dramatic music started playing overhead. A woman behind me started loudly weeping. I was prepared to sit through this, uncomfortably. Of course, then the Dalai Lama didn’t do what he doesn’t do best: he didn’t take himself too seriously. He lightened the mood. He put on a red visor, smiled at everybody and began to speak. “There are six billion people in this world with great intelligence. We should use our intelligence to bring more joy and happiness, not suffering and sadness.” Oh that Dalai Lama, always transcending cultural bounds with ease. It’s these moments when you can understand why so many humans are attracted to this man. He seems boundless. Which brings me to my favorite topic that he discussed (after ditching the English language to speak about finer philosophical points in Tibetan)—the concept of emptiness as open space. [Side thought: Can things get lost in translation when they come from an enlightened mind?] While exploring Nagarjuna’s Commentary on Bodhicitta, the Dalai Lama said that we should think about emptiness as open space. When we try to find the essence of anything and instead find it to be empty, we should regard that discovery as having no bounds. Insight into emptiness will open space in our minds, allowing us to move about and act freely. More »
  • Thoughts on Days 1 and 2 of the Dalai Lama's teachings (w pix and vids) Paid Member

    In my days as a student at Naropa University I can recall many occasions, both in the classroom and out, where I found myself among a small handful of people discussing the work of Nagarjuna.  These discussions, without fail, would lead to highly complex conversations and/or debates about the nature of emptiness, the ultimate nature of reality, the absolute and the relative, nihilism and eternalism, middle-way philosophy, and so on.  If someone had told me then that I would one day find myself sitting in Radio City Music Hall surrounded by thousands of New Yorkers all receiving the same teachings, I might not have believed it—but that is exactly what took place yesterday. As can be expected with just about any discourse on a Nagarjuna text, even with my relative degree of familiarity I still found much of yesterday’s teachings hard to understand. I can only imagine what it must have been like for the thousands of people there who have never even heard a teaching on emptiness before, much less an advanced esoteric lecture on madhyamaka philosophy!  (*Insert the “over the head” hand gesture here.) [note: Here is a good piece on understanding Nagarjuna by David Loy, "The Dharma of Deconstruction"] In today’s teaching, the Dalai Lama finished his discussion of Nagarjuna’s text and moved on to the Shantideva text, A Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life. This was much more accessible.  The Dalai Lama introduced the concept of exchanging self and other and taught that ignorance is one of the chief causes of suffering. He explained that with a proper understanding of cause and effect, the nature of reality, and interdependent origination, we will be more capable of achieving happiness for ourselves and manifesting compassion for others. By introducing the subjects of personal happiness and compassion towards others, it was as if yesterday’s complex teachings on emptiness and the nature of reality were given some much-needed context, and I could feel the people around me become more engaged. Another very interesting part of today’s teaching was the discussion of Buddhism’s relationship to quantum physics.  His Holiness spoke of his conversations with highly intelligent western quantum physicists in which the striking similarities between Buddhist teachings and this fascinating field of science were touched on. Just like Nagarjuna describes in his text, these quantum physicists attest that when their work takes them very far into observation of matter and existence, they eventually get to a point where they can no longer prove anything exists at all! Obviously, the fact Buddhists are able to cite an ancient Buddhist text that says essentially the exact same thing as this cutting edge field of western scientific inquiry is quite impressive to the physicists. Still, the Dalai Lama pointed one very important difference between Buddhism and quantum physics.  With science, one only looks at the external world and therefore what is gained is a massive amount knowledge. With Dharma practice, one applies the same investigative methods to the internal world of personal experience and what is gained is more than just knowledge; one gains a deeper type of understanding altogether. It is the type of understanding that helps one achieve happiness and act with true compassion. It is the type of understanding that gives one the ability to liberate oneself and others from suffering. This can be deep, heavy stuff, and I hope my attempt to explain some of these complex ideas hasn’t left you scratching your head. Here are some photos and videos from the teaching today at Radio City music hall.  They were shot/recorded from my little handheld Canon Elph so they are definitely not the highest quality, but nevertheless I’m still very happy to share them with you all. (Videos after the jump.) More »
  • Tricycle's 2011 Pilgrimages to India Paid Member

    ANCIENT BUDDHIST MONASTERIES OF INDIA and IN THE FOOTSTEPS OF THE BUDDHA More »
  • Tricycle Bicycle: Ride-to-Work Week Paid Member

    It’s National Bike-to-Work Week! Didn’t bike to work this morning? No problem, Bike-to-Work Day is this Friday, May 21, so you’ve still got a few days to get organized. I rode to the Tricycle office this morning, and let me tell you, nothing encourages being in the moment quite like merging into traffic after whizzing off the Williamsburg Bridge. Also, if you’re a Buddhist bicyclist you should check out DharmaWheels—an organization that sponsors an annual Buddhist Bicycle Pilgrimage in Northern California.  This year’s ride, September 25 and 26, starts at Spirit Rock Meditation Center and finishes at Abhayagiri Monastery. It looks awesome! Registration opens August 20. More »
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    A conversation with Jeff Bridges & Bernie Glassman Paid Member

    Last week, Tricycle contributing editor Katy Butler sat down for a joint interview with Zen Peacemakers founder Bernie Glassman (left) and actor Jeff Bridges (right) in Austin, Texas. To find out what they discussed stay tuned to tricycle.com for a video of the interview. Based on the photographs, it looks like it was a lively conversation! Photographs by Seabrook Jones, www.juicythis.com More »
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    Behind the Scenes: An Inside Look at Tricycle’s Summer 2010 Issue Paid Member

    Our Summer 2010 issue hits newsstands later this month, but we thought you might enjoy a sneak peak at some of the pages back when they were still being mapped out on bulletin boards in the Tricycle office. More »