Only Connect

James Shaheen

Tricycle’s features editor, Andrew Cooper, recently wrote me the following:

Although E. M. Forster could hardly have intended that the epigraph to his novel Howards End—‘Only connect’—serve as a two-word distillation of the Buddha’s teachings, it certainly is a good, and timely, one. To connect across the differences that divide us; to connect by building bonds of affection, understanding, and support; to connect in the recognition that we and all things are inextricably, well, connected— in our age of accelerated travel and instant communication, doesn’t this simple phrase offer us a promising touchstone for Buddhist practice? Is not connection with others one of the surest ways to loosen the bonds of self-concern and to find one’s best way to act in the world? It is, as well, a wonderfully economical description of the basis, the means, and the fruit of the Buddha Way. Our differences do indeed matter, but they don’t matter as much as this: Only connect, and, in Forster’s words, ‘Live in fragments no longer.’

At Tricycle, we have increased our focus over the past several years on activities, programs, and articles that we hope have enhanced connection among our readers and the wider Buddhist community. Our website has been a big part of this. And the more we do, the more possibilities present themselves.

We are quite familiar with the stereotype of North American “convert Buddhists” as white, middle-class, middleaged, college-educated, urban, meditation-oriented, and so forth. But one thing that became clear as the Tricycle website developed is that Buddhism in the West is far more diverse than is often recognized by mainstream publications like The New York Times and by Buddhist publications like Tricycle. Indeed, it has become apparent that there is a lot of “Buddhism in the West” that is not in the West at all. For the Buddhist conversation to overcome its inertia and recognize its diversity, we as a community must actively encourage inclusiveness. As part of this effort, we encourage community members who in significant ways don’t fit the stereotypical profile to write to us at editorial@tricycle.com.

We want to hear about your experience; we want to know your thoughts; we want to think with you about how to jettison some of the prejudices that hinder—and indeed misrepresent—the life of our community. We look forward to hearing from you—just as we were glad to hear from Atula Shah, an active member of the Tricycle Community whose practice in Nairobi, Kenya, is thriving.

Samsara is a tough place to live in, and parochialism, social isolation, and ideological insulation are not to anyone’s advantage as we make our way along the path. Instead, let’s try to connect, to “live in fragments no longer.”

—James Shaheen, Editor and Publisher

Image: Statue of Shinran Shonin at the New York Buddhist Church pictured on the cover. To learn about the history of the 15-foot bronze statue, click here. Photograph by Lisa Elmaleh

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