The first issue looks wonderful. From cover to cover there is peace within these pages. I am proud to be a charter subscriber. What a momentous year for Buddhism: His Holiness the Dalai Lama is awarded the Nobel Peace Prize; the Year of Tibet is launched; His Holiness meets with President Bush (the first American president to do so) and captivates Washington during his whirlwind visit; and now Tricycle arrives to lead the way in information on the buddhization of the United States. Congratulations, y que viva la Buddha in every heart!
I have read the premier issue of Tricycle, and found many of the articles enlightening, as I am not too familiar with the Buddhist religion and hope that in future issues I will learn more about it. I would like more articles that will teach me and others like me more about Buddhism: its concepts; its creeds; Buddhist practice; how to set up a shrine and what goes in a shrine; and how to be a Buddhist when there is no Buddhist community nearby.
Bryson City, North Carolina
Just a short word of praise and advice. I received volume one, number one, and am very pleased with the excellent content and layout of your publication. I especially enjoyed the article on Heinrich Harrer. His Seven Years in Tibet is a classic. The "Hot Hand Sutra" and Aitken Roshi's piece were also very enjoyable. Now my one complaint: Tricycle arrived in terrible condition. The cover was torn, and it was waterstained, quite possibly used as a coaster by one of our United States mail carriers. If you could put plastic or paper (more ecoconscious) around your fine magazine, I'm sure we subscribers would receive a copy we could treasure for its content and condition.
Seal Beach, California
Dear Jon, Our apologies to you and to anyone else whose copy of the premier issue of Tricycle may have arrived damaged. For ecological reasons we discounted using a plastic wrap, and for the time being, paper wraps at fifty cents per piece are not a feasible addition to our budget. Our good news is that the recent affirmation of our not-for-profit status allows us to use, beginning with this issue, the special second-class postage rate (as opposed to thirdclass). Hopefully, this faster service will reduce the possibility of mishaps along the way. Thank you for expressing your concern.
HIS HOLINESS AND SPALDING GRAY: COMBO IN CONTROVERSY
I enjoyed your premier issue, and I thought the Spalding Gray interview with the Dalai Lama was especially good. I suspect his questions about girls in bikinis and empty ice-cream dishes are going to offend some of your readers, but I loved those questions. And they were not disrespectful. Behind his jokes, Mr. Gray was serious: what does a monk do about temptation? As a spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama is precisely the person we should be able to turn to, if not for the answers then for some guidance that will help us find the answers. Interviewers who (with the best intentions, no doubt) give him soft-lob questions seem to imply by their very reticence that he has no help to give us. But if he has no special insight, what is everybody following him for? Besides, since the Dalai Lama clearly appreciated Mr. Gray's questions and humor, we can hardly complain.
Through your choice of Spalding Gray to interview His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Tricycle has joined ranks with modern journalism in attempting to probe and understand a living Buddha in non-religious, Western terms. His Holiness seems both to encourage and enjoy this process. But there is an interplay, between what Tibetan Buddhists call the uncommon and the common aspects of a rare being such as the Dalai Lama. Secular modern observers, and even modern Buddhists, tend to accept exclusively (with a kind of self-satisfied relief) his common description of himself as "just a simple Buddhist monk," or even "just a human being." When will your magazine seriously approach the uncommon aspect of His Holiness? He has vows that prevent him from speaking directly about his own Buddhahood, but the light of the uncommon aspect shines subtly through his words and actions. Apparently His Holiness feels that the traditional Tibetan view of the Dalai Lama may have become overbalanced in the direction of the uncommon aspect, and he is readjusting this delicate nondual relationship. A careful reading of his autobiography, Freedom in Exile, casts much light upon this point. However, the modern mind (once merely Western, now global) is seriously overbalanced toward the common aspect. I hope this magazine will provide an antidote for this imbalance, and not increase it.
New York, New York
I understand one of the most important tasks of your magazine to be providing a cultural mirror for Western Buddhists. The seemingly unbounded growth of spiritual ego(s) testifies to the lack, or virtual ineffectiveness, of our cultural mirrors. If this, indeed, is your aim, then Spalding Gray's interview with His Holiness the Dalai Lama in your first issue was doing an excellent job of mirroring.
Publishing it must have generated a lot of criticism! The artist has become the self-proclaimed guardian of creativity's source, vacated by priests, monks, and mystics as they were slowly swallowed up by the (religious) institutions. In appropriating the threshold to the unknowable, artists believe themselves to be beyond criticism, beyond reproach, which, of course, turns into the place of tyranny. To see Spalding Gray effortlessly placing himself on the same "intellectual" (for lack of a more precise term) level as His Holiness, makes this very clear. His approach is striking in its naivete and unreflectiveness. I am grateful to your magazine for having shown this so clearly, even if it is deeply disturbing.
T. J. C.
New York, New York