Letters to the Editor

It takes a while for a new magazine to find its voice. How sad that Tricycle's is maturing with the rasp of a feminist tract.
George Fradin
Ann Arbor, Michigan

Too much politics!—referring to the Winter 1993 Environmental Issue with the Zen spin. Cannot Tricycle be a refuge from writers who can't save themselves much less the earth and universe? Cannot it be a refuge from the tedious woman-as-victim soap opera? I mean, is all that Kate Wheeler can share with us that feminist power politics is not at work in the monasteries in Burma? Hasn't she missed the point of it all, and isn't this a waste of our time? Years ago Alan Watts told his Berkeley audience wisely, "If indeed the world is falling apart, perhaps the best thing we could do is not to try to stop it from happening." I think that's the cushion I want to sit on. 
John F. Levinge
Birmingham, Alabama

Is the Buddha above reproach? In the Winter 1993 Issue, Joseph Goldstein implies unconvincingly that he is, while Kate Wheeler argues compellingly that he is not. When Tricycle raises the question of whether the Buddha can be faulted for abandoning his wife and child, Goldstein's response seems a full-heeled retreat away from the challenge of the living moment into the mountains of metaphysics and mythology. As a rule, to invoke reincarnation and destiny regarding a questionable interpersonal action runs a high risk of being a cop-out. Is speaking of someone on the level of the Buddha an exception that proves the rule? The feminist critique goes beyond matters of gender and justice to equally important questions about detachment versus "householders" struggling to maintain a lay practice; there are so many real concerns tied to the Buddha's departure from home—and no simple answer in sight. In the meantime, is it helpful to view the Buddha as above reproach?
Tony Stern
Hastings-on-Hudson, New York

I really appreciated Kate Wheeler's article—except for her conclusion. Is it really necessary to make the Buddha "wrong"? Can't issues of feminism or anything else be explored without pronouncing final judgments? We owe ourselves the benefits of inquiry and change, but I don't see that it takes "courage" to replicate the good/bad dichotomies that inform much of Western thinking.
Catherine Ickes
Oxford, Mississippi

Contributing Remarks

I was surprised at the basis of Diana Rowan's criticisms of Tricycle and Pema Chodron's remarks in the last issue. Clearly Pema Chodron and Rowan differ in view, but that's simply differing and does not render Chodron's views "trivializing and distorting." Mainly I wondered at Rowan's expectations in terms of the impact of the Dharamsala conference. The meeting of Western students and teachers with H.H. the Dalai Lama sounded inspiring, and the letter was thought-provoking.

However, there is a wide spectrum of Buddhist lineages now represented in the West, and even within lineages the teachers exhibit different flavors. Particularly as a Contributing Editor to Tricycle, Rowan should understand that a Buddhist teacher (or group of teachers) cannot direct how the dharma is going to be taught by others.
Bill Lawless
Hancock, Maine

 

Eco-Warriors Or Eco-Wars?

I was glad to see Tricycle give reflection to the technozen conversation with John McClellan's fascinating piece "Nondual Ecology" in the Winter Issue. I particularly appreciate his reminder to us that biology is not necessarily the pinnacle of evolution. The reality of changing conditions, itself one of the Buddha's clearest messages, is rendering many old and hallowed assumptions open to question. Recently, at a gathering of environmentalists and Buddhists in Berkeley, I shared my enthusiasm for the potential of digitally based electronic communication. But I had the distinct impression that most of the people there were saddened to see what they thought was another victim of the corporate high-tech juggernaut that is trashing the world.

I wondered how much more effective these activists would be if they made use of global e-mail. Our mission, should we choose to accept it: to get out in front of technologicalization and make it sacred. Finally, I must admit that on a number of occasions, late at night in the Pacific zone, I have been found cavorting in the cybersphere of the Internet Relay Chat... under "technozen!"
Allan Hunt Badiner
Big Sur, California

In his enthusiasm to put forth his argument, I think John McClellan has been a bit unfair to Deep Ecologists and could be giving their critics undeserved ammunition. "Deep Ecology" is probably one of the most overused and misunderstood labels in environmental parlance. To imply that there is a "Deep Ecology establishment" seems absurd, since there is so much disagreement on so many points among these rugged individuals. There is certainly no "Deep Ecology establishment" in the sense of the word that refers to, say, the military-industrial complex. Deep Ecology has been called a movement, but it may be more accurate to refer to it as a dialogue.

To characterize Deep Ecologists as trying to hold onto a mere moment in biological time is a misrepresentation. It trivializes the issue, which is that millions of years of biological evolution are being destroyed by a couple of generations of "technobionts" who are deluded about the unlimited power of technology to solve all problems in a world with limited resources.

The Deep Ecologists I know are not fixated on trying to preserve their favorite wooded glen as they knew it in childhood. They have a long view of biological history and the fragile transience of life forms. Joanna Macy's concept of "deep time" also includes the long future of nuclear waste and the threat it poses to all biological life for many hundreds of generations to come.

From a deep-time perspective, it is scientific materialism, the industrial revolution, and the technological takeover of Planet Earth that are occurring in a mere instant of biological time. And it is not at all clear that "there will always be plenty of good life-filled world for us to join in with." Maybe humans will survive to see the outcome and maybe we won't. Some Deep Ecologists have concluded that even if there is only a 1 percent chance that humanity can wake up and take responsibility for our actions before our collective karma catches up with us, it is worth the effort to sound the call.
It seems to me that the greatest contribution of Deep Ecological thinkers has been to point out the critical role of people's mind-sets (or perceptual frameworks, such as the greed-based economic growth model) in fueling the activities that have unbalanced the biosphere. Our perceptual frameworks have changed through time, and can change again at any time. We may not be "in control," but we do have choices.

For those who have worked with their own minds and understand the nature of projection, this is a fairly accessible notion. However, for people who do not practice working with their minds, this subtle concept is not easy to grasp. The fact that some proponents of Deep Ecology stray into dualism—e.g., taking "technology" to be the enemy instead of addressing the techno-fix mentality—is understandable. Even meditators stray into dualism.

McClellan's article would serve a very useful purpose if it encouraged people to reconsider their own habitual dualistic projections and to question where the ecological problem actually lies—that is, in human states of mind. But the absolute perspective that he presents does not admit that there is a problem. Therefore, people could easily mistake McClellan's criticism of those who see technology as evil as an endorsement of those who see technology as humanity's savior. Perhaps McClellan himself has unnecessarily polarized the issue—by misrepresenting the Deep Ecological view and by embracing technology in his evolutionary theory.

The aspect of McClellan's presentation that troubles me most is his conviction that evolution now resides in technological cultures almost exclusively—that technology, machines, and information systems are "the new lifeform that has taken over the planet." But the jury is still out on this one. If technoculture wipes out most of life on Earth, including the life support systems of humans, which does appear to be a possibility, can this legitimately be called evolution? Or is it more like a cancer eating its host?

McClellan's vast view, his Big Mind, his sacred outlook does not admit any ethical judgments. And Buddhism itself, as it has taken root in culture after culture, has sidestepped many a political and ethical consideration with just such a vast view. But given the stakes at this time in human history, can we afford the naiveté of neutrality?
Suzanne Duarte Head
Red Feather Lakes, Colorado

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