Letters to the Editor Fall 2004

Sleeping Dog Awakened
I generally find Tricycle articles at least interesting and sometimes very instructive. "Our Man in Bodh Gaya" {Summer 2004} would have fallen into the "interesting" category if not for the insulting comment in the opening paragraph about the "court-appointed leader of the free world."

If Mr. Magill wants to express his political opinions, he should use an appropriate forum. Presumably one is not banished from the ranks of Buddhist practitioners if one votes Republican. His remark has the smugness of one for whom there is only one correct opinion.

As to the substance of the matter: There are those who believe that the Florida Supreme Court had no right to change the rules because they didn't like the result of the election. Florida's legislature, empowered to do so by the U.S. Constitution, laid out exactly what should take place in the event of a close race. The state election officials followed those rules. The Florida Supreme Court determined that the result was not "fair" and decided that they had the right to make up their own rules. The U.S. Supreme Court, rightly, said that no, the Florida Court has no right under the Florida or U.S. constitutions to arbitrarily rewrite election law, especially after the election has taken place. Incidentally, several south Florida newspapers conducted their own "recount" in the months following the election. Lo and behold, they found the result did not change.

So if Mr. Magill wants to be a Bushhater, that is his privilege. But don't give us this c**p about "court-appointed." Anyway, what does this political warfare have to do with Buddhism?

—Jerry Cohn, Haverhill, Massachusetts

Blessings Behind Bars
Thank you for your special section on prison and the dharma {Spring 2004}. I was fortunate enough to be introduced to Buddhism and yoga before I came to prison, and they have truly been my paradise amid this hellish samsara of loss and pain. I am in a women's federal prison, and we have a small group of practicing meditators. We are blessed with a chaplain who honors our practice and who has recently gotten us sitting cushions and a Buddha shrine (a big, heavy Buddha, incense, and a gong).

I was pleased that the interview with Fleet Maull addressed the issue of prison reform because many people are needlessly imprisoned or sentenced to ridiculous amounts of time. The helplessness and suffering in prison is so great that many of us rarely find peace except during our practice. I encourage the Buddhist community to further its outreach for both the spiritual assistance and political activism that helps bring an end to needless suffering.

—Kirsten Erkfritz, Federal Medical Center, Carswell, Fort Worth, Texas

Perverting the Precepts?

In the Letters section of the Summer 2004 issue, I was shocked to find Michael Sweet of Madison, Wisconsin, objecting to the content of Geri Larkin's "On Practice" piece in the Spring 2004 issue. Mr. Sweet truly believes that the "injunction to sexual exclusivity has no basis in any Buddhist tradition." To the contrary, this concept finds its basis in all Buddhist traditions. If Mr. Sweet is a practicing Buddhist of any tradition, and has taken the refuge vows and the five lay precepts, and still believes that there is room in practice of the dharma for our "polymorphously perverse primate natures," I would like to suggest that he return to his teacher to have the precepts explained in greater detail. Or perhaps he feels that the third precept, "Refrain from sexual misconduct," does not apply to promiscuity.

In taking this precept as a primary mindfulness point for lay practice, the practitioper is of course meant to understand that sexual conduct is to be undertaken mindfully and compassionately. When I was given this precept, my own teacher explained very clearly that the intent of the precept is that sexual conduct should only occur between two consenting individuals within the commitment of a monogamous relationship.

Perhaps the only point of Mr. Sweet's that is more disconcerting than his seeming lack of understanding of this precept is his overtly expressed belief that sexual "dalliances" can be seen to be in line with the Buddhist concept of nonattachment. If he truly believes this, I would encourage him to take a copy of his letter to his teacher and spend many rounds of meditation contemplating the compassion and mindfulness cultivated by the precept to refrain from sexual misconduct and the enormous harm that can be created when this precept is ignored. I would be truly frightened to hear his interpretation of the first precept, "Refrain from taking life."

—Acharya Khamsa Steven KinCannon, Director and Guiding Teacher, The Householder Dharma Project

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