Arts & Culture

The growing influence of Buddhist artistic expression in contemporary culture
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    Fancy Dancers Paid Member

    "Scratch any dancer and you will find Denishawn"—a phrase common among post-World War II critics—sums up the monumental impact of Ruth St. Denis and Ted Shawn. Through their tenacity and conviction, their eccentricities and vision, they laid the foundation for what was to become modern dance. Born in Newark, New Jersey in 1874, Ruth St. Denis was a poor farmgirl with a flair for the dramatic. In 1904 when she passed by an advertisement in a drugstore window in Buffalo, her "destiny as a dancer... sprung alive": the goddess Isis, bare-breasted and brooding, filled a large poster for Egyptian Deities Cigarettes. One year later, St. Denis performed Radha: The Mystic Dance of the Five Senses, a work about sensuality and renunciation modeled on a character from Edwin Arnold's The Light of Asia. The final tableau featured St. Denis seated in lotus position and lost in samadhi. More »
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    Documenting the Dalai Lama Paid Member

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    Speaking of Silence Paid Member

    Recently I had the happy occasion to introduce two old friends whose lives had been informed by the Cistercian monk, Father Louis, better known as Thomas Merton. Both had grown up in Episcopalian families; one had converted to Catholicism and later became a Tibetan Buddhist, and the other is in training to be a Zen teacher while reaffirming her Christian heritage. The Catholic convert, Harold Talbott—interviewed about Merton in this issue of Tricycle—had introduced Merton to Tibetan lamas in the Himalayas in the weeks just prior to Merton's sudden death in Bangkok in 1968. By that time, influenced by Zen adept D.T. Suzuki, Merton had read and written about Zen for years, and the original motive behind his Asian journey was to meet Zen roshis in Japan. More »
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    Negative Capability: Kerouac's Buddhist Ethic Paid Member

    Jack Kerouac's interest in Buddhism began after he spent some time with Neal Cassady, who had taken on an interest in the local California variety of New Age spiritualism, particularly the work of Edgar Cayce. Kerouac mocked Cassady as a sort of homemade American "Billy Sunday with a suit" for praising Cayce, who went into trance states of sleep and then read what were called the Akashic records, and gave medical advice to the petitioners who came to ask him questions with answers which involve reincarnation. So, Kerouac was interested in going back to the original historic sources. He went to the library in San Jose, California and read a book called A Buddhist Bible, edited by Dwight Goddard—a very good anthology of classic Buddhist texts. Kerouac read them very deeply, memorized many of them, and then went on to do other reading and other research and actually became a brilliant intuitive Buddhist scholar. More »
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    Dharma for Sale Paid Member

    One Saturday afternoon in December, Mu Soeng, the longtime co-director and now resident scholar at the Barre Center for Buddhist Studies in Barre, Massachusetts, walks down a street in Manhattan, talking about the sheer force of American corporate capitalism and consumer culture. This is like talking about the weather in the middle of a hurricane, because at this particular moment we are threading our way through a tide of Christmas shoppers surging into the side streets from the megastores on Sixth Avenue, and pooling around the entrance to the open-air antique and flea market at Twenty-sixth Street. More »