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Living and practicing harmoniously with others is essential to Buddhist teachings
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    The Jesus Lama: Thomas Merton in the Himalayas Paid Member

    In his best-selling biography The Seven Storey Mountain (published in 1948), Thomas Merton tells of his conversion to Catholicism and subsequent entry into Our Lady of Gethsemani, a Cistercian abbey in Kentucky. To a world savaged by war, Merton's embrace of a Christian life was made all the more authentic by his Cambridge-educated intellect, stunning candor, and the New York street humor he acquired while attending Columbia University. Single-handedly, he restored credibility to the very possibility of contemplative virtue which had been long denigrated by liberal intellectuals and traditional Christians alike. His was a voice of sanity, filled with sacred wonder, and replete with inquiry and contradiction. More »
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    In the Dukkha Magnet Zone Paid Member

    Tricycle: How can medicine be a vehicle for Buddhist teachings in this country? Jon Kabat-Zinn: Hospitals and medical centers in this society are dukkha magnets. (Dukkha means "suffering" in Pali.) People are drawn to hospitals primarily when they're suffering, so it's very natural to introduce programs to help them deal with the enormity of their suffering in a systematic way—as a complement to medical efforts. More »
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    Walking the Walk Paid Member

    It was all going so well. Until this afternoon. I’ve been participating in the annual Chenrezi retreat in Swayambhu, next to Kathmandu, Nepal. My heart teacher, Sherab Gyaltsen Rinpoche, is leading 1,800 participants, virtually all of whom are Nepalese or Tibetan, in three and a half weeks of practice. Our day, which begins at 6:30 a.m. and ends shortly before 6:00 p.m., is divided into four sessions framed by splendid chants, traditional music, and recitations in Tibetan. Prayer wheels spin and whirr, lights blink on and off due to hours of daily loadshedding and a cantankerous generator. Salty Tibetan butter tea and sweet milk tea are frequently served, along with buns and potent chili sauce. Vegetarian lunch, prepared by a merry army of choppers and cooked in cauldrons by kitchen wizards in a dim, smoky room on a wood-burning stove, is served outside. In the evening, men walk through the temple recording the number of mantras each participant has recited during the day. More »
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    Which Buddhist Personality Type Are You? Paid Member

    ”You must be a Deluded type,” said my retreat dishwashing partner. “I can tell by the way you’ve loaded the dish drainer.”I glanced at my dish drainer with its skewed plates, a glass perched on top of a pot, and serving spoons stuck at odd angles. It looked like a circus balancing act. Next to it was the dish drainer he had stacked before me. His dishes were meticulously in line from smallest to largest, glasses were in a particular place and order, and everything looked as if it could be hermetically sealed in plastic and sent as a compact UPS package.“And what type are you?” I asked, suspecting I already knew.“Aversive.” More »
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    Why Buddhism Needs the West Paid Member

    In an oft-cited statement, which might be apocryphal, the British historian Arnold Toynbee said, “The coming of Buddhism to the West may well prove to be the most important event of the twentieth century.” Given the monumental social, political, and scientific changes of the last century, that claim seems pretty unlikely. But Toynbee may have noticed something the rest of us need to see: that the interaction between Buddhism and the West is crucial today, because each emphasizes something the other is missing. Whether or not Toynbee actually made this observation, the significance of the encounter may be nearly as great as his statement suggests. More »
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    Lotuses and Lilies Paid Member

    On the central wall of the Guest House at the monastery where I lived during the 1980s, there was a mural painted by the Japanese Jesuit priest Father Maxima depicting a scene from Buddhist legend. Once when Shakyamuni’s disciples had gathered on Vulture Peak to hear a sermon, he simply stood in their midst and, holding a single flower aloft so all could see, twirled it between his thumb and forefinger. At this, all were puzzled. Mahakashyapa alone, among all the disciples, broke into a smile, indicating that he had understood the final truth of Buddhism. Father Maxima’s mural was a faithful depiction of all this. At the center stood Buddha holding up a lotus blossom. About him were the various monks and animals, bodhisattvas, devas, and other heavenly beings normally to be found when Shakyamuni delivered a sermon. But Mahakasyapa wasn’t smiling—at least not like any smile I’d ever seen. Rather, he wore an expression approaching horror. More »