History

As a 2,500-year old religion, Buddhism has a rich and diverse past
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    The Hermit Who Owned His Mountain Paid Member

    Walter Evans-Wentz didn't speak Tibetan and he never translated anything, but he was known as an eminent translator of important Tibetan texts, especially a 1927 edition of The Tibetan Book of the Dead, which was for many Westerners the first book on Tibetan Buddhism that they took seriously. "He didn't claim to be a translator in his books," says Roger Corless, Professor of Religion at Duke University, "but he didn't mind leaving the impression that he was." Like many figures who played important roles in bringing Buddhism to the West, Evans-Wentz didn't call himself a Buddhist, and he seems to have stumbled almost accidentally upon the texts he eventually published. With his naive sincerity, flowery rhetoric, lofty vision, and messianic tone, he might be taken today for a proto-New Age crank. More »
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    Back to Basics Paid Member

    Dharma 101, this issue’s special section (p. 40), includes some very basic questions, but that doesn’t limit it to beginners. There’s nothing elementary in asking about karma, enlightenment, emptiness, or in asking, “if there is no self, who is born, who dies, who meditates?" They’re introductory questions not only because they tend to bedevil the newly engaged practitioner but also because of their capacity to introduce a practitioner to the true nature of his or her own mind. But when we hear the question, “I’ve been practicing for ten years and I'm still angry, what's the matter with me?” we can appreciate the humor of the phrase Dharma 101 and the extent to which it is a rubric of convenience. More »
  • Law and Order Paid Member

    As the son of a raja, Siddhattha had grown up in a household where political and legal questions were daily topics. He had attended dozens of sessions in the assembly and had been present at numerous trials. Thus he had gained a considerable knowledge of legal matters. Although politics and jurisprudence were not central to his thinking, which was essentially concerned with philosophical matters, nevertheless he was more proficient in law than the other leading teachers of his time, and this knowledge was of great assistance to him for the consolidation of his Order. There were two legal areas in which it was necessary to establish regulations: the relation of the Sangha to the state and society, and the internal law of the Order, which sets up a code of behavior for monks and nuns and stipulates the penalties for misconduct. More »
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    The Future of Religion Paid Member

    Few people can address the social dimensions of religion with the knowledge, insight, and eloquence of Robert Bellah. Through his teaching and, especially, his writing, Bellah’s ideas have traveled beyond the academy to influence the culture at large. In 2000, in recognition of his accomplishments in joining distinguished scholarship with committed citizenship, he received the National Humanities Medal from President Bill Clinton. More »
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    The Buddha Got Enlightened Under a Tree Paid Member

    A few years ago I spent a week doing a retreat next to a stream at the foothills of the Sangre de Cristo mountains in southern Colorado. The ground rules were fairly simple: retreatants were to live as close to "nature" as possible. Instead of sleeping in a tent, I slept either under the stars or under a tarp. I didn't build a fire, but ate bread, cheese, dried fruits, nuts. I drank water from the stream, and steeped tea in a bottle warmed by the sun. I never used a flashlight and left books, paper, and pen behind. More »