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    From Magician to Tibetan Saint Paid Member

    The story of Milarepa, the celebrated Tibetan yogi of the eleventh century, remains one of the most popular folk tales in the Tibetan tradition. His early life was fraught with tragedy, revenge, and regret. Despite this, Milarepa became a great dharma master and a beloved figure to generations of Tibetans. Under the demanding tutelage of his guru Marpa, Milarepa gained insight into the nature of reality and attained enlightenment. He spent the latter years of his life wandering the mountains of Tibet and Nepal and guiding numerous followers. His teachings are characterized by a direct and spontaneous wisdom, best known through his Songs of Enlightenment. This version of his life, drawn from classical accounts, comes from a manuscript, “Milarepa the Great Magician,” by Julia Lawless and Judith Allan. More »
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    Sanghamitta Paid Member

    Motionless in the midday heat, the old nuns sat watching a stranger cross the dusty courtyard toward a small temple. The altar was heaped with flowers. They were lay women who had donned robes and found refuge at this holy place as they neared the end of their lives. They showed no expression until asked about the platform that rises in stages behind the temple, capped by a golden fence that guards the holiest of trees. “Sanghamitta’s tree!” they said, breaking into smiles. Sanghamitta was their patron saint, and though she may be forgotten elsewhere, this place—the ancient Sri Lankan city of Anuradhapura—remembers her. More »
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    The Rain of Law Paid Member

    In January of 1844, the first excerpts of the Lotus Sutra to appear in the United States were published in Ralph Waldo Emerson's literary journal, The Dial. The editor and translator was the twenty-six-year-old Henry David Thoreau. More »
  • 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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    Giving Birth to Ancestors Paid Member

    But when I breathe with the birds, The spirit of wrath becomes the spirit of blessing, And the dead begin from their dark to sing in my sleep. —Theodore Roethke We shall live again, We shall live again.—Comanche Chant More »
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    Lama Hates The Sunset Paid Member

    So long as their high mountains kept the Tibetans isolated, their attitude toward Westerners—which was generally dismissive or indifferent—remained an academic matter. But with the Chinese invasion in 1959, an academic matter turned into one of life and death. During the 1960s, the Communists leveled monasteries and forbade the teaching of Buddhism, and the world’s power brokers forgot Tibet in favor of China’s potential billion-customer market. The “last ancient civilization,” as it was called, was under a death sentence. Under such circumstances, the fate of Tibet’s religion was not hard to predict. More »