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    Tender Mercies Paid Member

    Buddhism emphasizes that death has only one intrinsic quality: not deliverance or joy, sadness or salvation—but certainty. In a universe of variables, it remains the only reliable beacon. To contemplate death, then, and allow this one certainty to inspire our daily behavior is, from a Buddhist perspective, a sane and radically pragmatic inquiry for everyone. Historically "The Great Matter of Life and Death" has been left largely to spiritual adepts and subsequently packaged by institutional religion. So it is somewhat ironic that this domain of religious bureaucracy is being democratized not by a neo-Aquarian awakening, but rather by medical science at its most secular, and in particular by issues such as euthanasia and the use of aborted fetal tissue. More »
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    What Works Paid Member

    “Until there is peace in the Middle East, there will be no peace for Americans at home.” In spite of himself, Osama bin Laden spoke the truth. What he intended as a menacing threat turned out to make more Buddhist sense than we might have expected from a fanatic hell-bent on holy war: If bombs fall “over there,” eventually, they’ll fall here. In spite of himself, Osama bin Laden spoke the truth. What he intended as a menacing threat turned out to make more Buddhist sense than we might have expected from a fanatic hell-bent on holy war: If bombs fall “over there,” eventually, they’ll fall here. More »
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    Are We There Yet? Paid Member

    Recently, I visited New Mexico to join the first Buddhabus Tour. Organized by the Tricycle ExChange, a membership program for our readers, the trip included eighteen adventurers. They started off with a workshop at Naropa Institute in Boulder and, after a day’s ride through the Rockies, arrived in Crestone, Colorado, where they stayed at Richard Baker’s Zen center and visited the Tashi Gomang stupa. Then on to Taos and Santa Fe, where the travelers attended separate workshops with Joan Halifax, Natalie Goldberg, and vipassana instructor Marcia Rose. 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 »
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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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    Lightening Up Paid Member

    Many years ago I sat in a café reading a college textbook on Buddhism. An elderly woman at the next table had been eyeing me curiously and seemed to have something to say. I looked over at her several times, tacitly inviting her to speak, but she remained silent. Had she noticed the title of my book? The café was known for its eccentrics, and in time I began to imagine that she was a convert Buddhist who’d traveled the far corners of Asia and was primed to share with me at the slightest prod the great treasures of the East. But no sooner had I returned to my book than she leaned toward my table to remark rather irritably, “Otherworldly chants and begging bowls—and all that talk of suffering! I find it terribly depressing.” More »