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    Dumbfounded in the Dharma Paid Member

    In Thoughts Without a Thinker, Dr. Mark Epstein recalls an encounter between Kalu Rinpoche and Korean Zen master Seung Sahn that took place twenty years ago at the home of a Harvard professor. As the Zen and Tibetan traditions employ “dharma combat” to test and hone one’s understanding, the students of both masters arranged for them to debate each other. Seung Sahn opened the debate, reaching into his gray robe and removing an orange. With classic Zen theatrics he held the orange toward his opponent’s face and yelled: “What is it?!” The elderly lama just continued to finger his prayer beads. Seung Sahn tried again, holding out the orange and demanding to know: “What is it?!” More »
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    A Two-Track Mind Paid Member

    Every time the salesman at Eastern Mountain Sports brought an item for me to try on—a Superwick undershirt, a fleece vest, a coated-nylon shell—I tried to gauge my level of comfort for various degrees of inclement weather. By the time he asked where I was going, he had every reason to expect me to say Mount Everest or Antarctica. It was Friday evening on January 19 and the forecast warned of a freak snowstorm moving north from the Carolinas and colliding with a cold front moving east from the Midwest. Sheepishly, I told him that I would be in Washington, DC, the next day stamping my warmly shod foot against fate, or at least against the Inauguration. To which the young man gave me a thumbs-up, then shrugged and said, taking my credit card, "Well, I guess it must have been different in the sixties." More »
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    The Formless Field of Benefaction Paid Member

    There was a time when the Heart Sutra evoked associations with Asian monastic rituals, and not Florida hospitals; and when "the great matter of life and death," as the Zen tradition puts it, did not apply to the American abortion debate; and when running an AIDS hospice may have been considered too secular for Buddhist priests; and when Buddhist priests felt obliged to deny their sexuality, all the more so if it was homosexual. More »
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    Mountains' Walking Paid Member

    UNLIKE the media staples of sex, money, and power, the more we read about environmentalism, the less inclined we are to read more. And yet, there are the facts. Facts and more facts. One's genuine interest in the work of planetary healing could be killed off by facts alone. So pervasive is this dilemma that it questions the value of information itself. More »
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    Greener Grass Paid Member

    The movies Kundun and Seven Years in Tibet will introduce millions of Westerners to the cultural and religious heritage of Tibet, as well as to the Chinese takeover. Indeed, the hope of both screenwriters Melissa Mathison and Becky Johnston is that their movies will catalyze a grass-roots movement capable of influencing the Clinton administration's policy toward China—specifically, that country's systematic annihilation of its neighbor. In the flurry of commentary left in the wake of Chinese President Jiang Zemin's state visit, there is nothing to suggest progress on that front—yet. To my ears, the least compromised—and most courageous—voice heard in the nation's capital during Jiang's visit was Richard Gere's. More »
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    After Apathy Paid Member

    YOGEN SENZAKl (see "Ancestors"), the first Zen teacher to take up residence in America, taught Zen at a time when there was almost no interest in it. And the challenge of forging a compatible marriage between Asian Buddhism and the Western ideal of social responsibility—the subject of this issue's special section—was not even on the horizon. In his residential hotel rooms in Los Angeles, Senzaki had his American students sit zazen on chairs, for he considered cross-legged meditation a most un-American activity. He died in 1958, just as the currents of Beat Zen were riding the crest into the explosive sixties. More »