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  • Tricycle Community 12 comments

    Losing My Religion Paid Member

    I would have made a good 17th-century melancholic. Even as a child I was dreary. I remember my mother yelling at me to smile more, like the other kids. I tried, but secretly I didn’t see the point; grinners just didn’t understand the world. Even waking up to a sunny summer day could fill me with dread. A beautiful day only underscored the impermanence of happiness. Beauty today meant rain and wind would get me later for sure. Becoming a writer was a good-enough cover for bouts of nihilism, depression, and black apparel. But when I had a child, J, who turned out to have serious health problems and autism, I had to look straight into the darkness, with no place to hide, no pose to hold, and really figure out how I believed the universe worked and how I was going to continue to live in it. More »
  • Tricycle Community 4 comments

    The World is Places Paid Member

    In Gary Snyder’s essay “Re-inhabitation” he asks, “How does knowledge of the place help us know the Self?” First posed in a 1976 talk, the question feels even more pertinent today. With the ordinariness of air travel and online technology, it can be all too easy to forget the significance of specific physical places. In the following interview about his recent book, Dixie Dharma: Inside a Buddhist Temple in the American South, religious studies scholar Jeff Wilson does his part to remind us. (“You don’t breathe online,” he told me.) By looking at a multidenominational Buddhist temple in Richmond, Virginia, Wilson shows us why understanding region is crucial to understanding American Buddhism. More »
  • Tricycle Community 27 comments

    Buddhist Nationalism in Burma Paid Member

    For those outside Burma, the broadcast images of the Theravada monks of the “Saffron Revolution” of 2007 are still fresh. Backed by the devout Buddhist population, these monks were seen chanting metta and the Lovingkindness Sutta on the streets of Rangoon, Mandalay, and Pakhoke-ku, calling for an improvement in public well-being in the face of the growing economic hardships afflicting Burma’s Buddhists. The barefooted monks’ brave protests against the rule of the country’s junta represented a fine example of engaged Buddhism, a version of Buddhist activism that resonates with the age-old Orientalist, decontextualized view of what Buddhists are like: lovable, smiley, hospitable people who lead their lives mindfully and have much to offer the non-Buddhist world in the ways of fostering peace. More »
  • Tricycle Community 23 comments

    The Art of Being Wrong Paid Member

    There’s a scene in the fine and dark TV series Breaking Bad in which a villainous drug dealer, half-dead and half-blinded by a poisonous gas, stumbles down a suburban street and runs into one of his adversaries. The dealer can see just enough to recognize who it is, but he can’t see enough to realize, when he lurches off in a panic, that he’s heading straight for a large cottonwood tree. He slams into the trunk and knocks himself out cold. In the midst of that scene of tense dramatic confrontation, the resolution—a moment of classic slapstick reversal—is unavoidably funny. More »
  • Tricycle Community 11 comments

    The Matter of Truth Paid Member

    Years ago, at the Brooklyn Museum, I was looking at a Tibetan statue of a multi-armed figure when a middle-aged white couple stopped to view the statue, and as they did, one said to the other, “What is that about? Do you suppose they were trying to portray a freak who was born that way?” Then, before I could say anything, they moved on. As I, or anyone else familiar with the Indian cultural milieu, might have told them, the multiple arms were not intended to be a photograph-like portrait. Their intent is symbolic not literal. They symbolize the deity’s multiple abilities and capabilities. Only if one were completely blind to symbolism could one so completely misread the meaning of the statue’s multiple arms, imagining that they were intended to be an accurate physical representation of an actual person born with many arms. More »
  • Tricycle Community 1 comment

    The Fate of Mes Aynak Paid Member

    As the massive dust cloud finally settles, ears stop ringing, and tears dry, the gaping crater that was once an ancient Buddhist city slowly comes into view. Explosives have turned the 400,000-square-meter site into a football field–sized pit, the outer edges riddled with the deep-grooved tracks of bulldozers and SUVs. More »