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  • Tricycle Community 25 comments

    A Special Transmission Paid Member

    Legend tells us that Chan Buddhism began in India, specifically when the Buddha transmitted his true dharma to one and only one disciple, Mahakashyapa. History, however, tells us a different story, namely that Chan originated in China some time around the 6th century. Over time, the Chan school spread throughout most of the Chinese sphere of cultural influence—to Korea, Vietnam, and of course Japan, and it is by its Japanese name, Zen, that Westerners recognize it best. Of course, it is not just the name; the Japanese tradition is by far the most familiar and visible of Chan’s various cultural manifestations, though Korean and Vietnamese traditions as well have gained sizable footing in the West. All of which makes for a certain irony: while Chan originated in China, and while China, after the Indian subcontinent, has been the most historically influential home for Buddhism, Westerners tend by and large to have very little working knowledge of contemporary Chinese Buddhism. More »
  • 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 68 comments

    The Scientific Buddha Paid Member

    According to Buddhist doctrine, there can be only one buddha for each historical age. A new buddha appears in the world only when the teachings of the previous buddha have been completely forgotten, with no remnant—a text, a statue, the ruins of a pagoda, or even a reference in a dictionary—remaining. Because the teachings of Gautama Buddha, the historical Buddha—that is, our Buddha—remain present in the world, we have no need for a new buddha. But in the 19th century, a new buddha suddenly appeared in the world, a buddha who is not mentioned in any of the prophecies. What he taught is said to be compatible with modern science, and so I call him the Scientific Buddha. Today, the Scientific Buddha is often mistaken for Gautama Buddha, the historical Buddha, the real Buddha. But they are not the same. And this case of mistaken identity has particular consequences for those who seek to understand and practice the teachings of Gautama Buddha. More »
  • Tricycle Community 21 comments

    A Gray Matter Paid Member

    Participants in the dialogue between science and Buddhism have long modeled their discussion primarily on the idea of convergence, the premise that the most significant comparisons are those that reveal common ground. This is by no means the only model for comparative discussion, and I would argue that in the case of Buddhism and science it is deeply flawed. Instead, another model—one based on mutual challenge, in which the two sides are able to shed light on each other precisely because of their differences—offers what I see as a more potentially fruitful alternative. More »