• 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 »
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    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 »
  • 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 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 »