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    Transmuting Blood and Guts: My Experiences in the Buddhist Military Paid Member

    It was an unanticipated homecoming for me, addressing a West Point audience on military matters a few years ago. My original connection to the United States Military Academy runs through my great-grandfather, class of ’77, who’d gone on to win the Congressional Medal of Honor for action against a Native American uprising in the Southwest. His son, my grandfather, graduated from the Academy in 1907; his only son, my uncle, went from Harvard to military intelligence in Korea, and from there to the CIA. But I became Buddhist soon after leaving high school, and I graduated from college as a conscientious objector, refusing the draft because of religious opposition to war of any kind. Yet, paradoxically, it was Buddhism that brought me back to West Point. More »
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    What Are You Really Afraid Of? Paid Member

    For the most part, we experience ourselves as stable and persistent beings, apparently immortal; yet there is also a sneaking awareness of our impermanence, the fact that “I” am growing older and will die. The tension between these two conflicting perceptions is essentially the same one Shakyamuni Buddha himself felt when, as the myth has it, he ventured out of his father’s palace to encounter for the first time an ill man, an aged man, and finally, a corpse. While most traditional religions resolve this tension by claiming that the soul is immortal, Buddhism does the opposite. Not only does it accept our mortality in the usual sense, but it also emphasizes the doctrine of anatta, or “no-self.” More »
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    Shedding Light Paid Member

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    Nirvana: Three Takes Paid Member

    In the centuries following the Buddha’s death, dharma teachings spread from India into the rest of Asia, evolving eventually into the three yanas, or vehicles for the teachings—Theravada, Vajrayana, and Mahayana, the predominant traditions of Southeast Asia, Tibet, and East Asia, respectively. The doctrinal distinctions that arose have caused fundamental aspects of what the Buddha taught to be disputed. Even the teachings on such essential matters as karma, enlightenment, and rebirth vary in the three yanas, and from school to school within the yanas—now more so than ever with Western epistemologies stirred into the doctrinal diaspora. More »
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    Talk Like a Buddha Paid Member

    I’M SITTING knee-almost-touching-knee with Ted, a chubby and towering sixty-something-year-old with a few days’ gray stubble, bushy eyebrows, and nose hairs calling for a trim. We met just fifteen minutes ago, and tears are running down his face. Ted’s breathing is labored, and I can smell his sour breath, yet I feel content. I comfort him—not so much with words but simply by being present, by gently meeting his gaze and accepting him and the moment. During our hour together, I work at remaining openhearted and mindful, and it seems to help Ted regain his balance. When our hour together is over, he’s much calmer, maybe even happy. More »
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    No Interference Paid Member

    Sky Wheel, 1972, diameter 17.5 inches HIDDEN LIKE A Chinese hermit or a coyote in his den, Michael Sawyer lives at Green Gulch Farm Zen Center, in a narrow valley north of San Francisco. To visit him you must walk past the formal zendo and Japanese teahouse, up to a converted trailer at the very edge of the open hills.More »