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    The True Human Paid Member

    “WHAT DO YOU THINK OF when you hear icon?” I ask at the dinner table a few days before my fifteen-year-old daughter and I visit Frederick Franck, a ninety-six-year-old Dutch-born artist who is the author of The Zen of Seeing and about thirty other books. “I think of Carl Icahn, the corporate raider,” says my husband, Jeff. “I think of a computer icon,” says Alexandra. “Nobody thinks of a religious icon,” I comment. “Do you mean like the Dalai Lama?” asks Alex. “A celebrity or someone who embodies particular qualities can be a kind of icon,” I say. “Carl Icahn could be considered a celebrity icon,” says my husband. “Plus, I have pictures of celebrities on my website, so technically they can also be computer icons,” adds Alex. More »
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    Washing Out Emptiness Paid Member

    After my mother-in-law's recent funeral, my husband Bob and his two sisters, Bonnie and Val, took her ashes to the bank of her favorite creek and sprinkled them in. They hiked back with ash-dusted hands. “I hate to wash,” said Val, rubbing her mother’s powdered body into her palm. “It’s Mom, you know?” I could see the dusty gray ash on her knuckles. “Were there any big pieces?” I asked. “A few chunks,” she answered, as she turned toward the sink. More »
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    Shakyamuni Buddha: A Life Retold Paid Member

    The first four episodes of “Wake Up” Jack Kerouac's previously unpublished life of the Buddha, recounted the story of Prince Siddhartha leaving his father's palace, taking up the homeless life, attaining enlightenment and choosing to delay his own entry into nirvana until all sentient beings are saved. Episode Five described the Buddha's subsequent journey to Benares, where he gave his first great sermon. This installment picks up the story after Shakyamuni has ordained the five ascetics as monks and formed the first sangha. The complete manuscript of“Wake Up”will appear in a volume entitled“Some of the Dharma�, due to be published by Viking Penguin in 1995.“Note�: Kerouac's original spellings and usage have been retained throughout.   More »
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    Whirling Petals, Windblown Leaves Paid Member

    “It was unthinkable that a poem should get no reply.” This sentence from The Tale of Genji, Japan’s profoundly melancholy Buddhist novel written around the year 1000 by Murasaki Shikibu, marks the formalization of a particular approach to poetry. Poem responding to poem seems the basis of Murasaki’s worldview. Her book includes nearly eight hundred poems, most of them exchanged between lovers. For a person to meet with a poem, or any deep expression, and make no response, Murasaki believed, is to have no heart, no nervous system. It is to show oneself “uncooked,” a mere barbarian, with the shabbiest of table manners or bedroom etiquette. Once, in her book, a lover dashes off a reply on lavender paper and sends it by messenger, affixed to a pine sprig still frosted with morning snow. More »
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    Dharma in the Republic of Desire 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 »