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    Reincarnation: A Debate Paid Member

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    Jeweled Demise Paid Member

    I HAVE A TYPICALLY Protestant take on relics: I'm skeptical. I mean, how many pieces of the true cross can there be? I had come to Bodh Gaya, India, scene of the Buddha's enlightenment, for the Kalachakra initiation given by the Dalai Lama in 2003. I had a few hours to kill, and I came across a display of relics in the middle of an otherwise empty field. A small statue of the seated Maitreya--the Buddha to Come--presided over two neat rows of glass cases. At first glance, it was a typical collection: a fragment of a letter purporting to be written by the ninth-century Tibetan yogini Yeshe Tsogyal; a bit of bone from a saint; a piece of tooth said to belong to Kashyapa Buddha, the Buddha before Shakyamuni, and which, the label alleged, was reproducing itself. Nothing new here, I thought. More »
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    The Great Escape Paid Member

    Above: One million dalit Buddhists gather at Dikshabhumi in Maharashtra, India on October 2, 2006. More »
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    Bread and Stone Paid Member

    IT IS THE MIDDLE OF December, the last day of classes. Outside, the sky is darkening and the wind is rattling the windows. I am meeting with students in a course called "The Nature of Religious Experience." We have been reading from the Upanishads, the Life of the Buddha, the Zen Buddhist Platform Sutra of the Sixth Patriarch, the Tao Te Ching, the books of Job, Isaiah, Matthew, the sermons of Meister Eckhart, and the poetry of two great masters of Islamic spirituality, Rumi and Hafiz. We have been speaking about religious experience—we have not been trying to have religious experience. More »
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    The Disappearance of the Spiritual Thinker Paid Member

    “I NEVER KNEW A MAN,” Graham Greene famously wrote in The Quiet American, “who had better motives for all the trouble he caused.” After the disaster in Iraq, Greene’s 1955 description of an idealistic American intellectual blundering through Vietnam seems increasingly prescient. People shaped entirely by book learning and enthralled by intellectual abstractions such as “democracy” and “nation-building” are already threatening to make the new century as bloody as the previous one. It is too� More »