feature

  • 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 25 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 19 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 »
  • Tricycle Community 1 comment

    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 »