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    Rebirth: A Case for Buddhist Agnosticism Paid Member

    In 1254 the Franciscan friar William of Rubruck, a missionary in Mongolia, became the first Westerner to describe a reincarnate Buddhist teacher. In the report of his mission to King Louis IX of France he recounted the following episode: A boy was brought from Cataia [China], who to judge by his physical size was not three years old, yet was fully capable of rational thought: he said of himself that he was in his third incarnation, and he knew how to read and write. (Peter Jackson's The Mission Friar of William of Rubruck, Hakluyt Society, 1990.) Seven hundred and thirty years later, the same phenomenon was reported in the heartland of Christian Europe: More »
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    Report from Rio: The Earth Summit Paid Member

    Monday, June 1 Flying to Rio de Janeiro from New York, we pass over Freshkill Landfill, the largest man-made object in the world. It reminds me that we Americans throwaway twice our body weight in garbage every day. In Miami Airport's red-carpet lounge a journalist calls in his "angle" on his way down to Rio: "I've got it. It's good. Are you there? Yeah, well here it is. It's chaos, it's impasse, gridlock if you will, but it's the future of diplomacy. It's how business will be done from now on—big, unwieldy gatherings. Okay? Good." More »
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    Living With The Devil Paid Member

    In popular mythology, devils are quixotic and cruel tyrants who relish tormenting their victims. Their vitality obscures how the demonic is subjectively experienced as a state of existential and psychological paralysis. When seized by a demon, one feels suffocated, oppressed, and fatigued as one struggles to be free from what entraps one. The devil is a way of talking about that which blocks one’s path in life, frustrates one’s aspirations, makes one feel stuck, hemmed in, obstructed. While the Hebrew “Satan” means “adversary,” the Greek diabolos means “one who throws something across the path.” In India, Buddha called the devil “Mara,” which in Pali and Sanskrit means “killer.” In an early discourse entitled “The Striving,” Gotama recalls: More »
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    The Transcendent Imperative Paid Member

    The truth is that the more ourselves we are,the less self is in us.                                      –Meister Eckhart In a glowing passage from Anna Karenina, Tolstoy describes an experience of self-transcendence with such color and detail that one feels its living quality as though from the inside. Oppressed by worry, the ruminative Konstantin Levin decides one day to work in the fields alongside the peasants, a highly unusual thing for a landowner, even one as eccentric as Levin, to do. Although unaccustomed to the hard physical labor, Levin eventually falls into a rhythm that washes away extraneous thoughts and brings his senses to life. More »
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    Modernity's God-shaped Hole Paid Member

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    The Yoga Journey Paid Member

    I hadn’t been in Dharamsala, India, more than two days before I started dreaming about where to go next. While the rain overflowed the sewers and wet cows bunched under the running eaves of the bakery next door, I sat with the other travelers around the wood stove at the Green Restaurant, eating dense slabs of Tibetan bread and butter, drinking mug after mug of ginger lemon tea, and discussing the options. Kullu, Manali, Gangotri, Kathmandu...the names, repeated like mantras, hung shimmering and hopeful in the smoky air, conjuring visions of mystery and magic (as the word Dharamsala had, just a week before). At night, alone in my room, I lit amber incense and consulted the oracle of the Lonely Planet, whose every page hinted at a new adventure. I spread out my atlas and traced, with a cold finger, the dotted gray ribbons of railways, the bright yellow bands of roads. More »