on location

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    Television Comes to Shangri-la Paid Member

    For centuries, the kingdom of Bhutan has shrouded itself in a self-imposed isolation that began to lift only in the 1960s, and even then only slowly. Tightly wedged between the world's two most populous nations, India and China, this tiny country has jealously guarded its sovereignty. with strictly controlled tourism and a conservative foreign policy. Unlike much of the non-industrialized world, Bhutan pursues a cautious development policy, one that limits the economic assistance of foreign governments. This nation of just over half a million Vajrayana Buddhists pursues a stated goal impossible to imagine anywhere else: Gross National Happiness. In local interpretation, this is a blend of material progress, spiritual well-being, and a healthy life in the kingdom's pristine natural environment. More »
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    Buddhist Women Meet in Mongolia Paid Member

    Having read a biography of the great Mongolian conqueror Genghis Khan, I knew that in earliest times the Mongols worshipped the Eternal Blue Sky, but when I got off the plane at the Ulaanbaatar airport, I understood why. The sky over Mongolia is enormous, overarching, a bright clear blue. More »
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    Back Again, for the First Time Paid Member

    The Seventeenth Karmapa in New Jersey   More »
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    Monks Rising Paid Member

    For an entire week in September, international news bulletins were dominated by an extraordinary sight: hundreds, then thousands, and finally tens of thousands of Theravada Buddhist monks, walking in open defiance of the military regime through the streets Burma. The barefoot, cotton-robed monks had no apparent leaders. They made no speeches, carried no banners, chanted no slogans. They were not attempting to seize power. They merely walked through the streets, chanting the Metta Sutta, the Sutra of Lovingkindness. More »
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    Buddhist Conversions in India Paid Member

    It was November 3, 2001, the day before the long-awaited mass conversion. Ram Raj had been expecting one million to attend. Agitated, he appeared at my hotel soon after I arrived in Delhi: “Quickly, we have little time,” he shouted, and six of us crammed into a car. Raj barked into his cell phone as we weaved through the crazy Delhi traffic. This was a crisis. “I’m underground. This morning the government banned the conversion, and they want to arrest me,” Raj explained. “They say so many people converting will threaten public order. So they’ve barricaded the venue and are turning people back.” The car arrived at Raj’s headquarters where he gave an impromptu press conference. “This affronts freedom of religion. The Hindus are afraid. Their time is ending!” Welcome to Buddhism, North Indian style. More »
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    Muttering "Mutton" in Mongolia Paid Member

    Twenty hours in the air and half a planet away from home, we finally catch sight of Mongolia’s capital, Ulaanbaatar, in a treeless valley surrounded by the four sacred peaks of Bogd Khan, Bayanzurkh, Chingeltei, and Songino Khairkhan. It’s 10 p.m. when we land, yet the sun is only just setting at this northern latitude. Burnt-orange light streaks the ground between long shadows. The darkening sky and the treeless plain squeeze between them the last minutes of day. On the horizon, an iridescent thunderstorm pours torrential rain down its mushroom stalk. Soviet-era helicopters sit in the weeds and rust under sagging rotors. More »