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    Deeper Than Skin Paid Member

    At the Theravada temple of Wat Bang Phra, about thirty miles west of Bangkok, saffron robes, glittering statues, embroidered umbrellas, and paper lanterns are all expected sights on the day of a festival. On this day, however, the throng in the square is not composed solely of the devout. Although the majority of the participants are Thai monks and laymen, mixed in with the crowd is an ever-increasing number of foreign roughnecks—laborers, drivers, gang members, even mobsters. All have come to seek the blessings of the monks, but in one particularly symbolic and permanent form: tattoos. More »
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    Burma Paid Member

    BURMA Burma is a police state. Make no mistake. You feel it the minute you arrive at Rangoon’s shabby, desultory airport, thronging with ill-equipped armed soldiers. Downtown, among the banyan trees, rust-robed monks, bicycles, trishaws, and Daihatsu trucks, billboards exhort citizens to crush internal and external foes. On the sidewalks, cheroot-smoking hawkers in longyis (sarongs) and sandals sell cheap combs, razor blades, and belts, or simply snooze in the sweltering heat beside the bundles on their…BURMA   More »
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    Monks and Maoists Paid Member

    In late May, two Hindu tantric priests from Gwalior, India, checked into the Yak & Yeti, Kathmandu’s leading hotel. Their expenses were covered by the mother of Deviyani Rana, the woman set on marrying Nepal’s crown prince, Dipendra Shah. Astrologers had already decreed that the stars were not favorable for their union, and the king and queen themselves opposed it. Deviyani, however, was adamant. “If this doesn’t work out,” she once said to a cousin, “I’ll be the laughing stock of Nepal.” Hindu tantric practitioners often claim the ability to alter destiny, and Deviyani’s parents had ample resources to recruit the best. The chosen rite was that of Bagalamukhi, a fearsome weapon-wielding goddess of Hindu tantrism. More »
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    Sri Lanka: A Special Report Paid Member

    With sixty to seventy thousand people dead and half a million more driven from their homes in barely two decades, Sri Lanka is in the grip of an epic tragedy that mocks the essential tolerance and compassion of Buddhism, the religion of the majority of the island’s people. Once a model South Asian democracy, and still the region’s most socially progressive country—with strong Buddhist, Hindu, Muslim, and Christian communities living peacefully together in many places—Sri Lanka is trapped in a suicidal civil war prolonged by politicians unable to rise above ethnic nationalisms and sheer opportunism. Both history and religion have become deadly weapons. More »
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    Dharma in the Rockies: The Great Stupa Paid Member

    It’s highway driving for the first two hours north of Denver. After Fort Collins, taking the left fork at a gas station known only as Ted’s Place, we head steadily uphill through the towering crags of the Rockies. Beyond the last town, at eight thousand feet, we turn right onto an all-dirt road. Valleys filled with sage and wild horses greet us, tucked amid mountains that soar. It’s highway driving for the first two hours north of Denver. After Fort Collins, taking the left fork at a gas station known only as Ted’s Place, we head steadily uphill through the towering crags of the Rockies. Beyond the last town, at eight thousand feet, we turn right onto an all-dirt road. Valleys filled with sage and wild horses greet us, tucked amid mountains that soar. More »
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    Our Man in Bodh Gaya Paid Member

    It’s my Tibetan friend on the phone. "Hey, Papa Bush. Can you go to India?" He sometimes calls me "Papa Bush" or "Mr. President" because cab drivers, trick-or-treaters, and Tibetan monks alike seem to think I resemble the court-appointed leader of the Free World."Why? Do they need a little preemptive diplomacy?" More »