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    Religion in Evolution Paid Member

    Robert N. Bellah Religion in Human Evolution Harvard University Press 2011, 784 pp., $39.95 cloth In an interview with Tricycle almost a decade ago, the sociologist of religion Robert N. Bellah addressed a central problem—perhaps the central problem—facing religious people today. Our modern intellectual inheritance demands a critical approach to received wisdom, yet faith would seem to require the opposite: trust in the reliability and authoritativeness of tradition. How can we approach the study of religion in a way that is both affirmative and critical? Tricycle asked. More »
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    Books in Brief Spring 2012 Paid Member

    The central message of Jack Kornfield’s Bringing Home the Dharma: Awakening Right Where You Are (Shambhala Publications, 2011, $24.95, cloth, 304 pp.) is that every part of your life is sacred. Accordingly, Kornfield offers readers teachings on all sorts of different topics: parenting, engaging in politics, sexuality, drug use, forgiveness among them. “All aspects of life are your field of practice,” he writes, “the precise place to find freedom and compassion.” Kornfield doesn’t suggest getting off the cushion entirely, however, and the book begins by reviewing the merits of mindfulness and ends with basic meditation instructions. More »
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    Broken Dreams Paid Member

    The Buddha in the Attic Julie Otsuka Alfred A. Knopf, 2011 129 pp., $22.00 cloth Buddhist practice in America did not start with the Beats in San Francisco or the Transcendentalists in New England. The first American Buddhists were more likely ordinary Asian immigrants, first from China and later from Japan, Korea, and beyond. These laborers and merchants, farmers and domestics, planted the first seeds of the dharma that now bloom across the continent. More »
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    Somebody Special Paid Member

    Recently someone asked me, “What’s the funniest experience you’ve ever had?” When I thought about it, I realized that everything at the top of my list occurred in the context of spiritual practice. Once, during a weeklong retreat at the Rochester Zen Center, my friend Sarah was given the task of laundering the long brown robe of our teacher, Toni Packer. As soon as Sarah saw she’d been chosen for the task, she began to imagine the care with which she would handle the robe: washing it on the delicate cycle, pulling it out of the dryer at just the right time, lovingly ironing every fold and pleat. When Toni saw the robe, it would confirm that Sarah was, indeed, an extremely special Zen student. But when Sarah pulled the robe out of the dryer, it turned out that she’d forgotten to remove a wad of Kleenex from inside the long sleeves. More »
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    Hero, Villain, Yeti Paid Member

    Tin Tin did it, Lara Croft did it, and even Donald, Bugs, and Mickey did it. Travel to Tibet, that is—not the actual Himalayan country (since 1951 a part of the People’s Republic of China) but the mythical place that has existed in the Western popular imagination since Europeans first arrived there 800 years ago. More »
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    How Buddhist Is Modern Buddhism? Paid Member

    The Making of Buddhist Modernism David L. McMahan New York: Oxford University Press 2008, 320 pp., $29.95 paper Buddhism was the first major missionary religion, and by all accounts it seems to have spread peacefully. The merchants and monks who transported the dharma did not accompany conquering armies or attempt to defeat the local gods. Most often, Buddhism engaged with native traditions in a co-creative process that led to the development of something new. Buddhism in Tibet has been significantly influenced by its interaction with the indigenous Bön tradition, Taoist and Confucian thought helped shape Chinese Buddhism, elements of Shinto are woven into Buddhism in Japan, and so forth. Buddhist teachings about impermanence and insubstantiality apply to Buddhism too. More »