reviews

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    Books in Brief Summer 2012 Paid Member

    Back in 1999, Buddhist scholar Franz Metcalf took the concept “What Would Jesus Do?” popular with Christian evangelicals and spun it into What Would Buddha Do?, a book of Buddhist wisdom for everyday life. Now, he and sociologist BJ Gallagher follow this up with Being Buddha at Work: 108 Ancient Truths on Change, Stress, Money & Success (Berrett-Koehler, 2012, $14.95, paper, 176 pp.), this time applying ancient Buddhist wisdom to the modern workplace (see “Brief Teachings,” page 16). Organized around 108 questions with short and sweet responses, the book suggests what the Buddha would do in circumstances ranging from how to handle an overabundance of email to handling an adulterous affair at work. More »
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    Visions of an Empowered Future Paid Member

    The dusty little town of Bodhgaya has changed a bit since the first time I came as a pilgrim in 1999. At that time, Bihar was known as the most corrupt and impoverished state in India. We were warned by the chai wallah at each tea shop that travel was very dangerous and that roving gangs threw nails into the streets so that they could rob stranded travelers when their tires blew out. The chai wallahs often asked, “Have you seen Bandit Queen?” referring to the 1994 film based on the life of Phoolan Devi, a gang leader who roamed these plains. An overwhelming sea of beggars lined the gate of every temple. There was a palpable hunger and desperation in the air. Back then, it struck me that none of the locals seemed to smile. More »
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    Reimagining a 30-year Friendship Paid Member

    The Zen of Steve Jobs Caleb Melby and JESS3 JJohn Wiley & Sons, 2012 80 pp.; $19.95 cloth When Apple cofounder and former CEO Steve Jobs passed away on October 5, 2011, at just 56, the world lost more than a successful entrepreneur and visionary technologist. We also lost perhaps our most famous American Zen Buddhist. Unlike some celebrity practitioners, Jobs was not a very public Buddhist. Despite his wealth and fame, he was not a visible financial contributor to the sangha, and he seldom, if ever, spoke of Buddhism publicly: his celebrated 2005 commencement address at Stanford University made no mention of it. Yet Jobs was a Zen practitioner for his entire adult life, first studying with the Japanese-born master Kobun Chino Otogawa Roshi as a teenager. More »
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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 »