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    Does the Millennium Mean Anything? Paid Member

    “In these matters take no notice of the words of any man [meaning Aristotle], for it is the foundation of our [Jewish] faith that God created the world from nothing, that time did not exist before, because it depends upon the motion of the sphere, and that too was caused.” Moses ben Maimon (twelfth century, Egypt) That matter, time, and space sprang from nothing at the moment of creation fits quite well with what I've come to accept as a physicist. While I cannot claim to be much of a theorist, I have spent about twenty years in observational astrophysics, much of it touching upon evidence supporting the Big Bang theory of the origin of the universe. More »
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    Pilgrimage Paid Member

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    The Atheist Pilgrim Paid Member

    Stephen Batchelor is a paradoxical pilgrim. He’s an atheist, or self-avowed “nonbeliever,” and yet he keeps traveling to religiously significant Buddhist places. His most recent book, Confession of a Buddhist Atheist, is all about pilgrimage, and he often leads tours around Buddhist sites in India. But if you’re taking a secular approach to Buddhism, why embark on geographical journeys to Buddhism’s holy places? Sam Mowe, Tricycle’s associate editor, spoke with Batchelor about things that might seem out of character for the Buddhist skeptic: devotion, imagination, and embodied experience. More »
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    Just Another Thing in the Forest Paid Member

    Venerable Ajaan Amaro has been a monk in the Thai forest tradition for twenty years and is the co-abbot of Abhayagiri, a monastery he helped to found two years ago in northern California. He grew up J. C. Horner in the English countryside and studied physiology and psychology at the University of London, where he realized that "after forty years of studying the mind, my professors were no happier or wiser than I was." As a student, his mind-expansion technology consisted of listening to music, reading mystical literature—"Ramakrishna and the like"—and pursuing Dionysian revelry. But a Rudolf Steiner-school philosopher, Trevor Ravenscroft, pointed him toward Asia. At the age of twenty-one, he landed at Wat Pah Nanachat, a monastery in the forest tradition for the Western disciples of meditation master Ajaan Chah. Ajaan Chah ordained him sometime after his twenty-second birthday, and Amaro Bhikkhu, as he was then known, spent two years training in Thailand before returning to England. Here he joined the man who would be his teacher, Ajaan Sumedho, an American disciple of Ajaan Chah, at the newly founded Chithurst Monastery in the woods seventy miles southwest of London. Abhayagiri sits on 250 mountain acres in Mendocino County that were donated to Ajaan Sumedho and the order by the late Master Hsuan Hua, the Chinese Buddhist teacher and founder of the California temple City of Ten Thousand Buddhas. Nestled amidst madrone-covered hills are the meditation hall, a common building with kitchen and offices, and a half-dozen isolated wooden huti, or meditation huts, where nine monastics—seven men and two women—live and practice, each hut adjoining a shaded path for walking meditation. Some of the monastics as well as lay visitors to the community stay in tents and trailers. Abhayagiri, unlike its sister monasteries, whose funding comes largely from Thailand and other Asian communities, is supported by "good old Caucasian middle-class intellectual meditators." Ajaan Amaro is the author of Silent Rain, a collection of journal entries and dharma talks. He spoke with Mary Talbot at Abhayagiri in May 1998. More »
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    A Clear Awareness of Nature Paid Member

    Thai society, like most societies, has done little to support women in dharma practice, but nevertheless, laywomen and ordained nuns have played a crucial role in transmitting the Buddha's teachings. As a result of the forest tradition, in fact, many more Thai women took up meditation than had ever before. Unlike scholastic Buddhism, which was the province of monks and male novices, the forest is open to everyone. The forest master Maha Boowa compared his tradition to a university that "covers a vast area, far longer and wider than any other secular university…and can accept more students, irrespective of nationality, caste, sex, age and prior academic qualities." Dozens of nunneries were established by the disciples of Ajaan Mun. Ajaan Lee, for one, a well-known meditation master and disciple of Ajaan Mun, had twice as many nuns as monks at his monastery. More »