To the Letter
I subscribed to Tricycle because I felt an affinity with a magazine dedicated to a system of thought that appears to transcend dogmatic conflict. However, after reading the Letters section for several months now, I have become dismayed over the constant crabbing, intellectual one-upmanship, and lack of tolerance for others’ viewpoints.
I would expect this sort of pedantic behavior from Christian evangelicals, but Buddhists? I can only conclude that too many Americans are bringing their competitive baggage along with their undoubtedly sincere attempt to embrace a system of thought somewhat alien to traditional American religious cultural upbringing.
My suggestion would be for these budding Buddhists with inherent combative agendas to return to basics (i.e., the Noble Eightfold Path). And this time, pay attention. Have some compassion. Be nice!
West Hills, California
Reading the comments of my fellow “path-goers” was more distressing than the “nuts & raisins” that Thinley Norbu (Fall 1998) provided to our possibly bland, white-bread dharma dough here in the West. It is not only tastier to have these added nectars, but much healthier. Why are so many of us so threatened by different points of view? Finding alternatives useful seems to be much more beneficial. All sides are equally important.
South Norwalk, Connecticut
I always enjoy Tricycle magazine, especially the Letters section from readers who, because they are reading Tricycle, I expect to be open and tolerant of other ways of looking at things. Thus my reaction to G. F. Nair's characterization of the Buddhabus tours as “performance, art, drama therapy, or inspiration for home decorating" was first amusement, and then pity. To bad he/she missed the opportunity to leave behind judgments, facades, old fears, etc. For me the first Buddhabus tour was a peak experience, and I was impressed by the sincerity of all the members of the tour, including the Sensei and staff. I will refrain from elucidating further, but I want to assure anyone who is contemplating going on the next tour, do go! Don't be deterred by the opinion of the above-mentioned letter, written by a person who was not on the June tour.
When we as Americans look at our president we are looking into a mirror. We see a man of tremendous appetite with the power to take more than he gives. Look into the mirror. Americans are six percent of the world’s population yet we consume one third of the earth’s resources. Insatiable appetites with the power to take much more than we give.
Tricycle offers us a mirror, too. After chuckling over the responses to “What Does Being a Buddhist Mean to You? Re: What President Clinton Will Come Back As in His Next Life,” I realized that I could be just as mean as anyone else.
A United State
I couldn’t believe my eyes. I stood there shocked, reading the full Starr Report printed in our local paper. The President of the United States, bulwark of the Western world, exposed in full—engaging in tantric sex practices with a young woman! Not once, but three times the report states he withheld orgasm voluntarily despite being stimulated by an eager and willing partner. And the media pundits rage about how the President cannot control himself. What males among them have such control? Perhaps that is why the tantric aspects of this affair have not yet made the news. He may have been betrayed by the naivete of his young lover and the treachery of her “friend,” but the President has gone on record to the nation showing that male sex drive is merely a thought pattern that is under control of the mind. Hopefully the men of the United States and around the world will listen, and become better partners in the ecstatic union of sex.
James Stewart Campbell, M. D.
Pfafftown, North Carolina
I realize there was limited space to present the views of Joe Loizzo and Wes Nisker (Winter 1988). Nevertheless, I still feel that they underestimate the future impact that evolutionary genetics will have on religion, including Buddhism. Of the major religions, Buddhism will come out the strongest because it is least dependent on supernatural explanations and transcendence to be credible. Indeed, with remarkable perception for a person of that time, the Buddha certainly recognized that there are innate forces, common to all animals, which can’t be eliminated by medicine or teaching—i.e., genes. Now, increasingly, science will show how basic drives, behavior, and social institutions are largely scripted by DNA code. And if we are to accept those truths, we must go the step further and acknowledge that reincarnation—in the sense of remembering past lives—will not hold up to scientific scrutiny. But that should not discourage devout Buddhists who are able to derive the bountiful benefits of their practice in this life. The sooner we shed the supernatural dimension, the clearer will be our vision.
I very much enjoyed Andrew Schelling’s feature, “Wandering Clouds: The Poets of Ch’an Buddhism.” However, I just want to remind the editors that some (many?) Tricycle readers can also read Chinese. It would have meant so much more to have been able to read the poems in the original Chinese. Therefore, it might be a good idea henceforth to publish the original language next to the English translation.
San Francisco, California
The Third Eye Winks
Thank you for Donald Lopez’s article on Lobsang Rampa. Many years ago my interest in Buddhism came to light through a book called The Third Eye by Lobsang Rampa. I was in high school at the time.
I met my first teacher in 1978. He was an alert Buddhist monk from the West who studied in Nepal with some lamas. He said he was part of the group who esposed Rampa as a fraud. Later, it turned out the teacher was a fraud.
I asked my current teacher about Rampa (he is Tibetan), and he said, “Oh, he is wonderful. Very good fiction writer.”
Winter Park, Florida
To the Academy
I read Donald Lopez’s debunking of misconceptions about Buddhism (“From the Academy,” Fall 1998) with mixed feelings. Are not some of his corrections as misleading as the stereotypes he rejects? Specifically, I have a different opinion about #2 and #7 on the list.
How can we decide whether all Buddhists meditate when meditation is a word Europeans made up to refer to a wide variety of activities involving focused states of mind and insight into the deep truths about our lives? I believe that all the hundreds of Buddhist ways of living do lead to being able to be composed and to discernment. My own school, Jodo Shinshu, is one of the few which does not teach something which a European would describe as meditation. Yet amongst us blue-collar Buddhists who merely say Amida Buddha’s name on occasion, one can see that the long-time devotees are flexible in their thinking, accepting of others, and strikingly collected in stressful situations. Isn’t there a community here which is obscured by simply dismissing meditation as not central to most Buddhists’ daily living?
So far as the “All roads lead to the same mountaintop” analogy goes, isn’t Professor Lopez’s view—that other religions lead only to the Everest base camp—more sectarian than what mainstream Mahayana Buddhism espouses? Whatever a charming esotericist like the Dalai Lama may say, Mahayana has traditionally asserted that anything which is specifically and only the Buddhist religion can lead to the base at best.
Certainly I believe that Buddhist principles like the constancy of change are truer to reality than confused dogmas like the existence of an eternal and uniquely self-same soul (which most schools of Christianity affirm). Even so, some Christians will stumble into Sumeru base camp before some Buddhists arrive, with their perfect maps and their imperfect pretensions. No religion will get us past the base camp, and most religions can get us that far at least, albeit some more reliably than others. Those who have reached the peak have left us no dogmas which exclude other religions. Perhaps Professor Lopez and I can discuss this in greater detail at the base camp. But despite Shinran’s guidance and Kannon’s constant presence, I’m afraid that it may be quite some time before I get that far.
Rev. Gregory Gibbs
Los Angeles, California
Thank you for your series of essays on the kyosaku in the Winter 1998 issue. 7 essays. 7 different opinions and experiences of the kyosaku. It is apparent that the kyosaku, like pretty much everything else, is a blank canvas onto which we can project our fears, desires, and (dare I say it?) attachments. Who cares? Kyosaku or no kyosaku, there is still only just this.
Jeff Song Brighton, Massachusetts