THE CASE FOR BUDDHIST AGNOSTICISM
Stephen Batchelor's article on "Buddhist Agnosticism" (Fall Issue) provided a truly welcome relief. As an ex-seminarian, I have no desire to replace Catholic doctrine with Buddhist. Aren't beliefs such as reincarnation and heaven and hell largely "convenient explanations," a way to numb the terror of confronting the unknown?
Attempts to explain away this mystery too often separate us from direct experience, and create an illusory manageability. But life is not manageable, and here rises the age-old need for liberation. Explanations that seek to contain the ultimate mystery of existence, it seems to me, are vain attempts to escape the suffering described by the Buddha as the central aspect of incarnated existence.
Grass Valley, California
This letter is written on behalf of Sujata and Asoka Rubener. They were happy to see their friends Ruth St. Denis and Ted Shawn featured in the Winter Issue.
Sujata and Asoka are in the same category of dance and I enclose a few of many hundreds of photographs. These, by the way, included Tibetan dances taught to Asoka by Lama Govinda.
Felicitas von Ostau
At the risk of belaboring a previously discussed topic, may I add my voice to the debate over the use of Tibetan monks in an advertisement for Apple's Powerbook laptop computer.
In your Winter 1992 Letters section, you stated in an editor's note that "the exploitation of Buddhist imagery in commercial advertising (is) . . . cause for concern. "
Seeing Buddhist imagery in a Madison Avenue product isn't necessarily cause for calling out the morality police. It could help more than it hurts.
One Tibetan Buddhist teacher I know advised students to display images of the buddhas and bodhisattvas at their place of business. The images, the lama said, would be subtly attractive to the customers, who would then be connected with the dharma.
Personally, I rejoice when I see Buddhist imagery anywhere, because the Buddha operates on many levels. Even the opening scene of the fanciful Eddie Murphy movie "The Golden Child" had benefit, because millions of theatergoers were exposed to the mantra Om Mani Padme Hum, recited earnestly by red-robed extras on a Hollywood soundstage. Kalu Rinpoche once said that hearing the Mani mantra even one time would connect beings to the compassionate Chenrezig.
So, until monks and nuns start making multi-million-dollar product endorsement deals for personal gain, I'll hold back judgment on such "exploitation," thank you. I would rather see a familiar face and be reminded of who and what I really am than see Mickey Mouse or Michael Jordan selling products to America.
Karme Ling Retreat Center
Upstate, New York
Just finished reading the Winter 1992 Tricycle. Most hearty thanks, this issue is outstanding.
The article by H. H. the Dalai Lama was superb: the text and commentary are marvelous teaching, and the editor did an outstanding job in condensing and presenting the material in so readable and flowing a form.
The "Himalayan Intrigue" article also was riveting though very sad. You will probably get much flak because of it, but I, for one, am extremely grateful for it and hope that if similar situations arise in the future you will continue to print this type of article.
The section on "Buddhism and Euthanasia" too was remarkably good. The parts standing alone as well as reflecting off of one another made the section alive. Simone de Beauvoir's piece was just wonderful. I felt particularly close to the interview with Stephen Levine. There was much experience, care, and delicacy in his voice. So many other articles stood out. The one on the Nichiren Shoshu, Pico Iyer's, and Rick Fields' article had a wonderful touch of magic. Rita Gross' article I found important, thought-provoking, and careful. The book reviews by Joanna Macy, William LaFleur, and Dean Rolston were terrific.
New York, New York
I'm afraid to analyze things too much—I might find something wrong, you know? I don't know if I'm a Buddhist or not. I wonder if "being" anything is akin to the words in an old Edgar Winter song: "You're cool when you don't know it—when you know it then you ain't." Maybe if you don't know you're Buddhist then you are, and if you know you are then you ain't. I don't know. Too much analysis.
I sure like your magazine. It's really got class. When I get it in the mailbox, I feel like I'm part of something—like I'm somebody. Like when Steve Martin got his new phone book and then he was somebody.