Spaces in the Sky

Questioning conventional Buddhist practices, Stephen Batchelor grapples with the sometimes troubling virtue of nonviolence.Stephen Batchelor

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Part of the Tricycle 9/11 Special Section. View the complete series here.


In July 1972, I climbed a narrow passageway in a sandstone cliffside and emerged to stand on the head of a 180-foot-tall Buddha in Bamiyan, Afghanistan. Twenty-nine years later, in July 2001, I stayed on the fourteenth floor of the Marriott Hotel between the twin towers of Manhattan’s World Trade Center as a participant in Tricycle’s tenth-anniversary conference, “Buddhism: Does It Make a Difference?” In March Taliban forces had shelled the Bamiyan statue and reduced it to rubble; in September, suicide bombers brought down the twin towers and in so doing reduced the Marriott to rubble. Places where I and others had once stood, whether admiring the gentle Afghan countryside or the urban grandeur of New York, were now just spaces in the sky.

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