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    Driving Me Crazy Paid Member

    My first trip to the Okayama Driver's License Test Building had been spent mainly helping the clerk do an analysis of my passport, enumerating the countries I'd visited, the dates I had gone in and out of the U.S., and so forth. The stopover in Hawaii for an hour on the way to Taiwan three years previously was properly noted. The space of time between the Taiwan trip and my arrival date in Japan was marked down. My month in Thailand and the side trip to Malaysia, as well as the times of visa extensions in Japan, were not neglected. It was a curious procedure. This was local government, not Immigration, and I really did not get the point. But mine was not to reason why. More »
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    Lama Hates The Sunset Paid Member

    So long as their high mountains kept the Tibetans isolated, their attitude toward Westerners—which was generally dismissive or indifferent—remained an academic matter. But with the Chinese invasion in 1959, an academic matter turned into one of life and death. During the 1960s, the Communists leveled monasteries and forbade the teaching of Buddhism, and the world’s power brokers forgot Tibet in favor of China’s potential billion-customer market. The “last ancient civilization,” as it was called, was under a death sentence. Under such circumstances, the fate of Tibet’s religion was not hard to predict. More »
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    Through a Glass, Darkly Paid Member

    LOOKING BACK I wince at the memory of reading The Tibetan Book of the Dead to my dying grandfather. The arrogance of imposing those terrifying descriptions of the final deterioration on the faltering impulses of an old Jewish man born in Odessa and dying in Brooklyn! My brother, having arrived from California expectedly, found me transmitting the eerie incantations through a plastic straw that went directly into his ear. Michael had grabbed the book, looked at the title, and thrown it across the room, screaming, "Are you crazy?" What I knew even then was that it violated the universe itself—call it God or grace or not—to disturb the dying with discord. Now, twenty years later I am nursing my mother and I want to get it right this time, this wondrous responsibility of bidding the dying farewell. Yet my brother has arrived again, and is so filled with enthusiasm for euthanasia that he argues in her hospital room as if the bed is empty.More »
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    The Science of Compassion Paid Member

    I EXIT THE SUBWAY to my quiet Brooklyn neighborhood and there he is again, wearing a ragged T-shirt, torn jeans, and dirty sneakers, sweeping the subway steps with an old broom. He looks at me pleadingly. Feeling generous, I reach into my pocket for a coin but find only crumpled bills. Too much, I think. Mumbling a quick "Sorry," I avoid his eyes and hurry on past. More »
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    Our Man in Bodh Gaya Paid Member

    It’s my Tibetan friend on the phone. "Hey, Papa Bush. Can you go to India?" He sometimes calls me "Papa Bush" or "Mr. President" because cab drivers, trick-or-treaters, and Tibetan monks alike seem to think I resemble the court-appointed leader of the Free World."Why? Do they need a little preemptive diplomacy?" More »
  • Freedom's Just Another Word Paid Member

    In the late sixties Janis Joplin's voice rallied the bedraggled front lines of the cultural revolution with the refrain from "Me and Bobby McGee": "Freedom's just another word for nothin' left to lose." As she sang, the United States was committed to an unjust war, race riots had some cities in flames and every city on edge, and psychedelic drugs promised salvation from personal despair through sex, love, and ecstatic communion. For Janis and her fans, freedom from convention, freedom from parental and societal restraint, freedom from everything already labeled, categorized, and institutionalized was pursued with an urgency far surpassing that of the United States military fighting to keep Vietnam "free" from communism. More »