In a lot of ways, 2023 has felt like a dream, with many aspects of the year appearing nightmarish. The violence in the Middle East has dominated headlines and ravaged hearts. The United States has seen a rise in Islamophobic as well as antisemitic hate crimes, with abounding anger, grief, and confusion, and protests seemingly happening around every corner.
Simultaneously, this year was a dark time for climate change, as New York City experienced what was the first, but surely not the last, burnt orange smog day, due to the worsening Canadian wildfires. And, as we saw last winter, COVID rates are surging once again, especially among the old and very young. We saw the death of Japanese Buddhist philosopher, educator, author, and SGI president Daisaku Ikeda as well as the passing of musical titans Tina Turner and Wayne Shorter, both of whom were practicing Buddhists.
Yet there have been bright moments. Earlier this year, it was reported that dolphins are swimming their way back to New York City’s Bronx and East Rivers—for the first time in over five years, no less—signaling improvements in the quality of the waterways, thanks in no small part to groups that have been working for decades to combat pollution.
There’s never been a better time to engage in a Buddhist practice to help navigate life’s many obstacles and challenges. No one comes to Buddhism when everything is going their way, and yet by channeling this uncertainty and worry into practice, one can sow the seeds for a better tomorrow, helping themselves and others to show up for life’s tests and hard decisions in a more clearheaded and compassionate way.
And we are pleased to have brought you a year full of Buddhist teachings and fine writing to enliven your practice. We published pieces ranging from teachings on the Metta Sutta and shikantaza to reported pieces exploring the legacy and history of Nichiren and the cultural descendants of the Jataka tales. Whether you are a longtime reader or a first-time Buddhism-curious scroller, we invite you to take a moment of your day to explore lessons from Buddhism that may resonate and help you to live a better life.
Without further ado, these are our twenty-three favorite pieces from 2023.
- The Big Picture
The Dzogchen tradition teaches that we are all intrinsically whole and complete. In a piece for the Fall 2023 Issue, professor of religious studies and dharma teacher Anne C. Klein (Lama Rigzin Drolma) breaks down what that means and how we can overcome the illusion of separateness.
- No Mud, No Lotus
Known for exploring addiction and afflictive emotions on-screen, when off-screen, White Lotus and Sopranos actor Michael Imperioli is also a humble and committed Buddhist practitioner, studying under the lineage of Garchen Rinpoche. Imperioli spoke with Tricycle’s editor-in-chief, James Shaheen, about the dangers of the instrumentalization of Buddhist practice, his relationship to his dharma name, and whether or not he believes that liberation is possible within this lifetime.
- Waking Up Is Letting the Mask Fall
Colombian Zen monk Santiago Santai Jiménez invites us to question the very nature of how we view ourselves, the masks we wear, and the roles we fulfill in society. Jiménez says by returning to emptiness, or what in Zen is often referred to as “beginner’s mind,” more insights begin to emerge and open to moments of transcendent discovery.
- Opinion: Can We Allow the Dalai Lama to Be a Good Enough Refugee?
In a personal essay, writer, translator, and editor Tenzin Dickie reflects on a controversial episode in the life of the Fourteenth Dalai Lama, relating the divided public reaction and gratuitous expectations placed upon His Holiness to the precarity and powerlessness experienced by Tibetans living in exile.
- After Thay
In a piece from our Summer Issue, freelance journalist and editor Megan Sweas reports on how the greater Plum Village monastic community is reckoning with the loss of their founder, Thich Nhat Hanh, and the legacy he leaves behind.
- The Glorious, Victorious Life of Bodhisattva Wayne Shorter
Buddhist mental health therapist, clinical educator, researcher, and internationally engaged consultant Kamilah Majied, PhD, pens a poetic eulogy in remembrance of the renowned jazz saxophonist, composer, and Soka Gakkai International practitioner.
- Memories in Exile: Tenzin Gyurmey
Writer, dharma translator-scholar, and Tibetan Buddhist practitioner Adele Tomlin writes about the work of Tenzin Gyurmey, the artist illustrating the complexity of the Tibetan diaspora in India through works that combine spiritual iconography with surrealist visuals.
- Thai Monks on COVID Inside the Monastery
Buddhist Studies scholar Brooke Schedneck, PhD, paints a detailed picture of how COVID-19 forced Thailand’s monastics, who are dependent on lay support, to stay within the monastery walls, and the subsequent effects on both the monks and the broader landscape of Buddhist practice in the Southeast Asian country.
- Cormac McCarthy’s Buddhist Inspiration
Triratna Buddhist Order member Vishvapani Blomfield explores how the 2005 Coen brothers masterpiece No Country for Old Men evolved from the Vedabbha Jataka—by way of Geoffrey Chaucer’s The Pardoner’s Tale—and how its message has endured.
- The Funny Thing About Death
Best-selling author and humorist David Sedaris has lots of thoughts about aging. “There’s nothing good about old age,” he told Tricycle earlier this year, “except you can ride the bus and the subway for free.” For our Summer Issue, Sedaris sat down with Tricycle contributing editor and Between-States columnist Ann Tashi Slater for a wide-ranging interview, where the two talk bardo wisdom, dying without regrets, and thrift store hunting’s unique ability to soothe the soul.
- The First Plow
This past spring, PhD candidate Victoria Andrews traveled to two Ladakhi villages, Tar and Basgo, to learn about how traditional plowing rituals connect villagers with their heritage and the environment, showing how Buddhism exists beyond temples and texts.
- A Gift
Following the sudden dissolution of a treasured relationship, palliative care physician Sunita Puri reflects on the multifaceted nature of impermanence.
- Forgetting the Self at a Party Full of Strangers
Zen Buddhist teacher and psychologist Matthias Esho Birk, PhD, explains how he turns social anxiety, fear of rejection, and insecurity into fruitful practice.
- Taking the Ache Out of Attachment
In an excerpt from one of her guided meditations, Tibetan Buddhist nun Ven. Thubten Chodron provides listeners with a practice to help them to reflect on and work with attachment.
- Charnel Ground Lessons
Dharma teacher and lay Tibetan Buddhist practitioner Lourdes Argüelles, PhD, reflects on her time spent in a charnel ground in India and a house of healing in California, and what both experiences taught her about accepting the inescapable.
- The Value of Simplicity
In an excerpt from her latest book, Insight Meditation teacher Kim Allen unpacks a lesson from the Metta Sutta on the great protection that comes with letting go.
- Knowing Nichiren
In our Spring Issue, Tricycle’s associate editor and Buddhism Public Scholar Frederick M. Ranallo-Higgins sat down with fellow scholar, professor emerita of Japanese Religions at Princeton University and award-winning author Jacqueline Stone, for a wide-ranging interview on everything Nichiren, from its founder, to its emphasis on the power of chanting, to the tradition’s highly social and engaged aspects.
- Sexuality, Desire, and the Dharma of Relationships
In an excerpt from Tricycle’s online course, “The Dharma of Relationships: The Paramis in Action,” contributing teachers Martine Batchelor and Laura Bridgman discuss the different dimensions of sexuality, desire, and intimacy in relationships and in practice.
- Is That So?
For our Spring Issue, scholar, award-winning novelist, essayist, cartoonist, and martial arts teacher Charles Johnson pens a contemporary retelling of a classic Zen tale. Listen to Johnson speak with Tricycle’s editor-in-chief, James Shaheen, on a recent episode of Tricycle Talks.
- 1,000 Buddhas on a Native American Reservation
Journalist Carmen Kohlruss and photojournalist Craig Kohlruss report on a Tibetan Buddhist peace garden in western Montana, and how a special connection between its founders and the local Native American residents are helping it to thrive.
- Love Is Being There
A brief teaching from monk, author, and peace activist Thich Nhat Hanh on how mindfulness practice can help us make time to love.
- Meeting Shame with Compassion: A Pure Land Antidote
Writer, psychotherapist, and environmental activist Satya Robyn explores how Pure Land’s teachings on compassion and the Internal Family Systems model can help unburden our deepest feelings of shame.
- Remnants of Devotion
Tricycle contributing editor, author, Shin Buddhist priest, and professor Jeff Wilson writes about butsudan, Japanese home Buddhist shrines, and the current state of the once-cherished tradition.
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