On Translation

Magazine History & Philosophy

How the Buddha Got Ism-ed

Dwight Eisenhower, a president not particularly remembered for his wit, once remarked that “all isms are wasms.” He was presumably referring, rather presciently, to the largely forgotten isms that were once perceived as a threat to truth, justice, and the American way: socialism and communism. But his remark points to the vaguely pejorative quality of […]

By Donald S. Lopez Jr.

Magazine History & Philosophy

The Semantics of Samadhi

Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind. —Albert Einstein (1879 – 1955) With all your science can you tell how it is, and whence it is that light comes into the soul? —Henry David Thoreau (1817 – 1862) The time comes when no reflection appears at all. One comes to notice nothing, […]

By James Austin

Magazine Teachings


We all know what happens when a fire goes out. The flames die down and the fire is gone for good. So when we first learn that the name for the goal of Buddhist practice, nibbana (nirvana), literally means the extinguishing of a fire, it’s hard to imagine a deadlier image for a spiritual goal: […]

By Thanissaro Bhikkhu


“That’s Very Zen”

“The Zen of what?”“Harmonica,” she said.“That’s what I thought you said.”   I was standing outside the door of a classroom at a New Age center in New York. The woman in question had just emerged from a room where twenty or thirty people were jumping up and down, all playing the harmonica at once. […]

By Clark Strand


Mother of the Buddhas

THE PRAJNAPARAMITA SUTRA is considered the originating text of Mahayana Buddhism. Scholars agree that it began to emerge into prominence in India from about 100 B.C.E., about four hundred years after the final nirvana of Shakyamuni Buddha. The original Prajnaparamita, the Great Mother: The Prajnaparamita of 100,000 Lines, purports to record the full audience given […]

By Lex Hixon

MagazineHistory & Philosophy

What’s in a Name?

SO MANY DIFFERENT NAMES exist for the Buddha that one might, in the course of perusing ancient texts or contemporary literature, easily assume that Gotama and Gautama and Shakyamuni and Siddhartha were the best of friends .. In fact, among dozens of appellations, these are only the famiial names for the man who became the […]

By Stuart Smithers
calligraphy of the bodhisattva vows


The Bodhisattva Vows

  The Great Vows, known as the Bodhisattva Vows, probably originated in China around the sixth century and may have been derived from an earlier Sanskrit gatha (a four-line verse that sums up an aspect of the dharma, and is often a vow). At the turn of the eighth century we find Chinese Zen master […]

By Robert Aitken

MagazineHistory & Philosophy

When the Buddha Bowed Out

“Who are you?” said the Caterpillar.This was not a very encouraging opening for a conversation. Alice replied, rather shyly, “I hardly know, sir, just at present—at least I know who I was when I got up this morning, but I think I must have been changed several times since then.”“What do you mean by that?” […]

By Stuart Smithers


The Rectification of Names

  “Dukkha is everywhere,” the Buddha said, by way of introducing his Four Noble Truths. “There is a cause of dukkha, there is liberation from it, and the way to this liberation is the Eightfold Path.” When we translate dukkha as “suffering” we get a certain worldview, but it may not be Buddhist. Suffer comes from […]

By Robert Aitken
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