For the last two years, Tricycle’s “Buddhist Traveler in …” series has recommended visits to dharma-related haunts in different corners of the globe—from a Vancouver bookstore to a Bön stupa in a tropical pine forest outside Mexico City to a repository of precious Mahayana manuscripts in Kathmandu. The COVID- 19 pandemic has disrupted our daily lives, to say the least, and will likely impact the way we travel and connect for many years to come. In this issue, we’re keeping the spirit of travel alive with a virtual guide.
Adventurous travelers have explored the Buddhist world long before they could share their snaps on social media. Classic travelogues include Journey into Burmese Silence (free ebook at pariyatti.org) by Marie Beuzeville Byles, who traveled to Bodhgaya in 1957 to learn Vipassana meditation, and Peaks and Lamas: A Classic Book on Mountaineering, Buddhism and Tibet by Marco Pallis, who takes readers through India and Tibet in the 1930s. Two very personal narratives are Peter Matthiessen’s The Snow Leopard and Rudolph Wurlitzer’s Hard Travel to Sacred Places. And, in his “recluse reading list,” Tricycle contributor Leath Tonino suggests passing your time with Han Shan, Ryokan, and other Chinese and Japanese hermits.
One of the silver linings of staying at home has been the proliferation of opportunities to practice with a virtual sangha or at your own pace with at-home retreats. Shortly after the US began issuing stay-at-home orders, Tricycle put together an online calendar of meditation events. Insight Meditation teacher Jack Kornfield has a downloadable guide on his website with instructions for creating your own half-day retreat.
If you need more help sitting at home, the Rubin Museum of Art offers a two-hour stream of their Tibetan Buddhist Shrine Room, with flickering butter lamps and audio of chanting monks and nuns to set the scene.
Tricycle Talks, our monthly podcast, has three years of episodes to get lost in—try Pico Iyer’s “Inside Japan as an Outsider” or founding editor Helen Tworkov’s “Dying Every Day.” For a shorter, more practice-oriented listen, “Short Practices for Relief and Resilience” offers takes on confronting fear and anxiety, grounding in the body, and more, in 10 minutes or less.
The late Anthony Bourdain, who hosted No Reservations and Parts Unknown, showed us how to get out of our comfort zone and see the world. Hulu streams No Reservations, and in the 2009 Sri Lanka episode, Bourdain explores the country with the oldest continuous Buddhist tradition shortly after the end of the civil war.
If your wanderlust is running wild, add a practical component to your daydreaming and learn a few pleasantries in the local language of your coveted destination. Hello, goodbye, please, thank you, and I’d like coffee/tea/water will get you far no matter where you go. The popular language-learning app Duolingo offers free lessons in Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese, and Hindi.
For a more academic route, science writer Robert Wright’s popular “Buddhism and Modern Psychology” course from Princeton is available for free on Coursera. If you’re looking to go into the teachings a bit further, Access to Insight has links to Pali selfstudy guides and a recommended reading list.
And for slightly less screen time, consider learning Zen calligraphy (a free course via Udemy teaches beginners two basic strokes and two ideographs) or learn a few new temple-inspired dishes from Tricycle’s “Korean Buddhist Cooking” course.
Take a Virtual Adventure
Adventure Travel guides have been taking to Google Street View to provide virtual tours. Google Arts and Culture has enough material to occupy us for many lifetimes and includes 360-degree videos of historic sites and access to museum exhibitions (see “Borobudur: Center of the Universe” for a virtual tour of the world’s largest Buddhist temple and “Jaulian, Pakistan” to explore a Buddhist temple on the historic Silk Road).
COVID-19 has been economically devastating and has disrupted many lives.It has also sparked incredible generosity and goodwill. Generosity is one of the ten paramis, or perfections, and is a bedrock of Buddhism that provides “instant karma,” according to the Buddhist teacher Gil Fronsdal. If you’re in a position to give, consider supporting a dharma center or other Buddhist organization that has been negatively impacted by the pandemic.
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