The name Tricycle continues to evoke curiosity and some befuddlement. Yet there is logic to this nomenclature: a vehicle for the path; a beginner’s vehicle with its allusion to the quintessential Zen concept of “beginner’s mind,” and for beginning dharma in the West; three (as in wheels) for the Three Treasures: Buddha, Dharma, Sangha, and for the three main vehicles of Buddhism: Theravada, Mahayana, and Vajrayana; and wheels, for turning the wheel of dharma. His Holiness the Dalai Lama added another reference by calling the ends of the handlebar “relative” and “absolute.” And the name prompted Maezumi Roshi to speak, as he so often did, on the importance of taking your seat: “Not someone else’s seat. Yourseat!”
This issue celebrates our tenth anniversary, and there is much to celebrate. The magazine is alive and well, and we’re heralding the next decade with a dynamic new design; dharma centers are flourishing; there’s a young generation of committed practitioners; and some centers are suddenly shockingly old—meaning twenty-five or thirty years old. With so much flowering of the dharma, we might ask if the name still makes sense. Is the magazine still just beginning, and is Buddhism in the West still just beginning?
Somewhere along the way, we’ve all learned something. That’s the relative end of the handlebar. But when we apprehend the absolute, what there is to learn is how much we don’t know. Thus, beginner’s mind begins to surface. Suzuki Roshi, whose work popularized this Japanese term, said, “In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s there are few.”
In the Information Age, everybody is supposed to know about everything. Knowledge is more esteemed than wisdom. Journalism has commodified opinion, and information is power. The culture has no use for beginner’s mind. So, have Buddhists in the West yielded to the demands of becoming experts, developing narrow, rigid minds, full of judgment, closed to possibilities, inflexible in our views, incapable of surprise? Or are we maturing into beginners?
For this tenth-anniversary issue Tricycle invited ten witnesses and messengers of the dharma to share their aspirations and wish lists for the future. One point echoed throughout—by Scott Hunt, a young dharma teacher; Sarah Harding, a translator and teacher of Tibetan Buddhism; Richard Hughes Seager, writing on Soka Gakkai; and others—is a plea for honest self-criticism and, at the same time, respect for new forms. The theme of ten years is juxtaposed with stories and teachings that bring us back to the beginnings of things: the practice section looks at the call to begin dharma practice; Noelle Oxenhandler explores the beginnings of her own practice; Anne Cushman begins her new life as a parent; and Tom Drury writes about going home, back to where it all began.
A couple of years ago I was speaking with Bob Thurman about criticisms he had about Tricycle. Affirming his commitment to the magazine, while attributing my editorial judgment to a youthful lack of wisdom, he bellowed—amidst a lot of laughter—“I’m going to hang in there with you until the magazine becomesWheelchair: The Buddhist Review!”
Today, as I muse about our ten years, and about the way the magazine chronicles Buddhism in the West, I think we might consider not outgrowing our name, but rather growing into it, growing from a relative to an absolute sense of beginning. In this way, with joyful energy and softened hearts, we can continue our work—transmitting and maintaining the dharma, honoring the old ways while inventing new ones, studying, adapting, and continuing to refine the teachings and methods of specific schools and lineages.
In “Opening to Practice” a young woman speaks of an encounter with a Tibetan lama. Fearing that his weekend workshop will be over her head, she asks, “Are these beginning teachings?” The lama replies, “There’s no such thing as beginning teachings.”
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