In 1991, Tricycle asked Spalding Gray (1941–2004) to interview the Dalai Lama, who had recently received the Nobel Peace Prize. The interview laid the groundwork for Tricycle‘s unorthodox approach to Buddhism in the West. The issue featured a Herb Ritts portrait of the Dalai Lama on its cover.


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Photograph by Gaetano Kazuo Maida.

Tenzin Gyatso, the Fourteenth Dalai Lama, is the spiritual and temporal leader of the Tibetan people and the 1989 Nobel Peace Laureate. Born to a peasant family in 1935, in the northeastern province of Amdo, His Holiness was recognized at the age of two, in accordance with Tibetan tradition, as the reincarnation of the Thirteenth Dalai Lama, and a manifestation of Avalokitesvara, the Bodhisattva of Compassion. In 1959, he escaped the Chinese invasion of Tibet and lives now in Dharamsala, India.

The Dalai Lama completed 18 years of monastic study with a final examination by 30 scholars of logic in the morning, by 15 scholars on the subject of the Middle Path in the afternoon, and in the evening, by 35 scholars of the canon of monastic discipline and the study of metaphysics. His Holiness the Dalai Lama then passed the exacting oral examination with honors and soon completed the Geshe Lharampa—or the highest level of scholarly achievement in Buddhist philosophy.

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Photograph by Gaetano Kazuo Maida.

Spalding Gray, born in Rhode Island in 1941, calls himself a writer and performer who has been “circling my meditation cushion for almost twenty years.” His best known performance is the stage and film version of his monologue, “Swimming to Cambodia.”

Gray’s interest in transcendental philosophy began with his early exposure to Christian Science. (“My mother the Christian Scientist was extremely radical and my father wasn’t. My inner dialectic is the pull between my father, the rather pragmatic doubter, and my mother. My mother killed herself and my father, the materialist, survived.”)

Around the time that the Dalai Lama prematurely assumed full political and spiritual leadership of Tibet in the face of the communist Chinese invasion, Spalding Gray was banished to boarding school being branded a “juvenile delinquent” with “very bad, anti-social behavior.”

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