The first issue of Tricycle was superb—a most auspicious beginning. I especially enjoyed Joel McCleary’s fine tribute to Geshe Wangyal, Dean Rolston’s moving “Memento Mori,” and the delightfully unorthodox Spalding Gray interview with His Holiness the Dalai Lama. The quality of the writing was very high and was matched by a marriage of intelligence, wit, and deep feeling, all qualities much needed in the kind of times we now live in. The time has surely come for the years of practice by American Buddhists to bear fruit in a new activism to begin to create a decent, sane, and just society.
Tricycle is wonderful. There was a certain joy for me in the old days, so to speak, when I would open the Whole Earth Review, the feeling that this was, somehow, an in-house magazine but that the “house” was everywhere. Tricycle allows me that same feeling, like the freshness and excitement I feel each spring when plum buds first appear. May it bloom ten thousand years.
Los Angeles, California
Your premier issue is terrific, splendid, beautiful—what a pleasure! I kept reading and reading -almost the whole issue in one sitting. How very satisfying. You deserve tremendous praise, and I hope you’re feeling proud and gratified. I feel proud of you and proud of our community, our wonderfully extended community that feels both delineated and inclusive in the variety and scope and depth you managed to present. Hooray for you! Many thanks, many blessings.
As an American teenager disillusioned by many of the values and attitudes of my heritage, I must say that Tricycle has been an inspiration. After reading the fall issue straight through, I wanted so much to give up eating meat and to sell all my leather goods. After re-reading several of the articles, I did this. The spirituality I gained from just reading your magazine made me feel natural about giving up these excesses rather than feeling either charitable or as if I was sacrificing these things to my lifestyle and habits. For years I said to myself that Buddhism was an admirable practice, but I never could do it. Thanks to you, at least I feel prepared to try.
Taylors, South Carolina
I am compelled to write you a note of congratulations. I was so pleased to find Tricycle in my mailbox two days ago, and I was delighted to see that it was so clean, solid, and substantial in style, delivery, and content. There are so many traps one can fall into when embarking on such a project—so many tiny missteps that can be seized by the world to discredit you. When I heard of Tricycle, I worried for it; but you have survived the traps, not so much by avoiding them, but by cutting through with a clear, pure voice. The world has never been more in need of a journal like Tricycle. Good luck to you!
New York, New York
The premier issue of Tricycle is most impressive. I read it from cover to cover the day it arrived, a most unusual occurrence for me. Gary Snyder’s article, “Just One Breath: The Practice of Poetry and Meditation,” is a meditation in itself. “Authority and Exploitation: Three Voices” is one of the most provocative articles I’ve read this year. Might I propose that future issues include articles about Thomas Merton and the East-West dialogue that he promoted for so many years? I’m looking forward to your next issue with much anticipation.
MICHAEL W. WAITE
Wisdom Publications would like to congratulate you on a wonderful and stimulating premier issue. You have our best wishes for every success for your fascinating new dharma publication.
Every time I read the words of the Dalai Lama, I seem to store up encouragement like a rechargeable battery—so I really enjoyed the interview of His Holiness the Dalai Lama by Spalding Gray. Mr. Gray’s own words, and those of other contributors throughout the issue, also helped me to remember that I’m not the only non-adept, you might say “homegrown,” Buddhist out here. This, too, is encouragement. The only thing I didn’t like was the inclusion of “responses” by Siddhartha (Gautama Buddha) and Maitreya in the spread on what it’s like to be a Buddhist. This struck me as sophomoric humor. The real responses, on the other hand, are treasures, and I hope this feature continues. May Tricycle help foster compassionate insight in the midst of this sad society.
JON R. RUTHERFORD
Kansas City, Missouri
The first issue looks wonderful. From cover to cover there is peace within these pages. I am proud to be a charter subscriber. What a momentous year for Buddhism: His Holiness the Dalai Lama is awarded the Nobel Peace Prize; the Year of Tibet is launched; His Holiness meets with President Bush (the first American president to do so) and captivates Washington during his whirlwind visit; and now Tricycle arrives to lead the way in information on the buddhization of the United States. Congratulations, y que viva la Buddha in every heart!
I have read the premier issue of Tricycle, and found many of the articles enlightening, as I am not too familiar with the Buddhist religion and hope that in future issues I will learn more about it. I would like more articles that will teach me and others like me more about Buddhism: its concepts; its creeds; Buddhist practice; how to set up a shrine and what goes in a shrine; and how to be a Buddhist when there is no Buddhist community nearby.
Bryson City, North Carolina
Just a short word of praise and advice. I received volume one, number one, and am very pleased with the excellent content and layout of your publication. I especially enjoyed the article on Heinrich Harrer. His Seven Years in Tibet is a classic. The “Hot Hand Sutra” and Aitken Roshi’s piece were also very enjoyable. Now my one complaint: Tricycle arrived in terrible condition. The cover was torn, and it was waterstained, quite possibly used as a coaster by one of our United States mail carriers. If you could put plastic or paper (more ecoconscious) around your fine magazine, I’m sure we subscribers would receive a copy we could treasure for its content and condition.
Seal Beach, California
Dear Jon, Our apologies to you and to anyone else whose copy of the premier issue of Tricycle may have arrived damaged. For ecological reasons we discounted using a plastic wrap, and for the time being, paper wraps at fifty cents per piece are not a feasible addition to our budget. Our good news is that the recent affirmation of our not-for-profit status allows us to use, beginning with this issue, the special second-class postage rate (as opposed to thirdclass). Hopefully, this faster service will reduce the possibility of mishaps along the way. Thank you for expressing your concern.
HIS HOLINESS AND SPALDING GRAY: COMBO IN CONTROVERSY
I enjoyed your premier issue, and I thought the Spalding Gray interview with the Dalai Lama was especially good. I suspect his questions about girls in bikinis and empty ice-cream dishes are going to offend some of your readers, but I loved those questions. And they were not disrespectful. Behind his jokes, Mr. Gray was serious: what does a monk do about temptation? As a spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama is precisely the person we should be able to turn to, if not for the answers then for some guidance that will help us find the answers. Interviewers who (with the best intentions, no doubt) give him soft-lob questions seem to imply by their very reticence that he has no help to give us. But if he has no special insight, what is everybody following him for? Besides, since the Dalai Lama clearly appreciated Mr. Gray’s questions and humor, we can hardly complain.
Through your choice of Spalding Gray to interview His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Tricycle has joined ranks with modern journalism in attempting to probe and understand a living Buddha in non-religious, Western terms. His Holiness seems both to encourage and enjoy this process. But there is an interplay, between what Tibetan Buddhists call the uncommon and the common aspects of a rare being such as the Dalai Lama. Secular modern observers, and even modern Buddhists, tend to accept exclusively (with a kind of self-satisfied relief) his common description of himself as “just a simple Buddhist monk,” or even “just a human being.” When will your magazine seriously approach the uncommon aspect of His Holiness? He has vows that prevent him from speaking directly about his own Buddhahood, but the light of the uncommon aspect shines subtly through his words and actions. Apparently His Holiness feels that the traditional Tibetan view of the Dalai Lama may have become overbalanced in the direction of the uncommon aspect, and he is readjusting this delicate nondual relationship. A careful reading of his autobiography, Freedom in Exile, casts much light upon this point. However, the modern mind (once merely Western, now global) is seriously overbalanced toward the common aspect. I hope this magazine will provide an antidote for this imbalance, and not increase it.
New York, New York
I understand one of the most important tasks of your magazine to be providing a cultural mirror for Western Buddhists. The seemingly unbounded growth of spiritual ego(s) testifies to the lack, or virtual ineffectiveness, of our cultural mirrors. If this, indeed, is your aim, then Spalding Gray’s interview with His Holiness the Dalai Lama in your first issue was doing an excellent job of mirroring.
Publishing it must have generated a lot of criticism! The artist has become the self-proclaimed guardian of creativity’s source, vacated by priests, monks, and mystics as they were slowly swallowed up by the (religious) institutions. In appropriating the threshold to the unknowable, artists believe themselves to be beyond criticism, beyond reproach, which, of course, turns into the place of tyranny. To see Spalding Gray effortlessly placing himself on the same “intellectual” (for lack of a more precise term) level as His Holiness, makes this very clear. His approach is striking in its naivete and unreflectiveness. I am grateful to your magazine for having shown this so clearly, even if it is deeply disturbing.
T. J. C.
New York, New York
Congratulations! Tricycle surpassed my most optimistic expectations for a national Buddhist magazine. With a longterm commitment to meditation practice, an avid interest in Buddhist literature, and disillusioning experiences with Buddhist centers, Tricycle is the magazine I have been waiting for. I applaud your efforts to bring together Buddhism and contemporary culture, and I look forward to future issues. But weeks after reading the first issue from cover to cover, a disquieting question keeps reemerging. I have read many interviews with His Holiness the Dalai Lama conducted by long-time Buddhist practitioners, academic scholars of Buddhism, and sympathetic journalists. Yet Spalding Gray managed to evoke the most intimate portrait of His Holiness ever conveyed in an interview. (I am not only talking about what hour His Holiness rises, or what his retinue eats. I have one friend who was so outraged by your selection of Spalding Gray that on reading the interview, he failed to grasp the Dalai Lama’s only account, to the best of my knowledge, of a transformative enlightenment experience.) So what I keep wondering is this: What are we to make of the fact that it took a brilliant egomaniacal, self-avowed narcissist like Gray to ask the Dalai Lama the most interesting questions?
REBELS AND REFORMERS
I was particularly gratified to read Lou Nordstrom’s review of Crazy Clouds: Zen Radicals, Rebels, and Reformers. It is high time to address the tendency to equate social justice or political freedom with spiritual liberation and awakening. It is wonderful that Buddhist practitioners reach out and respond to suffering and injustice. If practice is genuine, compassionate action will find its expression. It is also true that doing good is certainly karmicly positive. It is not, however, liberating. Correcting social inequalities will not free humans from their fundamental delusions.
SUSAN JION POSTAL
Rye, New York
I have just read Larry Shainberg’s “The Hot Hand Sutra” in Tricycle. After a two-week sesshin at Tassajara Zen Mountain Center, a fellow monk and myself immediately went out to the flats and shot baskets. We played “horse”—each having to make the shot the previous person had made. We had sat zazen in silence for fourteen days. Now we shot baskets and couldn’t miss. It was a truly amazing performance on both our parts. I don’t know if “enlightenment is the spiritual version of Hot Hand,” but I am sure that sitting zazen helps shooting baskets.
LEE DE BARROS
I found” Authority and Exploitation,” the dialogue between Aitken Roshi and Brother David Steindl-Rast on the student-teacher relationship, both stimulating and valuable. Its gender assumptions and one-sided emphasis on the responsibility of the teacher, however, gave it an almost patronizing tone. I realize that this was unintentional and draw attention to it simply to open up another dimension of dialogue on an important and complex subject. Brother David makes a distinction between authority as expertise—perhaps empowerment is a good word here—and authority as authoritarian use of power. According to him, there is power in the latter case in the sense of one person “putting down” the other. For this, disempowerment seems a good word. What is not discussed by the speakers are the very subtle, on the surface almost benevolent, ways of putting down or disempowering. For example, Aitken Roshi almost always speaks as if teachers are men and students are women. He also speaks of students/women as “sexually appealing” and teachers/men as “sexually attracted,” thereby using the language that identifies men as sexual subjects and women as sexual objects. Again, I do not take this to be intentional. It is a language so deeply buried in our culture that all of us, men and women alike, fall prey to it. Unfortunately, in the student-teacher context we can fall prey to its sister language as well, namely that of parent and child, also used in the dialogue. This leads naturally to the idea that the teacher has full responsibility for the success or failure of what is, in fact, a relationship between two adults. Brother David has elsewhere reflected on the practice of obedience, looking at authority from the point of view of the student and the student’s responsibilities. One of his observations is that obedience is not the substitution of someone else’s good or bad will. Surrender and obedience, by definition unconditional, thus become conditional upon the teacher’s living up to the student’s idealizations (positive and negative) of the teacher. This is surrender of autonomy and responsibility, not surrender of ego. The more we give responsibility to the teacher for the success or failure of the student-teacher relationship, the more we prevent the mutual opening of both. I am grateful to Aitken Roshi and Brother David for beginning a dialogue on this issue. There is much to be explored here.
Brother David has elsewhere reflected on the practice of obedience, thus looking at authority from the point of view of the student and the student’s responsibilities. One of the observations is that obedience is not the substitution of someone else’s will for one’s own. The same could be said for surrender of devotion to a teacher. What motivates a student to substitute someone else’s will for his or her own seems to me to be the desire to be a child of a perfect or imperfect parent—in order words, a passive ‘victim’ of someone else’s good or bad will. Surrender and obedience, by definition unconditional, thus become conditional upon the teacher’s living up to the student’s idealizations (positive and negative) of the teacher. This is surrender of autonomy and responsibility, not ego.
Zen Community of New York
Teacher Sarah Lawrence College
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