It is a great pleasure whenever Tricycle celebrates the progress of Buddhist nuns. Ven. Karuna Dharma is an inspiration and a wonderful exemplar of Buddhism in the West—forthright, nondogmatic, and innovative in helping Buddhist nuns of every tradition.
I hope that your readers will also come to appreciate the achievements of Buddhist nuns in Sri Lanka. After a lapse of over nine hundred years, full ordination of women is no longer a novelty in that island nation. In 2006, I was one of four foreign nuns who received high ordination at the Golden Temple in Dambulla. Of the several bhikkhuni lineages in Sri Lanka, the Dambulla group is the largest. It has conducted regular ordinations every year since 1998 and comprises over four hundred bhikkhunis, two thousand samaneris preparing for ordination, and three thousand women practicing as dasa sil matas (the older tradition of ten-precept nuns).
This order was organized out of a longstanding movement to uplift the dasa sil mata. Therefore, most of the bhikkhunis have years or decades of religious experience and well-established temples, primarily in rural areas. The nuns are quite poor compared with their male counterparts. A few are scholars or recluses, but the majority do the work of a village pastor. Their local communities are united in heartfelt appreciation and respect.
Bhikkhuni ordination is still opposed by all three of the bhikkhu sects of Sri Lanka, but there is no official persecution. Gradually, bhikkhunis are gaining the support of individual monks and official government recognition. They aim for eventual acceptance by the conservative establishment by making the effort to observe the technicalities of the Pali Buddhist monastic code and to practice the dhamma in the traditional way.
The Sri Lankan bhikkhunis whom I met lack any international fundraising or PR capacity. They are really focused on gaining religious equality in their own land. However, they are now willing to ordain qualified foreigners, and friendly interest from Westerners is most welcome.
High View, West Virginia
I Enlightened Paul
Tomorrow does know.
Upon hearing Revolver, Timothy Leary declared the Beatles to be a newly evolved life form. He declared his work to advance psychedelic experience “done.” This is the story I once heard. Note: without the letter R, it’s Evolver.
As Sean Murphy suggests in “The Fab Four’s Noble Truths” (Winter 2006), how else to explain the evolutionary leap in less than twenty-four months from “A Hard Day’s Night” to “Tomorrow Never Knows”? The Beatles’ growth in consciousness pulled the entire West eastward to timeless religious realization and changed the world. Their journey to India produced more than the White Album. It created an evolutionary bridge. But it was theRevolver period that led them there. By the way, Revolver’s four noble truths:
A lifetime is so short, a new one
can’t be bought.
When I was a boy, everything was
When your bird is broken, you
may be awoken.
Love is all and love is everyone.
Thank you, Tricycle and Sean Murphy, for keeping your sights on Buddhism in popular culture.
Syracuse, New York
Sean Murphy’s musings on the Beatles’ Revolver and how it changed the course and content of modern music was very thought-provoking. It was obvious from the first paragraph that Murphy has followed the Beatles and sought very hard to place meaning in every song and career move they ever made. In the mid-sixties, the Beatles were not quite thirty, and their lives were a whirlwind of creating, work, and intellectual stimulation. The result: Revolverwas nothing more than a synthesis of everything they were coming into contact with or what interested them. To say that the album filler “Got to Get You Into My Life” was something more than a well-written pop ditty with great production work is absurd. In the end, the Beatles were entertainers and (as much as we wanted them to be) not gurus or prophets. That said, I very much enjoyed the article. It was obviously written with love and respect.
Rock Island, Illinois
Debate of the Moment
Cynthia Thatcher’s article “What’s So Great about Now?” (Winter 2006) was one of the most insightful dharma talks I have ever read. By asking one simple question, she uncovers much about the Buddhist tradition and the way many people practice it today. When we recognize that the present moment is an opportunity to see the truth of suffering, we can cultivate non-attachment. Thatcher doesn’t tell us how to meditate but gives us a reason to, which is sometimes more important.
After reading Cynthia Thatcher’s piece in the Winter issue, I feel impelled to respond. Are mindfulness practitioners really claiming that the present moment must be anything other than it is? Maybe people who practice mindfulness are not necessarily expecting the present to be somehow “better” or “happier,” as Thatcher assumes. It may not be that you are suddenly “noticing the beauty you’d been missing” or that “the plum tastes sweeter” and becoming attached to that, but just that you are noticing without judgment. It seems that Thatcher is the one who is adding her own presumptions regarding the nature of mindfulness and those who practice it.
Santa Fe, New Mexico
Roses and Tomatoes
The Winter 2006 issue prompted me to do something I’ve meant to do for years: thank you for the sustained excellence of your magazine. The Winter issue is as good an example as any of the things that make Tricycle the standardbearer among spiritual publications. As always, first-rate practitioners and scholars from a broad range of Theravada, Mahayana, and Vajrayana traditions are represented, yet just as typically one could argue that the features on dharma in the Beatles’s Revolver album, or the insightful interview with Daniel Goleman, are the real highlights.
You consistently show courage in addressing sometimes painful, always fruitful, and frequently controversial blind spots, from issues of racial exclusion to the great feature on the oft-neglected Pure Land Buddhism (“Born Again Buddhist“) in the Fall 2006 issue. I appreciate your efforts very much, and thank you for setting such a high standard.
This is one of those “I’ve been a subscriber since . . .” letters. I’ve been a subscriber since 1995, and I have learned a great deal from Tricycle, sent along occasional donations, and recommended it to my friends and to my students in classes on contemporary literature and spirituality. I’ve been a little troubled, at times, by the “slickness” of the journal and its ad policies. But nothing I’d encountered in the journal prepared me for the incredible bad taste of the Winter 2006 edition’s back cover. If you can’t see how unskillful these means are, I don’t know how to explain it. Perhaps by analogy: imagine a back cover of Christianity Today with an image of Jesus looking down from the cross at a field of silver dollars, inviting us to work with some corporation that will “avoid the behaviors which cause most investors to underperform the market’s benchmarks.” Is this the public face of Buddhism? Is this the only way to get the message out? I for one would be happy with a slightly less glossy journal that did not “under-perform” so egregiously.
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