Tantric Tease
I absolutely loved the article on tantric art by Jeff Watt [“Maps of Enlightenment,” Spring 2005]. When I quickly found myself at the end of the article, I asked myself where the rest of it was? I heartily congratulate Tricycle for encouraging someone to contribute who is knowledgeable in both Buddhism and art. This information is so valuable for Vajrayana practitioners like me.

—Kasandra Van Keith, British Columbia, Canada

Zen in France
As a seasoned Zen practitioner and a French guy, I was delighted to read Pamela White’s piece about sitting in France [“Have Your Brioche and Eat It Too,” Spring 2005]. News about Buddhism in France is quite seldom printed in Tricycle, although it is great to practice in this country where numerous masters have created sanghas.

I was quite surprised to read at the end of the paper that “according to the Association Zen Internationale in Paris, there are virtually no Japanese Zen retreats offered in English here.” Of course there are! The DANA Sangha in Paris was created by Dennis Genpo Merzel Roshi and is headed by Catherine Genno Pagés Roshi. She teaches in English most of the time, and the sangha is very international. Also, Amy Hollowell Sensei, the other teacher there, is American and teaches in English. Anyone who is interested can visit the DANA website,www.danasangha.org, for retreat information.

—Alain Lienard, La Reunion, France

Who Destroyed Indian Buddhism?
Your last “Letters to the Editor” section included a letter by Elihu Genmyo Smith [“The Ocean of Buddhism,” Spring 2005] that states that the early Buddhist universities and monasteries of India were destroyed in the eighth to tenth centuries C.E. by Muslim invasions. Unfortunately, Smith failed to note that Buddhism, which existed in India, Pakistan, and Afghanistan, was attacked much earlier—before the existence of Islam—by the Huns. The Huns were nomadic tribes from the Central Asian and Persian steppes. The Islamic invasions of India were a thousand years later, more or less.

—Terry Reid, Ketchum, Idaho

What the Bleep Do You Know?
I agree with some of Andrew Goodwin’s criticisms of What the Bleep Do We Know? [“Drowning in Narcissism,” Spring 2005]. The side story was weak, and it was not Marlee Matlin’s finest hour as an actor. I also could have done without Ramtha and the water thing. Apart from those aspects, I don’t think Goodwin and I saw the same movie.

The lesson of What the Bleep (WTB) is not that reality “does us the convenience of bending to our will;” rather it is that our will (desire) and perceptions can allow us to blind ourselves to reality. Human perception and thought do not construct the world, they construct a world – a subjective world that, by its nature, makes us connected or isolated, happy or unhappy. WTB is meant to give us insight into how we construct this world, and how our creation connects us to the greater reality of which we are all a part. To me, this road leads away from egoism, not toward it.

There are thousands of people in the world who will never know or care about what the Heart Sutra teaches – that form is emptiness and emptiness is form. However, some of these people, having seen WTB, might realize that anger, stress, and blaming lead to unhappiness; that anger and stress are subjective; and that other points of view are possible – points of view that lead to peace and emotional health. These realizations might change their lives in ways that talk about form and emptiness would not.

New Age philosophy is an easy and tempting target. Its vagueness and diversity allow for it to be defined anew each time someone writes about it, according to the writer’s prejudice. We would do well to remember that, as my grandmother used to say, “Even a stopped clock is right twice a day.”

—Jerilu Breneman, Sebastopol, California

Treasuring Trust
In the interview with Natalie Goldberg [“Beyond Betrayal,” Spring 2005], Goldberg quotes a line from a poem by Trungpa Rinpoche, “Don’t trust anyone,” and then goes on to comment that trusting someone is putting him in a box and expecting or demanding that he behaves in a certain way.

The concept of trust in spiritual and therapeutic relationships (as well as many others) is extremely complex, and Ms. Goldberg alludes to that. However, in the case of the spiritual teacher or the psychiatrist, the ability to trust the expert is paramount. This ability comes in part from the experiences of the seeker or patient; however, if the teacher or psychiatrist is not trustworthy or in any way violates the boundaries of the relationship as they are defined and understood by both parties, an extremely harmful transgression can result.

As a psychiatrist, I am always dealing with boundary issues and trust. Trust in therapeutic relationships is built slowly as it is earned. When a revered teacher or a psychiatrist violates that trust, it is equivalent to abuse. In medicine, when doctors violate this trust, they are subject to charges of malpractice, and, depending on the severity of the damage done to the patient, to losing their licenses. Jail time and fines can also apply. Perhaps this should be true for spiritual teachers as well.

When I graduated from medical school, I took the Hippocratic Oath, which among other things says, “First, do no harm.” That is imperative in any relationship built on trust and vulnerability.

—Sheila Wall, M.D., Cincinnati, Ohio

Countdown to Nirvana
Thank you for Thanissaro Bhikkhu’s article “Seeing for Yourself” [Winter 2004]. Thanissaro Bhikkhu points us back to right view and the development of our own powers of observation. Trying to conform our practice to preconceived notions of the jhanas [states of concentration] is one of many ways we can fall into the error of seeking the Buddha outside of our own experience.

—Joan Kaiser, Santa Fe, New Mexico

In his profile of Trudi Jinpu Hirsch [“Embracing Everything,” Spring 2005], John Kain writes that I gave dharma transmission to Hirsch. Actually, I gave her denkai, or Preceptor Transmission. The distinction is significant, as denkai empowers her to perform liturgies such as funerals and to give precepts and ordinations. These activities are in accord with chaplaincy work. Dharma transmission, on the other hand, is authority to teach in a formal way.

I enjoyed the piece, which I felt was very well done, but this distinction is an important one to make.

—Roshi Enkyo O’Hara, Village Zendo, New York, New York 

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