This issue marks Tricycle’s 25th anniversary, and there is so much to celebrate. What began in 1991 as a modest effort around founding editor Helen Tworkov’s kitchen table is now an internationally distributed publication with an online presence reaching hundreds of thousands of practitioners, teachers, and readers across the globe.
The explosive growth of Buddhism in North America has been a remarkable thing to watch. Early on, we would greet any mention of Buddhism in the popular media with delight and, occasionally, with concern. Nowadays, there are more than a few Buddhists who have themselves achieved some degree of fame. Who hasn’t heard of the Dalai Lama or Thich Nhat Hanh? The Buddhist practice of mindfulness meditation has entered the mainstream—often a subject of hot debate and programs are found everywhere promoting the cultivation of compassion. Closer to home, I can’t count the number of times I’ve seen people on subways and buses reading Pema Chödrön’s When Things Fall Apart or other Buddhist titles—or, I can add immodestly, a copy of this magazine.
For our 25th anniversary special section, we take stock by asking contributors from Tricycle’s early days to comment on what they wrote a few decades back. Have their views changed and if so, how? In “Then & Now,” Stephen Batchelor revisits his take on rebirth; bell hooks reflects on race and contemplative practice; Jon Kabat-Zinn writes on misconceptions about mindfulness practice; and Sharon Salzberg considers what it means to “preserve the dharma.” Along similar lines, in “The Question,” nine influential teachers describe the evolution of their personal practice and communities over the years.
Several pressing topics we have written about in past issues, never resolved, are perhaps only more relevant today. We’ve highlighted a few of them. In “Black Coffee Buddhism,” poet and literary activist E. Ethelbert Miller interviews scholar and longtime Tricycle contributor Charles Johnson on core Buddhist values, racial identity, and the adaptation of Buddhism in the West; Mary Talbot writes on the ordination of women; and four “NextGen” teachers discuss the generational divide and Buddhism’s future leadership.
Our mission hasn’t changed over the years, but it has broadened. The culture’s greater familiarity with Buddhist thought and practice allows us not only to explore the teachings themselves but also to examine more deeply the context in which they’re disseminated. In “Revisiting Ritual,” teacher of Tibetan Buddhism and Rice University professor Anne Carolyn Klein takes on the contemporary practitioner’s ambivalence toward many traditional practices and the cognitive dissonance they may engender. “I’m interested,” Klein writes, “in reflecting on the sources and styles of modern resistance. I’m especially interested in the counterintuitive possibility that such inquiry is a path to fruitions that are at once born of tradition and unique to our modern situation.”
Klein’s words pretty much sum up where we Buddhists find ourselves today. Whether we incline to the secular or the traditional, we face the challenge of holding the teachings in all their complexity even as we apply them fully to contemporary living. But in doing so, we are merely doing what Buddhist practitioners have always done. Tricycle is grateful to be a part of this process and grateful as well to our readers, who have joined us in our work for the past quarter-century.
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