Tricycle Talks

Podcast series featuring leading voices and thinkers in the contemporary Buddhist world

How to Read the Lotus Sutra

With Jacqueline Stone and Donald Lopez
How to Read the <i>Lotus Sutra</i>

The Lotus Sutra is one of the most important Buddhist texts, but for the uninitiated reader, it can make little to no sense. With its cumbersome prose and ostentatious scenes, this ancient sutra evades any of our contemporary efforts to interpret it in simple terms. Yet so much in this sutra—the teaching of the one vehicle, the Buddha’s use of skillful means, and the revolutionary idea that there can be more than one buddha in the world at a time—has become fundamental and foundational material for the Mahayana Buddhist traditions in East Asia. 

Our guests are two of the foremost scholars in Buddhist studies, Donald Lopez, Jr., Arthur E. Link Distinguished University Professor of Buddhist and Tibetan Studies at the University of Michigan, and Jacqueline Stone, who recently retired from her position as Professor of Japanese Religions at Princeton University. They have written a chapter-by-chapter guide to the Lotus Sutra called Two Buddhas Seated Side by Side: A Guide to the Lotus Sutra (October 2019, Princeton University Press). The book is a highly readable commentary and introduction to the sutra that flips between ancient India, when the sutra was written, and medieval Japan, when it took on a new meaning for the Buddhist priest and reformationist Nichiren.

Here, Stone and Lopez sit down with Tricycle Editor and Publisher James Shaheen to discuss the issues, such as religious meaning, reinvention, and adaptation, that this book brings to the surface. 

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Learning to See Our Racial Biases

With Rhonda Magee
Learning to See Our Racial Biases

Law professor and mindfulness instructor Rhonda Magee says the recent resurgence of overt racism shows that we failed to address its root cause—our own racial biases. Magee is a professor at the University of San Francisco’s School of Law, where she teaches about racial justice and uses mindfulness to help students surface their own prejudices. She has written about her work in a new book, The Inner Work of Racial Justice: Healing Ourselves and Transforming Our Communities Through Mindfulness.

Listen Now on Tricycle | iTunes | SoundCloud

Staring at the Wall with Samuel Beckett and Norman Mailer

With Lawrence Shainberg
Staring at the Wall with Samuel Beckett and Norman Mailer

Writer and longtime Zen student Lawrence Shainberg joins Tricycle Editor and Publisher James Shaheen to discuss his new book, Four Men Shaking: Searching for Sanity with Samuel Beckett, Norman Mailer, and My Perfect Zen Teacher. They talk about Shainberg’s struggles as a practitioner and an author and how he brings them together in his new memoir, which recounts his conversations with his literary heroes, Samuel Beckett and Norman Mailer, along with his teacher, Roshi Kyudo Nakagawa. 

You can read an excerpt from Four Men Shaking in our Fall 2019 issue.

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On McMindfulness

With Ronald Purser
On McMindfulness

Ronald Purser is a professor of management at San Francisco State University and a longtime Buddhist practitioner who popularized the term McMindfulness in a piece he wrote for the Huffington Post in 2013. In it, he argued  that mindfulness practice has been commercialized, and reduced to a mere “self-help technique.” His new book, McMindfulness: How Mindfulness Became the New Capitalist Spirituality, offers an argument against the mindfulness movement, claiming that corporations have embraced the practice in order to advance a neoliberal agenda. 

In this episode, Purser strikes a more balanced tone and discusses the good and bad of the mindfulness movement, explains what he means by the catch-all term McMindfulness, and presents his view that mindfulness has an untapped potential to bring about real social change. 

Listen Now on Tricycle | iTunes | SoundCloud

Dying Every Day

With Helen Tworkov
Dying Every Day

Author and Tricycle’s founding editor, Helen Tworkov, discusses the new book that she co-wrote with her teacher, Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche, about his four-year wandering retreat and near-death experience. In Love With the World: A Monk’s Journey Through the Bardos of Living and Dying follows the Tibetan Buddhist meditation master as he sneaked out of his monastery in Bodhgaya, India, to live as a beggar and traveling yogi.

Here, Tworkov sits down with James Shaheen, Tricycle’s publisher and editor, to discuss how she helped Mingyur Rinpoche tell his story, the near-death experience that transformed his life and teachings, and how seeing the small deaths we experience each day can help us alleviate our fears of dying. They also discuss the origins of the magazine and how the Western Buddhist landscape has changed over time.

Listen Now on Tricycle | iTunes | SoundCloud

Is School Mindfulness Bringing Religion into the Classroom?

With Candy Gunther Brown
Is School Mindfulness Bringing Religion into the Classroom?

In recent years, school mindfulness programs have sprung up across the country, setting off a debate about whether the nominally secular programs derived from religious practices violate laws about the separation of church and state.

In her new book, Debating Yoga and Mindfulness in Public Schools, Indiana University Bloomington religious studies professor Candy Gunther Brown takes a look at the history of the separation of church and state and the mindfulness movement and makes the case that mindfulness programs have overstepped their bounds. While she does not recommend that the programs should be banned, she argues that making them mandatory is unconstitutional and that students must be asked to opt-in to the classes. (Even opt-out options, she claims, place an illegal burden on the students.)

Here, Gunther Brown talks with Tricycle Editor and Publisher James Shaheen about how her view, the legal precedents set from the school prayer debate, and the claims that mindfulness is a form of “stealth Buddhism.”

This episode is sponsored by Maitripa College.

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Inside Japan as an Outsider

With Pico Iyer
Inside Japan as an Outsider

Acclaimed travel and spirituality writer Pico Iyer has written two new books about his life in Japan, Autumn Light (Penguin, April 2019), and the forthcoming A Beginner’s Guide to Japan: Observations and Provocations (Penguin, September 2019). Iyer views the books as complimentary: while Autumn Light describes his experience within the culture, A Beginner’s Guide offers his perspective as an outsider. Since marrying and moving in with his wife in her home city of Nara three decades ago, Iyer has become one of the foremost translators of Japanese culture to Western audiences. Iyer discusses his latest books as well as the way impermanence colors Japanese life and what it means to try to understand other cultures at a time when the term globalist has become, in many parts, a dirty word.

Listen Now on Tricycle | iTunes | SoundCloud

When Buddhists Were a “National Security Threat”

With Duncan Ryuken Williams
When Buddhists Were a “National Security Threat”

On February 19th, 1942, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt issued an executive order designating military zones along the West Coast and laying the groundwork for US authorities to remove citizens of Japanese descent from their homes and imprison them in camps. While it is widely acknowledged that racism was central to this shameful chapter of American history, the role of religious discrimination cannot be overlooked, says scholar and Soto Zen priest Duncan Ryuken Williams.

Here, Williams joins Tricycle Editor and Publisher James Shaheen to discuss his new book, American Sutra: A Story of Faith and Freedom in the Second World War, how Japanese Americans in internment camps stood up for religious freedom, and how this disturbing legacy of persecution has taken on new relevance.

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Why Do We Still Have Religion?

With Elaine Pagels
Why Do We Still Have Religion?

Acclaimed scholar of religion Elaine Pagels discusses the role of faith today, the practical consequences of religious ideas, and what led her to ask, Why Religion? with Tricycle’s editor and publisher, James Shaheen.

Pagels is the Harrington Spear Paine Foundation Professor of Religion at Princeton University, a MacArthur Fellow, and a best-selling author who won the National Book Award for her groundbreaking 1989 work, The Gnostic Gospels. Her latest book, Why Religion? A Personal Story explores why religion has persisted through a blend of meticulous research and an earnest exploration of her own struggles with faith and grief.

Listen Now on Tricycle | iTunes | SoundCloud

Beating Burnout by Just Being

With Lawrence Levy
Beating Burnout by Just Being

Feeling burnt out does not make you a failure. That’s the first thing Buddhist teacher and former tech executive Lawrence Levy would want you to know. Burnout, Levy says, is a healthy response when our human needs aren’t being met. As the former Chief Financial Officer of Pixar, Levy knows what it means to have a demanding job. But it was during his many years practicing in the Gelug lineage of Tibetan Buddhism that Levy began to find a way to apply Buddhist principles to the difficulties that we face in our everyday lives, leading him to co-found Juniper, an organization devoted to making meditation and the dharma accessible in a modern context. Here, Tricycle Editor and Publisher James Shaheen talks to Levy about the importance of continuous self-care in a mutually supportive environment and how meditation, learning, and connection can help us tend to the conditions that lead to burnout.

Listen Now on Tricycle | iTunes | SoundCloud

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