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Helen Tworkov grew up in a family of artists where art was considered the religion. Yet from an early age, she sought another kind of religion—one that would address deeper questions of the nature of truth and the self. After traveling throughout Asia and experimenting with a variety of New Age practices, Tworkov eventually arrived at Buddhism—and went on to found The Tricycle Foundation in 1990.

In her new book, Lotus Girl: My Life at the Crossroads of Buddhism and America, she uses her own spiritual journey to explore how Buddhism has developed in the West over the past sixty years. Set against the cultural backdrop of the Vietnam War and the American counterculture, the book offers a portrait of Tworkov’s search for meaning and truth as she travels through Japan, India, and Nepal and encounters the great Buddhist luminaries of her time, including the Dalai Lama, Pema Chödrön, Chögyam Trungpa, Dudjom Rinpoche, and Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche.

In this episode of Tricycle Talks, Tricycle’s editor-in-chief, James Shaheen, sits down with Tworkov to talk about what first brought her to Buddhism, the dangers of exoticizing Buddhist traditions, the radical nature of Buddhist teachings in a relentlessly capitalist economy, and how she understands the bardos of old age and death.

Tricycle Talks is a podcast series featuring leading voices in the contemporary Buddhist world. You can listen to more Tricycle Talks on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, and iHeartRadio.

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Sponsored by St. John’s College

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