A Beautiful Spirit
I was inspired by Tricycle’s interview with Ani Choying Drolma, the “singing nun” from Nepal (“Topping the Charts for Freedom,” Fall 2009). Ani Choying chose to transform her own childhood pain into a quest to bring joy to Nepali street children. One of her favorite ways to bring happiness to these children who “play in the dust” is to walk the streets and hand-deliver stuffed animals she has gathered from friends. Her beautiful spirit moved me. My young daughter and I put together a box of stuffed animals she no longer plays with and shipped the box to Ani Choying’s organization, the Nuns’ Welfare Foundation of Nepal. I want my daughter to know how fortunate she is and not forget those children who have less than she does.
—Lisa Richardson, Glendale, CA
RELIGIOUS REPRESSION IN TIBET
In “Tibet: Fifty Years of Exile,” (Summer 2009) Stephen Batchelor writes, “Traditional religions such as Buddhism are no longer suppressed [in China].” I briefly taught law in China during the period of liberalization in the 1980s. More recently, I taught English to former Tibetan political prisoners in Dharamsala, India. Contrary to Mr. Batchelor’s statement, there is still deep, pervasive, and brutal oppression of the expression of traditional religions in Tibet.
China’s constitution protects only “normal religious activities” (Article 36). The Communist Party, through its various state organs, defines what is “normal.” China has thereby enacted many laws for the purpose of managing religion. These laws usually begin with a preamble stating that they are “for the purposes of ensuring citizens’ freedom of religious belief.” They then set forth burdensome bureaucratic restrictions and requirements for obtaining approval to publish religious materials, traveling if one is a monk or a nun, and holding gatherings. They provide for criminal prosecution. The Communist Party installs so-called democratic management committees in the monasteries, which ensure that the laws are followed. Denouncing His Holiness the Dalai Lama is often mandatory.
I have interviewed several former Tibetan political prisoners. In most cases, the crime for which they were arrested, tortured, and imprisoned included shouting the words, “Long live His Holiness the Dalai Lama.” This is considered “splittest” activity by the Chinese government.
In a May 2008 report, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom denounced the lack of religious freedom in China, writing, “The level of religious repression [has] increased in Tibetan areas and in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region. Moreover, legal reforms, which were issued in 2005 with the promise of increased religious freedom protections, have not halted abuses and are used in some cases to justify some arrests and additional restrictions.” The situation has worsened since the date of this report. The Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy is a very good source for anyone who wishes to further research this issue.
—Lois Beran, Portland, OR
I always enjoy Mark Epstein’s insights, but his latest piece (“Beyond Blame,” Summer 2009), inspired by hearing Bruce Springsteen speak about his personal life, had an extra, and familiar, punch. Recently, I put one of my favorite Springsteen records on, “Tunnel of Love,” from 1988. Like Epstein, I was floored as much by the sentiment as by the source. One example comes from the title track:
It ought to be easy ought to be simple enough
Man meets woman and they fall in love
But the house is haunted and the ride gets rough
And you’ve got to learn to live with what you can’t rise above if you want to ride on down, in through this tunnel of love
At the time, the author of those lines was dealing with a failing marriage, fame, and fortune, and at the same time yearning for maturity. If there’s a better description in popular music of how our karma informs the way we live and love, and how we must face and accept those shadows in order to find real happiness, I am not aware of it.
—J. L., Aronson Brooklyn, NY
LEARNING TO COOK, MINDFULLY
I have never thought of myself as much of a cook. My husband and I eat out frequently, and mealtime often means throwing together sandwiches. Laura Fraser’s article “The Joy of Mindful Cooking” (Summer 2009) made me aware that I had never really given cooking a chance, or seen it as anything other than a chore. I decided to give it a try. Though I’m in the habit of turning down fresh homegrown vegetables from neighbors and coworkers, I recently took a couple such offerings, picked up some brown rice and fresh feta cheese, and made a simple but actually very tasty dinner—without a recipe, no less! I’d always felt the need to use a recipe and get it exactly right (my mother was a stickler for precise measurement in the kitchen, and my sister is an expert cook), but it just didn’t seem worth the effort. Now I’m excited about the prospect of trying new combinations of my own choosing (or my husband’s—I’m sending him out to look for ingredi ingredients at local markets). Thanks for the eye-opening article.
—Deborah Leonard Cincinnati, OH
SEEING WITH THE HEART AND MIND
I just received my first e-issue of Tricycle and was delighted to find that my special software for blind people works just fine with the magazine. It’s a great link to the whole Buddhist community, and I appreciate it. I am totally blind, and though there are many positive ways I interact with the sighted people around me, I still often feel quite isolated by my blindness. It is so wonderful not to be left out of Tricycle’s gatherings of transcending hearts and minds.
As I read the article by Ondrea and Stephen Levine in the Spring 2009 issue (“Living the Life You Wish to Live”), I was moved to recall my journey of sight and blindness. The Levines’ important teaching on turning to look into the eyes of death has touched me deeply. I have, at times, thought of the abrupt loss of my eyesight and the change to a world of blindness as a sort of death in itself. But mostly, for me, it is more: Looking clearly at our mortality can lead us to see life again in a sacred light. I see that I am not dying—I am living! We need not wait to be dying; we need not wait until we’ve untangled our lifelong priorities. It’s now that I rejoice!
—Cate McKee Friday Harbor, WA
The PET scan on page fifty-eight of the Fall 2009 issue (“This Is Your Brain On Zen”) was inadvertently printed with the wrong colors. The image, which originally appeared on the frontispiece of the hardcover edition of Dr. James Austin’s “Zen and the Brain” (1998), should have been printed as below. Dr. Austin’s explanation of the PET scan follows.
“This deoxyglucose PET scan of my brain was performed twenty-one years ago after I had been meditating for two hours, when I had let go of thoughts and was paying bare attention to the movements of abdominal breathing. My vision and hearing were masked. The different amounts of redness suggest asymmetries of brain metabolic activity. Consistent with a more ‘bottom-up’ mode of attentive, allocentric processing are the relatively greater degrees of activity in cortical regions over the lower right side. In contrast, relatively lesser activities are apparent in both inner prefrontal regions and within lower portions of the right dorsal thalamus.”