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This blog collects various internet feeds aimed towards information, experience and technique exchange in support of our shared spiritual journey..... ”Namaste - may the light in me, honor the light in you…”

Tricycle’s Highlights From the Week

A podcast interview with Shelly Tygielski on her work supporting refugees from Ukraine, a dharma talk on the school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, and an excerpt from poet and essayist Diana Goetsch’s new book, This Body I Wore.

By TricycleMay 28, 2022

Nothing is permanent, everything is precious. Here’s a selection of some happenings—fleeting or otherwise—at Tricycle and in the Buddhist world this week.

A Podcast Interview on the Radical Power of Just Showing Up with Shelly Tygielski

In the latest episode of Life As It Is, meditation teacher and activist Shelly Tygielski discusses her work supporting refugees displaced by the war in Ukraine. Listen here.

A Dharma Talk on School Shootings and the Sense of Separation

On Tuesday, May 23, hours after the school shooting in Uvalde, Texas that killed nineteen children and two adults, bhikkhuni Ayya Dhammadipa, founder of Dassanaya Buddhist Community in Alexandria, Virginia, gave a dharma talk that confronts the horror of this massacre and the 27 school shootings that have happened in the United States so far this year. Watch here.

A Feature Titled, “In the Cabin of the Crazy One”

Poet and essayist Diana Goetsch writes about her late-in-life gender transition while on a 12-day solo meditation retreat in a remote cabin. Read the article, adapted from her new memoir This Body I Wore, here.  

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A Dharma Talk on School Shootings and the Sense of Disconnection

One day after the school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, bhikkhuni Ayya Dhammadipa shared a teaching confronting the massacre.

By Ayya DhammadīpāMay 27, 2022

On the evening of Tuesday, May 23, the day of the school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, that killed nineteen children and two adults, bhikkhuni Ayya Dhammadipa, founder of Dassanaya Buddhist Community in Alexandria, Virginia, live-streamed a dharma talk that confronts the horror of this massacre and the 27 school shootings that have happened in the United States so far this year. Also acknowledging the racist mass shooting in Buffalo, New York that occurred just ten days prior, Ayya Dhammapida discusses what the dharma can teach us about understanding these shootings, focusing on the impact of a sense of separation, which, when it becomes hardened and painful, leads to a dehumanization of others.

School shootings and the sense of disconnection from dana elliott on Vimeo.

This dharma talk originally appeared here on the Dassanaya Buddhist Community’s website.

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A New Graphic Novel Interweaves Afrofuturism, Horror, and Buddhist Precepts

“You are all here because you wish to be free,” announces a man holding a tray bearing six cups and a teapot to a few weary travelers whom he greets at the mouth of a cave. “Truly free,” he continues. “And to take the next important step in your evolution.” The meeting place is apparently a mere pit stop on the Eightfold Path—the Buddhist trajectory for realizing enlightenment, as well as the title of the graphic collection of horror stories illustrated by Bryan Christopher Moss, and written by Steven Barnes and Dr. Charles Johnson. 

The tea is to be served as part of a ceremony to facilitate the death of the ego and of illusion. A tall order. It is an endeavor the nameless host insists calls for the ones gathered to tell each other stories—cautionary tales, their host suggests, which may help illustrate the dangers of not walking the path. Just as the Eightfold Path in the graphic novel is physical, so is the campfire the wayfarers huddle around, as they take turns spinning Afrofuturist yarns that, according to its authors, were inspired by the comic horror series Tales from the Crypt. There are eight stories collected in The Eightfold Path; yet, just as the steps of the path are often practiced simultaneously, many of the dramatic elements of the graphic horror tales do not reflect morals that elucidate one particular stepping stone.

Illustrations copyright © 2022 Bryan Christopher Moss

At least one tall tale, however, is fairly straightforward in that regard. The second story in the collection, “The Last Word,” seems to take as its chief inspiration the vow to only engage in right speech. As with most Buddhist precepts, it is much more difficult to define what it is than what it is not, ergo the cautionary tales. For the sake of simplicity, perhaps imagine that right speech is the opposite of most of what happens on Twitter. 

So, in “The Last Word,” an ambitious translator is summoned to some sort of high-security military facility to see if she can make sense of the inscrutable (to the military personnel) ramblings of a farmer who was the first to come into contact with an extraterrestrial being whose spaceship crashed on his property. Through a series of startling events, the translator—who also happens to be a Soka Gakkai Buddhist—determines that the indecipherable language the farmer speaks is, in itself, a kind of non-corporeal life form, “a parasitic meme, a . . . linguistic virus.” 

In contemplating that language is a sentient being, the character animates the significance of speech, not as some transient and ephemeral non-entity lacking the capacity for the kind of harm inflicted by sticks and stones, but rather, as something that could infect and corrupt the mind like a pathogen. Also, despite the translator’s Buddhist practice, she covets the Nobel accolades her fellow workers at the Department of Homeland Security have received. This display of envy certainly doesn’t reflect right thought. Whether consulting for the DHS exemplifies right livelihood will be left to the reader to decide.

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How to Live Without a Self (and Be a Better Person)

We often hear about the Buddhist teaching of no-self. But what does it actually mean to live without a self? In his new book, Losing Ourselves: Learning to Live Without a Self, scholar Jay Garfield argues that shedding the illusion of the self can actually make you a better person. Drawing from Buddhism, Western philosophy, and cognitive neuroscience, Garfield unpacks how the notion of self is not only wrong but also morally dangerous. Once we let go of this illusion, he argues, we can lead healthier and more ethically skillful lives.

In a recent episode of Tricycle Talks, Tricycle editor-in-chief James Shaheen sits down with Garfield to talk about the ethical perils of selfhood, the freedom that can come from moments of selflessness, and how the brahma-viharas can help us let go of ourselves and reclaim our humanity. Read a few excerpts from their conversation below, and listen to the full episode here.

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What “no self” really means

A central doctrine of Buddhist philosophy is that we don’t have selves, that we are selfless persons. That doesn’t mean that we don’t exist; it means that we exist in another way. We don’t exist substantially or intrinsically or independently, but our existence, like the existence of everything else, is interdependent, conventional, constantly changing.

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In the Cabin of the Crazy One 

The San Luis Valley in south central Colorado is the size of the state of Connecticut and remarkably wide. It is flanked by the San Juan mountains to the west and the Sangre de Cristos to the east, and contains the headwaters of the Rio Grande. The valley is also amazingly flat. Looking west from the Baca Grande in the foothills of Kit Carson Mountain, everything seems laid out before you. It is as though an infinite vastness were knowable, though you cannot see most of the roads, or the herds of elk drifting across the valley floor. 

For decades, spiritual seekers have come to the Baca foothills outside the town of Crestone, which is home to various retreat centers, hermitages, and temples of Eastern and Western and New Age religions. Bejeweled shrines sit unprotected beside creek beds; massive stupas perch on outcroppings. Tibetans in particular are drawn here, having found the scenery powerfully reminiscent of the land from which they’ve been exiled since the late 1940s. Multicolored prayer flags, shredded by wind, festoon the Baca. 

I have come here to do a twelve-day solo retreat in a cabin hidden among the pygmy pines. It is early February, and the cabin has a good wood stove. It has a bucket for a bathroom, a propane burner, two water coolers, and a faucet a quarter mile down the mountain. It is, in spiritual parlance, a very protected space, especially the upstairs loft, where I will practice ten hours a day before a window looking over the tops of the pinyons and junipers, and across the San Luis Valley. 

I came to the cabin to accomplish Guru Yoga, the fourth and final ngöndro practice Tibetan Buddhists must complete in order to receive the abhisheka blessing and progress to the high Tantric teachings and empowerments. To begin a session of Guru Yoga you need to briefly go through the three other ngöndros. This includes Vajrasattva mantra, a seated practice where you repeat a hundred-syllable Sanskrit chant while visualizing Vajrasattva (which means “indestructible being”) in the form of an adolescent male seated cross-legged and floating above your head. As you say the mantra, Vajrasattva pours amrita, or nectar (literally “anti-death potion”), out the bottom of his body. The amrita enters you through the top of your head, flushes out your defilements, and washes down into the earth. 

It’s not an easy practice to get right, partly because there’s never an experience of rightness. The goal is to be in a nondual state, where there’s no right or wrong, and no “you” to evaluate anything. Once it gets going, the visualization does what it wants. I’ve seen amrita come down as water, or vodka. At times it is sparkly, or silver like mercury. Once Vajrasattva poured a stream of live rats into me. It’s a colorful religion. 

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