Awakened by Beauty

Photographs by Michael Kenna / Trunk Archive A Zen priest and scholar considers the role of aesthetics in a renunciant tradition. By Kurt Spellmeyer, Photographs by Michael Kenna Beauty has always been for Buddhism an intractable koan, a conundrum it has never quite resolved. To most of us, a life without beauty would seem scarcely worth living at all, and yet the dharma has kept it at arm’s length for the last twenty-five centuries. With any other subject that matters now—ethics, politics, gender, neuroscience, and the environment—Buddhism has engaged fearlessly, the resulting dialogues producing an array of concepts and paradigms that … Continue reading Awakened by Beauty

Marxism and Buddhism

Buddhist monks receive alms in Luang Prabang, Laos. Photo by Chris Stowers/Panos Life is suffering, whether you sit under a Bodhi Tree or stand with the workers. But do the two schools agree on the remedy? Adrian Kreutz is a graduate student in philosophy at the University of St Andrews in Scotland, and a foreign cooperative researcher at Kyoto University in Japan. Edited by Sam Dresser Marxism and Buddhism might not seem to have much in common. The former is a materialist socioeconomic theory conceived by a 19th-century bearded guy from Trier in Germany, while the latter is a religion originating from … Continue reading Marxism and Buddhism


Illustration by Patrick Leger How to recognize it, work with it, and even find wisdom in it. By Ken McLeod “Anger is one of the densest forms of communication. It conveys more information, more quickly, than almost any other type of emotion.” This is how Charles Duhigg sums up a conversation he had with James Averill, professor emeritus of psychology at UMass, Amherst. Averill also noted that a bit of anger can quickly clear up unspoken resentments, unacknowledged boundary violations, and unaddressed imbalances. On the other hand, in Buddhism anger is often regarded as taboo, an emotional reaction to be avoided … Continue reading Anger

Why We Yell and Scream

Vajrapani, a wrathful protector of the Buddha, at Samye monastery in Lhoka, Tibet. | Photo by Feng Zhong. After bearing the pain and shame of sexual abuse in silence, survivors who speak up don’t need to be told to tone it down. By Patricia Ullman The other day I was talking with a friend about the sexual abuse in my former spiritual community, and she said that she didn’t think so-and-so was doing any favors for those trying to make their voices heard because so-and-so was going on and on and, in effect, ranting. My friend said she thought people would … Continue reading Why We Yell and Scream

Schedule as Teacher

Photo by David Gabriel Fischer | How a rigid monastery lifestyle freed me from my indecision in a world of endless choices. By Ethan Blake “If everyone wears the same robe and follows the same rules, how can they find out who they truly are?” one student asked during our orientation of Green Gulch Farm Zen Center in Muir Beach, California. “When everyone wears and does the same thing,” our practice leader replied, “you can see everyone’s individuality more clearly, like how they walk, bow, talk and carry themselves, rather than judging someone’s shirt choice on a random day.” It … Continue reading Schedule as Teacher

Emptiness and Filling Out Forms: A Practical Approach to Death

Photo by (Kirk) Lai Man Nung | Dying with compassion means having a plan in place for those left behind. A practitioner recounts how she navigated the process with her dharma friends. By Rena Graham As a Tibetan Buddhist practitioner, I am constantly reminded that we never know when death might approach, but for years, I’d avoided dealing with one of the most practical aspects of death—the paperwork. I was not alone: Roughly half of all adults in North America do not have a living will. Then recently, I suffered a near-fatal illness that left me viscerally aware of how unprepared … Continue reading Emptiness and Filling Out Forms: A Practical Approach to Death

What We Can Discover in the Dark Unknown

Photo by Daniel Burka | Exploring our fear of the dark can reveal truths about death and what comes after. By Andrew Holecek In the following excerpt from the course, Holecek explains how looking into our fear of the dark can prepare us to face the unknown factors in our life and in death. I’m a spelunker of the mind. I love to explore the recesses of the darkness of mind and reality, because to me this is where all the goodies are. Many of us suffer from nyctophobia, a fear of the dark, which I believe is synonymous with … Continue reading What We Can Discover in the Dark Unknown