Yesterday I attended the regular Tuesday night sitting with the Seattle Insight Meditation Society. Rodney Smith gave a very insightful dharma talk on the worry and anxiety qualities of mind presented in the Satipatthana Sutta. When SIMS posts the video on Vimeo, I’ll add a link to it. Very enlightening on the subject of worry. As he described the anxiety symptomatology of the “perpetual planner,” I recognized myself rather more sharply than was comfortable. But that’s another post…..
It struck me that after the sitting, I saw someone carrying a copy of the Summer 2008 edition of Tricycle magazine. Odd that someone would carry around an issue that old, or was it? It made me realize how important Tricycle was to the beginning of my practice. Many of us don’t have a built-in Sangha (सन्घ or saṅgha in Pali). In many places in America, there just isn’t the critical mass of people to help us get started on the path. When I started, I was fortunate enough to have a Sangha at SIMS and Nalanda West here in Seattle, but not the lifestyle to take advantage of it. I was a constant business traveler with no rhyme or reason to my schedule. I could never commit to a Tuesday night sitting or a small sitting group because who knew from week to week where I’d be. This put me in the same situation as many people new to Buddhism. Practicing on their own. I relied on podcasts of dharma talks, some night stand Buddhism practices of buying a book here and there, scanning the library and very occasionally television programming. Tricycle in particular was one of the best resources for me in my lonely practice for a couple of reasons. First it gave me access to many different and very well-respected teachers in a compact form. It gave me the breathing room to ”know for myself,” as the Buddha said in the Kalama Sutta. I was able to read while I was on an airplane or in a hotel room the thoughts and perspectives of many teachers and consider what really made sense to me. Secondly, it gave me access to teacher from many traditions, Zen, Tibetan, Theravada and even others. It helped me understand the coarser differences between the points of view and practices of the traditions so I could study and choose a tradition that made the most sense for me and my journey. Some may consider this of nominal benefit, but exploring the different traditions in detail and then selecting was, for me, and I imagine many others simply not practical. Thirdly it gave me tips on paraphernalia. I found a lot of worthy purveyors of things like statues, zafus, zabutons, and so on in the pages of Tricycle. There aren’t many places to just run out to and just pick these things up, like so much tofu and celery. I didn’t even know what a zafu was!
The magazine is still a very useful resource for me. When you can’t buy every book and you can’t read every teacher’s collected works, Tricycle provides the scope of Buddhist tradition with the brevity and clarity conducive to modern laity. The book reviews, the teachings, the essays, Sylvia Boorstein’s “Dear Abbey Dharma,” the social consciousness, the interviews all add up to a very wide range of good reading and insight. The last issue even had an article on the Bhutanese recipe for rice wine!
I highly recommend Tricycle. It was my practice support and teacher for a formative time on the path. It continues to be a useful companion in showing me other perspectives and providing that occasional, short time out to consider my practice, which we all need after a difficult day. A truly valuable resource that I am still grateful for today.