In this issue of Inquiring Mind we had been planning to offer our readers relief from the suffering of seriousness. Back in September we decided that the world was too much with us all, and that a full dose of dharma humor would be the cure. But the harsh realities of the world kept demanding a voice, and we ended up splitting the issue between gravitas and levitas, ending up—surprise, surprise—on the middle path. You might think of the smiling and frowning masks—that old symbol of the theater—as a mandala for this issue, the yin-yang of our human moods.
While already working on our “humor” issue, what first pulled us back into the world were the results of the American presidential election. After the election we found many people in our sangha circles concerned about the course of our collective future and wondering how to express one’s political truth in times of division, rancor and a palpable level of public fear. We asked best-selling author and linguistics professor George Lakoff to explain how language and current consciousness research can help us understand our political dilemmas and communicate our truths.
Then the tsunami happened. Our friend and regular contributor Ronna Kabatznick had been on retreat in Thailand and quickly went to the disaster area to offer her psychotherapy skills. Mixing pathos with redemption, her account not only takes us into the heart of the tragedy but brings us the deepest of dharma insights into the nature of this life.
The major part of the journal is still devoted to reflections on the ultimate lightness of being. This attitude is often embodied in our teachers, as you will discover in the stories from the lives of Chögyam Trungpa, Ajahn Chah and others, as they teach the dharma in surprising and often humorous ways. We explore playfulness—from koan practice to the tantric trickster’s ways—and Buddhist humor in various guises, revealing that levity has an honored place in the dharma.
Along with the features already mentioned, you will also find included in this issue: author Andy Cooper channeling a Dashelle Hammett take on the Buddha; C.I.I.S. professor Steven Goodman on tantric tricksters; renowned scholar and raconteur Robert Thurman on the wizardry of the Buddha; Zen teachers Susan Murphy and John Tarrant on the playfulness of Zen and, in particular, the koan; Reverend Heng Sure of the Berkeley Buddhist Monastery finding hilarity on a pilgrimage and elsewhere on the middle path; writer Susan Burrgraf with a provocative invitation to Buddhists to celebrate the holidays of the Roman calendar; and Inquiring Mind co-editor Barbara Gates giving her dog a bath as a last rite. Jane Baraz contributes to our gravitas section with a call for Buddhist communities to become sanctuaries for conscientious objectors. Meanwhile, vipassana teacher James Baraz penned this issue’s practice page with an appeal for joy. Last but not least, we turned our poetry pages over to Lama Surya Das for a traditional Tibetan rant of self-criticism and admonishment. We invite you to laugh and cry with all of us.