Continuing Inquiring Mind’s twenty-fifth anniversary year, we broaden our view of the Heavenly Messengers, the theme we first addressed last fall. In the traditional legend of the life of the Buddha, the young Prince Siddhartha leaves the palace to encounter four heavenly messengers who are to change his destiny: an old man, a sick man, a corpse and a wandering ascetic. Through the first three encounters, the young prince is introduced to the shocking truths of old age, sickness and death, and through the fourth to the path of the Dharma by which all suffering can be overcome. Introducing the theme for our Fall 2008 issue, scholar-monk Bhikkhu Bodhi wrote, “[I]n the language of myth [this story speaks to us of] a process of awakening through which each of us must pass if the Dharma is to come to life within ourselves.” We must learn to see sickness, old age and death not simply as inescapable realities but as envoys of new dimensions of meaning. When we meet the divine messengers in this way, he continued, “we realize we must make drastic changes in our existential priorities and personal values,” and we are inspired to turn toward the Dharma.
While in the previous issue of Inquiring Mind we explored the teachings of the heavenly messengers as they relate to the individual, in this issue we take a global view. Just as each of our lives is subject to certain basic laws, so are the lives of our civilizations, ideologies, fashions and lifestyles—as well as the living system of the Earth itself. Each has its time to live, to lose its vitality and to die or transform into something new. In the following pages, we explore how our ailing economy can turn us toward the Dharma. We look at human history to find that aging and death are intrinsic to every civilization. We discover how species extinction reveals that we must change our way of life into a simpler, more harmonious mode, aligned with the teachings of the Dharma. And we turn to the fourth messenger, our Buddhist teachers, to guide us in awakening to our condition and developing the compassion that will ease the suffering of all.
Friends in Mind, Friends at Heart
Longtime friends Richard Davidson, Daniel Goleman and Jon Kabat-Zinn—each a pioneer in the meeting of Western science and the Dharma—reminisce about the remarkable intertwining of their lives, their work and their practice.
The Midas Economy
Is the dying economy a good thing? Buddhist scholar-practitioner David Loy deconstructs our institutionalized craving and collective delusion.
Reborn in the U.S.A.
Seeing the promise of a dream within the despair of a nightmare, Susan Griffin calls on each of us to serve as spiritual midwives and healers for the ills of our body politic. She writes, “A new vision is arising and the canvas is ourselves.”
Messenger for Peace
Bestselling author Howard Cutler tells stories of the Dalai Lama’s transformative presence with people in conflict around the globe and of his own personal experience of His Holiness.
Standing Outside the Door
“Daughters of the Buddha”—the many Asian Buddhist nuns struggling in a patriarchal hierarchy—serve as messengers returning Sandy Boucher and all of us, to the spirit of the path.
Where Did I Put My Begging Bowl?
“To forget the self is to be enlightened by the myriad things,” recalls Susan Moon, as she finds both humor and illumination in the often painful memory loss that comes with aging.
Dancing in the Dark Fields
Despite its “rough, cruel road,” illness delivers the message of a different kind of freedom to Zen priest Florence Caplow.
An invasion by skittering rats stirs would-be pacifist Barbara Gates into siege mode: Exterminate them all!
Between Four Eyes founder Theo Koffler brings mindful awareness—based education to conflict-torn regions around the world, including a Rwandan people still healing from genocide.
Practice: Turn Off, Tune Out, Drop In
Ethan Nichtern offers Dharma advice for our modern bad habits—email addiction, TV watching, and the fundamental escape of never wanting to be alone with ourselves.
The Dharma & The Drama
Wes Nisker lifts the veil that shrouds the workings of our global economic upheaval, the Earth’s current “extinction spasm,” and the machinery of modern times.