Open Letter to Tricycle

by Samuel Bercholz

When Tricycle was first published seven years ago, I was proud to be one of the charter members of the Board of Advisors. As an avid supporter, I was enthusiastic about the journal's stated agenda: to present Buddhism to English language readers as well as to serve as a forum for the evolution of Buddhist thought and practice.

Lately, however, like many former advisors, I have found it impossible to support or recommend Tricycle. I have become increasingly dismayed to see a gradual erosion of what at first were very pure ideals reduced to the lowest common denominator of American journalism, including celebrity worship and scandal mongering.

Under a banner that seeks to present a democratic agenda of sangha wisdom, Tricycle has ironically turned its back on its original aims, becoming instead a subtle platform for disparaging teachers of Asian descent, especially Tibetans, as well as introducing a sexist tone that seeks to reduce the status of male teachers. More importantly, Tricycle has become increasingly suspicious of the very source of dharma, the precious preceptors that have been kind enough to transmit the dharma to the West. By being racist, sexist, and anti-teacher, Tricycle has become de facto anti-Buddhist. Teachings have been twisted and re-interpreted in an effort to become "contemporary" and easily accessible. But this reductive tendency maligns those ancient and noble traditions that the journal first sought to introduce.

Particularly troublesome to me, is the problem that the editor-in-chief seems to have with Tibetan Buddhism. Irresponsible articles have been published regarding Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche (my own teacher) and Kalu Rinpoche, and recently in the Editors View column, disparaging remarks were made about Thinley Norbu Rinpoche. The article "Deity or Demon" in the 1998 spring issue was a particular example of irresponsible and reductive journalism.

It would be simple for any journalist to counter the above criticisms by saying that the articles, editorials, and letters to the editor are published in the name of so-called truth. After all, this is the motto of American journalism. But this sort of "truth" is purely the "truth" of egotism and opportunism. Tricycle would better serve the English-speaking community of Buddhists, as well as those who seek to be introduced to Buddhism, if it's policies were directed toward a truly non-sectarian, non-racist, non-sexist approach, to the "truth" that is dharma.

There is a great need to fulfill the promise that Tricycle offered when it was founded. I submit that the editors, directors, advisors and donors of Tricycle would better serve the cause of Buddhadharma by working together to revise the journal. There is a great irony in the fact that so many Buddhists of various traditions won't allow Tricycle in their house, including many of the founding members of the Board of Advisors.

Samuel Bercholz