Long Reads

In addition to shorter essays and blogs, we believe that there is a need for rigorous intellectual work to develop the language, concepts, and perspectives that we aim to explore in this journal. Our Long Reads section provides a space for in-depth essays and scholarly articles, which we offer as downloadable PDFs. We hope you enjoy and invite you to participate in this unfolding conversation.

Illustration of person falling

Taking Refuge in the Family of Things

—Exploring the Nature of Attachment— To take refuge is to return home. Children come into this world needing to take refuge. All children. To be born onto this plane of existence is to experience the vulnerability of being a stranger in a strange land. Hence, during the first years of a child’s life, the primary context in which he or she can take refuge will be that of the child’s primary caregivers…. [B]ecause our first experience of need and of sangha is in our contact with our first caregivers, the quality of this connection will affect our every future perception of relationship, as well as our perception of the world as good or bad, safe or threatening. If enlightenment is indeed a capacity to experience the inherent intimacy of all things, then it becomes useful to discover how our earliest relationships either enhance or block this intimacy. —Download full article below— —Read Jessica Stern’s introduction to the special section here— Download Article PDF: Taking Refuge in the Family of Things Illustration by Alicia Brown

Praxis, Pragmatics, Right Action and The Shambhala Principle

—Toward a Socially Responsible Philosophy— In this article, I will first discuss the socially responsible European philosophies of praxis, pragmatics, and right action, and show how they have given new meaning to human activity. Then I will show that although they are helpful in giving us insights, they are inadequate in providing us with a practical plan of action to fuel societal transformation. Finally, I will argue that what is presented in The Shambhala Principle is not only consistent with ideas presented in these European socially responsible philosophies, but actually takes these ideas to a new level by stating that personal and social transformation are inseparable. By studying both European philosophy and The Shambhala Principle, we will see that they mutually inform and enrich each other, turning theory into practices that uplift the human condition and make us better human beings. —Download full article below— Download Article PDF: Praxis, Pragmatics, Right Action and The Shambhala Principle Illustration by Alicia Brown

Illustration of Gesar

Creating Enlightened Society

—Compassion in the Shambhala Tradition— Abstract With the broader propagation of the Shambhala teachings that highlight the importance of creating enlightened society, it is natural to wonder what compassion means in a Shambhala context. In conjunction with Naropa University’s 40th Anniversary and the theme of “radical compassion,” this article explores the unique contributions of the Shambhala teachings to cultivating and manifesting compassion in a complex, ever-changing world full of overt and subtle modes of suffering. The approach of the article is to provide a historical and cultural context for the Shambhala teachings and for their relevance to contemporary global crises, and to provide scriptural and commentarial support for the view of compassion as a motivation for creating enlightened society. —Download full article below— Download Article PDF: Creating Enlightened Society Illustration by Alicia Brown

Illustration depicting various abstract protest scenes from Occupy Wallstreet

Through Rites, All Things Flourish

—The Power of the Ceremonial in Classical Confucianism and in Contemporary Rituals of Dissent— Abstract “The fate of our times is characterized, above all, by the disenchantment of the world.” This, Max Weber’s 1919 characterization of modernity, presaged what many have come to see as a crisis of meaning in our contemporary world. Some have argued that our “secular age,” with its pluralistic, relativized, and dominantly scientific episteme, fails to supply the sense of meaning that was once ensured through the myths and rituals that bound communities together under the promise of harmonization with sacred, cosmic order. And whether one agrees or not with the characterization of modernity as a disenchanted space threatening moral disorientation and existential doubt, it is clear that formal religious rituals no longer play a definitive role in organizing society at large. Ceremony may seem like a relic of an enchanted past, or the plaything of those who keep up ancient traditions in modern contexts. But perhaps we are not all that divorced from the power of ceremony and the enchantment of myth, …

Image of a lhasang ceremony. Photograph by Peter Alan Roberts

Ideas of Order

—Science and Ceremony in Ordinary Life— Abstract This article is a contemplation on how ceremony and ritual re-value the magic and depth of subjective experience, not as a form of consolation or as a validation of wishful thinking, but as a necessary and sacred foundation on which objective and rational ways of knowing our world must rest. Resting on ritual ways of knowing, rationality takes its proper place in the pantheon of experience and supports good human society and a healthy world; left to its own devices, rationality becomes a rapacious mechanism that consumes our world, destroys its ecological integrity, and justifies cruelty and selfishness that beggars the imagination. —Download full article below— Download Article PDF: Ideas of Order

Illustration of fly and bottle

Practicing Society

—Practices of Self, Society, and Time on the Way to Personal and Societal Transformation— Abstract While there is no fundamental separation between personal and social transformation, modern conceptions of the self (as internal) and society (as external) can construct unnecessary obstacles for the theorization and practice of contemplative social movements. Instead of imagining a fluid and interdependent relationship between transformations in subjectivity—such as shifts in psychological experience, identity, and awareness—on the one hand, and shifts in socio-economic and political circumstances, on the other, we may be led to imagine a situation in which we must first make “inner” change and then subsequently enact “external” structural change. In this article, I offer a practice-oriented view that understands the sense of self as embedded in everyday social practices, and society itself as a practice, as a way to remove these unnecessary obstacles. In the space opened up, we can better conceive of spiritual practices that include the socio-political realm and socio-political practices that include transformations in subjectivity. The primary example that allows me to trace these themes …

Illustration of two forks facing in opposite directions

Society as Possibility

—On the Semantic Range of the Tibetan Term Sipa— Abstract Tibet has been credited as a repository of ancient wisdom, even as its political and social systems prior to 1950 have been viewed more ambiguously. The three-century rule under the auspices of successive Dalai Lamas has been condemned by some as an oppressive feudal theocracy and idealized by others as a Shangri-la ruled by a benevolent “god-king.” What vision of society is captured in usages of the Tibetan term sipa, which can mean both “society” and “possibility,” and how has this been reimagined in recent decades? One avenue to pursue such a question would be to look at the deployment of this term and its implications as the Tibetan government in exile has transitioned to democracy. Instead, I am interested in charting a different type of innovation, one in which the Tibetan Buddhist master Chögyam Trungpa and his son and lineage heir Sakyong Mipham have probed the valences of the term sipa and fashioned a fresh vision for contemporary society. —Download full article below— Download Article …

Illustration of two faces looking in opposite directions, one looking at the text "No future," the other looking at "The future is now"

Is the Future Back in the Picture?

—Resilience, Resurgence, and Redisovery: Reflections on the Quest for a New Social Vision— Abstract Why, in the face of an apparently relentless onslaught of resource depletion and seemingly irreversible social patterns, are voices not just of protest but of optimistic advocacy being raised? In my lifetime of work in the fields of human rights, environmental protection, and war prevention, I have witnessed some of the most heartbreaking cruelty and devastation of which human beings are capable. The difficulties we face in confronting and preventing such abuses have left many wonderful and committed people on the front-lines of social action in a state of cynicism, bitterness, and hypercritical despair. People often ask me what sustains the human spirit in the face of seemingly overwhelming odds. It’s a question worth asking, as each of us in our own way is living through times when we are forced, increasingly, to consider it. —Download full article below— Download Article PDF: Is the Future Back in the Picture? Illustration by Alicia Brown