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Buddhadharma : Spri 2007
spring 2007| 90 |buddhadharma that the publication would be supported by the Vipassana sangha but be independent and not represent “any particular teacher or ideol- ogy” and would “consider the ten thousand joys and ten thousand sorrows in all their multiple shapes and forms.” Gates says, “What really excited us were the creative people who were getting into Buddhism, and they weren’t necessarily Ther- avadin. We were also drawn to the engaged Buddhists. Arts and politics were pulling us into a wider Buddhist arena.” Nisker says that the Vipassana community felt “less culturally beholden to its Asian roots, so we were open to Western influences and innovation and experimentation. We were committed to pub- lishing the descendents of Mahasi Sayadaw, Ajahn Chah, and others, but we could also be a place where all streams of Buddhism could have a voice. “What an exciting time it was – and is – with all traditions of Buddhism sharing the same soil,” says Nisker. “We were, and still are, sensitive and open to new scientific dis- coveries, how artists interpret the dharma, how psychology might view the Buddhist approach to the mind.” These interests led to having themes for each issue. “Focusing on a theme gives us an opportunity for interplay among the different pieces, for an unspoken dialogue between them,” says Gates. “We can search for offerings from different per- spectives. It has also enabled us to break new ground – in parenting, education, prisons, and so on – and also to shake things up sometimes, such as when we gave play to vipassana prac- titioners who were interested in Dzogchen. That caused a stir.” In the midst of all the ground breaking and stirring, Gates and Nisker were also doing the bulk mail drops. “I forget those times,” Nisker says. “I just can’t imagine how we did that.” But they did, and after about three years, they were straining. Fortunately, Alan Novidor, a They call it “The Mind.” It’s fifty-one pages of teachings, commentary, criti- cism, storytelling, poetry, art, and miscel- lany that has been distributed at no charge to readers and practice centers twice yearly since 1984. Inquiring Mind, whose estimated read- ership now approaches thirty thousand, was the first Buddhist journal in the West commit- ted to finding material from a broad spectrum of Buddhist teachers. As a result, the list of significant teachers who have appeared in its pages – and who have offered original think- ing on the themes that each issue is devoted to – would fill this page. And the whole time it has been produced by the same small band of people operating out of their homes in Berke- ley. The Mind boggles. Inquiring Mind was born on a car ride home from a ski trip in the Sierras in 1983. Joseph Goldstein and Wes Nisker were talk- ing about the fact that people in the Vispas- sana community seemed interested in having a journal, and Goldstein suggested Nisker start it up. The name “Inquiring Mind” occur- red to them quite early on, and although they considered many other possibilities, it stuck. Wes quickly concluded he did not want to do it alone, so when his friend Barbara Gates dropped by Harwood House, a communal outpost of Vipassana practitioners, after ev- eryone had taken a hot tub together he called Profile: inQuiring Mind By Barry Boyce across the proverbial crowded room and asked, “Hey, you want to start a Buddhist journal?” Nisker had started practicing vipassana with S.N. Goenka in Bodhgaya in 1970, on a retreat with Goldstein and a clutch of other future Western dharma teachers. Meanwhile, Gates was developing her skills working on the Bennington College literary magazine with Anne Waldman. Her friend “Johnny Kabat,” who studied with Zen master Seung Sahn, gave her meditation instruction in her commu- nal house near Harvard Square. But her sitting career really began in a course with Goldstein at the Naropa Institute in the summer of 1977. Friends she made there encouraged her to move to Berkeley. When they launched the journal, Nisker was doing news and commentary for KFOG, the kind of alternative-rock station that played entire albums, and Gates was working as a high school teacher. They pitched ideas to each other on the phone dur- ing breaks. Although there were other Buddhist-community newslet- ters, Gates and Nisker decided they wanted something broader based, so their first issue carried the statement nal house near Harvard Square. But her sitting career really began in a course with Goldstein at the Naropa Institute in the When they launched the journal, Nisker was doing news and commentary for KFOG, the kind of alternative-rock station that played entire albums, and Gates was working as a high school teacher. They pitched ideas to each other on the phone dur- ing breaks. Although there were other Buddhist-community newslet- ters, Gates and Nisker decided they wanted something broader based, so their first issue carried the statement Inquiring Mind’s editors in chief Wes Nisker and Barbara Gates with publisher Alan Novidor. JEANNIEo’CoNNoR MaHaSangHa neWS: PROFILE