Tricycle Magazine Publishes Major Story
On Northwest Dharma Association

Written by: Steve Wilhelm

Monks gather for Vesak in the main shrine room at Nalanda West, a meditation center in Seattle, 2014.

Monks gather for Vesak in the main shrine room at Nalanda West, a meditation center in Seattle, 2014.
Photos by: Joe Romero, Steve Wilhelm

Northwest Dharma Association got its most extensive-ever national press coverage this summer, via a feature article in Tricycle Magazine.

The story grew out of conversation that started in Tricycle’s Manhattan office in the fall of 2016, and then deepened after the U.S. presidential election.

I lobbied to get the story in the print edition, on the grounds that cooperation among Dharma groups in the U.S. Northwest, and across the border into Canada, would be in healing opposition to the divisive approach of the new U.S. president. The editors accepted the premise, but wanted the story to be as transparent as possible and not a “softball.”

In journalist-speak that means they wanted the story to include the difficult as well as the beautiful, to include Northwest Dharma Association’s struggles as well as its victories. I did my best to accomplish that.

Venerable Tulku Yeshe Gyatso leads a calligraphy demonstration and workshop at Seattle University.

Venerable Tulku Yeshe Gyatso leads a calligraphy demonstration and workshop at the 2014 Arts as Buddhist Practice festival, at Seattle University.

As you may know Northwest Dharma Association is a nearly unique regional organization of Buddhist groups and sanghas, 138 of them at latest count. The vision is that communication and mutual support among Buddhists is a great virtue, and can help support the vibrancy of Dharma practice in the Northwest.

This region would seem to be perfectly suited for divisiveness, because there are so many sub-groups. In addition to the multiplicity of Buddhist paths within the dharma, Northwest Dharma Association’s territory includes groups on both sides of the Canada-U.S. border, as well as a wide range of ethnic Buddhist groups as well as Western convert groups.

We don’t look alike, we’re from many different countries, and we often don’t speak the same languages. But those differences hardly seem to matter, over-ridden by a shared dedication to the dharma, to bringing the Buddha’s teachings alive in 2017.

This was a fun project because I got an opportunity to hear from long-time and insightful Northwest Dharma Association supporters, from around the larger region. These included Vancouver, B.C. Zen teacher Eshin Godfrey; Seattle Zen teacher Anita Feng, Portland Tibetan teacher Jacqueline Mandell, and Seattle Japanese Vajrayana teacher Taijo Imanaka. Take a look at the story to see what they had to say.

Master Nguyen An, abbot of Seattle’s Colam Temple (right); and Master Kim Lee (left), also from Colam; lead a Vesak procession at Seattle University in 2013.

Master Nguyen An (right), and Master Kim Lee (left), from Co Lam Temple in Seattle, lead a 2013 Vesak procession at Seattle University.

Tricycle wanted the story to look more broadly around the world at the question of dharma collectives, which opened the door to connect with some very fascinating people.

A favorite was Dr. T. Kenjitsu Nakagaki, a priest in the Jodo Shinshu tradition, who doubles as president of the Buddhist Council of New York.

Nakagaki’s challenges sounded like Northwest Dharma’s; it’s hard to get people to look beyond their own sanghas, and it’s hard to get them to financially support a collective vision.

Tricycle also wanted the story to get real about Northwest Dharma Association’s challenges, and so it is. The organization survives on a shoestring, supported by members and by the generosity of donors who believe the mission makes an important difference in the world.

Reading between the lines here: Yes, please do donate if you are so moved.

Working with the editorial and photographic team at Tricycle was terrific. They were smart, flexible and supportive, a great combination when trying to bring a major story to print.