In Pittsburgh the local branches of Borders and Barnes & Noble tended to have quite a bit of selection each for religion and spirituality oriented magazines. Here in the part of North Carolina I am currently in the selection is sparse, although between a few stores that are a half an hour or less away I can find and look through a fairly decent variety of periodicals. I am not writing to lament this paucity of magazine choice. I simply wondered about the differences in perspectives offered by different Buddhist-esque mags that are presumably shared (or at least appreciated) by their readers.
However, this reduction in options is worth mentioning as it encouraged me to try a broader range of selections than I was used to. I do not dislike Tricycle, Shambhala Sun, or Buddhadharmra. I also do not have anything against WiE (What Is Enlightenment?). I generally pick them up first and give them a chance. All of them have had really great articles at various times that have tempted me to buy the magazine just to cut out one or two gems. But just as often as not, I flip through them, scan a few of the more promising looking pieces, place the copy back on the shelf, and then go to look for something else to peruse.
So recently I go in to a bookstore and the issues for Tricycle et al are the still the same as last time (I don’t know about Buddhadharma because the store that carries it is a longer trip), so I scan around and pick up the current issue of something called Light of Consciousness. I tend to evaluate magazines based on whether the contents are informative, inspiring, or both. I really enjoyed the contents of LoC. It has an interfaith approach and a good deal of Buddhism and Buddhist-appealing content focused on a particular theme, somewhat similar to Parabola. In addition it seemed to have a goal of being as uplifting as much as providing a forum for interesting ideas. Some may be turned off by the New Age ads or one of the more spacey articles, but that didn’t bug me. A little later I spot Tikkun magazine. I knew about it vaguely from the time someone had referred online to the Network of Spiritual Progressives, but I hadn’t looked for the magazine nor had I run across it before. It was again interfaith in nature, but it also had some Buddhist content. Moreover, it had a sense of social responsibility and provided competing liberal viewpoints on issues at the intersection of religion, culture, and politics.
In terms of organization and content, LoC, WiE, and Tikkun seem to offer something for my own Buddhist practice that tends to be lacking in the more explicitly Buddhist magazines (Tricycle, Shambala Sun, and Buddhadharma). Is it just me? So long as each magazine is serving the needs of its readers, I am not suggesting they should all conform to my personal preferences, but I suppose I found it a little odd. I am not saying any of the latter three do not make their own contributions to my understanding of Buddhism (in America and elsewhere) or offer good advice, inspiration, etc. In a way, it’s like one set of magazines is more into what it means to look like, sound like, feel like, or otherwise have the appearance or credentials to be a Buddhist, while perhaps the others are more about what how one might see things or what one might do as a Buddhist/Buddha (or any concerned engaged spiritual person open to an interfaith perspective). As a generalization this fails to hold, but that is at least the impression I get more often than not.