2021 Buddhist Tricycle Gift Guide


As we approach the end of 2021, a year shaped by the many challenges of experiencing a pandemic, we might feel like giving a little differently this holiday season. In most Buddhist traditions, the winter solstice is not a time for gifts wrapped in paper with large bows on top. Although there are Buddhist cultures with gift giving conventions, as in japanese label– the practice of giving alms or offerings is much more widespread. But for those of us who live in the West, this is the season to share tokens of gratitude. So how can we give gifts in a Buddhist way?

An article in tricycle Winter 2007 issue, “Gifts that keep on giving”By Joan Duncan Oliver, answers: Give with compassion. Oliver suggests that we buy gifts that are ethically sourced, environmentally friendly, and help someone in need – in other words, they relieve suffering instead of creating it.

One approach is to give to a charity on someone else’s behalf, and there are many great organizations to choose from (see below). But for those times when we’re supposed to hand out gifts (at the annual Secret Santa office, for example), here’s a selection of ways to give in the Buddhist spirit.

Don’t buy anything and give more

Do you have any dust-collecting household items in a closet that could serve someone else better? Or, do you need something last minute, say an extra dining chair for guests or mushy bananas for banana bread? Consider joining the Project do not buy anything, an international network of community giving groups that provides a way for people to give and receive, share, lend and express gratitude to their neighbors. With over four million members and nearly seven thousand individual Buy Nothing communities, the project has attracted a lot because of its simple but effective rule: everything must be given freely. This holiday season, the project encourages people to give and ask others in their local communities instead of buying gifts. You can find your local Buy Nothing community on the New BuyNothing app or via the project Facebook groups list.

Be smart!

For a variety of ethical shopping needs, visit the online store Ten thousand villages, which, as the name suggests, features ethically sourced crafts from developing countries around the world. The mission of the Pennsylvania-based nonprofit is to provide their artisans with a living wage and safe working conditions, as well as to promote energy efficient practices and the use of local and recycled materials. The organization, one of the oldest and largest fair trade groups, started in 1946 and was based on the Mennonite principles of its founder, Edna Ruth Byler, but her shop features several products from Buddhist traditions. Discover its selection of singing bowls from Nepalese artists or get a yoga mat bag of a pair of weavers in Guatemala. Or for non-Buddhist recipients, browse their selection of jewelry, household items, and other crafts.

the Tibetan Nuns Project (NPT) is a more Buddhist alternative to handmade crafts. Known for its nun sponsorship program, TNP was established to help refugee nuns from Tibet to India, but it has expanded to “provide food, shelter, education and health care to over 700 nuns of all traditions, ”the group says. Their online store supports these efforts by selling bags, malas, prayer flags, and other crafts made and blessed by nuns. You can also buy pujas [prayers and rituals], which can be dedicated to a loved one.

Words to the wise

For book lovers, there are a lot of options to choose from. Three of the largest publishers of Buddhist literature, Wisdom publications, Shambhala publications, and Ring true, all pride themselves on environmental initiatives, and Wisdom’s Books for prisoners programs and Sounds True Prison library project make Buddhist resources available to incarcerated populations. If you’re looking for something more interactive, check out the simple guided meditation coloring books from The coloring method.

Need a book suggestion? To verify what we read.

Presence gifts

One way to support Dharma with your gifts is to buy from stores that help fund meditation centers. Just livelihoods are the guiding principle of the monastery store. The store, which sells supplies for Buddhist practice, is staffed by residents and volunteers of Zen Mountain Monastery in upstate New York, where they are trained in “the practice of work” or “work. sacred ”as part of the Order of Mountains and Rivers founded by the late American Zen teacher John Daido Loori. The store also emphasizes responsible environmental practices. I can personally recommend the buckwheat zafu, or meditation seat, and their plush zabuton “bodhi seat”, which I bought two years ago after repeatedly trying to get my left leg to stop falling asleep and have been using happily ever since. They also have a wonderful selection of low smoke incense for those who want to maintain an altar with a sensitive nose. But for gifts outside of the Zen tradition, buyers will have to look elsewhere.

the Namse Bangdzo Bookstore at the Karma Triyana Dharmachakra (KTD) in Woodstock, New York, also offers sanctuary and practice supplies, including meditation cushions, malas, and incense, as well as items specific to Tibetan Buddhism that could be more hard to find, like a bump ritual vase or a kapala, or cranial cup, used in some Vajrayana practices.

Tea and sympathy

The tea was a enlightenment symbol ever since the 9th-century Zen master Joshu said to his students, “Go drink some tea!” But while there are a wide variety of fair trade tea vendors to choose from, including some of the biggest distributors, many tea producers around the world continue to be exploited and abused. A BBC report 2015 discovered widespread abuse by British tea companies in India, although these companies claim to have improved conditions. The group Ethical consumer, which ranks UK-based tea suppliers, recommends that in addition to seeking fair trade and organic certification, buyers choose single-source teas over blends, which are more difficult to trace, and opt for for loose tea rather than sachets, which are rarely made from sustainable materials.

Gentle monk only sells tea from a single estate in the Kumamoto area of ​​Japan with an emphasis on environmental friendliness. Through the Kiva micro-credit site, they also support small farms in the region. For a wider range of tea options, the Oregon-based company Strand Tea Company promises sustainable fair trade practices and also donates profits to charities, including tiger conservation efforts in Tamil Nadu, India, and its local chapter of the League of Women’s Voters.

For some recipe ideas, you can check out Zen Teacher Bo-Mi Choi’s Guide to Korean Tea Remedies.


When wrapping your gift, consider alternatives to wasting paper and tape. An alternative is the Japanese gift wrapping method in reusable cloths called furoshiki (which literally translates to “bath mat” since its origins as a way to wrap things in public baths). You can spend hours looking for different ways to tie the colorful wrappers, which become part of the gift itself. If crafts aren’t your thing, reusable gift bags or tote bags are another great option.

Instructions courtesy of the Japanese Ministry of the Environment

Or you can wrap your gift in a scarf, adding another seasonal gift. You can buy Tibetan yak yarn scarves at mYak for social good collection, which donates its profits to a mobile library project on the Tibetan plateau that brings books to children in 50 villages.

Charitable donations

Maybe your loved ones have let go of their attachment to material things or are having enough trouble finding room for the things they already have, but you still want to let them know that you are thinking of them. Donating to a charity on their behalf can be the perfect gift, and some people might even request it. While there are many worthy charities out there, here is a selection of notable initiatives:

  • the Jamyang Foundation helps nuns in the most remote areas of the Himalayas.
  • Nuns of Nangchen helps nuns of the Tsoknyi lineage in eastern Tibet.
  • Ayya ​​Yeshe is Bodhicitta Foundation provides vocational training and education for women and children in India.
  • Live to love empowers the people of the Himalayas through initiatives in gender equality, education, animal care and disaster relief.
  • Lotus Awareness supports young girls in India and Cambodia.
  • the Lineage Project teaches mindful movement, meditation, breathing, and mindful conversation to vulnerable New York City youth. You can read an interview with the CEO of the group here.
  • Pete’s place is an interfaith homeless shelter in Sante Fe, New Mexico. You can discover their work in this writing by a volunteer from the Upaya Zen Center.
  • World Buddhist Relief, founded by Buddhist teacher and translator Bhikku Bodhi, seeks to address chronic hunger and malnutrition worldwide through direct food aid, educational initiatives and the promotion of sustainable food production .

A tricycle designed for two (or more)

If you are willing to give us some self-promotion, a Tricycle subscription also makes a wonderful gift. We are a non-profit organization that works to make Dharma more accessible through insightful and timely articles as well as through our free initiatives such as Buddhism for beginners and our annual Meditation month. In addition to receiving our latest issue, our subscription gives you unlimited access to our article archive, our vast collection of videos. Dharma talks, and our Movie club, plus subscribers receive a reduced registration fee for all Tricycles online course. We’re also offering a new premium subscription option, which includes access to premium virtual events, a premium newsletter, and a free digital gift subscription. If you’re already a subscriber you know how much we have to offer, so share it with a friend (and throughout 2021 if you share it with more than one person, each additional gift is 50 percent off).


This article has been adapted from the 2018 Tricycle Gift Guide.


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