The Zen Studies Podcast

Recent Episodes

39 – Buddhist History 7: Indian Buddhism After the Buddha – The First 200 Years

This episode, the 7th in my sequential Buddhist History series, covers the first 200 years or so of Buddhism, beginning with the traditional account of events immediately after the Buddha’s passing. Then I describe how the ordained Sangha met to compile and codify his teachings and their code of discipline, and eventually began dividing into different sects and schools. This is a fascinating story that reflects what really mattered to early Buddhists.

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33 – Buddhist History 6: Life of Shakyamuni Buddha Part 4 – More Teachings and Stories

This episode finishes up my story of Shakyamuni Buddha's life. It continues with the development of the early Sangha, including the ordination of women and the establishment of a code of discipline for monastics. It also covers teachings given by the Buddha not already mentioned in earlier episodes, and some of the more dramatic and colorful stories about the Buddha and the early Buddhist community.

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23 – How Buddhists Should Behave: Evolution of the Buddhist Precepts Part 2

In this episode, I continue with the story of the Theravadin precepts (see Part 1 for the first part of the story) - particularly how the Vinaya has affected the ordination of monks and nuns, and how lay people participate in precept practice. Then we move on to China, and I talk about how the Chinese dealt with the question of how to establish an authentic Buddhist lineage while adapting the Vinaya to China, and avoiding the trap of "hinayana" practice that Mahayana sutras warned about (was the Vinaya "hinayana" practice?). They responded by creating additional Mahayana precepts, and elaborate sets of monastic regulations.

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17 – Buddhist History 5: Life of Shakyamuni Buddha Part 3 – Early Teaching and Sangha

This is the first episode of two on the Buddha's 45-year teaching career and the establishment of the Buddhist community. I’ll talk about the Buddha’s first sermons, the enlightenment of the first disciples, the first lay students of the Buddha and how lay practice figures into early Buddhism, and the initial formation of the ordained Sangha and how they practiced on a daily basis.

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12 – Buddhist History 4: Life of Shakyamuni Buddha Part 2 – Before and After Enlightenment

In this second episode on the Buddha's life, I tell the story of his spiritual struggle and search, and the circumstances around his enlightenment. Then I summarize his teaching career, and tell the story of his passing, in order to give you a sense of the arc of his entire life. In Episode 9: Shakyamuni Buddha’s Enlightenment: What Did He Realize? I go into more detail about the content of the Buddha's enlightenment, and in Episode 17: Life of Shakyamuni Buddha Part 3: Buddha’s First Sermons and Students, and the Early Sangha I return to the subject of the Buddha's teaching career, which requires 1-2 episodes on its own.

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11 – Buddhist History 3: Life of Shakyamuni Buddha Part 1 – Birth through Homeleaving

Buddhism began when Siddhartha Gautama experienced a spiritual awakening over 2,500 years ago in India, and became an “awakened one,” or Buddha. In this first episode on his life, I first explain in detail the sources of biographical information we have on the Buddha - their historicity and significance. Then I tell the story of the Buddha's life from just before his birth until he decides to leave home as a spiritual mendicant. 

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6 – Buddhist History 2: Arising of Buddhism Part 2 of 2 – New Religious Developments

At the time of the Buddha around 500 BCE, social and economic changes had paved the way for new schools of religious thought and practice. In this episode, I talk about these new religious movements, including Buddhism - particularly, their major spiritual questions and how they answered them. This gives you a sense of how Buddhism compared to the other new religions of its time, and how the Buddha’s approach differed from those of his contemporary spiritual teachers.

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5 – Buddhist History 1: Arising of Buddhism Part 1 of 2 – Historical and Religious Context

The first episode in my “Buddhist History and Seminal Texts” series, about the historical and religious context for the beginnings of Buddhism in India around 500 BCE. I give you a brief overview of the history of civilization in India, and a sense of the dominant religious traditions of northern India from around 2000 BCE through the time of the Buddha. Then I describe the period of social and economic changes starting around 800 BCE that apparently paved the way for new schools of religious thought and practice, including Buddhism.

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