The Zen Studies Podcast

Recent Episodes

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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32 – The Practice of Not-Knowing: Relief, Intimacy, and Ground for Effective Action

The Zen practice of "not-knowing," or "don't-know mind," is a way of honoring the absolute dimension of our lives - even as we engage in "knowing," as necessary, in the relative dimension. We center ourselves in the here-and-now, and recognize all "knowing" is ultimately an abstraction and not reality itself. It's not a cop-out; it's medicine we apply when we get attached to our opinions, caught in judgment, stressed, or overwhelmed, ironically allowing us be more responsible, responsive, compassionate, and effective.

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29 – Six Realms of Existence Part 1: Introduction and the Heaven Realm

In this episode, part 1 of 3, I explain the Buddhist teaching of the Six Realms of Existence, also known as the Wheel of Life, or the Wheel of Samsara. I share the rich mythology and imagery of this teaching while explaining how it can be a useful teaching for everyday life independent of a belief in literal rebirth. In this first episode I introduce the overall teaching and talk about the Heaven Realm. 

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25 – Work as Spiritual Practice According to Dogen’s “Instructions to the Cook” – Part 1

Zen demands that we engage our everyday activities, particularly work, as spiritual practice. Few writings describe Zen work practice as well as Zen master Dogen’s “Tenzokyokun,” or “Instructions to the Tenzo” (a tenzo being the head cook in a monastery), so I’ll use this short text to frame my presentation. Although the Tenzokyokun describes the work of a specialized role within a Zen monastery, its teachings about taking care, serving others, appreciating everything, and becoming one with your work are relevant to everyone, no matter what their work or life circumstances.

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24 – Deepen Your Zazen by Not Getting Stuck in Satisfaction or Dissatisfaction

It's tempting, particularly in Mahayana Buddhism, to get stuck in a kind of superficial satisfaction with your zazen and practice. Of course, it's possible to get stuck in dissatisfaction as well. In this episode I walk you through four steps to deepen your zazen by using your dissatisfaction as guide for your efforts. I also compare zazen to walking on a tightrope - the instructions are simple, but actually doing it is challenging and requires experience, effort, and attention.

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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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