107 – Finding and Enacting Our Best Response to the World’s Suffering

107 – Finding and Enacting Our Best Response to the World’s Suffering

Buddhism includes values of Right Action and Right Livelihood, generosity, goodwill, and compassion, and Mahayana Buddhists vow to free all beings from suffering. It’s not easy to enact these values and aspirations in the modern world, which is so complex we find ourselves complicit in causes of suffering simply by participating in society, or by neglecting to stand up for change. How do we find and enact our best response to the world’s suffering? 

106 – Dogen’s “Four Ways Bodhisattvas Embrace Living Beings” – Part 2 – Giving

106 – Dogen’s “Four Ways Bodhisattvas Embrace Living Beings” – Part 2 – Giving

In the last episode I introduced an essay by Zen master Dogen called Bodaisatta-Shishobo, or the Four Ways Bodhisattvas Embrace Living Beings. I briefly defined the bodhisattva’s four embracing actions: Giving, kind speech, beneficial action, and “sharing the same aim.” Then I started working through Dogen’s essay line by line. In this episode I finish the section of the Shishobo on giving.

105 – Dogen’s Shishobo: The Four Ways Bodhisattvas Embrace Living Beings – Part 1

105 – Dogen’s Shishobo: The Four Ways Bodhisattvas Embrace Living Beings – Part 1

Given the many stressful and sad things happening in the world right now, I thought it would be nice to spend a couple episodes on a beautiful and inspiring essay by 13th century Zen master Dogen called “Bodaisatta-Shishobo,” or the “Four Ways Bodhisattvas Embrace Living Beings.” (I briefly mentioned this Dogen essay in my Nine Fields episode on Opening the Heart, Episode 99).The bodhisattva’s four embracing actions are giving, kind speech, beneficial action, and sharing the same aim. In this episode I’ll briefly introduce the text and define the four actions, and start delving more deeply into Dogen’s essay, section by section.

104 – Buddhists: It’s Time to Address the Climate Emergency

104 – Buddhists: It’s Time to Address the Climate Emergency

Most western convert Buddhist communities have had the luxury of regarding “activism” for social or environmental justice as an optional or supplemental activity some people take up because they have the time, kind of like a hobby. The truth is, many of us are so busy it’s difficult to imagine finding time for activism regarding the climate emergency. However, we may not have a choice – at least not if we hope to avoid extinction. And if there are no sentient beings, there are no buddhas.

103 – Twelve Pali Canon Suttas Every Buddhist Should Know – Part 3

103 – Twelve Pali Canon Suttas Every Buddhist Should Know – Part 3

This is the third episode of three covering my “Twelve Pali Canon Suttas Every Buddhist Should Know,” and I cover the Kalama, Sallatha, Metta, and Maha Parinibbana Suttas. The Pali Canon is a vast collection of the oldest Buddhist texts and teachings, and is a valuable resource for any Buddhist. However, the canon is so large it can be a little overwhelming to approach, and it can be difficult to know where to begin if you want to study it. I worked hard to create a short list of Pali Canon suttas – or discourses – that I recommend you study in order to get a sense of the canon, and exposure to its central teachings.

102 – Nine Fields of Zen Practice 3: Nyoho, Karma Work, and Bodhisattva Activity

102 – Nine Fields of Zen Practice 3: Nyoho, Karma Work, and Bodhisattva Activity

Buddhist practice can permeate every aspect of our lives. To help practitioners appreciate this outside the full-immersion experience of residential training, I’ve defined Nine Fields of Zen Practice: Zazen, Dharma Study, Cultivating Insight, Precepts, Opening the Heart, Connecting with the Ineffable, Nyoho, Karma Work, and Bodhisattva Activity. In this episode I cover Nyoho, Karma Work, and Bodhisattva Activity.

101 – The Koan of Awakening: Do You Know the Essential Truth Yet, Or Not?

101 – The Koan of Awakening: Do You Know the Essential Truth Yet, Or Not?

From the beginning, it’s been clear that the highest rewards of Buddhism are experienced through a fundamental and radical shift in the way you understand the world and your place in it. Throughout time, and among different forms of Buddhism, this shift in understanding has been called different things, including awakening, enlightenment, Right View or Right Understanding, realization, satori, or kensho (a Japanese term which means “seeing one’s true nature”). In this episode I explore “awakening” in Buddhism: What’s meant by the term, attitudes we take toward awakening, why it’s so elusive, and how we can make the process of seeking less painful.

100 – Twelve Pali Canon Suttas Every Buddhist Should Know – Part 2

100 – Twelve Pali Canon Suttas Every Buddhist Should Know – Part 2

Theravadin and Vipassana Buddhists tend to be familiar with the Pali Canon, particularly the suttas, or discourses of the Buddha. Other Buddhists don’t tend to spend as much time exploring Pali texts. When we aim to do so, it can be a difficult to know where to start – given the printed versions of the suttas end up being about five times the size of the Christian bible! In the interest of encouraging study of the Pali Canon suttas, I’ve come up with a list of twelve I think every Buddhist should know.

99 – Nine Fields of Zen Practice: A Framework for Letting Practice Permeate Your Life – Part 2

99 – Nine Fields of Zen Practice: A Framework for Letting Practice Permeate Your Life – Part 2

Zen practice can permeate every aspect of our lives. To help lay practitioners appreciate this outside the full-immersion experience of residential training, I’ve defined Nine Fields of Zen Practice: Zazen, Dharma Study, Cultivating Insight, Precepts, Opening the Heart, Connecting with the Ineffable, Nyoho, Karma Work, and Bodhisattva Activity. In this episode I cover Precepts, Opening the Heart, and Connecting with the Ineffable.

98 – Nine Fields of Zen Practice: A Framework for Letting Practice Permeate Your Life – Part 1

98 – Nine Fields of Zen Practice: A Framework for Letting Practice Permeate Your Life – Part 1

Zen practice can permeate every aspect of our lives. To help lay practitioners appreciate this outside the full-immersion experience of residential training, I’ve defined Nine Fields of Zen Practice: Zazen, Dharma Study, Cultivating Insight, Precepts, Opening the Heart, Connecting with the Ineffable, Nyoho (according with the Dharma in everyday activities), Karma Work, and Bodhisattva Activity.

97 – Twelve Pali Canon Suttas Every Buddhist Should Know – Part 1

97 – Twelve Pali Canon Suttas Every Buddhist Should Know – Part 1

Theravadin and Vipassana Buddhists tend to be familiar with the Pali Canon, particularly the suttas, or discourses of the Buddha. Other Buddhists don’t tend to spend as much time exploring Pali texts. When we aim to do so, it can be a difficult to know where to start – given the printed versions of the suttas end up being about five times the size of the Christian bible! In the interest of encouraging study of the Pali Canon suttas, I’ve come up with a list of twelve I think every Buddhist should know.

Off-Week Editorial – It’s Not Enough to Respond to What’s Right in Front of You

Off-Week Editorial – It’s Not Enough to Respond to What’s Right in Front of You

It’s not enough to respond to what’s right in front of you. The core of Buddhist practice is cultivating mindfulness of this moment and responding as best we can to whatever we encounter in the course of our personal, daily lives, but if we aspire to cease from harm and benefit other beings, this is not enough. We also need to cultivate awareness of, and take responsibility for, the repercussions of our actions throughout space and time – far, far beyond the limits of what’s right in front of us.

96 – A Zazen Pamphlet: Essential (and Brief) Instructions for the Practice of Zazen

96 – A Zazen Pamphlet: Essential (and Brief) Instructions for the Practice of Zazen

I challenged myself to write instructions for the practice of zazen that would fit on letter-sized, tri-fold brochure – 8 ½ by 11 inches, two sided. I figured I’d share it here on the podcast – and if this episode is too short for you, I recommend listening to it twice, because this “pamphlet” really does, to my mind, capture the essence of shikantaza! (At least as I think of it right now).

95 – Lineage in Buddhism: The Intersection Between the Individual and the Collective Tradition

95 – Lineage in Buddhism: The Intersection Between the Individual and the Collective Tradition

In many forms of Buddhism, particularly in Zen, we have the concept of “lineage:” the essential aspects of our collective religious tradition have been passed down through the generations from one real, live person to another, teacher to a student. However, lineage isn’t just about preserving a collective tradition, it’s a valuable part of our practice – self-attachment and pre-conceived notions get challenged as the individual aligns her/himself with the collective tradition.

94 – Buddha’s Teachings 13 – The Five Hindrances – Part 3

94 – Buddha’s Teachings 13 – The Five Hindrances – Part 3

The Buddha taught that there are five main “hindrances” we encounter in our spiritual practice: 1) Worldly desire; 2) ill-will; 3) sloth-and-torpor; 4) restlessness-and-worry, and 5) uncertainty (or skeptical doubt). In this 3rd episode of 3, I go into detail about sloth-and-torpor, restlessness-and-worry, and uncertainty, and recommended ways to abandon them.

93 – Buddha’s Teachings 12: The Five Hindrances – Part 2

93 – Buddha’s Teachings 12: The Five Hindrances – Part 2

The Buddha taught that there are five main “hindrances” we encounter in our spiritual practice. In this 2nd episode of 3, I start going into detail about each hindrance and recommended ways to abandon them. I get through worldly desire and ill-will. In the next episode I’ll cover sloth-and-torpor, restlessness-and-worry, and uncertainty (or skeptical doubt).

2019-03-15 Off-Week Book Review: Why Buddhism Is True

2019-03-15 Off-Week Book Review: Why Buddhism Is True

I review Robert Wright’s Why Buddhism Is True: The Science and Philosophy of Meditation and Enlightenment. While it’s not necessary to know the “why” of things in order for Buddhist practice to be effective (and it can actually be a distraction), sometimes it can help us gain additional freedom from our subjective experiences.

92 – Buddha’s Teachings 11: The Five Hindrances – Part 1

92 – Buddha’s Teachings 11: The Five Hindrances – Part 1

We all know meditation and other aspects of Buddhist practice can be difficult. According to the Buddha, it’s useful to pay attention to exactly what’s going on when we’re feeling challenged. Any obstacle can be characterized as one of five hindrances: 1) Sense desire; 2) ill-will; 3) sloth-and-torpor; 4) restlessness-and-worry, or 5) uncertainty (or skeptical doubt). By identifying our hindrance, we get a better sense of what caused it to arise and how we can best overcome it, because the Buddha offered a number of teachings on the subject.

91 – Unethical Buddhist Teachers: Were They Ever Really Enlightened?

91 – Unethical Buddhist Teachers: Were They Ever Really Enlightened?

The list of supposedly-highly-realized Buddhist teachers who have abused their power and acted in harmful ways – particularly in the realm of sex – is long, and getting longer all the time. Unethical and selfish behavior is incompatible with our Buddhist ideal of true enlightenment, and transgressing teachers are often exactly those held up as especially inspiring examples of realization and practice, so what does all of this say about realization and practice? Were the teachers ever really enlightened?

90 – Buddhist History 11: Early Indian Buddhism – Stupas and Devotional Practice – Part 2

90 – Buddhist History 11: Early Indian Buddhism – Stupas and Devotional Practice – Part 2

In Part 1 (Episode 82), I defined Devotional Practice as extending beyond demonstrations of respect, gratitude, and reverence to practices believed to result in real benefits – perhaps intangible but often tangible – to the devotee, especially when performed in proximity to a holy person, his/her relics, or some other center or object of spiritual power. In this episode I talk about what early Buddhist Devotional Practice looked like, and then discuss the theology – or religious philosophy – behind it.

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