The Zen Studies Podcast

Recent Episodes

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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).

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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.

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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.

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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).

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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.

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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.

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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?

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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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89 – Buddhist Practice as a Lifelong Path of Growth and Transformation

Like it or not, Buddhist practice has traditionally been more than something you do to make everyday life more pleasant; it’s a path of training and study aimed at becoming an awakened, liberated, wise, compassionate, and skillful person. The ideals of Buddha and bodhisattva are not something most of us have any hope of achieving in this lifetime, but the idea is to think beyond our limited ideas of self in terms of both space and time. We ennoble our lives, and benefit others, by committing wholeheartedly to walking the path – approaching embodiment of the Buddha Way as closely as we possibly can.

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88 – Nyoho: Making Even Our Smallest, Mundane Actions Accord with the Dharma – Part 2

Nyoho practice is looking for opportunities to act in accord with the Dharma in the midst of our daily lives, in very practical, physical ways. We view no act as too mundane or insignificant to perform with care, and no object or being we encounter as beneath our respect or attention.  In this episode I hope to convey the significance and beauty of Nyoho practice, and the wonderful opportunity it presents in terms of how we can incorporate it in into our everyday lives.

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