The Zen Studies Podcast

Recent Episodes

75 – Sekito Kisen’s Sandokai: The Identity of Relative and Absolute – Part 2

This my second episode on the Sandokai, an ancient teaching poem composed by Chinese Zen master Sekito Kisen (Shitou Xiqian, 700-790). It’s recited daily in Soto Zen temples throughout the world - one of only a handful of Zen or Buddhist scriptures similarly honored. In the first episode I read the whole poem, discussed the “big deal” about absolute and relative (why Zen talks about this topic so much), and started exploring the Sandokai line by line. In this episode I finish up that exploration.

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74 – Sekito Kisen’s Sandokai: The Identity of Relative and Absolute – Part 1

Sandokai is an ancient teaching poem composed by Chinese Zen master Sekito Kisen (Shitou Xiqian, 700-790). It’s recited daily in Soto Zen temples throughout the world. In the next two episodes I’ll explore the meaning of the Sandokai, and why it’s given such a central place in Soto Zen. In this first episode I discuss the “big deal” about absolute and relative (why Zen talks about this topic so much), read you the poem, and then explore it line by line. I only get part way through, so I finish up the exploration in the next episode.

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57 – Dogen’s Bendowa Part 1: What’s the Big Deal about Zazen?

Zen master Dogen wrote Bendowa in 1231 to introduce his Japanese students to Soto Zen. In a sense, then, it's "Soto Zen in a nutshell." In this episode I introduce the text and the context in which it was written, and talk about how and why Dogen recommends zazen - seated meditation - above all other Buddhist practices. I also talk about how Soto Zen elevates zazen far above a mere method for achieving awakening to enactment of enlightenment itself.

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46 – Dogen’s Genjokoan Part 5: Birds Fly, Fish Swim, a Zen Master Waves a Fan

In this episode we finish up the Genjokoan, focusing first on the rather long passage comparing our path of practice to the way a fish swims in the water, or a bird flies in the sky. Then I’ll talk about the story at the end of the essay, where a monk asks a Zen master why he uses a fan when the nature of wind permeates everywhere, which is really a question about why we practice if reality ultimately lacks nothing.

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34 – Dogen’s Genjokoan Part 1: Non-Duality, Intimacy, and Enlightenment

Part of my Buddhist Texts series, this episode focuses on a famous Zen text called “Genjokoan,” written by Japanese Zen master Eihei Dogen in 1233. Genjokoan is one of the most popular and widely studied of Dogen’s essays. In the interest of unlocking it's profound teaching for you, I’ll proceed through the essay verse by verse over the course of a few episodes.

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20 – The Heart Sutra Part 2: Line by Line Explanation, Continued

In this episode I complete my line-by-line exploration of the Heart Sutra. I cover what the sutra means when its says "there is no" such-and-such, why it proceeds through such long lists of things that don't exist the way we conceive of them (and what those lists refer to), and the significance of the mantra presented at the end.

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19 – The Heart Sutra Part 1: Introduction to the Most Common Mahayana Text

The Heart Sutra is probably the best-known Buddhist text in the world. It's less than 250 words long and considered to present the essence of Mahayana Buddhism. However, its meaning – and its attraction to Buddhists – may not be immediately evident! In this episode, I first recite the Heart Sutra for you and give you a brief overview of its history to provide you with a little context. Then I start working my way through the text line by line, offering definitions of terms, explaining references, and giving you a sense of the teaching being conveyed. I'll finish the line-by-line analysis in the next episode.

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