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In this episode, we speak with Dr. Maria Heim about her beginnings as a scholar of classical South Asia, the role of commentaries in Buddhism, and the importance of emotions to the Buddhist path. We also preview her upcoming online course, BSO 202 | Visuddhimagga: The Path of Purification, which will focus on this important Theravada text written b…
 
In the Lotus Sutra, thousands of the Buddha's disciples line up, each requesting their own, personal prediction of buddhahood. What is this about? Shouldn't advanced practitioners of the Buddha way be beyond any concern about themselves? I share the stories from the Lotus Sutra and discuss the teaching contained in them - namely, that we all have s…
 
The annual Buddhist ceremony of “feeding the hungry ghosts,” or Sejiki, offers rich mythological imagery as a teaching. Metaphorically, a “ghost” is anything painful or difficult which continues to haunt the present although its causes lie in the past. Sejiki and its surrounding mythology encourages us to make peace with our ghosts: We acknowledge …
 
When we sit zazen, it can be difficult to remain wholehearted and attentive. Because of the momentum of habit energy, we get wrapped up in thoughts about the past and future, or we fall asleep, fantasize, or brood in worry or negative judgements. Our meditative practice (zazen) gives us nothing to concentrate on, nothing to do, so how can we enlive…
 
Formal Zen koans are short stories or statements by past Chan/Zen masters which have been passed down through the generations for study and contemplation by Zen students. Each koan contains a Dharma teaching, and until you personally experience and digest that teaching, the koan remains a closed gate you need to pass through - on the other side of …
 
I share with you questions and answers from my 2020 written interview for Eastern Horizon, a tri-annual magazine of the Young Buddhist Association of Malaysia (YBAM). There are some basic questions about Zen, and then some questions about what Buddhism has to offer with respect to understanding and coping with the COVID-19 pandemic. Thought you mig…
 
Bodhicitta can be translated as Way-Seeking Mind, or the Mind of Enlightenment. It's the part of us that recognizes and seeks truth and goodness, inspiring our spiritual search and motivating our practice. In Mahayana Buddhism, bodhicitta is seen as essential to the path and a cause for gratitude. It also can be seen as the primary source of redemp…
 
When we can't - or don't want to - avoid facing challenges (our own or those of others), what does the Dharma offer us in terms of preventing anxiety, fear, overwhelm, burnout, depression, or despair? I talk about what is really means to stay calm, the value of staying calm, and some practices that can help us do this.…
 
In this episode, we speak with Dr. Jay L. Garfield about his unconventional path to Buddhist Studies, the importance of multicultural philosophy, how philosophy can enrich Buddhist practice, and preview his upcoming online course, BSO 201 | Bodhicaryāvatāra: How to Lead an Awakened Life, which will focus on this important Mahayana text written by Ś…
 
As human beings we have a self-narrative, and for most - if not all - of us, this narrative includes a sense of inadequacy. When we conceive of ourselves as a "small self against the world" we will always feel inadequate, and consequently our generosity is inhibited. Fortunately, we can rewrite our self-narrative to include our buddha-nature, becau…
 
I remind us of the reality of the climate emergency, and then argue that the most appropriate response to it is for us – as individuals, communities, states, and nations – to declare war on global heating and ecological breakdown. This is the only way we know of, as human beings, to shift into the "emergency mode" mindset we need. I then explain ho…
 
The medicine of suchness is life-saving, because even the happiest and most fortunate human life inevitably contains suffering. Sometimes – in our personal lives or in the wider world – we face terrible things that arouse anxiety, depression, fear, despair, or rage, such as our climate and ecological emergency. Our Zen practice offers us suchness a…
 
In this episode, we speak with Dr. Karin Meyers about her path to Buddhist Studies, her experiences teaching Buddhist Studies in the US and Nepal, how she relates the study of Buddhist philosophy to contemporary engagement with social issues, and how she stays motivated to tackle the ecological crisis. We also preview her upcoming online course, BS…
 
This is the third installment of story about my personal spiritual journey. Check out episodes 174 and 175 for the first and second parts, which took me up to the point I left home to move into a Zen center. Today I’ll talk about my path to ordination as Zen monk and the next several years of junior training, including a time I call my “dark night …
 
I’m on sabbatical for July but still wanted to release three episodes this month, so as a change-up I’m telling you a story of my spiritual journey (thus far!). In the last episode, 174, I talked about my early childhood up through my encounter with Buddhism at age 24. In this episode I continue the story up through my departure from the home life …
 
It's July 2021, and although I'm taking a sabbatical from both my Zen center and my climate activism, I decided to release three episodes this month anyway. A change is sometimes as good as a break, so I figured I would change things up a little and share a story of my spiritual journey (thus far). I hope you enjoy!…
 
The nature of true satisfaction is something explored by Zen master Dogen in his essay "Kajo," or "Everyday Activity." Using the imagery of having had rice, taking a leisurely nap, and living contentedly in a grass hut, Dogen emphasizes how true satisfaction is unconditional, and that we are nourished by the universe whether we are able to apprecia…
 
Putting everything down is what we do in meditation and sometimes when we're practicing mindfulness in daily life. Caught up in things like worry, excitement, or anger, we often find it nearly impossible to put things down, but it is essential we create time and space to do so. It can help to remember that Zen practice is about getting comfortable …
 
I propose effective practice with any issue we face requires five things: Recognition of the issue causing stress or suffering; Faith change is possible though practice; Willingness to do what it takes to bring about change; Practice in the sense of actually doing something we think might help bring about that change, and Patience to keep walking t…
 
In this first episode, we speak with Dr. Daniel M. Stuart about his path to Buddhist Studies, different academic approaches to studying Buddhism, how meditation might drive new ideas in the history of Buddhism, differences and continuities in meditation practices across Buddhist history, and preview his upcoming online course, BSO 102 | Buddhist Me…
 
Welcome to The Buddhist Studies Podcast, a new channel dedicated to exploring the depths of Buddhist Studies. This Podcast will feature candid conversations and interviews with scholars of Buddhism across the disciplines of Religious Studies, Indology, Art History, South Asian Studies, Anthropology, and more. Hosted by Dr. Kate Hartmann.…
 
Continuing with the case study of social action, I follow the discussion of Donald S. Lopez's article on whether Buddhism - in particular, the bodhisattva ideal - has much to offer in the domain of social action. Then I discuss why it matters to some of us that our faith tradition – whatever it is – encourages and supports the values we already hol…
 
As modern, mostly lay Buddhists we may seek encouragement and guidance from within the tradition for values we already hold. How much support does Buddhism actually give for things like social action, the importance of justice, honoring our connection to nature, enjoying our family and our daily lives, and learning to love ourselves? If we don't fi…
 
In Zen we say practice is nothing other than your everyday activity. If we view the Dharma as something special – a particular activity we treat as more sacred, or a state we hope to attain that will be of an entirely different nature than the mundane existence we currently endure – we’re missing the point. At the same time, if we think practice is…
 
How can practice with mistakes - so we make fewer mistakes, but also so we aren't paralyzed by fear of mistakes, stressed out trying to avoid them, or stuck in regret or self-recrimination once we've made them? It helps to understand how mistakes are viewed in Zen. They're a sign you're actually practicing, and there's a sense in which this is no s…
 
The annual Buddhist festival of Wesak celebrates the birth of Shakyamuni Buddha. The ceremony takes inspiration from the Buddha's mythological birth story, and I describe a version of the ceremony and share some chanting from it. Then I discuss the way Wesak helps awaken our gratitude for the Dharma, for teachers, and for all of those beings who ha…
 
The Buddhist precepts aren't just guidelines help us live moral and beneficial lives, they're also practice tools for studying the self. As Zen master Dogen wrote, “To study the Buddha Way is to study the self. To study the self is to forget the self. To forget the self is to be verified by all things...” When we're tempted to break precepts, it's …
 
Gratitude can be used as a practice to shift our attention from self-centered problems and complaints to an awareness of the miracle of simply being alive. It can help us be less reactive, depressed, anxious, and irritable, and more mindful and - frankly - happy. I explore the practice of gratitude and traditional Buddhist teachings about it.…
 
The Lotus Sutra Parable of the Plants says that just as rain falls equally on plants big and small and each plant takes up what they need, so the Buddha shares the Dharma with all beings without any judgment or preference regarding their capacity, and each being receives what they need. I explore this message as well as the implication that there a…
 
If you practice Buddhism, it's natural to ask yourself, at some point, "Am I a Good Buddhist?" It's difficult to see ourselves as a good Buddhist when we fail to act in accord with our own deeper aspirations. And yet, according to Zen, no amount of practice is going make us into a Buddha, any more than you can polish a tile and make it into a jewel…
 
Parinirvana, the death of the Buddha Shakyamuni, is commemorated by a ceremony in mid-February in most Buddhist communities throughout the world. The Buddha gave several important teachings right before his death, and there is teaching contained in the very manner and fact of his passing. In this episode I describe the Parinirvana (Nehan) ceremony …
 
For the sake of ourselves and others, we need to learn to Bear Witness without burning out. Bearing Witness means exposing ourselves to the suffering in the world in all its forms out of compassion. At the root of all suffering are the three poisons of greed, hate, and delusion, so Bearing Witness also means being aware of those forces in the world…
 
Active receptivity is what we're aiming to cultivate in zazen, and in the rest of our practice. Despite the emphasis on what we’re NOT doing in zazen, it should lively and energetic activity, not passive. Think of putting aside your physical and mental activities in order to become incredibly quiet and receptive. Shhh! What's that? It’s like we’re …
 
Recent events show how deep a divide has developed within the United States. Those guilty of crimes need to be held accountable, but how do we repair the social fabric of our nation? It may help to renew cultural respect for the value of decorum: Dignified behavior according to social standards for what demonstrates a basic respect for one another’…
 
Dissatisfaction can lead to Bodhicitta. Bodhicitta is a Buddhist term literally meaning “awakened mind” that can translated as “the mind that seeks the way.” It’s the part of us which aspires to free ourselves and others from suffering – arising, ironically, from dissatisfaction. We think, “There must be a better way,” or, “There must be more to li…
 
You can expect your Buddhist practice to go through a cycle of ebb and flow in terms of energy, inspiration, and focus. At times, hopefully, you feel motivated and determined, and experience a period of learning and growth. Then there will inevitably be periods where your practice loses momentum. It may feel dull or aimless, or you may fall back in…
 
Part of our bodhisattva path is embracing our uniqueness and finding our own particular, special bodhisattva capacity, talent, and calling. Each of us has our own unique way, or ways, of serving in this world. It just takes some imagination to discover them. Teachings from Avatamsaka Sutra can help stimulate our imaginations in this regard. In this…
 
Part of our bodhisattva path is embracing our uniqueness and finding our own particular, special bodhisattva capacity, talents, and calling. Each of us has our own unique gifts to offer the world which will determine what kind of service we should devote ourselves to, it just takes some imagination to discover them. A teaching from Avatamsaka Sutra…
 
Kshanti is the Buddhist perfection (paramita) of endurance. Practice can relieve suffering, but it takes work; it isn’t a magic pill that brings instant peace and bliss. An essential part of our practice is learning how to endure - but not in a passive way, but in a determined refusal to be beaten down, defeated, deflated, or stopped in our efforts…
 
The Lotus Sutra parable of the Lost Son perfectly conveys the difference between hinayana and Mahayana practice. Despite what we may think of ourselves, we already have everything we need - including the capacity for great liberation and service. At the same time, we need to practice in order to grow into our inheritance.…
 
In this episode I focus on how zazen is the dharma gate of joyful ease, because experiencing it as such is so profoundly restorative at a time when our lives tend to be stressful in many ways. I also think it’s necessary to explore the way in which zazen is the dharma gate of joyful ease because that dharma gate is subtle and can be elusive because…
 
Understanding people's actions can be difficult. Sometimes we can't help but feel disbelief, judgment, or disgust toward people based on how they respond to the suffering of others. The Buddhist teaching about the Six Realms of existence can help us understand people's mind states and motivations, hopefully leading us to greater patience, less judg…
 
Bearing Witness, Taking Care, and Taking Action: A skillful balance of these ingredients helps you sustain energy, motivation, positivity, and equanimity even when so many things are falling apart, corrupt, unjust, discouraging, even frightening. It helps you maintain compassion and take responsibility as a citizen of the world without being overwh…
 
When we call suffering beings to mind and extend metta - or loving-kindness - it might seem like we'd be opening up to more suffering and thereby increase our own fear and anxiety, but this is not the case. In fact, metta helps us face reality while aligned with our deeper nature. This alignment results in a sense of sufficiency and strength as we …
 
Buddhism, like other religions, teaches we should treat each and every human being with respect, regardless of their behavior or off-putting manifestation. What does this really mean? Sometimes people are hateful, manipulative, cruel, selfish, irresponsible, or downright violent and destructive. Surely, in being asked to respect such people, we’re …
 
Buddhism teaches that no matter what happens to us, we always have some degree of choice about how we respond, and what we do next. At those critical, precious moments when your perspective widens and you become more aware of yourself, you can act in accordance with your aspiration to relieve suffering for self and other. This is what practice is: …
 
The Parable of the Burning House is one of five main parables of the Lotus Sutra, a classic Mahayana Buddhist text. I go through the parable paragraph by paragraph, stopping to reflect on each part of the story along the way and encouraging you to imagine yourself within the story as if it were a dream. I finish up by discussing the relevance of th…
 
Whether you are personally intrigued by the concept of enlightenment or not, it is absolutely central to Buddhism. However, enlightenment – to use a kind of corny phrase – is not what you think. I discuss sudden and gradual experiences of enlightenment, the changes such experiences bring about in us, and why it’s important for all of us to seek enl…
 
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