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The Zen Studies Podcast

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United States

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English

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Episodes

116 - Do You Need a Zen or Buddhist Teacher?

10/19/2019
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Every few weeks or so, I get an email from a listener who feels they need a Zen teacher. Some people have asked whether I might be able to function as a teacher for them long distance. I’m never sure what to say… I mean, what does it mean for someone to “have” a Zen or Buddhist teacher? Do you really need a teacher? I’m going to explore these questions in this episode, and I imagine you won’t be surprised that the gist of my answer is, “It depends.”

Duration:00:38:01

115 - Dogen's Four Ways Bodhisattvas Embrace Living Beings - Part 4 - Beneficial Action

10/5/2019
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In this episode I continue our study of 13-century Zen master Dogen’s essay, “Bodaisatta Shishobo,” or what I’m calling the “Four Ways Bodhisattvas Embrace Living Beings.” I cover "beneficial action," which means to use skillful means to benefit beings without discriminating among them, considering their near and distant future, and to do so selflessly.

Duration:00:30:18

114 - Why Your (Real) Happiness Benefits Others

9/28/2019
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Real happiness is unconditional, and is achieved by releasing our suffering. Even though things are rarely how we would like them to be - within, or in our personal lives, or in the greater world - we have the potential to let go of our resistance, grief, or anger, and feel more relaxed, at ease, grateful, and enthusiastic. In this sense, working towards real happiness is far from selfish; it makes us much more able to respond compassionately and skillfully, and therefore it benefits others.

Duration:00:24:39

113 – Clarification: It’s Okay to Use Multiple Types of Meditation

9/20/2019
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In my enthusiastic endorsement of shikantaza or, "just sitting," I may have given the impression I think a real Zen student would only sit shikantaza, and there’s no place in Zen for paying attention to, learning from, and working with your thoughts and feelings in meditation. I think it's fine to use multiple types of meditation in your practice, and there’s no reason you shouldn’t devote some or all of your meditation time to mindfulness of your thoughts and feelings, if you find that...

Duration:00:25:01

2019-09-11 Off-Week Announcement about SFZC Talk

9/11/2019
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So sorry... no time to produce a new episode for you this week, but there's still something for you to listen to! I’ll be giving the Dharma Talk at San Francisco Zen Center this Saturday, Sept 14th. Livestream the talk at 10:15am Pacific, or watch it later, or download it as a podcast. Visit http://sfzc.org/teachings/video/live-streaming-media, or simply search online for “San Francisco Zen Center Dharma Talks.” My working title for the talk is “A Passionate Sermon for Buddhists in a Time of...

Duration:00:02:51

112 - Dogen's "Four Ways Bodhisattvas Embrace Living Beings" - Part 3 – Loving Words

9/6/2019
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I continue study of 13th-century Zen master Dogen’s essay, Bodaisatta Shishobo, "Four Ways Bodhisattvas Embrace Living Beings." In Episode 105 I gave an overview of the essay and defined the bodhisattva’s four “embracing actions:” practicing nongreed, loving words, beneficial action, and “being in the same boat” as other beings. In Episode 106 I took us through the part of the essay on nongreed, or giving. Today I cover the section of the essay on loving words, or kind speech.

Duration:00:25:06

111 – You Can't Hold on to Stillness: Practice in Activity

8/31/2019
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If we're lucky, our practices of meditation and mindfulness give us some sense of spaciousness, stillness, and silence. What about when we engage in activities more complicated and demanding than potentially calming manual tasks like weeding the garden, sweeping, or washing the dishes? Zen master Dogen teaches us a better way to practice in the midst of activity: maintaining joyful mind, nurturing mind, and magnanimous mind. These qualities have the potential to grow even stronger as we get...

Duration:00:30:42

110 - How Understanding Impermanence Can Lead to Great Appreciation

8/16/2019
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We do not have retreat from appreciation of conditional or material things in order to live an enlightened life. However, we must diligently turn the lens of practice onto all of our relationships to things and to beings. Learning to see and accept the impermanence of all things and yet to “enjoy them incredibly” is a wonderful practice opportunity.

Duration:00:21:17

109 - What Does Buddhism Have to Say About Mass Shootings?

8/10/2019
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Of course, traditional Buddhism doesn’t say anything about mass shootings per se, but it does present teachings on human nature, behavior, and choices. In this episode I discuss the Buddhist of view of how and why people do horrible things, pointing out how Buddhism is realistic but also optimistic, and how a Buddhist view can help relieve some of our fear and despair.

Duration:00:22:46

108 - Buddha's Teachings 14: The Five Skandhas as Focus for the Practice of Not-Self (Anatta)

7/30/2019
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The “Five Skandhas,” or aggregates, are the five aspects of a human being: Form, the body; Feelings, our positive, negative, or neutral reactions to stimuli; Perception, the basic process of labeling or identifying things; Consciousness, awareness of sights, sounds, smells, tastes, touch, and thoughts; and Mental Fabrications, all of our active processes of mind. The Five Skandhas aren’t so much a teaching in an of themselves as they are a tool for exploring the teaching of Anatta, or...

Duration:00:39:23

107 - Finding and Enacting Our Best Response to the World's Suffering

7/19/2019
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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 without getting overwhelmed, depressed, or...

Duration:00:32:57

106 - Dogen's Shishobo: The Four Ways Bodhisattvas Embrace Living Beings – Part 2

7/12/2019
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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.

Duration:00:22:21

105 - Dogen's Shishobo: The Four Ways Bodhisattvas Embrace Living Beings

7/6/2019
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Given the many stressful and sad things happening in the world right now, I thought I'd spend a couple episodes on an inspiring essay by 13th century Zen master Dogen called “Bodaisatta-Shishobo,” or the “Four Ways Bodhisattvas Embrace Living Beings.” 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 into Dogen’s essay, section by section.

Duration:00:31:23

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

6/28/2019
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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.

Duration:00:35:31

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

6/14/2019
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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...

Duration:00:23:31

102 – Nine Fields of Zen Practice: A Framework for Letting Practice Permeate Your Life – Part 3

6/7/2019
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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.

Duration:00:27:59

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

6/2/2019
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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. This shift has been called different things, including awakening, enlightenment, Right View, realization, satori, or kensho (“seeing one’s true nature”). I explore “awakening” in Buddhism: What’s meant by the term, attitudes we take toward it, why it’s so elusive, and how we can make the process of seeking...

Duration:00:33:57

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

5/17/2019
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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...

Duration:00:29:15

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

5/10/2019
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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.

Duration:00:22:03

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

5/2/2019
More
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, Connection to the Ineffable, Nyoho, Karma Work, and Bodhisattva Activity.

Duration:00:25:20