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The Zen Studies Podcast

Religion & Spirituality Podcasts

Learn about traditional Zen and Buddhist teachings, practices, and history through episodes recorded specifically for podcast listeners. Host Domyo Burk is a Soto Zen priest and teacher.

Learn about traditional Zen and Buddhist teachings, practices, and history through episodes recorded specifically for podcast listeners. Host Domyo Burk is a Soto Zen priest and teacher.


United States


Learn about traditional Zen and Buddhist teachings, practices, and history through episodes recorded specifically for podcast listeners. Host Domyo Burk is a Soto Zen priest and teacher.






183 – Natural Koans: Engaging Our Limitations as Dharma Gates

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 which is greater freedom, wisdom, and compassion. I discuss “natural koans,” or Dharma gates that arise in our everyday lives, and how to work...


182 - Answers to Interview Questions from Eastern Horizon Magazine

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 might enjoy hearing a different kind of presentation, where I have kept my answers very succinct.


181 - Bodhicitta: Way-Seeking Mind, or the Mind of Enlightenment

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 redemption for humankind, even when it seems the world is dominated by greed, hate, and delusion.


180 - The Dharma of Staying Calm When Facing Challenges

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.


179 - Inadequacy to Abundance: Rewriting Our Self-Narrative

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, because the "boundless self with the world" is a conduit for abundance. The world needs and wants what you have to offer.


178 – Declaring War on Global Heating and What That Means to a Buddhist

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 how the imagery of war and battle fits with Buddhist practice.


177 - Unconditional Strength and Gratitude: The Medicine of Suchness

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 as a medicine that can alleviate our despair and help us access strength and gratitude.


176 - A Story of My Spiritual Journey Part 3: A Phoenix Rises from the Ashes of Despair

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 of the soul.”


175 – A Story of My Spiritual Journey Part 2: Why I Think Buddhism Is Awesome

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 to do monastic practice.


174 - A Story of My Spiritual Journey Part 1: Conveyor Belt to Death

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!


173 - True Satisfaction: Dogen's Everyday Activity (Kajo) - Part 2

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 appreciate that fact or not.


172 - The Profound and Difficult Practice of Putting Everything Down

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 repeatedly putting things down, picking them back up, putting them down, and picking them up.


171 - Five Requirements for Effective Practice with Any Issue

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 the path of practice even if it takes longer than we’d like, or the results aren’t exactly what we’d hoped for.


170 - Looking to Buddhism to Support Values and Beliefs We Already Hold - Part 2

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 hold, and what we might do about it when that isn’t the case.


169 - Looking to Buddhism to Support Values and Beliefs We Already Hold – Part 1

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 find support within Buddhism for our values, do we simply look elsewhere, or do we expand Buddhism?


168 - Is This IT? Dogen's Everyday Activity (Kajo) - Part 1

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 nothing other than just continuing our half-awake, habitual way of living, we’re also missing the point! What is the nature of our life and...


167 - If You're Not Making Mistakes, You're Not Practicing

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 such thing as a mistake.


166 - The Ceremony of Wesak: Celebrating and Expressing Gratitude for Our Teachers

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 have made our lives possible.


165 - The Buddhist Moral Precepts as a Practice for Studying the Buddha Way

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 a sign that our "small self" has arisen, and we have the opportunity to observe what's happening and explore new ways to respond.