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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.






191 – Contemplating the Future: The Middle Way Between Dread and Hope

When we contemplate the future, it may seem like we have only two options: dread, or hope. If we can’t summon hope, we may avoid thinking about the future at all in order to escape dread. Fortunately, the Buddhist Middle Way offers an alternative. Instead of getting stuck in dread or clinging desperately to hope, we refuse to get caught in either extreme. We can walk a dynamic path of practice, facing the future with eyes open while remaining responsive and free.


190 – Leaping Beyond Fear of Rejection: Giving the Gift of Self

The gift of self - such as our time, attention, energy, enthusiasm, perspective, sympathy, and creativity brightens the lives of everyone around us. Although the self is "empty" of inherent, enduring self-essence, it is all we have to offer the world. Unfortunately, many of us are very inhibited when it comes to sharing ourselves. Fortunately, we can make a practice of offering ourselves open-handedly, setting aside the need for affirmation as we do so.


189 – Collecting the Heart-Mind: A Celebration of Sesshin – Part 1

Sesshin - a silent, residential, Zen meditation retreat involving a 24-hour communal schedule - is an extremely valuable way to deepen your Zen practice. I discuss why I strongly encourage you to participate in sesshin, but also why - if you can't do so - it isn't necessary. Then I talk about several of the benefits and Dharma lessons of sesshin. I have many more such benefits and lessons to share, but I'll cover them in Celebration of Sesshin Part 2.


188 - What Does Practice Look Like When Your Country Is Broken?

When our country - or global community - is broken, how do we practice? Faced with incomprehensible violence, injustice, lies, greed, and destruction, how do we cope, let alone respond in accord with our bodhisattva vows? Our first responses are usually anger, fear, judgment, and an effort to assign blame. Then may come a desire to check out - to ignore what's happening because we feel powerless to do anything about it. I discuss how our Buddhist practice can help us remain open, strong, and...


187 - Lotus Sutra 5: Step Right Up to Get YOUR Prediction of Buddhahood

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 self-doubt, and that spiritual liberation is about transcending the self but only manifests through unique, individual sentient beings.


186 - Making Peace with Ghosts: Unresolved Karma and the Sejiki (Segaki) Festival

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 them, set appropriate boundaries, make an offering, and hope that, over time, the ghosts will be able to partake of some healing and liberating...


185 – 14 Ways to Enliven Your Zazen – Part 2

I share nine more ways to enliven your zazen without employing methods that introduce dualism and struggle into your sitting. See Episode 184 for why this is important, and for my first five approaches.


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.