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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.






204 - Buddha-Nature: What the Heck is It and How Do We Realize It? Part 2

This is my second episode on one of the central teachings of Mahayana Buddhism, that all beings have Buddha-Nature (buddhata). I discuss more about what Buddha-Nature is and is not, how we can benefit from this teaching, and in what sense having Buddha-Nature is a good thing even before you awaken to it.


203 - Buddha-Nature: What the Heck is It and How Do We Realize It? Part 1

One of the central teachings of Mahayana Buddhism is that all beings have Buddha-Nature (buddhata). Awakening to this Buddha-Nature allows one to attain unsurpassed enlightenment, so it is clearly pure, good, and redemptive. But what is Buddha-Nature? Sometimes it is presented as our potential for awakening. Sometimes it is associated with our bodhi-mind – that which causes us to seek the Buddha Way. Not surprisingly, the teaching of buddhata is difficult to grasp. Even so, we can have a...


202 - Two Truths: Everything is Okay and Everything is NOT Okay at the Same Time

Reality has two dimensions. Along the dependent dimension, our world is unequivocally full of greed, hate, delusion, and suffering, and any moral person should feel compelled to do something to make things better. Along the independent dimension, things are just as they are, and when we don’t impose our expectations and preconceived notions on the world, it’s a miracle anything exists at all. The two dimensions do not conflict with one another but are simultaneously true. The challenge is to...


201 – Story of My Spiritual Journey Part 5: Finding What I Was Looking For

This episode is the fifth and final installment – at least for now – of the story of my spiritual journey. I share a few more of what I call "enlightenments" - pivotal and personal insights I experienced along the path of practice that ultimately helped me find what I was looking for from the beginning.


200 – Story of My Spiritual Journey Part 4: Enlightenments

This episode is the story of my spiritual journey, part 4. I start sharing a series of what I’m calling “enlightenments” I experienced over the course of the first ten years or so of my monastic training. These “enlightenments” were transformational insights that allowed me, slowly but surely, to find the happiness and peace of mind I was searching for.


199 - Is My Practice Languishing? If So, What Can I Do About It?

It’s not unusual for our practice to languish at times. “Languish” means to be or become weak or feeble, to lose vigor or vitality, to be subjected to neglect or prolonged inactivity. How do we recognize when our practice is languishing and revitalize it, without falling into the dualistic trap of striving? How do we avoid the trap of striving without then falling into the opposite trap of complacency?


198 - Renunciation as an Act of Love

Buddhism is a path of renunciation. Many people assume this means we aim to separate ourselves from the things and beings of the world and work ourselves into a state where we no longer care about them – at least not to the point where it might hurt or upset us. Fortunately, this assumption couldn’t be further from the truth. Renunciation leaves us much more capable of sincere and open-handed love.


197 – Neither Avoidance nor Identification: Being with the Reality of Painful Situations

Sometimes there is no avoiding painful situations, whether the difficulty is arising in our own life or from witnessing suffering in the world around us. How can we respond to troubling conditions with generosity and compassion, but also without being overwhelmed? I discuss the Zen approach of being with the reality of situations – neither avoiding the pain, nor identifying with it.


196 - Death and the Emptiness of Self: What's the Meaning of Life If You've Got No Soul?

Do we think there's life after death in Soto Zen? I discuss the Soto Zen perspective on consciousness and whether some kind of consciousness continues after our physical death, and where we find meaning if the self is empty of any inherent essence.


195 - Hongzhi’s “Wander into the Center of the Circle of Wonder”

In this episode I explore a teaching from 12-century Chan master Hongzhi, in which he instructs us to “wander into the center of the circle of wonder.” I propose that the whole of the Dharma can be found by exploring the nature of wonder, and what it is that obstructs wonder.


194 - Pain in Meditation 2: Adjustments to Posture and When to Tolerate Discomfort

This is episode 2 in my discussion of physical discomfort in seated meditation. I discuss how to do it with a minimum of discomfort, including tips on spinal position and different kinds of meditation equipment. I try to call attention to specific practices that lead to discomfort or pain, and what the alternatives are. Because it’s rare to be able to meditate entirely without pain, I talk about when to tolerate pain, and when to adjust your meditation posture instead. Finally, I’ll share...


193 - Pain in Meditation 1: Why the Seated Posture?

Most meditators experience some physical discomfort during seated meditation, ranging from restlessness to severe pain. In this episode I talk about why the seated meditation posture is so important, despite its tendency to cause some measure of discomfort. I also discuss the idea that mind and body are not separate, and in what way our discomfort always has both a physical and a psychological component. In the next episode I'll cover ways to address discomfort physically.


192 – The Eight Worldly Winds: Gain, Loss, Status, Disgrace, Praise, Censure, Pleasure, Pain

According to one of the foundational Buddhist teachings, we are doomed to be “blown about” by Eight Worldly Winds unless we engage in spiritual practice: Gain and loss, success and failure, praise and blame, pleasure and pain. Personally, I find this a vivid and useful metaphor for the human experience. I share an excerpt from a Pali sutta about the Eight Worldly Winds, and then explore what it means to be “blown about” by them, and what we can do about it.


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.