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The Zen Studies Podcast

171 EpisodesProduced by Domyo BurkWebsite

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.

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162 – Am I a Good Buddhist?

March 1st, 2021


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 …

161 - The Parinirvana Ceremony and the Teaching of the Buddha's Dying and Death

February 15th, 2021


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 …

160 - Bearing Witness without Burning Out

February 10th, 2021


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 …

159 – Active Receptivity in Zazen: Surrounded by a Symphony

January 24th, 2021


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 …

158 – Social Strife and the Forgotten Virtue of Decorum

January 15th, 2021


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 …

157 – Bodhicitta: The Critical Importance of Dissatisfaction

January 1st, 2021


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 …

156 – Ebb and Flow in Buddhist Practice: Cycles of Energy, Inspiration, and Focus

December 23rd, 2020


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 …

155 - Avatamsaka Sutra - Each One of Us Has Unique Bodhisattva Gifts to Offer - 2

December 8th, 2020


Part of our bodhisattva path is embracing our uniqueness and finding our own particular, special bodhisattva capacity, talent, and calling. Each of …

154 - Avatamsaka Sutra - Each One of Us Has Unique Bodhisattva Gifts to Offer – Part 1

December 1st, 2020


Part of our bodhisattva path is embracing our uniqueness and finding our own particular, special bodhisattva capacity, talents, and calling. Each of …

153 - Kshanti, The Perfection of Endurance: Life's Not Always a Bed of Roses

November 18th, 2020


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 …

152 - Lotus Sutra 3: This Means YOU - The Parable of the Lost Son

November 11th, 2020


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 …

151 - The Emptiness of Self and Why It Matters

October 26th, 2020


The emptiness of self is a Zen teaching that may seem rather abstract and philosophical, or even kind of nihilistic, depressing, or disorienting. Why does this matter? In brief, knowing the true nature of our self is …

150 - Zazen as the Dharma Gate of Joyful Ease

October 17th, 2020


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 …

149 - Understanding People's Actions Through the Six Realms Teaching

October 8th, 2020


Understanding people's actions can be difficult. Sometimes we can't help but feel disbelief, judgment, or disgust toward people based on how they …

148 – Three Ingredients for a Generous Life in a Crazy World

September 30th, 2020


Bearing Witness, Taking Care, and Taking Action: A skillful balance of these ingredients helps you sustain energy, motivation, positivity, and …

147 - Loving-Kindness (Metta) Practice as an Antidote to Fear and Anxiety

September 19th, 2020


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, …

146 - Respect Even for Terrible People: What Does It Mean?

September 12th, 2020


Buddhism, like other religions, teaches we should treat each and every human being with respect, regardless of their behavior or off-putting …

145 - No Matter What Happens to You, You Have Choice in the Matter

August 26th, 2020


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 …

144 - Lotus Sutra 2: Wake Up! The Parable of the Burning House

August 13th, 2020


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 …

143 - The Experience of Enlightenment and Why It’s for All of Us

August 3rd, 2020


Whether you are personally intrigued by the concept of enlightenment or not, it is absolutely central to Buddhism. However, enlightenment – to use a …

142 - Direct Experience Is Liberation: When There Are No Stories, There Is No "You"

July 24th, 2020


Humans evolved to make sense of their experience by explaining with a story, or narrative. Although our stories help us communicate and navigate our …

141 - The Practice of Vow 2: Choosing the Direction We Want Our Lives to Take

July 15th, 2020


The practice of vow is central in Buddhism, as I’ve discussed before. Vows – alternatively aspirations, intentions, or commitments, formal or informal – are a conscious choice we make about the kind of life we want to …

140 – Sustainable Buddhist Practice: Creating Form But Keeping It Flexible

July 4th, 2020


How do we create a strong and sustainable Buddhist practice outside of a monastery? We create structure for ourselves and build good habits, but then the circumstances of our lives change. There are many competing …

139 - Suchness: Awakening to the Preciousness of Things-As-It-Is

June 23rd, 2020


All religions and spiritual practices have one purpose: To relieve our suffering and give us hope. As Buddhists we sometimes emphasize “relieving suffering” and leave it unsaid that, after being freed from your …

138 - Buddhist Images of Fierceness and Compassionate Anger

June 12th, 2020


Despite the placid appearance of most Buddha statues and the Buddhist precept against indulging anger, there is a place for fierceness and …

137 - Sustainable Bodhisattva Practice when the World is (Literally) on Fire

June 1st, 2020


Many American cities are on fire - literally - as tensions over systemic racism erupt. How do we enact our bodhisattva vows in the face of all of this suffering - caused by racism, the global pandemic, the breakdown of …

136 - Grief in Buddhism 2: Some Buddhist Practices Helpful for Facing and Integrating Grief

May 21st, 2020


Grief is love in the face of loss; do you want to stop loving in order to stop feeling grief? Of course not. But we also don't want to be controlled …

Mini Episode - A Four "S" Approach to Shikantaza: Sit Upright, Still, Silent, Simply Be

May 16th, 2020


Shikantaza, or the practice of "just sitting," can be challenging. We're asked not to try to control our meditative experience, but are we just …

135 - Grief in Buddhism 1: Buddhist Teachings on Grief and the Danger of Spiritual Bypassing

May 11th, 2020


Grief in Buddhism: What are the teachings about it, and how are we supposed to practice with it? It's often easy to suppress or bypass our grief, leaving us stuck in one of the early stages of grief (denial, anger, …

134 - Lotus Sutra 1: What Is Devotion, and How Does It Fulfill the Buddha Way?

April 30th, 2020


The Lotus Sutra is one of the oldest and most central sutras in Mahayana Buddhism. The sutra states repeatedly that people who perform small acts of …

133 - Restoring Wonder: Hongzhi's Guidepost of Silent Illumination - Part 2

April 22nd, 2020


I continue in a second episode with my reflections on Chan master Hongzhi's "Guidepost of Silent Illumination. I discuss the interdependence of …

132 - Restoring Wonder: Hongzhi's Guidepost of Silent Illumination - Part 1

April 8th, 2020


In this episode and the next, I riff off of 12th-century Chan master Hongzhi’s short text, “Guidepost of Silent Illumination,” one of the most positive and encouraging Zen teachings a know. By “riff” I mean I’ll play …

131 – Facing Impermanence? Fortunately, Buddhism Is All About Life and Death

March 26th, 2020


Buddhism’s central point is nothing other than impermanence, or the "Great Matter of Life-and-Death." Our practice goes far beyond platitudes or …

130 – A Buddhist Approach to Practicing with Fear

March 16th, 2020


Fear is a natural response that helps us protect ourselves and our loved ones, but it can also be inappropriate and debilitating. Buddhist practice …

129 - Why Is Self-Esteem Essential When the Self is Empty?

February 29th, 2020


Self-esteem is absolutely essential in Buddhist practice, but it may seem like self-esteem has no place in Buddhism. The Buddha taught us to stop …

128 – Taking Action: Getting Out of the House and Helping Others (Crisis Buddhism Part 3)

February 19th, 2020


Taking Action is the second area of practice in Crisis Buddhism. It means working to help alleviate or prevent the suffering we witness in the world by leaving our homes, interacting with others, and engaging in …

127 - Crisis Buddhism - Part 2: Bearing Witness

February 11th, 2020


Crisis Buddhism requires us to mindfully balance three essential areas of practice: Bearing Witness, Taking Action, and Taking Care. In this episode …

126 - Crisis Buddhism: Sustainable Bodhisattva Practice in a World on Fire – Part 1

January 29th, 2020


Crisis Buddhism is a new formulation of practice to help us navigate our everyday lives as we face ecological and climate breakdown. We mindfully …

125 - Liberation Through Understanding the Five Wisdom Energies

January 21st, 2020


The Vajrayana teaching of the five wisdom energies is a about five types of energy we all have within us, or five tendencies within a human being. …

124 - Giving Shape to Our Lives: The Buddhist Practice of Vow

January 7th, 2020


Vows guide our decisions, help us prioritize how we spend our time, resources, and energy, and allow us to discern whether our actions are in harmony with our deeper aspirations - helping us live intentionally instead …

123 – Engaging Our Climate Emergency as a Koan and Opportunity

December 23rd, 2019


Our practical, lived response to our climate and ecological crisis – as individuals, Sanghas, and Dharma teachers – is inseparable from our Dharma …

122 - Meditation Is NOT About Stopping Thoughts

December 16th, 2019


In this episode, I talk about why we long to be thought-free. Then I discuss how meditation is not about stopping thought, but instead is a practice of diligently and repeatedly turning our attention to something beyond …

Facing Extinction 2: A Personal Journal (Nov 14-22)

December 12th, 2019


Facing Extinction: A Personal Journal about Trying to Do the Right Thing in a Climate Emergency. Topics: I Need You(r support for my activism); What Does Zen Have to Do with Climate Action? (a discussion with other Zen …

121 – The Practical Value of Awakening to the Absolute Aspect of Reality

December 1st, 2019


Next week I’ll take a break from my busy life and projects in order to attend a silent meditation retreat. After spending the half-a-year since my …

120 - Dogen's Four Ways Bodhisattvas Embrace Living Beings - Part 5 - Identity Action

November 26th, 2019


I finish up our study of Zen master Dogen’s essay “Four Ways Bodhisattvas Embrace Living Beings” with a discussion of "identity action," or "being in the same boat" with living beings. Even if you’re not a big fan of …

119 - Brightening the Mind: Refusing to be Tyrannized by Negative States

November 17th, 2019


Practice can help us “brighten the mind” when we’re feeling trapped in negativity, hopelessness, despair, discouragement, depression, lack of confidence, etc. We practice four steps: 1) Acknowledging (noticing and …

Facing Extinction 1: Nov. 3rd - 9th, 2019

November 13th, 2019


This episode is a part of series I’m trying, “Facing Extinction: Trying to do the right thing in a climate emergency.” What does it have to do with Zen and Buddhism? The connection may not be so explicit, but my own …

118 - Buddha's Teachings 15: Nirvana as the Ultimate Goal of Original Buddhism

November 2nd, 2019


Nibbana means "extinguished," and attaining it means you have extinguished the "outflows" of sensuality, ignorance, and the desire for further existence. Someone who attains nibbana experiences ineffable peace and …

117 - Clarifying the Mind Ground According to Keizan's “Zazen-Yojinki”

October 28th, 2019


In his essay "Zazen Yojinki," or "Points to Keep in Mind When Practicing Zazen," 13th-century Zen master Keizan Jokin presents “clarify[ing] the mind-ground and dwell[ing] comfortably in [your] original nature” as our …

116 - Do You Need a Zen or Buddhist Teacher?

October 20th, 2019


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 …

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

October 6th, 2019


In this episode I continue our study of 13th-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 …

114 - Why Your (Real) Happiness Benefits Others

September 28th, 2019


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 …

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

September 20th, 2019


In my enthusiastic endorsement of shikantaza or, "just sitting," I may have given the impression I think a real Zen student would only sit …

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

September 11th, 2019


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 …

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

September 6th, 2019


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 …

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

September 1st, 2019


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 …

110 - How Understanding Impermanence Can Lead to Great Appreciation

August 16th, 2019


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 …

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

August 10th, 2019


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 …

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

July 30th, 2019


The “Five Skandhas,” or aggregates, are the five aspects of a human being: Form, the body; Feelings, our positive, negative, or neutral reactions to …

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

July 19th, 2019


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 …

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

July 13th, 2019


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 …

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

July 7th, 2019


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 …

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

June 29th, 2019


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 …

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

June 14th, 2019


Theravadin and Vipassana Buddhists tend to be familiar with the Pali Canon, particularly the suttas, or discourses of the Buddha. Other Buddhists …

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

June 7th, 2019


Buddhist practice can permeate every aspect of our lives. To help practitioners appreciate this outside the full-immersion experience of residential …

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

June 3rd, 2019


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 …

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

May 17th, 2019


Theravadin and Vipassana Buddhists tend to be familiar with the Pali Canon, particularly the suttas, or discourses of the Buddha. Other Buddhists …

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

May 10th, 2019


Zen practice can permeate every aspect of our lives. To help lay practitioners appreciate this outside the full-immersion experience of residential …

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

May 3rd, 2019


Zen practice can permeate every aspect of our lives. To help lay practitioners appreciate this outside the full-immersion experience of residential …

97 – Twelve Pali Canon Suttas Every Buddhist Should Know – Part 1

April 26th, 2019


Theravadin and Vipassana Buddhists tend to be familiar with the Pali Canon, particularly the suttas, or discourses of the Buddha. Other Buddhists …

Off-Week Editorial - It’s Not Enough to Respond to What’s Right in Front of You

April 19th, 2019


The core of Buddhist practice is cultivating mindfulness of this moment and responding as best we can to whatever we encounter in the course of our …

96 - Zazen Pamphlet: Essential (and Brief) Instructions for the Practice of Zazen

April 12th, 2019


I challenged myself to write instructions for the practice of zazen that would fit on a letter-sized, tri-fold brochure – 8 ½ by 11 inches, two …

95 - Lineage in Buddhism: The Intersection Between the Individual and the Collective Tradition

April 7th, 2019


In many forms of Buddhism, particularly in Zen, we have the concept of “lineage:” the essential aspects of our collective religious tradition have …

94 - Buddha's Teachings 13 - The Five Hindrances - Part 3

March 30th, 2019


The Buddha taught that there are five main “hindrances” we encounter in our spiritual practice: 1) Worldly desire; 2) ill-will; 3) sloth-and-torpor; 4) restlessness-and-worry, and 5) uncertainty (or skeptical doubt). In …

93 - Buddha's Teachings 12: The Five Hindrances – Part 2

March 23rd, 2019


The Buddha taught that there are five main “hindrances” we encounter in our spiritual practice. In this 2nd episode of 3, I start going into detail about each hindrance and recommended ways to abandon them. I get …

2019-03-15 Off-Week Book Review: Why Buddhism Is True

March 15th, 2019


I review Robert Wright's Why Buddhism Is True: The Science and Philosophy of Meditation and Enlightenment. While it's not necessary to know the "why" of things in order for Buddhist practice to be effective (and it can …

92 - Buddha's Teachings 11: The Five Hindrances – Part 1

March 9th, 2019


Meditation and other aspects of Buddhist practice can be difficult. According to the Buddha, it’s useful to pay attention to exactly what’s going on …

91 – Unethical Buddhist Teachers: Were They Ever Really Enlightened?

March 1st, 2019


The list of supposedly-highly-realized Buddhist teachers who have abused their power and acted in harmful ways – particularly in the realm of sex – …

90 - Buddhist History 11: Early Indian Buddhism - Stupas and Devotional Practice - Part 2

February 23rd, 2019


In Part 1 (Episode 82), I defined Devotional Practice as extending beyond demonstrations of respect, gratitude, and reverence to practices believed …

89 – Buddhist Practice as a Lifelong Path of Growth and Transformation

February 15th, 2019


Traditionally, Buddhist practice has been more than something you do to make everyday life more pleasant; it’s a path of training and study aimed at …

88 – Nyoho: Making Even Our Smallest, Mundane Actions Accord with the Dharma – Part 2

February 2nd, 2019


Nyoho practice is looking for opportunities to act in accord with the Dharma in the midst of our daily lives, in very practical, physical ways. We view no act as too mundane or insignificant to perform with care, and no …

87 – Nyoho: Making Even Our Smallest, Mundane Actions Accord with the Dharma – Part 1

January 28th, 2019


We have a practice in Zen of trying to make even our smallest actions reflect the deep truths of the Dharma, including interdependence, impermanence, no-self, suchness, and Buddha-nature. I’m going to call this practice …

86 - Samvega and Pasada: Two Buddhist Emotions Indispensable for Practice

January 18th, 2019


Samvega and pasada keep our practice alive and on course. Samvega is spiritual urgency arising three things: A sense of distress and disillusionment about life as it's usually lived, a sense of our own complicity and …

85 – I Shouldn’t Feel Like This: A Practitioner’s Conundrum

January 11th, 2019


Buddhism teaches that you can change the nature of your experience by changing your own mind and behaviors - increasing the proportion of your life spent feeling calm, confident, positive,and compassionate. Sometimes, …

84 – Two Paths to Meditative Concentration: Directed Effort Versus Letting Go – Part 2

December 24th, 2018


I propose there are two paths to meditative concentration: directed effort (what the Buddha taught) and letting go (something we do in Soto Zen). One path or the other may work better for some people. In this episode I …

83 – Two Paths to Meditative Concentration: Directed Effort Versus Letting Go – Part 1

December 14th, 2018


I believe some of our struggles in meditation could be eased if we recognized there are two paths to meditative concentration, or samadhi – directed …

82 - Buddhist History 10: Early Indian Buddhism - Stupas and Devotional Practice - Part 1

December 1st, 2018


It’s pretty typical to hear only one side of Buddhist history – that is, the side that focuses on what the Buddha taught, or the Dharma, and on the …

81 – Five Steps for Positive Change without Waging War on the Self

November 24th, 2018


It’s natural and healthy to aspire to things like having more equanimity, being more generous, and overcoming negative habits – and, in fact, such aspiration is part of the Buddhist path. However, when we encounter …

80 - Four Foundations of Mindfulness Practice and Similarities in Zen

November 17th, 2018


In the last episode, I introduced the Four Foundations of Mindfulness as the Buddha taught them. Mindfulness means to remember something, or keep …

79 - Buddha's Teachings 10: The Four Foundations of Mindfulness

November 13th, 2018


One of Buddha's central teachings was the Four Foundations of Mindfulness, about how you walk the Eightfold Path to liberation. Mindfulness, or sati, …

78 – The Ten Oxherding Pictures: Stages of Practice When You’re Going Nowhere

November 1st, 2018


The Ten Oxherding pictures are a Zen teaching, but many Buddhist practitioners are familiar with the experience of trying to motivate yourself to practice without the rewards of explicit, tangible goals or markers of …

77 - Western Zen Grows Up and Faces the Koan of Race – Part 2

October 28th, 2018


Second part of a two-part series: The story of my particular school, Soto Zen, in America, but even if you identify with a different type of Buddhism …

76 - Western Zen Grows Up and Faces the Koan of Race – Part 1

October 12th, 2018


I tell you the story of my lineage of Zen over the last 100 years or so – its birth in America, its growth, its rocky adolescence, and how it’s …

75 – Sekito Kisen’s Sandokai: The Identity of Relative and Absolute – Part 2

October 4th, 2018


This my second episode on the Sandokai, an ancient teaching poem composed by Chinese Zen master Sekito Kisen (Shitou Xiqian, 700-790). It’s recited …

74 – Sekito Kisen’s Sandokai: The Identity of Relative and Absolute – Part 1

September 27th, 2018


Sandokai is a teaching poem composed by Chinese Chan (Zen) master Sekito Kisen (Shitou Xiqian, 700-790). It’s recited daily in Soto Zen temples throughout the world. In this episode I explore the meaning of the Sandokai …

73 – Is Buddhism Secular, Spiritual, or Religious?

September 11th, 2018


Is Buddhism religious, spiritual, or secular? The short answer to that is all three – depending what questions you’re asking. In this episode I …

72 – Taking Care of Our Lives: More About the Karma Relationship Side of Practice

September 1st, 2018


In Episode 38 I talked about how Buddhist practice has two sides – samadhi power and karma relationship. Samadhi power is about cultivating a direct, …

71 - Buddha's Teachings 9: The Four Brahmaviharas, or Sublime Social Attitudes - Part 3

August 26th, 2018


In this third episode of my series on the Four Brahmaviharas, I briefly talk about how to use them in daily practice without setting them up as unattainable ideals. Then I discuss what tends to get in the way of …

70 - Buddhist Practice: Dealing with Intrusive Thoughts and Emotions

August 18th, 2018


“Intrusive” thoughts and emotions arise repeatedly with enough intensity for them to be disturbing or distracting, even though they aren’t …

69 - The Soto Zen Goal of Goallessness: How to Awaken Without Trying

August 4th, 2018


The goal of Buddhism is to awaken to what’s true, because the truth is liberating. And yet my tradition, Soto Zen, points us toward the “goal of goallessness,” telling us we’ll awaken if only we give up our desire for …

68 – Relating to Buddhist Teachings 2: Wrestling with the Teachings

July 29th, 2018


From the perspective of most Buddhist lineages, including Zen, study is essential. In this episode I’ll get into why that is and present a practical …

67 – Relating to Buddhist Teachings 1: Their Abundance, Diversity & Authenticity

July 21st, 2018


If you’ve spent any time at all studying Buddhism, you’ve discovered there are lots of Buddhist teachings and texts. What should you choose to study? …

66 - Buddha's Teachings 8: Four Brahmaviharas, or Sublime Social Attitudes - Part 2

July 14th, 2018


In Part 2 of my series on the Brahmaviharas, I explore teachings about how to cultivate Metta, or goodwill, in an unlimited or boundless way. (Which …

Special Announcement: Launch of the Zen Studies Sangha

July 7th, 2018


I've received many inquiries over the past year about how to connect with a teacher and Sangha, particularly if you live far from a Zen/Buddhist …

65 – Dealing with Fear, Anger, and Hatred as a Buddhist

July 2nd, 2018


I’ve been getting a lot of questions from people about how to deal with fear, anger, and hatred as a Buddhist – our own as well that of others, especially at a time when people are so divided, and doing so much damage …

64 - Shikantaza: Having the Guts to Just Sit and Let Go of Doing Anything

June 23rd, 2018


I’ve been sitting zazen for over 20 years, but only recently have I had the guts to really do shikantaza, or “just sitting,” and it feels profoundly liberating. In this kind of zazen, you utterly let go of doing …

63 - Buddha's Teachings 7: The Four Brahmaviharas, or Sublime Social Attitudes - Part 1

June 19th, 2018


The Buddha taught the importance of the four Brahmaviharas, or sublime attitudes: Goodwill, compassion, sympathetic joy, and equanimity. These are …

62 - Listener's Questions: Practicing with Mental Illness

June 8th, 2018


I share and answer three questions from listeners about practicing Buddhism and meditation when you're experiencing some kind of mental illness. I …

61 - Taking Refuge and Precepts: The Significance of Becoming a Buddhist – Part 2

May 25th, 2018


This is the second of two episodes on the practice of formally making vows to commit yourself to the Buddhist path as a lay person, in which I introduce you to two more ways of approaching lay vows in Buddhism. As …

60 - Taking Refuge and Precepts: The Significance of Becoming a Buddhist – Part 1

May 18th, 2018


Many religions have initiation rituals in which adherents formally commit themselves to their tradition – baptism, confirmation, and Bar or Bat Mitzvah, for example. Buddhism has its own initiation rituals which usually …

59 - The Buddha's Teachings Part 6: The Three Poisons as the Root of All Evil

May 12th, 2018


In this episode I introduce the Buddha’s teaching of the three poisons. According to the Buddha, the root of all evil – that is, all unskillful, …

58 - Dogen's Bendowa Part 2: Inconceivable Dharma, Practice, and Realization

May 4th, 2018


This episode is the second of two on the first part of “Bendowa,” Zen master Dogen’s essay that amounts to “Soto Zen in a Nutshell.” This week I cover two more important subjects Dogen covers in Bendowa: The ubiquitous …

57 - Dogen's Bendowa Part 1: What's the Big Deal about Zazen?

April 30th, 2018


Zen master Dogen wrote Bendowa in 1231 to introduce his Japanese students to Soto Zen. In a sense, then, it's "Soto Zen in a nutshell." In this episode I introduce the text and the context in which it was written, and …

56 - Avalokiteshvara Bodhisattva and the Power of Compassion

April 22nd, 2018


Avalokiteshvara, the bodhisattva of compassion (also called Guanyin, Kannon, or Kanzeon), is hands-down the most popular of the Buddhist archetypal …

55 - Listener's Questions: Enlightened Behavior, Openings, Chanting, Recommended Books

April 12th, 2018


This episode answers four listener questions: 1) What is enlightened behavior - can someone be "awakened" and still do immoral or harmful things? 2) …

54 – You Don’t Need to Improve or Get Anything to Fulfill the Buddha Way

March 30th, 2018


You don’t need to improve one iota, change anything about yourself, or obtain anything you don’t already have, in order to fulfill the Buddha Way and …

53 - Buddha's Teachings Part 5: Karma, the Law of Moral Cause-and-Effect

March 23rd, 2018


Karma may be the most widely mentioned - and misunderstood - Buddhist concept outside Buddhist circles. You might, “Well, that’s karma!” when someone more or less gets their comeuppance. This view of karma isn’t …

52 - Profound, Practical, Mutable: Dharma Transmission in Zen – Part 2

March 15th, 2018


In Soto Zen Buddhism, “Dharma Transmission” is a ritual in which a qualified Zen teacher acknowledges the ability of one of their students to carry on the lineage tradition of Zen. In this episode I give you a sense of …

51 - Profound, Practical, Mutable: Dharma Transmission in Zen – Part 1

March 10th, 2018


In Soto Zen Buddhism, “Dharma Transmission” is a ritual in which a qualified Zen teacher acknowledges the ability of one of their students to carry on the lineage tradition of Zen. In this episode I introduce you to the …

50 - Buddhist History 8: Aśoka, First Buddhist Emperor – Facts and Legend Part 2

March 4th, 2018


Legends of King Aśoka (3rd century BCE), have long guided and inspired Buddhists, particularly rulers. In this 2nd episode of two, I continue the …

49 - Buddhist History 8: Aśoka, First Buddhist Emperor – Facts and Legend – Part 1

February 27th, 2018


King Aśoka was an Indian emperor in the 3rd century BCE. According to legend, he was a devout Buddhist who explicitly and publicly governed in accord with the Dhamma, or Buddhist teachings. Aśoka has been important to …

48 - How to Guide Your Own Meditation Part 2: First-Person Stories

February 9th, 2018


In this second episode of two on "How to Guide Your Own Meditation," I illustrate the process by sharing four first-person narratives about meditation experiences. In each story, someone turns their attention toward …

47 - How to Guide Your Own Meditation Part 1: Do Something, Don’t Just Fall Asleep

February 2nd, 2018


We sometimes get stuck in simplistic meditation instructions and therefore sell our meditation short. It's valuable to learn how to guide your own …

46 - Dogen’s Genjokoan Part 5: Birds Fly, Fish Swim, a Zen Master Waves a Fan

January 26th, 2018


In this episode we finish up the Genjokoan, focusing first on the rather long passage comparing our path of practice to the way a fish swims in the water, or a bird flies in the sky. Then I’ll talk about the story at …

45 - The Value of Buddhist Prayer Part 3: Prayer for Personal Transformation

January 20th, 2018


In this 3rd episode of three on Buddhist prayer, I talk about how prayer for personal transformation and change. I discuss why change is so hard, how …

44 - The Value of Buddhist Prayer Part 2: Aid-Seeking If There’s No God

January 12th, 2018


I continue our exploration of Buddhist prayer with a discussion of "aid-seeking" prayer, or prayer for a positive result. In particular, in this …

43 - The Value of Buddhist Prayer Part 1: Paradox of Prayer in a Nontheistic Spiritual Tradition

January 6th, 2018


You might be surprised to know many Buddhists pray, given that Buddhism is fundamentally a nontheistic religion. It’s possible to be an avowed atheist and a devout Buddhist at the same time. In fact, such a Buddhist …

42 - Buddha's Teachings Part 4: Right Speech - Factual, Helpful, Kind, Pleasant, and Timely

December 21st, 2017


Right speech is an essential part of Shakyamuni Buddha’s very first teaching of the Noble Eightfold Path, his prescription for spiritual liberation …

41 -Dogen’s Genjokoan Part 4: Moon in a Dewdrop and Views of the Ocean

December 15th, 2017


In this 4th episode of 5 on Zen master Dogen's Genjokoan (written in 1233), I discuss the image of the moon reflected in a dewdrop (ultimate reality …

40 - Being Beneficial Instead of Right: The Buddhist Concept of Skillful Means

December 7th, 2017


The Buddhist concept of “upaya,” skillful or expedient means, arose around the dawn of the common era – about 2,000 years ago. It emphasizes that …

39 - Buddhist History 7: Indian Buddhism After the Buddha - The First 200 Years

November 30th, 2017


This episode covers the first 200 years or so of Buddhism, beginning with the traditional account of events immediately after the Buddha’s passing. Then I describe how the ordained Sangha met to compile and codify his …

38 - The Two Sides of Practice: Samadhi Power and Karma Relationship

November 18th, 2017


Buddhist practice can be seen as consisting of two sides, and both are essential. The first side is cultivating “samadhi power,” or our ability to …

37 - Dogen’s Genjokoan Part 3: Seeking, Self, and the Matter of Life-and-Death

November 10th, 2017


In part 3 of my series on the famous Zen text called “Genjokoan,” written in 1233 by Japanese Zen master Eihei Dogen, I discuss the sections about seeking the Dharma, riding in a boat (recognizing self-nature is …

36 - Buddha's Teachings Part 3: The Noble Eightfold Path

November 3rd, 2017


In his very first sermon, delivered over 2,500 years ago, Shakyamuni Buddha taught the Noble Eightfold Path. In this episode I describe this teaching …

35 - Dogen’s Genjokoan: A Verse by Verse Exploration – Part 2

October 26th, 2017


My second episode focused on the famous Zen text “Genjokoan,” written by Japanese Zen master Eihei Dogen in 1233. In this episode I cover "the moon reflected in water" section, and the "to study Buddhism is to study the …

34 - Dogen’s Genjokoan: A Verse by Verse Exploration – Part 1

October 19th, 2017


Part of my Buddhist Texts series, this episode focuses on a famous Zen text called “Genjokoan,” written by Japanese Zen master Eihei Dogen in 1233. …

October Break Message

October 12th, 2017


Hello! I didn't produce an episode for you this week because I'm spending time with my parents - they live in Minnesota but are here in Oregon on their annual visit. I'll release a new episode next Thursday, Oct. 19th. …

33 – Life of Shakyamuni Buddha Part 4: Further Teachings and Colorful Stories

October 5th, 2017


This episode finishes up my story of Shakyamuni Buddha's life. It continues with the development of the early Sangha, including the ordination of women and the establishment of a code of discipline for monastics. It …

32 - The Practice of Not-Knowing: Relief, Intimacy, and Ground for Effective Action

September 28th, 2017


The Zen practice of "not-knowing" honors the absolute dimension of our lives - even as we engage in "knowing," as necessary, in the relative …

31 - Six Realms of Existence Part 3: Hungry Ghost and Human Realms

September 21st, 2017


In this third episode of a 3-part series on the Buddhist teaching of the Six Realms of Existence, I describe the Hungry Ghost and Human Realms. I …

30 - Six Realms of Existence Part 2: Asura, Beast, and Hell Realms

September 14th, 2017


In this 2nd episode of a 3-part series, I cover the Asura (fighting demigod), Beast, and Hell Realms. I continue offering a traditional, mythological …

29 - Six Realms of Existence Part 1: Introduction and the Heaven Realm

September 7th, 2017


In this episode, part 1 of 3, I explain the Buddhist teaching of the Six Realms of Existence, also known as the Wheel of Life, or the Wheel of …

Labor Day Message

August 31st, 2017


I won't be releasing a new episode today, in honor of Labor Day weekend.


will release one next week!


Take care, Domyo

28 - Q&A: The Teaching of Rebirth and Too Much Thinking During Zazen

August 24th, 2017


This week’s episode is a Q&A session, based on listener’s questions I’ve received by email. I’ll start out with a series of questions about the Buddhist teaching of rebirth, and end with a question about how to deal …

27 - The Buddha's Teachings Part 2 – The Four Noble Truths

August 17th, 2017


The Buddha's very first teaching as about the Four Noble Truths: Dukkha, the Origin of Dukkha, the Cessation of Dukkha, and the Path Leading to the Cessation of Dukkha. In this episode I introduce the Four Noble Truths …

26 – Work as Spiritual Practice According to Dogen's “Instructions to the Cook” – Part 2

August 10th, 2017


In Part 1, I introduced you to the concept of work practice, how it came to be so important in Zen, the central teachings Dogen gives about it. In this episode I explain five ways you can engage your work as spiritual …

25 – Work as Spiritual Practice According to Dogen's “Instructions to the Cook” - Part 1

August 3rd, 2017


Zen demands that we engage our everyday activities, particularly work, as spiritual practice. Few writings describe Zen work practice as well as Zen …

24 – Deepen Your Zazen by Not Getting Stuck in Satisfaction or Dissatisfaction

July 27th, 2017


It's tempting, particularly in Mahayana Buddhism, to get stuck in a kind of superficial satisfaction with your zazen and practice. Of course, it's …

23 - How Buddhists Should Behave: Evolution of the Buddhist Precepts Part 2

July 21st, 2017


I continue with the story of the Theravadin precepts - particularly how the Vinaya has affected the ordination of monks and nuns, and how lay people …

22 - How Buddhists Should Behave: Evolution of the Buddhist Precepts Part 1

July 13th, 2017


Many people are unaware that, from the beginning, Buddhism has said as much about how you should behave in your daily life as it does about …

21 – Sesshin: 24-7 Silent Meditation Retreats

June 29th, 2017


Buddhists all over the world regularly gather for silent meditation retreats with a 24-7 schedule. In this episode I describe a Zen retreat, or …

20 - The Heart Sutra Part 2: Line by Line Explanation, Continued

June 21st, 2017


In this episode I complete my line-by-line exploration of the Heart Sutra. I cover what the sutra means when its says "there is no" such-and-such, why it proceeds through such long lists of things that don't exist the …

19 - The Heart Sutra Part 1: Introduction to the Most Common Mahayana Text

June 15th, 2017


The Heart Sutra is probably the best-known Buddhist text in the world. It's less than 250 words long and considered to present the essence of Mahayana Buddhism. However, its meaning – and its attraction to Buddhists – …

18 - Zen Forms (Customs and Rituals) and Why They Matter

June 8th, 2017


In traditional Zen practice, we have a lot of what we call “forms.” Forms are the established ways we enact our practice with our bodies… including the ways we move in the meditation hall, sit in the meditation posture, …

Life of Shakyamuni Buddha Part 3: First Sermons and Students, and the Early Sangha

June 1st, 2017


In this first of two episodes about the Buddha's 45-year teaching career and the early Buddhist community, I’ll talk about the Buddha’s first sermons, the enlightenment of the first disciples, the first lay students of …

Sangha: The Joys, Challenges, and Value of Practicing in a Buddhist Community

May 25th, 2017


Is it really necessary to participate in a Sangha, or Buddhist community? What are the benefits, joys, and challenges of doing so? You may be surprised by some of the aspects of Sangha practice I talk about in this …

To Study Buddhism Is to Study the Self (and Why That’s Not Selfish)

May 18th, 2017


Liberation from self-concern is central to all forms of Buddhism, although the methods used to achieve that liberation differ widely. In this episode, I present a classic Zen teaching on not-self: Zen Master Dogen’s …

Buddha's Teachings Part 1: The Three Marks and the Teaching of Not-Self (Anatta)

May 11th, 2017


From the beginning, the Buddha's teachings featured the Three Characteristics of Existence: anicca (impermanence), dukkha (dissatisfactoriness), and anatta (not-self). This episode introduces the Three Characteristics …

What Zen “Acceptance” and “Non-Attachment” Really Are

May 4th, 2017


The practices of acceptance and non-attachment are critical to Zen and Buddhist practice, but they are easily misunderstood. It can sound like we're being asked not to care about things, or not to try to change things …

Life of Shakyamuni Buddha Part 2: Spiritual Struggle, Enlightenment, Teaching, and Death

April 27th, 2017


Buddhism began when Siddhartha Gautama experienced a spiritual awakening over 2,500 years ago in India, and became an “awakened one,” or Buddha. Over the course of two episodes, I tell the story of the Buddha’s life …

Life of Shakyamuni Buddha Part 1: Source Texts, and Birth Through Homeleaving

April 20th, 2017


Buddhism began when Siddhartha Gautama experienced a spiritual awakening over 2,500 years ago in India, and became an “awakened one,” or Buddha. Over the course of two episodes, I tell the story of the Buddha’s life …

What Is "Zen Practice," Anyway?

April 13th, 2017


If you've spent any time in a Zen community, or reading Zen books, you will have encountered the term “practice” countless times. Buddhist teachers …

Shakyamuni Buddha's Enlightenment: What Did He Realize?

April 6th, 2017


Buddhism began over 2,500 years ago with the spiritual enlightenment of a man named Siddhartha Gautama, who became the "Buddha," or "awakened one." What exactly did the Buddha realize upon his enlightenment?

It-with-a-Capital-I: The Zen Version of God

March 30th, 2017


Zen Buddhism is a non-theistic religious tradition. However, it's not entirely correct to say that there is no God in Zen. While we don’t conceive of, or worship, an omnipotent personification of the Divine, at the …

Dharma Talk - Beyond Mindfulness: The Radical Practice of Undivided Presence

March 23rd, 2017


This episode is a Dharma Talk, where I present my own take on traditional Zen and Buddhist teachings & practices.

In this talk I present an …

Arising of Buddhism Part 2: New Religious Questions and Answers Around 500 BCE

March 16th, 2017


This episode is a continuation of episode 5, which focused on the historical and religious context in India before the Buddha, and how social, …

Arising of Buddhism Part 1: Historical and Religious Context in India

March 9th, 2017


This is the first episode in my “Buddhist History and Seminal Texts” series. I discuss the historical and religious context for the beginnings of Buddhism in India in the 500s BCE. I give you a brief overview of the …

Zazen Part 2: How to Deal with Thinking, Stay Engaged, and Maintain a Practice

March 2nd, 2017


If you haven’t already done so, you may want to listen to Zazen (Seated Meditation) Part One: What Zazen Is and How to Do It before this episode.

In …

Zazen (Seated Meditation) Part 1: What Zazen Is and How to Do It

January 25th, 2017


Learn about what zazen is, why it's the central practice of Zen, and how to do it.

The Three Treasures of Buddhism: Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha

January 17th, 2017


For over 2,500 years, in every form of Buddhism, you formally become a Buddhist by stating, “I take refuge in the Buddha, I take refuge in the Dharma, I take refuge in the Sangha.” Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha are …

How Does Zen Fit Within the Context of Buddhism as a Whole?

January 17th, 2017


Zen is a type of Buddhism, which is a 2,500-year-old tradition. When and how did Zen arise, and what is unique about it?

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