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The Wisdom Podcast

Wisdom Publications

Weekly hand curated podcast episodes for learning

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Bhante Gunaratana: A Special Teaching on Mindfulness

In this episode of the Wisdom Podcast we meet Bhante Gunaratana, renowned meditation teacher, Buddhist monk, and author of the now-classic Mindfulness in Plain English, published by Wisdom. Born in Sri Lanka, Bhante Gunaratana was ordained at the age of twelve in the Theravada tradition. In this episode, we hear “Bhante G” (as he is affectionately called by his students) recall his early years as a precocious young monk. After suffering the tragic loss of his photographic memory when he was a teenager, Bhante G regained his mental faculties by teaching himself meditation, despite being forbidden by monastic rule. Drawing wisdom from his own experience, Bhante G shares the value of studying meditation directly from the suttas. In this extraordinary teaching, you’ll hear Bhante G recall the words of the Buddha himself as he explains the very heart of an effective mindfulness or meditation practice. Bhante G encourages a more complex understanding of central terms as bhāvanā, or cultivation, sati, or mindfulness as pre-conceptual awareness, the five aggregates, as well as the term vipassana itself. He also reminds us why sīla, samādhi, and paññā—or morality, concentration, and wisdom—are inextricably bound to one another within mindfulness and meditation, and also shares his thoughts on the wisdom of non-labeling. As part of this special episode, you can also listen to a guided meditation led by Bhante G available below. The post Bhante Gunaratana: A Special Teaching on Mindfulness appeared first on The Wisdom Experience.

1hr 15mins

5 Jan 2018

Rank #1

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Ajahn Brahm: Letting Go, Stillness, and Vanishing

In this episode of the Wisdom podcast, host Daniel Aitken travels to Berkeley, California, to speak with Venerable Ajahn Brahm, a meditation teacher in the Thai Forest tradition and author of many popular books including Falling Is Flying; The Art of Disappearing; and Mindfulness, Bliss, and Beyond. In this conversation, you’ll hear Ajahn Brahm talk about his early interests in theoretical physics at Cambridge University and how this intersected with his interest in Buddhist thought. He talks about the constructed nature of perception and how what we perceive is largely contained within the limits of our own imagination. Ajahn Brahm also discusses what he calls the art of disappearing—namely the relationship between letting go, stillness, and vanishing. You’ll hear him explain how true mindfulness emerges from this place of disappearance as well as its connection to the necessity of higher states of meditation. The post Ajahn Brahm: Letting Go, Stillness, and Vanishing appeared first on The Wisdom Experience.

1hr 2mins

6 Sep 2019

Rank #2

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Andy Rotman: The Divine Stories of Early Buddhism

Discover the powerful teachings on philosophy and faith woven into the classical stories of early Buddhism. In this episode of the Wisdom Podcast we meet Andy Rotman, professor of religion and Buddhist studies at Smith College and chief editor for Wisdom’s Classics of Indian Buddhism series. An expert in the field of Buddhist literature, Andy shares with us the important role of narratives in monastic and lay life in South Asia, and how they were used to cultivate wisdom and compassion. We also hear some of Andy’s favorite tales from his translations of Divine Stories (Divyāvadāna), one of the most important collections of ancient Buddhist narratives. Find out what to expect in the second volume of his translations—Divine Stories, Part 2. The post Andy Rotman: The Divine Stories of Early Buddhism appeared first on The Wisdom Experience.

57mins

10 Apr 2017

Rank #3

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Jan Westerhoff: Nāgārjuna and Madhyamaka

In this episode of the Wisdom Podcast we meet Jan Westerhoff, professor of Buddhist philosophy at the University of Oxford and specialist in the Madhyamaka philosophical tradition. In this episode, Jan shares how his early studies in Indian and Tibetan Buddhist philosophy eventually led to a PhD in contemporary metaphysics, before leading to a second PhD on Nāgārjuna and Madhyamaka. In this fascinating discussion, you’ll hear Jan give nuanced explanations of key philosophical concepts as such as svabhāva, or intrinsic nature, as defined in early Buddhist metaphysics (in the Abhidharma) versus Nāgārjuna’s later interpretations. This leads to further analysis on the topic of causation and its relationship to intrinsic nature, as well as differing views between Madhyamaka and Abhidharma on the role of human conceptualization. You’ll also hear Jan explain some of Nāgārjuna’s central arguments on emptiness and language, as well as how some of these ideas fit into broader Buddhist imperatives such as the cultivation of wisdom and compassion, meditative practice, merit-making, and ethics. The post Jan Westerhoff: Nāgārjuna and Madhyamaka appeared first on The Wisdom Experience.

1hr 17mins

8 Dec 2017

Rank #4

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Josh Korda: Honoring Transparency and Disclosure

In this episode of the Wisdom Podcast we hear from Josh Korda, Dharma teacher in the Against the Stream lineage, guiding teacher of Dharmapunx NYC, and author of Unsubscribe: Opt out of Delusion, Tune into Truth, recently published by Wisdom. You’ll hear Josh share his navigation through the difficult emotional realities of his youth, and how battling substance abuse deepened his insights as a practitioner in the Theravada Buddhist tradition. Josh explains how the trauma of witnessing 9/11 on the streets of New York catapulted him into a re-evaluation of his priorities, ultimately paving a way for a life in teaching. As a teacher, Josh shares his reverence for transparency and disclosure, a philosophy shaped by the irreverent punk culture of his youth, as well as a key mindset of both Dharmapunx teachers and practitioners. Central to his teaching is an upholding of the Buddha’s “householder” teachings, intended to support everyday contentment, rather than the monastic goal of ultimate transcendence. You’ll learn how Josh balances both Buddhist and Western psychological traditions in his spiritual counseling and teaching, as well as a preview of his new book. The post Josh Korda: Honoring Transparency and Disclosure appeared first on The Wisdom Experience.

1hr 16mins

17 Nov 2017

Rank #5

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Barry Magid: Psychologically Minded Zen

For this episode of the Wisdom Podcast, host Daniel Aitken speaks with Dr. Barry Magid, psychoanalyst, meditation teacher, and author of Nothing Is Hidden: The Psychology of Zen Koans. Since the 1970s, Barry has dedicated his life’s work to the integration of Western psychoanalytic psychology and Zen Buddhism. In this fascinating conversation, Barry describes his initial encounters with Buddhist ideas and how he came to agree with some while pushing back on others. He explains how his psychoanalytic practice has allowed him to articulate his take on the project of Buddhism by making the case for “wholeness,” or acceptance of a person’s mental states as they are in any given moment, rather than “wholesomeness,” or an attempt to dispel negative emotions and “purify” the mind. Building on this distinction, Barry explains the framework of what he calls “top down” versus “bottom up” approaches to practice, and the difference between searching for singular peak experiences in meditation versus engaging in moment-to-moment vulnerability with oneself at all times, both on and off the mat.  Barry offers illuminating insights on the pitfalls of viewing zazen as a “technique” versus zazen as a religious practice, or in other words, meditation beyond the framework of means-to-end thinking. As Buddhism becomes further enmeshed within Western culture, he advocates for zazen to remain a “useless” practice to counter recent emphasis on the goal-oriented techniques of mindfulness. Furthermore, Barry points out that our worst experiences in meditation can actually become the most beneficial and that it is possible to discover the absolute in the most mundane aspects of ordinary life. For more thoughts from Dr. Barry Magid on psychology and Zen Buddhism, be sure to check out this books, including Nothing is Hidden: The Psychology Zen Koans, Ending the Pursuit of Happiness: A Zen Guide, and Ordinary Mind: Exploring the Common Ground of Zen and Psychology. You can also view his lecture series through the Wisdom Experience. The post Barry Magid: Psychologically Minded Zen appeared first on The Wisdom Experience.

1hr 21mins

5 Jul 2019

Rank #6

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Malcolm Smith: Translating Dzogchen Texts

In this episode of the Wisdom Podcast we meet Malcolm Smith, translator of the core Dzogchen text Buddhahood in This Life, recently published by Wisdom Publications. This inspired translation of the Great Commentary of Vimalamitra offers insights into one of the earliest and most influential texts in the Dzogchen tradition of Tibetan Buddhism. We sat down with Malcolm to hear the fascinating historical context of this classic text as situated within Tibet’s terma, or treasure, tradition. Most profoundly, Malcolm provides extensive insights on the finer points of Dzogchen meditation, including topics such as the pathway of pristine consciousness, how delusions arise, and the importance of receiving transmission from a qualified Dzogchen teacher. The post Malcolm Smith: Translating Dzogchen Texts appeared first on The Wisdom Experience.

1hr 34mins

20 Oct 2017

Rank #7

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John Dunne: Dharmakīrti, Perception, and Cognitive Science

For this episode of the Wisdom Podcast, host Daniel Aitken speaks with John Dunne, Distinguished Professor of Contemplative Humanities at the University of Wisconsin–Madison and author of Foundations of Dharmakīrti’s Philosophy, published by Wisdom. John’s research focuses on Buddhist philosophy in relationship to contemplative practice, religious studies, and cognitive science. In this rich conversation, John covers a wide array of fascinating topics. He talks about the innate need for physiological connection with other human beings and its relationship to both fear and anxiety within both Buddhist and cognitive science perspectives. He then delves deeply into the world of Dharmakīrti’s philosophy of perception, comparing Dharmakīrti’s views with that of other Indian Buddhist philosophers as well as Tibetan Mahāmudrā. John weaves all this together within an intriguing account of his own life story. He talks about his spiritual quest for his so-called “true identity” as a young person, his multiple paths through college including his time at Harvard University, and the great impact of his teachers such as Robert Thurman and Chokyi Nyima Rinpoche. The post John Dunne: Dharmakīrti, Perception, and Cognitive Science appeared first on The Wisdom Experience.

1hr 35mins

13 Jun 2019

Rank #8

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Kamala Masters: Dhamma in Daily Life

In this episode of the Wisdom Podcast we speak with Kamala Masters, guiding teacher for the Insight Meditation Society and member of the translation committee for the new book by Mahāsi Sayadaw, Manual of Insight. We hear insightful stories from Kamala about how she initially came to practice Buddhism as a working single mother of three children under the skillful guidance of her teacher Munindra-ji. She shares how he helped her bring her practice into daily life and how she learned not to identify with difficult emotions. She also tells us about what she gained from doing longer retreats with Sayadaw U Pandita and how her brief time as a nun was a happy experience. Further, Kamala also underscores how she integrates love and wisdom when she teaches others, particularly how morality relates to being in community. The post Kamala Masters: Dhamma in Daily Life appeared first on The Wisdom Experience.

58mins

27 Jan 2017

Rank #9

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Daniel Goleman: The Mind and Meditation

For this episode of the Wisdom Podcast, host Daniel Aitken speaks with Daniel Goleman, acclaimed psychologist and author of several books including the international bestseller, Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ. Daniel Goleman has written extensively on the connections between human psychology, science, and contemplative practice, as well as their practical applications in both leadership and in everyday life. In this conversation, Goleman talks about his early years at Harvard, where he earned his PhD in psychology, and how encounters with great teachers such as Ram Dass, Tulku Urgyen, Khunu Rinpoche, and many others, would pave the way for his research on meditation and non-Western theories of mind. He also describes how several key figures influenced his engagement with different varieties of Buddhist practices. Unlike his studies in psychology that largely focused on the content of the mind, vipassana focused on the process, which Goleman found to be tremendously exciting. He then discusses how mindfulness and meditation—topics not well-received by his graduate advisors—have evolved within the United States and within American culture since the early 1970s. Most profoundly, Goleman discusses his recent work on climate change and proposes potential approaches to engaging with such a complex set of issues. Using his background in psychology, he offers extraordinarily astute insights on how the human mind grapples with the difference between imminent versus symbolic threats, and how this translates into the world of capital, consumerism, and personal responsibility. He also shares his thoughts on how Dharma practitioners might contribute to the environmental cause especially, by creating a model of ethical consumerism for those that surround them. To stay apprised of Daniel Goleman’s ongoing work, be sure to check out his website. There you can learn more about Goleman and access a variety of resources, from recorded lectures to his Emotional Intelligence Coaching Certification Program.  The post Daniel Goleman: The Mind and Meditation appeared first on The Wisdom Experience.

38mins

27 Mar 2020

Rank #10

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Robert Thurman: The Practice of Deity Yoga

On this episode of the Wisdom Podcast, host Daniel Aitken travels to upstate New York to speak with Robert Thurman, pioneering scholar and translator in the Tibetan Buddhist world, and professor of Indo-Tibetan Buddhist Studies at Columbia University. Professor Thurman has long been recognized as a leading authority on Buddhist religion, culture, and philosophy. Since this is Wisdom’s second podcast with Professor Thurman, we decided to focus on a topic that is of great interest to our listeners. In this conversation, Professor Thurman shares his expertise on the practice of deity yoga. Specifically, he explains the unique function of creation stage practice, describing it as a high-tech form of genetic engineering in which one is transformed into the embodiment of a buddha. Professor Thurman fleshes out the broader context of this practice, and also sheds light on the potential benefit of engaging in such an elaborate visualization of the mind. Furthermore, he addresses the relevance of creation stage practice in the context of everyday life. The post Robert Thurman: The Practice of Deity Yoga appeared first on The Wisdom Experience.

53mins

11 Oct 2019

Rank #11

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Larry Rosenberg: Early Pioneer of Buddhism in the West

In this episode of the Wisdom Podcast, host Daniel Aitken speaks with Larry Rosenberg, meditation teacher and founder of the Cambridge Insight Meditation Center, established in 1985. Larry is among the earliest pioneers of Buddhism in America. At 87, he has observed a great deal of American Buddhism’s growth and transformation in his forty years of teaching. In this rich conversation, Larry talks about leaving academia after being a professor of social psychology at both Harvard and Brandeis University, and how his craving for more experiential knowledge of the mind led him to meditation. Larry also shares his early encounters with J. Krishnamurti, who was a major influence on his spiritual path, and how many years in the Korean Zen tradition led to his interest in Vipassana. Later, the profound advice of His Holiness the Dalai Lama would help Larry develop his teaching philosophy at the Cambridge Insight Meditation Center. Larry shares how the Dalai Lama’s instruction to narrow his focus on the Four Noble Truths has proven successful after many decades of teaching. Larry and Daniel also discuss the topic of engaged Buddhism in the West, monastic versus lay life, and how Larry has developed as both a practitioner and teacher over the course of his lifetime. The post Larry Rosenberg: Early Pioneer of Buddhism in the West appeared first on The Wisdom Experience.

1hr 6mins

13 Dec 2019

Rank #12

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Alan Wallace: Meditation for Balanced Living

In this special taping of the Wisdom Podcast in front of a live audience at Harvard Divinity School, renowned Tibetan Buddhist teacher Alan Wallace explores with us the benefits of shamatha practice for leading a balanced life. Recorded as part of his Wisdom Academy course, “Shamatha: Meditation for Balanced Living,” Alan shares with us the meaning of shamatha and its place among the Buddha’s meditation techniques. He relates how it is an essential practice in all schools of Buddhism, including Theravada, Mahayana, and Vajrayana, and he specifically highlights its importance in the Dzogchen tradition of Tibet. The post Alan Wallace: Meditation for Balanced Living appeared first on The Wisdom Experience.

1hr

16 Jun 2017

Rank #13

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Leonard van der Kuijp: Discovering Tibet with a Leading Scholar

In this episode of the Wisdom Podcast we meet Leonard van der Kuijp, professor of Tibetan and Himalayan studies at Harvard University. A preeminent scholar in the field of Tibetan philosophy and translation, Leonard shares with us how he began his studies and what it was like being a student of the pioneer philosopher and translator Herbert Guenther. He also dives into fascinating stories that explore the intellectual and cultural history of Tibet, recounting tales of the Indian scholar Śākyaśrībhadra’s journey to Tibet in the thirteenth century. Leonard’s amusing and vivid stories tell us more about the spread of Buddhism in Tibet and shed a humanizing light on this important and defining time in Tibet’s past. The post Leonard van der Kuijp: Discovering Tibet with a Leading Scholar appeared first on The Wisdom Experience.

59mins

21 Mar 2017

Rank #14

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Sonam Thakchoe: In the Laboratory of Meditation

In this episode of the Wisdom Podcast, Daniel Aitken speaks with Dr. Sonam Thakchoe, professor of Buddhist philosophy at the University of Tasmania and former monk in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition. Sonam was a child during the Cultural Revolution in Tibet. At just ten years old, Sonam fled to India with his father, where he began his formal education at the Tibetan Children’s Village in Dharamsala, India, before eventually earning a PhD in Indo-Tibetan philosophy. In this episode, Sonam recalls the absence of Buddhist traditions in his childhood, how he didn’t understand who the Dalai Lama was, and how his parents had to keep their religious faith hidden. Sonam also shares his life-changing discovery of vipassana meditation in the Goenka tradition, which revolutionized his academic understanding of Buddhist philosophy. Daniel asks Sonam about his experimental nature as a practitioner and how he integrates his textual knowledge with embodied experiences in practice. They also discuss the inextricable relationship between sīla (morality) and meditation, and how emptiness might be conceptualized within vipassana practice. The post Sonam Thakchoe: In the Laboratory of Meditation appeared first on The Wisdom Experience.

1hr 24mins

11 May 2018

Rank #15

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Koshin Paley Ellison: How to Forgive

In this episode of the Wisdom Podcast, host Daniel Aitken speaks with Koshin Paley Ellison, author of the wildly popular book, Whole-Hearted: Slow Down, Help Out, Wake Up, published by Wisdom. Koshin is co-founder of the New York Zen Center for Contemplative Care and a teacher in the Sōtō Zen Buddhist tradition. In this fascinating conversation, Koshin tackles the subject of forgiveness, asking what it means to hold ourselves and our loved ones accountable within a broader framework of compassion. He asks: how do we come to see that every individual has some level of innate goodness, some innate capacity to wake up, even while also being capable of doing bad things? Koshin also addresses helpful ways of framing difficult conversations, and how an honest exchange, even when challenging, can yield even deeper connections with the people in our lives. The post Koshin Paley Ellison: How to Forgive appeared first on The Wisdom Experience.

49mins

22 Nov 2019

Rank #16