Upaya Zen Center's Dharma Podcast show

Upaya Zen Center's Dharma Podcast

Summary: The Upaya Dharma Podcast features Wednesday evening Dharma Talks and recordings from Upaya’s diverse array of programs. Our podcasts exemplify Upaya’s focus on socially engaged Buddhism, including prison work, end-of-life care, serving the homeless, training in socially engaged practices, peace & nonviolence, compassionate care training, and delivering healthcare in the Himalayas.

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  • Artist: Joan Halifax | Zen Buddhist Teacher Upaya Abbot
  • Copyright: Copyright 2006-2018, Upaya Zen Center. All rights reserved.


  Zenshin Florence Caplow: On Courage and Practice | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 38:36

“It takes so much courage to meet our suffering, to meet our life, raw and unadorned.” In this captivating talk, Zenshin Florence Caplow draws on stories and teachings from encounters with wild animals, from ancient women practitioners of the Way, Dogen, Rainer Maria Rilke, and others about courage and compassion amidst fear. She reminds us that our practice of living as patch-robed monks takes courage and that it is actually a “radical response” to an often “pretty scary world.” And just as the Buddha offered metta practice to his disciples who went into the forest and were scared, we can offer ourselves compassion when we are scared. Because “the world needs people who will not run away.”

  Valerie Brown: The Heart of Sangha: Thich Nhat Hanh’s Teachings on Building Beloved Community | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 45:34

“We teach what we need to learn the most.” In this humble, participatory, and open-hearted talk, Valerie Brown explores four of Thich Nhat Hanh’s teachings on building beloved community: volition, the art of suffering, the practice of conscious breathing, and flower watering. She tells personal stories of times when these teachings woke her up to her life and cites quotes from writer Anne Morrow Lindbergh and Sufi spiritual teacher Shams Tabrizi who elaborate on these teachings. She opens her talk with the Plum Village song “I Have Arrived, I Am Home” and asks residents in the Upaya community to share the word “welcome” in their mother tongues. She concludes her talk with a gatha she wrote on choosing love under all conditions.

 Dancing with Mara: Revisiting the Life of Buddha | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 41:00

In this heartfelt talk, Sensei Amie Diller reminds us of the story of Buddha and particularly of Buddha’s relationship with Mara. Even after his enlightenment, Siddhartha was still visited by Mara. Sensei Amie affirms the importance of Buddha’s relationship with Mara, claiming that there is no separation, that caring for Mara, bearing witness to the stories Mara brings to us (busyness, distractions, “you’re not good enough,” loneliness, restlessness) and letting the energy of thoughts and feelings pass through us, is caring for ourselves and seeing more clearly into our buddha nature.

  Wendy Johnson: Grass Boundless: Inside the Gate, Outside the Gate | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 43:26

On the fourth night of Winter Practice Period sesshin, Sensei Wendy Johnson explores Case 89 of The Book of Serenity, “Dongshan’s “Place of No Grass.””

 Stepping Off A 100 Foot Pole: Case 79 The Book of Serenity | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 46:58

“When we all have enough, we can fully let go. When we fully let go, we know what it is to have enough.” In this joyful and moving talk, Sensei Matthew Kozan Palevsky breaks open Case 79 from The Book of Serenity. He gives context and background to all of the characters in the koan as well as offers an interlude on tall things and why we as humans like to go up. He considers what it means to step off the 100 foot pole again and again and concludes with reading an AI-produced algorithm about a snowball fight between him and Sensei Kodo.

 The One Who Is Not Trifling | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 37:05

With a combination of playfulness and humility, Sensei Noah Kodo Roen presents Case 21 of Book of Serenity, “Yunyan Sweeps the Ground,” and explores the dichotomy of mindfulness and busyness, as well as the connections of Yunyan and Daowu to stories in other koans, and Yunyan’s place as an ancestor in the soto lineage. Kodo explores the sweeper, the broom, the brother, and the moon, and the possibility that this case holds for all of us in our times.

 On Joy | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 44:36

“What are you doing?” a mom asked her young son who she found sitting cross legged, smiling, with eyes closed on the couch. “I’m enjoying my body,” he replied. From power outage induced darkness, Sensei Amie Diller offered us in the candlelit zendo and those at home an uplifting talk on joy. With its emphasis on suffering, it may seem as though Buddhism is not concerned with joy. Amie reminds us of the 4th Noble Truth, that there is a path out of suffering, and considers how this could look a lot like allowing and basking in the joy inherent within each of us and life. She offers practices around noticing moments of joy, noticing ANTs (Automatic Negative Thoughts), and lingering in the sense experience of joy for at least twenty seconds. She also shares the benefits of rejoicing practice, which cultivates sympathetic joy, wishing for joy in another.

 Talking on Empty | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 40:34

“Many of our friends are no longer alive or we don’t see them anymore. [Writing poetry] is a way we hold them.” Natalie Goldberg reflects on the end of the year and on friendship by looking at the work of 8th Century poet Wang Wei who lived during the Tang Dynasty in China. Natalie reads several of his poems that capture the “evenness” of Wang Wei’s mind and the deep importance of friendship in Chinese culture at this time. Referencing one of Wang Wei’s poems, she asks, “All that heartbreak, what do you do with it at the end of the year?” Natalie concludes with a Wang Wei-inspired writing assignment, the admonition to “become dumb,” and the encouragement to reach out to our friends.

  Dekila Chungyalpa: Wisdom of Winter: Rest, Regeneration, and Rebirth | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 43:13

“Does your breathing change when you imagine it’s the landscape breathing?” Dekila Chungyalpa invites us to explore different ways of looking at time (as nature and different species view time, time as seasonal) that exist outside of our human tendency to see time as a zero sum game that we win or lose. She reminds us of the perception of winter as a time to rest, to increase our reserves of things like joy to help our human resilience. She says, “it’s almost like we need that layer of fat that squirrels have!” Sitting with “deep time,” with a perception of time bigger than our individual human life, can help us orient towards the climate crisis and the pain it causes in a more sustainable way, reminding us that we are a “tiny knot” in the bigger tapestry of life and that our aspiration is to aid the whole tapestry’s thriving.

 Eloquent Silence | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 36:34

In this poetic talk, Fushin James Bristol reflects on the role of silence in zen practice and in our lives. Sharing personal stories, music knowledge, Buddhist history, and other moving anecdotes from a wide array of sources, Fushin elucidates all that silence has to tell us if we can stop, listen, and be aware.

 Buddhist Visions of Leadership 2022 (Part 4) | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 1:36:02

In Part 4 of this multipart series, John Dunne discusses some more of Nagarjuna’s policies around leadership and considers how they can create personal and world transformation. Roshi Joan Halifax and John take questions from the Zoom participants at the end. To access the resources page for this program, please sign up by clicking here.

 Buddhist Visions of Leadership 2022 (Part 3) | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 1:08:31

In Part 3 of this multipart series, Joan Dunne delves into ancient Indian Buddhist philosopher Nagarjuna’s work The Ratnavali or The Jewel Garland which offers counsel to kings or all who are king-like. Roshi Joan Halifax and John take questions from the Zoom participants at the end. To access the resources page for this program, please sign up by clicking here.

  Joan Halifax: Rohatsu: Green Dharma (Part 1) | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 34:06

Sensei Kaz Tanahashi and Roshi Joan Halifax open the first full day of Rohatsu Green Dharma sesshin with their dharma talk on Indra’s Net and what it means to hold this mindset. Due to technical difficulties, the first part of this talk in which Sensei Kaz Tanahashi speaks is unavailable. In the second part of the talk, Roshi talks about awakening as excluding nothing, just as the Avatamsaka Sutra, which is the central text studied in this Rohatsu, which Kaz translates as the “Flower Splendor Sutra,” seems to exclude nothing in its 1643 pages. We can get lost in this sutra, just as we can lose ourselves in the “pressure cooker” that is sesshin. Roshi reminds us that “the practice is to get lost so that we can find out who we really are.” Roshi references the image of the lotus flower several times throughout the talk, noting that it would not exist without the mud. She asks us: “How do we let mud nourish us and not disable us?” Roshi offers Francis Cooke’s description of Indra’s Net to describe the perfect interconnectedness of everything, a view that holds everything as relying on everything else, making all things valuable, making “everything count.” This mindset of interdependence is the mindset that can transform and liberate our small suffering and turn us toward the suffering of the world with compassion, a practice that neuroscience and social psychology confirm “lights up our lives.” Roshi quotes Okumura Roshi saying that “our vows are endless” and that “we will never graduate” from what Roshi describes as a finishing school designed to “finish a mindset that is destructive and nourish one that is loving.” She gives examples of ways that we “actualize this sensibility awkwardly” during Rohatsu, “cogenerating the net of Indra.” To access the resources page for this program, please sign up by clicking here.

  Dorotea Mendoza: Show, Don’t Tell: How the Practice of Writing Can Teach us About Engagement and Service | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 38:58

In this wonderful talk, Dorotea Mendoza “walks the talk” of showing rather than telling by sharing some of her personal experiences, e.g. how she misses the Philippines, the country of her origin, and how to actualize writing and service from a vulnerable place. She encourages us to meet ourselves where we are, and reminds us that “agency does not mean control, it means taking responsibility for where we are, and to start, word by word, making alive this imagined world we want to see.”

  John Dunne & Joan Halifax: Buddhist Visions of Leadership 2022 (Part 2) | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 48:49

In Part 2 of this multi-part series, Roshi Joan Halifax considers the qualities of a leader as modeled and taught by the Buddha. Roshi speaks of the Buddha as a social reformer, being one who disapproved of the caste system, ordained people of all classes and genders, recognized economic oppression, advocated for humanism in government, and most importantly, understood that true reform could only occur by going to the roots of human suffering in the human mind. Roshi cites some of the Buddha’s explicit teachings from the Pali Canon on how a good leader ought to act. She dives deeply into the Mahahamsa Jataka, which lists the “tenfold royal virtue” (dasa-rajadhamma) of a leader. Roshi also tells the story of the Mauryan emperor Ashoka (r. c. 268–c. 232 BCE) who transformed from a cruel leader into a benevolent dharma-practicing leader, who implemented edicts concerning ahimsa, religious tolerance, animal welfare, vegetarianism, rest houses for travelers, free medical treatment, free education, infrastructure, and more. Roshi fast forwards in time to Eihei Dogen who offers The Four Embracing Actions of the Bodhissatva, or The Four Ways of Gathering. They include: being generous, kind speech, actions that benefit others, and the capacity to see ourselves in all others and to see all others as ourselves. Roshi and John Dunne conclude this part of the series by answering some questions from the participants on Zoom. To access the resources page for this program, please sign up by clicking here.


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