The Zen Studies Podcast show

The Zen Studies Podcast

Summary: 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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 123 – Engaging Our Climate Emergency as a Koan and Opportunity | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 36:56

Our practical, lived response to our climate and ecological crisis – as individuals, Sanghas, and Dharma teachers – is inseparable from our Dharma practice. As Greta Thunberg has said, “Change is coming whether we like it or not.” Also, as Buddhists we're morally compelled to act for the welfare of other beings. Finally, the eco-crisis is a profound and difficult koan, whether we choose to engage it that way or not - and therefore, it's an opportunity to grow in understanding, compassion, and manife

 122 - Meditation Is NOT About Stopping Thoughts | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 30:33

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 thought, thereby realigning our whole being. Meditation requires diligence and determination, but also patience, humility, and faith.

 Facing Extinction 2: A Personal Journal (Nov 14-22) | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 35:37

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 teachers); What’s the Problem? (why cry myself to sleep at night?); Life is (inexplicably and unconditionally) Beautiful; Civil Disobedience as a Cure for Cognitive Dissonance. Please feel free to skip this episode if you're really only interested in episodes explicitly about Buddhism.

 121 – The Practical Value of Awakening to the Absolute Aspect of Reality | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 30:13

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 last retreat immersed in the relative aspect of life, the absolute aspect of life will come to the fore. I hope to regain balance and see everything in a much larger context. In this episode, I talk about what that feels like, and the value of awakening to the absolute aspect of reality if you want be an effective agent for positive change in the relative world

 120 - Dogen's Four Ways Bodhisattvas Embrace Living Beings - Part 5 - Identity Action | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 30:30

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 Zen texts, or of Dogen, I hope you’ll listen; this episode is on the importance of a bodhisattva – the importance of any of us – making a practice of seeing ourselves as “being in the same boat” with other beings. Can you imagine how different our societies would be if we all

 119 - Brightening the Mind: Refusing to be Tyrannized by Negative States | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 30:49

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 admitting how we’re feeling); 2) Taking some time to fully experience whatever it is we’re feeling, without trying to change it; 3) Exploring what’s going on within us, gently and non-judgmentally, and 4) Engaging in an activity, like zazen, you know is calming and restorative.

 Facing Extinction 1: Nov. 3rd - 9th, 2019 | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 38:15

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 practice feels inauthentic unless I talk about the crisis we’re facing. Maybe I can make a bigger difference as a Zen teacher and writer by honestly sharing my own struggles and experiences with “trying to do the right thing in a climate emergency,” than by trying offer answers to ot

 118 - Buddha's Teachings 15: Nirvana as the Ultimate Goal of Original Buddhism | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 32:33

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 freedom, and a permanent state of human perfection. This episode familiarizes you the teachings about nibbana, discusses some of the implications for Buddhist practice, and points out how views of nibbana are one of the fundamental differences between Theravada and Mahayana forms of Buddhism.

 117 - Clarifying the Mind Ground According to Keizan's “Zazen-Yojinki” | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 26:50

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 fundamental job as Buddhists if we’re seeking liberation. I explore the meaning of this phrase in this Dharma Talk, reflecting on a nondual experience beyond words, and why Zen and Mahayana so often use terms like "mind" or "actual nature" when pointing to it.

 116 - Do You Need a Zen or Buddhist Teacher? | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 38:02

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 mean, what does it mean for someone to “have” a Zen or Buddhist teacher? Do you really need a teacher? I’m going to explore these questions in this episode, and I imagine you won’t be surprised that the gist of my answer is, “It depends.”

 115 - Dogen's Four Ways Bodhisattvas Embrace Living Beings - Part 4 - Beneficial Action | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 30:19

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 use skillful means to benefit beings without discriminating among them, considering their near and distant future, and to do so selflessly.

 114 - Why Your (Real) Happiness Benefits Others | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 24:41

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 in our personal lives, or in the greater world - we have the potential to let go of our resistance, grief, or anger, and feel more relaxed, at ease, grateful, and enthusiastic. In this sense, working towards real happiness is far from selfish; it makes us much more able to respond compassionately and skillfully, and therefore it benefits others.

 113 – Clarification: It’s Okay to Use Multiple Types of Meditation | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 25:02

In my enthusiastic endorsement of shikantaza or, "just sitting," I may have given the impression I think a real Zen student would only sit shikantaza, and there’s no place in Zen for paying attention to, learning from, and working with your thoughts and feelings in meditation. I think it's fine to use multiple types of meditation in your practice, and there’s no reason you shouldn’t devote some or all of your meditation time to mindfulness of your thoughts and feelings, if you find that fruitful.

 2019-09-11 Off-Week Announcement about SFZC Talk | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 02:52

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 at 10:15am Pacific, or watch it later, or download it as a podcast. Visit, or simply search online for “San Francisco Zen Center Dharma Talks.” My working title for the talk is “A Passionate Sermon for Buddhists in a Time of Crisis.

 112 - Dogen's "Four Ways Bodhisattvas Embrace Living Beings" - Part 3 – Loving Words | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 25:07

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 “embracing actions:” practicing nongreed, loving words, beneficial action, and “being in the same boat” as other beings. In Episode 106 I took us through the part of the essay on nongreed, or giving. Today I cover the section of the essay on loving words, or kind speech.


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