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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 Off-Week Editorial - It’s Not Enough to Respond to What’s Right in Front of You | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 10:42

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 personal, daily lives. However, if we aspire to cease from harm and benefit other beings, this is not enough. We also need to cultivate awareness of, and take responsibility for, the repercussions of our actions throughout space and time – far, far beyond the limits of what’s right in front of us.

 96 - Zazen Pamphlet: Essential (and Brief) Instructions for the Practice of Zazen | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 15:18

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 sided. I figured I’d share it here on the podcast – and if this episode is too short for you, I recommend listening to it twice, because this “pamphlet” really does, to my mind, capture the essence of shikantaza! (At least as I think of it right now). Visit this episode’s page at for a print-friendly copy of this pamphlet!

 95 - Lineage in Buddhism: The Intersection Between the Individual and the Collective Tradition | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 29:58

In many forms of Buddhism, particularly in Zen, we have the concept of “lineage:” the essential aspects of our collective religious tradition have been passed down through the generations from one real, live person to another, teacher to a student. However, lineage isn’t just about preserving a collective tradition, it’s a valuable part of our practice – self-attachment and pre-conceived notions get challenged as the individual aligns her/himself with the collective tradition.

 94 - Buddha's Teachings 13 - The Five Hindrances - Part 3 | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 36:34

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 this 3rd episode of 3, I go into detail about sloth-and-torpor, restlessness-and-worry, and uncertainty, and recommended ways to abandon them.

 93 - Buddha's Teachings 12: The Five Hindrances – Part 2 | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 31:19

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 through worldly desire and ill-will. In the next episode I'll cover sloth-and-torpor, restlessness-and-worry, and uncertainty (or skeptical doubt).

 2019-03-15 Off-Week Book Review: Why Buddhism Is True | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 07:54

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 actually be a distraction), sometimes it can help us gain additional freedom from our subjective experiences.

 92 - Buddha's Teachings 11: The Five Hindrances – Part 1 | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 36:49

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 when we’re feeling challenged. Any obstacle can be characterized as one of five hindrances: 1) Sense desire; 2) ill-will; 3) sloth-and-torpor; 4) restlessness-and-worry, or 5) uncertainty (or skeptical doubt). By identifying our hindrance, we get a better sense of what caused it to arise and how we can best overcome it.

 91 – Unethical Buddhist Teachers: Were They Ever Really Enlightened? | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 30:38

The list of supposedly-highly-realized Buddhist teachers who have abused their power and acted in harmful ways – particularly in the realm of sex – is long, and getting longer all the time. Unethical and selfish behavior is incompatible with our Buddhist ideal of true enlightenment, and transgressing teachers are often exactly those held up as especially inspiring examples of realization and practice, so what does all of this say about realization and practice? Were the teachers ever really enlightened?

 90 - Buddhist History 11: Early Indian Buddhism - Stupas and Devotional Practice - Part 2 | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 38:15

In Part 1 (Episode 82), I defined Devotional Practice as extending beyond demonstrations of respect, gratitude, and reverence to practices believed to result in real benefits – perhaps intangible but often tangible – to the devotee, especially when performed in proximity to a holy person, his/her relics, or some other center or object of spiritual power. In this episode I talk about what early Buddhist Devotional Practice looked like, and then discuss the theology – or religious philosophy – behind

 89 – Buddhist Practice as a Lifelong Path of Growth and Transformation | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 28:44

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 becoming an awakened, liberated, wise, compassionate, and skillful person. The ideals of Buddha and bodhisattva are not something most of us have any hope of achieving in this lifetime, but we ennoble our lives, and benefit others, by committing wholeheartedly to walking the path – approaching embodiment of the Buddha Way as closely as we possibly can.

 88 – Nyoho: Making Even Our Smallest, Mundane Actions Accord with the Dharma – Part 2 | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 34:14

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 object or being we encounter as beneath our respect or attention. In this episode I hope to convey the significance and beauty of Nyoho practice, and the wonderful opportunity it presents in terms of how we can incorporate it in into our everyday lives.

 87 – Nyoho: Making Even Our Smallest, Mundane Actions Accord with the Dharma – Part 1 | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 22:07

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 “Nyoho,” a Japanese term which means doing something “in accord with” (nyo) the Dharma (ho): Treating each and every thing we encounter with respect and care, and performing even the most mundane actions in a considerate, gracious, but efficient manner.

 86 - Samvega and Pasada: Two Buddhist Emotions Indispensable for Practice | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 21:25

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 complacency, and determination to find a more meaningful way. Contrary to society at large, Buddhism encourages the cultivation of samvega - as long as you balance it with pasada, a serene confidence that arises when you find a reliable way to address samvega.

 85 – I Shouldn’t Feel Like This: A Practitioner’s Conundrum | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 25:58

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, after many years of effort, we experience negative thoughts and emotions and find ourselves thinking, “I shouldn’t feel like this.” I discuss how to practice with this conundrum, and suggest that sometimes our internal experience can’t or shouldn’t be changed, but simply tolerated.

 84 – Two Paths to Meditative Concentration: Directed Effort Versus Letting Go – Part 2 | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 38:11

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 describe the "letting go" path in some detail: What it involves, how it (ironically) requires great "effort," and why it works.


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