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January 29 2014


The Naked Monk interviews David Webster: Does Buddhism Matter?

Stephen Schettini speaks with David Webster about the place of Buddhism in the modern world http://www.thenakedmonk.com/2013/07/26/2-david-webster/

January 19 2014


Uncertain Minds: How the West Misunderstands Buddhism - YouTube

The final part of the interfaith series held by the Guardian in conjunction with St Paul's Cathedral, exploring Buddhism in its various manifestations. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hXYBtT4uN30&feature=youtu.be
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January 14 2014


BG 253: A Mindfulness Manifesto » Buddhist Geeks

Podcast: Download Episode Description: Kelly Sosan Bearer speaks with Ed Halliwell, journalist, teacher, and author, about his new book The Mindful Manifesto and its themes of mindfulness, Buddhism, and Science. Ed describes his personal experience with stress and depression and his journey to Buddhism and mindfulness practice as a way to get healthy. He defines “mindfulness” and then leads the Geeks through a ”3 step breathing space practice” meant to reduce stress. Episode Links: The Mindful Manifesto: How Doing Less and Noticing More Can Help Us Thrive in a Stressed-Out World The Guardian Integral Chicks Transcript: Kelly:    Hello Buddhist Geeks.  This is Kelly Sosan Bearer and I’m joined today over Skype with Ed Halliwell, mindfulness teacher and writer at the Guardian.  And today we’re going to discuss his newly published book The Mindful Manifesto.  Thanks for joining us Ed. I’m stoked that you’re my first Buddhist Geeks podcast. Ed:    Hi, Kelly. It’s lovely to be with you. Kelly:    Awesome.  Well you have a new book out and it’s called The Mindful Manifesto.  But before we dive into that, I just wanted to get a little bit more of your Buddhist background and journey and maybe you could share a bit about that with us and how you came to Buddhism and mindfulness, and you know, people that may be you studied with or maybe that influenced you in this journey.  Just to give a little bit of background about where you’re coming from. Ed:    Of course.  Of course.  Well I came to meditation practice and Buddhism and mindfulness primarily through my own experience with stress and depression.  So I was in my 20s.  I was working in the media.  I was working as a journalist.  And it was kind of a fast paced, fairly unreflective world, I think it would be fair to say that I was in, or at least that was my experience of it.  And I basically collapsed, I basically collapsed under the weight of stress and I was desperate for ways to kind of work with this.  So I kind of realized that something was not okay in my world and I wanted to do something about that. And that led me on a journey through psychotherapy and through kind of looking at how I was in the world.  And kind of at several points through this Buddhism and meditation practice came up both in books I was reading and people would kind of say to me, “Ed, have you ever thought about practicing meditation?”  And this happened often enough that I kind of reached the point where I thought I need to do something about this and not actually just read about it but actually investigate this on a practical level. And I was lucky enough to live very close to the shambhala meditation center in London. It was literally a 5 minute walk from where I was living.  So I went along and basically said can you help me.  And what I discovered in meditation practice probably over a period of months and then years and ongoing is that it gave me a way of working with my mind and my body that I didn’t connect with in the same way with some of the other things that I was trying.  It really gave me–it started to give me a freedom that I’ve not experience from anything else.  So I guess in that sense I was, I felt that connection and that connection has continued over the years. Kelly:    Wow.  That’s really cool.  So a real personal experience with mindfulness and how that actually helps you in your day to day.  What specific things about mindfulness practice helped you the most do you think? Ed:    Well there’ve been different elements to it.  I mean when I came to meditation practice, I didn’t know anything about mindfulness in the form that we present it in the book, which is primarily coming from the mindfulness based stress reduction model.  I was very much connecting with Buddhism and with the principles and practices of the dharma.  And that was so, and remains so, and I continue with that sort of my path led me.  I spent a year working at Dechen Choling Meditation Retreat Center in France.  And it was actually when I came back from there in early 2007 that I started to hear about mindfulness as it’s presented in the kind of more, I guess I don’t really like the word secular versus religious, but in the kind of health world if you like. Kelly:    Kind of like the John Kabat-Zinn model for instance. Ed:    Exactly.  Exactly.  And so I’d already got a huge benefit. I’m incredibly grateful for what I’ve discovered through practicing Buddhism and in that form. I think then on top of that what the mindfulness based stress reduction model has brought me is that kind of synergy with a western way of approaching the mind and the body.  And that combination of the great wisdom that’s been passed down to us from thousands of years of practice and practitioners then allied with the way of kind of working with the mind that comes from looking at the mind scientifically and from a western psychology perspective, that combination I found enormously powerful over recent years. Kelly:    Yeah, beautiful.  Thank you so much for sharing just that background with us.  The geek in me likes to make sure that we’re all on the same page with our terms and definitions.  Can you share with us your definition of mindfulness and how you’re using it in your book? Ed:    Yeah.  First of all I’d just like to say that I’m a little kind of leery of definitions.  I think for meditation practice is something that you have to experience.  And mindfulness is something that you have to experience.  And it is, trying to sort of put it into words, really is, it’s pointing your finger at the moon, as the sort of traditional description, one traditional description has it.  And if you want to actually experience it yourself you got to try it and see what happens.  However, I do think the fingers can be useful as well to know where it points to.  So primarily I guess we’re using the John Kabat-Zinn, one of his definitions which is paying attention on purpose in the present moment, non-judgmentally, and sometimes added onto that is something along the lines with open hearted compassion. I also like very simple way of describing mindfulness is simply observing things as they are and learning from that.  I think that’s a lovely very kind of straightforward way of describing what mindfulness is.  And being somebody who kind of likes ways of remembering things that is simple, I sometimes describe mindfulness as being an A, B, C skill.  The A being awareness, the B being with so actually staying with our experience, and then that leading to choice so that freedom about how we then use what we’ve learned to hopefully act more skillfully in the world.  So those are some ways in which we kind of approach mindfulness in the book.  I also love the word heartfulness which is sometimes use as a kind of way of describing mindfulness.  I think it’s very interesting that in the West we use that word “mind”, and “mind” tends to be used to describe what’s going on in the head whereas mindfulness practice is a meditation practice is very much about relating mind and body.  I’m also aware that classical descriptions of mindfulness in Buddhism may have some other connotations as well.  And I wouldn’t describe myself as a Buddhist scholar in any way at all, but I am aware that there are enormously fruitful and interesting debates about what mindfulness means.  So I think in the end I come back to using these descriptions as way of connecting with that experience of being. Kelly:    Great.  Thank you so much for that.  What I found really interesting about The Mindful Manifesto is that it brings together the themes of mindfulness, Buddhism and science.  And that’s something that we’re obviously exploring day in and day out over here at Buddhist Geeks.  Why is this important and how is it helpful to Buddhism in the West do you think bringing together these three themes? Ed:    Yeah.  Well science is an important mode of knowing and it’s a way of understanding our world from a perspective and using a particular method or series of method.  That doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the only way of understanding what’s going on or the complete way of understanding what’s going on.  But it has great value and it’s also one that’s culturally validated. Kelly:    That’s always helpful.  [laughter] Ed:    Yeah.  So you know if you’re a–I quite often [am] sort of presenting mindfulness to people who wouldn’t set foot inside a Buddhist center, and wouldn’t be interested in exploring Buddhism, and you could sort of try to work with that and perhaps explore what their notions of Buddhism are and you know bring them in that way.  But for a lot of people there isn’t that connection.  However if you explain meditation practice from a scientific perspective and say this is what’s happening in your brain and this is what the clinical studies are showing are the potential results of meditation practice, then a whole range of people who previously might have dismissed meditation as being a bit flaky, a bit kind of new age or religious in a way that they didn’t want to get into are now able to connect with meditation and  are benefiting from that.  And I think that’s enormously important actually in the world that we live in where there’s so much personal distress and societal distress.  And meditation practice I believe has a huge rule to play in helping us work with that.  So, science is kind of a way of transmitting the dharma perhaps to people who wouldn’t otherwise be able to, or wouldn’t otherwise approach it or be convinced by it. Kelly:    Yeah. It’s kind of like science is a portal for folks that are more in the secular world interested in mindfulness techniques per se but not wanting to get into the religious traditional aspect of Buddhism. Ed:    Yeah. Yeah.  I think that’s right. Kelly:    Cool.  Well that’ really interesting.  What do you think about the convergence of these three themes and how is that helpful to Buddhism in the West? Ed:    Well I think it brings a rigor to the claims of Buddhism.  It’s all very well kind of saying you know as I might have done a few years ago, “well, I’ve been practicing meditation for a number of years and I’ve noticed these changes in the way I relate with my experience,” and some people might be interested in that and they go “well good for you.”  But if you have the methodology and the rigor of science supporting this, then I think that brings another dimension to practice. I mean the Dalai Lama says, I think, he said, and obviously the Dalai Lama has been supportive of this kind of dialogue between western science and Buddhism, and he said, “If science can prove tenets of Buddhism are mistaken then Buddhism will have to change.” The converse of that is that science has to and is, or scientists have to and are, starting to engage with Buddhism in a way that perhaps doesn’t have the preconceptions that might have been there you know say 10, 20, certainly 30 years ago. So I think there’s this creative dialogue going on, and that has benefits not just to people who might not be interested in Buddhism, but has benefits to Buddhism itself in that sense of I think what we’re all doing perhaps with our practice is we’re inquiring.  We’re investigating.  We’re testing what we’ve been told with the kind of the, you know, in the fire of our own experience if you like.  And that’s how we, perhaps how we develop and how western Buddhism will also kind of develop and how it will kind of come to be in whatever forms it develops into over the coming 10, 50, 100, 1000 years and so on. Kelly:    Yeah.  Great. So to dig into your book a little bit more.  What’s the one key principle you hope people will receive by reading The Mindful Manifesto? Ed:    We primarily aim the book with people who perhaps might be skeptical about meditation practice.  So there is quite a lot of engagement with the scientific research.  We wanted to present that as clearly as we could.  And we’d also at the same time try to engage with the history of meditation practice, particularly the Buddhist history of meditation practice.  I think there’s a lot of books on mindfulness perhaps don’t go there quite as much.  So we thought it’s very important to kind of acknowledge actually there is this wisdom tradition that these practices are coming from.  And to kind of bring that together in a way that sort of can offer people a taste of the practice as well.  So I guess if there’s one key principle it would be that the great wisdom of practitioners over thousands of years is now being validated by the methods of science and showing that training in meditation, whether that’s the traditional Buddhist perspective or whether you’re going to your doctor or other healthcare practitioner and learning meditation practice in that way.  This practice can change our minds and our bodies and our hearts in the direction of greater awareness and compassion.  That’s open and available to anybody who wants to engage with it.  So I think that would be my one hope for the message that we get across in the book. Kelly:    That’s awesome.  And something that just came up spontaneously so feel free to decline my offer if it doesn’t fit for you.  But would you be willing to lead us through a one minute exercise of mindfulness perhaps. Ed:    Yeah.  Sure.  I mean what I could do is do you know the three step breathing space that sometimes used in mindfulness based stress reduction courses?  We could… Kelly:    Sure.   Yeah.  Let’s go through that. Ed:    Okay.  So this is a practice that is taught on a lot of mindfulness courses.  It was first used I believe in a course called mindfulness cognitive therapy which was actually developed in the UK by Mark Williams and his colleagues.  And this practice is called the three step breathing space.  So this is a practice that can be used kind of anywhere any when.  So it’s something that hopefully you can engage with wherever you are right now. And so first of all taking an upright dignified posture wherever you are, if you’re sitting in a chair then feeling the connection of your bottom on the chair and your feet on the ground.  So feeling that connection with earth and also sensing your body rising up into the air.  So perhaps if you’re sitting on a chair then having your back away from the back of the chair so that your spine is self supporting.  Keeping your eyes open or close as you prefer.  And the first step is acknowledging.  So acknowledging what’s present in your experience right now.  What’s going on in your thoughts?  What’s going through your mind? Acknowledging what’s present also in your emotional experience at the moment.  Feeling what’s present, perhaps sensations in the body.  So noticing where any emotions that you’re feeling are being expressed in the body and body sensations also more generally.  So any pain or discomfort or restlessness or tiredness whatever it might be.  So acknowledging, acknowledging what’s here?  What’s present right now? And so the second step is gathering, and for this step gathering your attention into the breath.  So come into rest your attention on the breath maybe in the lower abdomen and sensing the flow of the breath, the waves of the breath as they flow in and out of your body.  Just this breath.  This moment. And now the third step is expanding.  So, expanding your awareness from the point of attention, the breath in the lower abdomen, the belly and expanding that out to bring awareness to the whole of your experience in your body.  So including thoughts, emotions, body sensations and resting now with this wider awareness of what’s going on.  Perhaps expanding this also to space around you that’s going on in your environment.  And as best as you can just being with whatever is present, being you, here in this moment. And now letting go and coming out of the practice and opening your eyes if they’ve been closed and just connecting in with what’s around you.  And seeing the possibility perhaps for continuing that connection, that mindfulness that we’ve been cultivating over the last few moments together, continuing perhaps to notice that connection through the next period of the day, whatever it is that you’re moving on to do next. http://www.buddhistgeeks.com/2012/04/bg-253-a-mindfulness-manifesto/

BG 274: Fifty Shades of Geek » Buddhist Geeks

Podcast: Download Episode Description: In a recent interview for the KGNU public radio program Sacred Lines, Buddhist Geeks Vincent Horn and Rohan Gunatillake have a discussion about what it means to be a modern Buddhist practitioner, how technology can complement Buddhist practice, and how geekery and meditation meld. They use the Buddhist Geeks project and buddhify mobile app as illustrations of how they’re experimenting with these various topics. This is part one of a two part series. Episode Links: CU’s Center for Media, Religion, and Culture KGNU buddhify Transcript: Samira:     I’m Samira Rajabi and you are listening to Sacred Lines, a collaboration between KGNU Boulder Radio and CU’s Center for Media, Religion and Culture. Today, we are speaking with Vincent Horn, founder of Buddhist Geeks, and Rohan Gunatillake, founder of the meditation web app Buddhify. Welcome gentleman. Thank you for being with us today. Vincent:    Thank you. Rohan:        Thank you. Do you mind if I just say it’s not a web app? Samira:    Yes. What is it? Rohan:    It’s a phone app. Samira:    A mobile app. Okay. Rohan:    Yeah. Samira:      So first we wanted to talk to each of you about how you conceive of Buddhism, before we get into the different technology that you’ve created around Buddhism. Vincent:    Well Buddhism is interesting from my perspective cause it is conceived in many different ways. The way that I’ve approached it is as more as sort of an inner technology, a way of transforming the mind. Now that’s a very western and modern understanding of Buddhism. Of course, the roots in the tradition that point to that and yet practicing it in a way where its sort of a little bit removed from those some of the historical cultural pieces is a new thing in a lot of ways. So I basically approach Buddhism as a model which supports one in transforming certain patterns of mind. So it’s fundamentally focused on the interior subjective experience of the individual. And there are some very important ethical pointers toward how does one live a meaningful life, how does one interact without causing harm to other beings, to other people. And then in a modern context, there’s all sorts of question around how does one interact with the environment, the world, the ecology, etc. And those are big questions as a modern Buddhist I ponder. Rohan:    I guess Buddhism is interesting as a religion in contrast to some other of the major religions around the world in that there’s always sort an open question. Is Buddhism a religion, a philosophy, a way of life, a practice? Whereas for Islam and Christianity, there’s never a debate whether it’s a religion because of what have been said. It has this focus of this inner work, inner practice which can be, doesn’t necessarily have to come with the more religious trappings but it can do as well. And so it has that flexibility which makes it, the other religion, traditions do that, but Buddhism is one of the most significant which has that flexibility. So it’s totally feasible to say that one is a Jew or Christian or an atheist and have a Buddhist practice of sort and that’s quite interesting. Samira:    Those definitions in mind and those conceptions of Buddhism and how to practice Buddhism, how would you define or would you define a modern day Buddhist practitioner? Vincent:    Well it’s difficult to define a modern day Buddhist practitioner in some ways because of how the modern context is so different depending on where you are. Like one modern context could be I’m an urban, I live in New York City, I lived an urban lifestyle, I work in an advertising agency. My life is really intense. I have a relationship, no kids, etc. And the way I relate to Buddhism in that context would be very different than someone who maybe lives in like a rural area. So it’s really difficult to define, like, this is what makes a modern Buddhist. Rohan:    I would say that sort of going back to the different question which is what is a Buddhist practitioner and then we can add the modern bit later. So a Buddhist practitioner is someone who takes what has come before with regards to tradition, the various traditions, and finds something within that or multiple things within that tradition, a set of traditions, which resonates for them and tries to make it work for them. And so that’s the history of Buddhism as its developed. Add the modern bit in now we’ve got context and settings like the ad guy in Manhattan which is radically different to other context in which Buddhist practitioners have found themselves in. And that’s what makes the modern Buddhist practitioner that they don’t have a lot of history to fall back on or models to fall back on how to actually make this stuff work and sing in the urban relational digital modern life. Samira:    So given that basic understanding we now have of how you both conceive of Buddhism and people that practice Buddhism, Vincent, can you explain to us what Buddhist Geeks is in your words and why you created it? Vincent:    Sure. One way of describing Buddhist Geeks is its sort of like an NPR program for text savvy Buddhist. But it’s a little bit more than that in that people aren’t just listening to the content that we create for Buddhist Geeks.  They are also gathering together more as like a practice community to get together, share ideas, figure out how to do this whole Buddhist thing in the modern world. And so in that sense there’s a very real community aspect to Buddhist Geeks. Part of the reason I created it was actually just as a side project while I was finishing my undergraduate degree.  And I looked out into the Buddhist media landscape at the time and I just didn’t see certain conversations happening, in particular conversations with younger practitioners or teachers. And I also noticed that there were some fringe voices or perspectives that I had encountered in the Buddhist world that also weren’t included in, let’s just put it nicely, to the boomer Buddhist media world. So a friend and I started the podcast in order to have those conversations which we didn’t see happening. And we just decided at one point we have to do this because no one else is. And that’s really how it started and really how it took off. I guess there are other people that also were interested in these conversations. Samira:    Great. And Rohan, can you kind of give us an explanation as to what Buddhify is and does and why you created that? Rohan:    Sure. So Buddhify is a mobile app. And there are lots of meditation apps out there, but what’s sort of special to Buddhify is that it’s designed specifically for people to learn and practice meditation whilst on the go. So if you’re at the gym, if you’re traveling around town, if you’re walking around town, the meditations are designed specifically for those locations. So what it does is what I call reverse engineer of how meditation is normally taught. So typically you’ll go to a class or course in a sort of stylized quiet environment with a teacher, say like a Tuesday night for six weeks sort of thing. And then once you’ve learned the basics of the practice, which will be mainly practicing sort of at home quietly on a cushion or a chair, that sort of thing, then the invitation to that student is to then try and apply what they’ve learned to the rest of life. Buddhify just starts the other way around and teaches you meditation in the field. So it re-frames the city you live in as a meditation space, as a space by which you can develop the qualities that mindfulness meditations do allow. And so whilst the classes and courses are often very good, the reason I essentially made it was that there are lots of people who are interested in, and meditation has got a good PR department at the moment. Like there’s a lot of research and news and interest in that that’s growing and will continue to grow. And so I was seeing and was talking to a lot of people around my age who were interested in meditation but there was always a “but”. So that was interesting to me as what is stopping that person to go to that class or course. And invariably was to do with time or to do with perception that the classes were quite hippy, let’s call it hippy or woo woo as you North Americans like to say. I like that phase. So I took those two things of the woo woo-ness and the time issue and thought well given there’s been a long history of audio mediations and just look around to how people were listening to audio which is through their phones, walking around. Why not create meditation specifically for that? So that all I have to do is convinced you to listen to Buddhify rather than Justin Bieber, which is a much smaller behavior change to going to a class or course which you might not have time to do and which you might have the time to do but feel that its not your kind of place because the people there they don’t look like you or talk like you. And so that’s why I made Buddhify. Samira:    So does that lead to why you have the tagline on your website “a meditation app for hipsters, not hippies”? Rohan:    Yeah. I do like a sound bite. But that sort of does sum it up in that there’s a lot of cultural baggage that comes with Buddhism meditation the whole spiritual thing. And that’s more accident of history rather than intrinsic thing to the practice. Because of that generation of people that really touch that set of practices from Asia and brought them over and really resonate with them happened to be in the counterculture movement of the 60s and 70s. And so, a lot of the western expressions of this stuff imbued with those elements, that esthetic. And as someone whose experience of meditation practice has been in a completely different context, of an urban sort of more, certainly more hipster than hippie.  I know that meditation doesn’t have to be like that. And so there’s a demand and a clear interest in this stuff, but the supply doesn’t speak to the people who are looking for it. And so that problem needs to be solved and Buddhify is one offering into that. Samira:    That’s really great. And you’ve both kind of touched on our next question, which is who is this technology directed at and who cares about this site or this app, and you touched on the demographic and who you really target but… Rohan:    Can I just say one thing which is relevant. Which is Buddhify isn’t Buddhist. It is and it isn’t. It is in that the content is heavily inspired and based on meditation in the Buddhist tradition but there’s nothing explicitly dogmatic of Buddhist about it, which is a nice benefit of what we spoke about before of how Buddhism has this fluid flexible nature which you can take on and not have to name it as such. And so people will ask me like well is Buddhify like sort a stealth way to get loads of Brooklyn hipsters to become Buddhist. And that’s really the last thing we want. So its interesting how, cause we’re seeing a lot of mindfulness meditation practice being popular, and where people are connecting with it are when it’s presented in a way that doesn’t have the religious stuff. KGNU Producer:  You said that Buddhify is, although it’s Buddhist inspired, that it’s not aiming to get or turn the Brooklyn hipsters into Buddhist. Do you think that this app, in addition to sites like Buddhist Geeks, do you think that it’s kind of a gateway into becoming Buddhist? Have you heard any positive…? Rohan:    Yeah. So one of the objectives of Buddhify is to what I call “widen the funnel.” So of a thousand people who have tried Buddhify and have enjoyed it, for many that might just be enough. For some of those who really like it, they make decision to go to, finally they feel I can go to that class or course cause I understand, I mean the activation barrier is now lower. And for some people it might open up a whole new thing which is they have an initial experience of looking into their mind and seeing the contents and seeing that there is an inner life which can be cultivated and explored. And then they start pulling at that thread and that thread ends up in sort of a traditional Buddhist context, it might end up in a Christian contemplative context, all sort of context, so yeah, very much. For me it’s all about this core idea of lowering the barrier to help explore their inner lives. I’m agnostic as to whether people then go on and I don’t recommend the next step. It’s not like Buddhify doesn’t say, the only next step it suggest is actually go and see someone, go to something face to face. If you like this go to and that will help you cause this stuff requires support and guidance. And an app is highly limited by what it can do in that. But it does open that first step up very much so. Yeah. Samira:    Can you speak to that same question of who you think this technology is geared at in your community? Vincent:    Yeah. It’s interesting because part of what Buddhist Geeks and I think Buddhify as well are geared at are folks that are interested in their inner worlds. And what’s so interesting, even with something called Buddhist Geeks, many of the folks who listen to our podcast and come to the conference that we do each year, they don’t self identify as Buddhist. In fact, they’re very skeptical of that label. I, myself, am very skeptical of any sort of identity that one can try to hold onto, which is one of the key premises in Buddhism anyway. So it’s interesting. We’re really just throwing it out there. And I think people who are interested in it generally tend to be sort of text savvy, cause there’s a certain high barrier to entry. You have to know how to download a podcast and go on iTunes and stuff like that. In the case of Buddhify, you need to have an iPhone to be able to download an app or an android phone. Rohan:    Thankfully enough people know how to do that. Vincent:    Yeah. There are a lot of people that do, but it does tend to mean that the people who get interested in these sort of things tend to be younger than the folks who would get interested in some of the other forms of Buddhist practice. Rohan:    And that’s very much led by the fact of who we are and our own lives and our ages and context and background. Vincent:    Which is just normal. Rohan:    Yeah. Vincent:    For almost any sort of offering. Rohan:    Yeah, exactly. But it’s not normal for Buddhism. Vincent:    It hasn’t been normal for Buddhism. So we’re sort of taking the torch and running with it. Rohan:    Yeah, which is inevitable like someone was going to do it, it just happens to be us. We’re two of the people who are doing it. Samira:    Are there people who don’t like what you’re doing? Is there any kind of push back? Vincent:    Of course, there’s always push back and always people who don’t like what you’re doing. In the case of Buddhist Geeks, it’s a fairly progressive approach to Buddhism. Some of the folks who are involved in Buddhist Geeks call it a post-modern Buddhism. And in that sense, people who are very wedded to a certain notion of how Buddhism has to look and how it has to be practiced and what sort of rituals are involved, what sort of relationships one has with the teacher or with the community you’re part of, those folks I suspect don’t maybe appreciate how we’re approaching things in a much more wide angle sort of way. I wouldn’t say we got a lot of hate mails from those folks, they just do their thing. And then other folks that are more modern oriented, they may have a model or system they most preference, and yet they’re open to kind of hearing about and exploring other approaches. And for those people I think there’s often some tension when they hear of approaches or ways of looking at Buddhism that are a little bit tangential to their own practice and there’s definitely some push back, but I’d say it’s a healthy push back in the sense that their perspectives are being challenged. And its not that they’re sort of clinging to their idea and saying no other approach is right. They’re sort of just widening their kind of minds to include another way of looking at this. And so for those people, we get kind of a healthy push back. And it’s one that’s quite constructive. Rohan:    Well for Buddhify I might tell you a fun story in that I was giving a talk at the Buddhist Geeks conference last year and it was before the launch of Buddhify. I was talking about apps and Buddhism and technology, and I did mention Buddhify briefly.  And a lady did come to talk to me afterwards. It clearly like pressed some button for her, this idea of contemporary technology and Buddhism has some sort of cognitive dissonance that was inherent to Buddhism. And she had this idea clearly of what I was like because I was working in this way.  And she was saying “do you ever go camping? Do you ever go out to like spend time in nature?” And I was like yeah I went like two weeks ago I was in Scotland doing some camping in the highlands. She was just really, she felt that it was almost like a caricature of the sort of hippy generation meeting the idea of actually, because there can be a subtle anti-digital-ness to certain generations and anti-modernness to certain generations.  And again they’re tangling it up with their spiritual practice and seeing them as being connected. This was a really striking exchange. And then about six months later, I got an email and she said do you remember I met you in the conference and I download Buddhify and I’m loving it. She’s a very experienced practitioner, decades of practice, but the idea of urban meditation and practice in the city was new to her. Buddhify is not designed for people with really long experience. It’s much more of an introductory.  But it bought some value to her. And that sort of summarized a lot of this about any criticism that comes through or question tends to be in theory. But when you actually look at it, try the product, it’s actually, it is what it is and it has integrity and it has authenticity in it as well. So I think it’s like any, often like when there’s a sense of that something has been offended. So whether it’s an idea that technology and spiritual practice can’t get together has been offended, that often is just, if there’s an issue with that people rarely then go and actually try the thing. So that was an experience that was quite striking. Vincent:    And what’s so interesting to me about this experience Rohan’s describing and this tension that we’ve often talked about where it’s sort of an inter-generational tension of technology and spirituality not seeming compatible. The thing that I always get back to is if you look at the core Buddhist practice and what it’s focusing on, it’s all about transcending on helpful dichotomies or dualities as the sort of traditional Buddhist term for that. And any time there’s a duality, anytime there’s a sense of this verus that and they’re completely opposed, there’s automatically a struggle that ensues internally and collectively. Rohan:    Yeah. I summarized that if you draw a line you start a war. Vincent:    Exactly. So there’s a this and that and then there’s a war between them. So part of what we’re trying to do in some ways is to breakdown some of those dichotomies and dualities and say: actually it may or may not be the case that spirituality and technology are at odds. And if you look at the kind of the emergence of the personal computer evolution, a lot of it was driven by very spiritual people who were doing LSD and practicing meditation. Steve Jobs is famous for being a serious Zen practitioner. Rohan:    Before him there was the Kevin Kelly’s, yeah, the Stuart Brands. The relationship between hippy and hacker has been really significant in the story of the web. And so its nice to see this new emergence of, I think which we’re one part of, of the coming together of this conversation between spiritual practice and technology and how we can actually use this in support of each other. And they’re not intrinsically in conflict. And also it is a generational thing and Buddhist Geeks and Buddhify aren’t meant to be for everyone. And so there will be people who don’t like it or it’s not relevant for them. Like for example people with long term Buddhist practice. They know way more than me, so they know way more than Buddhify content, so it’s fine that they don’t engage with it. Samira:    Do you think that in kind of interrupting these false dichotomies or interrupting these binaries that have been set up that you’re acting defensively kind of in anticipation of that push back of transcending that idea of spirituality and technology not being able to go hand in hand? Vincent:    I’d say sometimes I feel like it’s a defense. And then most of the time I feel like it’s an invitation, actually, for people to step outside of a way of engaging with these ideas where there is a feeling of being at odds, because in my own internal experience, it’s not at odds. And part of the reason it’s probably just because of our life situation, my life situation where I grew up using computers, using technology, and being exposed to contemplative practices and searching for ways to make sense of those two things together. So yes sometimes I get defensive and sometimes it’s sort of like a personal thing. But most of the time it’s just like hey check it out. These aren’t things that have to be at odds and when they’re not at odds it feels really good. Samira:    So the next question I think that we’ve kind of addressed from the outside and it makes me chuckle the way that it’s going to be asked. But how do geekery and meditation work together? Rohan:    Pretty perfectly because geekery is sort of, think of it as almost like an obsessive relationship to things. So you can be an architecture geek or Apple products geek or whatever, a Mad Men geek. And for meditation and mindfulness practice to really sing, it requires an element of geekery, an element of dedication, interest, socialization. Cause geeks are by definition I think, so one of my favorite definitions of a geek is someone who socializes around objects. So someone who spends times around people with similar interest and that is totally essential for progressing and deepening in not just Buddhism but other spiritual practices. Vincent:    And in this case the object is sort of an inner object. Rohan:    Yeah. Vincent:    It’s an object of one’s inner world. Rohan:    So for Buddhist Geeks the quest of their object I think, so the formal object I think is the podcast, but the actual real object is this question of what is it to be a contemplative practitioner in the 21st century. And that’s the question that convenes all the people. So for example like Vince said there’s a Buddhist Geeks conference and there’s quite a range of type of people there. People who are the sort of archetypal geek like the sort of tech savvy slightly socially awkward person but then they also have like… Vincent:    Including us. Rohan:    Including us, of a certain age. But they also have people of all sorts of backgrounds but they have the shared interest. Again it’s this question of like dualities. Like asking the question implies a duality.  But if you don’t have for example this idea, for Buddhify the duality is, or the thing that people get caught about, is the side of urban meditation of like not just the technology but the fact of it being in the city. And if that is your experience of meditation, like as it is for me of someone who when I first started getting into meditation I was doing a very intense busy job in London. But that was my experience and so there was no duality between the two. People who would ask me about it were creating a duality. They’re bringing their own duality to it. But I was learning and exploring how to progress my practice in this stuff. Vincent:    The other interesting thing about the relationship between geekery and meditation is that geeks are often really interested in taking things apart and seeing how they work. And so that actually comes in incredibly handy when you’re being introduced to a meditation practice. Because once you understand the basic principles and practices, and this isn’t a traditional approach necessarily, but it’s very useful then to be able to take apart the meditation practice and look at how does this function, how does it work for me. Because one of the kind of myth for meditation is it’s the same for everyone, and in fact it’s not the same for everyone. People relate to different techniques differently. They get certain kinds of results from certain things that other people wouldn’t. And so being able to kind of deconstruct and understand the mechanics of how things work and then to actually rebuild it in a way that optimizes its impact on the individual is an incredibly useful skill. And it may be one of the reasons, I think, that a modern approach to meditation may actually make meditation more effective for modern people. I could be wrong about that but I suspect it may be the case. Rohan:    And I think that is key around the geek thing. The difference between a fan and a geek, a fan of Harry Potter just buys all the books. A geek writes fan fiction. They make their own world and they make social groups around Harry Potter stuff. And it is this thing around making personalization, pulling apart, socializing which I think are really important in modern Buddhism. Vincent:    I wish you’d use a sexier analogy than Harry Potter to describe what we’re doing.     [laughter] Rohan:    What? Like Fifty Shades of Grey?         [laughter] http://www.buddhistgeeks.com/2013/01/bg-274-fifty-shades-of-geek/

January 08 2014


Andrea Fella: Anxiety Worry and Fear

December 24 2013


Dhamma Talks - Choosing Sides

Tags: buddhism

Dhamma Talks - Change Your Habits

Tags: buddhism

December 23 2013


Dhamma Talks - How to Be an Admirable Friend

Tags: buddhism

Dhamma Talks - Question and Probe

Tags: buddhism

December 13 2013


Being a Generalized Mystic ~ Shinzen Young

Instead of his usual dharma talk, one evening Shinzen Young answered notes he had received during the residential retreat in Southern California in January 2013. In answer to a question about how he went from being a monk to a non-Buddhist, he had this reply. It includes a description of an exercise done at a teacher's conference.

October 13 2013


4. Ken McLeod | The Naked Monk

Stephen Schettini in conversation with Ken McLeod about whether Buddhism matters today http://www.thenakedmonk.com/2013/09/21/4-ken-mcleod/

August 04 2013


Aug 3, 2013 — Robert Wright & Reza Aslan

July 30 2013


The Naked Monk interviews David Webster | The Naked Monk

Stephen Schettini speaks with David Webster about the place of Buddhism in the modern world http://www.thenakedmonk.com/2013/07/26/2-david-webster/

July 28 2013


Jul 28, 2013 — Robert Wright & Shinzen Young

June 25 2013


BG 205: Gaming as a Spiritual Practice » Buddhist Geeks

Leading game designer Jane McGonigal joins guest host Rohan Gunatillake to explore the relationship between games and well-being, and see what clues they might hold for the future of Buddhist practice. Jane starts with a surprising disclose: she is a meditation practitioner and has been studying Buddhism for the last 5 years, since she was a grad student in Berkley. She explains how her work with game design and development ties in with her interest in meditation, explaining the strong overlap between the positive qualities cultivated through good games, and those cultivation through mental training. Rohan proposes that the Buddha’s own story could be likened to a type of epic video game, and building off of that discusses the likelihood of being able to design a game that actively cultivates the 7 factors of awakening—a classic Buddhist list on the qualities that lead to enlightenment. Jane speaks about enlightenment as an “epic win” and maintains that gaming has the very real potential to cultivate the factors of awakening.

March 14 2012


Fear of Nothing: Heidegger's Buddhism

A talk by Tim Norton given at the ALSCW conference, Claremont College, March 10, 2012.

July 05 2011


Ven. Mahinda's dharma talks about dosa solution04 of Abhidhamma on 2008 Feb 28

瑪欣德尊者 2008.02.28 新加坡講阿毗達磨: 瞋 除瞋-不來道

Ven. Mahinda's dharma talks about dosa solution03 of Abhidhamma on 2008 Feb 28

瑪欣德尊者 2008.02.28 新加坡講阿毗達磨: 瞋 除瞋-思維業果法則

Ven. Mahinda's dharma talks about dosa solution02 of Abhidhamma on 2008 Feb 28

瑪欣德尊者 2008.02.28 新加坡講阿毗達磨: 瞋 除瞋-慈愛

Ven. Mahinda's dharma talks about dosa solution01 of Abhidhamma on 2008 Feb 28

瑪欣德尊者 2008.02.28 新加坡講阿毗達磨: 瞋 除瞋-忍耐
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