New Episodes Out Now!

Bristol Museum Buddha head (Taken during our first visit home this Easter after three years)

“Hello and welcome to the Imperfect Buddha podcast…”

And with these words, a new batch of episodes are out after having been toasted off nicely under the grill. In our seventh year of life, yes, we’ve been going that long, my own personal interest and desire to be of service continue to drive the guest choices and topics I tackle. They link back to our first episodes on Buddhist Cults, western Buddhism evolving with the times, the possibility of radical change, and the need to engage one’s critical faculties and intelligence in engaging with any kind of spiritual practice. Education is foundational to these themes; educating ourselves, educating each other, being willing to learn, change one’s mind, and be wrong. So simple to say, yet so often subverted by all too human dreams, fears and desires.

The two themes that continue to drive this podcast and its inquiry, exploration and content are as follows.

Theme one: Practice at the Edge

I continue to be fascinated by the effects of long-term practice and the ups and downs of the life of serious practitioners. What happens when you take Buddhism really seriously? Attempt to transforms its ideas, goals, and practices into means for radical change and growth? What does it mean to mature with the bases and outcomes of each over the years?

The majority of discourse surrounding Buddhism in the West and spiritual practice reads like a sells pamphlet. Today, in 2022, the nature of dialogue is very much centred on Mindfulness, scientific validation, therapeutic need, and most recently, activism. There is of course good in each of these, and there is necessary work taking place, at times. But there is also a form of parochial capture by the moment, and its symbols of attraction. There is also an exploitation of our present, and a reaction to it. Because of the issues many western Buddhist practitioners have with the second of our themes, they are often areas addressed with only a modicum of critical thought; Buddhists thus become banner wavers for what the moment demands of them. There is also the issue of how such present-day concerns are converted into projects of relevance extension for famous Buddhist teachers, with more books to write, preaching to take place, and money to be made. Or am I merely being a cynic?

Come on. I did suggest both good and bad are taking place. And who speaks to the bad? Few it seems.

Theme two: Philosophy and the Great Feast

I love thought. There you go. I said it. I love thought. Thought as a gesture. Thought as birthing. Thought as gathering. Thought as nurturing. Thought as cooking, preparing, serving, eating, and defecating. Intelligence is a thing of beauty. As many of you know, it needs care and attention. It needs a decent diet of healthy food though must avoid getting comfortable in a dietary routine of the familiar. We mustn’t over-eat of course, under nourish, snack on social-media-fast-food too often, mix the wrong kinds of food leading to indigestion and constipation, and ideally we commit to developing a refined palate in order to appreciate the rich traditions of intelligent cooking with their variety of ingredients, histories and sources.

Intelligence is in short supply as our world of collective ignorance and stupidity shows us daily. Buddhism does not provide us with all we need to address these two. Philosophy does not provide all the solutions either. Training the mind, understanding the emotions, refining attention, becoming more human are struggles our species has faced with great stubbornness over its long existence. Philosophy is a location of history and current day struggles. A massive cultural richness often difficult to wrestle with yet is part of our inheritance from ancestors the date back to the Greeks, the early pre-Indic cultures, ancient China, Japan and for some the older religious practices that pre-date named philosophers and religious figures.

The Great Feast is the great metaphor for our time. It democratises the many voices, ideas, theories and practices. All of those ancient and contemporary voices are welcome there. All ideas can be discussed, explored and brought into an infinite variety of relationships. It is not a final solution, the next best thing, it is merely a place of meeting and feasting without intellectual bounds. The podcast attempts to provide a visit there.

What’s out today?

Daniel Ingram on the Practising Life

Mr Ingram once again joins us for a wide-ranging conversation and he even invokes the Great Feast metaphor! Mr Wallis, are you happy? We discuss long-term practice, the impact of an intimate relationship on it, Hard Core practice, and we certainly don’t come out as conservatives, so hold your horses left-wing extremists, we’re not Fascio-Nazi-Racist-Hate-Filled Men. We also discuss what looks to be a fascinating Bodhisattva project Daniel has a key hand in birthing.

Doubt P.2

The next audio-cast instalment of my series on doubt. I think it’s good. What about you?

Links below.

What’s coming up next?

Jacques Derrida on Buddhism? Hell, yeah!

Peter Salmon, the author An Event Perhaps, will come on to explain Derrida’s contribution to our current moment, unpack deconstruction, and tell us what Derrida had to say on Buddhism, spirituality, awakening and that annoying relationship between the text and everything.

Nietzsche is a Punk Rocker…or was it a Buddha?

Yes, definitely the latter. Jason M. Wirth is finally coming on to talk about his book on Nietzsche and other Buddhas, exploring life after comparative philosophy. We will be discussing the persistent relevance of pure consciousness, absolutes, awakening, ideals, the Earth and practice. Jason is not only a professor of philosophy but a Zen Priest, so this will be an enlightening visit to the Great Feast for sure.

Links

Listen here: Daniel Ingram on Practice

Listen here: Doubt Part 2

Support the Ukrainians

Link Tree

World Kitchen: Ukraine

Two New Podcast Episodes: Secularizing Buddhism & Practice Item #01

Two new episodes are now out at The New Books Network. The latest interview finishes off the Secular Buddhism series with a conversation with a rather fine gentleman, Australian Winton Higgins. But who is Mr Higgins you might ask, well he’s a Bruce for starters, that’s Aussie slang for man. Otherwise, I should inform you that he is a key figure in the Secular Buddhism movement and author of several books including Revamp: Writings on Secular Buddhism, and After Buddhism: a workbook. Winton has been a Buddhist practitioner since 1987, and teacher of insight meditation since 1995. A member of the Tuwhiri editorial board, he has contributed to the development of Secular Buddhism internationally and is a senior teacher for Sydney Insight Meditators.

He is an associate in international studies at the University of Technology Sydney and has been a board member of the Australian Institute of Holocaust and Genocide Studies since its inception in 2000, and teaches a course at the Aquinas Academy on various ethical, social and political topics each year.

Now you know, you can pop on a nice cup of tea, settle down in your cosiest armchair, and give it a whirl.

85. Imperfect Buddha Podcast: Winton Higgins on Secularising Buddhism

The second episode is a rather late audio-text from the series on Complex World, Complex Practice. I have written most of it and you’ve likely seen it here at the site, and hopefully enjoyed reading some of it. Each will become an audio-text with time.

84. Imperfect Buddha Podcast: Practice Item #01

Links

Practice Item #01 original text version

Winton Higgins website

Doubt Part 5: From Taming the Mind to Invoking Doubt

So, in many ways we are playing a game similar to Peter Sloterdjik; we are attempting to explore practice from a fresh perspective, and claiming practice more broadly as a part of our very rich, very wide human culture. Buddhist practices and notions thus become explicitly a sub-set of human culture and our task is to return them to that wider sphere of meaning so we may orientate ourselves more effectively. Thus we begin again with practices that resonate with familiar forms, but those same forms become far freer and agile because their home is not located solely inside Buddhism, but within the wealth of human culture within which Buddhism itself is situated.

We can see Buddhism as a sort of cultural sphere located within a wider sphere of religion and spiritual practice, which is located in yet another wider sphere of human transformation, desire, hope and fear. It overlaps with philosophy and its many spheres, and psychology and its plethora of stories and methods, and certain sciences with increasing or decreasing resonance and critique. Seeing this way is not about trying to get the best Buddhism possible, or secularising Buddhism so it might be free of its cultural weight: It is really a movement towards placing Buddhism, its history and present, within a context that is far larger and richer. Buddhism is not deprived of its parts; there is no dissection or plastic surgery. To use a concept so common in Buddhist discourse, Buddhism is seen more clearly for what it is, and so it remains integral. It continues to exist as a realm within which you can deep dive, yet hopefully do so more consciously of the wider worlds in which it is located and has been since its inception.

A Buddhist practitioner could make a gesture towards this observation thus:

Breathing in, I expand my imaginative framing of Buddhism out beyond its borders into the world where it must brave the winds of critique, and engage forms of knowledge that may be alien; breathing out, I return Buddhism into the human hands that crafted its thoughts and forms of practice, and find meaning in their creators’ struggles.”

Doubt Part 1

Doubt Part 2

Doubt Part 3

Doubt Part 4

Continue reading “Doubt Part 5: From Taming the Mind to Invoking Doubt”

Doubt Part 4: A calling to practice

Just so you know, amongst all the folks I have worked with in coaching, and met in practice spaces, clever folks who know it all are the least likely to change or commit to any practice that might disrupt their identity. When reality knocks, they usually close the door.

Why is this important to mention? Isn’t it obvious? Epistemic humility is directly related to a willingness to be wrong and to listen in order to learn. Knowing relates to power to role to identity to meaning. It can be difficult to set all that aside for a moment without turning it into yet act of self-serving knowing.

Remaining open to the capacity of others, of all stripes, cast and experience to show or tell of things we may be unaware of is a discipline that requires renewal. The capacity to do this could be understood as a fundamental characteristic of being present to life: a far more admirable goal than merely being attentive to the so-called present moment.

Let’s move on.

Doubt Part 1

Doubt Part 2

Doubt Part 3

In my previous pieces on doubt a piece was missing which sets up a fundamental recognition in the practicing life. It connects to the point made about foibles, individual proclivities and the need to build a path through your own experience. This understanding combines a non-prescriptive take on a/the path, or a/the way, and the need for it to always be rooted in a/the calling the individual feels and perceives, and that is central to his or her life. This is more of the baby. Some will have a knee jerk response to such wording but it may be misplaced in this context. To speak of an individual’s feelings, perception and calling is simply to ask what is real to them, salient, and demanding attention in a given context or phase of life. And it is asking how practice must respond to each. This is not to sacralise these three aspects or make the individual the crux of meaning to which the world must be subservient. The context is far larger. Ultimately practice must work on our real world conditions and not an ideal of the human.

Where do your own pressing thoughts, feelings and perception lead you in any given moment? How does each operate as a field of practice?

The characteristics are almost always specific, contextual and emerge from your own personal history. I am obviously not referring to the mundane plethora of material that makes up our day-to-day subjective experience, but rather that which calls us in, moves us towards new or attention-demanding question, desire or experience. Saying this is not claiming the truth is somewhere deep down inside or that your inner voice has the answer. Rather, you bring your own experience to practice, and the two must make room for each other. To merely impose practice on the complex matrix of materials that make up you and your world is to render practice a form of survival strategy, straight jacket, or mere identity formation.

It personally took me a while to figure all this out.

Continue reading “Doubt Part 4: A calling to practice”