77. IBP: Gregory Kramer on the Practising Life

And so it goes on. This is our second episode in the new practice series. In the meantime, I had something of an allergic reaction to social media, and the internet more broadly. Despite a pretty disciplined relationship with digital life, I had something akin to an epiphany mid-January and realised that in my own way I had got caught up in maintaining what I am increasingly thinking of as the synthetic real.  The digital life is seductive in ways that are not always easy to identify and like many insidious forces in this world, it can creep up on you in unexpected ways. What this means long-term is anyone’s guess. For now, I have reduced my internet time drastically, with time spent on social media cut by 90% and I am thrilled by the results. If such concerns orbit your life too, you may want to check out Jaron Lanier’s work on social media.

Our guest this time is Gregory Kramer, insight meditation teacher since the 1980s, he has developed a practice called Insight Dialogue; A sort of interpersonal meditation practice. Gregory teaches meditation, leads retreats and has written two books on Buddhist practice. The first on Insight Dialogue, and the second released in 2020 called A Whole Life Path.

Gregory was candid in his answers. There are powerful moments in this episode that arise as we venture down the path of the deeply personal nature of practice. Gregory’s work is rooted in early Buddhist traditions yet he lives a house-holder’s life. His commitment to the practising life is evident throughout.

76. IBP – Chenxing Han: Be the Refuge, Asian Buddhism in America

Photo by Sarah Deragon

Asian and Buddhist and living in America: Does any of that matter? Those focussed in on practice and not much else regarding Buddhism might proclaim a resounding no. Others, all too aware of the tendency of western practitioners to ignore culture, and Buddhism beyond the meditation cushion might instead bellow forth with a resounding yes! Whatever your take, today’s guest Chenxing Han has written a book that fills a gap in our collective understanding, and appreciation of the role of Asians in making, shaping and living western Buddhism.
Be the Refuge is not merely another book obsessed with race and social justice, however. Those themes do appear but it is more than another product in the polarised times we live in. Yes, some of the buzz words and concepts are there, but this book is as much a work of poetry as it is a research project designed to illustrate the often sidelined role of Asians in making and shaping Buddhism in the West.

If more than two thirds of U.S. Buddhists are actually Asian American, perhaps it’s worth becoming more aware of them, right?

Be the Refuge is both critique and celebration, countering the erasure of Asian American Buddhists while uplifting their stories and experiences. The Oriental monk, the superstitious immigrant, the banana Buddhist: dissatisfied with these tired tropes, Han asks, Will the real Asian American Buddhists please stand up? Her journey to answer this question led to in-depth interviews with a pan-ethnic, pan-Buddhist group of eighty-nine young adults.

Weaving together the voices of these interviewees with scholarship and spiritual inquiry, this book re-envisions Buddhist Asian America as a community of trailblazers, bridge-builders, integrators, and refuge-makers. Encouraging frank conversations about race, representation, and inclusivity among Buddhists of all backgrounds, Be the Refuge embodies the spirit of interconnection that glows at the heart of American Buddhism.

www.chenxinghan.com/

Continue reading “76. IBP – Chenxing Han: Be the Refuge, Asian Buddhism in America”

75. IBP – George Haas on the Practicing Life

Let’s get started!

Happy New Year to one and all and welcome to this new season (proper) of the Imperfect Buddha Podcast. Focussed on practice, this season engages Buddhist teachers, long-term practitioners, and creative innovators engaged in the practising life. Interspersed with regular interviews, this practice focussed season finally gets the podcast off of the couch and responding to the long stream of listeners calling for a practice focus.

We are also finally getting in touch with many of the guest suggestions put forth by you, dear listeners.

We have four episodes recorded already and I can tell you that guests have been generous and candid, and their struggles, insights and experience have already made me realise how important and useful such a personal line of inquiry can be.

Feedback as always can be posted at the usual locations. Suggestions for guests are welcome too. You can email the podcast at: imperfectbuddha@outlook.com

George Haas

Continue reading “75. IBP – George Haas on the Practicing Life”

Thoughts on Practice: warming up for exercise

The Great Feast provides us with an infinite number of takes on practice. Great and lesser minds since time recorded have shared opinions, ideas, beliefs, assumptions and assertions on what practice is, and should be. Sometimes what those minds produced (or received), developed into a tradition, a pathway, an institution, a religion; or disappeared entirely, folded back into the sands of time, as our ancestors pushed onwards, most merely surviving, others attempting to construct a better world. The hardier remnants of this great wealth linger on today, and with them an ever increasing wealth of books, workshops, retreats, podcasts, apps and online groups proposing new configurations, recycled products, and a variety of attempts by living human minds to imagine and leap towards that which might come.

Because of all this, whether we wish to be or not, we are all consumers. We can view ourselves economically as such; many propose we do so. We could also view ourselves as beasts, as animals, as mammals feasting on the world. Our existence requires we devour parts of the world for our mere survival after all. So, why would it be different with knowledge, practices, or the fulfilment of the religious impulse? Sorry, was I meant to say spiritual, but not-religious? To feast, devour, consume; these are metaphors civilised folks sit uncomfortably with. Our animal nature has a long history of being dismissed, ignored or suppressed in the name of progress, civilisation, and the pursuit of a world apart from the horrors of our carnal nature. This creates a bind in us, of course. As we attempt to transcend our animal nature, we also transcend our intimacy with the organic world we are forever intimate with. We downplay our interconnection with the limitations of the animal-human body, the animal-human heart. Oddly, in our attempt to mark Homo sapiens out as distinct from the other animals, we dehumanise ourselves; all too often in projects of escape. To be human is to be of this Earth. To be interdependent is to be in exchange with all the things of this Earth; not operating as an aloof being apart, casting its thoughts and mental projections outwards or downwards.

Such a dualistic vision is a practice, and one I would argue is fundamentally dysfunctional. For some Buddhists, such a view will irritate: Watching the mind, seeing your thoughts, all of this language betrays a dualistic tendency. There are other practices too. Ones involving immersion, this is also a stream within Buddhism and its long-history of variant practices and modes of practice. It presents its own problems too.

Continue reading “Thoughts on Practice: warming up for exercise”