The Imperfect Buddha Podcast was born of necessity in 2015, as at the time, a critical approach to contemporary Buddhism and spirituality more generally was missing from the podcast landscape. Anti-intellectualism, blatant self-promotion, and attachment to tradition, all seemed to get in the way of a genuinely critical engagement with Buddhist materials, practice, theory, and the real reasons for engaging in a practising life in the 21st century. The podcast set out to open up a new space of critique with the challenge to bring Buddhism out of its cosy, comfortable spaces, and challenge it by addressing taboos, going to places unknown, and daring to think differently.
The podcast started out as a team affair with Matthew O’Connell, and Stuart Baldwin as hosts. Since its inception, Stuart and Matthew have mixed guest interviews with explorative conversations on important topics. They have never shied away from taboos or more challenging material, all the while remembering to have a laugh. Stuart left the podcast in 2018 and since then Matthew has been the host of the podcast and focused on interviews and think pieces.
All of our episodes can be listened to directly from this site. Look to your right on the main page for the Spotify player: no account required.
From 2021, the podcast was invited to move home to the New Books Network. Episodes are released regularly, are free to stream or download, and can also be found at all your favorite podcast apps, or streaming service. You can listen to any and all of our episodes and sign up there: New Books Network: The Imperfect Buddha Podcast
Otherwise click on the following for your favorite app and explore;
Finally, there is also a dedicated Twitter feed, Facebook page, where you can get updates, insight, pithy quips, and add comments, criticism and compliments.
I wanted to take a chance to respond to all these podcasts thus far and to the journey that your blog has enabled me to embark upon these past several months. Its been painful but extremely necessary, and I’m very thankful that you guys are here.
As I moved into my undergraduate years and left Christianity, I turned to the academic path from a motivation of truth-seeking but also of spitefulness at and alienation from the world. Not surprisingly, that career path stopped for me after earning my Master’s in a humanities discipline.
Embarking on a journey of healing involving psychotherapy and CBT the past couple years, and having had some contemplative inclinations previously, I naturally became drawn to popular mindfulness meditation.
Despite finding a community that has clearly taken great pains to be open-minded, and science friendly and the like, I ultimately had found so much solace in meditation that I had dimmed my intellectual rigor, kind of allowed that side of me to lose its biting edge.
Your podcast was a great outlet for that side of me over its history, and provided many places to go when it demanded to be reckoned with again.
I read through the Speculative Non-Buddhist articles and heavily at David Chapman’s blog.
For a few weeks a felt the familiar feeling of having intellectual rigor dismantle all sources of meaning without being able to provide alternative sources of meaning set in, which wasn’t fun.
However, your insistence over on Speculative Non-Buddhism that meditation itself, even if we through out every single other item Buddhism has to offer, has proven helpful to a number of individuals, is essential. Your insistence that Wallis offer up something concrete about his current practice was paritcularly poignant.
I am saddened that no one has been able to offer up a truly modern tantra, but I do think I believe in the power of meditation to improve lives.
Though my search for a teacher and/or community may be a long one, I feel freed from some of the ruts sticking with any from of Buddhist framework was starting to put me in, and feel I have far to go in solidifying my ‘base’ samdha practice before perhaps expanding into some tantric and shamanistic practices.
As for the recent discussion of Engaged Buddhism, I still feel lodged in the grips of the postmodern muck, and it seems that critics of this stuckness often appear to be reverting back to some sort of modernism with a metanarrative goal.
I attempted to be quite engaged in the sort of community activist manner Shaun Bartone proposes while an undergraduate but quickly ran aground due to a lack of personal skillfulness and trouble seeing the macro impact. I’m still seeking on that one. There’s certainly arguments to be made that much of this activity shores up the very cracks in the system that would otherwise fissure and lead to demands for change.
Still thinking very much on this one, but I understand where you’re coming from. If the whole ‘End of History’ line now rings extremely hollow, the problem of postmodernism hasn’t been solved for me. Where are we going with this activism? How is it not to be subsumed into the existing whole? How is not ultimately to be self-serving and a particular form of bleeding heart self-gratification toying with the wounds on the superstructure without touching the base, now that we know the base is shape-shifting beyond recognition?
I’ll be exploring these questions and following along diligently. Thank you for sharing your work and your thoughts.
Thanks for sharing your experience. I am pleased the podcast has been helpful and constructive if destabilizing. That for me at least is what makes the effort of producing it worthwhile, knowing it’s helped someone along.
If you’re looking for someone to help you on your way with practice, feel free to get in touch.
You may want to look at the work of Dr. Joe Loizzo for a reimagining of Tantra from a depth and neuropsychology perspective.
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My post was a reply to Corey but it seems to be under the main thread.
Apologies for the gramatical errors. No edit function on the comments unlike the posting I’m afraid!
Is there an RSS feed for your podcast?
This should be it. If it doesn’t work, let us know. Thanks!
Thanks. It works just fine.
Hi. I’ve recently read David Chapman’s “meaningness” site, which seems to be a kind of “middle way” approach, although I don’t think he ever uses that expression himself. And there’s also the Robert Ellis middle way society. Is the “middle way” an idea worth exploring in an imperfect Buddha podcast?
Big fan of Dave’s work and we often mention him on podcast episodes. As for a topic to explore, well, maybe. Thanks for the suggestion.
‘Twas just a half arsed thought. Have since read a thread at the Dharma Overground site started about the Buddhist geeks podcast with Chapman about Buddhist Ethics is a Fraud.msome interesting points there, amongst the dross.
I love the podcast and interviews so far! However, I would strongly prefer to listen to this in the car or on the train rather than having to make time for it in the evening at home. I am unwilling to use up a big chunk of my monthly mobile phone bandwidth allowance because the file is so big.
Is there any chance of changing your MP3 encoding settings so that the soundcloud file is not so extremely huge? If this was music, the high bit rate would be greatly appreciated. Given that this is speech, the high bit rate (and resulting huge file) is totally unnecessary. I’d like to suggest a 64 kbit or 96 kbit setting.
Thanks for listening
We’re now on it. You’ll find the future episodes in a much smaller format.
Thanks for listening and sharing,
I’ve enjoyed these podcasts, some more than others. At times they can be tediously talky for the sake of talk and I would much prefer the use of 10 cents words to all the $100 ones that proliferate and make concrete communication a tad ineffective, but that’s just me. The irreverence is wonderful, as it echoes my own view, a view that is NOT accepted in many Buddhists lineages.
Zen may be the one (potential) exception, primarily due to it’s structure. One teacher, one autonomous place to practice (despite the tendency to mimic the teacher’s teacher), and a known distaste of convention and sacredness. At least that’s the premise. From there, it’s interesting to see how many Zen centers can turn into defacto Catholic churches, what w/ the black robes, the burning incense, the statues of dead people, the “priest” running the show, while the eager laity hang on each word to become enlightened to the darmha. I have at times almost expected people to give a sign of peace.
The podcasts fill an important need in Buddhism….. the need to challenge the existing traditional dogmas, and the need to expose the new age charlatans that often latch onto Buddhism to make a buck, feed their ego and control people. The one thing from the podcasts that really hit home was the notion that the guru was always right, and the student was always wrong. If you broaden that and substitute teacher for guru, you have the true nature of almost all Buddhist lineages. The enlightened one comes down from the mountain to spread the Good News. I can see how this led to people Like Trungpa challenging the tight ass order of things. Unfortunately, as we all know, he was not quite up to the task. Tantra will often do that to people it seems.
So a big thank you to the folks putting this together. It will probably be hard to maintain though because once we understand that most of Buddhism is a sham filled w/ white latte liberals that have bought their way into the privileged circle of the masters, and that we all need to grapple w/ our lives using any means necessary, Buddhist or otherwise, I am not sure where else there is to go? More guest speakers would be a good addition perhaps. We all see things a little differently. .
Your work recently has been really engaging.
You tweeted out for topic requests; I wonder if you would like to get Ken McLeod on an episode to discuss the pragmatic stance on Mahamudra/Dzogchen practices (which I find he speaks eloquently and helpfully about), and/or the work of Peter Sloterdijk. Ken has cited him several times and clearly has engaged with his work:
“How do we know which imbalances or struggles to address, which way to turn, or where to direct our attention and energy? This question takes us beyond the domain of Buddhist practice to the notion of practice in general. The German philosopher Peter Sloterdijk’s response is that in the modern age, we have to develop a life of practice, of consistent repetition and refinement. But what practice? What in our lives, he asks, is really worthy of practice, repetition, and refinement?”
Ken has done several podcasts recently, so I’m relatively confident you could get him on IBP.
Once again, thank you for your work, and enjoy your Christmas break if you’re taking one.
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Love the episodes with Daniel Ingram! Please consider to invite Kenneth Folk and maybe try to unpack Thomas Metzinger with him; what is needed to make a robot suffer?
Hi there, I did try in the past and he said at the time he was taking a break from all podcasts and interviews. Not a bad idea though.
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I’m a new listener, and am excited by your content. Thank you.
I’m wondering if you have covered, or would cover, the buddhist idea of anger: that it is a wrong emotion, and that you are always supposed to be peaceful. I have tried this, too many times, and I end up self-immolating on other people’s stupidity. It doesn’t work in human relationships. Or am I missing something?
Thanks for visiting. The podcast is something of an experiment in approaching Buddhism and spirituality from new perspectives, and I generally don’t do episodes on basic Buddhist teachings or therapeutic uses of Buddhism: There are so many podcasts doing that already after all. We take a critical approach to evolving concepts, ideas and visions of practice beyond traditional Buddhism and there’s one that ought to be useful here.
In terms of anger, I think that Buddhism has to go along to the Great Feast and test out its ideas. There it will need to dialogue with psychology, philosophy, Law, and even other forms of Buddhism. Remember, the idea of anger as bad or a thing that we should take a conservative approach to, or pretend to be happy smiling members of a TV commercial is obviously delusional and tells you far more about the book, teacher or group that would encourage such human deformity than it does anger, or yourself.
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