The Ideological Turn; new podcast episode challenges Buddhists

Ideology word cloud

This is…The Ideological Turn

On your marks, get Set, Go! Yes, yes, a new turn has been churned out of the creative imagination of yours truly in accordance with the tradition of The Great Feast. Three diners sit around this turn’s table and it’s a rather European affair.

Two Frenchmen and an Italian hold centre stage providing us with an intimate exploration of ideology and its central role in identity, practice and subjectivity. As an often ignored plain of human practice, it is required learning for the more mature practitioner, and the more intelligent newcomer to the practising life.

A creative moment or two emerge once again in this turn and as it’s an extended monologue, so I think that it is entirely appropriate, but feel free to disagree, to insert some playfulness and musical mayhem. To help you along your way, I shall also provide an overview of the content covered. Each thinker’s thought is brought back to Buddhism and the practising life, so if it sometimes feels overtly pedagogical, be patient, meaningful and relevant links are made but the background really is essential for the bigger picture to become clearer: Don’t be tempted to slip back into anti-intellectualism now!


The basic narrative arc starts with an introduction to the themes that ideology confronts us with, meets a key Italian figure in the development of our understanding of ideology, which he developed whilst unjustly imprisoned by the Fascists of his time, goes back in time to France to meet the word’s maker, comes forward in time to bump into a rather paranoid Frenchman, who takes everything further, and then finishes off with practice tips and a remake of the Bodhisattva vow.

Practise tips are actually present throughout, however, and the more discerning listener will see just how much gold dust and nuggets can be sifted from this enduring topic.

If it’s all too much, you might want to listen in more than one sitting and ponder the goods served up by these great thinkers and my own humble attempt to make their ideas as relevant and contemporary as possible to practitioners like you and why not wash it all down with a nice cup of Ted Meissner tea.

Menu of the Day: Great Feast Specials

  1. Overview of the themes that ideology forces us to confront.
  2. Antonio Gramsci; ideas that capture populations and Buddhist groups, cultural hegemony…interdependence of the underappreciated kind.
  3. Antoine Destutt de Tracy: coining ideology, the science of ideas, the sensual nature of ideas, ideaophobes…feelings are wrapped in ideology (who would’ve thought it).
  4. Louis Althusser: identification, capture, the naturalness of it all…how ideology is in your subjective experience and on your meditation cushion.
  5. Practise tips: entering the Great Feast, the bodhisattva vow…committing to the world beyond our dreams and fantasies.

Background music is provided by some wonderful local musicians from Trieste; Riccardo Morpurgo Trio, a jazz ensemble, and Amorth, a music producer and electronic music artist. Along with these two dynamos, we have a fantastic Trip Hop artist still going strong from the UK, Funki Porcini.

This episode’s brief introduction was crafted by my wonderful 12 year old son.

As always, feedback is gently recommended. Exchange is the price we pay. Donations are welcomed at the Imperfect Buddha site, however small. Give something back for a change and screw neo-liberalism and its excesses.


64. IBP: Adam Robbert on Philosophy as a Way of Life


Podcast meets Podcast. Adam Robbert from the Sideview boards the Imperfect Buddha to discuss the work of Pierre Hardot, author of Philosophy as a Way of Life, along with a long list of our shared favourite topics. We get into the nitty-gritty of the practising life, contemplation, reflection, embodied consciousness and martial arts, the path ahead, challenges on the way, and more.

This is most definitely a Great Feast conversation.

The Imperfect Buddha site:
O’Connell Coaching:


More on Adam’s philosophically minded work can be found at the Sideview:

63. IBP: Daniel Ingram on Integral Theory


“Hmmm, this one’s gonna be good.”

Off we go with our first long-form interview/conversation for 2020, and it’s with returning guest Daniel Ingram! Are you ready for more? It seems that many of you are. Back in 2019 when Daniel was visiting here in Trieste, we discussed a range of topics we might cover on the podcast and one topic that repeatedly came up for Mr Ingram was his take on Integral Theory. We finally got the conversation done before Christmas and here it is. For this one I play the devil’s advocate somewhat as my knowledge on Ken Wilber’s work was quite limited and I had heard mainly complaints about it from our more educated listeners. As always, however, it was a pleasurable conversation and Daniel’s take on Wilber’s core theory seems pretty attractive as a model for understanding stages of growth, both for individuals and groups. We cover sex scandals, power grabs, groupy love, spaced-out gurus, religious fundamentalists, and how we are all too human.

See what you think, and don’t forget to visit Daniel’s website; it’s called Integrated Daniel after all. For those new to the podcast, and crazy for Daniel’s enlightenment stories and pragmatism, there is a plethora of past conversations to enjoy. From our first ever conversation with him years back, there’s a far more recent and fun series on non-Buddhism in which Daniel tackles the Speculative non-Buddhism project as well as an episode looking into the Practising Life; our theme for this year of podcast episodes.

55. IBP: Daniel Ingram Down the Rabbit Hole: Imperfect-buddha-podcast – 55-ibp-daniel-ingram-down-the-rabbit-hole
54. IBP: Daniel Ingram Meets Trash Theory: Imperfect-buddha-podcast – 54-ibp-daniel-ingram-meets-trash-theory
53. IBP: Daniel Ingram on the Practicing Life: Imperfect-buddha-podcast – 53-ibp-daniel-ingram-on-the-practicing-life

Our next episode will be with Adam Robbert, host of the Side View podcast and journal, before our first ever oral blog post series on…ideology.

61. IBP: Dr Michelle Haslam & her psychological report on the controversial New Kadampa Tradition

Dalai Lama

(The Dalai Lama is pointing at you NKT!)

This is our fourth foray into the land of Buddhism, Cults and Cult-like behaviours across mainstream Buddhist groups. Let’s be honest, this topic is always perversely interesting. If you missed out on our past episodes covering these topics, there are links and short intros below to those past episodes, which were a lot of fun to record with old co-host Stuart Baldwin.

For our latest journey, we interview Dr Michelle Haslam, PhD, a clinical psychologist who ran afoul of the machinations of the New Kadampa Tradition (NKT) and has since written a psychological report on their tactics and set up a resource site filled with testimonies from ex-followers along with articles to warn the general public about their oft dysfunctional behaviour. She shares some of the horrendous tactics employed against her after leaving the group and discusses some of her psychological analysis of the NKT, their practices and group dynamics.

Michelle has had a dreadful website put together by a phantom psychologist (a hungry ghost perhaps?), who doesn’t actually appear to exist in the real world. This was done immediately after she published her report on the NKT. It’s defamatory and quite sad and makes awful claims about her. Be your own judge of it should you stumble on it. She is also currently working in an undisclosed location despite mentioning that she has worked  in safeguarding in the interview previously.

The introduction for this episode involves an added presentation on cults that ties together the multiple themes from our last episodes on the topic and concludes our forays into cult-land. If you have heard it all before, you can skip it by jumping to the interview proper at 37.10.

Note: Those who critique the New Kadampa Tradition often end up being trolled, attacked, and threatened by folks who hide their identities and usually claim to not be any part of the NKT. It is obviously difficult to prove that they are, so I am putting this here as a potential warning so that you dear listener can make up our own mind about who is to blame if this podcast should come under attack. Trolling is highly likely in either case.

Here are the links to Michelle’s sites and other resources, which are all highly recommended;…pa_Tradition.pdf

Our past episodes on cults;

04. IBP: cults, cultish shennanigans & Buddhist groups

In this first episode on cults, Stuart & I discuss Buddhist cults and cultish behaviour across Buddhist groups. We look at how cultish behaviours manifest in even innocuous Buddhist groups. We discuss the wider implications of the tradeoff between belonging and autonomy, and the three core theories that explain why people get involved in cultish groups in the first place. We also look at the difference between cults and new religious movements and the difficulty in the academic world of naming the former. To avoid such a trap, we focus on cultish behaviours and ask to what degree each of the organisations we discuss exhibits them. We invite listeners to consider to what degree their own Buddhist group may exhibit such behaviours and why they are present. We cover the NKT, Rigpa, Shambhala, Michael Roach and Maitreya Ron Spenser.

05. IBP: Tenzin Peljor on leaving a Buddhist cult

In this episode, we interview the wonderfully insightful Tenzin Peljor, an ordained German Buddhist monk. Tenzin is no ordinary monk, however, he is a crusader for clarity and right information, particularly in the world of Tibetan Buddhism, where he is committed to shining a light on untruth. He runs two English language sites which provide a wealth of information and resources including interviews with noted Buddhist Studies academics, and exposes of cultish behaviour. He is also one of the best informed individuals regarding the New Kadampa Tradition and as an ex-member himself writes with great clarity in order to dispel the myths propagated by that group. Here he tells the story of his involvement with the NKT and what it was that drove him to leave. We also discuss aspects of a monk’s life and explore important texts that help with leaving behind western romanticism of Tibet.

27. IBP: Why not join a cult? Stuart & Matthew go deep into cult-land.

Why wouldn’t you want to join a cult? That’s a question Stuart and I get round to addressing in this episode of the Imperfect Buddha Podcast. We also find time to cover Alison Mack and life after Smallville in a sex cult, the enigmatic guru Miranda, the latest mew age Maitreya to turn up, and a number of other cults we missed out on the first time round. Stuart brings his new found insights into super-powered hypno-wonder, and I reveal my disappointing IQ as we skirt around topical issues such as…IQ and the Alt-Right, existential crises and why being in a cult can actually be fun. We get in some conspiracy theories, give a mention to Michelle Pfeiffer, and even manage to spend a few words on Buddhism in the process.