In this episode, I spoke to Ken McLeod in person in Croatia and we discussed a variety of topics, including; Vajrayana Buddhism, his writing project, issues of language, his appreciation for Wittgenstein, direct experience V the conceptual mind, challenges for advanced practitioners, his ongoing relationship with practice, and more. The episode starts with a longer introduction than usual to prime newer listeners to the podcast and the direction it’s taking. I hope you will find this addition useful. For new listeners, check out some of our past episodes for a different take on western Buddhism. Here’s the episode;
Ken McLeod is a senior Western translator, author, and teacher of Tibetan Buddhism. He received traditional training mainly in the Shangpa Kagyu lineage through a long association with his principal teacher, Kalu Rinpoche, whom he met in 1970. McLeod resides in Northern California, where he founded Unfettered Mind. He has currently withdrawn from teaching, and no longer conducts classes, workshops, meditation retreats, individual practice consultations, or teacher training.
Thoughts: this episode has a preparation piece for regular listeners to investigate if they so wish. It’s here. I think this episode raises further questions and we cannot get away from some of the issues that have come up in past episodes. To what degree is our experience unconditioned is the stand out one. Feel free to leave comments as usual below or get in touch through; Facebook, Twitter, or the Soundcloud page.
Unfettered Mind: http://unfetteredmind.org/
Ken’s Musings: http://musingsbyken.blogspot.co.uk/?m=1
Tricycle articles by Ken: https://tricycle.org/author/kenmcleod/
David Chapman’s review of A Trackless Path: https://vividness.live/2015/12/01/dzogchen-a-trackless-path-ken-mcleod-review/
O’Connell Coaching: https://oconnellcoaching.com
(The reason for my absence here is a rather fine one: He’s called Julian)
Stuart and I have had busy summers with little activity taking place in terms of the podcast and my writing here at the Post-traditional Buddhism site. I’ve been promising to produce something for readers and listeners, and can now provide you with this post and the reality of a soon-to-be-released podcast. The latest episode has actually been recorded and will require some editing before becoming available at the end of the coming week. This time round we interviewed Ken McLeod, a prominent figure in Western Buddhism with a rich background in Tibetan Vajrayana Buddhism. Ken has authored a number of books that have broken the mould in presenting aspects of Tibetan Buddhism in a pragmatic, western approach, with care paid to language and metaphors (more on this below). His works have been heavily informed by his own experience as a practitioner, and his role in teaching and coaching westerners over a long career. I found his last book A Trackless Path to be most interesting as an attempt by a westerner to decode the Tibetan language into the western vernacular with priority being given to the sort of message being transmitted in the original text rather than a faithfully rigid, word for word translation (BTW, It would be good to see much more of this taking place amongst translators and authors).
The choice of guest was deliberate. We had planned to have Ken on for some time now and he was on the list of our desired guests when we were starting out with the podcast. As luck would have it, he was in Croatia close to where I live this past weekend and so I met up with him in person and recorded enough material for a decent episode. I wasn’t 100% sure of the direction to take, which is unusual for me. I tend to have a clear intention and set of concerns when approaching guests but in spite of giving it considerable thought beforehand, I found myself driving from Italy through Slovenia down to the Croatian coast clutching a handful of loosely connected themes, and I had to play it by ear as the interview went on. Ken was generous with his time and candid in his responses and I felt we touched on a number of interesting and relevant topics. The content of the podcast additionally reflects an important and unexpressed desire that I have for the podcast as a whole, which I would like to write about here.
Ken is an important choice of guest but one that may concern some of our more critical listeners, importantly though, he represents the second strand that informs our podcast episodes. Hiss interview signals an important opportunity to talk to the different types of listeners the podcast gets. For, although we have put out a lot of episodes exploring a critical evaluation of western Buddhism, Stuart and I are practitioners first and foremost, who have deeply personal relationships with Buddhist practices and ideas. Although I consider myself to be post-traditional in my approach and dedicated to the frail, temporal, inquisitive human within these practices, I continue to find Buddhism to be a most meaningful source for the practices I draw on in navigating my life. The question then becomes not whether to be Buddhist, but rather how to relate to Buddhist materials in the sanest, most intelligent way possible, and this is necessarily a work in progress. It is a relationship that is very much personal and very much shared and the podcast navigates these two realms. The whole project is run through with these two primary strands and I cannot see how any meaningful engagement with Buddhism could dismiss one or the other. In fact, part of the desire for the podcast has always been to bridge this divide.