Author: matthewoconnell

18. IBP [INCITE] Glenn Wallis on Darkness, Sloterdjik, & more


In this episode of the imperfect Buddha podcast I speak with Glenn Wallis once more. We cover a range of topics but at the core of our discussion is darkness: a topic that many folks shy away from and yet in our problematic times is a theme that needs looking at more closely and more deeply. Glenn will be leading a workshop on the topic of darkness on August 4th in Philadelphia. If you’re interested in participating, take a look at the webpage dedicated to the event at the Incite seminars website:
We talk about the motivations behind Incite seminars and why they are an important response to the challenges of our times, as well as the need for creativity in approaching practice, whether Buddhist or philosophical, and theory. We also touch on the work of Peter Sloterdjik and in particular his book ‘You must change your life’ which I for one found challenging. We also talk about the Speculative non-Buddhism website and what’s happening there. We also touch on the topic of our upcoming episode on neoliberalism and Buddhism with Ron Purser.
As always Glenn is a great conversationalist and someone who is thinking at the edge of what passes for normal in terms of Buddhism, spirituality, inquiry and the pursuit of knowledge and understanding of the complex, multifaceted world we live in. So, brush off your critical thinking skills, wake up your creative desire to think deeply and widely and take a listen.
O’Connell Coaching:
Post-Traditional Buddhism:
Speculative non-Buddhism:

Buddhism, Mindfulness, & Neo-liberalism


This piece of writing is intended as an introduction to an upcoming interview with Ronald Purser for the Imperfect Buddha Podcast. It looks at some of the themes that we will be discussing, such as Mindfulness and neoliberalism.

Mindfulness is big business with a value reaching more than $1 billion in the USA alone! There are well over thirteen hundred apps that will teach you it along with books on Mindful everything: from Mindful parenting to Mindful Leadership, from Mindful sex to the recently released Mindful Shoplifting and Mindful Adultery. Ok, I invented the last two but you get the picture. There are Mindfulness t-shirts, CDs, DVDs, coffee cups…all guaranteed to make you more mindful, apparently. It’s a veritable Mindful fest and needless to say, a wonderful money making opportunity for many a Buddhist teacher and poorly qualified healthcare professional. If a few cents could be squeezed out of Mindful Sneezing, no doubt some budding entrepreneur would be ready to market it. There’s no denying Mindfulness is a genuine Capitalist success story in the 21st century and in a world in which efficiency and productivity are key to survival, Mindfulness has been increasingly sold as a low cost solution for fixing a whole host of problems from stress to penile dysfunction, with, of course, the ubiquitous dab of ancient wisdom added on the side.

There are those who have begun to notice the co-option of Buddhist practice for the benefit of a dysfunctional status quo in the form of the dominant ideology of our time: neoliberalism. This is an ideology which, if you don’t know already, is one in which all of you dear folks are partially or wholly embedded. McMindfulness is one term used to describe the commercialization of Mindfulness into a fast food practice designed to fill the neoliberal hole. By pacifying angst, feelings of hopelessness and frustration, depression and anger, or making monotony and boredom more tolerable, folks get equipped with the ability to carry on as if everything was just fine, and to passively accept conditions of exploitation, mind-numbing routine, and the dehumanization of the work place and erosions of democracy. Some critique has gone further to highlight the usage of mindfulness to ensure greater conformity to the neoliberal view of the individual in society. One that is wholly self-reliant, responsible for all her emotional turmoil and mental angst, and made to believe that she is un-needing of any form of collective action or resistance to the madness of unbridled neoliberal capitalism, its by-product in the form of environmental destruction, and the corporatisation of all aspects of human life. The message, which no doubt you will all be familiar with, is look within and never without. The Neoliberal fantasy of absolute autonomy and self-reliance means that all of our problems are always of our own making and the solution to fixing them, well isn’t it obvious, is to look to and within yourself.


Meet Incite Seminars!


Welcome to a new project.

The Imperfect Buddha podcast will be collaborating with Incite seminars by bringing you short podcast interviews with workshop facilitators at upcoming events. This is done to promote such seminars, but more importantly, spread the good word and collaborate with like-minded folks.

Incite seminars act as a breeding ground for intense engagement and enquiry into the humanities. They feature a range of speakers who are experts in the field.

Incite is educational.

These podcast interviews will be shorter and featured just 10 questions with some space for discussion. They will give you a sense of what you will find  by participating in the Incite seminars as well as an introduction to an important topic that you may wish to go off and read about on your own afterwards.

The first podcast will feature Ulrich Baer and he will be introducing listeners to the themes of his seminar. These include the poet Rilke, the philosopher Heidegger and notions of being and presence. The themes are all wonderfully relevant to Buddhists, traditional or otherwise.


So what about sex?


The latest episode of the imperfect Buddha podcast touches on an area that I have wanted to discuss for some time on the podcast: sex, sexuality, and desire. These are such complex topics and still surrounded by taboos that it can be difficult to have a frank conversation about them. The discussion with my guest Ben Joffe touches on a range of topics such as gender equality, the use of sex as practice, and more in drawing on the work of Dr Nida Chenagstang and his recent book Karmamudra: The Yoga of Bliss (Sexuality in Tibetan Medicine and Buddhism), which Ben edited and did much of the translation for. Needless to say, the area is so vast that we could only really just get things started. For this reason, you’ll find that the introduction is far longer than usual and I hope this doesn’t put you off. The reason for it is that I wanted to summarise some of the views and entertaining content from a book by another author called John Stevens, who wrote a delightful book on Buddhism and sex back in 1990 called Lust for Enlightenment. His book acts as a survey of the historical relationship between Buddhism and sex and posits a view that this relationship has taken two particular lines of development throughout its history; the puritanical view and the idealised, liberational view. These lines are important because they also remind us that we have a lot of familiarity in the West with the puritanical view and its taboos, obsession with sin, and negative view of the body, and sensuality in general. What’s more, the puritan strain in Buddhism has much in common with Christianity and Islam, being male dominated, chauvinistic, misogynistic and disparaging of sexual diversity.

The desire to control others is a foundational drive in the construction of religion and societies and is reflective of a more general dialectic that permeates social formations. To what degree must or should followers of citizens be moulded into ideals of right behaviour? To what degree must or should humans be taught to dominate certain impulses, desires and attraction? To what degree should we confirm to the social expectations of the group, whether social, political, or religious? These are all questions that require thought, reading and reflection. Not least because the answers to such questions may show us the degree to which we have accepted social norms concerning our own relationship with desire, attraction and sex. There is a line of tension that runs between self-control, coupled with moderation, and free expression and spontaneity. The two lines that run through Buddhism navigate these oppositions with puritan Buddhists calling for monks and nuns to be chaste, to dominate their sexual impulses and rid themselves of desire. The Zen and Tantric Buddhists tend to follow the opposing line of embracing passion as a natural feature of our basic humanity and a facet of the path. These are of course idealised lines in themselves and these tensions would have existed in practitioners on both sides for they were forever and always only human.

I will state from the outset that I am opposed to puritan forms of religion and the suppression of desire, sexual expression and emotions. No doubt, countless human beings throughout history have suffered a great deal due to sexual repression, the denial of our carnal nature and the masochistic attempt to transcend our humanity. It is in Tantric Buddhism and Zen where one finds the greatest degree of humanity in Stevens’ survey. We see the iconic Zen figure of Ikkyu who falls in love unabashedly, is tender and affectionate with his lovers and their offspring, and views all of this in the light of awakening, of Buddha nature and his path. Although I’m not a romantic, I can’t help but feel that such an approach is far healthier than the abstract aloofness that can come about from visualising one’s partner as an archetypal being as is often promoted in Tantra. This is not to say that such a practice cannot be a beautiful thing, but rather that in our attention starved current climate in which alienation continues to cause a rot in social relations, intimacy, emotional connection, and affection might just be some of the core ingredients that can help us to maintain our humanity and a connection to one another in these challenging neo-liberal times. Many of the stories of Tantric adepts shared by Stevens are inspirational for the wildness of their protagonists and their refusal to confirm to the conservative demands of monastic orders. Whether it’s Drukpa Kunley admiring women’s bottoms and seeing them as a source of pure dharma or the 6th Dalai Lama writing poems to seduce lovers, each of these characters refuses to conform and draws on pleasure as a basis for liberation.

BHCKVc3CQAA3JPz.jpg large

Ben and I touch on homosexuality too as well as the issue of sexual abuse by gurus and the role of women and equality. I would recommend reading more of Ben’s work on these topics if they interest you and there is a link below to a Facebook posting of his on gender equality. However,  Dr Chenagstang covers such delicate areas thoroughly throughout his book and it comes highly recommended if you have an interest in Karmamudra, and the dispelling of myths surrounding sex, sexuality and desire.

Enjoy the interview and let us know what you think. We are just scratching the surface on this topic.

Links are provided below

Karmamudra: The Yoga of Bliss (Sexuality in Tibetan Medicine and Buddhism) by Dr Nida Chenagstang

Ben Joffe’s University Profile:

Ben’s Articles for Savage Minds:

Are female practitioners equal partners in Karmamudra, or Tibetan Sexual Yoga practices? By Ben Joffe

Lust For Enlightenment by John Stevens

Ben’s first interview with the Imperfect Buddha Podcast on the paranormal, Tibetan Buddhism, UFOs & the Ngakpa:

15.1 Imperfect Buddha Podcast: Cults 2


Why wouldn’t you want to join a cult? That’s a question Stuart and I get round to addressing in the latest episode of the Imperfect Buddha Podcast. We also find time to cover Alison Mack and life after Smallville in a sex cult, Miranda, the latest Maitreya, and a number of other cults we missed out 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. We had fun on this one and may offend a person or two. Please take this as a trigger warning. This episode features blasphemy, swearing, mention of S…E…X, Sam Harris, mind control and other topical human wonder.If you missed our first bash at cults, click here: Post-traditional-buddhism – 31-imperfect-buddha-podcast-cults-cultish-shennanigans-buddhist-groups
P.S. Complaints can be sent directly to the Italian Direct Independent Oversight Team. P.P.S Apologies for the sound quality: I was testing out a new mic set up and it didn’t quite work. It’s still highly listenable. We’ll have it fixed next time.Music supplied by Trieste’s Lorenzo Fragiacomo:

Immanent Critique for the People!

This blog is on a brief hiatus as I am too busy to dedicate any time to writing posts. I am putting together a more significant text for a journal, which I might reword into a short series of posts here at a later date. Finally, I intend to write a piece on resistance as the first post back. For now, here’s a posting at the Speculative non-Buddhism site positing the idea of neo-liberal Buddhism. I can’t help but think Mr Wallis is on to something.

Speculative Non-Buddhism

Several readers have contacted me about more hands-on exercises like Tom Pepper’s post “Reality and Retreat.” That post challenged us to do a kind of anthropological study of an online Shambhala retreat.

Maybe some of you will be interested in engaging the intelligence-enhancing practice of immanent critique. It’s fun, and edifying, too!

Recall what art historian Lydia Goehr taught us a while back:

To [Theodor] Adorno critique is not the promise of happiness, nor the promise of freedom. It is always immanent critique, the turning of thought back upon itself… This is the way that some of the so-called “social truth content” comes out of critique: It exposes the authority that concepts have over us. My suggestion is that one way to think about critique is in terms of looking for ways in our thinking to break the authority our thinking has over us. In that…

View original post 615 more words

IBP 14.0 Evan Thompson on Philosophy, Buddhism, & Embodied Consciousness


Welcome back to the Imperfect Buddha Podcast. After our lively discussion of theory and practice, we embark on a new series of interviews for all you Imperfect Buddhas. Our first for 2018 features Evan Thompson, professor of philosophy at the University of British Columbia, well known for his books “Waking, Being, and Dreaming: Self and Consciousness in Neuroscience, Meditation, and Philosophy”, “The Embodied Mind: Cognitive Science and Human Experience”, co-authored with the late Francisco Varela, “Mind in Life: biology, phenomenology and the sciences of mind” as well as “Self, No Self?: perspectives from analytical, phenomenological and Indian traditions”. Evan was invited onto the podcast due to his 2016 closing address to the ISCS and what appeared as a critical turn from Evan in the form of a critique of the fetishisation of mindfulness and its co-option for neo-liberal ends. Evan also argued for an embodied view of consciousness in his talk and critiqued the idea, popular in neuroscience work on meditators, that technology such as FMRI can give us a full or accurate picture of mind and an adequate picture of the significance of meditation and other contemplative practices. In his writing, Evan explores cognitive science, phenomenology, the philosophy of mind, and cross-cultural philosophy, especially Buddhist philosophy in dialogue with Western philosophy of mind and cognitive science. Evan has additionally been involved with the Mind and Life institution and its dialogues between scientists and the Dalai Lama.
You can find out more about Evan by visiting his site:
Sponsor and Music
O’Connell Coaching:
‘See as the good sees’ by Simone Zampieri: