Author: matthewoconnell

Back to Life, Back to the Podcast


So, I am home after 10 days in hospital and a bit of a scare. I am now on the mend and should hopefully return to full health within the next three months. I have to say that the hospital care I received in Italy has been fantastic and was a reminder of how important a National Health Service is. I discovered that the cardiology department in Trieste is one of the best in Europe too. The idea that a person would be denied the care I received because of an inability to pay is astonishing and in my view thoroughly immoral.

Being so vulnerable and so reliant on others is a fascinating and destabilizing experience. Being in hospital was also a deeply moving experience, not only for my own suffering and the difficulties I faced and shared with my wife and family, but in seeing my fellow humans in various stages of frailty, decay and differing degrees of vicinity to death. The care with which the doctors and nurses and auxiliary staff treated each and every one that I came into contact with was profoundly touching. Staying in hospital is like living in a different time zone, an alien place in which many of the normal rules of life simply vanish and even the staff acknowledge that this experience of time and place was similar for them. The experience was similar in many ways to being in prison or in a monastery too, and I feel like I was released after serving a sentence; one that was to be paid to those gods that remind us of our mortality in the most explicit of ways.

The podcast will now start up again. The break was relatively short for you listeners but it happened in the middle of several projects taking place. The next three interviews share a similar theme, which is the meeting of Buddhist Modernism with what comes after, including critiques of Buddhist Modernism, reactions to it, and the attempts to give sense to something else. The three guests that participate in this exploration are Scott Mitchell, David L. McMahan, and Ann Gleig. Each is commenting on the contemporary Buddhist landscape, starting with America, and then spreading outwards. Scott comes on first and he and I had a fun conversation, which exceeded my expectations, in which we bridge Buddhism from America to Europe to the rest of the world in a way which I think is rather productive. I then talk to David about his work since The Making of Buddhist Modernism. He’s written some rather interesting work since and we look at the relationship he sees between a variety of thinkers operating after modernity. The interview with Ann still has to take place and will cover her new book, American Dharma: Buddhism beyond modernity. The interview with Scott will be up very, very soon.

There will also be a short Incite seminars interview with A. K. Thompson in the middle of the three above.

A month off of work should give me a bit of time to start thinking about a book I’ve been meaning to write. I’ve no idea if people bother reading books any more, but I’ve got one which I think is rather important. If family life, and life more generally, permits, I shall start putting something together.

Finally, I put together a Patreon page if anybody’s interested in throwing a bit of coin at the podcast. The link can be found below.

43. IBP: Dr Mikel Burley on Reincarnation, Rebirth & Wittgenstein


Here’s our second episode of the year hot off the…press? We need a few idioms updated for the 21st century, more like hot off my computer. Anyway, lots more goodies are on the way with 2019 set to be a highly productive year for the podcast with some big names coming on. For now, enjoy this fascinating chat with Dr Mikel Burley on reincarnation, rebirth and Wittgenstein.


O’Connell Coaching:
Post-Traditional Buddhism:


Music by Stray Dogg from their fresh new album ‘Look at the Moon’


New Year, New Podcast Episodes


Hey, it’s 2019 and we’re off to a bang with two new episodes! The first one is quite the experiment with our first guest host filling in for the mysterious, ephemeral stranger that is Mr Stuart Baldwin. Our first intrepid visitor is Gavin McCloskey from Northern Ireland has been China based for quite some time. He is his own man of course, and he brought some fine questions along for us to discuss. I’m afraid I did most of the talking, but Gavin had some great contributions to make and it was good having him on.

Our conversation touches primarily on practice and some of my more far out ideas emerge. You can hear Gavin’s views on Goenka and Mahasi Sayadaw and his experience of retreats with those lineages. We talk about innovation in practice, enlightenment, reincarnation, and much more.

See what you think and let us know how it goes in this experimental conversation. Feedback would be appreciated.

Our second episode features Dr Mickel Burley, a philosopher of religion from Leeds university in the UK: He wrote a fascinating book called Rebirth and the Stream of Life, which inspired me to have him on. He’s a big fan of Ludwig Wittgenstein too and we get to talking about who is widely considered the greatest philosopher of the 20th century, his thought and its uses for thinking about spirituality, Buddhism, rebirth and more. We also bridge the episode to our earlier discussion of karma and rebirth with Jayarava. Mick has also written on Hatha-Yoga, and perhaps more surprisingly, cannibalism, animal sacrifice, and the lack of imagination in philosophy surrounding rebirth and reincarnation. We also discuss philosophy East & West. Many of Mick’s article are freely available and curiously titled so so check out his university page for further links;

Here’s looking forward to another fabulous year together exploring the wonderful world of Western Buddhism, theory and practice, Philosophy, and critical, creative thought.


O’Connell Coaching:
Post-Traditional Buddhism:


Music by Stray Dogg from their fresh new album ‘Look at the Moon’




Merry Christmas, Santa’s bringing you lashings of podcast delights this year!


Daft sentences aside, this season’s greetings come in the form of two podcast episodes. The first features Jason Josephson Ananda Storm, the second is an Incite short with Joshua Ramey.

Jason Ānanda Josephson Storm received his Ph.D. in Religious Studies from Stanford University in 2006 and is tenured at Williams College in their Religious Studies Department. He has three primary research areas, each which should interest regular listeners: Japanese Religions, European Intellectual History, and Theory more broadly. He has additionally been working to articulate new research models for Religious Studies in the wake of the collapse of poststructuralism as a guiding ethos in the Humanities. This translates for us as an attempt to get beyond the impasse of postmodernist thought and its antecedent, Modernity, which you know by now is part of the matrix of contemporary western Buddhism.

Jason and I discuss his book The Myth of Disenchantment: Magic, Modernity, and the Birth of the Human Sciences, from 2017, as well as his text The Invention of Religion in Japan. We delve into the role of enchantment and the myth of disenchantment, the role of enchantment in science and the fascinating indulgences of many of the great scientific thinkers in spiritualism and enchanted beliefs. We cover East & West philosophy, The Kyoto School, Metamodernism, and more.

Incite Seminars brings you a talk on Metaphysics and Money. Joshua Ramey holds a Ph.D. in Philosophy from Villanova University. His research is in contemporary continental philosophy, critical social theory, political economy and political theology. His first book was The Hermetic Deleuze: Philosophy and Spiritual Ordeal (2012), and his current book is Politics of Divination: Neoliberal Endgame and the Religion of Contingency (2016). He is co-translator of François Laruelle’s Non-Philosophical Mysticism for Today (2016). He has published articles on a range of thinkers and artists including Adorno, Zizek, Badiou, Hitchcock, Warhol, and Philip K. Dick.

Date: Saturday, January 19, 9am-1pm



Have a great festive season. If it all gets to much, there’s always O’Connell Coaching! Otherwise, see you in 2019!



39. IBP: Dale S. Wright on Buddhist Enlightenment


Dale S. Wright is distinguished Professor of Religion at Occidental College in Los Angeles. He is author of The Six Perfections: Buddhism & the Cultivation of Character, and Philosophical Meditations on Zen Buddhism. He is also coeditor with Steven Heine of The Koan: Text and Context in Zen Buddhism, The Zen Canon: Textual Foundations of Zen Buddhism, Zen Classics: Formative Texts in the History of Zen Buddhism, and Zen Ritual: Studies of Zen Buddhist Theory in Practice.

More importantly for our podcast, Dale is author of ‘What is Buddhist Enlightenment?’ A text that forms the basis for a good chunk of our conversation. We explore the notion of enlightenment in Buddhism and in particular the pluralism of definitions, a secular reframing of the thing, how western philosophy challenges Buddhist notions of enlightenment, myth and myths that are encased in different interpretations of enlightenment.

As with so many of our podcast conversations, this one heads off into places unknown, exploring questions, reflections, intuitions and interesting ground that we hope you will find as stimulating as we did.

O’Connell Coaching:
Post-Traditional Buddhism:

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A review of A critique of Western Buddhism: Ruins of the Buddhist Real


Glenn Wallis should need no introduction to those who visit this site regularly and engage with the podcast, but just in case it’s your first time here, I’ll provide you with the essentials. Wallis holds a Ph.D from Harvard in Buddhist Studies and has authored several books on Buddhism including The Dhammapada: Verses on the Way, Mediating the Power of the Buddhas, Basic Teachings of the Buddha, and the one most closely linked to this review, Cruel Theory, Sublime Practice. He’s even written articles for Lion’s Roar. Oh, the shame of it! Wallis has taught in a number of universities including Georgia, where he received tenure, and later went on to work in other educational institutes, among which the Won Institute. He was also a founding member of the Philadelphia punk band Ruin.

“Western Buddhism… Serves as a fetish, an object that effectively holds some unbearable truth at Bay.”

My first encounter with Wallis was through the Speculative non-buddhism (SNB) site and his experimental writing on contemporary western Buddhism. That site brought him to the attention of many folks at the fringes of the western Buddhist world and has been a cauldron of creative, intellectual activity since its inception, amassing long, complex exchanges with readers in its comments sections, exploring all manner of topic from neuro-science to Marxism with some highly intelligent contributors getting into lengthy debate. It was also a site of conflict, argumentation and the wrath of its chief antagonist Tom Pepper whose rants against capitalism, anti-intellectualism, and the ignorance of those who could not grasp his insights, which were more or less legendary. Whatever the controversy, many exciting approaches to Buddhist materials were cooked up at the site and those dogged enough to stick with Buddhism in spite of its many faults found much succulence there and, dare I say, meaning. The site was a sort of explosion of western Buddhism’s dark unconscious; it’s anti-intellectual turn, its closeness to New Age idealism, its comfortable affinity for Hindu beliefs, its strong adoption by middle-class America as a coping mechanism, and its comfortable alignment with Capitalism. These facets were all uncovered, critiqued and abused. Those whose intellectual cowardice was on display would leave with a bloody nose, but those who were aware of their ignorance or came specifically to challenge their views would often find great generosity and sharp, bracing insight. It was a break from the often dull norms of western Buddhist niceness and its main participants would argue that such fierce critique was the only thing that would disrupt the intellectual complacency of so many western Buddhists. Wallis was certainly the ideal person to carry out such a disruption and for many it was the most exciting thing to happen in Western Buddhism for decades. The SNB was the charnel ground of Wallis’s most recent book, A critique of Western Buddhism: ruins of the Buddhist real.


Brand new episode of the Imperfect Buddha Podcast with William Edelglass


Our year long jaunt through the world of academic engagement with Buddhism continues and in this episode of the Imperfect Buddha Podcast, we talk to William Edelglass, professor of Philosophy, Environmental Studies, and Buddhist Studies at Marlboro College. William has been a teacher in a variety of settings, including a federal prison in New York, a Tibetan refugee settlement in Nepal, and for many years as a wilderness guide at Outward Bound. Before going to Marlboro, William taught Western philosophy at the Institute of Buddhist Dialectics, Dharamsala, India, to Tibetan monks, and Buddhist philosophy to American college students on a Tibetan studies program. William also teaches a range of fascinating courses at Barre Centre for Buddhist Studies.

William and I cover quite a bit of ground in our 2-hour long conversation spanning Buddhism, Philosophy, and our current political climate. Here are just some of the questions we tackled;

What stand out lessons have each phase of your professional life taught you? Which lessons continue to influence the way you work and think about what drives you? What philosophical challenges do the different Buddhisms present to Western Philosophical thought? What philosophical challenges does Western Philosophy present to Buddhist thought? How do you think Western practitioners might take a more critical and explorative approach to Buddhist thought? What are we to do with the challenges of nihilism as practitioners? What are we to make of mysticism? How can we renew philosophical thought for practitioners? Why is Shantideva such an important figure for you and what challenges do his work and thought raise? Why is Levinas an important figure for you what challenges do his work and thought raise for Buddhism?


You can find out more about William’s work at the following site:

Music for this episode comes from George Glew and is called Higher. Listen to more of his music at

O’Connell Coaching:  Post-Traditional Buddhism: