Imperfect Buddha Podcast

Injured-Buddha-by-Banksy

A hint was made some time ago that a podcast was in the works. Well, finally, it’s made its way into the world. It’s an odd little child which will need time to grow and gain a form that will serve a role in the contemporary Buddhist landscape. For now, it’s an experiment: an attempt to share conversations between two long-term Buddhists that have not been particularly good at towing the line and doing the normal Buddhist thing, mixing banter, uncompromising discussion and down-to-earth inquiry.
The episode format will typically involve two episodes linked by a common theme: the first will feature a playful discussion between my podcast buddy Stuart and I with the second involving an interview/discussion with someone with greater expertise. These someones will often be at the margin of contemporary Buddhism but have an important contribution to make. In fact, part of our desire to provide space for the more radical elements of contemporary western Buddhism to come to the fore. We would also like creative individuals to enjoy us in our discussions but that may be easier said than done.
The big picture involves us looking to interview figures, who are relatively well-known in the contemporary Western Buddhist scene but doing things differently, and more fringe figures whose voices haven’t yet been heard but who in our opinion probably have something very important and interesting to share.
Ultimately, this podcast plans to go where other Buddhist podcast fear to tread. As non-experts, and not being Buddhist teachers, we enjoy the sort of freedom that lends itself to uninhibited discussion of the sorts of topics often avoided by others in the Buddhist world. As with any successful podcast project, it will exist and evolve as much for our own pleasure and curiosity as it will provide some potentially useful material for the wider community. There exists a clear line of tension in this and we will explore that line as the series goes on. We hope that some of you will enjoy accompanying us as we explore and experiment.
Finally, episodes can be downloaded or listened to online at Soundcloud. We also have a dedicated Facebook page and Twitter feed for comments can be made, criticisms unloaded and compliments given. We welcome all of them. Enjoy.

P.S. If you find the content of any of the episodes to be factually wrong, please do let us know and we will be happy to make any corrections. We will do our best to be informed but as non-experts, we are likely to mess up on occasion. We welcome all corrections.

16 comments

  1. Matthew,

    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.

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    1. Hi Corey,
      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.
      Matthew

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  2. 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?

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      1. ‘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.

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  3. 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

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  4. 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. .

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  5. Hi Matthew,

    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?”

    source: https://tricycle.org/trikedaily/forget-buddhist-human/

    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.

    Kind regards,

    Mr.Bigglesworth

    Like

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