Modernity, Identity, and Contemporary (Non-) Buddhism


I recently had a piece I wrote for the Asian Medicine Journal published at their Asian Medicine Zone. It’s open access so you may like to take a look: It’s kind of personal & summarizes a lot of what I’ve done, am doing, and the work of the site & the podcast. It’s called “Modernity, Identity, and Contemporary (Non-) Buddhism.” If you manage to read it all, let me know what you think.

The imperfect Buddha podcast takes a new turn


The imperfect Buddha podcast is starting a new year of podcasting and it will have a characteristic uniting almost all of the episodes over the next 12 months. We are taking an academic turn and this is in part being done to counter the anti-intellectualism that continues to linger around the Western Buddhist scene, but also to bring in some experienced, intelligent minds to comment on a wide range of topics that are relevant to practitioners on the front line of meditation and compassionate action. There has been an interesting relationship between the academic field of Buddhist studies and the Dharma hall for quite some time, but perhaps one that has not been fully utilised. We hope to remedy this by bringing in a thorough exploration of current issues in the field, and emerging developments that may be of use to practitioners, some more radical than others. My main interest is to expand the conversation about Western Buddhism beyond Buddhism. Some of our guests are philosophy professors or historians, or have a connection to Buddhism, but practice in other academic fields, and we hope this will enrich the discussions that are to follow.

We hope you will all find these conversations and discussions stimulating and educational, but also entertaining!

This week regular listeners to the podcast will be fortunate enough to get two episodes in a single week. The first will be with Charles S. Prebish, a figure well known in Buddhist studies. Charles has written classic volumes in Buddhist studies such as Luminous Passage: the practice and study of Buddhism in America and masses of articles. He was also a pioneer in the establishment of the study of Western Buddhism. He co-founded the Journal of Buddhist Ethics and the Routledge, Critical Studies in Buddhism Series, and he is emeritus professor at both Utah State University and Pennsylvania State University.

In the podcast Charles talks about his own personal relationship with Buddhist practice and the field of Buddhist studies, how it has developed since its inception to today, the current scandals in Buddhist communities, his experience with a number of prominent Buddhist teachers including Chogyam Trungpa, and some potentially controversial thoughts about the future of this academic field. It seemed appropriate to have Charles on as the first guest as his view of the field is very long and very wide and this serves as a great introduction for what is to come.

Our second podcast episode for the week will be for Incite Seminars with regular guest Glenn Wallis. As per usual, our conversation takes many creative turns, and is longer than the usual Incite seminar podcasts. We discuss the topic of Unlearning, education versus learning, and introducing radical ideas into Dharma halls, and much more. As indicated in the introduction to this podcast, Glenn will be returning soon for a regular podcast discussion of his brand-new book A Critique of Western Buddhism, out now for Bloomsbury. I also intend to write a review of that book here when I find a spare moment.

For those interested in engaging with Glenn directly, his Unlearning Seminar takes place in Philadelphia September 29th and is a must for educators looking to think about educating differently. Click on the link to find out more: Incite Seminars: Unlearning & Radical Education

Here is the Charles S. Prebish episode for all you lovely listeners.

32. IBP [Incite] John Paetsch on Deleuze & the Larval subject (+extended intro)


John Paetsch joins us for a short chat about his upcoming seminar for Incite. We discuss Deleuze, philosophy, freedom and what you might expect from the event. I also add an extended introduction for listeners so that that they can contextualize the topic and understand better why we are promoting Incite.

The event page:

O’Connell Coaching:
Post-Traditional Buddhism:


31. IBP: Ron Purser on neo-Liberal Mindfulness, neo-Liberal Buddhism


In this episode, Ron Purser comes on to the imperfect Buddha podcast to talk about neoliberalism and its impact on mindfulness, Buddhism, spirituality, and the experience of all these in the individual and the impact is greater then you likely believe. You are a neoliberal subject to some degree and the ethics and manner of practice of this insipid ideology has seeped into almost all contemporary spiritual practice. Such practice can be a site of resistance to the excesses of individualism, goal achievement, productivity, and self-serving interest. Such practices can reconnect us to a social and environmental vision and experience of ourselves in the world. But this is only possible if you become aware of how neoliberalism has participated in shaping your practice in certain ways. The Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Žižek was not wrong when he stated that Buddhism, among all the world’s religions, is the greatest companion to neoliberalism, which would prefer you to keep focusing in and on yourself; “It’s up to you they say! You must do it alone, and if you fail well, it’s all your fault!” Does this sound familiar? It should do as it’s a major part of the neoliberal ethic.

Ron and I talk about a range of interesting topics that go beyond neoliberalism including finding the edge in practice and Time, Space & Knowledge. We cover McMindfulness, freedom, liberation free from the neoliberal ethic, and other exciting utopian topics. We talk about the alternatives to a practice informed by the near liberal ethic. So don’t panic, it’s not all nay-saying, we’ve got some solutions here too!


“I refuse to change”


This is an article about psychological resistance to change.

Here are some lovely synonyms for the word at hand; opposition, defiance, struggle, protection, refusal, blocking, combat, contention, friction, holding, impedance, obstruction, rebuff, shield, protecting.

There are of course many more. Which one grabs you?

There is positive and negative resistance, and plenty of somethings in between. But who determines the terms upon which such a psychological force is cast? If it’s you, then you may have a small problem on your hands. That is if you are interested in transformation and change.

I returned to England in July and spent a quality afternoon speaking to the co-host of the imperfect Buddha podcast: my buddy Mr Stuart Baldwin. We had one of our usual conversations, the sort I only really have with him, which are generally humorous, profound, silly, utopian, pragmatic, layered with nonsense and creative wonder, full of disregard for the status quo, curious about prevalent currents, and accompanied by few bad words for Shambhala and complaints about the neo-liberal state of the world. I mentioned that I was thinking about writing a few pieces here at the post-traditional Buddhism blog related to the coaching work I do. Stuart thought this was a good idea so here it is. It’s actually something that I have wanted to do for a while but have always found something far more interesting to do, which is to say, I have resisted it. The time has changed, however, and although I may not produce a whole series of these, I do think this one is important and it can be understood in part as a message to myself and to past and present clients, for resistance is one of the greatest enemies I know of to bringing about meaningful change to one’s life. As coaching is primarily about making change happen, I think you might agree that this topic is rather significant.

To start off, I want to share an anecdote or two. (more…)

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.


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.