The Wisdom Podcast

The Wisdom Podcast is a Buddhist podcast that features interviews with leading thinkers from the Buddhist world. Each episode takes you on a fascinating exploration of Buddhism and meditation as our guests share stories and discuss life-changing practices, timeless philosophies, and new ways to think and live. Recent episodes have featured guests like His Holiness the Karmapa, Bhikkhu Bodhi, Robert Thurman, and Jeffrey Hopkins. Please remember to give us a rating, and follow us at Twitter and Facebook. Thank you for listening!

Latest Episode

Malcolm Smith: The Seventeen Tantras of the Great Perfection

In this episode, host Daniel Aitken speaks with Malcolm Smith, translator in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition and long-time practitioner of Dzogchen. In this rich conversation, Malcolm discusses one of the most influential texts in all of Tibetan Buddhism, the Seventeen Tantras of the Great Perfection. Malcolm shares the fascinating history of these eleventh-century teachings, and reads from his recent translation of two of its central texts, the Self-Arisen Vidyā Tantra (Rigpa Rangshar) and the Self-Liberated Vidyā Tantra (Rigpa Rangdrol). Malcolm and Daniel also discuss the notion of attachment without clinging in the Dzogchen view, the necessary distinctions between trekchö and tögal practice, and why the language of pramāna is important on the Dzogchen path. Malcolm also addresses ways the Dzogchen view rejects nondualism and clarifies a popular misunderstanding of the term “basis” in this context. If you’re interested in hearing more from Malcolm Smith, check out our first podcast interview with him, where he shares stories from his own spiritual journey, as well as insights from his translation of Buddhahood in this Life, a core Dzogchen text.

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Lama Zopa Rinpoche: Foundations for the Flourishing of Dharma in the West

In this special episode of the Wisdom Podcast, we are joined by Wisdom Publications’ cofounder and spiritual director, Lama Zopa Rinpoche. Rinpoche is a Tibetan Buddhist scholar and meditator who for 30 years has overseen the spiritual activities of the extensive worldwide network of centers, projects and services that form the Foundation for the Preservation of the Mahayana Tradition (FPMT), which he founded with Lama Thubten Yeshe. Rinpoche is the author of several books including The Four Noble Truths: A Guide to Everyday Life, recently published by Wisdom. In this incredible teaching recorded at the Kurukulla Center for Tibetan Buddhist Studies, Lama Zopa discusses how Buddhism in the West has evolved and changed since the development of FPMT. You’ll hear Lama Zopa offer insights on challenges faced by Western Dharma students, and what is needed in order for the Dharma to flourish in the West. Lama Zopa also shares some of the most profound teachings of Tsongkhapa and offers insights on the subtleties of the imputed “I,” the five aggregates, and the emptiness of the self. You’ll also hear Lama Zopa share stories from his own personal biography—from his escape to India at a young age, to his decision to become a monk, to his key role in the development of FPMT and its creation of over 161 centers worldwide. You can view a video version of this special podcast below, as well as a transcript.

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Christopher Ives: Zen, Ethics, and the Wildness of Nature

On this episode of the Wisdom Podcast, host Daniel Aitken speaks with Christopher Ives, scholar and practitioner in the Zen Buddhist tradition, and author of Zen on the Trail: Hiking as Pilgrimage, recently published by Wisdom. Chris specializes in modern Zen ethics, as well as Buddhist approaches to nature and the environment. In this conversation, you’ll hear Chris talk about his exposure to American Zen in the 1970s, and how his upbringing in New England prepared him for a very different encounter of Zen in Japan, where he spent years practicing. Chris also discusses the history of ethics and social engagement in traditional Japanese Zen Buddhism, and how this has differed from American approaches to Buddhist ethics more broadly. Lastly, Chris compares the symbolic value of nature in Japanese and Zen culture, to the raw and wild nature Gary Snyder writes about in his poetry, and how both have influenced his writing and practice. He then offers ways of enriching our sense of connectedness to the deeper rhythms of nature, whether through hiking in the mountains or simply sitting outside in our own backyard.

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Janet Gyatso: Tibetan Buddhism, Animal Ethics, and Compassion

On this episode of the Wisdom Podcast, host Daniel Aitken speaks with Janet Gyatso, renowned scholar and professor of Buddhist Studies at Harvard University. Janet is the author of several publications on the cultural and intellectual history of Tibetan Buddhism, including her award-winning book on the history of Tibetan medicine in early modern Tibet, Being Human in a Buddhist World. In this rich conversation recorded at her home in Cambridge, Massachusetts, you’ll hear Janet share fascinating stories from her early adventures as a young graduate student and scholar—from her travels in Asia to meaningful encounters with great masters such as Kalu Rinpoche, and later, Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche and Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche. Janet also discusses her work on Jigme Lingpa and the terma tradition, and how she has negotiated being both scholar and practitioner throughout her academic career. Finally, you’ll hear Janet share her most recent scholarship on animal ethics, and ways we might transform our vision of care and compassion to prioritize the value and welfare of other species.

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David Nichtern: Mantra and the Power of Pure Sound

On this episode of the Wisdom Podcast, host Daniel Aitken speaks with David Nichtern, celebrated musician and senior teacher in the lineage of renowned Tibetan Buddhist meditation master Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche. David is also author of Awakening from the Daydream, published by Wisdom. In this fascinating conversation, you’ll hear Daniel and David discuss the idea of mantra and the spiritual capacity of sound. As both a practitioner and seasoned musician, David shares his thoughts on the transformative power of sound in both musical performance and mantra recitation, and mantra’s ability to protect and renew the mind in meditation. You’ll also hear David recount direct teachings he received on mantra, meditation and the “sound of silence” by Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche, as well as the relationship between sound and the other sense perceptions as understood within his tradition. Lastly, David discusses his upcoming book project on creativity and spirituality, and the practical wisdom of integrating both into a flourishing and productive life.

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