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

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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Elizabeth Mattis Namgyel: On Faith and Dependent Arising

On this episode of the Wisdom Podcast, host Daniel Aitken speaks with Elizabeth Mattis Namgyel, meditation teacher and practitioner in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition, and author of The Logic of Faith: the Buddhist Path of Finding Certainty Beyond Belief and Doubt. In this rich conversation, you’ll hear Elizabeth speak about her spiritual curiosity as a child and young adult, and her early ventures to Nepal where she met her husband and teacher Dzigar Kongtrul Rinpoche. Having spent four years in retreat, Elizabeth shares how she learned to transform feelings of loneliness into a greater understanding of contingency and connection. This insight into the nature of dependent arising is at the heart of Elizabeth’s practice. She shares insights on the subtle ways we both lean into and resist this wisdom, and how a deeper understanding of this nature of contingency naturally paves the way for care and compassion. She and Daniel also discuss her devotional orientation to Madhyamaka philosophy and how she reconciles faith, reason, grace, and doubt.

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Thupten Jinpa: Translating for His Holiness the Dalai Lama

On this episode of the Wisdom Podcast, host Daniel Aitken travels to Montreal to speak with Thupten Jinpa, scholar and former monk in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition, and primary English translator to His Holiness the Dalai Lama since 1985. In this rich conversation, Jinpa describes his intellectual training at Shartse College of Ganden Monastic University in South India, and reveals fascinating insights on the value of memorization as well as the art of debate in monastic education. Having worked in an intimate context with His Holiness the Dalai Lama for over thirty years, Jinpa shares how observing the Dalai Lama has influenced his own character and spiritual practice. He talks about the Dalai Lama’s rare and impressive qualities—his unusual joy, how he balances confidence with humility, and his precision in combining scholarship with meditative practice.

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