The Wisdom Podcast

Ani Choying Drolma: A Voice for Nepalese Buddhist Nuns

In this episode of the Wisdom Podcast, Daniel speaks with Ani Choying Drolma, Tibetan Buddhist nun from Nepal and internationally renowned singer of both traditional and contemporary Tibetan song. Ani-la is also founder of multiple nonprofits in Nepal, such as the Arya Tara School, which promotes the equality, education and welfare of Nepalese Buddhist nuns.

Ani Choying entered Nagi Gompa nunnery at age 13, intentionally choosing monastic life over marriage. Escaping an abusive home, Ani-la found refuge in the nunnery. It was here where she would discover childhood for the first time, and where she flourished as a young entertainer and singer. Ani Choying shares stories about her beloved teacher, Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche, who offered unconditional guidance and mentorship, ultimately paving the way for her to pursue singing professionally. You’ll hear Ani-la describe her artistic life as both a performer and Buddhist practitioner, and the parallels she finds between singing and meditation. She also describes the difference of intention between devotional singing and regular performance, and the power of certain mantras to stir energies. Finally, Ani-la shares insights on the issue of gender discrimination in Nepal, and the ways in which her nonprofit, the Nuns’ Welfare Foundation, creates opportunities for women to surmount gender-based obstacles.

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H. H. Sakya Trichen: Learning from the Lives of Great Masters

In this episode of the Wisdom Podcast, Daniel travels to Tsechen Kunchab Ling in upstate New York to speak with His Holiness Sakya Trichen Rinpoche, the 41st throne holder of the Sakya school of Tibetan Buddhism. You’ll hear His Holiness share insights from the first volume of his book Freeing the Heart and Mind, as well as his forthcoming second volume. Both books emphasize the necessity of learning the Dharma through the life stories of great Buddhist masters. His Holiness speaks on the practical nature of the sutrayana teachings as outlined in his first book, as well as the life of Mahasiddha Virupa and his key role in the formation of both the Lamdré lineage and the Sakya school at large. His second volume looks at valuable life lessons from the legendary 13th century leader of the Sakya order, Drogön Chögyal Phagpa—namely his relationship with the Mongols and the religious conversion of Kublai Khan. We also hear His Holiness share insights on the nature of samaya in the guru-disciple relationship, as well as his views on restricted teachings and their increased availability in the modern world.


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Bhante Gunaratana: A Special Teaching on Mindfulness

In this episode of the Wisdom Podcast we meet Bhante Gunaratana, renowned meditation teacher, Buddhist monk, and author of the now-classic Mindfulness in Plain English, published by Wisdom. Born in Sri Lanka, Bhante Gunaratana was ordained at the age of twelve in the Theravada tradition. In this episode, we hear “Bhante G” (as he is affectionately called by his students) recall his early years as a precocious young monk. After suffering the tragic loss of his photographic memory when he was a teenager, Bhante G regained his mental faculties by teaching himself meditation, despite being forbidden by monastic rule. Drawing wisdom from his own experience, Bhante G shares the value of studying meditation directly from the suttas. In this extraordinary teaching, you’ll hear Bhante G recall the words of the Buddha himself as he explains the very heart of an effective mindfulness or meditation practice. Bhante G encourages a more complex understanding of central terms as bhāvanā, or cultivation, sati, or mindfulness as pre-conceptual awareness, the Five Aggregates, as well as the term vipassana itself. He also reminds us why sīla, samādhi, and paññā—or morality, concentration and wisdom—are inextricably bound to one another within mindfulness and meditation, and also shares his thoughts on the wisdom of non-labeling. As part of this special episode, you can also listen to a guided meditation led by Bhante G available below.

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Sumi Loundon Kim: Mindfulness for the Whole Family

In this episode of the Wisdom podcast, we hear from Rev. Sumi Loundon Kim, Buddhist chaplain at Duke University and author of Sitting Together: A Family-Centered Curriculum on Mindfulness, Meditation and Buddhist Teaching. In this episode, Sumi shares many insights on the cultivation of mindfulness in children. Raised in a Sōtō Zen meditation community in rural New Hampshire, Sumi began meditating as a child and completed her first 9-day retreat at the Insight Meditation Society at 16. Sumi shares how spiritual values and practices instilled in her at a young age helped deepen her self-awareness as a young adult, giving her practical tools and resources in difficult times. You’ll hear Sumi and Daniel discuss the value of community-based spiritual development, and the need for more children’s programs in American dharma centers. Sumi also shares aspects of the curriculum she developed in her Sitting Together series, and ways mindfulness-based practices can benefit the entire family. Additionally, Sumi is editor of Blue Jean Buddha and The Buddha’s Apprentices, both published by Wisdom.


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Jan Westerhoff: Nāgārjuna and Madhyamaka

In this episode of the Wisdom Podcast we meet Jan Westerhoff, professor of Buddhist philosophy at the University of Oxford and specialist in the Madhyamaka philosophical tradition. In this episode, Jan shares how his early studies in Indian and Tibetan Buddhist philosophy eventually led to a PhD in contemporary metaphysics, before leading to a second PhD on Nāgārjuna and Madhyamaka. In this fascinating discussion, you’ll hear Jan give nuanced explanations of key philosophical concepts as such as svabhāva, or intrinsic nature, as defined in early Buddhist metaphysics (in the Abhidharma) versus Nāgārjuna’s later interpretations. This leads to further analysis on the topic of causation and its relationship to intrinsic nature, as well as differing views between Madhyamaka and Abhidharma on the role of human conceptualization. You’ll also hear Jan explain some of Nāgārjuna’s central arguments on emptiness and language, as well as how some of these ideas fit into broader Buddhist imperatives such as the cultivation of wisdom and compassion, meditative practice, merit-making and ethics.

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