In this episode of the Wisdom Podcast, Daniel Aitken speaks with Dr. Sonam Thakchoe, professor of Buddhist philosophy at the University of Tasmania and former monk in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition. Sonam was a child during the Cultural Revolution in Tibet. At just ten years old, Sonam fled to India with his father, where he began his formal education at the Tibetan Children’s Village in Dharamsala, India, before eventually earning a PhD in Indo-Tibetan philosophy. In this episode, Sonam recalls the absence of Buddhist traditions in his childhood, how he didn’t understand who the Dalai Lama was, and how his parents had to keep their religious faith hidden. Sonam also shares his life-changing discovery of vipassana meditation in the Goenka tradition, which revolutionized his academic understanding of Buddhist philosophy. Daniel asks Sonam about his experimental nature as a practitioner and how he integrates his textual knowledge with embodied experiences in practice. They also discuss the inextricable relationship between sīla (morality) and meditation, and how emptiness might be conceptualized within vipassana practice.
The Wisdom Podcast
In this episode of the Wisdom Podcast, Daniel speaks with Dr. Richard Salomon, Professor of Asian Languages and Literature at the University of Washington and a leading figure in the field of early Buddhist studies. You’ll hear Richard discuss his groundbreaking scholarship in the field of ancient Gāndhārī literature. His new book, The Buddhist Literature of Ancient Gandhāra, is a fascinating look at the oldest Buddhist manuscripts ever to be uncovered. You’ll learn the historical and religious context of these 2000-year-old documents, which were found in modern-day Pakistan, and what it was like for Richard to first encounter them in person. Richard also talks about the ancient language of Gāndhārī, how it was decoded, and its particular significance in the formation of standardized Buddhist canons. Richard’s important work sheds new light on how we understand early Indian Buddhist traditions and their transmission into central and East Asia.
In this episode of the Wisdom Podcast, we meet Karl Brunnhölzl, celebrated teacher, translator, and author in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition. Originally trained as a medical doctor, Karl practiced medicine for twenty years before dedicating his life full-time to translation of Tibetan Buddhist texts. You’ll hear Karl share stories of his early ventures throughout Asia while still in medical school. Eventually, Karl would come to study with Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche as well as Khenpo Tsultrim Gyamtso Rinpoche, whose exceptional teaching abilities had a profound impact on Karl as both student and translator. You’ll also hear Karl share his experience meditating in one of Milarepa’s famous caves in Nepal, and his unexpected but fortuitous encounters. He also discusses his most recent work in the Northern Treasure Tradition as related to his upcoming book, A Lullaby to Awaken the Heart: The Aspiration Prayer of Samantabhadra and Its Commentaries.
In this episode of the Wisdom Podcast, we meet Dungse Jampal Norbu, Dharma teacher in the Nyingma school of Tibetan Buddhism and son of the revered Dzigar Kongtrul Rinpoche. Dungse was raised in a Tibetan-American family in Colorado. At the instruction of Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche, Dungse’s father set him on a path to uphold and continue his lineage in the Dzogchen Longchen Nyingtik tradition. You’ll hear Dungse share stories from his cross-cultural evolution as a student, practitioner, and teacher of Buddhism, including his years of intense Buddhist training in India, as well as his annual 100-day retreat at Longchen Jigme Samten Ling. We also hear Dungse share his thoughts on being Dharma heir to his father, as well as the value of artistic practice in both his and his father’s life. Lastly, Dungse offers insights on our contemporary age of social media, as well as the millennial generation in the United States, and how the Dharma might translate to a younger generation of American Buddhists.
In this episode of the Wisdom Podcast, Daniel Aitken speaks with Dr. Karen Derris, scholar of South and Southeast Asian Buddhist traditions and Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Redlands. For the past several years, Karen has had the rare opportunity of working one-on-one with His Holiness the Karmapa as an editor of his most recent book, Interconnected: Embracing Life in Our Global Society. You’ll hear Karen share the deep impact of working under the Karmapa’s direct guidance, which she describes as like being “inside a sutra” and among the most profound experiences of her entire career. Karen also shares stories from her travels to Gyuto Monastery in India, where she and her students met with the Karmapa for a three-week dialogue. Karen describes how this rare connection with the Karmapa had a profound influence on her students’ professional aspirations, leading to deeply meaningful service-oriented careers. Additionally, their conversations helped inform the message of Interconnected, which offers a twenty-first century model of interdependence in support of a truly global society.