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.
Sonam Thakchoe is a former Tibetan monk with over 15 years of training in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition, as well as Senior Philosophy Lecturer at the University of Tasmania in Australia. His research specialization is in Indo-Tibetan philosophy, with a particular focus in Madhyamaka ontology, epistemology, and ethics. He received his PhD in philosophy from the University of Tasmania, and Masters in Indo-Tibetan philosophy from Central University of Tibetan Studies in Sarnath, India.