Stages of maturation, Dzogchen, and the future of Buddhism.
Matthew O’Connell interviewed me recently for the Imperfect Buddha Podcast. Our conversation is now up on Soundcloud, and should appear above. If that’s not working, try this link.
The Imperfect Buddha Podcast, often cohosted with Stuart Baldwin,
aims to tackle the limits of Buddhism in the West and the taboos surrounding it, whilst pushing for its radical transformation into a genuine means for individual and collective liberation.
That would be a good description of what I’m trying to do here at Vividness also, so we had lots to talk about. We ranged over many topics; Matthew titled the episode “Stages of maturation, Dzogchen, and the future of Buddhism,” and those may be the highlights.
I enjoyed the interview considerably. Vince asked some questions I wasn’t particularly expecting, and I came up with coherent answers. I haven’t actually listened to the podcasts, because I find my own voice grating, but I’ve been told they are good!
Much of the content will be familiar if you are following the blog, but some topics came up that I haven’t covered before. Also, some folks find it easier to absorb information by voice than text.
The podcast episode (“Enlightenment and Epistemology”), now available, came out really well. Ted is a skilled interviewer, and also added his own considerable insight and sensible judgement to the mix.
Ted and his colleagues, like me, want to find—I hate to use this phrase, but—a middle way between accepting traditional Buddhist beliefs uncritically, and rejecting all of Buddhism just because a fair bit of it is nonsense.
This has to be an on-going project. (In fact, it has already been on-going for a couple of millennia now, as Buddhism has undergone frequent revision and innovation.) It is not clear, and it probably never will be certain, quite how best to do that.
The Secular Buddhist podcast series presents diverse views on how Buddhism can contribute to contemporary society—and vice versa. There’s much of great interest there; check it out!
This covers the recent history of the Consensus, and the future. Among other things, I talk about the possibility for new forms of Buddhist Tantra.
I’m really happy with the way the podcast came out. I sound more articulate than I actually am! Vince must have applied some advanced digital magic.
If you take a look at my Twitter stream (in the right column of this blog, or here), you’ll see that recently I’ve been tweeting mainly about Buddhist Tantra. I’m hoping to write here soon a long series of posts about the possibilities for reinventing Buddhist Tantra. The tweets are a preview—summaries of upcoming posts, in slogan form.
I hoped to post that analysis before the Geeks podcast went up, but haven’t yet had time to finish it. One Dharma is important because, after going on about the Consensus for months, this will be the first time I engage with it directly and concretely, rather than talking about it in the abstract.
After that, I’m planning to write about the future of Tantra. This actually will break the flow of my analysis of the Consensus. Logically, it would be better to continue my historical approach. I would write about the hippies’ encounter with Asian modernist Buddhism in the 1960s and 70s; the innovative creation of Western Buddhism in the 80s; the formation of the political Consensus in 1993 at the Dharamsala Western Buddhist Teachers Conference (with an analysis of the Statement it released, mentioned in this podcast); the suppression of alternative Western Buddhisms in the 1990s and 2000s; signs that the Consensus is now opening up (or breaking down); and only then the possibilities for the future!
But maybe all that stuff is awfully dry; and anyway it’s over. “History is bunk,” as Henry Ford said. I did a poll on Twitter, and 100% of respondents said they’d rather hear about the future than the past. So—that is what I will write next!
The Buddhist Geeks are doing fascinating, important work in expanding the range of Buddhist voices, and particularly in encouraging discussion of the future of Buddhism.
The podcast is about “Consensus Buddhism,” which I’ve been writing about here for the past few months.
The interview is in two parts; the next is coming in a week. Together, they cover much of the whole story I intend to present here, although of course only in summary. So, it touches on many points I expect to expand into full web pages over coming months.
I was particularly pleased that the discussion was with Hokai Sobol. Hokai is a teacher of Shingon (Japanese Vajrayana). He thinks deeply about how Vajrayana can function in contemporary society—which is also one of my main preoccupations. From the brief conversations I’ve had with him, it seems that we have reached some of the same conclusions. I’m greatly looking forward to his further work.