In the midst of a challenging year for the world, it’s felt fulfilling to round out the third year of our weekly podcast. Through a secular Buddhist perspective, we try to offer concrete ways that we can each calm our minds and change the world for the better. Thank you for listening, and for your positive reviews, feedback, and donations that keep the show running.
You’ll find a list of our top ten secular Buddhist podcast episodes of 2022 below, and some great quotes from the Buddhist monks, teachers, and luminaries I had the privilege to speak with this year. Are these your favorites too? If yours isn’t in the list, drop me a line. And if you missed any of these episodes, now is a great time to catch up.
In addition to our guests, I’d like to offer a special thanks to our talented team: producer Tara Anderson, marketing manager Isabela Acebal, audio engineer Christian Parry, and marketing director Jason Waterman.
If you’ve enjoyed the podcast, please consider a year-end donation to A Skeptic’s Path to Enlightenment, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. Your contributions are tax-deductible in the U.S. and go entirely toward producing the podcast and our educational programs.
Be on the lookout next year as we expand beyond our podcast to include our first secular Buddhist class, and a new book on the Skeptic’s Path secular Buddhism analytical meditation sequence.
“My husband [Lou Reed] dying was a very profound experience for me and made me very happy in many ways. Because I saw someone do that so well, so naturally, and with such enthusiasm. That was a profound moment for me to see that as a way to approach these huge changes.”
Grammy Award winning artist Laurie Anderson, a longtime student of Buddhism and meditation, shares her personal path with Buddhism, approaching art with a beginner’s mind, staying present with suffering in an uncertain world, and making our everyday life meaningful.
“I think if we’re really wired in the right way, anxiety keeps us compassionate to have an alert system. When you see somebody else troubled or struggling, we can move that primordial anxiety to survive into a compassionate mode to say, Oh my goodness, I have to help this person. I am connected to them from primordial days, but also due to just our general interdependence, I must help them.”
Venerable Amy Miller is a Tibetan Buddhist nun and teacher who’s managed several Buddhist retreat centers, including the Vajrapani Institute in California and Vermont Milarepa Center. She’s the co-author of Buddhism in a Nutshell, and currently a resident Buddhist teacher and board member at Land of Medicine Buddha in Santa Cruz.
“Hatred is not the opposite of compassion. It’s narcissism, preoccupation with self.… So if it takes work to come to real compassion for somebody, that’s good work. But pretending to be compassionate has no value at all. It’s not actually a practice at all. That’s a version of narcissism actually.”
Dr. Lorne Ladner is a clinical psychologist with a dedicated Buddhist practice, and the author of the wonderful book The Lost Art of Compassion. In this interview we discuss the top questions he receives from his patients and how he helps them not only to overcome problems but to build joyful, meaningful lives through integrating meditation practice and Western psychology. We talk about the difference between selfishness and self-compassion, how to set healthy boundaries, what depression is according to Buddhist teachings and modern psychology, and how to treat it.
“Being in a relationship is just like being in a rock tumbler. In a rock tumbler, you get these jagged, rough stones and you stick them in the tumbler, turn the wheel, and they bang around for a while. Then eventually, they come out polished and very beautiful.”
Dr. Mark Westmoquette is an astrophysicist who became a student of Zen Buddhism. Now an author and meditation and yoga instructor, Mark has written a new book called Zen and the Art of Dealing with Difficult People. In this podcast episode, we talk about this meaty topic of how to deal with difficult people in our own lives—who Mark calls “troublesome Buddhas”—from our boss to our partner to world leaders and that person who takes your parking space.
“There’s a movement to use meditation to get “a little bit better” now, which is actually great. Dan Harris calls it Ten Percent Happier, right? And that is popular for people, the idea of getting 10% happier. This, what we’re talking about is like ten million percent happier, right? That’s enlightenment actually. And that’s the hole in the market, if you want to get businessy about it. Where’s the Ten Million Percent Happier? I’m pretty happy person already. But I really believe in that joy, happiness, meaning, connection, those things can be infinitely expanded. And I think we lose a lot to have such low expectations for our life.“
Scott Snibbe becomes the interviewee in this week’s episode as Ven. Fabienne Pradelle speaks with him about finding meaning and spirituality through art and creativity, love without attachment, misconceptions about Buddhist teachings, the afterlife, metaphysical beliefs, and our infinite potential.
“We’re trembling on the brink and also the mass extinction itself. If other species go extinct, we can’t bring them back. So that’s the setting. How do you segue from that to optimism? If we were to do everything that we know we should do, in an effect, run the table, all hands on deck manner, we can indeed dodge the mass extinction event. The best case scenario is pretty great. It’s just that we have to run the table to get there and we have less and less time. If we don’t do things right, in 2030, things will superficially look somewhat like now. But enough will be thrown off in the physical biosphere, the biophysical surround, our home, our planet, will be deranged to the point where we will have a really hard time clawing back from that, so that it will become desperate. This is why people talk about the 2020s as being crucial.”
Kim Stanley Robinson is one of the greatest living science fiction writers, and one of the few people ever to have developed a credible solution to the climate crisis, which he describes in his new book, The Ministry for the Future. In this interview, we talk about Buddhist philosophy in his own life and in his work, sci-fi, colonizing Mars, the outdoors as meditation, how to stay optimistic in an uncertain world, and the future of climate change solutions.
“It takes a little digging to realize that the idea that karma even actually exists is provisional. It’s just a way of talking about things. In late Yogacara, in the Lankavatara Sutra, we have the amazing line, ‘But karma isn’t real.’ That’s the Buddha speaking in the text, although it’s just a story. The Lankavatara Sutra says, ‘But karma isn’t real. We just teach it because people are confused.’ I was just teaching a class on this and someone was really annoyed. But the point is, a map isn’t the real thing. But it’s helpful to have a map. So we hold both those views.”
Soto Zen Teacher Ben Connelly joins us to explore the relationship between traditional Buddhist teachings, science, and reality, whether karma really exists, and how to be a Buddhist activist while remaining unattached to “winning.” In the process, Ben teaches us about the ancient Buddhist philosopher Vasubandhu and what the Yogacara school of Buddhism teaches us about taming our minds.
“With the tantric approach, nothing is unacceptable in the sense that all of what we are—whether it’s our good qualities, our struggles, our emotional difficulties—they all go into that transformational pot to cook and transform.”
Author and pyschotherapist Rob Preece shares his extensive knowledge on the sensitive topic of Buddhist tantra, the importance of the body in Buddhist practice, how exercise and nature relate to tantric practices, the role of sex in Vajrayana Buddhism, and how we embrace our different dimensions of gender in our meditation practice and everyday life. As a working psychotherapist, Rob merges Jungian and Buddhist tradition to the mind with his patients. As a father of two sons, experienced thangka painter, and a keen gardener, he tries to ground Buddhist practice in a creative, practical lifestyle.
“There are Enneagram teachers in the Vajrayana tradition of non-dualism that say the Enneagram is who you are not. But it’s who you mistake yourself for. So in that sense, if you want a roadmap of your blind spot, of the thing that prevents you from waking up, the Enneagram will explain it.”
Bestselling author Susan Piver is a powerful Buddhist teacher who shares her wisdom and meditation practice weekly through her Open Heart Project and community. Her new book, The Buddhist Enneagram, helps us understand how each person has a unique worldview and understanding of reality. By integrating Buddhist studies with the Enneagram’s nine different personality types, Susan shares how understanding our differences can lead to deeper and more compassionate connections with our partners, colleagues, and everyone we encounter, transforming our difficult emotions into pure expressions of our basic goodness.
“If we expand our sense of connectedness to the ultimate state of connectedness, which would be called enlightenment, where we’re connected to everything and everyone, the vastness of that, then we are cool. Everything’s fine. And that is the reality of us actually. We’re all interconnected with every other single one.”
Professor Robert Thurman, who the New York Times calls “the leading American expert on Tibetan Buddhism” is back in this week’s episode to talk about his wonderful new book Wisdom Is Bliss which integrates the teachings of the Buddha in its traditional forms with a practical application to the modern world. Learn why the Buddha was an educator and scientist, not a religious prophet; and why Buddhism isn’t a belief system, but a direct experience that reveals the human flourishing, pure beauty, and joy of reality itself.
We also debate the secular Buddhism approach of author and former Buddhist monk Stephen Batchelor (author of Buddhism without Beliefs), whose interpretation of early Buddhism challenges what the Buddha’s four noble truths mean for a traditional Buddhist and a secular Buddhist, and whether these require Buddhist orthodoxy’s metaphysical beliefs. earn about Buddhist philosophy from one of its greatest living scholars!
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