One of my goals in the run-up to our Buddhism episode was to listen to a bunch of many Buddhism/Zen-related podcasts (there seem to be more of these than philosophy ones) and post some reviews.
However, though I sampled bits of maybe six of them, I have nothing that I actually want to recommend, but at the same time, I don't feel like I put enough time into them to condemn them specifically to you either.
So, let me invite you readers to submit via comments on this post your favorite Buddhist podcasts, or really any that you want to shout about whether you like them or not.
Just to recount my experience in general terms:
In a couple of cases, the podcast was just a recording of a Buddhist service, apparently unedited, with chanting and dead space. In general, the discussions moved very slowly and covered just a few points. It certainly astounds me how Christian ministers can give sermons week after week and always find something more to say, but of course that's because they're not trying to cover Christianity like we would on P.E.L. or even in a university setting; they just pick some particular point to harp on and talk around it incessantly for 15 minutes or an hour or however long their performance is. I got the same feeling from these types of Buddhist podcasts, confirming my suspicion that philosophy is generally made much more boring when it is turned into religion.
Similar to the churchy podcasts are the self-help podcasts, where the concern is not so much communicating the intellectual tenets of Buddhism, much less analyzing them, as giving daily affirmations. I could, at least, typically spot the ones that were going to verge into giving diet advice and narrating yoga sessions, and so didn't put myself through those. Not that there's anything wrong with being into that, of course, but it's got little or nothing to do with philosophy.
In other cases, the podcast wasn't a religious service or self-help tutorial, but was just unentertaining in a more ordinary, podcasty fashion. As with philosophy podcasts of this sort, I don't feel superior and/or obnoxious enough to be bashing them by name here. All podcasting is OK in my book, even if its only point is to benefit the podcaster by forcing him or her or them to try to be more articulate.
That said, I encourage any podcasters out there to put more time into what happens before (the prep) and after (the editing) the actual recording. Think about whose time your are wasting by leaving in those 10 seconds of dead air or not editing down that sprawling, internally redundant audience question that goes nowhere and think about how listeners are going to stop downloading your work (or even finishing the current episode) if you try their patience too much.
Daniel Horne says
I’d be keen on your take re:
I’m not sure I find it engaging listening, but it’s not foolish. Free podcast available on iTunes.
David Buchanan says
The Alan Watts podcast is pretty good, although the lectures were recorded long before podcasting was invented. The main problem is that they dish up only 15 minutes per week and sometimes that means it takes six weeks to get the entire lecture. As you probably know, Watts was a Western interpreter and popularizer of Buddhism, a disillusioned Anglican priest who moved to California and became a kind of counter-culture hero.
Not that anyone asked, but someday I hope to be a podcaster too. (Probably centered around Robert Pirsig’s Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.) Your podcast has been an inspiring and instructive example. Thanks for that, gents.
I agree with David B. that Alan Watts is a good place to start if you’re coming from a Western background and looking to understand Eastern philosophy. Watts wrote numerous books and many of his lectures are also published, in addition to the podcasts that are available.
I particularly like how he discusses the Tao and the development of Buddhism from Hinduism.
I would be interested to hear The Partially Examined Life take on Eastern philosophy after absorbing a bit of Watts for context. He’s a great conceptual translator and I haven’t gotten the sense from the Nagarjuna or Chuang Tzu podcasts that you guys have found a Western voice that really makes sense of this stuff for you – even though it’s obvious you grasp the overall points.
Mark Linsenmayer says
I’ll have to revisit Watts. I did listen to maybe an episode of this podcast, but like David said, it was such a snippet that I didn’t come away with much. I read one of his books long long ago and sort of remember it now as just one of many New Agey things that I ultimately couldn’t get a lot out of, but maybe I’m misremembering or would think differently at this point.
However, we’re certainly not done with the Eastern stuff, and I would like to do, e.g. Suzuki as an interpreter of Zen, and I’ve gotten recommendations to look at Wilbur and now Watts too, as well as Pirsig, though I’m not sure in his case if it would really be a matter of looking into Eastern stuff as looking into Pirsig. In any case, while I like knowing more of the historical stuff, I’m also interested in how these ideas affect people now and filter through the culture, so at the very least I’ll dig around for some Watts video to put up here.
(or are you volunteering to come on as a guest yourself and show us the way, Amber? 🙂 )