hongwanji, kyoto

Institutionalism, anti-institutionalism

We pick up our conversation from last time about the attrition problem in American Shin Buddhism, its possible causes, and solutions. This time we focus on our listener’s suggestion that there is an essential anti-institutionalism within Shin Buddhism. We’re on the fence on that one; we want to be cautious about reading too much of …

Buddha Bar Vow in Tokyo

Listener question: challenges facing the BCA

A listener wrote in to ask about the problem of attrition in the Buddhist Churches of America (or Jodo Shinshu more generally) and suggested a few possible doctrinal reasons for declining membership including Shinran’s seemingly anti-institutional and anti-ritualistic understandings of Buddhism. Harry and Scott tackle these questions starting with the assumption that membership is declining. …

Love and Creation

Inspired by conversations in our last two episodes, today we discuss creativity, art, and love. What does Buddhism have to say about the creative process? Is it merely a kind of desire? Or attachment? And what about familial and romantic love? (It is almost Valentine’s Day, after all!) Classical Buddhism suggests that we ought to …

Suspension of Disbelief

We’re not done with TRON yet! Well, sort of we are. We use TRON — film, art, music, anything really — as a jumping off point for discussing the suspension of disbelief. What is it about our expectations or preconceptions that sometimes get in our way, that keep us from appreciating certain kinds of films? …

Buddhism and TRON

We’re going to talk about Buddhism and sci-fi again! Get ready for several episodes about sci-fi, movies, music, the creative process, and Buddhism. In this episode we talk about TRON: Legacy, a movie that probably only the two of us and, like, three other people ever saw. But it’s got specific and explicit Buddhist references. …

Startling Superficial Soteriological Similarities

Inspired by a listener question, we explore some of the superficial similarities between Pure Land Buddhism and the monotheistic religions. After considering the difficulty of really knowing the historical origins of Mahayana Buddhism and Pure Land Buddhism, let alone what sort of connections may have existed between South Asia and the Near East, we think …

Episode 51: We’re back!

It’s been six months since our last episode. Where’ve we been? What did we do all summer? Now that we’re back in the “studio,” we recap some of the stuff we’ve been working on and promise to release new episodes this fall. After a short chat about what it’s like to be a professional Buddhist, …

Buddhism, freedom, and the pursuit of happiness

Hey! This is our fiftieth episode! This week, we take up our conversation from last time about aspects of American culture and their intersection with Buddhism — this time, talking about freedom. What does freedom mean in an American context? And how is this more political understanding different from or similar to soteriological concerns of …

America, Buddhism, and Individualism

Inspired by a Dharma Talk at the BCA National Council Meeting, Rev. Harry starts us off by suggesting that individualism is a point of contact between Buddhism and American culture. This seems somewhat counterintuitive given that individuality seems at odds with Buddhist ideas of interdependence, no-self, or non-attachment to the ego. But we think there …

A Buddhist view of History

For some reason, we thought we’d start talking about the Seven Masters. But we get immediately sidetracked by Herbert Güenther, a Buddhist scholar who wrote about the Madhyamaka and Yogacara schools of Buddhism. Interestingly, his discussion of the development of these schools isn’t exactly historically accurate from a Western point of view — but it …